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Showing posts with label vacation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vacation. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 02, 2019 No comments

Campy New Year!

I think a lot of us are relieved to see 2018 in the rear-view, and perhaps are directing a forest of Meaty Middle Fingers its way. But it had its moments. Charlie’s continuing to learn new signs, even if he isn’t speaking out loud yet, and is starting to put two-word sentences together (often things like “eat sandwich”). At any rate, the year ended well.

I’ve been looking for a popup camper for the last couple months. The wife is on board—she won’t tent-camp, but she actually encouraged me to buy a (far smaller and less-equipped) popup some years back. The money didn’t shake out then, but a couple months ago I had a surprise moneybomb—the workplace is being acquired, and I’d had a standing order to sell some stock if it hit $30. So, all of a sudden, the hunt was on. I set a budget, found Pop-up Portal, and started learning all I could from a deep hive mind.

Searching Craigslist, I immediately found one local to me; it was 20 years old, but solid and a lot roomier than I remembered them being when the parents rented one (the slide-out dinette probably had a lot to do with that). The price was well within my budget.

There were snags, though, and it was probably all for the best. I thought I’d set up a transfer from the broker to my checking, but I hadn’t, and doing the setup (of course) took longer than I wanted it to. I was annoyed with myself, because I felt like I was stringing the seller along, and told them to go ahead and sell it if someone else came by with cash in hand. Meanwhile, I used the time to research what I could. Good thing: turned out our vehicle can pull 2000 lbs, and the camper weighed in at 2600. That wouldn’t have ended well.

Off to Craigslist again. This time, I had a specific set of criteria. Absolute requirements: 1800 lb or less, A/C (Planet Georgia summers can be horrid without it), camp-ready. Nice to haves: 1600 lb or less, a toilet, full 12V setup. The latter is not a given; all the sellers I talked to always camp at places with full hookups and don’t have battery power hooked in.

After tossing obvious scams, newer campers that were way over budget, and big amenity-laden models that blew away my weight allowance, I ran out of local options. Expanding my search radius turned up a promising find that checked all my “must” and “want” boxes, but it sold before I had a chance to go look at it. Another one turned out to be a scam (“I sent it to an eBay dealer in Omaha who will deliver it for free”)… yeah, right. I reported that one to the FTC. There were a couple of promising leads in Alabama and South Carolina, but the logistics (especially around the holidays) and the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. I decided to give it a week and see what happened next, and seriously considered upping my budget.

So Friday, a new listing, um… popped up. It was slightly over budget, but I thought “hey, that map looks familiar.” Turned out it was local! I called to check it out on Saturday, and the seller said “I thought that listing went away. But I’m on my way over to the storage unit now, we can meet there.” It was, like many of the days have been around here, rainy and crappy, but we did crank up the top so I could have a look at the not-actually-canvas (it’s called Aqualon™). It was intact, if slightly grimy.

He said, “the rain is supposed to let up tomorrow, why don’t I bring it over to your place and we can set it up?” Sounded great by me, especially since our car has a hitch but no wiring just yet.

So here he came, in a gigantic diesel 4-door pickup (white, imagine that), big enough to pull a gooseneck trailer, with a 1500-ish pound popup behind. I doubt the truck even felt it. Negotiating our horrid driveway involved him rolling his front wheels onto the grass, which dug some pretty deep divots. Couldn’t be helped. We unhooked and pushed it in front of my Miata, then commenced to setting it all up.

It was less grimy inside than out, except for the floor and ceiling. The upholstery is intact, and there’s already an outdoor rug—one less thing to get. There’s also a space heater and a case and a half of bottled water. I worked the hand pump at the sink, and to my surprise water came out. Turned out the 10-gallon water tank had about 3 gallons in it.

2001 Starcraft Starflyer
Long story short, he knocked the price down to exactly my budget, and I cut him a check. We had a break in the rain today, so I spent much of New Year’s Day attacking the ceiling and A/C unit (I don’t think anyone ever cleaned those filters) with disinfectant wipes while Mason cleaned up the beds with a Dirt Devil.

The dining table is the size it is, because it doubles as a spare bed (spanning the dinette benches), but it makes things a little tight. I’d like to include something narrower for our trips. There are a few minor repair items to address as well, but it’s supposed to be sunny this weekend. Mason is already wanting to set up and sleep in it. Charlie likes clambering around in the bunk ends as well.

I’ve got it folded up for now, because I needed to get the Miata out of the garage tomorrow. Still some cleaning to do—mainly the cabinets on one side, vacuuming under the seating area, and scrubbing the floor. I’m going to have to graft in a battery system, because a couple places I want to take it don’t have hookups. Holiday’s over, but we’ll have a few of our own holidays in the months to come. Sooner than later, I plan to clean up the other side of the detached garage so it has a dry place to live.

For the future, we may do some remodeling. I’m looking over Pop-up Princess for ideas. For now, I’m digging on the geeky model name, “Starflyer.” Not only did it come with a name, the shelf in the king-bed front bunk is called a “Space Station.” I added a bunch of accessories to my Amazon wish list, as much to remind me what to get as anything else.

So we should have some new vacation destinations in 2019. I’ll be glad to share. Maybe I won’t have to burn off a bunch of vacation time at the end of each year…

Monday, September 07, 2015 5 comments

Sliding Into Six

It's our timeshare week, and Mason's birthday was yesterday.


Today is the last day the waterslide is open, so we made the most of it this weekend. DD, Fizzle, and his kids all joined us Friday night, but left Saturday so Fizzle could get to his mall cop job. We went back to the manor for Mason’s party. To my shock, Snippet called for the first time in a long time. She texted me pics of her other two kids; I sent her a couple recent shots of Mason.

