Day 6 A Rental Car for Universal (Theme Park)

Our car, the Ford Fusion Hybrid.

To do the next part of our epic vacation, we needed a rental car for Universal (Theme Park). An easy task for most people, but for me, well, read on.

It all began well enough. I managed to get a good sleep at our Disney World Resort. Drugs for my sore feet, fam quiet, room cool. All good.

I woke up with a good attitude at 5:54am. Before the alarm went off. I could now get up without waking anyone. Assuming, that is, I didn’t stumble into anything, drop anything, or bang my shins on anything and start swearing like an 8yr old first discovering the word f*ck.

The plan was simple. Take the shuttle to Disney World’s Car Care Center, rent a car, use GPS to get home. Being prone to getting utterly lost, and without either of my legendary navigators, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World or The-Youngest, GPS would get me home for sure.

I’d done a check-in last night and arranged for a car to pick me up. That I’d gotten up even before the alarm boded well for the day. Yes, it was going to be a good day. A good day indeed.

I grabbed a coffee, waited outside until the shuttle found me and got the car pretty quickly. Everyone was outstandingly friendly, one of the lot attendants even standing outside listening to opera. The-Oldest would have been proud.

The car they gave me was a Ford Fusion Hybrid which was pretty cool. I’ve never had a hybrid so I would get a chance to see what they were all about.

I got into my car. Lots of new stuff. No key start, one of those press buttons. No parking brake on that I could find. Lots of things on my dashboard screen about green options, but I was too caffeinated to sort that out just yet. I’m sure when I used my GPS to get back, The-Youngest could figure out all the gadgets.

I turned on my phone to get a GPS. I activated cellular.

And didn’t have a signal.

No WiFi either.

No signal, no WiFi… no GPS.

Without GPS, I had no idea where to go or how to get back to the resort!

I went into complete panic mode. Full body sweat. Heart racing. Brain zipping around like a moth in a flame.

Ok. Ok. Take a deep breath. I had loaded up the route last night on GPS. It wouldn’t be able to track the car, but I could use signs, and the route had been mapped out.

But no. Because I’d set a personal waypoint, the 90’s parking lot, there was only the map, no route to get to the parking lot.

Ok. Ok. I could see where I was and where I had to go. I had to take a right, get on the highway, go a ways, then take an offramp. I’m sure there’d be signs.

It was the ‘a ways’ that really worried me. There were a lot of turn offs and I had no idea if it was a 15 minute ride or 12, or 22. I had to pray for signs.

I started up the car, and being in a panic mode, I made my first mistake. I didn’t check the time.

I drove off, onto the highway, still about as stressed as a new driver taking their driving test with a beautiful driving instructor while nearly blind from allergies.

I realized my 2nd mistake right away. I hadn’t reset the side mirrors on the car. They’d been set for a Peter Dinklage sized person. My 360 vision would be severely impaired, and I would have to resort to the full shoulder check.

I drove ‘a ways.’ It seemed like 15 min or so, about the same time that the driver had taken.

No sign for Pop Century.

Now, what to do? I had no idea how far this road would go. Would I end up in Miami, then take a wrong turn and end up on some bridge to the everglades, then pull over only to be eaten by an alligator?

Ok. Ok. Take a deep breath.

I was lost, but not hopeless lost, yet. I mean, I was still in the USA.

But I didn’t want to go too far, so I took the next turn. A left. The plan that I came up with in my panicky brain was to find another Disney resort or one of the theme parks, get wifi, and reorient myself. I may have to go from resort to resort like a frog hopping to lily pads, but I was sure I could find my way home eventually.

Like maybe by noon.

But was turning off the highway to be my third mistake? The one where my obituary read, He went off to pick up a car and was never seen, again?

Ok. Ok. Take a deep breath.

I went ‘a ways’. No resorts. No parks. Lots of signs. No ‘Pop Century This Way’.

Great.

I drove on and found a sign saying Epcot resorts. Well, any port in a panic storm, so I took that one. It seemed to take me in the totally wrong direction from my resort, as far as I can tell directions, but then I saw a sign for a resort. The Caribbean.

I pulled into that one.

At the gate, I had to stop. A smiling attendant came out to scan my Disney World Magic Band. I said, sorry, (cuz I’m Canadian and usually begin all social interactions with ‘sorry’), but I’m not a guest here.

“No, problem Mr. Cummings. You’re welcome here.”

“That’s awesome,” I said. “But I’m a bit lost. I was hoping to park near WiFi and see if I could get my GPS to work. I’m trying to get back to the Pop Century Resort.”

“You won’t need GPS, Mr. Cummings.” (Clearly, he had no idea how lost I can get.) He pointed behind him to the right. “It’s the next resort. Turn around here, take a left onto Victory Street, and it’s your first left.”

Somehow, I had nearly gotten home by sheer luck.

F*cking hell!

Holy f*cking hell!

There is no joy in the world quite like being lost and suddenly finding out where you are. Maybe nearly dying of thirst in a desert and finding a MacDonalds comes close, but somehow, without any real understanding of where I was, I had found my way home.

