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.

Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom Start

Joe and the boyz stand at the entrance to Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Florida
We had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom! I had to hold onto the backpack of The-Youngest to keep him from running off!

By the time we had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, everyone had forgotten that it was 6am our time and that we had slept maybe 8 hours in two days. We were here!

It took a bit of time to walk from the buses to the security check. It took a bit of time to line up, then have our bags checked and walk through a metal detector. It took a bit of time to line up, again, to get into the park.

But by 9:15, we were in!

But, as I looked over at The-Youngest, I realized we’d made a terrible error. No, not the sunscreen that made him look as shiny as an oily nickel… no… he didn’t have a hat or a siren or a sparkler on top of his head so we could find him in a crowd!

Good lord, he’d blend in with anything. Grass. Mike Wazowski . Thin air.

It would be hell keeping track of him. Like me, like Dug the Dog from Up, he tended to see something (“Squirrel!”) and runoff. I think between the The-Youngest and me, we’ve given The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World a permanent frown wrinkle on her forehead.

But standing inside the gates to the Magic Kingdom was, well, magical. In the distance, Cinderella’s castle, set against the bright sun and blue sky, looking like something out of faerie tale. (Wait, it IS out of a faerie tale!) Leading to the castle, Main Street, the buildings quaint with a New England theme. And in front of us, the entrance building, a garden full of flowers that make up a Mickey Mouse face, and, at our feet, ‘The Magic Kingdom’ in stones.

And, adding to the wonder, cast members wandering around in full costume or as Disney characters.

No question, Magic Kingdom was a sight, a proper introduction to Disney World.

We embraced the magic.

There were rides at Adventureland and Tomorrowland and Frontierland, and Fantasyland, there was Mainstreet and Liberty square to shop in, and there were donuts and Mickey cookies to eat and… and… and…. so much more!

Did we run off to see the sights? To ride the rides? To give Mickey a hug? No, we rushed to take a picture.

Now you can get a picture pass thingee, but at $250US, we decided to take our own pictures. But set up in all the BEST spots are the Disney photographers. Being Canadian, we didn’t jump into those spots, but shot as best we could, The-Youngest and I bouncing around like pinballs looking for neat shots.

The boys walking into a misting station at Magic Kingdom, Disney World, Orlando, FLorida
I love this picture of the boyz in the mist! Always keep cool in the summer at Disney World, let me tell you!

But we had a 9:15 Fastpass appointment to Space Mountain since I didn’t quite understand how they worked, we raced off to go on the ride, the boys slowing only to run through a water mister, again and again, and again. Space Mountain was the first part of our plan.

Now, being old, neither The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World or I needed to go on the ride, so the boys rode it together, but without us. They had a blast! That ride, in the dark, scary as hell, was the best way to start the adventure. While they rode, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World bought a purple Magic Band (we all had basic ones that allowed us to ride the rides, pay for stuff and look like we belonged.)

When the boyz got back, the line-ups were still light for nearly every ride! So, we raced off to the next ride, the MUST-DO ride, Buzz Lightyear’s Spin.

Now, this is pure, silly fun. While waiting in the line, we looked at all the Buzz paraphernalia. It’s something Disney does so well, making it interesting to be in a line! (though later there’s a blog on what they DON’T DO so well.) Then we boarded our ships and fought off evil aliens by blasting them with, you know, blasters.

The-Youngest, having watched every YouTube video ever made on Disney World, knew what to hit for the most points and he killed us all with 138,000 to the next best, mine, at 68,500. I think The-Oldest got a score of 1,500 due to the fact he spent most of his time shooting his brother. With a laser. In the face.

The only reason The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World didn’t get the high score (and these are her words) “Is because my partner kept hitting the spin button on the spinner just as I was about to shoot.” That partner was, The-Youngest and, yes, that was part of his strategy!

We all had awesome fun!

By the time we left, the lines had begun to form at the best rides. We chose the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. Not the most exciting ride, sure, but it took us through Tomorrowland and gave us time to discuss what to do next.

In hindsight, we could have done the whole ‘Fastpass thing’ better. (There’s a blog coming on that, too!) but there were still rides that had smaller lines, and it was only 10:30. Lots and lots and lots of time to do some amazing things.