Of course, even though we’re on vacation, Mason keeps waking up at 7am and insisting on asking me questions instead of playing quietly until I’m ready to shamble out to the kitchen and start some coffee. We spent all morning at the waterslide, pool, and lake (where there’s a slide going into the water, as I demonstrated last year). He was seriously worn out, but a warm bath and lunch got him roaring back to life. He was hungry, he ate: a piece of bread (aka mayo sandwich), a slice of pizza, a piece of ham, and a cheese stick. He left one corner of the bread uneaten. Now, he’s badgering me to take him to the clubhouse.

And they call this vacation? :-P

Monday, August 03, 2015 5 comments

Home Sweet Hole

It was too much to ask, vacation going on forever. Every time we head home, it seems like there’s some “reason” to get there in a mad rush. This time, it was Fizzle needing to pick up his kids for back to school shopping.

I did get to see Dad one more time Friday morning, and that was fruitful. I realized, from the things he talks about, that he’ll remember something that makes an impression on him. Like the old lady on his floor that came walking into his room and tried to make herself at home. “This is my space,” he said, circling a hand around the room. “She thought she could just come in here. Well, I showed her the door.” Then there was the nurse who woke him up one morning and got him down to breakfast: “She seems to think she knows everything, but she doesn’t.” He also remembered her as… oh, rather hefty. So chances are if you rile him up, he’ll remember that!

Now that we’re back to the manor, it’s about time to start school. Michigan has a much more reasonable schedule, letting people have their summer so they don’t have to rush vacation and lose all of August. Here on Planet Georgia, Daughter Dearest is already going in to prep and socialize with her co-workers; Mason starts kindergarten on Friday.

As for me, it’s back to work. I weeded my email from home yesterday afternoon, leaving only things I needed to take action on today and the rest of the week. At least we have another week off in September.

Thursday, July 30, 2015 4 comments

Escape from FAR Manor: Family

For pix of the beach trip, scroll down or jump to the previous post

These trips north give us all a chance to escape the free-range insane asylum, and gives me a chance to see my family. Dad has Alzheimer’s these days, which makes it difficult for him. He’s in a facility where they can keep him comfortable, and I suppose that’s the best that can be said. Other Brother and his family lives nearby, so he at least gets regular visits.

Despite the issues, he’s still Dad. He reads quite a bit. Remembering how to work a TV remote is a little beyond him, so one of the staff turns it on for him and he just unplugs it when he’s ready for some quiet. He does retain some of what he reads; he could tell me a little about the book he was reading when we came in. I think I should send him a monthly letter with pictures; maybe it will help.

He has a rather odd narrative of how he ended up here: he was at an assisted living joint for a while, and liked it there. He says two guys from the place invited him out for a walk, then abandoned him; he got cold-cocked and woke up in this place. What actually happened was that he got an infection in a leg muscle that got to the point of blood poisoning; between that and the Alzheimer’s, he doesn’t remember the hospital stay or the transfer.

Some of my other uncles are not doing so great, so we’re planning to see one or two tomorrow. We’ll hit a winery while we’re out. Combining trips is important when you have to leave Friday for the old grind…

Sunday, July 26, 2015 4 comments

Escape from FAR Manor: Reaching the Beach

In an attempt to stretch vacation, I took Thursday and Friday off as well as the entire week. We made the hotel reservations, and only afterwards found out DD’s fiance was coming with.

BTW, I have the fiance’s blog-name: Fizzle. (Future Son In Law → FSIL → Fizzle) This name will last unto the wedding, at which point I’ll come up with another one.

There was no problem at neither the hotel we spent the night at along the way, nor the one we have set up camp in. We couldn’t get two rooms at the Ramada like we did last year, which was bad because that pool has a waterslide and good because their wi-fi sucks so hard, so we ended up a couple miles farther out at Crowne Plaza. We arrived Friday evening, unpacked, got food, and crashed. Saturday we mostly dinked around. We went to a local park so Mason could hit the playground, but that was about it.

But Sunday… ah, Sunday. We loaded up and headed to Saugatuck. We went to the beach there many times in my youth, climbing Mt. Baldy and running full-tilt-boogie down the other side. The “in my youth” part is significant here. They replaced the uphill slog with steps:

Stairway to Heaven?
Wife took one look and said, “nope.” DD echoed the sentiment. To my surprise, so did Fizzle. Mason wanted to do it, and I would have been OK with it, except I knew my knee would start screaming well before the day was over.

So we piled in the car and took the less up-and-over route to Oval Beach. Being a summer weekend in Michigan, with temps in the mid-80s (F), we were far from the only people going to the beach. There was a rather long line of cars waiting to pay the $8 and get through. When they got to us, they said, “you’re the second to last car.” Yipe!

We found a spot, a rather decent location in fact, and hucked our chairs, cooler, and bags to the sand. It was rather crowded, as you can see here.

We have reached the beach!
The gatehouse to the parking lot had info posted, including the water temperature: 65F. eep But the air was warm, the sand was downright hot, and there were people in the water. As it turned out, the water was cold, but it didn’t feel all that cold. Fizzle and Mason were gung-ho to get in, DD skeptical, and I took my sweet time but joined them.

Did I mention the sand was hot? Yup. In one of those “reality is stranger than fiction” things, the sand was actually hotter than the pavement on our tender bare feet. If you were standing in one place on the sand, you could dig under the top inch or so to a more comfortable layer.

