Visiting The Oldsters

Over Father’s Day weekend we went to visit my in-laws, aka the Oldsters.  They live a good four-hour drive from us and are 80 years old, more [FIL] or less [MIL].  This weekend reminded me of many things that I’d long forgotten about.

•  We drove in Z-D’s SUV which is eleven years old.  It has no place for an iPod, with a broken CD player, and a radio that works when we’re near signals, but not in the empty spaces we were driving through this weekend.  We turned off our cell phones and sat together in silence only broken by our conversation.  It was wonderful to be totally detached from noise.

  I didn’t feel like reading– roads too bumpy, sunshine too intermittent thanks to lots of trees blocking it.  So I looked out the window to see what I could see.  It’s been a very long time since I just watched the world go by– cows, barns, farms, and exits with fast food establishments and gas stations.  It was relaxing to be out of the city and just existing as we drove along. 

•  The Oldsters were happy to see us.  We had lunch at their house [chicken salad sammies, natch] then went shopping for a wedding present that we were buying together.  BB&B fascinated them with all its stuff– and the price tag of said stuff.  It was fun to watch them be amazed by the beautiful things that the world has to offer now.

•  We left the house at 3:30 pm so that we might get to dinner at 4:00 pm!  This was to ensure that we’d be back home and safely within the house before 6:00 pm when FIL’s fav tv shows are on.  The small restaurant we went to had delicious, old-fashioned style food– ham loaf, smothered chicken, basic cole slaw.  It also had the smallest wine & beer list I’ve seen in years, so Z-D and I had a glass of the only Cabernet Sauvignon on the menu– which was delicious.  It was fascinating to be somewhere with so few choices and such good quality.

•  We got back to the house in time to watch Sanford & Son and All In The Family.  I hadn’t seen either of those shows in– well, decades.  And while the former is very dated and tedious, most of the humor in the latter has held the test of time.  It was entertaining [and a bit sad] to see FIL laugh with Archie about the way things should be. 

•  We left mid-morning on Sunday.  The Oldsters had turned on the Weather Channel at 7:00 am to check what might be in store for us on the drive home.  Once they saw that there were thunderstorms on the way, they became agitated about us getting on the road ahead of the rain.  In their world, driving in the rain is very bad and risky.  Z-D pointed out that we have a SUV with 4 wheel drive, but they were having none of that nonsense!  So we packed up and hit the road.  It was interesting for us who live entirely apart from any family to experience a bit of “parenting.”

•  Driving home in silence, just watching the road go by, I saw a sign for a small town called “Belleville.”  I know nothing about this particular town, but in a snap my empty mind filled with the images of and the theme song from a delightful movie called: “The Triplets of Belleville.”  It was a pleasant, but unexpected, ending to a visit that went quite well– and brought back to me memories of times gone by.  

[for your entertainment…]

Hello Summer

::  We had a fun holiday weekend with three days of sunshine in a row.  This is something that hasn’t happened around here in six months.  ‘Twas wonderful.

::  We went to a high school graduation party that was held at a cabin on a family farm.  To get to the party we drove out-of-town into the countryside to a small road lined on both sides with cow pastures.  From there our directions told us to look for the balloons and turn right.  We did as instructed, driving on a rough path down the middle of a cow pasture, over a small hill, and arriving at a lovely party totally hidden from view when on the road.  It was nice to be outside in a relaxed atmosphere– watching kids play games, talking to other guests, drinking beer, having fun.

::  We decided to go to the cemetery to see the Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall.  It was interesting and well-planned.  The scale of the wall is smaller than the original, but it still manages to re-create some of the original’s ambiance. If nothing else, this exhibit gives an inkling of how amazing the real wall is– and perhaps encourages those who have never visited Washington, D. C., to do so.

::  While at the cemetery we walked around for a while.  Wandering through the grassy areas we saw all sorts of unique tombstones and family markers.  One said, “integer vitae.”  Neither one of us knew what that meant so when we got home, I researched it.  This is a phrase from a stanza from an ode written by Horace.  “Integer vitae” is telling you to live a life of integrity so that you’ll be safe no matter where you go.  Good idea, huh?

::  To decorate for Memorial Day I put red-white-blue stars-&-stripey pinwheels in the flower pots by our front door.  And then I put two smallish flags in a flower-pot along the front walk.  EZPZ, but stylish and inviting.  However, except for one other family on our street who put out one big flag, no one else decorated for the holiday.  Don’t know what to make of that.  This neighborhood usually goes overboard for any and all holidays.

