Simple Pleasures of the First World

best things in life
best things in life
So many things that are great in life.

Ok, let’s face it, the world still kinda sucks. Omicron. Looming war. Only 6 episodes of The Expanse, season 6…

So, I thought I’d look in the other direction- a look at the good things.

Now, I get that I live a very privileged life in a very privileged part of the world, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be grateful for some of life’s simple pleasures.

Here are my top 10.

    1. A brand-new razor blade. Oh, the joy of how it glides over my skin and scythes down my feeble beard-like growths like it was a lightsaber. More blood, sure, but pure joy nonetheless.
    2. A cup of coffee at the perfect temperature. Too hot, and it burns. Too cool, and it’s like drinking coffee-flavoured milk that’s been out in the sun too long. Drinking that coffee at the perfect moment feels like I’ve ignited a heating coil in my throat that warms me all the way to my stomach, then, seconds later, the caffeine soars through my bloodstream like a jolt of pure joy. I imagine heroin is like this, which is why I’ve never tried it.
    3. A perfectly full dishwasher. All the dishes are in the right place, no space wasted, nothing left to rattle around. Sadly, I am the only one in the world with this amazing skill.
    4. Finding my keys in the same place I thought I’d left them. See, they tend to wander around when left alone, so it’s nice to see that they sometimes stay put. A bad day is when those keys are unfindable, my wallet is lost, and for some reason, I have misplaced my shoes.
    5. Crunching frosted grass under my feet. I know it’s another odd one, but it is so very satisfying to hear that sound and feel my foot sink into the semi-solid ground. So if you see me walking around my lawn on a frosty morning in my bathrobe and slippers, and giggling to myself, that’s why. Usually, anyway.
    6. Warm laundry on a cold day. If you’ve not put on warm jammies on a cold day, then, OMG, you’ve missed something. I imagine this is what happens in heaven or Bill Gates’ house (Here’s your warm PJs, Bill, now go buy up some more farmland so we can control food production.)
    7. The taco-smell of my dog’s feet. I know, I know, I could have gone with the smell of warm bread or fresh coffee or a new car or bacon, but as long as the Snoozadoodle has not stepped in poo or anything, that smell is oddly comforting. I suspect I was a dog in another life. A yappy, annoying one.
    8. Finding a good show. Honestly, finding one is rarer than finding an original, rocket-firing Boba Fett figure, so when I actually find something brilliant, I’m like a 3-year-old hopped up on Timbits watching Paw Patrol. It shouldn’t be so rare to find a show that creates a world I want to live in, that has a great villain, well-developed characters I love, powerful dialogue that sings, stunning visuals, epic the-heroes-cannot-win moments, near-perfect pacing, and scenes that will make me laugh or make me cry. The Expanse for me, this year. Dune, last year. Lord of the Rings, a billion years ago.
    9. A good sleep. I was going to say a good poo, (yes, I’m at that age, now), but man, a good night’s sleep is gold. Too often, as I get older and older, as all sorts of things sag and turn grey, I find it hard to sleep through the night. Stress, aches and pains, a need to pee (when I even dream of hunting for a place to pee), or the Snoozeadoodle hacking up a lung all combine to make it hard to have a good sleep. I can’t even imagine being a parent with a newborn.
    10. My family and friends. Sounds trite, right, but the truth is, having lost another good friend just before Christmas, I am grateful for the people still in my life, and for the experiences we share. In the end, life is less about happiness 24/7 and more about finding those rare moments of bliss and having people to share them with.

Thanks, as always, to everyone who takes the time to read this blog. It feels good to get back to writing. Plus, if I am ever to have a chance at getting published, I desperately need to get more people reading this blog.  So, weirdly enough, I need to write more.

However, please share if you like this content (or just want to punish your friends/family with something terrible) so I can continue to build my audience. 

 

 

 

 

 

Covid Cold 2022

omicron cookie monster

Is It A Cold?

omicron cookie monster
Nom nom.

There was a time, long ago, when people still believed in science, the media, and Disney that when you got a cold, it wasn’t a serious thing.

Now it’s a thing because, you know, it may be another thing.

See, it could be the new Covid variation – the deadly-sounding ‘Omicron variant.’ It has the exact same symptoms as a cold. The Covid numbers are insane because of the new, fun-loving mutation. In Canada, we are averaging 39,433 new cases a day.

However, those numbers are misleading because the high infection numbers have not equated into a high death count, thank Yoda, but those numbers have put stress on our healthcare system. Again.

Then, we all got a case of the sniffles.

In the old days, I’d just hunker down under a blanked, feel sorry for myself, and fill a garbage can with Kleenex as if I’m watching This Is Us. Meanwhile, The-Oldest would play his piano, The-Youngest would avoid school, and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World would sanitize the house with the vigor of a Roomba hit by lightning (while listening to me complain about how terrible my man cold felt).

In the end, it was The-Youngest who got hammered the most.

Because of that, we had to take this seriously. We had to find a test kit, and The-Youngest had to stay home – which for him is like a junkie falling into a silo of cocaine. Sure he’s snotty and has a sore throat and we’re taking his temperature every 10 minutes, but being home means he can watch the Office for the 200th time.

Having used up the tests The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World got from work in late December, we had to book an appointment (which should be a lot easier but ends up being like booking an appointment with the Queen of England) and, worse, when we got to the testing site, well, they don’t actually do a test. Nope. They give us a test kit and told us to bugger off.

As well, we learned that we shouldn’t give The-Youngest the test until the third day of the symptoms. So, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World had to assume the worst and book off work until we knew the results of the test.

Great. Just great.

Now, this is not a fun test, like say, one of those history tests that crop up on my phone. Oh, no. This one involves stuffing a swab up your nose (like super far up your nose), rubbing it around inside your brain, crying a bit, then counting to 15 before shifting it to another nostril.

When we had our first scare, back in December, both The-Oldest and I hopped up and down, tears streaming from our eyes as we whisked our brains. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, having birthed babies, dealt with migraines all her life, and played board games with us, was no stranger to pain and so took her test without flinching, crying or yelling “Is it 15 seconds yet????”

The-Youngest’s reaction was somewhere in between.

None of us tested positive.

And The-Youngest tested negative this time, too.

Whew!

Honestly, I’m not sure we’re going to dodge this variant. Omicron has infected about 50% of the people I know and infects the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike, though it does seem like the unvaccinated have more severe reactions.

However, there is some good news here.

My hope is that the next variant, which is pi, and you know I love pie, will be a milder version still. Sort of like drinking watered-down coffee or watching a CW show.

