Saturday, May 27, 2017

Home Again, Home Again Jiggedy Jig

I had a planned list of sites I wanted to see on the way home from Atlanta...Pigeon  Forge, the Cincinnati mushroom house, the Bible wax museum, and more. Because of time constraints, I was forced to narrow them down to just a couple. I decided that the Ark Encounter in Kentucky and the Christmas Story House in Cleveland were most essential.

That didn't stop me from taking advantage of a roadside stop along the way. After all, what says Georgia better than peaches, pecans, and peanuts?

I also made a brief  stop in Williamstown, Kentucky to mail a letter, only to discover that they were having their annual Derby Day celebrations. Small towns are always fun. Then I was on to the main event...The Ark Encounter.

The Ark Encounter is not visible from the main street...a wise decision on the part of the developers. There would be no freebie photos or traffic jams at the side of the road. My decision to go at opening time, 9 a.m. was a good one. I was able to get a prime parking spot in front of admissions. I purchased my ticket and parking pass, and hopped on the bus which was to take visitors to the attraction. As we approached the ark, everyone on the bus was in awe. There it was, massive, sprawled before us, the largest timber frame structure in the U.S. I noted that wifi and a zipline had been added. Obviously not available in Noah's day. I also wondered briefly whose arm they had used to measure the cubits. All answered in the wikipedia site-

The interior was even more amazing, overwhelming, and magnificent than the exterior. So many details were included. I had seen a t.v. programme about the building of the ark and the fundamentalist interpretation of this Bible story. Now, many of my preconceived notions of how this would be presented were dashed.

The entire structure was three stories high with ramps leading to each floor. There were urns, jugs, bags of grain, gardens, animal models in cages, dioramas, living and working spaces, and some interesting accompanying descriptions and explanations.

Noah and the dove
I don't know what else to say apart from the photos don't begin to do it justice. Despite the admission price and parking...somewhere around $50 U.S., I would absolutely go back and would recommend this to roadside attraction to anyone, no matter what their beliefs.

I stayed longer than I had planned and when I checked the hours for the Christmas Story House, I panicked. Garmin told me I wouldn't arrive there until 4:30 and it was scheduled to close at 5. Since I was travelling to Cleveland, Ohio from Williamstown, Kentucky, I had to plan for only one simultaneous bathroom/food/gas break of no more than ten minutes. Somehow, I knew I could make up that time with my style. As long as there were no major delays, construction, or other road foul ups, I'd make it. I had to make it!

I resisted all temptation along the way. Grabbed a quick break between Cincinnati and Columbus,
looked longingly across the street and moved on.
I just knew that anything I missed along the way now, would be worth missing for me to finally see Ralphie's house.
The trip was relatively smooth. In fact, even with the stop, I arrived in Cleveland, at 4:10, ecstatic about what immediately caught my eye. There it stood...exactly as in the movie but without the snow, almost at the corner of W.11th and Rowley, (Cleveland St. in the movie) was the house. It had been purchased by a developer and restored in 2004. The furnishings were original.

 In true tourist fashion, there was also a museum and a huge gift shop where one could purchase all "Christmas Story" souvenir essentials. Several enterprising neighbours were more than happy to provide parking on their lawns for a nominal fee of $5.  As it turned out, there was lots of street parking, but I had no time to lose. I parked, ran and bought my ticket, and headed for the house. The last tour was beginning. It didn't include all the earlier tour details about the house but was more of a question and answer, then wander around on your own session. I actually preferred that.

With my eye on my watch, I thoroughly explored the house, the kitchen, the bedroom, the living room, and the infamous leg lamp. How thrilled I was to get there on time to see it all.

I had time to spare for a quick trip through both the museum and the gift shop  to see the displays, costumes, news clippings, and some props from the movie. I enjoyed the window displays from Higbee's Dept. Store, the hats, and of course, dad's 1937 Oldsmobile.

You look like a pink nightmare

I read that for between $400 and $2000 a night (seasonal) it's possible to spend the night in the Christmas Story house and use all the facilities. I guess I'm not that much of a fanatic. Apparently, the night starts once the tours end, then morning checkout is prior to tours starting. Odd deal.

I made a small souvenir purchase (it's a secret), plus the Jean Shepherd book, "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash", on which the movie was based. Then I spent my last night at a hotel outside Cleveland. There were Canada geese in the parking lot.  It was rainy and cool. I realized I was close to home. I was able to relax and reflect on the crazy week that had passed...packing, driving, finding rental accommodation, unloading two vehicles, shopping for furniture, connecting utilities, acquiring insurances, visiting the social security office and much, much more. Then I thought about my additional adventures enroute. I wondered whether the next week could possibly be as chaotic.

Interesting article -

Monday, May 15, 2017

A Moving Adventure

At the end of April, we loaded up two cars, my daughter's and mine, and off we went. Destination, Atlanta. She was moving. I packed a small overnight bag as that's all I had room for in my overstuffed vehicle. Her extra, very limited remaining car space was taken up by her small Chihuahua dog.
That's not the dog, it's a stuffed toy. Dog was in front seat.
We spent the first night in a dog friendly motel in Sarnia. We opted for an early morning border crossing at Port Huron, hoping it would be easier than the very busy Detroit border. This worked very well. My daughter was detained for about 15 minutes, while getting her student visa, and I was whisked through, and told to wait for her at the rest area a mile ahead. Fortunately, she had all her documents highlighted and readily accessible...very organized.

I planned our stops and meeting points around rest areas and Cracker Barrel Country stores. They were frequent, and allowed for a relaxed trek south. We then also had meeting places should we get separated along this route.

