bon voyage

failing NaBloPoMo

2 November 2010
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It somehow seems nicer to just fail at NAtional BLog POsting MOnth right from the start. I didn’t write yesterday. I won’t write tomorrow. But today.

Some pictures from Texas:

car wash blues

12 October 2010
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Rob has been singing a lot of Jim Croce to the children. In turn, they have been singing, mangling and mumbling a lot of Jim Croce. The trick, they tell me, is to not breathe. All in one breath – suddenly depressing, low-down mind messing working at the car wash blues. It really doesn’t matter if I have that right.

I am in post-vacation letdown. Six months of prep. Six days of vacation. And now, home. I am trying my hardest not to turn my brain into mush. I need to pick out, then create or buy Halloween costumes for Henry and me. And maybe Bella. Probably not Bella. She can be a cat (from Miranda’s stash) or a lion (from Henry’s stash) . Two is a feline sort of year. We are doing three outdoor activities for Halloween, I hope. I want a warm costume suitable for a 30-something mother. And somehow being an Eskimo’s honey just sounds like it might be a bit racist.

We had a great trip to Texas.  I am not sure if we would have ever visited Texas if we didn’t have friends there. So much America, so little vacation time and money. But seeing as we have gone and will go again, I like Texas. I like how it is big and proud of it. I like how it is in on the joke and yet, still the joke, to nearly any punchline you can imagine. My vowels get just a little longer and I enjoy being called “ma’am” and my children called “baby.” The food was good, even when we didn’t have Tex-Mex.

We visited Ft Worth, Waco, and Austin. Austin made me think of the grown up child of Madison and San Francisco. Still hippie, but bold and bright and business too. I am supremely bad at timing vacations – the kids had school and I thought they’d have a day off.  The Austin City Limits Festival was being held. Which would have been awesome if we didn’t have kids, had tickets and didn’t want to stay in a hotel. The breakfast tacos were very good. An army and a family of 5 travel on their stomachs. That and time at the swimming pool.

The closest we came to dying (the hallmark of some people’s scale of a good time) was the flight out. The plane went up. And then banked sharply over Lake Michigan as the cabin filled with smoke. The smoke then cleared and we headed back to the airport. No idea how bad it really was. Incredibly grateful the older children could not see either my or their father’s face. We deplaned. Waited a bit and got on a new plane. No news.

This trip used up our Midwest frequent flyer miles. The flight itself, except for the smoking part, was fine. The staff was kind. The ride was smooth. The baggage arrived. But the reservation process was a nightmare. Frontier changed our flight number and then our flight arrival time twice. I called, sat on hold, politely pleaded to keep our seats together. in June, July and August, with a “just checking” call in September.  We bought the seats in April. The plane was nearly empty until September. And it didn’t matter. The calls didn’t help. I had to use the great power of Twitter on Tuesday to have one seat changed so we could ride as two twosomes and one single seat in adjacent rows. My two phone calls for help did nothing. But the twitter person @flyfrontier had superior spatial reasoning and found a good solution for us. On the way home we had two seats together and three seats in three different rows. And the phone staff, even the gate agents on the flight out, couldn’t help us. We got the DFW ticket counter 3 hours early and the wonderful woman there did get us all in 1 row, with Rob behind us.

I suppose I could say all is well that ends well. But this is my internet soap box. It was aggravating and a huge hassle. I’ll certainly consider Frontier again, but it isn’t my #1 anymore. And so ends an era. Maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow and be inspired for Halloween.