And once it becomes no more than a bad cold or mild flu, then maybe we can get back to normal.

I miss normal.

Here’s hoping 2022 will honor my request to be a better year.

 

 

 

 

What Would You Ask of 2022?

2022 resolutions

Dear 2022,

2022 resolutions
It’s a brand new year. Is there hope down that road?

I know you’ve just come into existence, but the 2020 line has been a failure as bad as Hair in a Can so I wanted to give you a heads-up that we’re expecting more from you. A lot more.

As you may know, I’m not keen on New Year’s resolutions for myself, but that does not stop me from making a great list for everyone else.

So here is the top 10 list of things I’m hoping you will do better, 2022.

  • No world war. I know this should be an easy one, but with China acting like a panda that wants to eat everyone else’s trees and Russia stomping around like a bear wanting to poop all over the Ukraine, this one isn’t a given.
  • No great depression – ok, no massive financial crisis in general. Oh, I know there are a lot of challenges with runaway inflation, the ongoing pandemic, and the fact no one wants to pay me $1,000,000 for my novel, but still, you can do this. Nice and easy, 2022. Nice and easy.
  • No new pandemic out of China. Gosh, maybe just keep an eye on China in general. We’re nearly through this Covid19, so the last thing we need is some bird virus leaking from a lab that mutates us all into zombies or Maple Leaf fans.
  • Let the pandemic become an endemic like the regular flu. Sure, your predecessors had fun with variations but don’t let that be you, 2022. Be strong. You don’t need the pandemic to have fun.
  • Stop buggering around with all the travel bans. I love traveling. It fills me up like an extra-large chocolate milkshake with a cherry on top. I had to cancel our 2022 trip to Maui and I would very much like to see that this is the last cancelation. Ever.
  • queen of england
    Come on, look at that face? Who could not love that face. And hat.

    Don’t kill off the Queen. It’s her 70th year as regent. Her platinum jubilee. I mean, hell, 2021 took Betty White from us, so give us a break. Also, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s baba wants to live to 102 (she’s 98). Let’s make that happen, too.

  • Don’t cancel the World Cup. Of soccer. Or football. Or whatever you call it. There’s nothing like watching countries that hate each other battle it out without the use of nuclear weapons or overly harsh tweets. Oh, and if you’re really feeling up for something special, something almost impossible to do, have Scotland win.
  • No more rubbish weather. We had epic floods in the Sumas Valley, forest fires that raged out of control, and worse, snow that stopped me from taking my Mustang anywhere. Get your act together, 2022, enough is enough.
  • Don’t mess up Amazon’s Lord of the Rings. You know I have a bad feeling about this and if they ignore existing lore, mess with the elves or find a way to make us understand the trauma of the orcs so we will like them, then, I will find you, 2022, I will find you and make you pay.
  • Let me believe in my writing, again. After a year of rejections for my latest book, that belief has taken a serious beating. Wait, hold on, this one’s not really on you. This one’s on me. Just work on the other items, please.

As always, thank you to everyone who reads this blog. I will do a better job this year of getting more posts done, I promise. With luck, they’ll even be good posts – funny or insightful or simply entertaining. Please like or follow the blog on the website.

What would you ask of 2022?

 

Pandemic Sept 11th 2021 – Cruise-in Car Show

A&W the drive-in days
aldergrove langley car cruise in
The Langley Good Times Cruise-in 2021

Keen to get out of the house, we decided to go see a car show.

Now there hasn’t been one for a while due to stupid Covid and all the rules and restrictions, but finally, in Aldergrove, they were able to organize the Langley Good Times Cruise-in.

How could we not go? There’d be hot rods (for the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World), food trucks (for The-Youngest), and, err, ah, well nothing really for The-Oldest since we couldn’t find any classical orchestras playing there, but whatever, he’d surely have fun listening to me talk about Shelby and the 1968 Gran Prix. However, for me, I go for a different reason that I’ll explain a bit later.

Now, it’s not like the world has returned to normal. Not even close. However, let’s put aside the insanity of the world and instead, go to a different time. A time when fossil-fueled cars ruled the world like shiny dinosaurs.

This car show was, by far, the biggest we’d ever seen. 1200 cars set up along Fraser Highway from 272nd to 264th.

That’s one long route (plus all the side streets that were filled with fancy cars).

Sadly, there was rain, (ok, not hard rain – spitting rain), but we risked the downpour and headed out anyway.

Now, to be honest, I’m not the biggest car guy. I know that if I stick my key in the keyhole and turn it, the car will start. I can change a tire or the oil, and I can look at a light on my dashboard and say, man, I need to fix that.

But looking under the hood and being able to identify a 283-cid Turbo-Fire V8 with a four-barrel carburetor is beyond me.

That’s not to say I still don’t have fun, but my fun is different. Sure, I like shiny cars. I like Mustangs. I like the cars that jump up and down. I like the funny-looking ones. I like hearing the roar of a hot rod and the hum of a Ferrari, but more than that, I like the experience.

See, a car show is not like going to an art gallery. Not by a long shot. And that’s what I love.

There is a smell there. The acrid smell of burned rubber. The garage-smell of oil and exhaust. The familiar smell of old leather jackets reeking of cigarette smoke.

It’s something you can’t get anywhere else.

Then there are the people. The old guys standing proudly beside their automobiles, eager to explain where they found an original 1937 Ford model 78 door handle. I love the guy dressed in army gear showing off his WW2 jeep. I love the pros with matching jackets standing in tents protecting their ultra-expensive sports cars. I love the car club booths set up so car guys can talk about cars.

Sadly, I don’t usually go to those booths, though, since my conversation tends to be like this. “So, what kind of car would Gandalf have driven?”

Still, there was so much to love there.

There were the bands to see, rockers with long ZZ Top beards and raging guitars. There was Elvis singing with little kids. There were families all lounging behind their cars, taking in the day.

There was even a group set up on the street along the way out who had a sign that said, “burn rubber!” (which was hard to do since leaving was a traffic jam worthy of a good Canucks game) but they would raise a beer to anyone who did.

I think most of us had a good time. I know The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World did. She loves cars and car engine sounds and funny car horns and white-rimmed tires and cars with that funny paint that is different colors depending on how the light hits it.

For The-Youngest, well he got to talk about how Teslas could destroy all of these cars in a race. Over and over.

And The-Oldest? Well, I think the highlight was eating Mac and Cheese called Jurassic Pork.

Being me, I marveled at all the cool characters there, stopped to listen to conversations, took pictures of the coolest cars, and tried to engage The-Oldest. “Look at those hub caps, they look like plates!” or “What music would they have played in that ’67 convertible?” or “if you had to write a song about that car, what would it be like?”