::  We finally had a cookout– our first of the season.  Burgers and veggies cooked on the grill.  Fresh berries on ice cream for dessert.  Served with delightfully cold white wine spritzers.  Simple and delicious.  Just the way summer is meant to be.

A Weekend In Las Vegas

Last weekend Zen-Den and I went to Las Vegas, a four-hour direct flight from here.  He was going there for work, so I decided to tag along for a 48 hour getaway because I thought that it would be entertaining.  And it was… sort of… in a “well, I guess this is better than sitting home alone” kind of way. Here’s my take on our trip.

The Good: Where We Stayed

Having been to Las Vegas many times before we wanted to see what it’d be like to stay in a non-gaming hotel, so we stayed at the Four Seasons Hotel.  [Not quite as pricey as you might think when booked together with airfare on Travelocity.]  The hotel was clean and quiet and stylish and refined– which was in complete contrast to the smoky and noisy and tacky and loud casinos.  I liked going back to the stillness of our room after the chaos of The Strip.  Very yin and yang.  This was a wonderful choice for us.

The Bad:  Meals.  Shopping.  Shows.

Meals in the restaurants were okay, but very expensive.  Drinks weren’t cheap, either.  Shopping was either high-end designer shops, or the “same-old, same-old” mall stores available all across the USA.  The shows were stale.  Many had been there for years and we’d seen them before;  or they were just another one of those “Cirque du Soleil” shows that all seem the same to me.  Overall, there was nothing special for us about the meals/shopping/shows, so we spent more time in the casinos playing penny slots– which got kind of old.

The Ugly:  Transportation

Getting around on The Strip was slow and difficult.  We didn’t have a car so we walked, used public transportation or grabbed a cab.  Many of the escalators and moving sidewalks were broken.  [I’m looking at you, Excaliber.]  Alternate stairways were dirty.  [Shame on you, Imperial Palace.]  The monorail service was available but it wasn’t easy to find– and inexplicably, it no longer had a stop at the Convention Center.  Tram service between casinos was arbitrary.  [A few signs, clearly posted, with the hours of tram service would be nice, Mandalay Bay.]  Taxis, while plentiful, were painfully slow driving up and down The Strip.   We spent more time getting around Las Vegas than we wanted to and this made us cranky, tired, and not thinking happy thoughts.

In Conclusion:

I used to like Las Vegas because it was so unique and happening, but now it seems like it’s trying too hard– desperate– out-of-touch with the times.  In a world with legalized gambling in 49 states — the ability to have any show delivered to my living room via Netflix — and online shopping, there’s little reason for me to go there anymore.  Sure, we had a good enough time.  But in the future when given the option to go to Las Vegas for a personal vacation, I’m going to pass.  Too much hassle, not enough fun.

[Image above of the Iconic Las Vegas Sign from here.]

[Hello FTC!  So we meet again. Just to be clear, this is only my opinion about my experiences.  I’ve received no money or other compensation for this review. Are we good, FTC?]


A Winter Vacation

The Spaceship Earth Ride At EPCOT in Walt Disn...
Image via Wikipedia

I’ve always heard that Walt Disney World in January and February is more fun than during the summer or at Christmastime.  We’ve been there at those times before;  so for a change of pace we decided to fly down to Orlando last week and spend the end of January park hopping our way through WDW.

And guess what?  The scuttlebutt was right.  It was a whole lot more fun.  Fewer lines.  Calmer restaurants.  Happier guests.  Clearer skies.  And better parking.

Probably the most unanticipated aspect of visiting WDW in January was that American English was the least spoken language around.  We heard French, Hebrew, Spanish, German, Russian (or maybe Lithuanian?  or Romanian?), and a bit of Aussie English.  It was intriguing to be surrounded by people from around the world, who just like us, were laughing, getting sunburnt and looking for the nearest restroom.

We didn’t stay at the WDW properties this time.  We’ve done that before and decided that this time we’d try something different.  Instead, we stayed at and enjoyed the Bonnet Creek Hilton Resort.  The hotel was comfortable, clean, beautiful, and the service was friendly.  The Hilton, while not as swanky as its attached neighbor, the Waldorf-Astoria, was perfect for us, two winter weary Midwesterners looking for some sun and relaxation.

As travel goes, this was the sort of vacation that I like the best.  Lots of walking.  A relaxed itinerary.  Good food and drink.  With a  super comfy bed at the end of the day.  I give it two thumbs up.

[Hello FTC! Just to be clear, I have received no money or other compensation for the above endorsements.  This is just my opinion about my experiences.  You can move on down the road now and bother someone else, FTC.  Bye, bye.]