Lake Life

1 September 2010
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Today was the first day of shool. There were high anxieties but few tears. This is a good thing. And the 40 minutes we waited for the bus to bring them home made last week, with the lazy days on the shores of Lake Michigan, seem even farther away than they did yesterday.  We had a delightful week in Jacksonport in Door County. The cottage was so-so. I don’t think bunk beds are in our future. But the sandy beach and the lake, wow. Lake Michigan was warm, the sand got everywhere, the children even got sunburned. Miranda turned 9. She went zip-lining and let her parents tag along. We rode bikes. I read five novels (my love letter to Monica Ferris will follow soon). We played a three generation game of dominoes four nights in a row. I was the youngest player. We had to buy beer over and over. In other words, awesome. I am ready for a beachfront life. (Click on any photo to see a slideshow)

Cue Queen

30 November 2009
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I believe this is the first time I have ever completed a whole month of NaBloPoMo. I think I’ve lost most of my readers, who wonder where my children have gone. Certainly not on any of these trips.

For my final travel plan of November 2009, a trip to Colorado, to a family resort. We’ve talked about meeting friends “half-way,” if you can put Colorado half-way between Wisconsin and California. Initially we discussed driving, but goodness gracious, that’s far. I want mountains, tall and soaring mountains. Family friendly. Not an emphasis on horses.

I read about Tyler Place, but that’s in Vermont. It sounds lovely.

Colorado. What about the Colorado Chautauqua National Historic Landmark? Cabins in the mountain. Interestingly, Chautauqua has wi-fi internet but no TV or a/c.

First, we have to get there:

F91029 Frontier Airlines Inc.
Milwaukee WI (MKE) Wed, Jun 23, 06:00 AM
Denver CO (DEN) Wed, Jun 23, 07:37 AM

F90370 Frontier Airlines Inc.
Denver CO (DEN) Tue, Jun 29, 11:15 AM
Milwaukee WI (MKE) Tue, Jun 29, 02:28 PM

FARE
Base: $188.84
Tax: $33.86
Total: $222.70
x  5
= $1,113.50

I’d upgrade to Classic for the extra $125 for the 5 tickets. It is worth it for the Classic Fare Benefits:
Advance Seat Assignment
First Checked Bag: INCLUDED (normally $20)
Second Checked Bag: INCLUDED (normally $30)
DIRECTV: INCLUDED

And then for a place to stay. Chautauqua sounds interesting. But it is on the edge of Boulder. I can see the pluses and minuses of being by a town that I’ll bet will remind me of Madison. (Except I remember someone once told me that is if far less hilly than Madison. Irony.)

I think we’d want to have two units, one for us and one for our friends. But a duplex would be convenient.

“Cottage 214, a duplex dating from the 1930s, was moved from central Boulder to the former site of the Bachelder barn in 1955. Cottage 214 is one of the few two-bedroom cottages with two baths.

AMENITIES INCLUDE: 785 Square Feet, Kitchen, 2 Bedrooms: 1 Queen Bed each, 1 Full Fold-out Sleeper Sofa in Living Room, 2 Baths, Duplex with Cottage 212
2010 Rate: $191 – $211 per night”

and

Cottage 212, the duplex half, is identical.

This trip is planned for summer…but Colorado has many winter activities.  Could I average it to $200 a night?

If we stayed at Chautauqua for 6 nights, it would cost $1200 for each cottage. I believe tax was 10%, so another $120.

For total of $1113.50 + $1320 = $2431.50

And there I go, 29 trips I’d like to take. Now back to my regularly scheduled family updates.

down to 2: Hawaii

29 November 2009
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Yesterday morning, we were watching a travel show on Hawaii. And Snuba came on. And Snuba is awesome! It is better than snorkeling – no clearing the short tube. You are tethered to a 20 foot air tube.  Not as cool as Scuba. But you don’t need certification, which is a plus. Rob pointed out to me that I haven’t done Hawaii yet.

It is good to know why we haven’t been to Hawaii.

Prices for 7 people (Rob, me, the kids, my parents), going for 8 nights, leaving January 26th and flying home February 3rd. This is priced via Costco.

$7,024.24 (Or $1003.46 per person, or $125.43 per person per night. The $125 per person per night actually sounds reasonable. It reminds me of an ad class in college in which we discussed food labels – the information is so broken down to be palatable to the consumer)

And to be fair, we’d only pay for 5 people here. $5017.30.

