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That’s okay, Sparky

My long weekend: Day Four

Today I found out that I am not actually dating Fredo from The Godfather. I am dating Clark Griswald of National Lampoon. Oh, he still looks like Fredo but he (self admitted) acts like Clark. Perhaps I should elaborate.

All summer Fred has wanted to go to an amusement park. We missed out on one during our trip to Michigan because of unfavorable weather. I’d been shuffling my feet back and forth as Fred attempted to talk me into a trip to King’s Island in Cincinatti. Fred seeks thrills while I prefer to keep my feet firmly on the ground. But a good partner will challenge you to face your fears and that’s what Fred did. So we decided to take a road trip to Holiday World in Santa Clause, Indiana (in the southern tip) because it has the tamest rides of all the parks around. After dropping Jess off at the airport early on Tuesday, Fred and I made the three and a half hour trip to the amusement park.

It was a beautiful day so we drove with the windows down. The roads cut through farmland and tree spotted hills. As we finally neared Holiday World, the crest of one of the rollercoasters rose out of the trees. Surprisingly, I didn’t wet myself. We turned the corner and immediately noticed that something was wrong. The rides were stilled and the parking lot was completely empty.

“I can’t believe it!” Fred exclaimed. We both cursed a little bit but then started to laugh. It was more of a “If I don’t laugh I’ll cry” kind of a laugh, though.

“Well, what now?” I asked. There wasn’t anything else to see or do in Santa Clause.

“Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom isn’t too far from here.”

“Okay,” I replied, “but first why don’t you look up their hours on your Blackberry.”

Fred scrolled through his internet search and then cursed again. “Kentucky Kingdom permanently closed their doors earlier this year! I can’t believe it! I never got a chance to go there!”

“Well, what about Mammoth Cave?” I suggested. It was no amusement park but we enjoyed walking around nature.

“That’s kind of far. How would you feel about King’s Island?”

I shook my head. “Also too far.”

We got out the road atlas and looked around the area for someplace to go, something to do. We were determined not to let our day be ruined.

“Spring Mill Park has caves and it’s on our way home,” suggested Fred. I nodded in agreement and we headed off.

It was another hour and a half before we came to the park. As we approached the entrance we read a sign warning that the caves were closed to stop the spread of some disease. But we decided that we’d come this far so we might as well go in.

There was a pioneer villiage at the park. We walked around there and watched cornmeal be made at the mill. We then walked up the small path to the dam in the river but the rest of the trail was closed off. There was a cave up ahead but we couldn’t even get close. We were about to leave the park when Fred said he wanted to see the Gus Grissom memorial that they had there. He’d seen it before, years ago, but I’d never seen it. We pulled into the parking lot and got out. Before we could even get to the end of the car, a securiy guard popped her head out the door. “We’re closed!” she announced. “Of course,” both Fred and I muttered in return.

We made our way home and, upon arrival, watched National Lampoon’s Vacation. We laughed and while I noticed some similarities between Fred and Clark, there were more differences. Fred did not go crazy then hold up a security guard at gunpoint, forcing him to go on all the rides. He did not tie my beloved pet to the back of the car and then drive off. And he most certainly did not go skinny dipping with Christie Brinkley, though he probably wouldn’t mind that.

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Posted by on August 27, 2010 in About me, Travel


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What’s “I love IKEA” in Swedish?

My long weekend: Day Two

After my rad 30-ish birthday party, Jess and my cousins, Missy and Kate, came over to my apartment.  We played drinking games and sang along to songs until we crashed.  Sadly, Jess and I crashed early (around 10pm).  We’d both been up since the wee hours of the morning, but her even more so because of an early flight.

The next morning we met up with Fred at a quaint breakfast place in town.  It came recommended to me from a coworker and it did not disappoint!  Usually, a veggie omelet and some toast will fill me up nicely.  But this place had a lot of items that looked too good to pass up!  So Jess and I decided to get our own meal but then split the “Dreamy French Toast”.  “Dreamy” doesn’t even describe it properly.  It was far beyond that.  It was nirvana.  I inhaled my slice like there was no tomorrow and drooled as I watched Jess eat her piece.  I wanted more!

