Category Archives: Vacation

Off to Raymond, Kansas

Well, I’m off to the see the wizard. Lexi and I are flying to Kansas tonight to spend the Labor Day weekend with my parents and take in the 10th annual Raymond Labor Day Parade. Raymond is a town of less than 100 people and I’m supposedly related to half of them. The parade increases the population exponentially, so it’ll be quite a show.

Plus I designed the T-shirts the town is selling for the weekend, so I’m eager to see how that turns out (I really pushed for them to have T-shirts, it being the 10th annual parade and all, so I really hope they sell out).

The only part of this daddy-daughter weekend I’m not looking forward to is the part where it’s just daddy and daughter on a plane for two hours. That could be all kinds of interesting.

My 2005 in Cities

If Jason Kottke is doing it, why can’t I? Here’s my 2005 in cities (one or more nights spent in each city, cities marked with an * were visited multiple times in non-consecutive days):

St. Paul, Minn.*
Los Angeles*
San Diego
Wilmar, Minn.
Cleveland, Ohio
Mason, Wisc.
Green Bay, Wisc.*
Great Bend, Kans.

Not nearly as exciting as you might think. (Can you tell I’m sitting around with the laptop tonight? Sheesh)

Back in L.A.

I’m still recovering from my trip to L.A., more so in getting back to speed at home than anything else. It was a good trip, a quick but productive meeting and a chance to relax a little bit and hang out with some friends. Though I didn’t have much sightseeing planned, I did get to visit Manhattan Beach before my flight left. It was foggy and a little cold, but it was still the ocean. Somehow seeing something, even if it meant leaving by 6 a.m. to avoid most of the traffic, made the short trip a little more normal.

The other shot is the view from Brad’s office, the guy I work with in L.A. That’s the Foursquare Angelus Temple with the big dome in the foreground and downtown Los Angeles in the background. Nice view, huh? I can see a playground from my window, if I lean back.

Los Angeles/San Diego 2005

Ah, home sweet home. Abby and I returned home from our trip to California just as the sun was rising this morning. We took a red eye flight home, which logistically worked out pretty well, though productivity wise I’m not sure it was any better than flying back today.

We flew out Wednesday night and I had business meetings on Thursday and Friday with Foursquare and Personality. Saturday morning we drove down to San Diego for the weekend and came back late Sunday night to catch our flight.

Los Angeles was sunny and warm, and aside from the business meetings, we had dinner with my cousin and his family, had dinner with the Personality crew (where I met someone who works on the Simpsons–watch for a blog entry about that), and had some good conversations.

Saturday morning we took off for San Diego and spent most of Saturday at Sea World. I don’t know if I was that impressed. I could better appreciate the massive manatees and buluga whale swimming in a semi-natural habitat than I could the orcas and dolphins jumping and doing tricks. I think I’m more of a natural guy that way. My favorite part of Sea World was probably the Pets Rule! show. Seems dumb to be impressed at pet tricks when you can see a 9,000-lbs. whale fly out of the water, but I know Shamu can jump. I didn’t know a cat could be trained to walk a tightrope (or do much of anything for that matter).

After Sea World we headed to the beach where I kicked off my sandals and stuck my toes and eventually ankles into the cold water of the Pacific Ocean, something I was too cool to do as a teenager the only other time I was within sight of the ocean some ten years ago.

On Sunday we went to the San Diego Zoo for the usual assortment of thrilling animals, including elephants, hippos, giraffes (one of which was named Abby!), a rhino and lots of monkeys. Even though the Minnesota and Como Zoos have a lot of the same animals (and I’d say Como has one of the best primate houses), I still love seeing them. There are so many weird and funky animals. Diversity is cool. The saddest thing was seeing a number of animals that are extinct in the wild.

Of course one of the best animals was a capibera, the world’s largest rodent and namesake of our dog, Speak. Speak was named after the Tick’s dog, who wasn’t really a dog, he was a capibera. And of course, the San Diego Zoo had plenty of opportunity to exclaim, Monkey outta nowhere!

Sadly, I don’t have too many pictures yet (perhaps Abby will post more). Our digital camera quickly ran out of space and batteries, and my old school film will take some time to develop. A little more preparation would have served us better, but I’ve yet to fully experience the improvement to vacation photography that is a digital camera. I appreciate it all right (I didn’t even want to bring my film camera), I just haven’t been fully prepared for it. I blame it on the fact that the camera is my wife’s.

That’s the quickie recap, mainly because I wanted to say a few things about the trip, but don’t have the time to go much more in-depth. Besides, I’m hungry and it’s already 7:30.

Cross-country flying lessons:

  1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer DVDs are a great way to pass those 4-hour flights.
  2. Luggage “irregularities” are standard procedure. Northwest misplaced my luggage, forcing me to wear jeans to a business meeting, and they treated the entire thing like business as usual. I’m still waiting for a response to my complaint, though I’m not expecting much. All I really want is an apology, which they didn’t even bother to offer in the first place.