United Airlines

Tue, 01/26/2010 10:22 AM  depart Milwaukee (MKE)
Tue, 01/26/2010 11:14 AM Arrive Chicago (ORD)

Tue, 01/26/2010 11:55 AM Depart Chicago (ORD)
Tue, 01/26/2010 02:40 PM Arrive San Francisco (SFO)

Tue, 01/26/2010 04:48 PM Depart San Francisco (SFO)
Tue, 01/26/2010 08:22 PM Arrive Kailua Kona (KOA)

That’s an incredibly long flight time.

Returning home, via United

Wed, 02/03/2010 09:56 PM Depart Kailua Kona (KOA)
Thu, 02/04/2010 12:19 PM Arrive Chicago (ORD)

Thu, 02/04/2010 03:02 PM Depart Chicago (ORD)
Thu, 02/04/2010 03:44 PM Arrive Milwaukee (MKE)

Hotels Keauhou Beach Resort
From: 01/26/2010 To: 02/03/2010
Room One: Partial-Ocean-View Wikiwiki Rate
Room Two: Partial-Ocean-View Wikiwiki Rate

Car Alamo – Mini Van
Pick-Up – 01/26/2010 09:00 PM
Return – 02/03/2010 07:56 PM

Sightseeing
01/27/2010 King Kamehameha Luau
01/28/2010 Grand Circle Big Island Tour from Kailua-Kona & Keauhou Hotels

Snuba® – over 8 years old (for maybe 3 of us?) $89 each =  $267 for 3
Snuba Doo – for 4 to 7 year olds – $69 each = $69
Snuba cost: $336

Base trip total: $7360.24

This is a trip of a lifetime, I think, I hope. I am awed by the price. But my Snuba investigation also took me to another option, near a Snuba place in West Maui. My search there

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa
From: 01/26/2010 To: 02/03/2010
Room One: Terrace-View Family Offer
Room Two: Terrace-View Family Offer

Similar flights and car rental, plus the different hotel brought me to a price of over $10,500.

Wow. West Maui is a lot more expensive. $187 per person per night. That’s $60 more per person per night. Interesting.

In any case, we should wait to Snuba until Bella is 4.

I just want to go

28 November 2009
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Today Miranda told me that she’d just like to go to Disney something for her birthday. Sigh. And I find pricing out a trip that far out to be a little dicey on finding deals. I think Disneyland could be a nice entry level experience for us. Maybe 4 days at D’land and California Adventure. And then 3 days in the LA area.

Disneyland has some Jan-Apr deals. And Henry’s birthday is in February. So how about Saturday February 13 to Saturday February 20. And we’ll go as 7 – Rob, the kids, my parents, and me.

depart: Sat, Feb 13 from Milwaukee on Midwest Airlines
YX751 09:25am Milwaukee, WI (MKE) 11:44am Los Angeles, CA (LAX)

arrive: Sat, Feb 20 from Los Angeles on Midwest Airlines
YX752 12:24pm Los Angeles, CA (LAX) 06:05pm Milwaukee, WI (MKE)

Total Per Passenger $217.70
Number of Passengers 7
Total Fare Amount $1523.90

And now hotels:

We’ll start at Disneyland. Do a 4 day Park Hopper. Stay at Good Neighbor hotel, all in 1 room, I hope.

Best Western Raffles Arriving on 2/13/2010 for 3 nights; 4 Adults and 2 Children (ages 8, 6) 1 infant
Room Type: Family Suite
Package: Good Neighbor Hotel package
Tickets: 4 Day Park Hopper® souvenir ticket
Dining: Premium Character Dining
Special Features: Character Calls, Mickey’s Toontown Morning Madness
Anaheim Resort Transit Family Pass
$2,086.00

That just doesn’t seem like a really good deal. The deal below doesn’t include the character breakfast, which was <$200. If I book the hotel and tickets separately,  we’d need 2 rooms here.

