Friday, September 30, 2016

Indiana: July 18, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben during the summer of 2003....

Day 42: Friday, July 18, 2003

The hotel provided a complimentary breakfast, so we filled up before we got back on the road.  Our morning consisted of another long drive, ending in Zionsville.  It was certainly strange to see familiar landmarks and street signs after so long on the road!

When we pulled up at my house, I was both shocked and dismayed at how much of a jungle it looked.  A storm a few weeks ago had knocked down tree branches, which were now lying in the yard, the grass desperately needed to be mowed, and weeds had taken over the driveway.  Inside the house wasn't too much better, with burned out lightbulbs, hard water stains in the shower, and general disorder everywhere.  I tried my hardest to ignore all of this while we unloaded all of the items we had decided we wouldn't need for the rest of the trip and dumped them in my room.  We fixed a frozen pizza for lunch, and while that cooked, I sorted through the huge mounds of mail I had accumulated in the past month and a half.  Once we were done eating, we got dressed in our "nice clothes," and then it was back off on our next errand, thoroughly discouraged at the idea of coming home permanently to this house less than a month from now.

We ran into ZCHS to get a look at my new classroom and print my class schedules from last year.  As we got there, we saw all of my carefully labeled boxes lining the hall, so as we went into my new classroom, it was completely empty.  I drew a quick sketch of where all the bulletin boards, cabinets, and windows were, and then we set off for the English office.  I opened my lesson plans on the computer there with no problem, but the printer was seriously malfunctioning and refused to print for me.  After trying to fix it to no avail and getting frustrated about the time, we managed to get into one of the labs and print.  With that task finally completed, we were free to continue our journey.

We arrived in the Elkhart region around 5:30 and went straight to the open house for Ben's dad's business's new location.  We met his parents there.  We got caught up with them and shared stories with Tom's co-workers while eating from a Mexican potluck.  It seemed that everyone in the office had already heard the story of our New Orleans fiasco, and everyone was very friendly.  We watched a few games, including Musical Chairs for all of the July birthdays, and took a tour of the new facilities, which proved to be much larger than they looked from the outside.

When we returned to Ben's parents' house, he and I rushed right in and were immediately attacked by two loving puppies.  I can't even describe how good it was to see our babies again!  They jumped all over us as soon as we let them out of the cage, cutting up our arms and necks with their nails, but I don't think either of us really minded.  We let them out in the yard for a bathroom break and were astounded at how strong they were.

Back inside, as they calmed down a bit, we got a good look at them.  Instead of their typical green and yellow collars, Helen had replaced these with pink and purple, complete with new pink and purple ID tags featuring her phone number.  She's trying to turn them into girls!!!  Dagny had also received a haircut, and I think she has lost a bit of weight, and she looks much more sleek and beautiful--although it is definitely now harder to tell the two of them apart!

We spent the evening cuddling and playing with our puppies on the living room floor and talking with Ben's parents.  Tom revealed that they had pretty much "forgotten to work on commands," explaining why they no longer even have the ability to sit on command.  Looks like we'll have our work cut out for us in the fall!  One of the best parts of the night was that Tom said it was okay for the puppies to sleep upstairs just this once, so as I crawled into Jill's bed for the night, Tela curled up by my side and Dagny lay on the floor, just like at home, and I drifted off to sleep perfectly happy.

20 / 40

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Florida and Tennessee: July 17, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben during the summer of 2003....

Day 41--Thursday, July 17, 2003

This should be a very easy day to tell about.  Our morning consisted of repacking the Jeep, which was a much harder task than it seemed, and then getting on the road.  We spent all day long driving toward Nashville, which was our stopping point en route to Elkhart and Michigan.  When we arrived and managed to find our hotel, the girl working the desk was busy standing in front of a hall mirror and applying her makeup.  She was none too polite to us, but we out into our room with minimal problems.  This was probably the nicest hotel we've been in yet.  The furniture was nice, and there was a sitting area and a dining area, as well as a large main room and bathroom.  I had intended to go straight to bed because I was so tired, but my book was so good that I couldn't put it down.  Ben started watching TV, and the noise distracted me, so I took The King's Buccaneer into the bathroom and sat there reading until I finished.  As soon as I was done, I crawled into bed, glad that our long day of travel was finally at an end.

