Disney World’s Pandora in Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Through clever use of vines draping from the Pandora sky-islands, Disney World makes it look like the islands actually float.

At my old age, it’s hard to actually surprise me.

People doing stupid things? (I have a whole top 10 from Disney World coming up), but those things hardly raise an eyebrow. Something amazing invented? Well, of course, it’s the age we live in. A twist in a movie? Ack, I saw that coming in act 1.

But the Disney World’s Pandora area surprised me.

We arrived back at the Animal Kingdom Theme Park at about 4:30, rested, good mood restored and ready for some fun in the evening. Having a Fastpass for Avatar for 5pm, we raced to Pandora.

From the moment we stepped into Pandora, I felt like I’d gone to a different world.

It started with a great mountain surrounded by floating islands. Floating islands! So cool.

Then, as we marched to the ride, I saw they had a show with the Pandora Utility Suit (pic here.) The man inside the towering exoskeleton put on a decent show, though, weirdly, I was the only one who ran to see it. The rest of the family waited patiently with their magic bands for the 5pm Fastpass appointment while I got my nerd on.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
Ah, the details! Look at the plants on the walls, the cracks on the floor, the rust on the barrel, the dirt on the storage case.

Once inside the mountain, a ton of details, big and small, made it seem like were inside an underground complex from a different world.

From the scuffed paint on the floor to the doors that whooshed open to the posters on the walls, the attention to detail was epic.

Yes, I said it, epic.

And when we were led from the waiting area into the ride, we didn’t just jump on the scooter thingee, no, we found ourselves in a decontamination room. A person appeared on the screen and explained what would happen, and why we had to do this whole avatar thing.

They scanned us (but didn’t probe us, thankfully – that’s a whole different and somewhat uncomfortable experience), decontaminated us  (complete with 4D puffs of air), analyzed our DNA, and then we were assigned Avatars. Mine looked like he’d walked into a wall a whole bunch of times, but whatever, it was different from all the other avatars.

It was fantastic.

And it was genius.

See, the time we spent outside looking at the bulbous, alien plants, or me pointing out how even the guard rails were all Pandora-ish (which, spoiler alert, no one really cared about), to the organic-looking drums the boys drummed, to the decontamination room, it all built up the expectation.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom Pandora Avatar Flight of Passage
A spooky, hulking plant, but look at all the details around it. They really out-did themselves in the Avatar-themed part of Animal Kingdom

They created a world (and a ride) better than anything else in Disney World. Not entirely unique, as Star Tours still had that feeling, but it’s like they took all the best things they learned and applied it here, in Pandora.

I won’t lie, I became like The-Youngest, giddy and as excited as a boy on his first date.

Then the door leading out of the decontamination room whooshed open and, like good Canadians, we followed directions, put our packs away, sat on our bikes, and strapped in.

But ‘strapped in’ isn’t the right term. As we gripped the handlebars, braces were placed against our backs and sides. It was oddly snuggly.

Like good Canadians, we put on our magical glasses and waited.

Then the bikes began to vibrate. Right on our tummies and backs where the braces had been placed.

We waited for the doors in front of us to open. My heart drummed inside my chest.

What would the actual ride be like?

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom -Vacation Day 3 – Troubles

Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Disney World's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Early in the morning, the Boyz getting ready to ride the Expedition Everest Rollercoaster. Already The-Youngest is having a hard time keeping his eyes open

I had thought that our first day at the Magic Kingdom would be our toughest. We’d be jet-lagged, we hadn’t figured out how things worked, and we had no idea how the weather would affect us.

But I was wrong. It would be the day we spent at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

A day that almost became a disaster.

We actually managed to arrive at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom in time for the ‘rope drop’ (opening time) and made our way to our first ride. We had 3 booked for today. Expedition Everest at 9:10. Kilimanjaro Safari at 10:20. Avatar: Flight of Passage at 5:00.

So, first up, the Expedition Everest rollercoaster which had terrified me when I’d gone on it in my Joe 1.0 life. Now, older, a lot wiser, a lot less comfortable with plummeting 10,000 feet, I had zero desire to risk a heart attack, complete paralyzation or listening to myself scream like a little girl. So, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I stayed behind.

The Boyz, however, were super keen to test it out.

They soon found out that this ride was not for the faint of heart. The-Oldest had to shut his eyes as it tore downwards like a rocket plunging to earth, and while The-Youngest said he had fun, he declined to go on it, again. Ever. Like never, again. That Yeti had really terrified him.

Still… First ride: A success, I say, a success!            

However, by 9:30, it was already getting hot and humid, and morale began to plunge like the stock market during a trade-war with China. Yesterday’s crazy day of theme-parking and a night of little sleep had left us all weary.

Hoping to shift the mood, I talked the boys into doing the Kali Rapids (since it would get them wet and cool), while we adults chose a nice, dry bench in the shade.

The rapids weren’t that great, according to The-Youngest, but they did get SOAKED with a capital WET.

But by the time we reached the Kilimanjaro Safari ride, grumpiness was settling in like a spaghetti stain on a good dress shirt.

There’ll be lions, I said. Giraffes. Elephants. Hippies. Unicorns.

But the best I got was a shrug and a look that said I’d rather be sleeping (The-Youngest) or playing the piano (The-Oldest).

The safari wasn’t quite like the San Diego Safari, this was a large zoo, somewhat like the Calgary Zoo, but with only the most popular animals on display, (yes, I’m sure there was a survey done and those poor, ugly warthogs were left out.)

Lots of pictures here!

No matter. I loved seeing the animals, I won’t lie. The giraffes were magnificently elegant. The lions were sleepy but cute. The rhinos were content that no one was trying to murder them for their horns.

Crocodiles lurked menacingly in the water. The boy elephants play-fought each other for fun. And the hippos submerged themselves waiting for a moment when you thought they looked cute and wanted to pet them, then they’d bite your freaking arm off. Those buggers kill more people in Africa than any other animal due to them being complete assholes.

Vids here.

As well, the tour guide was lovely, if very scripted, but the real bonus was that we could do this ride sitting down.

Disney World's Animal Kingdom
Tired and hot, by 11, the boys were done, so it was time to implement the NEW PLAN

Sadly, though, the animals didn’t raise the spirits of the Boyz so we went in search of food. Food usually perks them up. A bit.