But ‘wanting to do’ and ‘being able to do’ are two very different things.

The bad-asses with newly bought sunglasses at Future World in the Magic Kingdom, Disney World.

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Disney World Vacation – Day 2 – Magic Kingdom

eating mickey faced waffles in disney world, orlando, florida

No rain in the morning, but the forecast for Disney World was more thundershowers by 2. Would we be able to have a great day or would the bad weather kill our riding time???

And was the weather really the thing we should have worried about?

Our plan for the first day at Disney World, we’d decided upon the Magic Kingdom. We had booked Space Mountain for 9:05, Splash Mountain for 2:05 and the oddly, super busy Dwarf Mine for 3:45. We’d try to catch the parade at 2:45 and the fireworks at night. It would be touch and go for those last items. Thunder and Lightning could shut them down.

Dammit.

But we were all up at 7am, local time. That’s 4am our time. 4. AM!

That’s early!

The magical transport that I would call a bus would take 20-25 min to get us there, then maybe another 20 min in lineups so we needed to be on the bus by about 8. Or at least in the lineup.

Amazingly, we were all up, though ‘awake’ didn’t really describe it. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World did heroic feats, getting everyone up, showering, making herself all pretty and stuff, and ready to go by 7:30. We packed raincoats, lots of sunscreen, lots of water. I took my laptop to do some writing on our downtimes (oh how foolish that was!) and phones to keep in touch or take pictures.

Then it was off to grab some food. We had the ‘quick service meal plan’ which allowed us 1 meal, 1 drink and sometimes, but not always, a snack, twice a day. (It was part of a great deal Alyssa helped us find.) Alyssa’s link is here, and meal plan link is here.

eating mickey faced waffles in disney world, orlando, florida
I don’t know why, but Mickey-faced waffles made my day. If anyone is thinking of what to buy me for Christmas, either another trip to Disney World or a Mickey-faced waffle machine.

I ate mickey faced waffles, which were so goooood, while The-Oldest ate about ½ a scrambled egg and had a few bites of bacon. That didn’t bode well. He needs his food or he gets a case of the grumpies as bad as an old man (like me) who just saw a neighbour’s dog poo in his yard.

Worse, The-Youngest complained his Mickey waffles were too doughy and he didn’t like the non-Canadian syrup.  So he didn’t eat them. Good lord. (Spoiler alert, I did!) However, both The-Prettiet-Girl-in-the-World and I had GIANT coffees so we’d be good to go.

No matter that the boys had a bout of picky, thought I, we’re going to the Magic Kingdom, a Disney World theme park where there was all kind of food. Right? We’d have plenty of time, right?

To our credit, we finished by 8 and made our way to the buses.

Sure enough, there was a massive lineup for the buses!

Seems everyone in the hotel, I mean ‘resort,’ had the same idea we had – Get to the parks by rope drop (which is Disneyese ‘for when the damn place opens’).  So, like all the others, we got in line. The sky was clear, the sun overhead as hot as if we were in an oven, and the humidity, being a tropical paradise and all, was about 4000%.

However, what could have been a true nightmare was not. This is Disney World after all. A ‘cast member’ came out and said more buses were coming right away. So we waited and applied sunscreen with the dexterity of Cirque du Soleil acrobats to avoid spraying the other people in line.

This is a vital step in any sunny vacation. Failure to properly apply sunscreen results in my head looking like a tomato and likely a case of heatstroke. Worse, if completely assed-up, we’d end up at the nearest clinic to be treated for third-degree stupid sunburn.

I speak from experience.

The shuttle that gets us to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World
The ride to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Oddly, everyone looks awake. It was 5am our time!

Just as we finished covering ourselves with sunscreen, the bus arrived and we were all packed-in like businessmen on the Tokyo subway.

20 min later, we had arrived at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom!

Little did we know that the seeds for how the day would play out had already been planted.

For good and bad.