The wife stayed with our stuff, high up on the beach, while the rest of us gamboled in Lake Michigan. She took plenty of pictures, including this one of the four of us:

Me, DD, Fizzle, and Mason
She took many other shots, but there was this one woman who seemed to like to photobomb us a lot. Or maybe she knew I’d appreciate it…

DOUBLE photobomb!
She got right in the way of DD and Fizzle’s happy embrace. Jeez.

After a few hours, we were all ready to move on. After a late lunch at a local bowling alley/restaurant, Fizzle and I ended up at the Saugatuck Brewery for a taste of local craft beer.

Bottoms up!
The Beer of the Day was a dopple-bock that was very good, even if it had a tarragon note. The Singapore IPA is a middle-of-the-road IPA, nothing weird. I was less impressed with the Oval Beach Blonde, even if we had just come from its namesake. I got a variety 12-pack to take back to Planet Georgia.

So, a toast to vacation—may it go on much longer!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 2 comments

Vacation Slides Along

On Monday, we signed out a paddleboat and took a little tour around the lake:

Faster, Granddad!

There's a beach area on down a ways, that has a slide going right into the water, and Mason was all hot to do that. So next morning, away we went!


There's also a raft, not something I see a lot of here in the South, although lots of lakes had them up north. On Monday, I steered the paddleboat up to the ladder so he could climb up for a few seconds, but yesterday he wanted to swim out there. Fortunately, the lake water was reasonably warm. His floaties did the job, and he got a pretty good idea of how things were when I was a kid in summer. (I hadn't swam out to a raft in decades, so it was fun for me too.) He did get to shivering after a while, so I got him up on the raft and sitting in the sun for a little bit until he warmed up.

OK, I'll skim across the water and make the turn...

As you can see, we pretty much had the beach to ourselves. That was kind of a pity, but I guess with it being the week after Labor Day, all of the kids are back in school. I hope we can get over here on daytrips next summer; Mason already wants Daughter Dearest and me to chuck him off the raft. I told him he has to learn to swim without floaties first, so he has an incentive. He really wore himself out yesterday, and slept a long time, almost until 9.

Last night, we found a playground, and there was already a little girl his age there. Both of them were glad to have someone else to play with, so they let the parental units talk among themselves for a while. The downside of that is, Mason's now bummed when we go somewhere and there aren't any other kids around.

I'm not hurling, just spinning!

Too bad it's just him and me. DD is sick, and the wife is (as usual) tied up. I've got a little cold myself. But he's trying to get me to take him to the pool up at the clubhouse, so I need to leave this here. More vacation fun, you know!

Tuesday, August 05, 2014 4 comments

Maintenance Monday

A vacation in Michigan is wonderful, but then there’s the return to the routine and outright misery that is FAR Manor. Nevertheless, I took an extra vacation day yesterday, partly to get a little rest before getting back to work and partly to take care of some things.

Vacation was altogether lovely. We stayed at the Ramada Plaza, at 28th St. and East Beltline, the heart of the retail district and a 10-minute drive from both Other Brother’s place and the place where Dad is now staying. The Plaza has a shallow pool with a high waterslide, and Mason loved the pool. He finally worked up the nerve later in the week to take the waterslide, first with Daughter Dearest and then with me, and then on Friday (our last night) he unlocked the “go it solo” achievement.

The day before we left for Michigan, my phone (iPhone 4) began acting up—powering down and restarting whenever I tried to do anything that involved the display (and that’s why I have no pix to share for now; DD will share soon). I assumed the phone needed to be restored, and worked through it that night with no luck. During the week, I figured out that I could use it for hours if I left it plugged in, which pointed to the battery. Fortunately, iFixit has parts and entire replacement kits (which include necessary tools), along with extensive instructions and videos, and the kit was $25 including shipping. Fighting the Ramada Plaza’s thoroughly crappy hotel wifi, the biggest downside to the place, I managed to place the order and the kit arrived on Monday.

But the mail runs around noon at FAR Manor, so I had the entire morning to change the oil in the Miata. This was something that needed doing a few weeks ago, so it got priority. Turned out I already had enough oil, and just needed a filter. (And an oil drain plug gasket, but we’ll get to that shortly.)

Changing oil is pretty straightforward: put the car up on ramps, loosen the filler cap on top of the motor, the drain plug underneath, and the filter on the side. The top and side can be done by hand, the bottom requires a 19mm wrench. You want a pan to catch the oil, a few rags to wipe up spills… and a new plug gasket. I’d neglected the last part, and ended up with the car spitting a cup of oil on the garage floor when I started it for the leak-check. Off to the parts store for a replacement, which required the van. Since the van needed new wiper blades, no problem. I lost another cup of oil when I loosened the plug, although that was expected. I kept a thumb over the drain hole and put the new gasket on with the other hand. Sloppy, but not difficult.

Then, I figured out what was needed to fix the windshield washers—a Y-connector had come apart and the fluid was going down the rain drain. Since the wife was going that way again anyway, I tagged along to get a replacement.

With the car dealt with, I finally got to the phone surgery. I have a floor lamp with a magnifier, and at my age it’s not an option for doing detailed things like this. To keep tiny screws from escaping to freedom, I did everything inside the shipping box. I was struck by the similarities between the battery swap and the oil change: three screws, a couple of specialty items (ramps vs. plastic pry tool), a little care when reassembling… and each took about the same amount of time. The differences were primarily those of scale and sloppiness.

The insides of an iPhone4,
with the new battery ready to install.
With repairs effected, and vacation over, things can get back to normal. Ouch.