I found the Dole Pineapple Whip counter which made my day since it was on my Disney Bucket List. I had mine without rum. Maybe a mistake. It was still very yummy, even if it melted all over my hands and I became that sticky, chubby kid everyone hates.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had a dole float, which was far less messy and (surprisingly) she also had hers without alcohol. The boys, being now thoroughly in a bad mood, refused any food. They grumped at each other, at the weather, and at the food. Everything became either boring or stupid.

Oh oh.

Time to put our brilliant new plan into effect. Time to head home. Time to rest in a nice AC room. Or float in a pool. Then head back to do Avatar, maybe get some food, or maybe even see the River of Light show.

But when we got back, we found something even more fun! The arcade was open and it was free!!! (we had no idea why but weren’t going to look a gift-arcade in the coin-slot), so the Boyz played Guitar Band, raced motorcycles and zapped aliens, forgetting how grumpy they’d been.

While the boyz played, I caught up on my writing at the Pop Century cafeteria, and the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got to spend some boy-less time alone, meditating and thinking girl thoughts.

For the moment, everyone was happy.

But would it stay that way? Would the rest of our trip to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom be doomed?

Pop Century Resort Disney World Orlando Florida
The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World battle it out on an old-school game. Space Invaders. The day was saved. We were back at the resort, cool, and having goofy, good fun

As always, thanks for reading about our adventures! Please like or follow for updates.

Disney World’s Animal Kingdom – Vacation Day 3

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
This is the early morning crowd, all rushing off to get in line for the most popular ride. Due to early entry, by the time this crowd arrived, the wait on Avatar: Flight of Passage was 2 hours! We went for Expedition Everest.

Forecast for Disney World’s Animal Kingdom? Lightning and Thunder possibilities around 2. Chance of sore feet? 100%. Chance of barely bearable humidity? 1000% Chance our new plan would work? I gave it 100%.

We hoped that the whole ‘chance of thunderstorms and lightning’ would not happen. Like yesterday. While that kind of storm was fun when we arrived, the thought of us standing in a line while a billion tons of water fell on us was about as appealing as taking a shower in our clothes. For 90 min. While other people watched.

None of us slept well, so getting up on time was a small, but delightful miracle. I went through my new morning routine of getting up: I banged my leg on the protruding sides of the bed about a hundred times as I gathered supplies for the day, dressed, shaved, gelled my hair so I’d look cool, packed extra waters, and stuffed our rainproof gear into our backpacks.

I had a feeling that if we carried around the rain gear, it wouldn’t rain, like primitives who crossed their fingers for good luck.

As I said in the last post, our plan for Disney World’s Animal Kingdom was a little different than yesterday’s plan for Magic Kingdom. We had Fastpasses for the Expedition Everest rollercoaster at 9:10, the Kilimanjaro Safari for 10:20, and finally the #1 ride in the park, Avatar’s Flight of Passage at 5:00.

Now, at Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, there were also walks to go on, gorillas to see or other safari walks to take, but we’d learned from yesterday that by noon, the crowds were bad, and being in the sweltering heat for 90 min drained all the fun from us.

Plus, we knew from looking at the wait times, that the most popular rides like Avatar’s Flight of Passage, The Expedition Everest or The Kilimanjaro Safari could only be done on Fastpass.

So we came up with our new plan.

What if, I mean, seriously, what if we just went back to the hotel around 11, and rested up? The boys could be in the pool, I could catch up on writing or take a nap, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World could rest her feet, have a cleansing shower or maybe hop into the pool with the boys.

Then we could head back in the late afternoon. Yes.

Disney World Vacations 2019 theme parks Animal Kingdom
The Tree of Life. Seeing it lit up at night was on my Disney Bucket list. This is the early morning crowd continuing to march toward their own goals.

On MY bucket list. 2 things. See the tree of life light up in the evening and taste a dole pineapple ice whip.

On The-Youngest’s? He HAD to ride the rollercoaster, Expedition Everest… And survive that Yeti. He wasn’t terrified of a roller coaster dropping 100’, like I was, no, he was worried the Yeti would give him nightmares.

The-Oldest? he wanted to ride the Expedition Everest without closing his eyes. I don’t know if that meant no closing them for the entire 8 min ride or not closing them when they plummeted downward at 1000 mph.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World just wanted to see the animals, eat some Yeti ribs, and have a more relaxing day. Oh, and not murder us.

So, fingers crossed, we slicked on sunscreen and boarded the bus. Outside, the weather was HOT, the skies blue, but inside, the bus was wonderfully air-conditioned.

We had hopes of another successful day, but fate had some twists for us.

Magic Kingdom – 10 Fails on the First day

Fastpass for disney world

In the Magic Kingdom, we made 10 mistakes. I hope you can learn from us.

orlando florida hot and humid sun at disney world's Magic Kingdom
Knowing it would be hot and humid is COMPLETELY different from experiencing hot and humid. We underestimated the effect
  1. We underestimated the effect heat AND humidity would have on us in the Magic Kingdom . After 8 hours, we were done. Like completely done.
  2. I didn’t get any writing done. I brought my laptop to the Magic Kingdom, but didn’t have any time to get any writing done. This stems from #10.
  3. I didn’t take enough pictures. I mean, I’ve come back from a week’s vacation with over a thousand pictures. And that’s just camping.
  4. The ‘early arrival’ thing didn’t work out as planned. I thought that being at a resort would allow us to be in the park an hour early, but it turns out, that only happens on certain days, like Magic Kingdom opening for Pop Century guests only on Fridays at 8am. Doh!
  5. I didn’t have a hat. What was I thinking? I had enough Kleenex to choke a horse, but no hat. I guess I could have made a hat out of Kleenex…
  6. We used our Fastpasses for early rides. There were no line-ups early in the morning. We’d have been better off using them for rides from 11am-5pm.
  7. We didn’t take advantage of reusing Fastpasses. See, when you’ve done all your Fastpasses for the day, you can rebook a Fastpass. Sure, the super popular rides will be booked, but the fun, goofy ones like the Mad Tea Party ride, CAN be booked, which will still save you an hour in line.
  8. Waiting in line for 2 hours, (sweating, hot, and grumpy), is NOT the way to do Disney World. They don’t have any A/C, fans or cast members waving big palm leaves to keep you cool. We thought they would understand they live in a tropical climate and take steps to ensure people remained cool, and I don’t mean, Hawaiian-shirt-cool, but cool-air cool. We were very wrong.
  9. We didn’t eat in the off times. Eating at 1, you’re eating with a billion other people in the park. Eating lunch at 10:30, you basically have the choice of seats and no one sitting beside you with a parent asking themselves, why did I do this, why did I do this?
  10. We rushed too much and didn’t stop to enjoy it all. We didn’t do badly, like when we took the Peoplemover, or stopped every so often to take a picture, but sore feet, heat exhaustion and jet lag and massive crowds made us want to leave earlier than we should have left.
Fastpass for disney world
Getting a Fastpass for the most popular rides is a MUST. Staying at a Disney Resort allows you to reserve rides 60 days in advance

Honestly, if I had to do it all over, again, I would say spend 2 days in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to do it justice. That way it’s not all one mad rush from one ride to another, fighting your way through massive crowds.

