Join Me on Vacation

It’s that time of year. No, not the one where we stress ourselves by chasing our tail to parties and shopping for gifts. Vacation time!

This year, my husband and I are heading to the South to visit family…and experience the joys of the holiday season in Branson, Missouri. Maybe while I’m gone, some angels will drop by my house and wrap all the gifts and spruce up the decorations.

I know I’ve been pretty quiet the past month, and it’s probably that December will be another “one post per week” time her at Sharon Lee Hughson, Author’s blog. I’ll try to jump online while I’m away (for ten days) and give you a sample of my trip to “Nashville of the Ozarks.” But I’m not making any promises.

To whet your appetite for the trip, here’s a brief itinerary:

  • Today: Fly to OKC
  • Tomorrow: Spend the day with my Aunt Betty
  • Sunday: Travel to Branson and see THIS
  • Monday: Vacate…yes, that’s the verb for what you do on vacation. I know you think it means something else, but right here and right now, it means I’m vacationing.
  • Tuesday: Watch the Miracle of Christmas
  • Wednesday & Thursday: Cruise the town, see some sights, sample some goodies, more vacating
  • Friday: Check out the Dixie Stampede
  • Saturday: Squeeze in any last minute “must see” action
  • Sunday: Return to OKC and fly home

No, that’s not all we’re going to do. But if you’ve read any of my other posts on vacation (like this one or this one), then you know I’m NOT a fan of booking every day with activities.

In short, that’s a key to stress for me…and I vacate to relax. (Notice what I did there? Using my new definition in a sentence. Oh, yeah. Oxford will be adding that definition to their dictionary soon.)

Christmas is first about Christ and second about the twinkling lights. While we’re in Branson, we also plan to check out the glory of the lights. Lights in the square and in one (two or even all three) of the drive through light shows they have in Nashville of the Ozarks.

Have you been to Branson? What would you suggest is a “must see”?

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In Honor of My Trip to the Beach

My sister lives at the beach. It gives me the perfect excuse to make the two-hour drive.

Breathing salty air, walking sandy shores and listening to soothing surf is only a side benefit. Really. My sister is my number one fan, so I’m taking the trip to see her.

I’m a nice person, though. So I figured I’d share some of the sights with you, too.

 

Mist isn’t always for the morning at the Oregon Coast

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you hear the shush? Smell the salinity?
Sand between your toes, wind at your back and sun on your face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon setting in Lincoln City

It was only two days and two nights. My sister had to work, but we did get a few hours together.

My husband and I spend quality time together too. He didn’t even mind that my lover (Mr. Pacific Ocean) was present for most of it.

Do you like the beach? What is your favorite beach? Why that beach?

Vacation Days are NOT supposed to become Sick Leave

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take a week off from your job and only have positive memories? That’s what a vacation is supposed to be, right? Even if your company says all Paid Time Off is the same, you never equate vacation days to sick leave.

Unless you’re my husband.

I love the man, truly I do. You’ve heard me extol his virtues. He’s nicknamed Mr. Wonderful because he is indeed amazing.

However, he gets sick at the most inopportune moments.

Like his twenty-first birthday – before he had anything alcoholic to drink.

Or maybe when you’re in the car driving for five hours.

Even when you’re experiencing Sea World for the first time, the man is likely to get a turbulent tummy or woozy skull.

How about spending two days of a seven-day vacation flat on his back with flu-like symptoms? Sounds fun, right? Add to that the cherry of another day of inability to leave the room, and you have our Indio vacation.

It’s Vacation

Our friends suggested that perhaps hubby’s body was finally at rest enough to rebel for the constant travel of the past few months.

Maybe they exposed him to the flu-like virus that had plagued their local schools.

Airplanes are a hotbed of germiness, what with only recirculated air to breathe for hours on end.

We’ll never know why my spouse took sick on the vacation when his body could have used actual sick days if it had waited five more days.

It’s probably the fault of his employer. After all, they consider anything Paid Time Off-be it vacation or sick leave.