Saturday, July 20, 2013 6 comments

Looking Back on Vacation

I realized a long time ago, when I need a car, it will come to me at the right time. My Civic has over 450,000 miles on it (the actual mileage is indeterminate, as the speedometer only works about 5% of the time these days), it uses oil now, and the gas mileage has been dropping off. So when we went to Florida in January, and my brother Solar said he was planning to sell his Miata come spring, I told him I wanted first dibs.

When he got ready to sell, and realized I was serious about buying it, he waxed enthusiastic. “Yeah, you can fly down, we can go to the autocross. We’ll have a bro-weekend, and you can drive it home!” Works for me… but then the wife realized she didn’t have a lot going on, that week after the 4th, Daughter Dearest hunted down a resort near the beach (like across the road), and it was vacation time!

I still flew down in advance, to spend the weekend with Solar. I packed enough stuff to get me through the weekend, in a bag that tucked easily under the aircraft seat, and the wife agreed to drive me to the airport so we wouldn’t have to pick up a car later on. So we bolted out the door Saturday morning, got two miles, and Daughter Dearest called. “Does Dad want to take a copy of the resort reservation?”

“I don’t think he’ll need it,” saith the wife.

“Well, he left his phone, too.”

Sigh. Turn around, grab the paper and phone, and now we’re on the way. Since my phone was making a bunch of chirps and bings, I stuck it between my legs for easy access. Of course, that meant I left it in the car when I got to the airport. Fortunately, the wife found it and called Solar, to let him know what had happened. I bummed a phone call off the guy sitting next to me on the plane, when we arrived in Tampa, to find that things had been arranged for the pickup. Whew.

So Solar and I had a pretty good time, eating, drinking, being merry, and flinging his 240SX around at the autocross. That took us to late Sunday afternoon, and he handed me the Miata keys so I could meet the rest of the family at the resort. We got there almost simultaneously!

We mostly spent mornings at the beach, the pool in the afternoons. Solar came over for dinner a couple times, and we ate out some, but his job is finally picking back up so he wasn’t around all the time. Our one touristy thing was a trip to the Suncoast Bird Sanctuary, just a few miles down the road. They rescue and (where possible) rehabilitate injured seabirds, but those with permanent injuries have a safe place to live out their lives. There were plenty of free-ranging birds there as well; I think they figured out that handouts were a regular part of life there.

For the rest of this post, I give you a slideshow (with captions). Sorry about the Flash trash, I figured Google would have embraced the HTML5 future by now…

The trip home was interesting. I expected to have to be careful to not leave the wife behind… but she was driving that minivan like Shirley Muldowney up I-75, and I was wailing pretty hard to keep up. I think someone wanted to get home. :-)

Monday, December 10, 2012 6 comments


Vacations always have a sunset clause
The problem with escaping FAR Manor is that I can’t stay escaped. And the recapture always happens a day or two sooner than it should. OK, I shouldn’t really complain. Much. For one thing, the weather was near-perfect for vacation. They need some rain in Florida, but we got lots of beach and outdoor time. Mason wasn’t the only one who had a wonderful time. The only thing I didn’t get to do was meet up with some of my Twitter friends.

I got to take care of some of Mom’s computer issues, and that turned out to be fun. Dozeboxes and their software is always more than a little weird, and Vista flat refused to load the drivers for Mom’s HP all-in-one off the CD. It claimed it needed to run from an admin account, and that’s what we were doing. So I downloaded the drivers and ran it from there, and it worked.

That's me on the left
With all that working, we started scanning pictures. Mom had me get a miniature cedar chest off a high shelf, and she weeded out a few shots that nobody really wanted. The scanning software let us run several pictures at a time, and we made quick work of it.

One of the pictures was this one, complete with someone’s pencil marks. That’s me (on the left) and Other Brother. There was no date, but I figure it was early 1961 when I was in my Terrible Twos. I was an adorable little rug rat, huh? Now you know where Mason gets it from. :-D

Wednesday, December 05, 2012 1 comment

On the Beach

Mason shows us his latest shell
The first couple days of vacation, with a toddler, are best spent simultaneously unwinding and establishing a routine. As warm as it is, we do the beach in the morning and then spend some time with Mom through the afternoon (working around Mason’s naptime, which does limit afternoon mobility). Mason loves playing in the sand, finding shells, and getting his feet in the (somewhat chilly) water.

Daughter Dearest found a huge whelk in the water, and there’s pictures of me holding it up. It protested the only way it could, by spitting water, but I was holding it the other way. After a handful of pictures, I returned it and it started digging as quickly as such an ungainly thing can.

Last night, Mom, Wicked Stepfather, and Solar-bro came over for a little cookout. The cottages here have a couple zillion grills scattered around the common area, and I did burgers and dogs in the dark. A Hispanic lady in one of the other cottages came over and brought a cup of fresh salsa—as in warm off the stove fresh. It was eyeball-melting hot, and very tasty, so I dabbled some on my bratwurst and really liked it. Unfortunately, Mom tossed the rest of the cup. I was going to get some chips and see if I could melt beach sand with my breath.

I continue to be glad the girlies made it this time. Wife has actually started to relax, and Daughter Dearest has about caught up on her sleep. As for Mason, he wakes up at 8am, whether the rest of us are up or not, and finds a new strange place to play until the Big People get moving. This morning, it was the closet in our bedroom. Mom got the girlies tickets for some local production tonight, and I’ll have to see if I can tweet-up with some of the locals.

Sunday, December 02, 2012 1 comment

Escape from FAR Manor!