I’d also advise going in the off-season, something we couldn’t do ourselves.

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Lessons

Magic Kindom's Cinderella Castle, up close and personal, disney world, orlando, florida
Magic Kindom's Cinderella Castle, up close and personal, disney world, orlando, florida
Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World.

I won’t lie. Despite all the planning and research, there are times when you’re going to do something you’re going to regret. In Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, at around 2:30, we made our worst decision.

Much to our surprise, the weather remained spectacularly nice, if hot and humid. The forecast for thundershowers and lightning had been wrong.

So, we decided to do the Big Thunder Mountain Railway.

Ok, it made sense on paper.

We had a Fastpass for Splash Mountain at 2:45, but we could arrive as late as 3:45 (or 4, since the app told us we could be 15 min late and STILL be fine), it looked like a lot of fun, and the line-up would be inside, out of the sun.

Sure, the wait time was 90 min, but that meant that we’d finish it about 3:30.

Plenty of time to walk 3 min to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, right? Plenty of time.

So we got into the line.

The reality was slightly different. Yes, the line-up was out of the sun, but not quite indoors as the heat filled the open-sided building, making it feel like I was having menopausal hot flashes for a full 90 min. No fans rattled inside. No A/C. It was hot. Humid. We went through all our water.

Like cattle, we shuffled along, and it didn’t matter that Disney World had a ton of neat things to look at in the line. It was hell. People smelled. Likely I smelled.  Very few people, including us, looked all happy and full of love for this experience.

Plus, it took more than 90 min, so as the time ticked past 3:30, and we still had a ways to go, I began to stress. We were in danger of missing Splash Mountain.

But what do we do now?

I mean, we’d waited and suffered 90 min in line, but do we leave to go to our Fastpass ride? Do we make our way back THROUGH the line (the wrong way) to leave?

Or do we hope the line moves fast enough for us to get through in time?

We chose the latter, and as the line slowly snaked forward, I really began to worry. 3:40. 3:45. 3:50! But then, we got on the ride.

It was fast, exciting and fun, but I actually willed it to be faster – We needed to get off and get to our next ride.

Luckily, we did. Despite sore feet and heat exhaustion, we made it to Splash Mountain. With our Fastpass, we raced past the sweaty, hot, angry people waiting 2 hours in line for this ride, and got on.

We’d done it!

Splash Mountain didn’t disappoint, (though The-Youngest didn’t get wet as much as he had wanted to).

But the Big Thunder Mountain Railway had cost us more than a ton of time, about 30lbs of sweat, and all our water – It had sapped our love for Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. The magic was gone.

thunder mountain railroad in magic kingdom, disney world, florida
This is what menopause feels like? Hot, sweaty and angry? For 90 min? Fun times at the Thunder Mountain Railroad

As we made our way through the massive crowds back to our resort, we vowed that we’d do better.

Here’s what we learned.

  • Morning was good. Less crowds in the morning meant less time in line-ups.
  • Heat was bad. No, really bad. We’re from the West Coast of Canada so we’re not used to that heat and humidity. It saps your will to live. It saps the fun. We had to find a way to avoid that heat.
  • Going from 8am to about 6pm had totally exhausted us. Sure, the heat and crowds played their part, but even The-Youngest, our energizer bunny, chose to go back to the resort rather than go on other rides in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. That’s gotta tell you something.

So, after lying on our beds in an air-conditioned room, we came up with a new plan for day 3, The Animal Kingdom, a plan so cunning, it couldn’t possibly fail, right?

Right?

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Fun

Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Disney World's Magic Kingdom
Main street in the Magic Kingdom at Disney World. We’re about to learn a valuable lesson of how NOT to do Disney

The first part of the day at Magic Kingdom had gone so well, but by 11am the crowds at Disney World had begun to grow.

In a big way.

Wait-times shown on our Disney World App went from 20 min to a minimum of 30min, and 2 hours for the super popular rides.

On the Tomorrowland’s Peoplemover, we had decided to try and do the park in a circle. Tomorrowland to Fantasyland to Adventureland (where we’d get lunch) to Frontierland, then home.

We had tons of rides we could do, but we wanted to avoid all the huge line-ups. Nothing could be worse than standing under the sun in 100% humidity for 2 hours for a ride.

Plus, it was 11am and the park closed at 9pm, so we had 10 hours. 1 each for lunch and supper, which left 8 hours. So 2 hours waiting for each ride meant we could only do 4 rides (which doesn’t include time for picture taking, walking and eating Mickey balls), and that would suck.

So we’d hit up the MUST-DO rides. At 11:30, we had a Fastpass to the famous Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train. At 2:45 we had another Fastpass for Splash Mountain. Fastpasses meant no lines. Plus, we’d learned that we had a window of 1 hour to use the Fastpass. So we didn’t have to rush, we could be there from 2:45 – 3:45.

Lots of breathing room.

Right?

First up, though, was the famous Mad Tea Cup Party, which had only a 20 min line, but after waiting for about 10, the darned thing broke down.

We didn’t wait for it to be fixed, we dodged through the crowds to the Enchanted Grotto (the Little Mermaid clamshell ride). The-Youngest, able to do the most terrifying rollercoasters, couldn’t face princess animatronics, so we waited for The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to do the ride.

The sun beat down on us, the sweaty crowds moving in front of us like human rivers, mostly in two directions, but every so often the river would dam up and slow everyone up. Kids shrieked with excitement or temper tantrums. Rides roared and beeped. The air smelled of suntan lotion and fast food. 

This, my friends, is the reality of Disney World in the summer.

Watching the crowds, baking in the sun with me, I realized two things. 1. Disney World in summer is hell. 2. I needed a hat. Badly! Or I risked sunstroke. Luckily, in Adventureland, while the family rode the Barnstormer, I found a good hat that was cool and not goofy at all, not goofy at all, I say.

