Who are you wearing?

One of the more underrecognized departments is Costuming and Merchandise.

Not Disney, Silly. I’m talking about Louise.

She’s in charge of the logo and matching wardrobe we all sport on these trips, and let me just say, this year’s design was epic.

I might be making this fact up, but I think they say you can see the Epcot ball from space. After this week, you could add our group of 14 in the matching gold reflective T-shirts to that list with the Great Wall of China. We really are a sight to behold, and despite the obvious fashion statement, it does serve a greater purpose of keeping us altogether in a crowd. On the day we laundered our shirts and arrived to Hollywood Studios dressed all random-like, the only way I could identify our group was by the teenagers begging to wear them again for the Gram. (I also was still suffering from the swimmers’ ear, so it is possible I wasn’t hearing them correctly.)

It helps to have a uniform when we are playing our roles in Snow-Not-Quite-Right and the Ten Dwarves. We’ve got Sweaty, Texty, Sticky, Line-Jumpy, Always Hungry, Fortnitey,  SnapChatty, Summer Reading Avoidy, Sunscreeny, and Visco. (Roles are interchangeable by the minute.) Louise and I both resembled the Evil Queen offering up suspect snacks from our backbacks that probably have turned to poison by now.

And speaking of Epcot, if it’s possible to create an international incident in a fake country, consider our party officially banned from at least 2 pretend continents.

Our offical apologies, Japan.  I realize our mass extradition was made simpler by our identifying dress.

Winning

From my prolonged silence on the matter, you may have assumed that we succumbed to our various illnesses. Or perhaps we contracted Legionnaires’ disease at our Atlanta hotel because there was a Legionnaires’ outbreak at our Atlanta hotel. Or maybe we have been stuck atop Space Mountain all this time and none of you have bothered to contact the proper authorities. Thanks a lot.

None of the above actually occurred–except there really was a Legionairre’s outbreak–and instead we just found ourselves dead on our feet at the end of each day and trying to get our Magic Bands to open up a bottle of wine. Which to our disappointment, it never did. Thanks a lot, Walt.

Though it does turn out that a proper corkscrew is about the only thing a Magic Band can’t do, and we got pretty savvy using it to do all sorts of things around the Magic Kingdom. Our first park day was a success–and the weather was perfect, being just shy of 1200 degrees, with a late afternoon storm of boiling hail. Somehow, we brought 2 rain ponchos for 14 people, so that worked out just as we had planned.

After having gained entry without the dreaded Supervisor Call Over or the Guest Services Walk of Shame, hitting all of the big rides with a Fast Pass itinerary that was surely the envy of all, finding the one restarant serving sangria for lunch, and outwitting further Legionnaires’ from the misting fans all over the property; we pretty much won Disney on Day 1.*

 

*I only write that last reckless sentence after a safe return from atop Space Mountain and a clear pulmonologist report.

 

 

 

Halfway there and indeed, living on a prayer

Un-stranding yourself from an island is more difficult than you might think.

After 5 days on the beach, a Quincearna baseball game and a private fireworks show from one of the world’s richest men that we just happened upon with no invitation; we attempt departure from the sheer randomness of that sentence and half of our vacation is over.

We leave this part of the Sunshine State a little battered–if we tally up the ailments we stand at 1 sprained ankle, 2 swimmer’s ears, 437 bug bites, a 2nd degree sunburn, a latent case of Strep throat, and suspected case of flesh-eating bacteria accompanied by severe hypochondria.

In other words, we are our usual hot mess by Day 6.

But vacationing with us stops for no one, so we pile into the RV (shocked that it’s still at the sketchy campground we left it) and head for a stock up trip to Publix and Walt Disney World! (The two establishments that have most of our money, btw.)

Disney campgrounds really are a superior camping experience. To accomodate our small army, we also have 2 cabins so we can spread out a little, but truth be told we could have filled a third. Heat makes things and people expand, and it’s hot here.

After an incredibly efficient camp set-up and our first of 300 Magic Band search and panic missions, we end our long day with the most expensive Mac and Cheese/BBQ Buffett this side of Space Mountain but grateful we aren’t cooking it. We turn in early because a theme park awaits in the morning and everyone knows that’s the perfect environment for a few compromised immume systems and heat sensitivity!

BRB, R&R

We’ve all spent the last few days “relaxing” on the beach. Dad-style.

This has included planning a tennis tournament with the kids in 110 degree heat with athletes 30 years younger and more able; and then spinning drama and controversy from said tournament that they themselves crafted the framework and rules.

~Recovering physically from the tournament, both from the injuries incurred, and the egos which were bruised.

~17 daily trips to and from the beach carrying an inordinate amount of beach toys and adult beverages, but never seeming to have the right number of either.

~Sand-removal. From so many places and people parts sand just shouln’t be.

~Ice runs. Because Dads need a lot of ice; and need to talk about the means, amount, melt-rate, etc. about as much as they need to talk about Dream Teams in every sport.