Best Western Stovall’s Inn 1110 W Katella Avenue US Anaheim, California, 92802-2805
Feb 13 – Feb 16
2 Queen Beds, No Smoking, Wireless High-Speed Internet Access, Microwave And Refrigerator, Coffee Maker, Hairdryer, Iron And Ironing Board, Continental Breakfast
$336.60 x2 = $673.20
Complimentary Breakfast, outdoor pools
And then we’d buy Park Hopper 4 day bonus tickets $966
= $1639.20

Both hotels are close to Disney. I think the cheaper hotel is actually closer. So we’d go with the 2 rooms.

And then we’d see more of LA. I considered a Hollywood hotel, but feels lost as to what one to pick. But I think seeing the ocean would be nice.

Best Western Sunrise Hotel at Redondo Beach Marina
400 N Harbor Drive US Redondo Beach, California, 90277
2 Queen Beds, No Smoking, High Speed Internet Access, Deluxe Furnishings, Refrigerator, Hairdryer, Coffee Maker, Continental Breakfast
Room 1: Best Available Rate $736.00
Room 2: Senior $662.40
Total: $1398.40

For a grand total of
$1523.90 + $1639.20 + $1398.40 = $4561.50

bike wine

27 November 2009
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A few years ago when Rob started bicycling, he subscribed to Bicycling Magazine. At the back of the magazine, they have ads. Expensive bicycles. Gear. Equipment. And trips. Bicycling touring. And I fell in love with the idea. I liked the idea of the SAG van bringing our stuff from place to place. Or credit card touring with just a Bob trailer. But at this point, I don’t bike. I don’t own a bike. So I picked a local charity ride to train for. Rob found a bike for me. And I biked. And it was good.

And then life got in the way. And I got pregnant. And my OB/GYN banned bicycling. And my bike sat idle.  And then we had baby Bella. And still not much biking. And now Bella is 14 months old. And it is fall again. And I am way out of biking shape. But next year…next year…I better get on the bike again.

And maybe by next September, I’d be in shape for bicycle touring in Napa.

Premiere Weekend Bicycle Package by Getaway Adventures

(information paraphrased from their website)
Day 1 – Friday (Meet and Greet)
Bike fitting, safety demonstration and self-guided 8 mile warm-up ride. Or stroll around Calistoga before dinner. Two night stay at the Silver Rose Resort Winery in Calistoga

Day 2 – Saturday (Napa Valley Tour)
We cycle the Calistoga area, 20 miles of easy and flat terrain, visiting our favorite wineries,

Today’s tour will end at 4 pm to allow time for your spa treatment at the Silver Rose Inn and Spa. You will be treated to a re-energizing essential oil, mud and salt bath followed by a 1/2 hour massage.

Day 3 – Sunday (Sonoma Country)
We drive to Healdsburg where we embark on a wonderful 17-mile loop in the Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys.

Includes: All meals from Friday evening to Sunday lunch, two night luxury accommodations, professional guides and bike rental from our fleet, Bell helmet, water bottle and Getaway T-shirt. Guide gratuity and wine tasting fees are not included.

Price for 2009:$1329 per person with Spa Treatment

or

Wine Country Bikes: Elegant B & B Short Escape Sonoma County

$795 per person for three days & nights (based on double occupancy-weekdays) add $30 pp for each Friday or Saturday night. Day one consists of our Classic Wine Country Bike Tour which leaves from our Touring Center in Healdsburg at 10:00am. We’ll casually ride through the Dry Creek Valley stopping occasionally to visit some of our favorite local wineries and take in the vistas. The total riding distance is less than 25 miles and we will be riding Trek hybrid style bikes.

Day two will consist of a custom designed self guided tour.
Optional day three will be another self-guided tour as described above.
Lodging: You’ll spend your nights at the wonderful Camellia Inn

Meals: One night you’ll dine at a restaurant carefully chosen
You’ll also enjoy a wonderful homemade breakfast each morning at your Inn and our wonderful Sonoma style picnic lunch on your first day’s tour. On your self-guided tour days you will be responsible for your lunch, but we will recommend an appropriate stop.

