Sunday, 25 December 2016

Bob's Birthday

Well, now that the vacation is out of the way...

Most of the hotels for the trip were booked on, which offers a free night for every 10 nights completed. At the end of our trip, I got a lovely email informing me that I had earned a free night. So I began scheming at once. 

Long story much shorter:

I booked a surprise trip to Branson for Bob's birthday. He knew nothing until I handed him a card after lunch on the 14th. Inside the card were two papers. One was the receipt for the hotel; the other was the receipt for a show that night. He was more or less in shock as we gathered our clothes, phone chargers, and keys. We left the children with competent supervision, and went to Branson!

Bob's cousin works at the Branson Travel Office, which is apparently owned by her mother-in-law. So, once I decided on a show, I called her and she booked the tickets for me at a discount. I had the choice of going in to get the tickets, or having them mailed to me, and chose to go in. Therefore our first stop in town was at BTO. As it turned out, the cousin wasn't there, but her husband welcomed us warmly, gave us the tickets to the show as well as complimentary tickets to Inspiration Tower, and a few insider tips about where to have dinner.

Next we walked across the street to Dick's 5 and dime. We took our time and found a few gems, including 12-shot caps for Ced's cap gun, a splatter guard for the microwave, and a locket that says "Ella" on the front - she's been wanting one.

Toilets out back which were heated, and then we drove out to the Tower. I wasn't going to go up, but Bob talked me into it (He said, "See you later" and headed to the elevator). I faced the doors in the elevator instead of the glass window, but once at the top I looked around some. It had drizzled on us most of the drive to Branson, but on the way to the tower the sun popped out, so we got a decent view. It was cold though, and breezy up on the hill. I didn't find anything to buy at their little gift shop, but we chatted with the 90 year old lady for a few minutes.

After that, we checked in to the Carriage House hotel, which was decent but not fancy. Very clean and friendly. We freshened up and went out for dinner. 

But first, we went to the Shoppes at ... I can't ever remember where. Anyway, the one with Case knives and Corning Ware outlets. I got a skinny scraper/spatula and a 9x13 inch baking pan. Except I actually got a 4 piece set which included a 10x14, and lids for both.

In spite of the cousin-in-law's advice, we ended up at Shorty Small's. It was good food, and most of their fare was wheat-free. The only trouble was that we ate way too much. The plates didn't look that big, but Bob couldn't finish his. I ate my pulled pork, fries, and some of the coleslaw, and we shared an appetizer. By the time we left, we were in pain. We went to the Tanger Outlet mall, and walked for the next hour and a half, with frequent bathroom breaks and more water. Bought Elijah a pair of jeans, and finally started to feel a little better.

It was getting close to show time, so we headed over to the Imax theater complex. Got our ticket receipt thingys and were told seating began at 7:50. That gave us enough time for the "as seen on TV" store, a bathroom stop, and a trip to the concession stand. I wanted a drink, and our Branson guest pass card netted a free popcorn. The popcorn was good, but I was too full to eat much of it.
We were seated in the center of the second row of a very small auditorium to see the Sanders Family Christmas. There were only a handful of other guests, so we moved over one seat to make room between me and another man to put our coats. The show was very good: funny, interesting, and heartwarming. 

After that we went back to the hotel to relax a bit in the jetted tub, and sleep in the king-sized bed.
In the morning we got up about 7, dressed, packed up, ate breakfast, and checked out before 8. After life with children, that statement still seems incredible. 

The coffee was lacking, so we went to Krispy Kreme to redeem Bob's birthday coupon for free doughnut and drink. The "HOT" sign was on. I was tempted, but not too strongly. Then we headed for the Apple Tree flea market, but they weren't open yet, so we drove back around town to the Amish store, where I bought some candy for me and a dress for Ruth. Then back to the flea market where we walked around until we didn't want to walk any more. Having picked up some items for some children, we felt obliged to get something for the rest of them, and eventually did. A whip, cookie cutter, guitar string winder-upper, puzzle, Lego rounded out the list.

We headed home after that, but did stop in Alpena for the first time, and visited their row of flea markets. One place had some old Tupperware toys still in the box. I got all nostalgic over the kitchen set with cake taker and server, square plates, and little cups, because I used to have the same set in another color. But I didn't buy it because we still have most of it. I did buy, however, a boat set. It was so cute! And Daniel and Ruth both love it. Also picked up a board game called Figaro.