The day was saved for me. We had super fun on the Seven Dwarf’s Mine Train, got lunch at the Boat House but I was so hot, so sweaty, my feet so sore, that I ate only a bowl of clam chowder. That was it. No epic princess cupcakes. No fruit-filled waffles. No cookies the size of my head. The chowder was all I could handle.

I wasn’t the only one. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World needed a rest. That heat and humidity and constant walking took it out of everyone. So, while she and The-Youngest rested in the air-conditioned, but smelly restaurant, The-Oldest and I went off to see the Haunted House.

The Haunted Mansion line up in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World
There is always something to look at in the Disney World lines. In this case, the spooky family from the Haunted Mansion

I don’t often get a chance to have a real chat with the-Oldest, but for the hour we stood in line IN THE SUN, we had a great talk about life, about his desire to create something musical that would last, his desire to be on his own, his fear of never being good enough, and why he loved certain composers. Now, the latter is usually what he talks about, but I treasured the openness that he discussed his desires and fears.

I told him I worried he’d lose his love of music if he pursued success over creativity. Money was needed to live, of course, but what powered his soul was his love of music, of playing the piano, of composing. It would break my heart to see that love die. He had a gift, something he still denied, and I couldn’t wait to see what amazing things he’d do with that gift.

It was a great moment for me. The Haunted House? Meh. Amazing visuals, sure, but I get more scared watching an ‘It’ trailer.

The-Oldest and I returned to the restaurant where, as a family, we made our worst decision.

Graduation Time

How many of my friends have kids graduating this week?

JKE elementary graduation ceremony 2019. dances, certificates, speeches and videos.
The tropical-theme graduation event at the elementary school.

Everyone knows kids grow up to fast, but there are events that hammer those moments home like a Monty Python fish-slap to the face.

Graduation from Elementary school is such an event. It was a big moment for The-Youngest, for sure, and the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I wouldn’t have missed The-Youngest’s graduation ceremony for all the chocolate in Switzerland. In a way, I think it was as much a moment for us as him.

It’s a massive transition from being a kid to becoming an adult.

You can see it in the way the girls dress, many having had their hair professionally done and nearly all wearing nice dresses and make-up (or as one of the boys remarked, they have powder all over their faces!)

The boys, however, mostly remained delightful goobers, more interested in running around, jumping on things and yelling at each other than wearing nice clothes. To be fair, most of their parents dressed them well, most even had their hair combed and a few, just a few, had shaved. This is all before girls become critical to their existence, before career choices must be made in high school and before all those hormones turn them into surly, distant aliens from planet Your-not-the-boss-of-me.

The event had a theme, of course. A tropical theme. There would be baby pictures (so The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World brought extra Kleenex), the teachers would give a few speeches, and at some point, their graduation certificates would be given out. Then there would be a dance. With at least one terrifying slow dance.

Being me, I filmed everything. Being me, I watched how the kids became more and more nervous or excited, unable to sit still or be quiet. Being me, I marveled at how smoothly the whole process went (and yes, they had practiced it before so it WOULD run smoothly).

I didn’t tear up when the baby pictures were shown, a contrast of what they’d looked like 12 years ago vs what they look like now. I didn’t tear up when they had a very cool presentation about camp. I didn’t even tear up when The-Youngest marched up on stage. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had, by now, gone through two Kleenex packages.

What got me, and got me hard, was when he came off the stage and I realized how much he’d grown. Not in height, though he was now racing to be as tall as his mom, but how he was growing into a great adult.

At adult parties, he now stuck out his hand and introduced himself. When confronted with a friend who’d been mean to him, he said, “We’ll make up so that last day can still be special.” He mows a neighbour’s lawn who cannot mow the lawn for herself. He makes sure he’s the best host when his friends come over. He knows when his mom needs a hug, or when she needs a good cuddling.

He’s becoming aware of the world around in him, of how he can impact his world for good or bad, and of what amazing opportunities await him.

That’s when I lost it, big fat, wet tears sliding down my cheeks.

Not sad tears.

They were tears of pride.

Remind me of that when I’m nagging him for 900 hours straight to get his homework done!

Thanks for reading the blog about graduation, and if you like what you read, please call someone, write a letter to a publisher telling them they need to buy my book, or simply follow me here, or on FB here or here.

The Great Sacrifice

The Death of Peace and Quiet

Parents will do anything for their children: Lift a car off their child. Fight off a bear. Run into a burning building to save their little ones. But the greatest sacrifice by far, I would argue, is letting one of them have a drum set.

The-Youngest, (perhaps inspired by his musically talented brother or some drum-solo music video), decided that the instrument that spoke to him the most was the drums. The boom of the base drum, the rat-tat-tat of the snare drum, the clang and clash of the cymbals.

When he came to us with his little face set in excited determination, the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I looked at each other like mice about to be fed to a large snake.

We knew what a drum kit would entail. We didn’t have a wood shack out back where he could play. We didn’t have a sound-proof room somewhere in the lower levels of our basement that was once used by a serial killer. We would have to set up in our rec room and that was only one uninsulated floor away from where we lived most of our lives – the kitchen, living room and family room.

Now, we could have said, no. We could have argued that the beautiful sound The-Oldest makes on his piano does not compare to the chaotic cacophony of someone learning to play the drums. We could have told him that drumming makes my eye twitch and will likely cause me to have epileptic fits.

Instead, we said, sure.

Cuz we’d do anything for our kids.

So, we rented a drum kit from Long & McQuade. The-Youngest set it up and began banging away immediately. The whole house shook with the noise. The dog tried to hide upstairs. All the neighbours around us immediately put up for-sale signs.

Had we made a terrible mistake?

Well, that remains to be seen, but we immediately put 3 rules into place. First, no drums before 9am and after 8pm. Second, if he’s to have drums, he’s to learn how to play them, not just bang away like a chimpanzee on heroin and coffee. Lastly, if asked to stop, for any reason at all (headaches, dog throwing up, trying to watch a movie, whatever), he would do it. Immediately and without complaint.

He agreed.

To his credit, he took the second part very seriously, solving the problem of learning by doing what all people do in 2019 – he looked up YouTube videos on how to play.

Now, after a month, I have to say, he’s not that bad. In fact, he’s kinda good. He started out with simple beats or rhythms or whatever you do on drums and practiced his coordination with his feet and hands.  Oh sure, the house still shakes, the dog still hides and most of the houses next to use are empty and noise bylaw officers lurk outside the house 24/7, but it’s not as bad as I feared.

We survived.

With our hearing and sanity intact.