Bicycling in the fall sounds lovely. The bike trips sound very flexible in their timing. So I’ve looked at airfare for September 2010. Booking months and months out is always a good deal on Midwest.

Wed, Sep 22 from Milwaukee
Midwest Airlines 07:00am Milwaukee, WI (MKE) 11:10am San Francisco, CA (SFO) YX1871
Wed, Sep 29 from San Francisco
Midwest Airlines 11:50am San Francisco, CA (SFO)05:35pm Kansas City, MO (MCI) YX1872
> > connecting to > >
Midwest Airlines 06:35pm Kansas City, MO (MCI) 08:00pm Milwaukee, WI (MKE) YX1890

Fare Summary

Passenger(s) Adult
Base Fare $174.88
TAX: U.S. Domestic Percentage – 7.5% $13.12
Subtotal $188.00
Passenger Facility Charge $7.50
Segment Tax $10.80
U.S. Security Fee $5.00
Total Per Passenger $211.30
Number of Passengers 2
Total Fare Amount $422.60

That leaves 3 days for biking, 2 travel days, and 2 visit friend days.

Prices range from $2100 to $3100. Wow, that’s far more than I expected. When I discussed this idea with Rob. he thought we could tour without the SAG support. So we’d be at airfare, bicycle baggage charges ($50 per bike each way) or rental, and B&B costs, maybe maps. Or perhaps a hybrid – Wine Country offers 1 day tours starting at $129 each. Whether with a tour or on our own, someday…

Happy Thanksgiving

26 November 2009
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It would seem apropos to mark today by giving thanks.

I am grateful for my family. My children are interesting, funny, cute, thought-provoking, kind and good. My husband is the love of my life and my best friend. This is our 16th Thanksgiving.  My parents are a source of inspiration, help, joy, laughter and love. I am so glad I get to share my home and my life with them. I am thankful for my extended family, near and far. And our dear friends, with whom we have shared joy and hardship, laughter and tears. It is nice to know there is a little love out there in the world for us.

I am also thankful for my life in America, in the first world, as one of the “haves” even without a Kate Spade purse under the Christmas tree – where sarcasm is acceptable discourse, where I can vote, wear pants, move freely, surf the web. We have enough to eat, a nice house to live in, opportunity and hope.

And so for my travel tie-in, I am thankful for all of the people who left their comfortable homes, their regular routines, their whole old world to move to America. They may have been poor, but they found the money for a tremendously expensive journey.  They may have been scared, but they got on the boat. They settled, they had babies, they laid the foundation for my family, the one for which I am so grateful.

Thank you to:

the Ratayczaks, Rob’s dad’s dad’s family, who left Polish Germany in the early 20th century.

the Kollrosses, my dad’s dad’s family, who left Bohemian Germany in the late 19th century.

the Vandenburgs, Rob’s dad’s mom’s mom’s family, who left the Netherlands in the mid 19th century

the O’Briens, my dad’s mom’s family, who left Ireland in the late 19th century.

the DuBoises, my mom’s dad’s family, who left Belgium in the mid 19th century.

the Dimmetts, Rob’s mom’s dad’s family, who followed the Pilgrims in the 17th century.

the Payes, my mom’s mom’s family, who left Belgium in the mid 19th century.

the Dohertys, Rob’s mom’s mom’s family, who left Great Britain in the 17th century.

Happy Thanksgiving!

yellow jacket, hard hat

25 November 2009
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Does everyone want to take their children to nearly every place they went as a child? I feel like I am in retro retread week.  I promise I wouldn’t take them to Sea World in Ohio if that were even open anymore.

If you drive up to the UP in Michigan, just across the border at Iron Mountain and head 9 miles east, toward Vulcan, you will come to the Iron Mountain Iron Mine. You buy your tickets (this $1 off coupon will help), don a slick yellow jacket and a hard hat, and ride on the tram deep into the earth. And see iron mining. It is a sort of dirty, cold, fascinating tour.

