My recent family vacation

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My recent family vacation

Post  spectrumwars on Wed Jul 11, 2012 10:59 pm

In the summer of 2012, the Schultz-Hohner Family undertook an epic vacation trek through the Southeastern USA. In an effort to simplify vacation planning and perhaps even save some money, we decided to book ALL of our accommodations through the same super-chain of motels, Choice Hotels International, which operates motels under such brand names as Econolodge, Quality Inn, Sleep In, and Comfort Inn. Why is our motel-booking strategy so important that I mentioned it right off the bat? That will soon become apparent.

DAY ONE: Saturday, June 16th, 2012, aka "Starting Day"

Where We Drove: Chicago, IL to Nashville, TN, via Indianapolis, IN and Louisville, KY

What We Saw: More of the South Side of Chicago than we intended, when Dad missed the turn-off for the Skyway. Rural Indiana and Kentucky going by at something slightly above the speed limit. Hundreds of windmills not turning in the wind, with a few turning scattered randomly amongst them, for no reason we can tell. A bunch of Wisconsin high schoolers on a mission trip to Kentucky Hillbilly Country, who keep stopping at the same rest stops we do until we all start thinking the others are stalking us. A decent BBQ restaurant in Nashville for dinner, followed by a walk back to the motel for Mom, Martin, and Rachel through a dark and sketchy abandoned lot.

How Choice Hotels Screwed the Pooch Today: In the first of many disappointments, we found that the room Dad and Martin stayed in had no cover plates on the electrical outlets, and no bulb in one of the reading-light fixtures over the beds.



DAY TWO: Sunday, June 17th, 2012, aka "Fathers' Day"

Where we Drove: Nashville, TN to Huntsville, AL

What we Saw: Cathedral of the Incarnation in Nashville, who apparently schedule mass times without informing the people who do their website or put signs up in local motels. Martin's face and throat swelling up with an apparent allergic reaction the second we pull into the church parking lot. Vanderbilt University Campus, where Martin took a walk rather than risk actually going into Church and going into full Anaphylactic Shock. Dad vetoing us taking advantage of the cathedral's "Father's Day Knights of Columbus Pancake Breakfast" due to his not liking pancakes, only to take us instead to a Shoney's where they gave him free pancakes as part of Father's Day celebrations. "Booklegger Bookstore", proof that you DO need to smuggle books INTO the South. Huntsville Botanical Gardens, with its ponds full of playful Koi, Butterfly Death Camp full of turtles and quail, Cows-on-parade-style Butterfly statues, and a "Family Portrait Plant" that we take a family portrait in front of. A scenic overlook above Huntsville where there were so many trees planted just downslope of the overlook spot that we literally could not see the sweeping views of the surrounding forest for the trees, but with an awesome stone wall complete with Stardust-style break in the wall. Dinner in the whitest, yuppiest restaurant we ever ate in, although Martin lost a dollar bet to Rachel that there would be no non-white customers in the place when a lone black guy sat down just as we were about to leave.

How Choice Hotels Screwed the Pooch Today: We begin to notice the pattern when the bathroom fluorescent fixture in Martin and Dad’s room has a dead bulb, so it flickers but never comes fully on, making personal grooming at the sink difficult. We now look back on this warning sign of things to come as the least awful motel we stayed in all trip long.



DAY THREE: Monday, June 18th, 2012, aka "Moon Rocket Monday"