I think our next great challenge will come when he wants to get a car.

Or a girlfriend.

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Why ‘Firsts’ Matter

poo cupcakes

A week for 1sts

poo cupcakes
Never, ever look up a picture of poo on the internet.

The best part of being a parent is experiencing the firsts with your kids. First steps. First words. First poo in the toilet.

Sadly, I missed those so the firsts that come my way I eat up like a starving puppy thrown into a pit of pupperoni. But this week had a ton. A cluster of firsts. Even one that was a first for me.

The-Youngest had his first dance. Much of it I have been banned from talking about, but I was so proud of him for going. Alone. No wingman. No backup.

I remember my first dance. It was 70s line dancing. Disco, god help me. And it was such a terrible experience, that (to this day), I am still super conscious of how badly I dance. But The-Youngest stayed an hour, did his best to mingle (gosh, that’s hard to do) and finally left, vowing to have a friend go with him next time.

Soon to come, his first dance with a girl, then first date (NOT a date, Joe, we’re just getting a slice of pizza!), then first kiss, then the next thing you know, we’ll be at a wedding.

Learning to drive in the Toyota Rav4
The training car of choice, Rav4, Toyota. Not the mustang. No.

Next first was first time driving for The-Oldest. As he can’t actually go on the road, yet, we drove in the driveway, going in and out of gear, moving forward, backward, and figuring out what everything did in the car. I was super excited to be a part of that.

I remember my mom trying to teach me and it ended with me getting professional lessons (either that or mom would have ended up in the mental ward).

I honestly don’t think I could teach either of the boys to actually drive, not only because I’d freak out when they came close to clipping another car or running over a baby, but because I’d teach him all my bad habits. “Oh, hit the gas, you can rip through that yellow light.” “A double line passing restriction doesn’t apply to mustangs.” “Let’s see if I can actually do double the speed limit.”

So soon he’ll be taking lessons. I think it’ll go well. He did amazingly well n the driveway. More than I can say about myself these days.

First hockey tournament win
Hockey win!
His first!

Third first was The-Youngest’s, again.

He won a hockey tournament! Or rather his team did. They fought like lions (if lions could, you know, skate) and beat several pretty damn fine teams.

The last game for the gold aged me about 10 years, so if you haven’t seen me in a few months, I look like Stan Lee (may he rest in peace) after a bad night of drinking.

I was so proud of him and so happy to be a part of something he’d remember for the rest of his life. That kick out save at the start of the first game. The other team hitting the post not once, but twice in the final 2 minutes of the gold game. He’ll remember skating around, holding the trophy high. He’ll remember how the team mobbed him after an outstanding last game. He’ll remember the feeling of that win, that success, that payoff for a lot of hard work forever.

Or at least until that first kiss drives everything else out of his mind.

Lastly, something new for me. A first. My first baby shower.

Now, normally guys aren’t allowed to these things, though, why, I’m not quite sure. But we hosted the event, and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and her parents worked very hard at making sure it was a success, cooking up a storm, setting up the rooms for nearly 60 people (YIKES!) and then making sure everyone felt welcome when they came over.

My quick observations of the event are as follows. I don’t think the mom touched her baby in 3 hours. I think both are going to be incredible parents. I think grand-babies are the best anti-aging method out there (and no, I don’t mean eating them or something, but holding them, snuggling them, feeding them) – it takes years off the grandparent’s faces.

baby shower
Cutest baby ever at her first Baby Shower. My first baby shower, too

Apart from all the cool presents, though, I think the best thing about a shower is that the mom realizes that she’s not alone, that what she feels, what she fears, what she hates or loves are all things other moms have experienced. There is help out there. Empathy. Support.

And also a year supply of diapers.

Other firsts zipped by almost unnoticed. The-Oldest’s first sr. concert (he was, as always, outstanding) and The-Youngest’s first time in the front seat (a little ahead of schedule),

But there are many more coming and I mean to be a part of as many as I can, because their firsts are mine, too.

So, if you like the blog, please share on FB or hit that subscribe button (nothing will ever be shared with anyone, ever) or simply tell your friends. 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

What To Do In Alberta – Summary of the West Ed Mall

West Edmonton Mall 2018 wave pool

West Edmonton Mall 2018 wave pool
West Edmonton Mall. At 3pm, the wave pool was fixed and there was much happiness.

Because school has started and I really need to finish off this trip from July, let me be brief, (which, if you know me, is like asking the Pope to be Muslim for a bit.)

So here it goes. West Edmonton Waterpark – Both boys had fun, and because pretty much everyone in Edmonton had decided not to go to a waterpark that had only 20% of the rides working, there were no lineups. None.

zipline at west edmonton mall, 2018
West Edmonton Mall – the boys gear up for the zipline.

Even better, about ½ of the rides they went on were the ones The-Youngest had tagged as MUST-DOs. As well, they both got to do the zipline with their Edmontonian buddies after The-Youngest reminded me that it would make a good blog.

Then, at 3pm, the wave pool was fixed and they had a blast rolling with the waves and smashing into other kids.

west edmonton mall flowrider 2018
The-Youngest showing off his skills. He was amazingly good at this.

The highlight, though, was not free pop, was not the slides, nor was it even the wave pool. It was the Flowrider. See, you sit on a wave board while water is jetted underneath the board. Looks tricky and both boys took some spectacular falls. I would have broken a hip. And an arm And, likely, my back.

flowrider west edmonton mall, 2018
The Flowrider and The-Oldest. Man, was he good on this ride. Like pro-level good.

On the Flowrider, though, The-Oldest ran into a small challenge that his swim trunks kept falling down. Being me, and sadly flawed, I laughed. A lot. However, it made the attendants very uncomfortable. He was asked to leave or find a way to keep his trunks up.

But despite that, even he said, “Yeah, ok, it didn’t completely suck.”

As well, The-Oldest even got along well with the other kids. Like really well. He and the other oldest boy kinda bonded. Kinda talked. Kinda shared.

The only bad thing, at least for him, was that he was forced to eat. This is something I don’t understand at all. Never has anyone ever had to force me to eat, but then that’s why I’m 600lbs and he looks like he lives in Somalia.

The-Youngest’s only complaint was that they weren’t staying open to midnight. Or later.

Me: I wandered around the mall while the other dad, a superdad by any standards, watched the boys for a bit. Lots of shops. Bought nothing. 

Also got to watch a Timbits hockey game. Didn’t know there was a rink there. The-Youngest shook his head. “Didn’t you do your research, Joe?”