Iron Mountain Iron Mine

200 miles, 4 hours

And how about to make it more appealing, how about a hotel, with indoor pool and free breakfast. We’d take 2 cars and the grandparents and the great-grandparents. It is Great-Grandma’s birthday, so we would have to add in a nice dinner.

Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Iron Mountain, MI
2005 S. Stephenson Ave  Iron Mountain, MI 49801
free internet, indoor pool, free breakfast

Check In:      Sat Jun 19, 2010      Rooms:      2
Check Out:     Sun Jun 20, 2010

Guests:
Room 1: 2 queens,  5 (2 Adults, 3 Children)  $118.81
Room 2: 2 queens, 4 adults $131.89

Total:  $250.70

200 miles at $0.55 = $110, x 2 cars = $220

Grand total: $470.70

O Canada!

24 November 2009

I’ve always wanted to take the family to Niagara Falls. Despite being in Canada, it seems like the quintessential American vacation. But Canadian travel now requires passports. So our first expense is documents:

Passports:
$95 per adult, $85 per child
$445 in fees for the 5 of us

And then we can drive or we can fly. If we drive, I’d consider taking the ferry across Lake Michigan. It changes the pace of travel and lets you skip the Chicago traffic.

Time to try the Lake Express ferry, Milwaukee to Muskegon
Car: 1way $90
adult: $81, 2 kids free for each adult
total 1 way: $252

Baymont Inn & Suites Muskegon
2 Queen, indoor pool, free breakfast
Sun Aug-8-2010 to Mon Aug-9-2010
$119.99

I am too tired to research this better, but perhaps we’d drive much further into Michigan, 2 hours or so. Grand Rapids at least. Maybe Lansing. In any case, after a night in Michigan, we’d drive to Niagara Falls.

Muskegon to Niagara Falls via I-69, 411 miles, 6.5 hours

Aug 9-11
Embassy Suites Niagara Falls – Fallsview
6700 Fallsview Boulevard,  Niagara Falls,  Canada L2G 3W6
2 ROOM SUITE-2 QUEEN BEDS-FALLSVIEW-NONSMOK
pool, breakfast
BEST AVAILABLE RATE
Rate  (CAD)     255.00
Taxes     33.15
Total     $576.30 CAN

This hotel is fairly expensive, but the views sound absolutely breathtaking. We’d spend 2 nights. Ride the Maid of the Mist and the tourist things. Gaze. If we’ve made it to Canada, it would seem a shame not to see Toronto.

It is 1.5 hours, 133KM (82 miles) to Toronto

Aug 11-13
Residence Inn Toronto
55 Minthorn Blvd
Markham, Ontario L3T 7N5 Canada
2 Bedroom Suite, Bedroom 1: 1 Queen, Bedroom 2: 1 Queen, Sofabed
indoor pool, breakfast, internet
$209 CAN per night
total:  $418 CAN

Then for the drive home, I think, we’d mix it up a bit. Take in Cleveland the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame.

5 hours to Cleveland, 471 KM (292 miles)

Embassy Suites Cleveland – Downtown
1701 East 12th Street,  Cleveland,  Ohio 44114
Fri 13 Aug 2010 Sat 14 Aug 2010
2 BEDROOM/2 BATH STE-1 KING/1 DBL BED NOSMOK
Total     $217.82

Then the last day is going home: 7 hours, 455 miles

411 + 82 + 292 + 455 miles = 1240 miles, at $0.55 a miles = $682

For a rough total of:
$445 passports
$252 ferry
$120 Muskegon
$543 Falls (in USD)
$418 Toronto (in USD)
$272 Cleveland
$682 in mileage

= $2782

Wow.

I started out pricing airfare and it was expensive. Flying into Toronto was ~$350 a ticket. So no. While this isn’t as expensive as Disney, it is not cheap. There is a certainly wiggle room in the pricing. Cheaper hotels. Fuel efficiencies. Luck.

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