Sick Leave away from Home

Our Worldmark ownership provides us a home away from home. We’re not renting those condominiums we stay it, we own them. Sort of.

So, being sick at Worldmark Indio should have been tantamount to suffering illness at home. Right?

Wrong.

We didn’t have any medicine with us. The mini-market at the resort provided single doses of cold and flu meds for $2. And even though it was obvious he was burning with fever, I had no thermometer with which to measure the severity.

Even the water tasted wrong. Everyone knows you need to drink gallons of it when you’re sick. Flush out the virus and all that.

As much as we loved this resort, it wasn’t the place to experience severe illness.

Nurse or Playmate?

I was on vacation, too. Who did that leave to take care of the sick man?

“Go to the park,” my feverish husband whispered. The crud stole his voice along with his vitality. “I’m going to sleep all day. I’ll be fine.”

So I went.

One among many: a Joshua Tree in the park
One among many: a Joshua Tree in the park

Off to Joshua Tree National Park in the back seat of my friends’ rental car.

I was the worst nurse in history.

Of course, I’m not much better when I stay around to offer up medicine, liquids and bites of food.

The second day, he didn’t even pretend to feel like taking a shower. This was my spa day. But his eighteen holes of golf weren’t going to happen.

I’m an evil person. I didn’t think about him tossing and turning, drenched in the soft sheets on our king-sized bed once while enjoying my pampering.

I did offer to make him lunch and brought him medicine. I’d rushed out to the pharmacy to stock up on cough and cold medicine before I went to the spa. I happily doled out the doses now, doubling up on the amount of cough medicine because his wracking cough hurt me.

Then I went to the pool with my book.

Can't you feel the relaxation already?
Can’t you feel the relaxation already?

Now you know what sort of person I really am. The kind of person who attempts to stay on vacation when a twist of fate turns it into sick leave.

What would you have done? Stayed locked inside the condo when you chose the location so you could soak in the Vitamin D?

Consider this my official protest against PTO days that trick a vacation into becoming sick leave.

My Sunny Vacation Days

Let’s face it. I didn’t have a vacation in 2015, and after everything that befell me (mostly good), I deserve to have two in 2016. Come along with me on my second sunny vacation in three months.

I wrote a tad about how this vacation came about earlier.

In fact, my class reunion in July 2015 became the springboard for a jaunt to a resort we’ve been eyeing for ten years.

The Resort

Indio, California is about twenty miles south of the famed Palm Springs, vacation home to numerous celebrities.

The town proper includes everything you might want for a vacation. We bought groceries at a WinCo located a couple miles from our home base. There was also a pharmacy and numerous restaurants in that shopping center.

A few miles in the other direction, we found the rest of our supplies at a WalMart Supercenter.

Worldmark Indio is a gigantic place. Fifteen buildings, three or four stories tall, house various condominiums. There are two large pools situated at either end of the lovely green space on the back side of these stucco monsters.

Thirty-six greens and fairways circle most of the resort. Palms whisper overhead. Birds offer up early-morning catcalls. Duck families enjoy the central pond network.

Since it was Easter, bunnies even hopped around the place. (Actually, I’m sure they live there full-time.)

Two basketball courts and a double tennis court offer outdoor recreational opportunities. A large recreation center houses billiards, Ping Pong, air hockey and a dozen video games-even classics like Centipede and Space Invaders.

The pool nearest our room (which included two hot tubs, wading pool and swimming pool, also featured a lazy river. This is a winding path of water with its own current. You plop onto the provided tubes and let the river do the rest.

Joshua Tree National Park

Obviously, there was plenty to do at the resort. Especially if you’re like me and think the best vacation involves a lounge chair and a good book.

However, a number of national parks are nearby, and one of them features forests of Joshua Trees.

Don’t know what a Joshua Tree is? Let me help you out.

And it’s Spring, so the desert flowers are blooming. On our outlined plan of action for the week, a trip to Joshua Tree National Park was a must for three out of four of us.