********

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Disney World Vacation Day 1 – Arrival

Magical Express bus at Orlando airport, Florida, heading to our resort, Pop century, Disney World
Magical Express bus at Orlando airport, Florida, heading to our resort, Pop century, Disney World
Not a bus! The Magical Express. It’ll take us to our resort, Pop Century, in Disney World, Florida

One of the best, and sometimes worst, part of traveling is that you never really know what’s going to happen.

It could be a car breaking down on a deserted Italian road, which would most definitely fall into the category of bad, or it could be a whole different type of show at Disney World.

The Air Canada flight had movies so we weren’t bored, but the transfer in Toronto took a very long time as we seemed to have to go through about 20 security checks for traveling to the USA. I guess a lot of terrorists think about blowing up Splash Mountain in Disney World.

Everything went smoothly as we arrived at Orlando airport, 6pm local time, at least until the conveyer belt broke down. However, this was not something completely ‘unexpected’ as these things happen. To me. A lot. Not something planned for, but not something terrible.

By now, we were all very excited to get to Disney World and see EVERYTHING and waiting while the belt was fixed was excruciating. But when it worked, we got our bags quickly and raced to the Disney Magical Express.

See, in Disney World, nothing is called anything mundane. A bus is not called a bus.  It is a Magical Express. They don’t hang up the phone with a cheery, good-bye, no, they say “have a magical day.” The hotel is not called a hotel, it’s a RESORT. The workers here aren’t called expendable cogs in a corporate machine, no, they’re called ‘cast members.’

Now, this may seem cheesy, but I have a different opinion. I think it’s ‘branding’ at the highest level. They want this to be a magical experience and have worked hard to make sure it is just that.

As we loaded onto the bus, we got a taste of Florida’s weather – clouds filled the sky, and the air felt oppressively hot and humid. The Magic Express, though, was air-conditioned – a vital thing in these parts of the world.

The bus ride took 40 min or so but even that was ok as they’d set up screens to tell us more about Disney World. For The-Youngest and I, there was nothing new, but for The-Oldest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, there was a ton of stuff.

To quote The-Oldest, “Wait, they have a fast-pass?”

We arrived at Pop Century as the clouds overhead darkened like they weren’t glad to see us. By now, The-Youngest vibrated with excitement despite (or perhaps because of) the 10-hour flight. I was just glad to have so little go wrong and that a nice bed awaited me. I needed sleep.

Check-in itself was a total “Disney” experience. The staff from behind the counter CAME AND GOT YOU, introducing themselves, asking how they could help you, then TOOK you to the counter. All smiles. Behind them, behind us, dozens of pop culture pictures. Even some from my childhood.

I began to vibrate with excitement like The-Youngest. We were here! Really here.

We grabbed our bags and went outside.

In the distance, we heard thunder. A deep booooom. We knew where there was thunder, there’d be rain, so we raced towards our resort room, then as a few drops began to fall, we raced out of our room to get some food.

And the rains came!

Not Canadian rain, all cute and stuff. Movie-set rain, drops as big as beetles, a solid sound of water like a small waterfall. We stopped as thunder boomed so close it echoed in our chests. Lightning sheeted across the dark sky, again and again, flashes that lit up the entire resort.

We stood and watched in amazement. I’ve been in thunderstorms, sure, but this was so close, the lightning and thunder rolling over us so quickly that we barely had time to take a breath before another flash lit the sky.

Then, foolishly, we thought we could run from shelter to shelter and get to our food.

We got soaked. Not wet. SOAKED. Like we’d jumped in a pool.

We ran to the cafeteria, dripping on the floor, smelling like wet dogs. But The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, being all kinds of amazing, managed to find a Disney cast member who was handing out towels!

All in all, a great start to our adventure. That lightning and thunder show was simply spectacular and something none of us had expected.

See below for the videos.

When a storm comes, it really comes. Who knew Disney World had such shows?

Tips For a Better Vacation

Mayne Island photograph, BC, 2018

Mayne Island photograph, BC, 2018
Mayne Island Japanese Memorial Garden

Or Photography for Fun

I have a theory. Taking pictures makes vacationing more fun.

Ok, stay with me here for a moment. I’m not saying ‘live behind a camera’ and go around filming every little event (errr, wait, urm, I do that, but that’s not what I’m saying.)