Where We Drove: Huntsville, AL to Birmingham, AL

What We Saw: US Space and Rocket Center. Rockets. Space Camp kids underfoot everywhere. A-12 Blackbird aircraft parked out front. Von Braun memorabilia, such as his ID badge from the Cape, and the bicycle his brother rode out from their hiding spot in the German Alps to look for an American soldier to surrender to. Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit on loan from the Field Museum, complete with replica of baby mammoth recently found in Siberia that scientists are still trying to clone. Space Shuttle full stack. Day length of Mars mislabled as 24 days 17 hours rather than 24 hours 17 minutes, an error both Martin and Rachel easily spotted. A motion-simulator ride billed as an expedition to Mars which was in fact a deeply uneducational excuse for a roller coaster simulation that failed on multiple levels simultaneously. An IMAX film about Polar Bears narrated by Meryl Streep that was not just pro-environmentalist propaganda, but badly done propaganda at that. The polar bear cubs were cute though, and the IMAX scenery nice and sweeping. Display of near-future US Army gear, which we all agreed are a terrible idea, since the face-concealing masks may be high tech, but the cost in making enemy propaganda easy is probably not worth it. Freeze-dried Astronaut Ice Cream from the gift shop. Giant K'Nex space shuttle model and K'Nex T-Rex, biggest K'Nex model ever built. Saturn I rocket you can walk under, with cooling misters blowing out of engine exhausts. Dinner in a mexican restaurant with 3 neon signs featuring 3 different amusing ways for the dead bulbs to change what the sign says. Night-time stroll on suburban-sprawl highways admiring the open drainage ditch civil engineering genius it takes to put a drain culvert in front of a Taco Bell that looks like someone taking a dump. The parking lot in the middle of the night when Mom and Rachel go on an epic quest for some yogurt and somehow break the car’s keyless-entry remote sensor and Dad has to fix it via percussive maintenance.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Dried bloodstain on a pillow on Dad’s bed. Mouse scratching inside the wall behind Martin’s headboard in the middle of the night. Mom and Rachel giggle, glad they’ve escaped from Choice Hotels’ incompetence so far. If only they knew then what they know now…

TO BE CONTINUED.....
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  spectrumwars on Wed Jul 11, 2012 10:59 pm

DAY FOUR: Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 aka "Black Tuesday"

Where We Drove: Birmingham, AL to Mobile, AL, via Montgomery and Selma

What We Saw: Mysterious yellow traffic sign on dead-end road reading "Target Enforcement Area". Giant cast-iron statue of Vulcan on a hilltop. AAA towtruck and Firestone Tires after Dad blows out two tires on passenger side of car driving over a curb at high speed while trying to leave Vuclan Park. Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, site of a bombing in 1963 that killed 4 girls and scared a young Condoleeza Rice. Montgomery, AL urban dystopia surrounding fancy Government buildings with all the street parking reserved for government officials. Civil Rights Memorial Plaza, with Maya-Lin inspired fountain and waterfall, and museum we're too late to visit as planned thanks to blown tire delay. Alabama Supreme Court Monument with Supreme lack of irony about building a monument to guys who upheld segregation a block from a memorial to slain civil rights leaders. Confederate battle flag AND stars-n-bars national flag still flying next to the capitol building. Grocery store for supplies to eat meals in the car to save time. Signs along the "Historic Selma-Montgomery Civil Rights Highway" that note it is also the Jefferson Davis Memorial Highway. A Drum Majorette in her natural habitat, twirling her baton in a sparkly dress in a gas station parking lot. Edmund Pettus Bridge and Selma, AL. More of Rural Alabama than planned when we got lost due to two closed highways while trying to get from Selma to Mobile. Dirt roads in the dark, towns on the map that in reality consisted of one church and a stop sign, abandoned gas stations in the middle of nowhwere that are still showing prices under two bucks a gallon on their signs. Police blocking off the main highway once we found it again, forcing us to detour back onto country roads due to a crashed Tanker Truck exploding on the highway. The skyscrapers of Mobile finally appearing on the dark horizon like blue beacons of hope.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: The first sign something was wrong was that the parking lot was nearly empty except for us and what we quickly dubbed “The Serial Killer Pickup Truck”, which had a human skull logo applique in the rear window reading “Bone Collector”, a locked steel chest in the back perfect for storing torture implements, no license plates, and both rope and a gasoline can in the cargo bed. Turned out the hotel was in the middle of a major renovation and only one wing was open at the far end away from the offices. Up in our rooms, the AC units were unaccountably located on an inside wall, with non-intuitive controls involving an easy-to-miss wall thermostat some distance from the actual unit. Even once we figured out how to turn them on, they did a piss-poor job of cooling the room, and neither Mom nor Martin could get to sleep until very late. On top of that, Mom and Rachel’s room had a clogged toilet that refused to flush and a dead cockroach on the floor (which turned out to not be so dead after all, but Rachel soon remedied that situation). Worst of all, there wasn’t a single working ice machine in the entire six-story hotel, so we nearly lost the food we’d bought earlier in the day to spoilage, and had to drive clear across Mobile Bay early the next morning to buy ice at a gas station. There also was no minifridge in the room, and the rest of the customers seemed to all be in town for some sort of boxing championship.