I think I had a guiding angel. I think Margot maybe.

Either way, I turned around, took the left, then another left, then found myself in the Pop Century Resort, vaguely traumatized, but ok. I literally have nightmares about this kind of thing, and I greatly fear I’m not that far away from a dementia home at the best of times.

However, I hoped the rest of the day would be better.

Disney World Top 10 Lists – From The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World

Fun with the family

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World made 2 Disney World Top 10 lists –  Her best moments and Mom advice. As well, at the bottom is a bonus list drawn from our brilliant Disney World travel agent, Alyssa.

Getting The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to share her insights wasn’t easy. When I first asked her, here’s what she said. “I don’t know, stop bugging me.” Then, later, “I’m in the shower, can’t you wait until I get out?!” Then, much later. “You’re not going to stop asking me, are you? Ok, here it goes…”

Top 10 Disney World Best Moments

  1. Seeing Everyone Happy – Kay, I’m gonna cry, but the best moment was seeing Joe and Carter so happy. They’d done so much planning and preparation, then had the best time there.
  2. The Pop Century Resort room – because their amazing efficiency blew my mind. USB ports everywhere, many places to store things, and it didn’t feel crowded or messy even though it wasn’t a big room.
  3. The Disney business is a magnificent machine – if I had more time I’d want to pay attention to how it’s run, it’s like nothing else in the world.
  4. The Bus rides – I said one time that the buses were my favourite ride and I stand by that. No wait, when you get a seat, then they’re my favourite ride.
  5. Anywhere air-conditioned was the best.
  6. The Service – It was above and beyond, generally speaking. Every ‘cast member” took their character to heart. Even the waitresses and waiters. Even the guy in the 50’s diner who upset The-Youngest. He was just playing his part, but also probably digging up his past, going through therapy. I sensed there were some issues there.
  7. No Reservations Needed – I liked that we could get into the themed sit-down restaurants even though guides said we had to have reservations. The food didn’t blow me away, but it was the whole experience that was cool.
  8. The 3D Muppet Show – I’m gonna cry, again, but I loved it. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. Why? Ok therapist Joe, I guess a part of it was the music, I used to play it on the piano all the time when I was young. Plus, I grew up with Kermit and Miss Piggy and Gonzo and everyone in the show. They were my friends in childhood, though I hated the grumpy old guys cuz they were boring. Oddly enough, I find them hilarious, now.
  9. Safari Twice – I’m glad we took a friend’s advice to see the safari in the morning and at night. Different animals were out. The lighting was different.
  10. Unplanned Fun – Stop making me cry. Sometimes the most fun I had was not planned. Even just, you know, taking a break and relaxing on the bus, or listening to The-Youngest go on and on about a rollercoaster’s stats, or watching The-Oldest be goofy. Little things, but little FAMILY things. I don’t get enough family time.

Top 10 Mom Tips

It’s ok to have a lazy day on the lazy river. Blizzard Beach.
  1. Wear breathable fabrics, loose, breathable fabrics
  2. Be prepared to do laundry.
  3. Be prepared to abandon the plan if you’re not having fun, because I saw so many families with screaming babies and kids melting down because they were going to have fun, dammit
  4. Be prepared for a LOT of walking. You don’t really know how much there is until you’ve spent 12 hours walking or standing in a line.
  5. There is not a lot of shade or AC. Even though it’s Florida and you’d think they’d be prepared, they’re not. Unless you go into a souvenir shop or a restaurant or … wait, maybe this was all part of the plan, a clever scheme, I see it now. (See the Disney Business Model above.)
  6. Umh, if you have the time, take it. Try not to rush through stuff.
  7. I now believe in the Fastpass concept. Line-ups suck. Line-ups in the sweltering heat suck even more. When you only have a few days, it’s painful to waste time.
  8. As mentioned before, do the Safari twice, day and night. You won’t regret it.
  9. The meal plan was complicated but worth it. It takes a good 24 hours to figure it out, but it pays for itself (and allowed The-Oldest to eat without the guilt of how much that extra banana would cost.)
  10. Don’t buy the themed, free-refill mugs. You have to take them back to your resort room (which takes, like 30 min) or you have to carry them along with you, all dirty, and leaking sticky stuff everywhere. They’re a complete waste of money and time.
  11. OH, bonus, wear matching T-shirts! Next time, I want all of us to wear matching T-shirts, but they match to each theme park. Animal kingdom T-shirts for animal kingdom day. See, I’m buying into the Disney machine.

Alyssa’s List can be found HERE! It’s the perfect list from someone who’s a regular visitor to Disney World.

Top 10 List of Disney World Moments – By The-Youngest

Rockin’ Rollercoaster, probably the best ride in Disney World.

The-Youngest: “Wait, wait, what, I have to do a top ten list on rides? Really, Joe? Really?”

“Yes. No one knows more about rollercoasters.”

“So do you want the best rollercoasters?”

“No, my bad, not just rollercoasters. Rides. Tell me about your top 10 rides.”

“It may not be totally in order, but I do have the #1.”