This is what the itinerary looked like:
Monday: Hang out at Resort
Tuesday: Joshua Tree
Wednesday: Spa and 18 holes of golf
Thursday: Palm Springs
Friday: Pool Day

I planned to hike a few trails in the park, so I dressed in tennis shoes. My friends warned that it would be ten to fifteen degrees cooler in the park, so I should dress warmly or bring warm clothes.

We left at 9AM and returned around 7PM. Here are the photographic highlights of the day:

Laurel and me by the South entrance sign
Laurel and me by the South entrance sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

Us girls on the climb up Ryan Mountain
Us girls on the climb up Ryan Mountain
Proof I climbed the 1.5 miles and 1,000 feet
Proof I climbed the 1.5 miles and 1,000 feet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Living Desert I didn’t see

Come back on Thursday to hear the whole story, but the Thursday itinerary got an overhaul. Namely, only my friends went off to Palm Springs.

I’d been to The Living Desert-the local zoo-during our first trip to the area on our second honeymoon. I loved it and looked forward to a repeat.

After all, they had a baby giraffe now.

But I saw a real live desert on Tuesday and that was going to have to tide me over until my next trip this far south.

If you love dry sunny days, you should plan a trip to Indio (or Palm Springs or Palm Desert). I highly recommend using the traditional Spring Break timing for this trip. (In fact, a teacher I work with has been going there for a decade during Spring Break.)

The desert was in bloom, giving color to the brown canvas. Breezes cooled the high temperatures of 90 degrees to feel like a balmy, Hawaiian 75.

In fact, my husband enjoyed the location so much, he’s trying to convince our kids to take a family vacation there with us next year.

A sunny vacation is my ideal. What about you? What’s your ideal vacation getaway?

Playing Tour Guide to a couple of Okies

Nothing like two tourists pretending to be tour guides. Seriously, doesn’t the Bible say something about the blind leading the blind and both of them falling in the ditch?

The good news is that no one ended up in the ditch on the recent jaunt north to Seattle. In fact, thanks to modern technology, we didn’t even get lost. Not in the dark. Not when streets were closed in the direction we were heading.

Why Seattle

My cousin was visiting for the dreaded family reunion I wrote about last week. His new wife hadn’t been to the West Coast in many years. She wanted to see three things: Mt. Hood, the Pacific Ocean and Seattle.

Like the good hostess I am, I delivered her wishes. (What does that look mean, Darrin?)

I’ve been to Seattle exactly three times in my life (after this trip). Both times it was an overnight venture to attend a company Christmas party. I worked in the Portland office of a brokerage and the main office was in Seattle.

I ate breakfast in the restaurant at the top of the Space Needle (only because the salesman I worked with was buying – otherwise OUCH). We had a fancy dinner at Canlis.

Seattle has an interesting culture. The marketplace along the waterfront (it abuts the Puget Sound) has been included in popular novels and movies.

I walked its streets after dark and didn’t feel threatened. Of course, I was in the ten blocks between the Space Needle and the Hilton hotel. And I had two men with me.

Where in Seattle

We arrived on Sunday night. After we checked into the hotel, the handy GPS mapping app told us we could walk to the Space Needle in 23 minutes.

So we did. It may have taken more than 23 minutes. We had to stop along the way for selfies. There were a few closed sidewalks, causing us to weave across the street like headless chickens.

And there was a crush of people going up the Space Needle.

Fortunately, we’d purchased our tickets online so we didn’t have to wait in the Disney-esque line of tourists.

Have you noticed that everywhere you go they take pictures of you? “Care to have a free photograph taken?” was the line used during the Space Needle trip.

No charge to take it, sure. If we wanted to leave with a copy in our hands? A different price tag applied.

It takes 41 seconds to get to the viewing deck of the needle in the elevator. The elevator man told us this.

The views as the sun sank on the horizon improved as the city lit beneath us. It was worth the walk, wait and money.

Afterward we headed to a nearby pizza place and ate a wonderful Greek salad and delicious pizza. It was handcrafted and the sauce was the perfect amount of sweet and spicy.