What I am saying is that by taking a camera (in this modern age, most likely your cell phone camera), and walking around with the idea that you’re going to take some amazing pictures, that camera takes you MORE into the moment and forces you to look, (I mean, really LOOK) at the world around you.

Now, I’ve got a few friends who are incredible photographers and if you ever get a chance, check them out (I have links at the bottom of the blog) but I know from talking to them that part of any great trip is keeping an eye open for a great picture.

Lemme give you an example. When The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I were taking a walk on Mayne Island, we decided to do this. The walk could have been done in ½ an hour, but we took a full hour, maybe more, as we took the time to look at an old stone hut, at the way the light speared through the trees, at the way the sun sparkled off the ocean or the kingfishers took flight.

And take a picture.

Mayne Island tree. BC. Photography.
The lumpiest tree I’ve seen in a long while. Mayne Island.

We found a tree that looked like it was giving birth to other trees. We found a spooky-ass spider hiding in his web (that I almost walked into because I was looking at that stone hut.) We found incredible rock formations sculpted by water. We found picturesque driftwood and spent a while punning it (The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World won with her, “Trying to think of a good driftwood pun but I’m stumped,” comment.)

Taking photos slows down time for you. In our rush-rush world, it’s so easy to miss what’s all around us. But by taking the time to look for cool pictures, every little trail you walk on becomes a chance to see something new, or odd or beautiful or terrifying.

So, this is one of the things we’re doing on our relaxing vacation – Taking time to visually smell the roses.

Check out what we’re seeing on Instagram.

Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World (https://www.instagram.com/mecorinne/?hl=en)

Me: https://www.instagram.com/justjoebc/?hl=en

Darren Lee https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=dc%20lee%20photos

Vespa (https://www.facebook.com/thefactionhouse/?eid=ARBVmP7dec7wZ__iqPzmX2rylc7jPiWIt1r8PmWqV6dYsMhiqc-AFeZsLUEBNmq3ZU_HNbtALitdXynO&timeline_context_item_type=intro_card_work&timeline_context_item_source=1375481955&fref=tag

Allison (and check out her absolutely incredible blog) https://www.instagram.com/alisonarmstrong6558/?hl=en

Wendy https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10155670171170777&set=t.629780776&type=3&theater

 

 

 

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Mayne Island Getaway

parenting meme

parenting meme
Ah, parenting, the greatest thing we’ll do in our lives. Yes?

I think one of the things guys/boyfriends/husbands/stepdads/gigolos don’t realize is how much work and stress goes into being a mom.

Now that’s not to say that we don’t have our own challenges, stresses or times when we need a break, but moms take on a lot more than they let on.

So, every so often, it’s good to get away from the kids, the dog, the house. Good to get away from all those things that stack up in a mom’s mind and weigh her down.

But going away together also gives us a chance to reconnect as a couple. You might think, well, couldn’t we do that at home? And the simple answer is, not always. In fact, not often.

See, as amazing an experience as being a parent can be, kids can also become the focus of your lives. You worry about them, you nag them, advise them, encourage them, praise them, tease them, make them eat their vegetables, make them take their vitamins and do their homework, make them go to bed on time, take them to hockey games, classical music concerts, out to mountain bike courses, watch Rick and Morty with them, read to them, laugh with them, try to raise them right, and after they’ve gone to bed, you talk about them.

It’s what parents do.

So this year, time and money being tight, we chose to go to Mayne Island for our anniversary. Our 2nd.

I’d never been to Mayne Island before, despite it being part of the Gulf Islands which are not that far away. We chose Mayne over the other islands because it seemed calmer, like a place a stoned sloth would go to relax. Because relaxing was what this mini-trip would be about.

As anyone who’s read my blog knows, I love to plan things out. You know, see all that there is to see, do all that there is to do. But on a relaxing vacation, I must put this aside and simply book the hotel and ferries, then sit back and see what happens. Play it by ear. Wing it.

mayne island resort view, gulf islands 2018
Mayne Island Resort 2018

So here was my plan. Get off the ferry. Drive to hotel. Return to ferry in 2 days.