DAY FIVE: Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, aka "Weapons Wednesday"

Where We Drove: Mobile, AL to Pensacola, FL

What We Saw: Battleship USS Alabama park and submarine USS Drum. Martin standing in bow of Battleship as King of the World. Engine rooms, sickbay, even the ship's accountant office. Sixteen-inch shell magaine inside under-turret barbette filled with shells. AA guns and big-gun turrets on deck. Dad nearly crying at climbing up 8 flights of ladders, down again, then down another 3 flights and back up again on the battleship. Battle bridge, CIC, and radio room. Martin getting excited to see a Blue Alert Bulb right out of Red Dwarf. Torpedo rooms on the sub strangely full of little girls excitedly telling their embarassed parents how much the torpedoes look like their battery-powered toys at home. Dad barely managing to climb up the ladder into the sub conning tower. DC-3 in colors of Band of Brothers parachute drop on D-Day. Original YF-17 Cobra prototype and another A-12 Blackbird with very good display placards. P-51 Mustang in colors of Tuskegee Airmen. Other aircraft and sub still showing signs of damage from Hurricane Katrina. Battleship Grill lunch for Martin and Dad of very greasy deep-fried ham and turkey sandwiches, because they fry everything in the South. Mom and Rachel skipping the battleship for Fort Condé and the Museum of Mobile, plus a Thai Food lunch so spicy it made Mom cry tears of joy. A 700 year old Indian Canoe made of cypress wood, Statue of Marianne from old French colonial court house, and civil rights history displays that blame lynching on emancipation and the post-war arming of blacks by carpetbaggers. David Farragut's chair from Battle of Mobile Bay. History of Mardi Gras costumes display. The Gulf of Mexico and a coastal highway that must flood every hurricane season. More of downtown Pensacola than we intended when we got lost looking for a seafood restaurant.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Aside from supplying us with the error-filled map that got us lost, they didn’t have the rooms they promised us when we booked our rooms in advance, and they tried to put us on the second floor with no elevator. When we wheeled Mom into the office in her wheelchair, they let us upgrade to more expensive rooms without the separate beds we requested, but at least they were on the first floor next to a parking spot. No ADA-compliant ramps on the curbs between parking lot and rooms, despite hotel clearly being built or majorly remodeled since that act came out, putting them clearly in violation of Federal Law. Also, the desk chair in Martin and Dad’s room had one of its five caster-wheel feet broken off and missing, and another foot twisted and broke when Martin tried to sit on it anyways.



DAY SIX: Thursday, June 21st, 2012, aka "Torpedo Bomber Thursday"