But my best time was watching the boys be goofy, fun-loving goobers.

West Ed Mall has a ship. And shops.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World? Well, she got to spend a whole day with her friend, shopping, talking about pillow fights, and drinking various coffees. Honestly, I have no idea what they talked about, I would find 8 hours of conversation utterly exhausting, but they hadn’t spent time together for a long time so I guess they had catching-up to do.

All-in-all, a great day by any standards, even though it started out looking like a disaster.

We made it home the next day after a very long drive and I would have to say, if you don’t have the time or money to go to Paris, Mexico, or Mars, maybe give a BC-Alberta trip a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

And for a bit of video fun, check out the flowrider.

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What To Do In Alberta – West Edmonton Mall

West Edmonton Mall, Alberta, 2018, joe cummings

west edmonton mall
EDMONTON, CANADA – JULY 7, 2018 : Ice hockey arena in the West Edmonton Mall. It’s the largest shopping mall in North America and the tenth largest in the world.

There was only one thing to do back in July – Visit the West Edmonton Mall.

The-Youngest had planned for it, dreamed about it, and now the day had finally come. He had one goal. Have fun!  Maybe do a few rides. But most likely he’d spend hours and hours in the waterpark doing waterparkie things.

What could go wrong?

We knew where we had to go (West Edmonton Mall wasn’t far from our hotel), we had guides (The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s best friend’s family) and The-Youngest was out of bed at 7am to make sure we arrived on time (and there is no better alarm clock than an over-excited 11 year-old wanting to get going.)

He knew which waterslide he was going on first. He knew which one he was scared to go on, but would go on if we went with him. He knew where the free pop was located. He knew how high the wave pool would go. He knew what to focus on if it was super busy, but he wasn’t too concerned.  “Joe, did you know it’s a holiday in the US, like our Canada day, and that means there won’t be any Americans there so it won’t be busy.”

In short, he had it all worked out.

So you just kinda know it would go to hell.

The previous night, we’d decided to go in two wagon trains. 1st one with all the younger boys (4, aged from 9-13 plus the 2 dads) would arrive at opening. 10am.

The next wagon train, with The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, her friend, and The-Oldest, would arrive later, at an unspecified time. That way all the kids going bat-shit crazy about the rides would be in one car destroying the soul of only two parents.

Man, forget wind energy! If you could harness that boy energy as they sat vibrating with excitement and goofiness, you could power the world.

To quote Joe Pechi, they f*** you at the drive-thru!

Since some of the boys hadn’t eaten yet, the other dad stopped at the drive-thru first.

“I’ll have two pancake breakfasts, one with sausage, please,” he began.

“That’s two sausage McMuffins?” And this is where we should have known the gods of travel had it in for us.

“No. Two pancake breakfasts. One. With. Sausage.”

“Ok, anything else?”

“Two medium cokes.”

“What do you want in your coffees?”

“No, two cokes, medium.”

“Ok, two medium coffees, two medium cokes.”

“No, no coffees, none, just cokes.”

“Ok, that’s four medium cokes.”

“No. Only two cokes. Two.”

“Anything else.” (I wanted to stop him here, but he powered on.)

“One orange juice, two hashbrowns, and one side of sausage.”

“That’s two orange juices, two hashbrowns?”

“Sure, whatever, and one side of sausage.”

(Me: ”Can you order one coffee for me, now? One cream, one sugar? This should be hilarious.”)

“And one coffee,” he added. “One cream, one sugar.”

“Ok.”

We got almost nothing we ordered, and at least one of the children in the car ended up staring at an Egg McMuffin like a dog looks at a bowl of celery.

But that was just the beginning because when we arrived, we were met by staff just outside the pool entrance.

That’s super friendly of them, I thought. How very Albertan. How very nice.

But no, they were there to apologize – the storms had knocked out the filtration system and 80% of the waterslides were unavailable.

Have you ever seen a face drop?

An 11 year-old face?

It’s a horrible thing to see. First, shock freezes the face, then like it’s melting, the smile dies, the lower lip extends, the face slackens in sadness and there’s a big swallow, like he’s swallowing his dreams.

To his credit, he didn’t shed any tears.

Instead, he studied the waterpark map like Caesar surrounded by Gauls.

He took a deep breath, trying to steady himself.

He knew each slide which would be open. He knew which he’d planned to see. He knew the expected wait times at 10am, the average size of the child on the ride and where they came from.

West Edmonton Mall, Alberta, 2018, joe cummings
Waterslides at the West Edmonton Mall. Only 20% were working. Gah!

The staff told us it would only cost $20 today and they were working hard on getting everything up and running. Maybe by 3, they said, but maybe not, cuz they’d been working on it for a whole day now.

We could go and have fun elsewhere or we could stay and have a chance at a good time at 3, or maybe not.

I looked at the-Youngest.

He said. “Hmmmm.” Then made his decision.

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If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 

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What To Do In Alberta – If You’re From There

my dad

calgary alberta 2nd birthday
I should remember the birthday cake, cuz, it’s cake, but I don’t. Me, age 2

Despite our best-laid plans,  we ran out of time to see the places in Calgary where I grew up, or as the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World said, “the places that made Joe, Joe.”

It’s too bad.

Much of my early, happy life was here.

Here I had two parents. Here I had a neighbourhood full of friends. Here I played ice hockey on the icy streets, played soccer in snowy fields, and made snow tunnels so immense that the Vietcong sent me a note saying, damn, boi, that’s some tunneling. (Looking back, maybe we never had summer in Calgary for some reason).

calgary, alberta, home
My first home. I remember the sunporch and the garden.

Of my life in our first house, when I was a small child, I remember sitting in the sun on the porch with our dog, a lab named Bobby. I remember not getting supper one time because I refused to stop watching Lost in Space. I remember digging in the backyard, which I defined as gardening and not, you know, digging up the flowers.

But I recall so little of when I was that young. Most of my other ‘memories’ are no more than extensions of photos taken at that time. Funny how that is.

Of my life in our second house, I have many, many more memories. We lived on a cul-du-sac in LeDuc, and if not every house, then every other house had kids around our age. We built snow forts in the winter, and cardboard forts in the summer. We built used hot wheel car lots and stocked them with our best cars (then forced our parents to pick which one was best and even though I always made the best one, I didn’t always win.)

During those times, we ran wild and had fun, being kids in a time before iphones, youtube and stupid morons like Logan Paul. We had a street full of parents who made sure we never got into any real trouble and sent us home if we got out of hand (and God help us if that happened because, by the time we got home, mom had received a phone call detailing what we’d done!)