For the first time in far too long, we all got to escape FAR Manor. Wife-o-licious tried to get her dad to come, but he flip-flopped around most of the week then finally decided to stay home. That meant the wife did a mad scramble to line up people to keep an eye on him, but line up they did. Mom found us a cottage off the road, across from the beach, and near her place. Daughter Dearest had to work until 3 on Saturday, but that gave us time to pack (and forget a minimal amount of stuff). Still, I breathed a sigh of relief when we got moving with everyone in the car.

Since we were planning to leave so late in the afternoon, I booked a hotel room in Valdosta. It turned out to be right in front of the freeway exit—no left turn, no right turn, just go straight across and into the hotel parking lot. There were two people in front of me to check in at the front desk, and I think it took each of then ten times what it took me, just because I had a reservation. Mason slept through a cavalcade of snoring, and I’ll admit it wasn’t all from the wife and daughter… although both of them did more than they let themselves believe.

So this morning, it was up and on the road again, with a toddler who spent all of his waking hours in a car seat. Nap? Hah! But as we crossed the Howard Frankenstein Bridge (as the locals call it), Mason got his first-ever glimpse of the ocean. He was excited, as you can see.

Mom was helping some other ladies decorate the condo, so we grabbed some lunch and ate at the park across the road while Mason blew off some energy on the playground. (Did I mention it was warm enough to do that?) An older boy was there, and wearing the same color shirt as Mason, so they were suddenly Team Orange and hung out all over the place.

The cottage got a rare Wife Seal of Approval. It’s spacious, and has a big open area for Mason to run around in. So he got to blow off a little more energy while I parked in a lounge chair with my Kindle. Oh, and the place has wifi, which means I get to write a blog post…

So I hope there will be much relaxing through the week, for all of us. I did all the driving, after they said they’d pitch in, so I hope I’ll be one of the relax-ers too.

Tomorrow is a non-vacation post. If I get more post-worthy photos, they will be seen here too.

Sunday, September 23, 2012 4 comments

Weekend Mason blogging

Or, “what I did on our vacation…”

Y'all can call me Shady!

Hey, these floaties keep me out of the water!
Time to go for a swim…

Yes, wearing ice cream is half the fun!

Man, it's been a long day… I guess
I'll rest a minute… ZZZzzzZZZzzz…

Tuesday, August 28, 2012 2 comments

Vacation, pt 2: Badger Badger Badger

Lake Michigan was unusually calm while I was in Manitowoc, and that was one more reason to take the freshwater ocean route to Michigan via the S.S. Badger. The Badger is a “car ferry,” originally built  60 years ago for the C&O railroad, hauling rail cars across Lake Michigan to bypass the ├╝ber-busy Chicago railyards. We’re talking some serious iron here:

Image source: official S.S. Badger site
With the decline in rail traffic, Chicago railyards aren’t as congested as they once were, and C&O eventually abandoned its maritime operations. But there was a demand for carrying the other kind of cars, the ones that we drive everywhere, and a group of people bought the ship and continue to operate it. Unofficially, it’s part of US10; the highway runs from Bay City to Ludington and then from Manitowoc to points west. The ship sports a US10 logo on the stern, which I thought was a fun touch. During the summer, the ship makes two round-trips across the lake per day.

Given the vintage of the ship, it’s a coal-fired steamer. In my opinion, these are the best museum pieces, the ones still doing something close to what they were built to do in the first place. The Badger has a small museum on board, depicting the history of both maritime shipping and the railroads’ maritime passenger systems. Many of the small staterooms are still available to rent along the way—which probably makes more sense on the nighttime crossing, but sometimes you need a mid-afternoon nap.

There’s a couple acres of coalyard adjacent to the Badger’s dock, and this truck hauled at least three loads of coal on board before we departed.

So I bought my ticket and turned my car over to the valets (or whatever the maritime equivalent is), then boarded the ship. In my estimation, the amenities are overkill for a four-hour trip, but I might have thought differently if it hadn’t been perfect outdoor weather. As it was, I spent most of the crossing on the foredeck, lounging on a deck chair and reading—with a little timeout for checking out the rest of the ship. They have two TV rooms, a movie room, a playroom for small kids, the mini-museum, two cafeterias, and plenty of indoor (and outdoor) seating. There weren’t a lot of people on the port side, though, since the wind was blowing the coal smoke right down that side of the ship. They also have wifi, but I didn’t bother.

Eventually, we reached Ludington. It took about half an hour to debark and get my car. I grabbed some food and got on the road, and was at Dad’s after about two and a half hours. It was only after getting here that I found out about another car ferry that goes between Milwaukee and Muskegon, and takes only two hours to make the crossing. I don’t know how much it cost, though, and this was easier with regard to where I was leaving from. Next time we all go to Michigan, we might take the weekend “cruise” across the lake to Manitowoc and stay with The Boy, then go back. We could leave the car and save some money that way.

At Dad’s, I… well, that’s the next post!

Monday, August 27, 2012 2 comments

Vacation pt 1: Manitowoc

So it was just over two weeks ago when I loaded a tote bag, computer bag, camera bag, and cooler into Daughter Dearest’s car and pointed the nose north. Of course, I’d planned to leave around 10am, but it was closer to 1pm before departure. I had to pick up my BP/cholesterol meds early, and the wife was reluctant to let her slave labor the love of her life go away for so long. But go I did—I was on a mission, although I didn't realize it until I was already there.

I did manage to make the Columbus IN exit around bedtime, and settled on a Motel 6 for the night. The tall, tall sign, visible from the freeway, promised rooms starting at $44.99. I had to ask the desk clerk about that when she handed me the bill for $60. “Oh,” she said, “that’s the weekday rate for a single room.”