Where We Drove: Pensacola, FL to Orlando, FL, via Tallahassee, FL

What We Saw: National Museum of Naval Aviation on Pensacola Naval Air station. Every major WW2 carrier plane but the Devastator, including an FG Corsair in colors of Pappy Boyington's Black Sheep Squadron plane. Curtiss P-40 restored in colors of Flying Tigers that actually had a more interesting backstory itself involving being sold to the Brits and then to the Soviets, ending up crashed near Murmansk. SBD Dauntless dive bomber that actually fought at Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, and Midway. A Gold Lamé space suit. The Truculent Turtle, P-2 Neptune patrol plane and longtime holder of the record for longest unrefueled flight. The Que Sera Sera, first plane to land at the South Pole. Gondola of the Ghost Blimp, a Marie Celeste story in the sky. Raft that 3 shot-down pilots spent 34 days in drifting 1200 miles before washing up on island they could be rescued from. NC-4 transatlantic seaplane as seen on the History Detectives. Skylab 3 Command Module. Moon rock and watch Gene Cernan wore on the moon. Very nice ship/carrier models. Nice collection of Cold War and Modern US carrier planes and helicopters, including a rare F7U Cutlass. S-3 Viking Dubya landed on the carrier in for the Mission Accomplished photo-op. Marine One helicopter that Nixon waved good-bye from. Nice display on the USS Forrestal Fire. WW2-homefront small-town full-scale diorama of dubious actual educational value. The last F-14 Tomcat to see combat. Zero and Me-262, and a "George" fighter captured in Japan at end of war. Original message-traffic hardcopies of radio signals negotiating Japan's surrender at end of WW2. Hat name-ribbon from USS Saratoga, Grandpa Hohner’s original ship from when he was in the navy. A couple of planes rare enough Martin didn't recognize them instantly, and one WW2 remote-controlled drone aircraft of an entire program Martin actually had never heard of. Florida’s very odd lack of beaches, or at least beaches we could get to easily and quickly near Pensacola. Not the Florida State Capitol, since we decided it was too boring to be worth leaving the highway for and looked at pics of it on Wikipedia via Rachel's smartphone instead.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Our first impression of the motel we plan to spend the next five nights in is that it actually isn't that bad...but it's still a four-story motel with only one ice machine in the entire place, and that's got an out-of-order sign on it. Sigh. At least the rooms had minifridges this time.

To Be Continued.....
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  spectrumwars on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:01 pm

The Adventure Continues!

DAY SEVEN: Friday, June 22nd, 2012, aka “Harry Potter and the Damp Undergarments”

Where We Drove: Just to dinner, most travel was by shuttle bus or roller coaster

What We Saw: Universal Studios Islands of Adventure. Enormous gauntlet of shops and such even before entry gate proper, equally enormous gauntlet of further shops and such inside gate proper before even reaching the main Midway (in this case, the circular path around the central lagoon). Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey ride, which was absolutely awesome, the best motion-simulator ride we’ve ever been on, bar none. Especially when Emma Watson as Hermione Granger herself (via stock footage) invites you into the Room of Requirement with her. Rowr. Dragon Challenge twin roller coaster, which we went on twice so we could try both tracks. Martin and Rachel singing “Save Ginny Weasley”, a Wizard-rock filk song, at the top of their lungs in between screams on the second go around. Various shops in Hogsmeade Village, which had fake snow on their roofs apparently for no better reason than so did the prop designs they copied, and which mostly sold HP merchandise also available online for half the price elsewhere. Lunch in the Three Broomsticks, which was actually better and more reasonably priced than we expected, including the Butterbeers. Jurassic Park boat ride and discovery center, both of which were disappointing, but clearly aimed at a much younger audience than us. Enjoying getting just a little wet on the Jurassic Park ride, we also hit the Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Barges, which looked to be just another clone of the Raging Waters River Rafting Adventure at Six Flags Great America, which also barely gets you wet. It started raining while we were in line, and the ride was shut down before we could get on it. Rather than wander the park in the rain looking for an indoor attraction that isn’t full up before we get there, we decided to stick it out and wait for the storm to blow over so they could start the ride again, as they had done before we got on the Jurassic Park ride earlier. It stopped thunder-n-lightning-ing, but didn’t stop drizzling, but they restarted the ride anyways. We all got incredibly soaked to the skin, more from the ride than the rain, and Martin’s shoes were destroyed by the water and walking. The 100 percent humidity and drizzle kept any of it from drying out, and we didn't have any dry cash to put into the $5 people-sized hot-air dryers, so we just stayed wet. Spiderman 3D Ride, which was almost as good as the Harry Potter one, so we went on that twice as well (probably much to the chagrin of whoever had to sit in our wet seats after us). The Shuttle bus back to the motel, once we decided that squelching around in the tropical heat with sodden shoes was gonna give us trench foot if we didn't get back to the motel and get dry. Martin and Dad’s wallets and neck pouches also got soaked, so afterwards they literally had to launder their money.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: On the trip back to the motel, the driver of the free shuttle bus informed us that this was the last day of the free shuttle bus, and from now on we’d have to pay a $14 round-trip fee each time we wanted to use it. Since the motel didn’t inform us of this upcoming change, we thought this was gonna be the motel screwup for the day. Then he revealed that it was all an elaborate practical joke, and the free shuttle bus was continuing after all, he was just messing with us. But it’s telling that none of the guests of the same hotel seemed surprised that Choice Hotels International would pull something like this, just annoyed that they had (apparently) done so after using the free shuttle service as a selling point. Relieved that we’d apparently managed to not be freshly disappointed by the motel for the first time on the trip, we went up our rooms (past the still out-of-order ice machine) to find that, the moment Dad tried to hang a wet towel back on the towel rack over the toilet tank, it collapsed and broke into pieces. Apparently it had been hung on the wall partly with hot glue, which as any crafts enthusiast can tell you, is a suboptimal adhesive for use on metal even in the best of times. Oh well.