I doubt I made the experience any better for him, however.

My favourite car, you ask, was actually a truck. A bulldog truck. Tall. Super short front end. Super. Short. And kinda brown. It reminded me of Mater from Cars.

Hey, I like Mater!

A&W the drive-in daysThe best display, though, was an A&W one. The picture does more justice than my words ever could.

So, with luck, we’ll be able to go to more of these events in the future as the world returns to normal, even if it’s a Salvador Dali version of normal.

And thanks to everyone who reads, comments, or otherwise looks at this blog. If you like what you see, please follow the blog and/or like-share on FB.

Something bigger is coming in the very near future. Stay tuned.

 

Pandemic Aug 30th, 2021 – What to do?

Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey
All right, all right, all right.

Shouldn’t the pandemic be over?

Nope, it keeps going on and on and on like some bad four-hour director’s cut of Blade Runner.

So, what do we do now?

Well, it’s time for me to channel the great philosophers like Socrates, Gandhi, and Dave Berry to answer that question.

First, where are we in the world?

In the US, the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan was so horrifically f’d up, that it made the Vietnam withdrawal look like a well-organized Bob Hope Christmas show. Meanwhile, Australia has a 0 tolerance lockdown that makes North Korea say, “Oi, mate, that’s a bit much, isn’t it?” And, in Canada, we have an election no one asked for and no one wanted.

Super fun times.

Locally, after nearly two months of BC burning, the fires and evacuation orders are ticking down. Finally, some good news!.

Our government, though, after implementing restrictions on the unvaccinated, advised people to call the police if they have a confrontational person in your store or bar or dog spa. Totally doable if we properly fund the police, but it’s like asking the firefighters to fight a dozen fires with just one dude from their calendar who looks great with his shirt off.

It feels like too many people are doing what they feel is right, rather than what might actually be scientifically right… or heck, just using simple common sense. Sort of like me thinking I can breathe in space because I saw Bugs Bunny do it.

Which leads back to me. As do all things, really.

The more I think about this, the more I think thinking has become viewed as a bad thing in our society.

Ok, sure, thinking too much led to the atomic bomb. Thinking too much led to censoring ideas we don’t like. Thinking too much led to wide-ranging conspiracies theories like 9-11 was ordered by George Bush, there are parasites in the vaccines, or the world is flat, or square or rides on the back of a turtle led by Elvis.

But what do we do if we don’t think at all? Rely on feelings?

That’s even worse.

Feelings ignore facts the way I ignore yellow lights. Feelings lead to fear and fear leads to hate and hate leads to becoming Darth Vader.

Feelings ignore doing what might be in the common good.

So, what do we do if we can’t overthink things, and can’t rely on our feelings?

What else is there?

Wait, wait, I know this!

Hold on.

We discuss and listen, not to be right, but to understand.

I mean, hey, Matthew McConaughey learned this while listening to two men talking in a bar, and when he took a side, one said, “It is not about right or wrong. It is about ‘Do you understand?!’”

Cool right?

By listening, we can discover why people are afraid of something like the vaccine. By accepting they are afraid, rightly or wrongly, we can offer support and advise them, and maybe sneak in a fact or two.

By not having to be right, maybe, just maybe we can come to understand that they want the same things – to be safe, to be free, to live a life without constant fear.

By understanding, we may just slow the hate a bit and that’s a good goal, right. No need to post nasty hate on Facebook or spread intolerance, hate, and misinformation on Twitter so those companies can sell more advertising, but instead phone a family member and see how they’re doing, text a friend and set up a tea date, write an email to someone who inspired you to be a better person.

Cavlin and Hobbs love
Just be nice

To get through this, overthinking isn’t going to help. Listening too much to your feelings isn’t going to help. Being the best person you can be in these times, well, that kinda is.

Now I have to run. Matthew McConaughey and I are going to discuss the nature of the wind because, you know, it’s harder to talk to Gandhi and Socrates about stuff.

 

 

Returning to Normal – Pandemic Sept 4th 2020

masking the world

Returning to Normal – Pandemic Sept 4th 2020

The older I get, the more surprised I am that I haven’t actually seen everything.

If I had to make a list of signs that we’re getting back to normal, at the top of the list would be going back to school, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World returning to work, seeing a movie in a theater, and being able to fly off to Italy and eat Mama Linguini’s pasta on a Venice canal.

Sadly, one of those things is still not really possible, but the others, well, yes, they are totally doable now (with restrictions, of course.)

But first, let’s look at the world: The stock market has almost returned to pre-Covid days, oil is back around $42, the price of gas is 1.29-ish, housing prices have rebounded, and they are selling here for over asking price.

WTF?

As well, all grocery stores are open, but disinfecting wipes are still hard to find. Finding hand sanitizer, TP, and Kleenex, however, is no longer an issue, the Canucks are playing hockey again, and Anheuser-Busch’s dog beer has sold out.

All signs that things continue to move towards normal. Or abnormal depending on your thoughts on the whole ‘dog beer’ thing.

However, in the super-cool department, a supercomputer may have figured out how the super-nasty Covid works. Here.

Ok, so that’s all fair and fine, right, but why does this matter? It matters because if they’re right, Covid unleashes a bradykinin storm (which is better explained here), AND we have about a dozen meds to deal with such a storm.

How cool is that?

Sure it’s not a vaccine, but dropping the death rate would be kinda cool. You gotta love computers.

More locally, and with fewer supercomputers doing our thinking, it looks like school is a go for next week. I’m sure it’s different for everyone, like a case of shingles, but there are a variety of options, which are not particularly well explained, again, like shingles.

There’s homeschooling, which I would love, but would only teach them history since I totally don’t get math, science, woodworking, or sex education.

The next step towards actual schooling is Distributed Learning, which is basically online schooling. Sounds like a good option until you realize that your child will not necessarily be able to have the teachers from his school do the teaching, wouldn’t have all the electives available and would have to be at home bugging you about the bradykinin hypothesis.

Then there’s what’s called Blended Learning, which is like making a cool milkshake then mixing in something that’s sat in your fridge for 9 months.

Basically, it’s school for a few days, then assignments are assigned, then the kids go home to work on them for 2-3 days. For some reason, the belief is that kids will stick with their bubble-groups, not rush out to play or talk with friends in the schoolyard, always wear masks and practice social distancing, and, oh yeah, believe in the Easter Bunny.

Then there’s what we are doing at The-Youngest’s high school, which is … school basically as normal. Full time all the time, and please forget what the province or the school district is putting out.