After breakfast we said goodbye to Kate and Jess, Missy, and I piled in my car and headed east.  Missy needed a ride home, which was 2 hours away, and Jess wanted to go to IKEA, which was near Missy’s house.  Road trip!  We stopped at IKEA first and the three of us walked around, trying out chairs and couches as potential buys for Jess.  I always like looking at their organizational solutions and especially love all the bookcases and entertainment centers.  I have to be careful when I go into an IKEA so I don’t buy everything that I see (it wouldn’t fit in my car anyway).

When my blood sugar started to drop, though, I had to go ahead of Jess and Missy to the cafeteria and get something to eat.  I had to bypass the kids’ section, which is a lot of fun to look at.  I don’t have kids and don’t plan too, but I like looking at all the cute decor.  Usually I go through that section and think, “I would have loved this as a kid!”  After I got my food, I was waiting to get my drink from the soda fountain when a woman came up at the same time.  I stepped aside and gestured for her to go first.  She did.  Another woman, a bit older than me, walked up.  I told her she could go ahead.  “I just need ice,” she said.  I told her that was fine, all the more reason for her to go ahead.  “No, you should go.  You were here first.”

“It’s okay,” I told her.

“Here, I’ll get your drink for you.  What would you like?”  She grabbed my glass and started filling it with ice.

I smiled.  “Cherry Pepsi, please.”  She filled the glass and handed it back to me.  “Thank you.  That was very nice!” I told her.  She smiled and we went our separate ways.

Once Jess and Missy and I met back up, we were ready to start on the next floor.  This is the floor that usually gets me in trouble because I want almost everything I see.  As we descended the stairs, I squealed, “Oh!  New bags!”  I have several IKEA shopping bags (the big, rectangular bags with funky designs).  I like to use them when I go grocery shopping because they’re big and hold a good amount of weight.  These new bags even zipped up, which I thought was brilliant.  Jess, of course, just rolled her eyes at me.  But I was a good girl – I only got one (I have about 5 more at home).

Overall, the three of us only got a handful of small things (Missy didn’t even get something for herself; it was for Kate).  As I waited in line, a husband and wife went by, pushing their cart and their tell-tale yellow bag (yellow bags hold unpaid merchandise).  The cashier stopped them and said that there was no unpaid merchandise beyond that point.  The couple seemed a bit stumped.  I was amazed.  If you’ve never been to an IKEA, let me explain.  Once you wind through the entire store, you come to the checkout lanes that span the length of the room.  There is no way to get out without going through a checkout lane.  It’s quite obvious just by looking at one’s surroundings that one is to pay for her items here.  So, when the couple didn’t realize that they had to pay at one of the 25 checkout lanes, I was quite shocked.  Did they think that all these people were just standing in lines for fun?

One of the things I like the most about IKEA is the water efficient toilets.  For liquid waste, you push the handle up.  For solid waste, you push the handle down.  Depending on which way the handle is pushed, the toilet will use only the needed amount of water.  I don’t know how much water is saved, but could you imagine if more places did this?  We could save so much more water every day!

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Posted by on August 20, 2010 in About me


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Diary of a wimpy adult

In Kalamazoo, Michigan is a zoo that is unlike any other. There are no animals but there are plenty of rides and a lot of attractions. It is the Air Zoo where one can see and experience the history of flight.

Fred, his parents, and I went to the Air Zoo on our second day in Michigan. While I was growing up, Dad took the family to several air museums. As a kid, I found them rather boring. I wanted to zip around the exhibits as quickly as possible and get back in the car. However, as only grownups can seem to do, my parents wanted to take their time and read each description of the planes. But the brochure of the Air Zoo showed more than just planes; it also had rides.

The first ride Fred and I hopped on was a “hot air balloon” ride. It was mechanical and it spun in circles while swooping up and down. I really enjoyed it but the circling caused Fred to be nauseous. We then joined with his parents for a 4-D battle flight experience. The seats moved and air blew in our faces at intervals, not only giving the audience the sensation of wind but also the smell of plane exhaust. While I liked how they incorporated smell, I was a bit disappointed at the rest of it. I thought that the seats would move constantly, dipping us back and to the sides. But the chairs only moved back and only a couple of times. I left the “ride” wanting more.

The next ride was a flight simulator. Basically it was an elaborate computer game that two people could play. The participants were strapped into their seats, each with controls at their side.  One was the pilot and the other was a gunner.  Then a lid came down over them, completely trapping them in a tiny box. The game screen was projected in front of them and they had complete control of what happened while they were in there.

