Monday, May 11, 2009

Alberta – Ontario – New York – Michigan – Kentucky – Florida – Cayman Islands – Belize - Minnesota..


"Happiness is having a large, loving, caring close-knit family in another city." - George Burns


From our family version of Jeopardy:





Answer
: 2 provinces, 5 states, 4 countries, and 7 flights in 2 weeks.
Question: What is a typical McGowan family vacation?


When you don't have a lot of vacation time, and when the window of opportunity for said vacation time is rapidly declining, you try to make the most out of whatever time you do have off. And that's precisely why we insist on torturing ourselves scheduling these mini adventures to spend time with family every year.

Here are some random observations from our last two weeks on the road:

* Temperature in Edmonton when we left: 0 C. Temperature where we landed in Ottawa later that same day: 17 C. (I blame the stupid prairie wind.)

* Even though I know I shouldn't take it personally, it still hurts to have my luggage labelled as "Heavy". ("Does this bag make me look fat...?")






* The only airline worth flying with is West Jet, hands down. They have the friendliest attendants, and there's almost always an individual television behind every seat. If ony they would fly to more locations -- and more frequently -- then I would never fly with anyone else again. Ever.

* I love Potsdam, New York, which is my husband's hometown. It is the quintessential embodiment of small-town America. (Think of Stuckeyville, the fictional town featured on the TV show Ed.)
 Every other home has a front porch adorned with their flag, and many houses are now decorated with large rustic-looking Americana stars. I love it.


 




* To all who are in the know: notice the ticket on the Lambert's garbage below. Hilarious.




 



* To all who are NOT in the know: no, I did not in fact purchase every decorative piece of Americana that came between me and my wallet. Having already purchased two windchimes, I decided to only photograph this third one featuring US soldiers. PS - I'm pretty sure my mother-in-law thinks there's something wrong with me.






* Am I the only one out there who had never before heard of Bronners CHRISTmas Wonderland? Just when you thought Frankenmuth, Michigan, couldn't get any sweeter.... then you discover Bronners. This is also where we had to stop shopping so we could mail home our third package of souvenirs. That's right, the budget was blown long before we reached any outlet malls.

* Some names that you would never see on fridge magnets in Canada (there was even one that read "Allejandro"):





* If you live in or around (or are even just passing through) Saginaw, Michigan, go and sign up for a Direct Buy membership. I promise you won't regret it.

* Song that was heard not once but twice in separate stores in Saginaw: Kid Rock's All Summer Long. ("... it was summer time in Northern Michigan...")


* A new first for us: missing our flight out of Michigan by just a few minutes. Not a new first for us: my husband trying to console me in an airport, and me just asking him to leave me alone. Yes, people, he just loooooves travelling with me. Ahem.

* For all those who ever doubted it, the rolling hills of Kentucky's blue grass really do look, well, blue.





* Maybe it's that I have a not-so-secret desire to rub shoulders with Kenny Chesney and Jimmy Buffett, but we again are among the 4 million strong.





* Note to Carnival Cruise Lines (and any other cruise line who finds themselves in the same predicament): If this depressed economy has left you struggling to fill up with passengers, then -- at the very least -- you shouldn't be doing things that will threaten the happiness of the passengers you do still have.

* Note to all Carnival Cruise Line passengers: If you paid thousands of dollars to go on a cruise but then had half your ports of call cancelled due to the swine flu in Mexico and political unrest / rioting in Honduras, make yourself heard! Although it was just bad luck and in no way the fault of the cruise line, the $20 credit they offered us is a joke. C'mon, Carnival... that won't even pay for an 8x10 photo in your photo gallery! (Yes, you will be hearing from me. Ad nauseum.)

* So what do you do when you're stuck at sea with a bad cold and with no where to go? You get dressed up and force yourself to smile. Even if all you want to do is sleep. Some more.



* And when you do finally reach a port where the local government hasn't yet forbidden you to come ashore, you take full advantage of it: Hellllooooo, Cayman Islands! Kissing a stingray will bring you seven years of good luck. Or so we're told.



* I'm not just your average run-of-the-mill photographer, yo. I specialize in flat tops and starfish.



* Did I mention that my husband looooves travelling with me? We went kayaking in Belize (even though he wanted to go horseback riding through Bacab Eco Park), and I insisted on photographing everything in sight instead of just enjoying life and living in the moment. Here he is feeling disgruntled because I wouldn't stop taking pictures.



* Still disgruntled.



* One thing my husband does live for is karaoke. Seriously, the man loves an audience. So much so that he auditioned for the role of Elvis in the Carnival Legends show on the ship. I was sick and went to bed early, so I missed his audition... but I heard all about it later:

"I did it! I got the part of Elvis!"
"That's terrific."
"Yeah, I received the loudest audience applause and beat out 10 others who tried out for the part."
"Wow, I'm so proud of you."
"AND... one of the requirements to play Elvis involved having some sex appeal, so apparently I am a sexy man!"


Overheard later the next day:


"By the way, I was just messing with you. No one else auditioned for the part of Elvis, so they just gave it to me. But I'm still a sexy man."




* Visiting the Florida Aquarium in Tampa was the perfect way to spend Mother's Day yesterday.... partly because I was able to put my Wildlife Biology degree to use and squeal like a school girl while photographing Ruddy ducks and Mergansers (ducks that are also very common here in Alberta), but also because I found the coolest toy ever in the gift shop. Haha, yes, I really am that geeky.

*sigh* I miss the water.



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