A lot of teachers are quite scared about this approach, not that I blame them in the least, and hearing some of their stories, like classrooms without proper protective supplies and lack of leadership on how to do all of this, I am a little worried for them as well.

So it looks The-Youngest will be back to school where he can see his friends, again, get positive reinforcement from his teachers for being a great student, and have his ass-kicked by a gym teacher, telling him not to slack-ass those situps.

It’s not perfect, no, but I know the teachers will do their absolute best.

And then there are the movie theaters.

Tenet – One of the most complex and mind-bending movies I have ever seen

Yes, The-Oldest and I braved a movie theater. We saw Tenet in the IMAX with about 20 odd people.

Now, that IMAX theater is HUGE, but they only sold about two dozen tickets, or so so we had a TON of spacing between the seats. Honestly, I felt safer there than in the crowded aisles of our local Save-On where someone is taking off their mask to sneeze onto the Campbell soups.

So, little by little, we’re returning to normal. We’ve gone on a staycation, we got our haircut, we took a BC ferry, and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World returned to work, which was both terrifying and exciting.

More on that tomorrow.

In the meantime, stay safe, stay healthy, and respect the new world (yes, I’m looking at you boomers who yell at staff for having to enforce rules set out by the government.)

Hockey Challenges 2019

First hockey tournament win
goalie bantam
The-Youngest readies himself for a Canuck-like season

I thought last year would be, you know, the last year of hockey. However, The-Youngest decided to play another year. As goalie. In the Bantam league.

At this point in boys’ hockey, the field is narrowing.

More and more boys drop out because of the demands of school, other extracurricular activities, and the biggest killer of having time to play hockey, girls.

Luckily, none of those things apply to The-Youngest. Yet.

Now, had we agreed to drive The-Youngest up to a mountain every weekend and twice on the weekdays, he may have declined hockey, since his real love is mountain biking and skiing.

But apart from the driving time, the cost of gas and ski passes and rental gear, despite the cold and the lift rides and all the falling, the simple fact is we’d have to do it with him and since I haven’t skied in 30 years and would likely break something (other than my ego).

I mean, if I had to get on the ice with The-Youngest and skate for 8 hours, we wouldn’t likely sign him up for hockey either. Add in a 90 min to drive there and another 90 to drive back, and, yeah, I can guarantee we wouldn’t be doing hockey.

But after last year, after an amazing hockey year, the-Youngest thought, why not?

So, we bought new gear since he’d done the silly thing of growing over the spring and summer, we signed him up for goalie camp (which was delightfully free!!!! Since they wanted to encourage young goalies), and we prepared for the duties of goalie parents.

Oh, sure there’d be early morning practices. Honestly, I never minded them at all.

Oh sure, we’d have to fork over money for tournaments and gifts for the coaches and bribes for the refs, (wait, no, sorry, no bribes, nope I never said that.)

Oh sure, we’d have to do something terrifying like scorekeeping or socializing (that latter very hard on an old introvert like me who knows nothing about how the Canucks are doing – though if I go with the old, they suck, I’m pretty safe).

It’s easy winning all the time. And fun. But what if that’s not how a season goes.

But it would all be worthwhile if The-Youngest has fun. Because, by having fun he would not only, you know, have fun, but continue to learn about teamwork, about sportsmanship and about trying your hardest. And with a good coaching team, he’d learn about being a good man as well.

This year, though, he will have another value tested.

Losing.

Last year, they were tournament champions twice and came second in the Langley Cup (beaten by a better team).

This year?

Well, 10-2 loss in the first game, and an 8-1 loss in the second.

On the plus side, unlike last year when I asked, how’d you do? and he said, “I got bored sometimes. I only had to stop 2 or 3 shots,” this year, he’s looking at 30+ shots each game, multiple rebounds he’s going to have to stop, and snipers who can rocket a shot over his shoulder when he’s in the butterfly position.

Now, being a writer, and a teller of stories, these are starts from which great legends are born. The underdog team, struggling at the beginning, somehow manages to come together and win the final game, learning about life, values and the importance of having a hidden superstar on the team like in Bad News Bears.

We’ll see what happens.

It’ll be …. Interesting. Stay tuned.

Day 8 The Last Hours of the Last Day

Like NASA, so much had to go right to make sure it all didn’t blow up in our faces.

We’d not seen everything there was to see at the Kennedy Space Center and (The-Youngest would like to point out), we didn’t do the only ride there (a shuttle launch simulation.)

But we had to get on the road. We were about ½ an hour behind what was already a tight schedule. To make it, we would need the luck of the Irish to catch our flight.

Basically, we had to have no problems on the road, no problems turning in the car, no problems at the check-in counter, and, lastly, no problems going through security.

Easy, right?

By the time we pulled out onto the highway, even I was stressed, and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World kept checking her watch like a terrorist wearing a bomb vest about to go off.

I drove as fast as I could without being super crazy. The roads in Florida are Albertan in their straightness, and a huge hill in Florida is about the height of our car. So we made good progress and we blazed through the toll stations (not stopping to pay because we had a pass that captured our rental car’s license plate and we’d be charged later).

We made it to the airport at 4.

The first hurdle overcome!

Thanks to the superior navigating team of The-Youngest and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, we didn’t make any mistakes finding the rental-car parking lot. And, as we pulled in, someone came out immediately to check the car in. Alamo did a fantastic job speeding us through the process. A quick read of the mileage, a quick check for damage, and we were in the airport by 4:15.

Second hurdle overcome.

We found the counter for Alaska Airlines and, again, everything went smoothly, the woman behind the counter ensuring we found seats together – and even upgraded us to the comfy-seat section (not first-class but apparently the seats had more legroom.)

Third hurdle overcome!

It was about 4:45 when we reached the security line, a line as long as any in Disney World and with far less fun at the end (unless you enjoy your bags being scanned, opened, and your bottled water taken). Without slowing, we got in line and waited because, at that point, that’s all you can do. Passports were pulled from backpacks, water was thrown out, and The-Oldest kept his eye out for a piano.

It took a while to get through the various stations. Passport control (where I always look guilty of something for some reason), then the baggage check (where I always forget I left something in my carryon like suntan lotion) and finally the human scanner (where I have to enter, beltless, holding up my pants like a failed German general in Hitler’s kangaroo court).

But we played the lines like pro’s (and very un-Canadians), leaping into one that just opened up by the baggage scanners.

We’d cleared security by about 5:45.

We’d cleared our last hurdle with a good hour to spare.

Huzzah, I say, Huzzah!

Stress melting away, we ate in the food-court, looking like people with peanut allergies surviving eating 10 peanut butter sandwiches. Due to time constraints, this was the only meal we’d had since breakfast, 7 hours earlier.