As I stood in line with Fred, I saw most of the boxes doing barrel rolls and hanging either straight up or straight down. I quickly lost my nerve. I figured that Fred, who loves rollercoasters, wouldn’t let me, Ms. Chicken Shit, get away without doing at least one barrel roll. It wasn’t that I was just afraid of the ride, either. I was afraid of throwing up and I hate the thought of throwing just as much as the act itself. So I stepped out of line and let Fred’s dad, who was also a thrill seeker, ride with him.

As they climbed aboard, I yelled out, “You can always ditch in the ocean!”  Fred’s mom and I watched the monitor that showed us what they were seeing inside the ride. Less than a minute into their flight, the plane headed straight for the water. “I was only joking,” I thought but maybe they were just having fun. Then, suddenly, the whole contraption flipped around and their simulator was facing the opposite direction it had started in. It was then that I felt right in my decision not to go on the ride.

Next to the flight simulator was an exhibit called “The Fly Girls of WWII” which featured the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  Each woman was listed with a picture and brief biography.  Original uniforms were displayed on mannequins.  There was also a short history on the WASP mascot, Fifi, which was drawn by Disney animators and based on a Roald Dahl character.

We then looked at the long and sleek Lockheed SR-71B Blackbird.  (Yeah, I didn’t know what it was at first, either.)  This plane was built by NASA to spy (on what, I’m not sure, but it probably has something to do with America’s enemies).  It was painted completely black and the aerodynamics of it were stunning.  It could reach a speed of Mach 3!  It was quite a sight to behold.

Next to the spy plane was another ride, this time a trip on a shuttle to the space station.  It was another mild ride, but definitely more exciting than the 4-D ride.  That was the end of the first building so we took a break and had a snack from the Kitty Hawk Cafe.  We skipped the gift store (“Fly Buy Store”) entirely and headed for the East Campus.  Here visitors could pay for a plane ride where they took hold of the control themselves.  Even if it had been free, I wouldn’t have done it!  We stuck to the exhibits, which were all about space, instead.

A tiny capsule caught my attention right away.  It was just big enough to hold a toddler.  Right below the one window were three handles, each a different color.  Curious, I read about the odd contraption.  It turned out to be what the monkeys trained in to prepare for flight in space.  The handles were part of a series of tests.  If the monkey did well, he got a banana pellet.  If he did poorly, then there was no pellet.  To help kids understand (or perhaps just to keep them entertained) there was a video version of the tests to play.  I started out doing fine but…well, let’s just say it’s a good thing I’m not a monkey in the space program.

Despite having watched Apollo 13 (one of my all-time favorite movies) right before heading out on our trip, I still couldn’t comprehend the size of the shuttle.  Well, the Air Zoo helped put it in perspective for me.  There was one burner set up so that one could walk underneath it.  It was bigger than I’d imagined from watching movies, and to think that the shuttles had four of those on it blew my mind!

Fred and I tried our hand at docking a station.  The first time around, I was in control of the direction while he was in control of the speed.  I veered off to the right and then over-corrected the mistake.  It was more difficult than it looked so I made Fred switch places with me to see if he could do any better.  He wasn’t able to dock on the first try either, although he was a lot closer than I was.

We then walked through a recreated shuttle that depicted how everyday tasks were handled in space.  I learned that astronauts have to wear a snorkeling mask when showering so the water doesn’t go up their noses.  Then they have to vacuum off the water from the walls and their skin.  It was also interesting to see their sleeping quarters and bathrooms.  Everything looked a lot more complicated and in such a tinier area!

We were forced to bypass the Zero Gravity ride because it had a maximum waist requirement of 38 inches.  That was one of the rides I’d been looking forward to so I was quite disappointed when I learned I couldn’t go on it.  Fred wanted to go on the Space Ball, a contraption that rolls two people around and around.  I didn’t want to go (again, I didn’t want to throw up) and this time I was happy to see a maximum weight capacity that forced me to sit out.  Instead, Fred went on the ride with someone else who wanted to go and didn’t have a partner.  I watched as Fred was spun around in every which direction.  He looked like he was having fun but the ride left his nauseated.  The rest of us were ready to go anyway, as we had a long car ride still ahead of us.

Aside from Fred’s nausea, the four of us left Michigan in good spirits.  It’d been a fun weekend.  I can’t wait to go back some time and experience more…with my feet firmly on the ground, of course!

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Posted by on July 20, 2010 in About me, Travel


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