DAY EIGHT: Saturday, June 23rd, 2012, aka “Shoe Shopping Saturday”

Where We Drove: Just around Orlando

What We Saw: An Outlet Mall full of shoe stores, to replace Martin’s wrecked shoes from yesterday. Universal Studios’ Parking Lot, since going to get shoes meant we missed the free shuttle bus and had to drive there ourselves. Rip Ride Rockit, a roller coaster that lets you choose your own soundtrack. Martin and Rachel singing a duet of "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence at the top of their lungs as they ride. Revenge of the Mummy, an indoor roller coaster with very uneven special effects. MIB Alien Attack, which lets you shoot at aliens with a light gun and go for a high score. Martin outscoring the rest of the family combined. The official park map being blatantly wrong about which restaurants sell fruit plates. An Italian restaurant in the NYC area of the park that offered yet more proof that no one outside of Chicago can make a decent Pizza. Disaster Studios ride/show, featuring Christopher Walken and The Rock. The first shot of the crowd reactions in the resulting fake movie trailer being us hamming it up big time. E.T. thanking us by name at the end of his ride, awwww. The ride itself basically being “It’s a Green Planet after all”. Shrek 4D, which lets you get repeatedly (and wetly) sneezed upon by a Dragon. Terminator 2 3D, featuring the original movie cast. An ice cream booth line that moved slower than the line to a ride closed by rain the day before. Classic Cars from American Graffitti. A Josh Turner Concert. Martin and Rachel doing an encore of their roller coaster duet performance from the morning. A greek restaurant for dinner where Martin ate Quail and Dad left the camera under the table and had to go back for it later. Martin actually being too tired to surf the internet and falling straight asleep.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: The ice machine is finally fixed, but the towel rack hasn’t been repaired yet. And we forgot to mention it earlier, but for some reason, when we use the phone in Martin and Dad’s room to call Mom and Rachel’s room, they can pick it up and answer, but will hear nothing but static…while we hear it continue to ring and then go to voicemail. Today they tried to call Martin and Dad’s room and couldn’t even get a dial tone.


DAY NINE: Sunday, June 24th, 2012 aka “Storm Front Sunday”

Where We Drove: Just around Orlando…in the rain from Tropical Storm Debby.