Top 10 rides in Disney World – the Youngest

  1. Rockin’ Rollercoaster – Has to be the best for its speed. Its ‘launch’ at the start is very forceful. It has double vertical flips and is smooth for Vekoma (which is the make of the rollercoaster, not glaucoma as Joe heard it.)
  2. Expedition Everest – Could be #1, but it has a scary yeti. A very scary Yeti. Still, it’s got a huge drop and great speed.  It almost made me grey out at the bottom of the big drop, and going backward was cool, and being in the dark made it feel like a backward flip.
  3. Space Mountain – felt more forceful than the one at Disneyland. The restraints are better, but not enough space for feet. It’s a toboggan-style ride, which I don’t like, but it’s in the dark so you never know what’s going to happen, except that I did because I watched YouTube videos of what it’s like with the night-vision goggles on.
  4. Splash Mountain, better than Disneyland, because it had 2 per row and it was long and had a better ending song. That’s important. The drops were more intense. More wet, too.
  5. Seven Dwarves Mine Train – I thought it was cool to have a rollercoaster drop right at the start, and the trains moved side to side. Animatronics were well done, too, and didn’t scare me at all. Music was good, too.
  6. Avatar: Flight of Passage – A good ride, but Joe liked it way better than I did. Lots of close calls that feel like you were going to hit a tree, or bang into a cliff. Not intense, and I like intense, but riding in a weird position, like on a bike, that was kind of fun, too.
  7. Thunder Mountain Railroad – No Fastpass. A terrible wait, but cool things to do in the line, like blowing up things with dynamite as the rail cars passed, but even though it was not that intense, it was still fun. Good speed and quite smooth.
  8. Test Track –  Very fun! You designed the cars, and I made a car that looked like a terrible car but it beat my parents! It was the fastest ride in the park. My eyes dried out. Even big rollercoasters don’t do that. That was fun.
  9. Buzz Lightyear Ranger Spin – A shooting ride. Lots of fun. I’d seen the vids and knew where to shoot. It’s fun to do with family because you can spin around and control where you shoot. Or spin away just as your mom is lining up a shot. This ride has strategy!
  10. Slinky Dog Dash – A good ride if you like launches, but only really good if you’re really young or like my mom, because the launches are not forceful. Not much air-time, but a good ride, for someone just getting into rollercoasters.
Time to blow something up. Magic Kingdom’s Thunder Mountain Railroad. This is how you make a line-up fun!

It’s not that I didn’t like some of the other rides. Star Tours was ok. The Muppet Show was kind of fun. But I could only have 10 things, so those are my 10 recommendations. One that I’d avoid – the water ride in Animal Kingdom, Kali Rapids. You got super wet but it was super boring.

However, my most favourite ride will be the Tron coaster that’s coming in 2020. Epic ‘launches.’ Flips in a motorcycle riding position. Fast. Intense. There’s already one in Shanghai.

I wonder if my parents will take me back to Disney World to see it. I need to start a gofundme campaign or get some Patreons.

Top 10 List of Disney World Moments – By The-Oldest

Top 10 moments?

As always, The-Oldest gave a lot of thought to his answers.
  1. The rainstorm when we arrived! Oh yeah, yeah, the big rainstorm was amazing.

2) The architecture is amazing. The world-building, like how things looked, the time, you know, to get it right, that was incredible.

3) Favourite ride? Rocking rollercoaster had a lot of umph, but it wasn’t my favourite. In Epcot, the racecar ride one was one of the best, cause it’s got more story, but Splash Mountain’s still my favourite. It helped that we had a Fastpass but I’d wait in line for two hours for that ride.

4) Epcot had the best fireworks. I guess what made it the best was that it had a ton of room, even with huge crowds. We could see everything. Fireworks are best when you’re not being pushed around by crowds.

5) Is there a ride not worth the wait?  Sure.  Lots. For us, we waited about an hour for the Goofy plane ride, the Barnstormer, in The Magic Kingdom. Very short. Not worth even a 15 min wait.

6) It is really hot there, you know. Close to torture at some point. I would not want to go in summer, again. Too crowded, too.

7) Is there any park I’d wanted to spend more time at?  I would want to spend more time at Universal, but I think I had enough of Animal Kingdom, but I don’t think we spent enough time in Epcot or Hollywood Studios, but Magic Kingdom definitely needs more than 1 day, as we were very tired and not ready for the heat.

8) Favourite place to eat? 50s diner, chah, you know what I’m saying- it’s getting into the feel of the 50s, so yeah, I’d recommend it. But my favourite, the German restaurant with live music. It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be. They played mountain horns and had a buffet of German food. Chah.

9) Was the Resort good? Pop century, yeah, big time. I was excited because I like the really old stuff, like the 60s and 70s stuff. And stuff from the dark ages, like the 50s and 40s. Wait, why are you scowling at me, Joe.

10) What was the most terrifying ride? Expedition Everest, yeah, that yeti, even knowing ahead of time didn’t help. That yeti was scary.

“We’re here to have fun.”