Finally home again, to hand out presents and listen to all their adventures. The dress didn't fit, and the puzzle was too hard, but everything else was well-received. The gift was a resounding success.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Vacation 2016 Day 15

Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here.

Vacation 2016 Day 15

We went home.

Not much else, really. I suppose we got some groceries; I really don't remember much. I was glad we had cleaned house before leaving. Everything was as we left it.

Vacation over; back to real life.

Vacation 2016 Day 14

Edited to add: This is part of a series. The Vacation 2016 story begins here.
Not too much on the books for this day:

Sept 4
Sunday drive to kara, stay 9-4. Quality Inn & Suites Council Bluffs, IA (2 suites with 2 dbles and sofa each).
Stop in Mitchell to see Corn Palace (north on Burr st from hotel, then Left on 6th st.)
I-90 East to Sioux Falls.
Stop in Sioux Falls to see the falls Park: go past I-29 and exit #399 for 115/Cliff Ave. Go south past all the restaurants. Just past river, turn right on Rice/Weber, then right on Falls Park dr or turn into park from Weber.  Back to route: East on Weber/Rice to I-229; South/West to I-29 South.
I-29 South to Council bluff; exit 54A, as map. Left on Ave G, R on N 35th St, R on Broadway, Near immediate Left into hotel.
See K. What does K like? Old Market; Riverside parks; childrens museum open 1-5, $12 each, Fontenelle forest $9.50 per adult $7.50 per child (2-17), zoo open to 5, expensive; Gene Leahy pedestrian mall - a park; shopping mall, bowling????

We did see the corn palace, and it was appropriately corny.  This was a "thing" for Bob and I because when we were overseas we occasionally watched the Armed Forces Network, which had sort of public service announcements instead of commercials, and a frequently repeating ad featured the Corn Palace as a unique feature of South Dakota.

We didn't stop in Sioux Falls.

K is Taryn's friend from England. She chose a mall in Council Bluffs as a meeting place. The mall was kind of a dump. We had lunch together at a nearby Burger King and then walked and visited. There was a playspace and a clearance outlet for Dillard's (I think it was Dillard's). We bought a few things. K had to go to a wedding, so couldn't stay long, and to be honest the reunion was a bit of a letdown for Taryn. 

When that was over, I got to thinking. We really didn't have any reason to hang out in Council Bluffs all evening, and we still had 45 minutes to cancel our hotel without being charged, and there were plenty of hotels in Kansas City. So I started calling the hotel to cancel. With less than 24 hours notice, I had to call directly - not the chain; not It was easy enough to find the number, but when I dialed it, all I got was a busy signal. Over and over.

It was a 15 minute drive in the wrong direction to go to the hotel. I called and Bob drove. When we got there, a sign was posted on the door that the pool was closed. So it would have been super boring to stay. I went in and cancelled, and then mentioned the phone must not be working. She picked up the receiver and had a dial tone. I verified the number with her, dialed it in front of her, and let her hear the busy signal. Huh. I think I'm glad we didn't stay there.


We drove on down to Kansas City, where I had booked us a Days Inn. With a couple of positive experiences with the chain, I felt confident enough to book without extensive research and comparisons. Boy, was I wrong! That place was poorly managed to say the least. I've left reviews on and other places; no need to try to repeat that here.

For more introspection: as we turned south from South Dakota, it occurred to me that I was following in Laura's footsteps (more or less) as she moved to Missouri. That was almost cool for a second, but then I thought, "I hope it didn't break her heart to leave." Immediately followed by, "Of course it did! She loved it there." Not to mention her family that she left behind. Then I wondered why it was so important to me that a "fictional" character should have a happy ending. And that, of course, leads one to the whole point of fiction - hope. And I came to the conclusion that I really don't have much hope in this life. No one is going to rescue me. No one even understands me. I'm not ever going to be rich or famous or beautiful. I do have plenty of love, and generally I'm not unhappy. But when it comes to hope... My hope is in a future with my Lord. My true joy must come from keeping that hope alive, not from false promises of a good time. 

So that stuff simmered in my mind for a while, until I condensed it into a life motto: Life is hard, but it's short, so keep your chin up. Not just "chin up" as in "be tough", but as in "look up for your redemption is near."