As we boarded our plane, only one problem

remained. We had a tight turnaround for our connecting flight in Seattle. Everyone said it wouldn’t be a problem, but then everyone thought the new Star Wars movies would be awesome.

In the end, like any good story, it all worked out

But the luck of the Irish was indeed with us as we arrived at the Seattle Airport 20 mins ahead of schedule! I credit The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World (for using her mystic power to bend the world to her will.) I suspect she may have promised the dark gods a sacrifice of a chubby, nerdish husband, but that’s another story.

This story, however, ends well, with us arriving home at about 3am, very tired, very happy to sleep in our own beds. It had been a perfect end to an epic trip.

A final few blogs remain, blogs I’ve promised. Stay tuned!

Day 8 – The Day That Broke the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World

NASA awaits!

Now you have to understand. The Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World is the most easy-going, fun-loving, goofy, giggly, accepting, loving, tolerant, patient, understanding, funny, and positive person I know.

But not by the end of this day, the Day That Broke the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World.

In hindsight, we fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is “Never get involved in a land war in Asia,” but only slightly less well known is this: “Never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line!” Or, the much lesser know, trying to do too much in one day, especially with a need to be at an airport at a specific time.

See, we’d planned to get up, drive out to the Kennedy Space Center, on a Sunday, see all we could see, then, casually drive back, looking at all the lovely Floridian scenery.

The plan faulted at the start, with no one super keen to get up, eat and get on the road. So, instead of arriving there at 10, we got there at 12. Not a big deal, I thought. Our flight was at 7, and we had to be there about 5, so taking two hours to drive there, say 2 ½ to include parking and me taking the wrong exit off the freeway… that left, ah, wait, 12 minus 5, minus, uhm 2 ½, carry the two, errrrrhm, about 2 ½ hours there. Plenty of time, right?

Wrong.

But that time crunch was only a part of what broke The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. That stress of having to do stuff quickly was bad enough, but all of the waiting in line had to be outside in the scorching heat of the Florida summer sun!

Plus, on a Sunday, in the middle of the day, the crowds were thick and nasty.

It began well enough as we raced (and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World HATES racing) past the JFK Monument to the entrance, past all the cool rockets on display outside, to stand in line for the Heroes and Legends Museum. It was hot, and while it wasn’t humid, the heat cooked us like a turkey at thanksgiving.

In the line, I became Chatty-Joe for some reason and we talked with a nice, wheelchair-bound lady Floridian who was originally from Bawston, her accent still thick and delightful. We met two guys from Kentucky who were very outgoing and entertaining, and one fellow from California who seemed like a very nice young man. (Good lord, when did I get old????)

Inside, the museum was extremely well put-together but we moved through it like coffee through my colon. Pictures were taken, one plaque was read but I’m pretty sure The-Youngest fondled everything in the building. Twice.

By the time we left, it was 1ish. We had found out that the big tour, the one where you get on a bus and see the launch sites and the big Saturn rockets took about 45min. That was doable, since we would finish about 2, and needed to leave by 2:30.

So we got into line. We could do this, I said, perhaps blindingly optimistic, but while we stood in the heat, again, sweat running down my back, The-Youngest took this time to start acting up. I have no idea why. The-Oldest will stoically endure anything, but The-Youngest, the moment he gets his nose out of joint at something, he can be a bit of a challenge.

We almost called it at that point, but we’d stood in line for about 15 min and we had that weird choice where you invest a ton of time in something that abandoning it seems like a failure, yet other factors (the heat, the time stress and, now, The-Youngest) seemed to make leaving a good idea.

This is the moment that The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World broke. Unlike me when I break, there’s not a lot of swearing and stomping of feet, she just frowns and withdraws. Instead of her normal chatty self, she’s monosyllabic. Instead of having a cheerful air, she radiates murderous discontent.

Being me, I wanted to fix it, but I was way, way too late on that one. Like realizing I should have put on suntan lotion at 9am, not after 8 hours in the sun.

But she was still determined to see the rockets. We still had enough time, and the bus would have A/C.

The countdown to launch clock, or our clock as we ran out of time

At about 1:45, we got on the bus. 45 min to finish, that left us at 2:30. Tight, but we could still get to the plane on time.

The actual tour was fantastic, with a grumpy old bus driver taking us past the launch sites, the MASSIVE vehicle assembly building, and even an alligator lurking in the water. I took lots of pictures while The-Youngest came out of his funk and gaped at all the rockets.

It really is a fantastic tour and I would highly recommend it, and when the tour ended it, was 2:35.

Good, right?

No, because the tour didn’t end at the main site, (where our car was), oh, no, it ended in the building with the Saturn Rocket, and we had to take a bus to get back.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, now in DESPERATE need of a bathroom, gave me a look that said, “if there’s a cliff, I’m pushing you off it,” but I was still hopeful. All we had to do was race through the building and get to the bus.

Only one problem! There was no direct route. We had to go through the space shows, normally very interesting histories of what happened or recreations of the space launches in the control room, but when you’re already behind schedule the inability to race through the damn place was super, super stressful.

However, after we cleared the first room, I went up and asked an attendant if we could just skip this and go through ‘that there door,’ like my life depended on a yes answer. She did say yes and we moved with astonishing speed through the building, ignoring astronaut memorials, cool suits to touch, and even another control room where it looked like we could control stuff.

By the incredibly huge Saturn rocket, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World found a bathroom, but like all women’s bathrooms, there was a huge wait. Bouncing from foot to foot, she waited while a family of 10 decided to have a chat in one of the stalls, all the while our clock ticking down.

The-Boyz mugging it up on the ass-end of the Saturn Rocket. That rocket is HUGE!

While The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World nearly exploded waiting for a toilet, The Boys and I wandered around the Saturn rocket. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe how big that thing is, and looking at it, walking along its length, it hits home just how incredible this achievement was. Putting a man on the moon was one of the most epic moments in history and those going up into space risked their lives to accomplish something extraordinary.

When we finally took the bus ride back to the main site, ran through the space center like we were being chased by rabid dog zombies, and reached our car, it was 3:07. We were now seriously behind schedule and in danger of missing our flight.

Everything had to go our way not to make this one of the biggest traveling mistakes I’ve ever made.

Day 7 – Universal’s Wizard World Part 2 and the Hulk

universal them park orlando florida hogswart school
Taking the Hogwart’s Express Train to the other side of the Universal Theme Park

With my tummy full of Butter Beer, my skin warmed by Dragon’s breath, and my nerdy gauge filled up with magic, we left Diagon Alley to take the Hogwarts Express Train to Hogsmead, AKA, the 2nd part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Theme Park.