11) (Yes, 11, he’s giving one extra one for free) What’s the one thing I’d tell everyone? Manage stamina. No matter how fun the ride is, don’t wait for anything too long, it kills the fun, and you’re there to have fun.

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.

**********

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 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.

**********

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. 

If you want to support a starving writer, check out the coffee link at the top right-hand corner of the website.

 

 

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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Will the Pandas Be Awesome at the Calgary Zoo?

pandas at calgary zoo

Calgary Alberta Zoo and pandas
Pandas at the Calgary Zoo. Posters and signs were everywhere.

The Truth About Pandas.

We had a choice to make early in the planning stage. The Calgary Zoo or the Calaway Amusement Park. The-Youngest argued for the park, since it had, you know, rides and cotton candy and rides and pop and rollercoasters and popcorn and more rides.

All good points.

But since we were going to the West Edmonton Mall, and they had rides and waterslides and rollercoasters, it was decided to see the zoo. The zoo had pandas, and pandas trump terrifying machines of death every time.

We arrived at 3:10, the panda exhibit reservation was at 3:30, at the far end of the zoo. We knew if we hoofed it, we’d arrive there.

We confirmed the location of the pandas with the ticket guy who seemed vaguely amused that we thought they’d moved them, but then again pandas are known for their blinding speed and ability to Tarzan from tree to tree so who knows, right?

We speed-marched to the panda exhibit like housewives trying to wiggle walk-off 20lbs in one journey. All along the way, there were posters of pandas looking cute. We weren’t deceived, we knew they were ferocious killers that took down mammoths once upon a time. They were known to move faster than cheetahs, and make homes from rocks they carved from the mountains.

Ok, all we really knew is that they were super cute and ate shoots and leaves. We’d seen pictures. And watched videos. Seems they did a lot of looking cute, a lot of munching on things and, every so often, they’d lumber around their enclosure like me with a foot cramp.

To our surprise, there were no line-ups and we got to go right in.

It was then we found out the real truth about pandas. Like me, also super cute, they like to nap. A lot. Seems it’s their favourite thing to do.

So, we got to see one napping on a big rock. She had managed to lay in such a way that it looked like one bad shift in her dreams and she’d fall off the rock and into the water. There are a lot of videos of pandas sleep-falling off of trees, rocks, and buildings. It could be that they are not the smartest animals in the kingdom.

I waited for her to fall off, but she didn’t shift a bit, happy to be inside, and warm and with her children safe and sound in another room. Her children were likewise asleep, happy to snuggle with each other. They weren’t as white and black as I thought they’d be, more a muddy white and a greyish-black, but their cuteness was undeniable. I waited my turn with all the other children who wanted to get close and take a picture, then snapped a few of them cuddled up.

The biggest difference between the older generation and the younger could be summed up here. I waited for my turn. Kids pushed their way in (and I’m not talking 5-year-olds who have an excuse for bad manners) but those horrible teenagers, the ones without social skills, no understanding of lines and raised by parents who thought that being their friend was the same as, you know, parenting.

pandas at calgary zoo
The panda babies didn’t really look like babies. If they had cell phones, they would have been taking selfies. http://joecummings.ca/travel/

No matter. I snapped a few pictures of the cuties, then took a bit of time to actually watch the pandas with my own eyes while teenagers cycled past the glass taking selfies. I took in the smell, which wasn’t that great, the sounds (only one seemed to snore) and wondered why they’d chosen those spots to snooze. The kids took a picture and moved on to something else.

Drops mic.

To be fair, the boys couldn’t really see the point of watching pandas sleeping either, but at least they didn’t just selfie the darned things.

As for the pandas, well, they really needed to do better. I’ll be writing a letter to their leader in China. They need to be more active and entertaining. Cute is not good enough.

But that was the great panda adventure.

The rest of the zoo, however, didn’t disappoint.

 

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BC to Alberta

rain clouds in alberta

Or How to Get There From Here.

We thought it would be an uneventful day, but as with any travel adventures, we ended up having two adventures we hadn’t planned on.

Dora the Explorer and the “I’m a Map,” dude. Along the road, through the forest, past spooky trees with faces and to find the house of death.

We’d planned to get to Calgary by 3 so we could see the zoo and the pandas. (If you recall, we had to book a viewing appointment with the pandas. Like they were kings. Or doctors).

So we couldn’t leave Cranbrook too late. It was over 4 hours of driving on the Crowsnest highway.

So, like Dora the Explorer would say, we had to go through the forest, over the mountains, and along the plains to find the city.

The-Youngest was oddly excited about actually crossing the border. I think he wanted gates, armed guards, and searchlights, but all we found were two signs. Leaving BC and Welcome to Alberta.

Not super exciting. Not even a bear or a scruffy-looking pipeline protestor could be seen.

So, feeling a little disappointed, we stopped for Timmies right across the border.

This became our first travel adventure for the day.

Tim Hortons. Mmmmm. Donut. Double double. Fast Service… or not

Now, I am, if nothing, a veteran Timmies guy, and this was perhaps the worst one I have ever, ever visited.