What We Saw: Mom and Rachel oversleeping due to a dead cellphone battery. St. James Catholic Cathedral and its Taco Bell Architecture. A Laundromat that was sketchy even by self-serve coin-op Laundromat standards. Tropical Storm Debby dropping tons of rain on Orlando. A shopping mall multiplex theater where we went to see “Brave” in 3D. Mom falling asleep halfway into the pre-film short cartoon and only waking up during the archery tournament. Martin getting a bad headache from the 3D glasses, but managing to go the entire film without a single “hot redhead girl” comment. The whole family being disappointed by a film we all had high hopes for, which turned out to be merely good, not great. The Motel for a nap before dinner. Dinner at a salad-bar restaurant called Sweet Tomatoes where they gave us free cookies to take home. Us deciding to give up on seeing Disney World or Sea World after all, due to Tropical Storm Debby, and leaving Orlando a couple of days early.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: They actually fixed the towel rack while we were out, but their wifi network was down half the evening and slower than a Universal Studios Ice Cream line when it was working at all. And when Dad managed to get though the bad wifi to book the motel rooms for the next few days in the Carolinas, we found that half the motels we stayed at so far haven’t credited us with the right number of rewards-program points.

To Be Continued....


Last edited by spectrumwars on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:05 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : fixing broken links)
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  spectrumwars on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:02 pm

The Adventure Continues!

DAY TEN: Monday, June 25th, 2012, aka “Movin’ On Monday”

Where We Drove: Orlando, FL to Columbia, SC, via Jacksonville, FL and Savannah, GA

What We Saw: Tropical Storm Debby just sitting there in the Gulf, continuing to dump rain on Florida, so we check out of the motel early and bug out for the Carolinas. Our family managing to play Trivial Pursuit in the moving car with a board and everything, until Martin got so far ahead everyone else lost interest. Dad losing his cellphone at a rest stop somewhere on the outskirts of Jacksonville. Dad’s cellphone turning up under his car seat shortly after we turn back to go look for it. Graffiti in a rural Georgia truck stop Men’s room that reads “Sheena Easton Rocks!” next to “I Love Steve”. Creationist screeds by Ray “Banana Man” Comfort on sale in the same truck stop. Tybee, GA swamp area, somewhere under which is a buried nuclear bomb lost during the Cold War. “Beer, Crickets, Worms” for sale on sign at gas station in rural South Carolina. Dinner at Shoney’s next door to our motel near Columbia, SC.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Ice machine works, but the Coke vending machine next to it is out of service, not that we care about that. Lights over beds in Martin and Dad’s room very temperamental and hard to turn on, takes several attempts. Bathroom in Mom and Rachel’s room has several cracked tiles falling off the wall, and toilet not securely attached to the floor. Unusual wifi setup, not just for having an actual password, but also for having unusual terms of service: the motel merely washes their hands of legal responsibility for any viruses, spam, or illegal fire-sharing you do via their hookup, but absolutely forbids anything “patently offensive” and reserves the right to cut off your access if they catch you watching porn with it, assuming that's what they mean by "patently offensive".


DAY ELEVEN: Tuesday, June 26th, 2012, aka "Triad Tuesday"