Crosswoods Fall Retreat 2004

This weekend I journeyed to northern Wisconsin for our youth group’s annual intergenerational fall retreat at Camp Crosswoods. We had a better turn out than last year and just as much fun. Despite being incredibly cold most of the weekend (it was in the 40s during the day), my constant vigilance at wearing four layers of clothing kept me from being huddled in a corner. It also helped that I picked the bed next to the heater.

Highlights included the swinging heights of the high ropes course (minus the acorn throwing), the late-night round of ‘Capture the Pookie’ (even though the running left my knee stiff and me hobbling the next day), the outdoors complete with changing leaves, and an enthusiastic crew of teens, leaders and adults.

Oh, and a speeding ticket on the way home. Nothing like breaking the law to set a good example. I had it coming though, trying to pass a winnebago on the downhill in one of the rare passing lanes with a not-so-patient truck behind me. It’s like shooting fish in a barrell. The sad part is that I’ve gone since 1999 without a ticket. This makes three, which puts me at a distinct disadvantage compared with Abby’s zero.

I went to Las Vegas and all I got was this lousy blog entry.

OK, so that’s not exactly true, but it makes for a good title. I did find myself a few monkey-related items for the office, though none of them were Vegas related. I was really hoping for a damn T-shirt from Hoover Dam (something similar to this one in idea, though definitely not execution), but all they had were crappy souvenirs (it took an act of Congress for the Bureau of Reclamation to sell “official” Hoover Dam stuffed ringtail cats). I also saw a souvenir I really wanted in the midst of an Elvis display in the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino: buttons that said “Elvis is a Jerk” and “I Hate Elvis.” Of course you couldn’t actually buy the buttons.

Here’s the short attention span review of the trip:

Worst part of the trip to Vegas: I didn’t see a single Elvis.
Temperature in Vegas Thursday afternoon: 113 degrees.
Temperature in St. Paul Friday evening: 62 degrees.
Total gambling losses: $4.05 (is that a tax write-off?).
Most underrated Vegas attraction: Howard Finster artwork at the House of Blues.
Best way to the airport: Limo. It cost only $2 more than a taxi.
Best contradiction: “When the Fun Stops: Understanding Problem Gambling” brochure available next to an ATM outside a casino.
Number of times we got lost in a casino: Twice (MGM & Paris).
Number of billboard-size TV screens viewable from my parents’ hotel room: Four.

For those with longer attention spans, continue reading…

Continue reading I went to Las Vegas and all I got was this lousy blog entry.

Thanksgiving in Kansas

Our Thanksgiving with the family in Kansas was good. Nothing like sitting around in flat country with not a lot to do. I did manage to avoid posting while I was there, but I couldn’t completely avoid the computer. I had to checka the e-mail, and couldn’t help but read the news (when the local paper doesn’t even mention Bush’s gutsy Thanksgiving Day visit to Iraq, you kind of need to plug in). But that’s about it. It was kind of nice to disconnect from everything for a while.

I even managed to take some pictures in Raymond. For once I managed to get some pretty decent light. A couple of these shots really illustrate the flatness of Kansas. Some places are really as flat as a tabletop, and it’s more bizarre than you’d think.

The old railroad sign below is about all that’s left of what was once a booming stop on the Santa Fe line. There used to be a train depot there, built in 1905, but it was torn down in 1961 for lumber. For some reason the history of Raymond really interests me. I spent summers there as a kid with my grandpa and step-grandma, and it’s where my parents grew up. I think the town amazes me in its near-abandonment. The more history I learn about the town, the more I realize that my dad grew up watching most of the town be disassembled. I wonder what that does to your pscyhe. It’s no wonder my dad and his two siblings left for extreme ends of the country (Michigan, Arizona and California).

Railroad tracks heading southeast out of Raymond, Kansas.

Railroad crossing sign in Raymond, Kansas.

The original railroad sign for Raymond, Kansas.

Going Home

I’m a blogging maniac today. And I guess that’s OK. I’ll be taking some time off over Thanksgiving, so you’ll just have to go without. I’m also avoiding lots of real work today. What else is new.

Aside from the job update I just gave, lots of other stuff is happening in my life. After 30 years with Ford Motor Company, my dad is retiring at the end of the year. He’s only 53 and it seems amazing to me that he’s able to retire. Then again, I have a rough idea how much he made per year, so I’m not that surprised. Somehow I don’t think I’ll be able to retire at 53. A lot can happen between now and then, but in general, teachers and writers don’t have as good of a retirement package.

Along with retiring comes selling the house I grew up in. It’s been on the market since the spring, and amazingly they’re going to close on December 23, meaning retirement and moving will happen at about the same time, making it unnecessary to pursue any kind of temporary living arrangement, which would have been lame. It’s nice how things work out like that. My dad will be retiring to his home state of Kansas, where he’ll finally be living full-time with my mom, who has been going back and forth between Kansas and Michigan. It’s all part of the extremely bizarre, yet happily ending story that is my parents’ marriage. While the move to Kansas means I’ll get back home to Michigan even less often than I do now, I’m happy to see my parents finally settling down together.