It was super busy, which is not unheard of, but the mass of customers waiting for double-doubles had broken the restaurant.

I’ve seen it happen on my watch in Toys R Us at Christmas time. The staff were simply overwhelmed.

One young employee stood there staring at a machine that stirs the ice drinks like he’d been shelled by the Taliban. A little old lady running the cash register got so flustered, she forgot how to ring in cash and just kept waving it in the air like the bill was on fire. Nearby, two sandwich makers bickered with each other about who had last used the buttering knife as a phalanx of sandwich orders hung on their station overhead.

Now, a good owner would take charge. Shift people if needed. Manage the crisis. Keep things rolling, but I swear to God, not a single coffee or sandwich was made in ten minutes while everyone panicked.

So it took a good 45 min to get a coffee.

It’s a weird thing when something like that takes so long. If someone said, hey Justjoe, it looks like this is going to take 45 min, I would have left, but after investing 10 min, do you give up?

What about after 20, cuz now you’ve invested even more time?

And then 30 min?

Well, Goddammn, after 30,  I’m sticking it out now!

Which I did. I got my coffee, fought my way out of the parking lot and we were back on our way. Minor delay. Major grumpy attack by me.

After that coffee disaster, the sky decided to echo my mood and turn dark. Like winter storm dark.

And with that darkness, came our second unexpected adventure.

rain clouds in alberta
Nothing like a good Alberta storm!

On the prairies, a dark sky either means aliens are gathering to attack, again, or a lightning storm was a’comin’. And sure enough, as we got into the foothills, a storm descended upon us with righteous fury. Lightning forked across the sky. Sheets of rain pounded on the car, making driving nearly impossible, and through it all, not a single boom of thunder.

How amazing!

Both boys oooohed and awww’d at the lightning, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World gripped the dashboard with a kung fu grip as we sped along a highway where we could barely see 2 feet in front of us.

Luckily, I found a gas station to pull into until the storm passed over us. We stood under a convenience store canopy and watched it roll towards the mountains. I won’t lie, I was still shaking from that highway drive and I think the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World wished we’d stopped at the liquor store instead of a gas station.

thunder and lightning storm. alberta 2018
Storm’s coming. Alberta, 2018

But we saw a good, old-fashioned prairie storm. Something you just don’t see in Vancouver at all.

And both the Timmies catastrophe and the storm had made this part of the trip more interesting.

“Interesting?” The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World asked. “What next? Driving into a tornado? Dancing on a lava field? Boating in a hurricane?”

The three of us boys thought all those things would be amazing, but next up, those exciting, super energetic pandas, aka the wildmen of the bamboo forest.

******

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Family First in BC.

Osoyoos Okanagan BC

Family First…

As I write out my notes, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s Baba has just gotten out of the hospital after having major emergency surgery.

At 94, she may be one of the most incredible people I’ve met with her Old World wisdom, quick wit, and constitution of Rasputin.

Osoyoos Okanagan BC
Osoyoos Camping Atop a Mountain

But as we pulled into her parent’s driveway high atop a mountain in Osoyoos, we had no idea how sick she was.

So no matter what adventures we would have, this was a good reminder of what’s important.

Family.

As we ate like kings (endless amounts of scrambled eggs, toast, sausages, bacon, hash browns), we caught up with our relatives. We learned that names have been chosen for a soon-to-arrive baby, though none of them are mine (frankly the world needs more Joes), and listened to everyone’s adventures since we last saw them.

We joked with The-Youngest about catching rattlesnakes by kissing them, which, in hindsight, may have been bad idea –  and if he dies while trying to catch one, that’s on me.

I also may have advised him on such things as how to talk to girls, how to sleep while driving, and how to find gold in abandoned mine shafts. More great examples of epic parenting from me.

The-Oldest held up well during both visits, trying out his new social self. Like me, he’s more comfortable talking to himself than others, but he was on fire with the grandparents, asking engaging questions, making terrible puns, and being able to explain musical theory so it doesn’t sound like new math.

The-Youngest did his best not to fiddle with stuff, like the hot BBQ, the brakes on the RV, the nailgun in the house being built, or the satellite cable dish.

He’s a fiddler, and not the musical kind, oh no, he’d fiddle with the wires of a bomb as you tried to disarm it, and not because he’s cruel, but because his fingers have to find something to do. Stick in something. Twist something. Worm their way into something. Dismantle something. Poke something (mostly his brother).

Give him 20 minutes and I swear he could completely dismantle a tank.

Family first
Vacationing with family in Osoyoos, BC.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World was in her element, though.

Unlike me, she’s a people person and her friends or family are the whipped cream on top of her ice-cream life. If she had her way, she would have spent days with her family, sitting under the RV awning, looking out of Osoyoos Lake and talking about life.

But, sadly, The-Oldest’s head would explode without a piano to play, The-Youngest would end up finding a way to pry out every nail in the house under construction and cause it to collapse, and me, I would be run out of super witty things to say and be forced to share.

It would be traumatic.