19 / 40

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Floriday: July 16, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben during the summer of 2003....

Day 40--Wednesday, July 16

After I showered and got ready, I set up the computer on our picnic table to do some work for school while Ben showered.  He had been gone for less than ten minutes when he came running back, exclaiming, "You'll never guess who I just saw at the showers!"  It turned out to be Chris Mayer, who worked at Camp Tecumseh with us last summer [2002].  Even more than that, it turned out that Chris was driving the second van for the Camp Tecumseh Trippers, who were en route to the Florida Keys and were camped across the road from us.  There was only one tent between us and them, and it was block our view of them.  Crazy!

We immediately ran over there, to find only one camper awake, sitting at a picnic table and reading.  We didn't know it at the time, but he turned out to be Dave Wright's nephew.  I went back to the computer to work, and Ben went to get showered, and by the time he came back, the CT campsite was looking a little more lively.  We went back over and got to visit with Chris, Kim Collins, and a very sleepy Eric Pugh, who emerged from his tent a few minutes after we arrived.  We saw some kids we recognized from previous years at camp, including one of my former campers and a boy who attends Zionsville High School.  We visited with them for a little while, and then we took off for Disney and they resumed their trip to the Keys.

We started the Disney day by returning to Epcot to finish seeing the park.  We began by doing the most famous thing there: Spaceship Earth, the huge silver "golf ball" that dominates the center of the park.  The ride featured the history and future of communication, which was interesting but also kind of scary with some of the options they portrayed for the future.

Then, on to the World Showcase.  We had decided that this would be our day to eat in the park and that we would sample different foods from each of the different countries.  We began in Mexico, where we sailed El Rio del Tiempo and admired the little shops.  We decided not to buy food because, really, we can do that any old time for a whole lot cheaper at a variety of good Mexican restaurants locally.

Next up was Norway.  We rode the Maelstorm, which was interesting but not overly informative, but by far the most fun ride in the World Showcase, since it actually featured some drops.  We waited for what felt like a very long time for the five-minute video following the ride as we watched more and more people file out of the movie room.  We just waited and read our books.  When it finally came on, we had to agree that it really hadn't been worth waiting all that time for.  We also avoided food here because we were looking for lunch and pretty much all they had was danishes.

Next up was China.  We watched the 360 degree movie, Reflections of China, which was actually very interesting and made me want to go there.  We ate some eggrolls with a plethora of different sauces while sitting on a bench and admiring the buildings.

Germany didn't really have any tourist attractions, just little shops to wander.  The village was little and cute, but the food featured bratwurst, which we decided to forgo because that had been our primary staple (besides SlimFast and Gatorade) for the past few days.

The little Italian village was cute, but not nearly as cute as real Italy.  The food was horribly overpriced, and there were no real attractions besides little shops, so on we moved again.

We decided to skip the USA area, since we do live there and had devoted our entire summer to giving ourselves an overview of its attractions.  Plus we felt that we had already gotten enough of the patriotic stuff at the Hall of Presidents.

In Japan, we walked through an interesting exhibit called Diamond Warriors: Traditions and Japanese Baseball.  Basically,  it talked about how baseball is huge in Japan because the game reflects their social order.  Interesting.  Ben longingly eyed bonsai trees for a few minutes, and then we decided to try some Japanese food.  Trying to be cost-conscious, we decided to purchase a dish that had a fancy name but was really just chicken and sauce on a stick.  Ben stood in line to get the food while I sat out in the cafĂ© garden by a reflecting pool.  We were both pretty surprised when it came out with one pitiful little piece of chicken on one tiny skewer for us to split!

In Morocco, we wandered the marketplace and admired the quaint buildings, but we decided to forgo the guided tours of what basically amounted to art galleries.  We also decided not to buy exorbitantly priced couscous because we had a box of our own in the car.

Next up was France, where we admired our second Eiffel Tower of the summer (the first one being in Vegas).  We decided to skip real food because Ben wasn't really hungry, so we instead invested in a rewarmed crepe with something resembling watered down Hershey's syrup on it.  Yuck. Nothing like the real thing.