The Hogwarts Express is a ride itself, and we boarded with little wait. Inside, we were locked in our cabins while the Potter gang wandered in the corridor and Dementors flew by our window, feeding on our happiness (which I think they do on a daily basis for me).

I could see why this could be terrifying to young kids (being locked in a small room and then have the spooky, ghost-like Dementors wail outside the window), but for us, it was just fun.

Hungry, the lines now HUGE for most rides, the weather blazing hot and stiflingly humid, we chose to eat. That took a good 40 min of sweating in the Leaky Cauldron’s line-up, but the food was delicious, (all very British with fish and chips, toad in the hole and cottage pie!) Set in a medieval setting, we sat at wooden picnic tables and ate our fill.

Recharged and re-energized, we strode back into the crowds as thick as Mrs. Dursley’s Pudding. The-Boyz went on Flight of the Hippogriff, while The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I tried to shop for something special.

However, the crowds inside the stores, and bumping against sweaty muggles made it hard to fondle things like a Gryffindor House scarf, a Howler pop-up card or a Sorting Hat, so we left to find what shade we could and wait.

See, the thing that both Disney World and Universal don’t seem to understand is that it’s hot outside and we muggles need shade. Or AC.

A Wizarding cloak!!! With a Hufflepuff scarf! OMG. I want. I want

Waiting for the young wizards to finish rides in the sweltering sun is not fun – It’s draining and uncomfortable and I’m pretty sure I end up smelling like a homeless hobo.

The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, being Hermione-Granger-smarter than me believes this is on purpose, to drive us into the shops or restaurants which are air-conditioned.

She could be right.

With the line soooo long, we couldn’t do the newest ride, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, so we made our way out of the Wizarding World and into the rest of the park, jumping on the Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls ride, then lining up for the terrifying Hulk Coaster.

The Hulk was something to see (and probably ride, but there was no way I was going on that behemoth). As the coaster shot out of the loading area, it roared so loudly that you could hear it from the parking lot, then it flung the riders down a steep incline, then around and around, and somewhere along the lines, I would have thrown up or passed out. (Video HERE)

For The-Youngest, this was the reason for coming to Universal… that and getting a good wand, but the coaster, (like Volcano Bay), well, he had dreamed about it, researched it, and watched every youtube video on it (including how it was built!).

But, the truth be told, he too was terrified, and (as he explained) had worked his way through the rides in the park to build up his courage.

However, despite the fear that was making him bounce around like a drop of water on a hot pan, he wasn’t going to back down. To me, that’s brave – He did something he was scared to do.

For The-Oldest, he really didn’t get a HUGE kick out of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, (which is completely wrong to me) but he did enjoy the terrifying rides. Those things don’t scare him at all. Nor do heights. Jump scares. Or It-like clowns.

Hulk Coaster in the Universal theme park. Not the MOST terrifying, but close!

S0 that Hulk coaster certainly met his criteria for a good ride. Fast. Good drops. And a great start to the ride.

By the time The-Boyz came back, the line-ups were too long to do the MOST terrifying ride, the Rip Rocket, and, frankly, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I were done. Exhausted, sweaty, wet from a small rain shower, we slogged back to the car and drove back to the resort where we all passed out about 8pm.

It had been a great day, even if we missed about 2/3rds of the rides there, and even if we failed at sticking to our tried-and-true plan of getting there at rope drop, going back to the resort to recuperate, and then heading back to the theme park.

However, the toughest day was yet to come, the day that broke The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World.

Day 7 Universal Theme Park – The Wizarding World Of Harry Potter

Diagon Alley in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.

Would The Wizarding World of Harry Potter live up to its hype?

As we approached the secret entrance to Diagon Alley, I became even more childlike than usual.

I won’t lie, I was super excited about wandering around Diagon Alley, going on the Gringott’s ride, and maybe even buying a wand. Both The-Youngest and I had done our research. We knew exactly where to look for the secret entrance so we weaved our way through the passage into Diagon Alley.

It wasn’t the best weather and here the crowds were as thick as Mandrakes in Professor Sprout’s greenhouse, but it didn’t matter. We had been transported to a different world.

Crooked buildings lined the street, strange signs swinging over colorfully painted doors. Arcane goods could be seen in foggy windows. Kids stood on brass plates, waving their wands, making a curtain move or a house-elf look up. Stands had been set up for multi-colored potions in antiquarian bottles.

But at the far end of the Alley, looming above it all, stood a dragon, waiting to breathe fire upon unsuspecting muggles.

At that moment, I realized I should have brought my wizard robes because this was the place to wear them (though, apparently, NOT at my wedding). Quite a few people, and not all of them kids, were decked out in Potter fashion. Wands. Robes. Wizard hat. House scarf. House-elf stuffie.

This was a zone of nerdishness, a zone of non-judgment.

The-Youngest and I bounded from shop to shop, looking around. We found Ollivanders Wand Shop soon enough, but it was far too crowded inside. However, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World found a girl in wizard robes who told us the actual wand show wasn’t busy at the moment.

OMG. We raced inside and soon stood in front of an old wizard behind a counter, books and wand boxes filled the walls around us. The old wizard would determine what wand would be the best fit for an aspiring magic-user.

Despite me waving my arms and saying “pick me, pick me, oooooh,  ME! Me-me mememememememe, meeeeeeeeeeee,” he chose The-Youngest.

The-Youngest marched up looking like he was about to be turned into a newt, took the wand offered and tested it out. Chaos ensued – Bookshelves fell, bells rang, wands failed to move as each wand he tried, failed. Then, finally, The-Youngest chose the right one, the best one for him, and all his spells worked. (see how he used them in Diagon Alley HERE.)

We left through a secret entrance back into the shop where The-Youngest bought his wand after much dithering.

See, the most powerful wand is Elder wand, perhaps created by death himself, so The-Youngest wanted that one, but wait, he also wanted the wand that had for chosen him since every wizard knows the wand chooses the wizard, not the other way around, but then, again, the Elder wand is made from “Elder wood” and has a “Thestraltail-hair core” and was owned by Dumbledoor, but then, hmmmm, the wand that had chosen him could be as powerful as….

It took about 20 min for him to decide, but in the end, he went with the Oak Wand with a Dragonheart String core, the wand that had chosen him. With crowds of muggles gathering like there was a Black Friday Sale at Walmart, we made our way to the Gringott’s Ride.