Next stop was a cute motel in Kentucky, selected because of location and pet friendliness. We received a  lovely greeting card from the owners including waters, snacks, a welcome letter, and a dog toy. It was clean and had a lovely kitchen. Since we were in Kentucky, we had KFC for dinner. Truth is, it was the closest fast food we could find.      
Cute decor
North Star Inn

We met some interesting people along the way. When we stopped at an automotive parts store, similar to Canadian Tire, we met a salesman from North York. He was helpful, installed better windshield wipers on one of our vehicles, and told us that in view of current house prices, he regretted selling his home in Toronto a few years ago. At a gas station stop, we encountered a friendly man who told us he was a former BC Lions football player and he loved Canada. Since he was speaking to my daughter before I showed up, we were unclear about whether this was a pick up line.

We arrived in Atlanta according to schedule after driving through an unpleasant rain storm. The city boasts a population of approx. 400,000. After a day of attempting to do errands, we determined that vehicles on the roads must be more like 2 million. Where did they all come from? Crazy. A ten minute trip took an hour. We tried to make lists. Ten things a day were impossible to accomplish. We were lucky to manage 3 errands a day.
Carmen enjoyed her bubble bath
The following week consisted of, acquiring an apartment, unloading cars, shopping at Walmart and thrift shops for basic furniture, assembling some of aforementioned furnishings, groceries,
getting power and gas connected, finding apartment and car insurance, getting an opt out letter at the social security office, applying for a Georgia learners' license (with final test in a month), searching out a cell phone provider, and much, much more. It's amazing what can be accomplished in a week.
We've seen roof mattresses before, but now....
Ms. Muscles, pushing a futon
By the time a week had gone by, I was ready to head north in my now empty car. I had my own impressions during my stay in Atlanta. Despite the insane traffic jams, the people in Georgia were the friendliest, most helpful, I've encountered anywhere. A few had laughingly asked me to take the cool weather back with me. Apparently, I obliged because it's been up to 30C in Atlanta ever since.

I was on my own now, as was my daughter. I thought about our adventures, amazed at what we'd accomplished, and was excited to see some planned tourist sites as I travelled home. I turned on my audiobook and headed for the I-75.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Basement Dwellers and Other Alien Life Forms

Let's face it. Many of us have had them, or are familiar with someone who does. I know at least three people besides myself with this recurring affliction. I'm sensing it as a generational problem.

When I was young, I couldn't wait to leave home. I was seventeen when I selected a university which was far enough away that I wouldn't be tempted to travel back too often. It was lovely to see my parents if they came for a Saturday visit. It was nice to go home for special occasions.  As I recall, I only moved back briefly during the summer after I graduated. I awaited a call for the job I knew I'd get. Then, I was off to another city.

Nowadays, things are different, very different. It was over ten...perhaps even fifteen years ago when I sent my young'uns off to Hamilton. One went to McMaster, the other to some college whose name escapes me because I'm old and it seems like at least a decade ago. Oh wait. It was.

I was all set, looking toward the future, my future. I would be a single, carefree adult at last. My exhausting single mom job was mostly done.

I imagined all sorts of scenarios. They included my eventual retirement, seeing the world, possibly trying a new career or going back to school, and most importantly, quiet times. All I would do was read, write, paint, sing, travel, and perhaps work from time to time. I would live in a small, minimal maintenance loft someplace and wear loose, floor length, floral dresses and whatever other bizarre clothing appealed to me. There would be huge open work areas, wooden floors, tables, easels, and big bright windows spewing lots of much needed light. Music would play softly, as I sang, had uninterrupted bubble baths, or created. It would be my personal Shangri La.

My children would be off on their own, successful, and invite me to their lovely homes for special occasions. In fact, a psychic had even once predicted my ideal scenario, complete with living in another country...a hot one I presume, although he didn't specify. At no time did my vision include to day drudgery and aggravation, with bodies and pets underfoot. Nor did I anticipate the return of one or both of my now adult offspring which seems to have become a cyclical event.

During this past year, we have helped my son move into his father's house after the homeowner where he lived decided that the profit from the sale of his house far outweighed the rental income. Recently, he has decided to return to school...yet again. For the past two years, my daughter had been a squatter in our basement. It began as only a few months of studies, which then escalated. She recently moved on. After several 5 hour tests, one eight hour marathon exam, a vacation to Mexico, acquisition of assorted documentation, dog vaccinations, insurance, lines of credit, and more, the packing and moving happened. We loaded up two cars, and headed south to Atlanta. ***

As I drove back alone, I savoured the peace, the leisurely pace, the relaxation which eased the tightness in my shoulders, the time to think. I listened to audiobooks as I drank in the scenery and let my mind wander. I visited a few sites which interested me. ***

It's not that we don't love our children, and of course we miss and worry about them, but really? What has caused this "Failure to Launch" generation? Why are some doing in their thirties what we did in our teens and twenties?  Why is it that not every family has this issue? There are multitudinous successful and established young people, athletes, entrepreneurs, professionals, blue collar workers, and so on.  There are also far too many more that haven't managed to reach this stage.
Although it's cute, I am not certain I agree with the movie clip. On the contrary. I feel that young people nowadays have much more self esteem than many of us did. Yes, we are having tough economic times and good jobs are difficult to find. This has always been the case in one form or another. I think it's more complex than that. So what is it? I have my theories, although I don't want to expound or generalize at this time.

Having said all that, there are the later years. One of our neighbours just announced that her son is separating, selling his house, and hopefully will not be moving in since her grown daughter is already living in the house with them. A thought that never occurred to me during my earlier status as a single parent was to take my kids and head for mom and dad's. It just was not an option.

So there it is. Hubby and I are yet again, empty nesters.

As for me, although life has steered me in a slightly different direction, I still want to read, write, paint, sing, travel. And now, over a decade later, I'll just add, watch Netflix.


*** More on this later