Next stop, the United Kingdom.  Ben spent a little bit of time examining teapots, trying to find a good Disney one for his grandmother, and I had fond memories of my trip through the small towns of southern England with Caroline Swanson.  We split an order of fish and chips for lunch, drowning the fish in tartar sauce and the chips in vinegar.  We ate while looking out over the World Showcase Lagoon, the huge lake that is the center of all of these countries and makes this portion of Epcot such a freaking long walk.

Our last country of the day was Canada, where we watched a 360 degree movie called O Canada!  It certainly looked beautiful, if cold.  Ben laughed at me when I told him that the ice and snow might deter me in our plans of moving to Canada to get away from the American mindset!  [Note: This was 13 years ago.  Sounds even better today, in light of the 2016 presidential election.]

Once we finished the countries, we were done with Epcot.  We caught a monorail to the Magic Kingdom, where we managed to buy a Disney teapot for Ben's grandma, to be hidden safely away  until Christmas.  We caught the very end of the afternoon character parade, and Ben balanced precariously on a railing to take some pictures.  We then decided to treat ourselves to huge ice cream cones from a shop in Main Street before locating a shop where I could buy a Peter Pan hat (which ended up looking pretty janky) [but I still own 13 years later] for my Halloween costume.

We then caught a busy to the Animal Kingdom, where we were determined to see at least a few attractions before they closed at 6:00.  Ben really liked the Tree of Life, the symbol of this park which stands in the middle of the grounds and features carvings of all different kinds of animals, including a buffalo.

As we headed into the main park, a blond guy stopped us, attracted by Ben's Butler shirt.  It turned out that he had attended Butler also, graduating the year between Ben and I, and that he had been in the same fraternity as and on the hockey team with Ben's freshman year roommate.  Since Ben recognized him, we decided to count him as our second "encounter with someone we know" of the summer.  None for over a month and then two in one day--unbelievable!

We managed to get in right before a showing of It's Tough to be a Bug!  It featured the characters from "A Bug's Life," which I haven't seen but Ben was very excited about.  The show was 3-D and very cute.  Probably the scariest parts were when we got poked in the back by a sharp little spike in imitation of a bee sting and at the very end, when the announcer asked all humans to stay in their seats while the cockroaches, mosquitoes, etc., exited first.  This meant nothing to us until these scary little bumps crawled across our seats under our butts, causing everyone to squeal in fear!

The only other attraction we had time for was the famous Kilimanjaro Safaris.  We climbed into these huge all-terrain safari vehicles and drove through "Africa."  The neat part was all the animals.  It was like a zoo in the quantity of animals, but they were pretty much all just roaming free.  I'm sure they must have had some system to keep, say, the cheetahs away from the small animals of prey, but I sure couldn't see what it was.  There was a story that went along with it about trying to stop poachers from hurting the elephants, but I was really more interested in seeing the animals and listening to our tour guide talk about them as he maneuvered along muddy paths and through water puddles.  No tracks on this ride!

The park was starting to close down by the time we got off the ride, so we began the long process of the bus back to the Magic Kingdom, the monorail back to Epcot, the long walk back to our car, and the drive back to our campsite.  Once there, our main activity for the night was slowly packing all of our spread-out belongings back into the Jeep before settling down for a nice deep sleep.

18 / 40

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Floriday: July 15, 2003

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben during the summer of 2003....

Day 39--Tuesday, July 15, 2003

For some reason, I didn't sleep well, and I woke up tired.  That's always a really discouraging feeling for me.  But we showered, got ready, and took off for Epcot, ready to have another good day with Mickey and friends.

Unfortunately, Epcot doesn't run transportation from the whole parking lot like the other theme parks do, so we had to walk to the park from the car.  Our first stop inside the park (after deciding we didn't want to spend $25 to Leave a Legacy) was the Wonders of Life.  We began by doing Body Wars, which was basically the same thing as Star Tours except featuring a trip through the body.  I didn't feel so great after that!

We then played with some of the displays, including some headphones that played different familiar sounds and asked the listener to pick out the sounds that didn't belong, such as popcorn popping during a rainstorm.  We then saw Cranium Command, a really cute show about little Buzzy piloting the brain of a 12-year-old boy and having to make all the different parts of the brain and body work together.  We then decided to skip watching The Making of Me!