Sad, right, but also relaxing. No stress of having to be up at 8 to get a kayak. No tour bus to board at 10. No movie at 7.  We could eat when we wanted, watch the ocean do oceanie things, maybe go for a walk, read, write, hold hands, breathe in the fresh, salt air, talk, listen to the silence and take pictures of natural things like huge, frightening spiders.

In other words, reconnect and give mom a chance to recharge a bit.

Our hotel, the Mayne Island Resort. Quiet. Quaint.

Mayne Island Resort would be the perfect place for this.

 

 

 

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Small Town BC

Just a Small Town Boy….

Greenwood BC. Once a mining town, now a stop on the way to someplace else

I didn’t grow up in a small town, unless you count Victoria as a small town, but it’s really a small collection of municipalities constantly at war with each other over which one gets to dump sewage onto the other one’s ocean-front properties.

But I have a romantic view of small towns and traveling through BC, along highway 3, we got a chance to see a few. Some are dying, for sure, but others are newly painted, with a few quaint stores, all revitalized.

We drove through several small towns. Bridesville. Rock Creek. Midway, which may have been, you know, midway between Calgary and Vancouver (and really shouldn’t all towns have simple names like that?).

The-Oldest decided he wanted to live in a small town. It’s a simpler life. He could walk to town where everyone would know him and cheer as he entered the local coffee shop to play the piano. People would ask how he’s doing but not talk to him too much because they knew he was one of those talented artists and those people like to be left alone.

Plus, there would be a day set aside for him, a day that honored all the great compositions he had made, and maybe a parade on his birthday. Something with fireworks and a marching band.

I had to agree, based on that belief, small towns would be a great place to live. It’s something I like to do. It’s the ‘wouldn’t-it-be-cool-to-live-there?’ game.

Most places I think, yes, it would be ok, a few (like Cinque Terra in Italy), I think, hell yeah, I’d LOVE to live there and a few, like Duncan or Mogadishu, I think no way in hell.

In Greenwood, we stopped to take a picture and stretch our legs. It had a delightful collection of old wooden and stone buildings (all well painted and restored), a nifty mine to explore and an ice-cream shop. The-Youngest begged for ice cream but I have learned that if you feed an 11-year-old sugar and then take him on an 8-hour car drive, it’s a horror story akin to The Exorcist.

But that town made me think we should do a small town tour. Not with the boys, they would hate us forever, but maybe in our twilight years, just the two of us (or 3 if you include my robo-walker.)

It would be nice.

Grand Forks Town Hall
Grand Forks City Hall. That town has been through a lot.

In Grand Forks, we stopped for lunch. It was a larger town with businesses mostly strung out along the highway, but this quaint, attractive town had been ravaged by massive floods in the spring. It wasn’t exactly built on a low river bank and I was stunned the water could rise so far as to flood the town.

Still, there was a peacefulness to Grand Forks. No need to rush anywhere. No need to stress. A little oasis of calm.

But not far outside of town, we ran into an accident that shut down Highway 3. A fatal accident. One dead. Motorcyclist.

We were close to the accident but didn’t see it.

But even stuck in the line-up, no one honked, no one got angry, and we tried to have a good time despite The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World having a huge migraine – made worse by the altitude.

We had a laugh at the RCMP constable in funny shorts. He made his way down the line telling people it would be a while. Not sure how long, sorry, but a while for sure. You folks, ok?

Only in Canada, eh?

Outside of Grand Forks, BC, 2018
Playing Smash-Up at a smash up. Highway 3. BC.

While we waited the-Youngest pulled out his games and the boys played Smash-up, though I think The-Youngest used very generous interpretations of the rules to win.

Me, I thought about what it would have been like to see that accident, then stop, see the results and having no cell phone reception, do what? Drive down the mountain to the nearest town? Or what if they were still alive? Stay and be with the motorcyclist in their last moments on earth? Or leave to get help?

(It’s how we writers think.)

We were there for 2 hours.

I took over driving duties after they had cleared the accident, The-Youngest wanting to stop for ice cream at every town. We went through the very weird sounding Ootischenia (founded by Doukhobors), through Yahk, Castlegar and Salmo.