The amazing entrance into Gringott’s Goblin bank in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal

The line-up wasn’t that long and, like Disney World, there was so much to see along the way. It started out with a spectacular Goblin bank entrance, a diamond chandelier overhead, shining marble floors at our feet, and goblins grimly going about their banking tasks.

The ride itself was good, telling a decent story as we weaved our way down through the secret vaults, pursued by Voldemort and his Death Eaters, and to make the occasion, we bought an expensive photo of us at Gringott’s

As soon as we got outside, The-Youngest went about using his wand at all the wizarding stations. (see video here!)

Butter Beer! Not everyone liked it

I didn’t get a wand, since none had chosen me, so I went to get a Butter Beer, bought a potion, and tried to get a picture of the dragon breathing fire on all the muggles.

As The-Youngest gagged on the Butter Beer and The-Oldest announced it tasted like sweet vomit, the moving river of people slowed around us. Not because The-Boyz were complaining about Butter Beer, but because a man had knelt on one knee outside of one of the wizarding shops and asked his girl to marry him.

Like The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, she jumped up and down, happy, and like The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, she agreed to marry the nerdy guy. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World teared up, fluttering her hands around her eyes as if she could evaporate the happy tears.

Our visit to Diagon Alley couldn’t have ended better, as the Dragon breathed fire above us all, bathing us in heat, and the happy couple looked up.

We left, having seen all we could see, done all we could do, and, at least for me, had the most magical of times.

Did Harry Potter’s Wizarding World live up to the hype? Gosh, yes! Because, at least for me, as Hagrid would say, “I am what I am an’ I’m not ashamed.”

Day 7 Universal Studios Begins

universal globe at universal studios theme park
universal globe at universal studios theme park
Time for Universal Studios!

At 10:40, the crowds at Universal Studios were beginning to grow, so we had to choose wisely.

So, we decided to do the important adventures, first. Not the Hulk ride. Not the Rip Ride Rocket. Not one of the water rides.

No. We were going to do something for me. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Expecto Patronum!

The lineups to get into Universal Theme Park were longish, but not bad, and we had the best attendant help us get through. I had booked tickets online and wasn’t sure how that would work, but it turned out all we had to do was use my phone to show them, then press our finger for the fingerprint scanner, and that was that.

The attendant was an older fella. Older than me, anyway, and he had the biggest smile on his face, and when he found out where we were from, he talked hockey. His team was, and always will be, the NY Islanders. Where he was from.

I can’t tell you how impressive it is to be greeted in a positive way when you start out in a park. Disney does this well, no, really, really, really well. So, too, it seems, does Universal.

We made our way out of the crowds into the Universal Studio streets. The-Youngest loved that he could walk in the middle of the road and no one yelled at him. The-Oldest saw ‘Doc’ from Back to the Future walking around, and waved at him. Marilyn Munro walked by in her iconic white dress and looked at The-Youngest, saying “I think that one’s giving me a look.”

The-Youngest is about to meet Marilyn Monroe

The-Youngest blushed so red, he looked like someone had lit a fire inside his head. Before she could say anything more, he rushed away from her like an energizer bunny suddenly hit by lightning.

Then we entered one of the BEST parts of Universal. Simpson’s land.

Now, it’s not the BEST place for rides, sure, but it ignited the nerd inside of me. There was the Springfield sign, and over there, the Kwik-E-Mart. Over there, look, there’s Krusty Burger, OMG, we HAVE to have a Krusty Burger, and there’s Duff Beer, OMG, I have to have some Duff beer, OMG, there’s Mo’s Tavern, we have to go in and burb with Barney, and there’s Lard Land Donuts, OMG, we have to get a Homer donut!

See, I guess at my core, I’m less of a Disney guy and more of a movie and TV guy.

As I hopped around pointing at everything in Simpson’s Land, the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World looking at me like I was having a seizure, The Boyz decided they’d go on a ride – The not-too-scary Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl. The-Youngest told me, “Joe, did you know, it’s a good plan to do easier rides before you do the Hulk ride. You have to work up to it.” (The highlight of his plan was going on the terrifying Hulk Coaster.)

Kang and Kodo didn’t disappoint. At least didn’t disappoint The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I. We watched the boys go around and around, and laughed out loud at the commentary. “You will know the ride has ended when your vehicle comes to a complete stop, or you have been eaten…I didn’t just say that.” “Thank you for betraying mankind. Go home and enjoy your shame.”

After The Boyz got off, The-Oldest, much to our surprise, decided he HAD to have a Homer t-shirt. No words on it, just a Homer face. All yellow.

Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone. This is the secret entrance to Harry Potters Wizarding World.

Since it was so very, very, very rare for The-Oldest to want anything that didn’t involve a piano, we got him the shirt. Could it be that he was going to have a good time here?

I looked over towards Diagon Alley. I knew I was.

Time for some magic!

Day 6 Universal’s Volcano Bay Waterpark in the Rain

volcano bay universal theme park waterpark orlando florida
universal volcano bay orlando florida rainstorm
Was it a dream? Did we really go back to Volcano Bay?

I won’t lie.

We were desperate to salvage the day. Maybe a movie? Maybe find an indoor race track? Maybe a gun range. Wait, what, no guns for The-Youngest? Ok. But something. Something…

After successfully bra shopping for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, (The Boyz remaining in the car to avoid awkwardly looking at women trying on bras), we decided to give Volcano Bay one last look on the way back to our resort to reconsider possibilities.

With the rain still pouring down, our thinking was, yes, it was still raining in a way only a tropical location or movie shoot can rain, but we hadn’t heard or seen lightning for a while, so where was the harm in checking Volcano Bay?

So we drove past more churches than I’ve seen in my life, through lakes forming on the roads, beside rivers raging in what had been drainage ditches, past houses darkly stained by mildew, hoping against hope.

By now The-Youngest had come to terms with the idea his life was over and all that he had ever hope for, dreamed about, lay in ashen ruins. But when we drove near Volcano Bay, despite the rain still falling, we saw people climbing steps. To rides!

The-Youngest sat up so quickly that I think he popped a joint, but he’s young and joint popping isn’t that big a deal. Excitedly, he bounced up and down, as we took the turn into the parking lot.

Now, I won’t say this was my finest driving moment, but it was one of the oddest. The cones were all over the place and I had to stop in a parking lot so vast it can be seen from Mars to figure out where to go. As I did so, dozens of cars literally raced around me, like I was a frightened rabbit on Lightning McQueen’s race track (when in fact, I was just a confused old guy!)

It didn’t take long for us to get into the park as no one was there. It was a little spooky, but kind of cool as well. Maybe 200 people wandered around, (which I totally get is not ‘no one’, but in a park built for tens of thousands, it seemed to have more staff than customers.)