We then did the Universe of Energy, where we went on a really neat ride/tour featuring Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy.  The premise was that Ellen had a nightmare that she was on Jeopardy, so Bill took her on a journey to teach her everything he knew about energy.  The ride started by taking us through a world of dinosaurs, and Ellen walked across huge video screens in each room to narrate.  I really liked it and thought the whole thing was very interesting--also interesting that they kept the show featuring Ellen in spite of the storm of criticism she's received in the past few years after announcing that she's gay.  I was impressed with Disney for not nixing her because of conservative complaints.

Then, onward to the Test Track, provided by General Motors.  We got to ride in a "test car" and experience all of the ways in which cars are tested by car companies before they're let out on the roads.  Let me tell you, all roller coasters should be like this one!  Nice and smooth, no sudden jerks, nothing but sheer speed.  Fantastic!

We then went on to Imagination!  I remember this one being my favorite as a kid.  We got to do Honey, I Shrunk the Audience again--every bit as good here as at Disneyland.  Then we did Journey Into Imagination with Figment, which was still cute but not as amazing as I remember it being from when I was young.  Figment was actually a little annoying, and I didn't feel like I really learned anything.  Cute, though.

We did a walk-through of ImageWorks--the Kodak "What If" Labs and played a little with directing symphonies just by waving our arms, but we skilled most of it because it was so crowded with little kids.  Then, on to The Land!

First, we saw The Circle of Life, which bills itself as examining "man's relationship with the land" while featuring Simba, Pumbaa, and Timon from Disney's "The Lion King."  I was beyond depressed when I came out of that thing, because it was all about how humans have messed up the earth's environment.  Probably more upsetting to adults than kids.

We then saw "Food Rocks," which was a cheesy show (no pun intended) in which various pieces of food sing made-over rock songs about good nutrition.  We then got on the Living with the Land ride, which was really cool.  It took us on a tour through Disney's greenhouses, which I was surprised to learn even existed.  They cultivate all kinds of plants I've never seen in all kinds of creative ways, and it made me excited to get into a house of our own so we can start an extensive garden.  It also made me like Disney for giving back to the environment, although I must say that after those displays, the amount of plastic cups and silverware thrown away in each trash can kind of appalled me.

Our next stop was The Living Seas, which showed a semi-interesting video and then took us down into a huge aquarium.  I have to admit that I was so tired I could barely appreciate it.  After a few minutes of halfhearted looking, I convinced Ben to take me back to the campsite for a nap.

Once we managed to get back out to the car and then back to the campsite, the nap was a long time in coming.  I had counted on there being an afternoon rainstorm to cool things off like the previous two days, but it never came.  Instead, it was just hot and humid, sticky and uncomfortable in the tent.  I got incredibly frustrated and upset, and eventually I went with Ben's recommendation to cool off in the shower.  I then curled up on my mat in the Jeep in the air conditioning and managed to sleep for a while.  I still felt totally drained when I woke up.  We got dinner at Steak 'n' Shake, did a little halfhearted souvenir shopping, and returned to the campsite for a blessed long night of sleep.

18 / 40

Monday, September 26, 2016

Florida: July 14, 2004

A continuation of the cross-country adventure I shared with Ben during the summer of 2003....

Day 38--Monday, July 14, 2003

I was pleasantly surprised at the state of the KOA bathrooms.  They were clean and had individual shower rooms with plenty of room for all my stuff.  Best of all, they were free--as much hot water and as long of a shower as I wanted.  Of course, given the mid-July Florida heat and humidity, the hot water wasn't as valuable as usual!

Our destination of the day was Disney-MGM Studios, which Ben claimed he had never been to before--an impression which gradually changed as the day went on!  The dominant image as we walked through the gate was the huge Sorcerer Mickey hat in the center of the park.  We took pictures, studied our map, and set off for the back of the park, since we seemed to have luck with that yesterday.  We were immediately stopped by a cast member who was handing out FastPasses for Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-Play It! This was perfect for us, since we had already decided that would be one of our first destinations.