As part of this whole retirement/moving mess, we almost ended up spending Thanksgiving in Michigan. For some reason, I really didn’t like the idea. You’d think I’d love going back to Michigan. It’s home. I get to see my friends and be back to the familiar surroundings. But Michigan hasn’t been a relaxing place since I broke up with my long-distance girl friend and my parents split up. While my parents were separated, home was never home. The house I grew up in was half empty, and Dad just didn’t make you feel at home the way Mom did. While Mom made you feel at home in her apartment with lots of goodies and mothering, it was an apartment. While it was always good to be home and see friends, it was never quite as relaxing.

When we head to Kansas for Thanksgiving, it’s a different story. Part of it has to do with the summers I spent there as a child, so there’s an incredible nostalgia factor. It’s also the land of wide-open spaces, which is perfect for relaxing introspection. Most of my extended family is there, so there’s lots of people to see, and really nothing to do but hang out with them. My grandparents are there to be grandparents, and lately my mom’s been there to do the mothering. Since my parents bought their retirement home in Kansas, there’s even been a nice place to crash (as nice as grandma’s place is, you just can’t put your feet up like you can at your parents’).

Heading to Kansas for a holiday weekend is like stepping into another dimension where time is slower. You have to drive an hour to get to a Target or a movie theater, and I like it that way. You have to be more intentional. I especially like driving through Raymond, Kansas, the town of around 100 people where my parents grew up in (it’s really my dad’s home town, because my grandpa lived there his entire life — my mom grew up on a farm outside of town, which my grandparents sold to my uncle when they moved). It’s a bit sad and lonely since my grandpa died, but I still like to drive through and just see it again.

I’m not sure why that attraction to place is so much stronger in Kansas. You’d think I’d want to go to Michigan for one last Thanksgiving. With my parents moving to Kansas, my brother is the only relative left in Michigan. I have plenty of friends there, but without my parents living there I just won’t get back very often, if at all. But somehow the sense of place and home is stronger in Kansas. Maybe it’s a different sense, maybe it’s the holidays and my sense of family is winning out, I don’t know.

In some ways it feels like Michigan is where my parents marriage is broken and failed, and Kansas is where it’s coming back together again. That really has no bearing on reality, since my mom actually moved to Kansas when they got divorced, and it’s not that simple, but somehow that seems to make sense.

All I know is that I’m looking forward to a few days in Kansas. It’s a long drive, but I don’t mind. I like being behind the wheel and letting my thoughts drift all over the place. It’ll be good to be with my parents and see my extended family again. It’ll be good to have some time off. You’d think the unemployed wouldn’t need a vacation, but then most people don’t know what the unemployed do all day. I think part of it is working out of the home – it means even on a vacation day or a weekend the computer is sitting there and work needs to be done. Sometimes you need to disengage from the office, and a home office makes that difficult. Especially when you’re a computer freak like me and work and pleasure are so inter-mixed.

I think I’m also blogging a lot today because I want to clear my mind of some of the thoughts I’ve been swimming with lately, because I know I’ll fill up again on the long, long drive. 670 miles is a lot of thinking, and it makes it easier if I’ve got a full mental tank.

Well it ain’t gettin’ any safer.

I joined the fall retreat with my church’s youth group this weekend. Thanks to an uncooperative work schedule, Abby had to stay behind. But despite going bachelor style, I had fun. Here’s some highlights:

A mile-long trek through the woods in hopes of finding the general among 250 acres while playing Outpost (kind of a lame Capture the Flag). I did manage to spook a deer.

“Oh Faye, this corn is so scrumptious.” (a late night viewing of What About Bob)

Hanging 40 feet above the ground by a caribeener. The camp had a pretty involved high ropes course, and I gave it a shot. Since you’re wearing a harness and clipped in at all times, I wasn’t really afraid of falling. It was more the difficulty of the different elements and the fact that you’re 40 feet off the ground. I found climbing up the rickety ladder at the start, and then jumping off the platform for the zip line to be the scariest parts. At one point while standing on a steel wire I felt an incredible sense of peace. I could have stood there all day.

I’m going to blame it on the unseasonable mood swings the weather’s been taking, ranging from below freezing nights to 80 degree days, or maybe the fact that I forgot my jacket, but I just couldn’t stay warm with a normal amount of clothing. Except for the warmer afternoons, I spent most of the weekend wearing four layers: t-shirt, long sleeve t-shirt, sweater, hoodie. It really wasn’t that cold, I’m just weak. Or too skinny, or something. And last February I’d go out in just a t-shirt and hoodie.

Sitting on the dock of a tiny lake, the surrounding greens, yellows, browns, and sky blues reflected perfectly in the otherwise dark water, on a quiet, 70 degree Sunday afternoon doing absolutely nothing. Forget football or NASCAR, I could have sat there all day.

All in all, the trip reinforced my preference for Fall as my favorite season. It’s cold enough to wear comfy jeans and long sleeve shirts, but not yet frigid; the fabulous colors and crunch-crunch of the leaves, and the absence of bugs.