“Seems like you should change the sign for the weekend,” I suggested, not being overtly confrontational… yet.

“We can’t see it from here, and something’s screwed up.” Yeah, I think it was a fatal error in the morals circuitry. I haven’t emailed their corporate offices about it yet, but I will. I will. Misleading is the nice word.

The next morning was better—I met the couple that are affectionately called “the Fs” on their blog, for breakfast. All too soon, I was on the road again. But this time, instead of veering onto US31, I stayed on I-65. I got to geek out over the enormous wind farm south of Gary—hundreds of turbines on both sides of the freeway, for miles and miles—before getting stuck in Chicago traffic on a Sunday afternoon. I managed to make Wisconsin before needing gas, and tanked up for the final leg up I-43 to Manitowoc. North of Milwaukee, traffic was stopped up going south, but northbound was mostly clear sailing. I got to The Boy’s place in time for supper.

As always, The Boy has a crowd of colorful characters gathered around him. J (fourth from left), who also came from Planet Georgia and lived at FAR Manor for a little while, left Kentucky for Wisconsin at the beginning of the new year. He’s now The Boy’s official roomie. J’s new girlfriend Courtney lives at the apartment with him, and she says others have been coming around more often now that The Boy and Snippet are broke up. That has been six weeks and counting—probably the best thing for them both. Had I planned to go straight back to Planet Georgia from Manitowoc, I would have contacted Snippet and offered her a ride back. She wasn’t all that thrilled to move up north to begin with, you know. But, since I wasn’t going straight back, I didn’t contact her and we didn’t run into her.

Anyway, they live in a largish old house that’s been separated into three or four apartments. It’s not upscale by any means, but in reasonable shape for young working-class guys and surprisingly clean. He keeps night-shift hours, so I would get up in the morning and creep out to the porch to eat breakfast and write. That worked out well; the others would start moving around at 10:30 or so, about the time I was about wrote out for the morning.

THAT is a lake.
One question I was asked often, “are you taking the ferry across the lake?” The ferry leaves Manitowoc and crosses Lake Michigan (seen behind us) to Ludington. It’s a four-hour jaunt, and not cheap ($150, half for me and half for the car), but I’d get back $30 or $40 in gas and avoid all that traffic. I figured the travel time would be pretty close, but it was four hours I wouldn’t have to drive myself.

Of course, since we were right on Lake Michigan, we had to go to the beach. The weather was beautiful, and I wish I was still there.

On Tuesday night, I got a call from Other Brother. “Bad news,” he said. “Uncle John passed away yesterday. His viewing is Thursday night and the funeral is Friday. Are you going to be here for that?” Then the fun one: “Oh, and Dad totaled his car Thursday.” So at least I could be there not only for the funeral, but to make sure Dad got there.

Wednesday morning, I got The Boy some groceries (“I’m about over the thing with Snippet,” he said) and we had a quick lunch before I boarded the ferry. That’s tomorrow’s installment.

Sunday, December 18, 2011 3 comments

Staycation 2011, Days 0–2

Work has a strange policy: they let you carry over two weeks of vacation per year. But everyone gets three weeks, plus a week of personal days and floating holidays, so (if you carried over two weeks from last year) you pretty much have to burn off a month’s worth of vacation to keep from losing any. The upshot is, the office gets awfully empty the second half of December.

We were hoping to get down to Florida to visit Mom before Christmas, but I couldn’t ever get anyone to nail down the days they were off… so maybe we’ll go next month. At least with the chicken houses in permanent shutdown, there won’t be that to contend with — but I have full faith in Mrs. Fetched’s ability to find some other timesuck to throw me into.

With Mason around, I’m already watching him nearly all weekend, every weekend. This weekend was typical in that regard. After a haircut trip yesterday, I zipped over to the bank to deposit a check and that was the closest thing approaching free time I had. Mason refused to take an afternoon nap, so I had none of the time I expected for writing this post yesterday. Then Mrs. Fetched and Daughter Dearest took off on a shopping trip, leaving us to find our own supper. I know Mason likes Subway’s meatballs, so we went there… and they were out of meatballs. I headed up to Johnny’s, where the food’s good but the service is glacial, and got us some chow. Then it was off to Chick-Fil-A, the only fast-food joint around here with an indoor playground, to let Mason burn off some energy.

One thing about Mason: he has a near-fetish for straight lines. He’ll line his cars up in a neat little row, then have a Toddler Meltdown™ when they don’t stay straight when he pushes the line. On modern playgrounds, with their tunnels and spiral slides, he’ll go through a straight tunnel — but if he can’t see the other end, he won’t go in. So he would go up the stairs, then come down and go poke around in the toddler area. Meanwhile, a little girl about three months younger than him was roaring down the spiral slide and having a good old time. Didn’t make the slightest impression on him.

So I’m not sure what happened — maybe some other kids chivvied him through the bent tunnel into the upper level — but he ended up in the enclosed area up top and started crying, because he wouldn’t go down the slide and he wouldn’t go back down the tunnel where he couldn’t see the outlet. I had to climb in there and talk him down; if he could see me, he was fine.

He also refused to nap today — and I had to make rolls for the supper after our church cantata — but I chucked him in his crib anyway until I got the dough thrown together. He was not exactly happy about that, but he got over it pretty quick once I came in and got him out. I got the rolls done just in time — I mean, we were out the door as soon as I threw them in a paper bag — and my throat survived the singing.

Tomorrow, I hope to do some yard work and some writing. Not necessarily in that order. The Boy and Snippet will be here for Christmas proper — or maybe I should say improper — so there might be a little soap opera-kind of post this weekend.