So we stayed a few hours, had a great time, then drove off. The schedule demanded we be on the road by 12. We had a long drive ahead of us, a drive more eventful than we planned, but I was glad we’d stopped to catch up with family. It was time well spent!

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Why An Alberta Adventure? 2018

Alberta travel

This is my first blog in a while, but it’s also the first on my new website. The site is still a work in progress, but I hope you check out everything there, sign up for the super exciting newsletters, and share the post if you like it. Any comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

Alberta travel
Alberta – Did you know Alberta hosts an annual testicle festival?

The Great Alberta Adventure – Day -1

Why? Why Alberta?

Being on-call for work,  the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World can’t get a ton of time off, but this year, she managed to get nearly a week. Not quite a whole week, but 6 days. Hard to do Europe in 6 days. Hard to even do Disney World in 6 days. Or Hawaii.

So we planned to see a place the boys had never been. Alberta.

Not as many leaning towers there. No spectacular seaside resorts. No cities with gangster tours. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to see.

First and foremost, many of our peeps are out that way. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s parents live in Oliver and Osoyoos, and her bestest bestie had settled in Stony Plain (near Edmonton), which (coming from Calgary) is like someone choosing to live in a smelly basement rather than a penthouse suite. I mean, who could really like Edmonton? It’s either too hot or too cold. There are far too many mosquitoes, and their hockey team cheats. A lot. And looks funny.

Alberta travel
The road to Alberta lies this way ->

But aside from Edmonton, we’ll see the incredible Rockies, Drumheller with all its dinosaurs, the Calgary Zoo, the various monuments erected to celebrate my years in Calgary, and up north, near the polar bears and Santa’s hut, Edmonton’s famous mall.

Anyway, so, yeah, lots of reasons to head east. And all doable in 6 days.

No planes, no trains, just one automobile. 30 hours driving, all told.

So a plan was made by the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and me, a balance between play-it-by-ear and making sure we have a place to stay each night.

I think we arrived at a good balance. No specific times, like at 8:24 we get up, peeing will happen from 8:24-8:27, handwashing from 8:27-8:28, then getting dressed from 8:28… nor nothing too generalized – like we’ll drive until we find something then do something then do something different and then come home.

We tried to lock down the key things, like the Calgary Zoo and since we have to actually book an appointment to see his majesty the panda, we had to be at the panda pavilion at 3:45, but what time we actually arrive at the zoo, well, we’ll play it by ear.

As well, we booked all our hotels so we wouldn’t have to search for a place to stay at the last minute. We could park our bags, take a nap, check out FB, Twitter, Instagram, youtube, and all things internetie, and chillax at the pool while deciding what’s most important.

The Rockies, the prairies, Drumheller, Calgary, Edmonton… there’s a lot to see
But no sooner had we made our generalized plan than The-Youngest took over. The oldest, even right now, still doesn’t quite know what we’re doing even though we’ve told him 10 times, spent an evening showing him our plans on a map and even made a colorful file folder he could consult at any time.

Touring Alberta, Calgary, Drumheller, West Edmonton Mall
The Rockies, the prairies, Drumheller, Calgary, Edmonton… there’s a lot to see

But The-Youngest, well, bless him, he loves to plan. It’s part of the trip for him. It’s the anticipation. It’s ‘see what others have done.’ It’s imagining himself doing all sorts of cool things.

So, come read the next post and see how an 11-year-old mind works.

How much do you plan for your adventures?

Fear

Fear, true fear, ultimately comes from the emotional part of our brain.

Personally, I think it was how we died in a previous life and our spirit stored it that way so we wouldn’t, you know, taunt a lion, again, get stung by a bee and die from an allergic reaction, or climb to the top of a mountain to see the view only to slip and fall 10,000 ft to splat on the rocks below.

So, while the Jet boat ride in Whistler was fun, I have to say, ¾ of us were all a little nervous about this whole zip-lining thing.

Oh, we’d all been on a zip-line before and I found it scary at first, but ultimately kinda exhilarating. This one, however, looked simply terrifying.

It was called the Sasquatch and went for 2.2 km. You’d reach speeds of 120kmh (or faster if you were a heavy beast like me.)

When The-Youngest told us he wanted to do it, we said, no. Actually, I think we said hell no. But foolishly, we gave both boys the power to do one thing they wanted to do in Whistler and this was his thing. The-Oldest, as you may recall from the last post, wanted to play the piano.

The-Youngest showed us youtube videos to make us less scared. He got a pamphlet saying what fun it would be. He read testimonials and pointed out that no one has died.

So we relented.

Yes, that’s the Sasquatch zip-line

It really wasn’t until we were at the base of the mountain looking up at a line of red balloon-like markers spanning the two peaks, that we realized what this ride was about. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World said, wow, I guess they don’t want planes flying between the peaks or they’re worried about the nearby gondola.

No, The-Youngest said, “That’s showing where the zip-line is.”

My eye began to twitch at that.

Getting geared up

But a deal is a deal, we took the van up to the zip-line point, climbed a huge freaking tower and stood there looking at the drop, the zip-line sagging straight down.