So, we made a plan, cuz, you know, that’s what we do.

Hit the most important rides first! We didn’t know how long they’d allow us to stay in the park.

We could still lose the park to lightning or a North Korean attack, so doing the rides in any other order made no sense.

The ride The-Youngest chose was the Krakatoa, a ride like a roller coaster where we sit in a canoe-like thingee and get shot through tubes, up hills and down, through waterfalls, all by magnets.

Without ANY lineup we got on and shot off like a rocket. Wow. Every hill we crested we got air. Every turn we made in the tunnel seemed one inch from being an exercise in physics to see if we could glide on the roof.

Volcano Bay. With the soft, tropical downpour, we had the park to ourselves, making this one of the best days ever!

It was amazing fun!

Then, because we were old and slow, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I went on the lazy rivers. Again, with no people, the faster river was a completely different ride, the waves much, much higher, the speed much, much faster, and there weren’t a thousand people constantly accidentally punching you in the face.

We had a blast, but man, was it ever a workout to try to keep together, to dodge the painfully, powerful waterfalls and avoid the few numbers of little kids who rocketed the rapids like insane otters.

The slower river was better for us, though if you saw me trying to get into an inner tube, you would have laughed. It was like trying to fit a polar bear into a lifesaver.

But, as we got our lazy river on, The-Oldest and The-Youngest went on ride after ride after ride, literally walking on to any ride they wanted. Their bare feet slapped on the wet concrete as they raced from the Krakatau Aqua Coaster to the Kala and Tai Nui Serpentine Body Slides then to the Ohyah and Ohno Drop Slides.

No line ups. None.

With the most beautiful purple sky overhead, we joined them for the Krakatau Aqua Coaster (which was a powered by jets of water), and boy, was that fun, especially since all we had to do was climb a few steps and go right on it.

While the rain continued to fall, as the light began to fade, The-Boyz raced away from us to do their final rides before the park shut down. We floated in the lazy river one last time as I soaked up the experience.

The rain was soft and heavy, but warm, not pelting down like ice needles. I didn’t care about the rain, we were in a waterpark getting soaked, so getting extra soaked really made the experience even better. No, wait, more than better, it made the experience immortal.

We were in the rain in a waterpark that we basically had to ourselves. Like we were billionaires.

I wandered around a bit, taking pictures of the stunning sky, I but I knew, I just KNEW I would remember this magical night forever. Like when I first looked upon the green, rolling hills of England when I was 18, like when I first smelled a peat fire when I was 24, like when I saw The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World walk down the aisle to marry me, breathtakingly beautiful, me wondering how I managed to get so lucky.

What had started out as a disaster had ended up being an amazing day!

One of the best pictures I’ve even taken – of one of the best nights I’ve ever had traveling. No filter on this shot at all, but (to be honest), the light was even more spectacular in person.

Day 6 Universal’s Volcano Bay – The End of the World

universal volcano bay orlando florida
Universal’s Volcano Bay Waterpark. A great start. Good weather, few people, full tummies.

The-Youngest’s most anticipated theme park was Universal’s Volcano Bay.

He had watched hours and hours of videos. POV videos. Review videos. Park exploration videos. He knew how to use the Fastpasses, how to use the Taputapu wrist bands, where we should get our lockers, where the best food was, and, of course, what the best rides would be.

He’d even planned out a route, taking advantage of the fact we’d get there before a lot of the crowds, and had plotted how best to use the Taputapu bands (simply tap the wristband to the icon at the ride you want, it assigns a time for you to return for your ride. The clock on the wristband counts down and buzzes when it is time to return to your selection.)

In short, he was one super prepared little kid. Or to quote him, “I’ve been planning and dreaming about his park for 6 years!” Ok, maybe a bit overdramatic, but he was so excited, he was quivering.

And by the time we arrived, there were a few clouds drifting off in the distance, another warning of rain, thunder and lightning had been issued, but the sky was blue, the lines were light, and after applying so much sunscreen we would survive on the surface of the sun, we raced off to have us some fun.

Our tour guide, The-Youngest, took us to our first ride in Volcano Bay. Maku Puihi. Something everyone could do, even if they couldn’t pronounce it.

Our tour guide, The-Youngest, took us to his first choice, a good family ride, he said, knowing that his mom and I would not be super keen on the drop slides or super fast ones. He wanted us to share this experience with him as much as possible.

We had to climb a lot of stairs to reach the top of the ride, but I have to say, it was a blast going down. Then we did the lesser one, which was, for me, more fun since I didn’t risk flying off the side of the ride.

Excited, clouds beginning to form above us, The-Youngest raced off to do the ‘fun’ rides, the Krakatau Aquacoaster, the Kala & Tui Nui Serpentine Body Slides, the Ohyay  and Ohno drop slides, and the very, very terrifying Ko’kiri body plunge (“Featuring a 70-degree fall through a drop door and 125 feet of white-knuckle fun, this dizzying descent ends with a watery tribute from Vol himself.”) Here is a vid if you want to see what it’s like.

Even thinking about that last one made my stomach leap into my throat.

So, after securing chairs, while the-Boyz enacted The-Youngest’s masterplan, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and I went on the Swift Flowing Lazy River, which is an oxymoron (like saying jumbo shrimp or Microsoft works), but it was relaxing, and little by little, the stress from the past few days melted away into the water,

But as we began our second lazy river run, the clouds overhead had thickened and blotted out the sun. Tiny raindrops began to fall. Not a big deal. We’re from Vancouver. We’re used to rain.

Then the clouds overhead became dark and menacing, like something looming over Mordor. Thunder cracked in the distance and the rain began to fall like it had on the first day we’d arrived. Heavy, wet drops, fell, the sound like a waterfall.

No problem, we’re used  … then came the announcement. The rides were being closed due to the storm. I mean, it kind of makes sense if the lightning came our way because the last thing the park would want is a whole pool of people being electrocuted, but for The-Youngest, it was the end of the world.

Dark clouds over Volcano Bay. Soon the rains came, followed by thunder and lightning and one sad little boy

At 11am, his plan of doing the entire park in one day, of sliding on all the cool slides of experiencing that terrifying Ko’kiri body plunge, fell to pieces.

He was, in a word, devastated.

We returned to our seats, under an umbrella, and tried to wait it out. By 12:30, it had only gotten worse.

So, we decided it was pointless to wait around. We had to declare the park a disaster and think of doing something else.

The-Youngest slumped back to the car, completely unexcited about going bra shopping for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World, but none of us had any idea how the day would really work out.

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.