Sunday, September 11, 2011 2 comments

Mason Gets a Boat Ride

Up at the resort. Mrs. Fetched, after giving me Friday night to myself, gave me Mason all day yesterday and today. We’ve had a good time; we signed out a paddleboat yesterday afternoon and he got his first(?) boat ride:

We went to the pool after supper. There was another family there, with two ten-ish kids who thought Mason was truly the World’s Cutest Grandkid. The boy even held him for a moment, before Mason suddenly got anxious about it.

We’ve taken a couple long walks (well, I did the walking and pushed him in the stroller). Right now, we’re at the clubhouse where he’s working his way through a shelf full of toys and I’m scarfing the wifi.

Thursday, August 11, 2011 No comments

(Late) Wednesday Wibbles

I got no new followers this week, so I don’t have anyone to shout at. Spread the word, folks, I’d like to have 100 followers about the time I publish White Pickups so I’ll have a good excuse for a giveaway.

Not much writing got done while on vacation… but hey, it was a vacation, right? I really do need to get cracking on Pickups and Pestilence though. Other things, that will take a lot of effort, are beginning to draw my attention. I just may have to start serializing the thing to get the incentive-to-finish going.

Speaking of vacation, here’s a cute anecdote: Mason was very comfortable at Dad’s place — comfortable enough that he’d go explore odd corners on his own, well out of sight of the adults. We slept downstairs, where there was also a large TV. So one morning, we were minding our own business; Mason slipped up the stairs, into the kitchen, pulled a quart of blueberries off the counter (fortunately a snap-top container), then carried them back down the stairs. He came walking up to us: “Berries?” That kid could just about live off fruit and cheese… and meatballs. He loves him some meatballs.

I mentioned having a “crisis of confidence” about the Friday Flash that I didn’t post week before last. I thought of it at first as a Vacationlanders fan-fic, but that isn’t right either. After watching both parts of the first episode, which are all that have been posted so far, I found myself objecting to some of the key points.

First off, while I could see the feds cutting off services to regions — or entire states, as was done to Maine in Vacationlanders — I don’t think that what comes after is quite so drastic as is depicted in the first episode. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD On the other hand, I have to wonder if the film crew has been set up from the get-go. If the UTM were as lawless and dangerous as it seems, I would think they’d have heard about it and gone in prepared. END SPOILERS

Even if the Feds cut off the power grid and fuel deliveries at the border, 1) any local hydro and alternative facilities would still be available; 2) state and local governments would attempt to function and preserve order as much as possible, just to justify their continued existence; 3) you couldn’t cut off chunks of the country without some kind of quid pro quo for the affected citizenry or civil suits, probably both; 4) politics would exclude wealthy citizens from the Unincorporated Areas; 5) there would almost certainly be commerce along the border, perhaps even people continuing to commute from Unincorporated Outer Suburbia into Atlanta.

Back in 2009–2010 when there was a lot of talk from the right-wing losers about secession, I concluded that Planet Georgia could secede without hurting the rest of the country much, if at all. Seriously: what do we have here that can’t be produced somewhere else? No oil reserves, the gold was mined out decades ago, and the only strategic industrial pieces we have are concentrated in specific locations. So I created this map (click to enlarge), designating the Georgia Quadrangle where there are still full services, and Unincorporated Georgia. The corners of the quadrangle are the primary cities, with Columbus as a separate enclave, and a largeish rural “heartland” to supply food.

So here’s the writing prompt: think about your own area and whether it would still be “incorporated” or not, and conflicts should be many and obvious. Post links to your stories here so I’ll see them. If you use the graphics, copy them to your own blog so they stay available. I’ll post one of the flash pieces I’ve written on this theme on Friday.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011 2 comments

Some Vacation pix

Vacation must really be over, because I’m heading back to work tomorrow. Ick. The van’s A/C mostly worked; we found a few more glitches but that’s what a shakedown cruise is for, right? We took it back to the dealer this afternoon, to let them fix a few other things we ran across.

Mason traveled very well, much better than I expected. The girlies bought a portable DVD player to keep him occupied along the way, and that may have had something to do with it. He about drove Daughter Dearest nutz with endless requests to watch Cars though.

Let’s cut to the chase. Here’s a few of the best vacation pics:

A nice warm evening, a glass of wine, a lakefront view… what more could one ask from vacation?

Here, Daughter Dearest demonstrates her most excellent bubble-blowing technique. Mason loves it.

Mason loved popping the bubbles. I loved when they sailed off the deck and over the lake.

The public access site was a short walk away, and it had a sandy almost-beach area. Mason loved to pick up gravel and sand and throw it in the water.

It’s called Duck Lake, but that doesn’t keep the swans from coming around. They hung around for a while, and we speculated that they might have wanted to come ashore where we were. Oh well.

(The people in the background are property owners on the other side of the public access site.)

Mason got rather uncooperative after the first few family shots, but this one worked pretty well. Left to right: Other Brother, me, Mason, Dad.

On the way home, Daughter Dearest phoned a college friend who lives along the way, and she suggested we all meet for lunch. We ended up at the city park in Trenton, GA, which has a pretty cool carving (nearly 20 feet high).

We arrived in mid-afternoon yesterday, with Mason sound asleep. I got the van unloaded and managed to sit down for a while as he napped.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 4 comments

Escape from FAR Manor! 2011.1

Vacation has begun, says I, typing this in a hotel room somewhere in Indiana. (Jim, Andi, sorry I didn't arrange to meet, but it's for the best, as you'll soon see.)