Calgary alberta 2018
Everyone getting ready for school. Well, not ‘everyone’ by a long shot, and yes, I played with girls.

I traded and collected hockey stamps in that neighbourhood. I threw stones at the bigger kids in that neighborhood, then spent a year hiding behind telephone poles avoiding getting beaten up by them (strangely, a lot of my childhood stories involve throwing stones at people for some reason I still can’t explain). I watched my first football game in colour at a friend’s house, played tag around the cars, and found the best places to hide for hide-and-seek in that neighbourhood.

We had street BBQs, no crime (at least anything serious), and so many kids to play with, we were never short of company.

Or at least that’s how I remember it.

I remember my dad made a skating rink in the backyard that took too long to freeze and rolled downhill, ultimately creating a very deep, but very narrow skating rink.  I remember walking the dog with my dad beside the yellow grass-way next to the highway. I remember making a lemonade stand with my mom in the summer. I don’t remember selling any, though… odds are, I drank it all myself.

I remember playing with my brother when he was my best friend in the world. I remember watching Bugs Bunny and eating hamburgers and ripple fries while my dad rolled cigarettes. I  remember being woken up one night when one of dad’s friends arrived at our house drunk and playing the bagpipes. I remember the wolf that used to hide in my closet and scare me. I remember my mom coming in and chasing it away with a broom. A whole lot of times.

So for the years that I lived there, did that place help define me?

Without question. I felt loved. I had a street full of friends. I had a small world to play in.

Only much later in life did I realize the magic of that time, of the wonder years of skinned knees and sleepovers, of living in a community, not just a house on a street.

Work dad
Work dad. Suit. Tie. Good accounting glasses.

I understand why we had to move, why my dad made the choice to move.

He hated the long hours at work, hated not being with his wife and sons, and hated that he had not found the balance between money and a quality life.

He made the choice to move so he could read to his sons, throw the ball around with them, or take them to the library. He made the choice to listen to his boys in those terrible school concerts, to coach my soccer team (being English, this was more of a deal than I ever knew), and to be there to cheer us on, wipe away tears or teach us how to be men.

my dad
My dad and me on the first day of baseball.

Did he know he had only a few years to live?

I don’t think so, but I do think he knew that being a good dad, a good husband, a good man was more important than a big paycheck.

And I get that.

He made the best move possible, but I look back on those Calgary years as some of the best in my life.

Who could not? I had nearly everything a kid could want.

 

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What To Do In Alberta – The Dinosaur Museum

dinosuars in alberta 2018

dinosuars in alberta 2018
Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta. On display, a stegosaurus.

Who could not love a dinosaur museum? Well, not everyone as it turns out.

The Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller may be the most impressive dinosaur museum on the planet, certainly there are signs saying so, so it must be true, but for The-Youngest, it was a big building filled with stuff that looked like stuff he had to learn.

He took an instant dislike to the whole thing.

No matter, we dragged him through the entire museum anyway. Like a mouthful of medicine, it would be good for him.

The-Youngest’s review: Too many people. Not enough popcorn. The bathrooms smelled like poo. It was full of bones and who likes to look at bones? I was bored.

drumheller alberta 2018 royal tyrrell museum
Outside of the Royal Tyrrell Museum, the boys pose like prisoners going to be shot.

(That most terrible curse that afflicts our youth, boredom, like the world must be all flashy images and stupid videos about asshats wrecking a house.)

The-Oldest’s review: Could have been worse. Much worse. Things could always be worse. Or even worse than that.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s Review: Mmmmm. Busy. 3rd visit. Not a dinosaur person, really. It’s cool, but I liked the badlands better.

My review: Lighting is amazing. Seeing the size of those ancient behemoths is humbling. Reading about life before we decided to f**k with the planet reminds me how little time we’ve actually spent on earth.

dinosuars in alberta, drumheller, royal tyrrell museum
Size matters and in the dinosaur days, we would have been a quick snack for something.

I loved the pre-dinosaur history the most. Those creatures that plied the oceans were terrifying and so very different from what we see today.

I loved looking at the apex predators of their time like the Anomalocaris or Gorgosaurus.

I hate how much life has been lost forever in history. The mastodons. The Stegosauruses. George Burns.

But such is the harsh reality of evolution. Those that can adapt, survive. Being cute doesn’t save you. Being scary doesn’t save you. Being able to make a fire and craft a pointed stick does.

There was so much to read, so much knowledge to absorb, but that would take a whole day. Maybe two. And then even that would only scratch the surface of what’s in that museum.

Despite 3 out of 4 of us not being big fans of this particular adventure, I would say see this museum if you’re in Alberta (or go to Victoria where you’ll likely see as many old fossils.)

Next up, Edmonton, which The-Youngest looked forward to like a beaver looks forward to a forest of trees.

But for more pictures, check out this link.

 

 

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What To Do In Calgary – The Military Museum

Sherman Firefly in Caen 1944

Canadian Sherman tank, Calgary Alberta, 2018
Canadian M4A2(76)W HVSS Sherman “Easy 8” tank . Military Museum in Calgary

Or Tanks for the Memories!

Of all the things we planned to do, the thing I looked forward to the most was seeing the Calgary Military Museum and their collection of tanks.

If you look at my website, you’ll see there’s a whole section for tanks. I love tanks. I don’t know why. My therapist doesn’t know why. There’s a lot of head shaking and eye rolling. But when I found out there was a military museum in Calgary of all places, I had to go.

The-Youngest decided to join me, (part of his plan) even though it meant getting up early. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and The-Oldest were happy to sleep in.

We managed to get there in about 11 minutes. Ok, 16, due to me getting lost despite a perfectly functioning GPS (when the nice GPS lady said take the SW exit and the sign said south, I hesitated too long while I tried to figure out if there was a SW exit as well…. And, ah, no, there wasn’t.)

No matter. We got there.

Most of the tanks were outside, which was fine except that it had decided to rain. Of course. And I had not thought about bringing a jacket. Of course. I debated bringing an umbrella, but apparently, people who use umbrellas here are considered marginally “challenged” in Alberta so I thought what the hell, a little rain never hurt anyone.