We all went pale except for The-Oldest who shrugged and said he thought it would be scarier.

Are you kidding me?

I was terrified.

Being afraid of heights, standing there, looking down, I couldn’t simply override my lizard brain with a whole litany of logic.

No one’s died.

It’ll be over quick.

I’m attached to a solid steel cable.

Even the Dune Litany failed me. I must not fear. Fear is the mind killer. Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to wash through me. And when it is gone, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Well, all and good for some Dune prophet but it didn’t help me one bit. I was still terrified.

So was The-Youngest. And The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, both pale as ghosts, but despite their keen desire to find a reason to turn back, they didn’t.

They took the plunge.

Then came my turn (and The-Oldest’s.)

He got hooked up and marched down the steps and stood on the brink of doom like it was nothing.

Me, I was shaking.

By the time the doors opened, I was shaking a lot.

Now for some people, this is no big deal. They’d do it naked, hanging upside down with a roman candle sparkling from their butt while singing Ave Maria.

Fear, true fear, cannot be decimated with logic

Me? Well. Each step I took downwards was, perhaps, the scariest thing I’ve ever done. Scarier than pitching my novels, though I had similarly sweaty palms. Scarier than going on a date at 50 years old, though in both cases, my heart pounded in my chest like it wanted to leap out and run away, have a beer, and watch other idiots do this.

When I reached the last step, the guide said, ok, on three.

 

Three.

My sphincter clenched so hard that I nearly created a black hole.

Two.

My mouth went completely dry which makes sense since all the liquid in my body had gone to make sure my palms were so wet that I couldn’t hold on to anything, which totally doesn’t make we wonder if we did evolve from monkeys who would surely need good dry palms to swing away from tigers or Green Peace or something.

One.

My life flashed before my eyes.

It was, not surprisingly, rather dull.

Go!

I went.

I didn’t scream. I didn’t wet myself. I didn’t even close my eyes. I got mad. Mad that I was so scared. Mad to use up all that fight or flight energy. Mad because I had to jump off a flipping tower and travel at the speed of a falling sack of bricks.

But being mad allowed me to actually enjoy the ride.

I did. All the way to the bottom.

But, as we gathered on the other tower, The-Oldest saying he found it boring, that he should have gone upside down and taken pictures, The-Youngest bouncing up and down with unbridled glee, wanting to do it again, can we, can we do it again, The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World looked at me and I looked at her and we said, shit, never, ever, ever, again.

Because, despite us both surviving, there comes a point in your life where being terrified isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Fear, in the end, didn’t defeat us, didn’t kill us, but man did it make us appreciate a nice chair on a beach somewhere. Drink with an umbrella in hand.

Play Us a Song, You're the Piano Man

Musical Monday.

There are moments you just know will stick with you forever. Often they’re bad but when they’re good, they’re very good. While in Whistler, I had both. But first, the good one.

We all had ideas of what we wanted to do in Whistler. Zip-lining. Jet-boating. And, of course, playing the piano.

To be fair, only one of us wanted the later, but The-Oldest very much wanted to find a piano in the open and play it. He’d found one is Osoyoos. It was placed out on the sidewalk with an invitation for anyone to play it.

Being brave, he played it, and much to his surprise got tipped nearly $20.

So, while in Whistler, he was determined to find another piano and entertain everyone, (and, you know, maybe collect some cash, too.)

We found one outside of the Arts Whistler Community Center. Painted brightly, it was a simple stand-up piano with a simple bench.

He sat down on the bench, hunched over the keys and began to play while we settled on comfortable benches to watch. Being slightly out of the way, there weren’t a lot of people coming by, but one family stopped and their little girl wanted to help The-Oldest out. She was enthralled with his playing and looked up in awe at The-Oldest like he was a god or like how I look at a donut.

It was cute. Super cute.

But then came along another girl who was in her, well, let’s say her early twenties. She stopped to listen, shaking her head at what The-Oldest pounded out on the keys.

“Is he your son?” she asked.

“He is,” The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World beamed. “He’s 14.”

“He’s amazing,” she said. “How long has he been playing?”

“18 months,” I said. “One day, he just sat down at the piano and began to play. His mom showed him the basics, but he soon zoomed past her and began to tackle Liszt and Greig and Rachmaninoff.”

“That’s incredible,” the girl said, listening to The-Oldest play. “I play the piano, too. And the guitar. And I compose.”

“That’s so cool,” I said. “He’s just begun composing. He works on it day and night.”

“He’s found his passion,” The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World said. “We have to drag him away to eat.”

The girl listened to The-Oldest longer. “He plays so beautifully,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “That he’s found his passion so young in life, is… so beautiful.” Tears rolled down her cheeks.

His music, his story, had moved her.

Immediately, the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World began to tear up as well. She comes from a teary people.

“He’s just incredible,” the girl said, wiping away her tears, then apologized for crying, but really, there was nothing to apologize for.

The-Oldest had moved his first fan to tears. Usually, I have to step on someone’s foot to do that or eat a bad burrito and expel noxious gas afterward, but he’d done it with the way he played. Fearlessly. Passionately. Beautifully.