No ice cream bought.

We zipped past Creston and Moyie Lake and didn’t turn in for ice cream, but we finally stopped at DQ just outside of Cranbrook where The-Youngest decided he didn’t want ice cream after all.

Sigh.

Cranbrook, BC, 2018
Cranbrook. By the entrance to the downtown area.

The last stop was Cranbrook, a larger small town with a cute town center and a long collection of restaurants, gas stations and hotels along the highway.

We stopped at one of the hotels and the boys raced to the waterslides, the highlight of the day (planned by The-Youngest). The-Oldest tried to skip himself across the pool as far as he would go, while The-Youngest worked on getting down in the fastest time possible and cannon-balling himself into the water with a great splash.

After a long drive, I was glad to rest and just watch the boys play.

I love these moments when the boys get to be boys and just have fun. The car ride was ok, no blood was shed, no one threw up and only one person got a migraine, but the boys simply had no interest in towns or history or mine tours. For them, splashing and laughing and screaming down a waterslide trumps everything.

Small towns need to be told this. More waterslides.

Next up, a big town.

Calgary. Zoo. Tower. No waterslides.

 

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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?

Where Do You Find Travel Adventures

Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice
Pictures never do the Grand Canyon justice

Why travel? I mean, really. Why?

To experience stuff you simply wouldn’t experience at home. Sights. Sounds. Tastes. Smells. Textures. And to occasionally be surprised.

Not that we don’t have a ton of cool stuff to experience here. Hell, people come from all over the world to walk around Stanley Park, sway on the Capilano Suspension Bridge or buy our real estate. So there’re lots of things here, too, but Vancouver is not the world, and the world is an amazingly interesting place.

Days Hotel
Days Hotel

Now, let me take you to Tuesday, morning. 7am. Location: The restaurant at the Days Hotel in Flagstaff. Not a place you’d expect to see something you don’t see every day. But that’s the beauty of traveling.

As I sat down to have a good breakfast, get some writing done and let the family sleep in, who should walk into the restaurant but a biker gang?

A French biker gang.

I sh*t you not. 8 of them.  Who knew that France had biker gangs? Who knew bikers would want to come to Arizona? As tourists?

They were mostly old guys and half of the group were women, looking like they’ve seen a lot of road, but smiling and chatty just like any tourist would be.

They all took a table together. Got menus from the waitress who spoke about as much French as I speak Swahili. She tried her best to explain the specials, but I don’t think they understood. Even when she repeated the choices with a higher and higher volume.

I have to say, the bikers seemed a lot less intimating when they said, oui, nes pas or mais non. Not that I had the courage to go up and take a picture of them or sit down and ask what brought them here, but I do have a theory on the latter.

Route 66. Perhaps the most famous highway in America.
Route 66. Perhaps the most famous highway in America.

See, some of the highway we’d traveled (and would travel, today) was old route 66. A famed highway from long, ago. A highway that you can take from Chicago to Santa Monica.

It’s a route filled with abandoned gas stations, ghost towns, old bridges, ruined warehouses and lost of bits of Americana. It’s actually a great road, a road less traveled.

I set one of my novels here. The Darkest Desert. Oddly, it featured biker gangs
I set one of my novels here. The Darkest Desert. Oddly, it featured biker gangs

I even set one of my novels on locations along Route 66, in California, so I got a chance to drive a bit of it a few years back, and I loved it. I could see why bikers from France might want to take that route.

Despite the leathers, the bikers were polite as hell. The busload of Koreans who came in to eat sat about as far away from them as they could, but there was no need. The bikers were happy to enjoy their American food, laugh and tell stories with each other, and plot the next leg of their journey.

French Bikers. Despite their outer appearance, polite, full of good humor and very French
French Bikers. Despite their outer appearance, polite, full of good humor and very French

In the end, I did sneak a picture, but all the while I thought, boy, this is why I get out of the hotel room. You just never freaking know what you’ll find.

It was a great start to a day where we had one thing I thought we MUST do and one thing the-Youngest thought we MUST do.