Mrs. Fetched has been “griping” for some time about how we need (i.e. she wants) a minivan. I won’t argue that it would be a big help, what with two toddlers (Mason and Skylar) in the manor — you can stick two car seats in the middle buckets and have room for two more in the back — but like the Good Book says, “all things work together for Mrs. Fetched’s conveniece… or they’d better.” I think it’s in the Book of Hezekiah.

Now Mrs. Fetched is a tenured faculty member of the school of DO SOMETHING NOW (whether it actually solves the problem), and I soon saw the old pattern. I made a couple attempts to slip a little reality past her armor, but soon gave up and said que sera, sera. So her mom got in on that act, and in a mad rush bought a 1998 Grand Caravan on Thursday. Just in time to take it to Michigan! It had a cracked windshield, but the dealer said they’d send someone out to replace it by Friday afternoon.

So I got home from work on Friday, to find the windshield wasn’t replaced. I’m shocked, SHOCKED!!! not Since it’s on the passenger side, we all figured it wouldn’t be an issue. (Besides, the less Mrs. Fetched sees while I’m driving, the happier we all are.) So we spent much of Friday night packing. Saturday morning was chicken house duty for the girlies, while I watched Mason and took care of a couple agenda items (like printing out the new insurance card and loading luggage). I have to admit, you can stick a LOT more in a van than even a four-door Civic. We could have taken a bunch more if we’d removed the back seat, but we brought all we wanted. With the A/C more than overcoming the 95°F day outside, we got on our way around 3pm.

We soon ran into rain, and the first glitch with the van: the intermittent wipers “crash.” That is, they’ll work fine for a while, then twitch and stop. Flicking to off or always-on cleared the problem, so I lived with it. Then, around the time we crossed into Kentucky, the A/C stopped working. Mrs. Fetched, who had done pretty well up to now, suddenly got grouchy. Fortunately, it was getting dark and cooling off a little, and Daughter Dearest said the A/C in back still worked. Maybe it’s another crash issue.

As night dragged on, Mrs. Fetched’s questions about where we would stop for the night got ever more pointed. Why she didn’t just shut up and sleep is beyond me, but she mentioned a Comfort Inn and I agreed to stop there. Then when I went past an exit, she went “What do you think you’re doing?” in that tone of voice that makes me happy neither of us go around armed.

“Going to the Comfort Inn like you said.”

“I don’t care that it’s a Comfort Inn!” Well, that’s Mrs. Fetched: the Princess of Precision.

We ended up at a Best Western across the street, because I couldn’t get anyone at the Comfort Inn. Looks like the hotels are pretty well packed for a race in Indy today (which I didn’t know about or I might have stayed in Louisville).

It’s always fun to take a new used vehicle on a 2000-mile shakedown cruise…

Friday, September 24, 2010 2 comments

I’m Back!

Did’ja miss me?

Turtles on partly submerged dockWhile you count the turtles on the dock next door to Dad’s place, enjoying one of the last warm days this side of spring, I’ll ask an age-old question: what’s worse than dialup? Obviously: no Internet at all. Or perhaps Internet on a not-iPhone with a tiny screen. I actually picked up a wifi signal from a friend of Mom’s across the lake, but they wisely had it locked. I tried tethering to my new phone, but that didn’t work out either (still working on that for later needs). I was mostly able to keep up with Twitter, but that’s about it.

Anyway, we had a pretty good time visiting with Dad. We went golfing several times, until a tendon in Solar’s arm decided it had enough. I guess that’s the advantage of dealing with a baby; all the lifting kept me in good form (and I actually started getting off the tee fairly well once I slowed down my swing). We had a small party for his 80th birthday… for the things he complains about, I just hope I’m doing as well when I’m 80. We ate out (a LOT) and ate well when we ate in, too. I got more pictures, some of which will end up on Picasaweb and maybe here sooner or later.

I got home last night around 11:30 p.m. and Mason was asleep (whew!). Of course, we were getting rapidly re-acquainted at an earlier hour than I would have liked. Mrs. Fetched and M.A.E. said he called down the hall for me for a couple days after I left. He changed quite a bit in five days: his hair is a little longer and a lot thicker, and he’s gotten tall enough to reach the tabletops from the floor (eep!). He had his one-year checkup last week, and he’s still 20 lbs. — not much weight gain in the last four months, but the doc says it’s not a concern. He just runs off what he eats, and has minimal baby fat. He’s been trying to talk for a while, and hit on saying ahhhh for a drink before I left. Of course, he’s getting into anything he gets a chance to get into, often looking over his shoulder to make sure we him him doing it… then running away and laughing when he grabs something he shouldn’t.

But I digress. My first day home, I get a call from the sheriff’s office, asking me if I can pick up my car. What has The Boy done THIS time??? The dispatcher couldn’t get any info from the state trooper, who was making the bust almost right on her doorstep, but took my number and called me back when she got the info: speeding and suspended license. Turns out the second charge was bogus — he had paperwork showing he’d done what he had to do to avoid that, and the DMV agreed this afternoon — but 64 in a 45 zone is going to leave a mark… on his wallet. The Boy, of course, is in high dudgeon about it, and is ready to sue anyone he can find who’s attached to the situation. (I told him to look up “sovereign immunity” but, like Mrs. Fetched, that wasn’t what he wanted to hear so he dismissed it.)

Vacation in general was pretty nice. The week at the resort is almost like a distant memory, and don’t even ask about work (although I’ve peeked at email a few times). But today’s event was a reminder that I really need to start looking forward to my daily escape from the free-range insane asylum.


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