Calgary Military Museum 2018
A WW2 “Churchill VII” tank

The tanks they had on display I knew well. The Churchill VII, a huge British heavy tank, a Centurion Mark III, perhaps the best post war 1950s tank built, a surprisingly big Sherman M4E8 (an ‘Easy Eight’), and a soon-to-be-restored Russian T-34-85. Near the entrance, they’d stationed a T-72 with desert camouflage. ‘

Both The-Youngest and I were super stoked to be there, to touch the tanks to look at them close up. Only one of us did a happy dance, and (spoiler alert) it wasn’t him.

t72 tank calgary military museum
A T72 tank with desert camo.

I took tons of pictures while The-Youngest told me stories of the adventures he’s had with the tanks while playing World of Tanks on the Xbox.

I had forgotten how huge tanks could be. Even the Sherman which was supposed to be a fast, medium tank.

No German tanks, though and let’s face it, the best tank builders in WW2 were the Germans. However, despite their Tiger tanks with their huge 88mm guns that could shoot straight through a Sherman, the allies produced so many tanks that we simply overwhelmed the Germans with very reliable, mass-produced machines.

But it makes me realize the courage of our tank crews. It’s all fair and fine to sit in an 80-ton German heavy tank with a massive gun and armor that’s almost impenetrable, and it’s quite another to try and fight one of those beasts in Sherman.

Yet, they did.

Sherman Firefly in Caen 1944
Inside Calgary’s Military Museum were plenty of life-sized displays. This one featuring a “Firefly” tank fighting in a city.

Often at great cost.

Inside, the museum itself was fantastic for its size. They had great displays set up in regimental rooms, from the famous stand of the PPCLI against the German gas attack in WW1, to the famous victory for the Canadians at Vimy Ridge, to the battles in Italy and France in WW2, to the heroic stand during the battle of Kapyong, in Korea, and finally, to the peacekeeping missions around the world.

Check out my history section if you want to see more about all of this.

After seeing all the regimental rooms, we quickly toured the naval part of the museum, then the air force section, but had to pass on seeing their collection of planes due to a particularly scary entrance into those hangars (though The-Youngest had been so awesome coming with me that I didn’t mind we missed the planes.)

I could have spent long hours there reading of the heroic moments of these Canadian regiments, but we had a lot to do and The-Youngest, while vaguely interested in guns and tanks had no stomach for reading, which seemed way too much like school work.

No matter.

We were off to see dinosaurs next.

However, if anyone gets to Calgary, has an interest in the military, a family member who served, or hell, you just love a good museum, check it out. The staff were awesome. The displays fantastic. Fun was had.

And the sacrifices of our armed forces should never be forgotten.

 

Hey, if you’re interested, here are a few other links.

World of Tanks (the best tank game ever!)

Tanks in Canada

PPCLI (Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry) Regimental History

Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) History

The King’s Own Calgary Regiment History

The Calgary Highlanders History

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And hey, thanks for reading this!  

If you like what you’re reading, please follow on FB, subscribe to my blog, or check out my coming-soon newsletter. Or, heck, just tell your friends, your baker, your accountant and your barista. 

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What To Do In Calgary

Calgary tower in Downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada

in Downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Tower of Terror, AKA the Calgary Tower

When in Calgary, why not do the Tower of Terror?

Our zoo experience couldn’t have been better, unless, you know, the pandas danced or sang Oh Canada or re-enacted the battle of Waterloo. The weather had turned nice. The crowds were light. And the animals were mostly out and about doing animal things. We had fun.

And the day wasn’t done.

Next up, if we had time, was to see the Calgary Tower. Now, back in my day, it was the tallest building around and my Uncle Jim would take us there for ice cream for a very special treat. Today, though, it sits in the middle of downtown Calgary, nestled amongst the new buildings of glass and steel.

Now, why go here?  I mean, it’s a tower. In the middle of a city. No pandas up there. No waterslides. No pianos.

But it did have something that it didn’t have back in my day. A glass floor extension out from the observation deck. It’s the kind of terrifying thing I try to avoid in my elder years. Being petrified of heights, I can think of a lot more fun things to do like scoop my eyeballs out with a stained crack spoon or see how many fire ants I can eat while juggling flaming scimitars.

However, both The-Youngest and The-Oldest boy wanted to go. Both of them. That is like Di Vinci and Michelangelo agreeing to spray paint the Sistine Chapel. Or (to quote The-Oldest) “Like Stravinsky and Prokofiev agreeing to compose together.”

So, after finding a great area for restaurants (in a very trendy, former warehousie area of downtown Calgary that reminds me of Yaletown), we marched off to see the tower. The elevator that took us didn’t have any windows, which is like a car not having windows (which I guess is a van) but that’s what this elevator felt like.)

On the observation deck, I had to face my fears and go walk out on the glass floor that was at least 10,000 feet from the ground below. (Truth update from The-Youngest, it’s 525 feet down.) As I walked out, everything that could clench, clenched. Even a few things that normally don’t clench, clenched. Had anyone asked, I could have pooped out diamonds.

Calgary Tower glass floor
The glass floor in the Calgary Tower. In my mind, I stepped out a lot farther

But I did look down. Shaking. Dizzy. My stomach filled with angry butterflies, I did it.

Then I walked off it and went in search of a bar. Finding none, I decided to read all the plaques.

Honestly, that glass floor aside, it was an amazing view of the city and they’d done a great job on making the information about the various locations interesting.

Glass floor on the Calgary Tower
Overcoming your fears is part of growing up. I guess I am still growing up

The boyz, however, couldn’t get enough of the glass floor. The-Youngest, when he actually stood on the edge of the glass, had serious second thoughts that stepping out onto the glass floor would be a good idea. Like Oppenheimer looking at the explosion of the first nuclear bomb and thinking, “oh dear, can I take that back?”

Calgary Tower
The-Oldest is fearless when it comes to heights.

But when his brother walked out, fearless as always, being the younger brother, he had to do what his older brother did. And when he overcame his fear, he wouldn’t leave the area. He sat down on the floor, lay down on it, and even took about a hundred selfies. Only when he started jumping up and down on it did we stop him.

The real success, though, was getting The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to step out onto the extension. Like me, she was terrified, but unlike me, she is not motivated by overcoming her fear, of not being shown up by her children, or by needing to write a blog about something.

But when The-Oldest took one of her hands, and The-Youngest took the other, they were able to lead her over to the glass floor. She had that same look on her face that she had on her first date with me, that is to say, one where she wasn’t sure she was going to make it out alive.

She didn’t stand long on the glass floor, but she did try and I love her for trying.

In the end, part of any good adventure is doing stuff you simply wouldn’t do at home.

Tomorrow would hold more of those adventures.

 

 

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