~Dream Team compilations and drafts in every sport.

 

But to be fair, in between all of this “relaxing,” there’s been a lot ice cream fetching, fishing, firework-watching, wildlife appreciation, intense binge watching of the new season of Stranger Things on Netflix and superb grilling.

Just make sure he flips the burger with the good arm and doesn’t mistake the Aspercreme with the ketchup.

But it’s a fun cult

As a high-ranking member of the logistics committee, I recognize that when all 15 of us descend on a location in our uniforms of matching T-shirts, crazy hair and road-weariness, it takes a few minutes for onlookers to figure out exactly what or whom they’re seeing. Is it a poorly-run summer camp or a rogue family reunion gone terribly wrong? I’ve seen the look of confusion wash over the faces of Publix cashiers, ticket-takers at baseball games and now ferry-boat captains as they try to comprehend our little army;  a mix of wonder and distaste as they try to match up the very skewed child:adult ratio. Then they might hear Louise start praying aloud or me yelling across aisle 9, “I swear to all that’s good and holy, if there’s not BOGO Pinot Grigio in my cart in the next 38 seconds, there will be hell to pay!” and they logically and sadly conclude that we are some sort of cult.

I believe this is how we were regarded upon entering the island.

We’ve been to this particular island destination many times over the years. It’s truly one of our favorite spots on the planet. But there is definitely a science to the preparation of an isolated destination such as this, and for years our goal has been to pack so that we never have to leave for any of our supplies. In other words, to be a group of people living semi off-grid, self-sufficient, and cut-off from the rest of society while mumbling nonsensical secret codes to one another like, “Where’s the bug spray? You remembered to pack 3 different kinds of gourmet stuffed olives for your martinis but you couldn’t manage room in the bag for some OFF?” Or when Louise tells the woman at the check-in counter that it doesn’t matter which charges go on which credit card because it’s all the same anyway and the woman looks horrified and says “Sister wives,” as she goes to the back to call the authorities.

Cult probably isn’t too off-base.

But at least we are an inclusive cult, always seeking new members. We met up with old friends here and now all of the kids are calling one another, “Brothers,” which doesn’t exactly dispel the cult myth, but it’s heart-warming nonethless. The strangers fighting for grill space with us probably aren’t quite ready to join, but I’d bet they’d accept a pamphlet to learn more about the program later.

So all is well as long as you know the secret handshake and tythe in margaritas.

See you on the mainland, Brother Reader.

 

On the Road Again

Greetings, Fellow Adventurers!

If you recall from our last episode, the caravan of 15–because obviously that is the best number in a traveling party–made its way around the Northeast, at times even crossing international borders. A fabulous time was had by all.

This summer, the menfolk feedback from Louise and my amazing past itineraries was,

“Less driving, more beach.”

“You guys know there’s cameras when you blow through toll booths, right?”

“If I eat one more powdered egg breakfast from a Hampton Inn free buffett, I’ll vomit.”

“What’s that smell?”

We heard:

“We want to spend way more time on the road with you and the kids, please oh please, let me drive.”

So we did just that.

This year we set aside the more aggressive destinations Louise and I originally hatched up (Oh you’ll still be there Grand Canyon, Alaska and an RV rental counter in Reykjavik next summer) and head south to Florida for a couple of weeks of beach, Disney, Cape Canaveral and St. Augustine. Although there isn’t much “camping” involved this time around, we are still traveling in the RV, because no vehicle is better in water, sand and heat than this combustible beast!

And packing? It’s a breeze to supply a dozen or so teenagers with the essentials to be self-sufficient on an island for a week. Oh, and there’s a ferry involved, so we will transfer those supplies 27 times in 4 different vehicles in unseasonably hot weather because this is way more relaxing than a geyser tour of Iceland. And think of all that money we’ll save  sticking a little closer to home because everyone knows Disney World is for the budget conscious.

We hear you loud and clear, Dads.

So join us, Friends on this year’s summer adventure because according to Butch and Sundance and their planning efforts, this is going to be the best trip yet.

 

 

 

Day Three

We continued our own group heatwave with a trip to the ballpark on Day 3. Translate that to mean we certainly make a splash wherever we go and most of the time we’re a hot mess. But the unsuspecting folks with the Cincinnati Reds were amazing hosts, treating us to a ridiculous experience of delicious food and drink, spoiling us with this summer treat. They even managed to throw in a Grand Slam and a win for the home team.

Our full crew of 15 happy campers sadly dwindled down to 12 for a little while as those job things got in the way of our fun once again. So we spread out a little in our cramp quarters and then fed quarters to the campground laundry room a few weeks earlier than expected to prepare for the next leg of our journey: Canton, Ohio!

#HallsFallsMallsandBASEBALLS!

Not the best travel guide in the world, but it’ll do

Alright, enough messing around. We really have to get semi-serious for 6 minutes to pull this off.