Hubby and Me with the peninsula in the background
Hubby and Me with the peninsula in the background

On Monday morning, our handy mapping app informed us it was an eleven minute walk to Pikes Place Market. So off we went.

First, we headed onto the waterfront for a ride on the Seattle Wheel (think London Eye). Nice views and some good photo ops here.

We wandered through some shops, burning time. My cousin’s wife had heard Ivar’s had the best seafood in Seattle, and it was located near the wheel.

Truthfully, I’ve had better fish and chips on the Oregon coast. Since our server got sidetracked, we got free dessert. Chocolate cake and cheesecake – both get As.

It was an uphill trek to the alley where we witnessed a disgusting landmark – the Gum Wall. My artistic side appreciated the finesse with which some people had left their mark there. The rest of me? Shivered in revulsion at the thought of all that chewed gum in one location.

We spent time at the fish market. It’s here that whole fish are tossed around when they’re purchased. It’s pretty entertaining. Those guys have to be showmen – as well as strong enough to heft a sizable sturgeon.

More shop browsing. A casual walk back to our hotel, where we’d left our car safely ensconced in the $42 overnight parking garage (gotta love those downtown parking rates).

Have you been to Seattle? What sites would you recommend for our next round of tourist-as-tour-guide?

Five things you learn to hate about international trave

Travel Meme

Everyone wants to be Marco Polo and discover the wider world around them. It’s a big place, this international playground. Travelling the world it real living.

Or not.

Like everything else in this life – travelling internationally is not all it’s touted to be.

Wi-Fi

We live in a digital world, don’t we? It’s a smaller place in light of the World Wide Web and the connectibility of computers, smart phones and tablets.

And then there’s Mexico.

“Si. We have Wi-Fi.”

For a price. But, hey, we can use four devices for $30 for three days. No limitations on time. We’ll get our money’s worth with the six of us swapping around to keep our Facebook friends in the loop.

Or not.

“That user ID is taken. Choose another.”

So I can pay the $30 again? What happened to this whole four devices promise? Apparently, something was lost in translation.

Or they just want to collect another fee.

Disclaimer: My iPad happily connected to WiFi in Amsterdam and Munich.

Doritos are not Doritos

I don’t even like Doritos. But my kids do. And something I like even less than flavored chips of any kind? Listening to my sons complain about the “spicy nacho-cheese Doritos.”

We bought them at Costco. They said “queso” flavored. Upon closer examination – outside the store and after the bag is torn asunder – there is a picture of a jalapeno beside the hunk of cheese.

And it’s not just the Doritos. The milk tastes funny. The margarine stinks. There’s no Mountain Dew to be had this far south (in restaurants). Life will never be the same now that all these foods have been defiled.

Un-Discover-able

VISA is where you want to be. Master Card makes its way. American Express defies the American borders. Discover? No, no Discover.

I thought Cortes discovered Mexico in the sixteenth century. In Cabo, I’ve found an Un-Discovered country.

And of course, that’s the only credit card I brought. That and my Visa-branded debit cards. Which work, but there’s only so much money in my checking account. And since I can’t access the Internet, there will be no online transfers to cover my fun and food while I’m vacationing in this no-man’s land.

Disclaimer: I had no troubles using Discover in Germany.

Make it All Inclusive

First, it’s the total coverage insurance for the rental car. We reserved with this particular company because their prices were so much less.

Because they conveniently didn’t mention that full coverage car insurance would be required to drive their vehicle off the lot. To the tune of half again the price to rent the ugly white minivan for a week.

At the resort, they offer a lovely bracelet. $90 per person per day and all meals and drinks are included in your stay. Yes, it’s all-inclusive. You can even visit restaurants at our sister resorts.

I’m pretty sure we can eat for less than $540 per day, don’t you? Do people really buy this thing? We saw the bracelets adorning people’s arms, so yes, they do.

On a smaller scale, let’s talk about a buffet. It sounds like a good deal. $29 per person for an all-you-can-eat buffet – prime rib, pasta, salads, fruits and desserts.