That moment will stick with me forever.

(Below are vids of him playing)

 

Canada Day 2017- When You’re Wrong, You’re Wrong

Our lovely view from the Grand Pacific

Ok, so after Nerf Wars, there was still hope that I’d be right, that every vacation needed to be planned, but after an hour or so in the hotel pool, we retired to our room overlooking the Inner Harbour and waited for the fireworks with friends. Things had gone well. Very well. And I greatly feared that I’d have to make an admission.

I was wrong. You could have a good mini-vacation without planning every second of it.

But I held out. We still had the fireworks. Maybe we’d not find a spot to see them. Maybe every single food outlet would be shut down and because we hadn’t booked a reservation, the children would go hungry and be forced to beg for scraps from rich Asians in shiny suits. Maybe, because we had no plan in place, if there was a zombie attack, we’d die while trying to find a good chainsaw.

None of that happened, though.  We had a great dinner with friends in our hotel room overlooking the Inner Harbour. Later, we found a perfect spot for viewing the fireworks, and apart from a couple of asshat punks who kept on shouting m*therf***er this and that while sucking on those stupid vape pipes, we had the most perfect time (and, frankly, what plan would I have made for those idiots other than bringing a good baseball bat?)

 

Spoons! check it out!

Even the next day, after me getting up early, driving out to visit some friends who were about to head to the Far East (Saskatchewan), we had a fantastic brunch at Spoons (another place I would HIGHLY recommend), played Smash-Up with my best friend (I lost every game), and even had an epic dance-off! (Yes. there’s a video of that, but I’ve been told not to show it if I ever want to wake up again.)

Then even got on an earlier ferry than planned. Plus, though the ferry was booked solid and there looked to be no seats for us to sit down in, we found 4 together.

Like it was planned.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world took this one.

We had the best mini-vacation I’ve ever had in Victoria. Our hotel room had two doors, and a bedroom for each of us. The weather was absolutely perfect. We found parking downtown easily and it was freaking free! We didn’t have any problems with traffic, the food was great where we chose to eat, and no one seemed to hate us for showing up 30 min late.

All with minimal planning.

So, I have to say it.

I was wrong.

The key is to plan just enough. In all honesty, I’ve done the total seat-of-the-pants traveling and it has its challenges, like arriving at 10 pm in Edinburgh and pitching a tent in a flooded soccer field or finding the only room in a town is a serial killer’s murder room (boy, that’s a story, I tell you.)

However, planning every hour simply adds a ton of stress and takes away from the adventure. Part of traveling is not just researching the hell out of an area, then seeing it, no, it’s finding something unexpected, something amazing you hadn’t planned for, something cool to do that you never would have imagined.

The best visit to Victoria ever!

I hate that I missed so many of my friends. I hate that I didn’t get to laugh with them, hear about their lives, tell them my stories, but that’ll all have to happen at another time, or when they come over to visit us.

So, as my parting thought, as I wind up this mini-blog on Victoria, let me tell all my friends out there that it is ok not to plan out everything. You can still have a good time.

No.

A GREAT time.

Canada Day July 1st – Part 1/3

The Youngest Unchained.

Is War Wrong?

I mean, yeah, probably. But a Nerf War? Adults vs kids? That kind of war could be awesome.

That was the idea for the first part of the Canada Day Trip Part Deux. The Youngest had brought over four of his most devastating weapons, his ammo vest and enough nerf bullets that if laid end to end, would encircle the world four times over.

He carried his armaments into the hotel with pride, like an orange-gunned badass from a Tarantino movie. He didn’t aim at anyone. He didn’t have any of his guns loaded. He simply cradled them like a mother cradles a newborn.

So, after me writing in the a.m., all the Asians coming into the café and staring at me like they’d never seen a white man in his underwear sitting down, writing something on a computer, his hair looking like someone had just electrocuted him, we made our way to get some food.

Deprived of my ability to plan every second of the day, I leapt at researching a place. Lots to choose from, though. I mean, hey, this is Victoria. A mecca of good food.

Found a few nearby, but the Shine Café had great reviews, so we went there.

5 Joe stars ***** for the Shine

This place. Wow. I have not had such a good breakfast in a long while. Total Joe five stars. *****.  I tried the Scottish breakfast and despite my heritage, the black pudding made me gag. I haven’t gagged since a string of spaghetti got stuck in my braces and dangled down my throat. To all my ancestors who had to eat black pudding, and couldn’t order an egg McMuffin, I am both impressed and appalled. Haggis suddenly doesn’t seem as bad.

However, everything else, from the eggs to the bacon, to the hash browns were perfectly cooked. The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World said her eggs Benny were the best she’d ever had. The Youngest had pancakes the size of his ammo-filled backpack. Even the Oldest said his meal was, “I dunno, ok, I guess.”

So, my first travel recommendation. I’ll make a tab. But try out the Shine if you’re in Victoria. It is an amazing café.

Bellies full, we drove off to the war.