We had enough time for one other attraction before Millionaire, so we decided to do The Great Movie Ride tour.  We got right on and were seated in the back row of a tour car, which took us through scenes from of famous movies over the years, complete with backdrops, music, and live actors.  It was a little hard to hear everything from the back of the car, but it was cute, and I really enjoyed some of the sets.

After that, we had just enough time to get to Millionaire and file in with everyone else who had been waiting in line.  I ended up in seat 110 and Ben was in seat 109.  The theater was identical to the one in which the real "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" is filmed, and apparently some episodes have actually been taped at this one.  The biggest difference is that the whole audience gets to play in this version.  We started out with a "fast finger" question which involved putting four Vice Presidents in chronological order.  The person who got the question right fastest got to go into the "hot seat."  Of the 400 participants, this person ended up being a 14-year-old boy who seemed pretty embarrassed to have achieved this feat.

He did fairly well at answering the questions, some of which were pretty hard.  He used up all three of his lifelines quickly, though.  Two of the lifelines were the same as the show (50/50 and Ask t he Audience), but the third was different.  Instead of Phoning a Friend, he had to Phone a Complete Stranger.  Apparently the studio phone rings out to one on the main street of MGM, where a cast member answers the phone and grabs a random person off the street to help answer the question.  This proved to be pretty amusing!

When the kid went out, a large screen came up, displaying who in the crowd had been getting the most answers right in the shortest amount of time.  Neither Ben or I was on it.  Ben attributes this to the fact that we didn't really figure out the answering system until pretty late in the game.  WE had been waiting until all four choices were read to vote, but we then learned that voting started as soon as the fourth choice appeared on the screen.  Once we figured that out, we started doing much better.

Anyway, the top audience member was the next in the hot seat.  He was a dad in the front row.  His wife beamed with excitement, and his two sons were hilarious to watch.  The little one, probably about seven years old, kept bouncing up and down in his seat and waving at the camera, while the other son, in his early teens, kept sinking lower and lower in his seat with embarrassment that his dad was up in front of all those people.  He eventually basically disappeared under the railing.  Ben and I were almost more amused with the kids' performance than we were with the dad's great enthusiasm for all things Millionaire and Disney!

This guy actually did a really good job, and it was obvious that he was quite familiar with how to play the game.  He really hammed it up for the cameras, giving the host a much easier job than the teenage boy had.  As the game went on, the host paused to show the scoreboard.  Ben and I were surprised to discover that we were both in the top 10 in the audience!

That was when I really got my edge because several English questions came up in a row.  One asked the real name of Dr. Seuss, and another asked who had written "To the Virgins to Make Much of Time."  I can't imagine that many people got those both right.  By the time the guy went out, I had moved up to the number one audience spot!

I was pretty much rooted to my chair with fear as Ben tried to yank me up and send me down to the hot seat.  All I could think about was how dirty and silly I must look with my wet hair, makeup-free face, and huge boy shorts, bulging at the pockets with postcards, the digital camera, and my latest Raymond Feist novel.  But for better or worse, that was when the clock went off to signal the end of the game, so I didn't have to go to the hot seat, although I did still get plenty of interested looks from the people around me.

As soon as we left the game, I had to call Dad to tell him that all of our hours of playing trivia board games, including Who Wants to be a Millionaire, had sort of paid off.  He got a kick out of that.  Then, on to the rest of MGM!

We got our picture taken with Sorcerer Mickey, who was posing for pictures, and then we set off for Walt Disney: One Man's Dream, an interesting film which told about his life and the origins of the Disney company.  Our next stop was the Disney-MGM Studios Backlot Tour.  This started with some volunteers showing us how action movies are made by having tons of water dumped on them.  Then we all loaded into a long train and drove past all the old props of various movies that have been dumped in various storage areas.  We also admired the huge mouse ears water tower.  The best part of the tour was Catastrophe Canyon, where we were faced with both raging hot flames and tons of water dumped in an avalanche of wetness in order to demonstrate special effects.

We then proceeded onward for a brief playtime in the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Movie Set Adventure.  Each of us remembered doing that with our families when we were younger.  It was still neat to see the huge blades of grass and ride on the giant ant, but I must admit that it was cooler when I was younger and the movie was fresher in my mind.