It’s logistics day, and I’ll take just a minute to provide some real details on the trip planning before we get back to our regularly scheduled nonsense just in case anyone was looking for some real travel advice (which seems like a huge error in judgement on your part) or are simply morbidly curious.

We’ve been planning this trip since we disembarked from our western adventure two years ago. It turns out the kids ended up having a marvelous time–more so than even first admitted by rolling-eyed teenagers. So over the course of months, we polled and discussed our next dream destinations, and Louise and I came up with itinerary last fall to incorporate a good many of those lofty goals.

We knew we wanted to go in a different direction this time–literally–and decided the East Coast would check off a lot of boxes. Acadia National Park seemed like a popular place amongst our families, so we planned a route that would take us through some other suggested destinations, and the idea of all of the Halls of Fame was born. We also have a joyous wedding to attend in the middle, so that was also taken into account. Oh yes, and all of the business that gets taken care of in early July in the sports world. And school. And graduations. And camps. And college orientations. And new jobs. And old jobs. And paychecks. If those pesky details weren’t a factor, the trip would’ve started in April and we’d be looping around Land’s End for the third time stocking up on summer clearance duck boots and blueberry scones right about now. But alas, reality is a killjoy.

Instead, we’ve compacted it into about 3 weeks, with the Dads, a.k.a Butch and Sundance, traveling for over two of them.

We’ve learned many lessons from our past adventures. We will still keep the same lodging arrangements–the biggest RV site in the campground as well as the the largest and most modern cabin–but this time we will also have a car following to carry stuff and passengers for all of our non-camp excursions, which are many. We have a fairly good amount of hotel stays mixed in there as well, especially at the larger cities where driving Viktor through may result in increased insurance claims and marital separations.

The kids’ ages range from 1-22 and it was a surprisingly easier sell this time than last. I’m still not sure if that’s a compliment on our fun-planning skills or if they just have devised a more sophisticated patricide plan, but we’re risk-takers. Apparently.

They are aware of about 75% of the itinerary I’d say, but through the Herculean planning efforts of their parents, there’s a good deal of surprises that still await. Some items–like getting passports updated and measurements for their trip uniforms obviously revealed some of the treats that were in store, but we’ve managed to keep a few things secret. After we planned our route, we made reservations at each location, secured advance tickets to where we could, even went to the bank and ordered foreign money (but then quickly gave all of said cash back to Costco, Target and Publix so don’t even think about robbing us). There’s very few details that haven’t been anticipated with the exception of where all of this stuff is going to physically go and if a pallet of marshmallows is going to be enough.

After the final load-in today and filling Viktor the RV up with gas, we should be ready to roll to the first destination: Cincinnati. Don’t question. It’ll all make sense as we go.

As will these robes.

Robe Trip 2018!

You can follow along here, on Facebook or on Twitter, @Subdiva. We’d love to have you join us.
#HallsFallsMallsandBaseballs

Day 3 (and almost my last)

I thought it might take a little longer, but Day 3 was the moment Louise tried to kill me.

I should have known something was amiss when she returned to the campsite with a trail of cheap wine from Walgreen’s that led to the back of a rented white U-Haul cargo van. The fact that it was 9:30 in the morning didn’t tip me off so I suppose that’s on me. When she locked me back there–without the wine, I might add–I did wonder why there was a metal mesh barrier between the front and the back like some sort of prison transport; and concluded that she must be planning to knock me off quickly and then dispose of my body in the creepiest vehicle ever for rent for $19.95 per day in the metropolitan Kansas City area.

But no, she had other plans.

The metal grate and lack of adequate seating for the 8 CHILDREN SHE LOCKED ME BACK THERE WITH was soon eclipsed by the rising core temperature of our bodies in the sweltering heat can that is the rear seating area in July. At times, she’d yell for us to duck because we were passing law enforcement and didn’t really want anyone in authority to do a body per seatbelt (or seats for that matter) count, but we had passed out from heat stroke long ago. We were so dehydrated we had ceased the ability to make urine, so at least there were no good Samaritan worries at bathroom stops and we arrived to the baseball game undetected and unconscious.

I joke, because Louise actually saved countless lives today by having the brilliant idea to rent the creepy van instead of me trying to maneuver the RV through the city streets. This resourcefulness came after we were told that Uber didn’t come out this way, there were no car rentals open over the weekend, and no cab service. She drove like a boss and earned kid street cred as they watched their mother bend a few rules to take us all to a double-header Royals game and KC Sporting MLS game without having to attach and reattach the sewer hose 8 times in a single day.

So three cheers for Louise!

Let’s all toast her with some of that cheap Walgreen’s wine she’s so fond of.

–Thelma

(I’m having trouble in the picture department uploading at the moment or there would be visual evidence of Louise’s malfeasance. Keep checking Facebook for those photos.)