We arrive at the appointed time. The hostess says, “It’s an open bar. Do you wish to purchase all-you-can-drink for $14 per person?”

“No thank you.”

Another hostess leads our group to a table. Again, the all-you-can drink option is highly recommended. We don’t drink alcohol, so we pass. After all, how expensive can a few sodas and bottles of water be?

The server appears. “Amigos, I suggest you purchase the all-you-can-drink option. It will save you money. Only $14.”

No thank you.

And the sales pitch continues. Really? We’re being pressured to buy the all-you-can-drink add-on to our buffet?

We thought “no” meant the same thing in every language. My Spanish is rusty, but I’m positive that “no” means no as surely as “si” means yes. Why is this drink thing such an issue? (More on this in another post.)

Disclaimer: We never felt any all-you-can-drink pressure in Europe.

Traffic Laws (or Lack thereof)

In my world, a solid line should be treated as a wall. It’s a barrier. Don’t cross it unless you want to smash your fender (or worse).

A solid line to the right of the traveling lanes is supposed to be a shoulder. The only reason you drive onto that portion of the road is because your car is broke. Or there are flashing red and blue lights behind you. Or you need to stop and take that call.

In Mexico, I have no idea what a solid line to the right means. A solid line in the center of the highway appears to mean “don’t pass” (thus, my wall imagery still works).

What I consider the side of the road appeared to be a merge lane. Vehicles traveled in it as if it was just another part intended for vehicular travel.

No need to pull over there if your car broke. Just put on your hazards. Maybe stick a friend behind your heap of immobility to wave his hat so passing traffic would swerve around the hunk in the far left lane or even the right lane. The “merging” lane? No, that was no place to put an immovable object. It might get rammed by people trying to get up to speed from the strangely un-exit-like exits (and entrances).

Lack of signage is another issue which makes international driving problematic. The fact it’s in a foreign language would offer an opportunity to decipher the proper direction.

In fact, rules of any sort appear to be something akin to the Pirate Code. If they exist, they’re there as more of a guideline than anything multiple parties operating motor vehicles will adhere to all at once.

World traveling? Great, but it has a down side. This short list of five detestable things is obviously not exhaustive.

What is your experience? What other negatives have you experienced while traveling internationally?

A Summer Adventure in Pictures

Yellowstone vistas from our family’s 2009 trip to the national park.

Tanner's  graduation trip: Tanner and his friends
Tanner’s graduation trip: Tanner and his friends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yes, that is Old Faithful behind us; only 30 minutes behind schedule!
Yes, that is Old Faithful behind us; only 30 minutes behind schedule!

 

So many hot springs...so little time.
So many hot springs…so little time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lake Yellowstone with the Glaciers as a backdrop
Lake Yellowstone with the Glaciers as a backdrop
Yes, that is a Montana thunderstorm at our backs. Whoa, horsey!
Yes, that is a Montana thunderstorm at our backs. Whoa, horsey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have these photos captured a sense of amazement for you? They made me want to experience the wonder again.

What is your favorite summer adventure? Or if you could go anywhere, what would your next adventure be?

When Chicks Fly from the Nest – Literally

Our world is shrinking. We’re part of a “global community.” But does that really mean we have to let our children fly thousands of miles away from us?

Today, my youngest son boards a plane with two stops before arriving in the Middle East for a three-week educational tour. I’m excited for him – thrilled that he’s enjoying opportunities I’ve never had in my own life.

This is the appropriate response from a mature and caring mother, right?

Before you stand in awe of my perceived awesomeness, let me tell you this isn’t my first experience with sending my son on an international trip.

Rewind eight years. The boy is not even 13 yet, but one of his friends went to Europe as a People-to-People ambassador and when he was nominated, he could focus on nothing else. He’d endured a few tough years with medical problems, and it warmed our hearts to see him lively again.

But 16 days in Japan? Really? This is what a mother must allow her baby boy to do in order to recharge his enthusiasm for life?

I’ve never been one of those mothers who hovers over her children. I had two boys. When they fell down and cried, I picked them up, checked out the injury and kissed it better. Never made a big deal.