We then decided to take another ride on Star Tours.  Ben liked it, but since I hadn't even enjoyed it at Disneyland, I was less than enthusiastic about being jerked back and forth from side to side.

Our next stop was interesting--a show called Sounds Dangerous - Starring Drew Carey.  Basically, the idea was that it was supposed to be a test show for a new television show about an undercover cop that applied to all of the senses and took you "inside" his experience.  What this meant was that early in the show, his "video camera shorted out," leaving the audience hearing the story and al the noises that went along with it, but sitting in complete darkness.  We heard him getting a haircut, traffic zooming by, bees buzzing, a circus taking place, and eventually, our detective apprehending the criminal.  The storyline left a bit to be desired, but the idea of telling a story with only sound instead of with sight was certainly interesting.

We then went to see Jim Henson's Muppet Vision 3-D, which was great, especially because each of us has a deep childhood love of the Muppets.  The story was essentially that they were trying to put on a show, and they ran into all the usual Muppet difficulties.  Fozzie the Bear's slapstick humor showered the audience with jets of water and made us jump at worms exploding from cans.  One of my favorite parts of the show was when the huge brown shaggy monster came running out, and we realized that he was a real person a a costume, not on the screen, really enhancing the 3-D effect.  The two old heckler guys were in a balcony on our right, one of the characters escaped to the balcony on our left, and the Swedish Cook uttered nonsense from a gallery in the back wall of the theater, so we were really surrounded by characters and effects.  That was one of my favorite attractions of the day.

We then waited for the Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular, which was every bit as cool as I remembered.  I especially loved when they took volunteers, because I had utterly forgotten about the one guy who they plant in the audience and then beat up on stage before revealing that he's really one of their own cast members.  I was still impressed by all the feats of action and daring.  I just wish they had the Indiana Jones ride here too like they did at Disneyland!

This started our streak of shows, so we next attended Beauty and the Beast - Live on Stage.  The costumes were fantastic, and the girl they cast as Belle was really good, even though I was pretty depressed to realize that everyone else was just lipsynching.  The choreography was great though, and I really do love the songs from that movie, so I greatly enjoyed it, although I'm sure Ben didn't have the same appreciation that I did.  But I mean, really, how could Belle not fall in love with someone that gave her her very own library???

Our last show of the day was the Voyage of the Little Mermaid.  I didn't think this girl was nearly as good, but the part they did at the very beginning with the fish was great.  All of the fish were incandescent and glowing in the dark, the theater was dark, and all of the handlers of the puppets were clothed entirely in black, so it looked like these fish were just leaping around on their own in time to the music.  We were seated in the second row, and I'm convinced that if we had been any further back, we wouldn't have even realized there were people up there controlling them.

This left us with only two major attractions left.  Unfortunately, it had started raining again, so we got a little wet standing in line.  We got a FastPass for the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and stood in line and waited to go on the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith first.  This ride was loud and fast, jerking around turns and over in an unbelievably short amount of time.  Roller coasters are not really my thing, but my stomach was still intact at the end of it, so I figured it was okay.

While waiting in line for the Tower of Terror, we met two brothers of some kind of Asian descent, one probably in his early teens and the other probably around nine.  The older brother was very friendly and told us all about how the two of them had spent the entire day alternating between these two famous roller coasters.  He asked if he and his brother could sit with us on the ride so we could have a row to ourselves, and we said sure.

The Tower of Terror was really not for me.  The appeal of it is that it's never the same twice, so you never know when you can stop being scared.  They strap you into a huge elevator car, take you up to the top of a 13-story building, and drop you.  And then it takes you back up and drops you again.  But no matter how many times you do it, you don't know how many times it's going to drop you and from what height.  I was quite glad to get out of there!

We then sat in the car for a while, ate some bratwurst, and debated where we should go back to our campsite or stay for the Fantasmic lights show that night.  We decided to go and do our laundry instead.  We sat at the Laundromat and read our books while all our clothes got clean, and then we returned to our campsite to get ready for bed.  Kristin called and said that she and her best friend Matt want to come over to Indy and visit for two days in August as soon as I get back, so now I have that to look forward to.

18 / 40