The day my four-year-old baby boy plunged from our second floor window was a different story. Not a day I ever hope to relive. Recalling it makes me sympathize with parents who have seriously ill or injured young children. He fell. I could do nothing.

Back to Japan. My husband and I planned a trip during five days of my son’s international adventure. I figured distraction might help me cope with any separation anxiety.

We send him off with a wing and a prayer. News flash. Earthquake rocks Japan.

God has such an incredible sense of humor, doesn’t he? My son didn’t feel said earthquake but he did have to remain on his plane away from the terminal buildings for an hour or more. Safety first and all that.

After an earthquake, I figured nothing else could shake me.

Juniors at the college he attends are invited to travel internationally as soon as school ends for the year. It’s a huge deal. Sophomores set up tents in the quad to be first in line at the booths hosting the trip they want to take.

My son’s first choice: Israel and Jordan.

Excellent choice. I’m slightly jealous because I’ve always wanted to go to Israel. In fact, I could use the firsthand experience of the Holy Lands for the book I’m writing set in first century Palestine. What a great opportunity for him.

Mom, Israel and Jordan. You know, where SCUD missiles are fired with regularity and terrorist bombings are too commonplace to make the news.

Right. No worries. Remember the earthquake?

The truth I learned that summer day when this same son flew from the window and broke his leg remains unchanged:

I can’t protect my children. I believe in a God who can, so I entrust my precious sons into the omnipotent and omnipresent care of the Almighty.

In fact, I hope my youngest nestling brings back some pictures that will help me visualize the setting of the book I’m writing. He will come home – in one piece – with stories to last a lifetime.

What experiences have made you anxious? Any advice for alleviating that worry?

Airport Again

Image courtesy of Port of Portland

Summer means vacation. This might mean a trip to the airport. Or two. Not twenty.

This summer, I’ve been to the airport almost on a weekly basis. Actually, I believe I went twice one week.

Wow! I must have been traveling all over the place. Sounds fun. Exciting or even adventurous.

Wrong. I was little more than a taxi on most of these occasions.

Other than my flight out in June and my flight in from Germany in July, I traveled nowhere (except to the airport). Of course, in two weeks I’ll head for Hawaii. *maniacal grin*

As a summer job, my youngest son landed an interesting position working events for Intel. His employers mandated a drive to Dupont, WA. After that, he had more exciting venues: San Diego, Anaheim, Chicago, Dallas and finally Seattle.

He needed transportation to the airport for most of these.

One week, both boys flew out on the same day. Of course, one flight was in the morning and the other in the evening. For some reason, the one on the evening flight had no interest in spending the day at the airport.

Enjoying free WIFI
Enjoying free WIFI

Why not? They have free WIFI. That’s the most important element in this age of being connected via the Internet all the time, right?

Wrong. So, my youngest got a ride with his grandfather in the morning and my oldest drove through rush hour traffic to his evening flight. I had to drive my car back home, of course.

Summer means road construction. Road construction means delays and detours. Driving in the city exposes everyone to annoying drivers who think they should have special privileges.

My least favorite thing these entitled road hogs do: speed by in the empty right hand lane that ends (that’s why it’s empty) and then barging in ahead of those of us who’ve been waiting patiently. I’m pretty sure these are the same kids that cut in the lunch line at school.

Why is this irritating? They cause the problem.  Traffic backs up because of these people who make “cutting in line” their practice. Really. The line would move faster for everyone if they would just take their place at the back.

You can tell I love driving to the airport, right?

The boon of this airport taxiing: eating out. After the pickup at the arrival terminal, we drive a mile down the road and eat at Red Robin. We’ve almost become regulars. It would be terrifying if not for the bottomless fries and drinks.

Heading to the airport to pick up the vacationer returning from Las Vegas. I  get to be a passenger, while my husband drives among the crazies. I might read a book on my phone. Oh – and order a famous Red Robin burger.

Do you have any traffic pet peeves? Don’t be grouchy. Spin them in a funny way when you share them in the comments.