Where We Drove: Columbia, SC to Statesville, NC, via Greensboro, NC

What We Saw: South Carolina state capital with CSA battleflag flying in front. SC state agency for lifting poor blacks out of poverty with its HQ on Confederate Avenue. Dad finally learning how to NOT drive over curbs, apparently. Martin struggling with basic motor skills while trying to use Rachel’s and then Dad’s smartphones to send a short email, and failing miserably on both attempts. Rachel patiently acting as secretary and typing the email for him into Dad’s phone. Martin quietly weeping over his lost geek credibility while typing the first draft of this summary in the back seat on a proper laptop with a real keyboard and everything. A mall in NC which had a Bass Pro Shop as its anchor store. Greensboro, NC, which was much nicer than we expected, and is part of a metropolitan area of three small cities collectively called “The Triad” for some reason, despite an apparent lack of Hong Kong street gangs roaming the area armed with nunchucks and dual handguns. International Civil Rights Center and Museum, with nice use of technology but horrible writing in their re-enactment skit videos. Original Woolworth’s lunch counter where the sit-in movement started, reconstruction of dorm room where the first 4 lunch-counter sit-in protesters planned the thing, tiny pieces of Berlin Wall, lots of photos of lynchings, KKK cross burnings, and so forth. The name and story of someone Dad knew personally listed on the wall of honored dead martyrs to the cause. Error in guide speech and wall display of date of Birmingham Church Bombing, spotted by Mom, correct date listed on wall of honored dead listing for the 4 victims. Amusing poster of “Great Black Inventors” in gift shop with several clear factual errors variously spotted by Rachel, Martin, and Mom. Dinner at an Irish Pub with Marcus Johnston, Martin’s friend from college. Cellphone pictures of Marcus’ adorable kids.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Air conditioner in Mom and Rachel’s room mysteriously quit working for several minutes before percussive maintenance fixed it. We finally get two rooms linked by doors so we could theoretically open the doors and turn it into one big two-room suite…but the impossible-to-move minifridge/microwave stand on the Martin-and-Dad’s-room side blocked the door on their side from opening at all. Door on other side similarly blocked by black leather ottoman footrest, which is too big to fit anywhere else in the room, so it can’t really be moved much, either. Same bizarre WiFi TOS as last place, must be a Cackalacky thing.


DAY TWELVE: Wednesday, June 27th, 2012, aka Wrangler Wednesday

Where We Drove: Statesville, NC to Greensboro, NC and back

What We Saw: Greensboro History Museum, with collection of historic buildings outside that include log-cabin structure highly reminiscent of barn on Grandma Schultz’s Farm. The story of the heroic car door that attacked and injured Richard Nixon shortly before his disatrous televised debates with JFK in a successful attempt to prevent his election in 1960. Reconstructed 19th-century Greensboro street plaza with hotel, pharmacy where O. Henry worked and Vicks Vaporuib was born, one-room schoolhouse with slates and peach switches on teacher’s desk, movie theater, and firehouse. Special Exhibit on Nazi Book Burnings and American reaction to them, including multiple references to burning Harry Potter books. Across the hall in a breathtakingly ironic juxtaposition, an exhibit on Confederate weaponry and the heroic men who worked against blockades, shortages, and advancing Union troops to keep the Confederate military supplied with guns and ammo. Paintings of Confederate troops “tragically” and “heroically” dying in battle, portrayed completely sympathetically. Martin being so disgusted by the pro-Confederate sentiments on display that it overwhelmed his love of military tech to the point that he left the room. Dolly Madison’s shoes and reproduction dresses. Furniture made by famous Free Black artisan in early 19th century. Pottery display including a few chicken images. Minature rooms on slightly bigger scale than those in the Art Institute back home. Wrangler Jeans World HQ, finally giving Martin a W-word to give the day an alliterative joke name in this summary. Late lunch in a McDonald’s with a white janitor and a nearly all-black clientele, in reverse of the usual ratios seen elsewhere. Dinner at a roadhouse restaurant with a floor covered in peanut shells with Mark Hohner, Dad’s cousin.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Same motel as last night. Breakfast at the motel revealed two stickers on the Microwave: “Please don’t microwave hard-boiled eggs in here” and “Please cut hard-boiled eggs in half before microwaving them in here”. Room-to-room phone calls are almost unintelligible due to poor sound quality. The sink in Martin and Dad’s room doesn’t drain well.

To Be Concluded!


Last edited by spectrumwars on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:06 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : fixing broken link)
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  spectrumwars on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:02 pm

The Adventure Concludes!

DAY THIRTEEN: Thursday, June 28th, 2012, aka “Turnpike Thrusday”

Where We Drove: Statesville, NC to Milan, OH, via Charleston, WV and Akron, Canton, and Cleveland, OH

What We Saw: Virginia’s Tail. West Virginia and how much they love the late Senator Byrd and all his pork projects…and apparently his fiddle music, too. Charleston, WV and the state capitol dome with its neat gold trim. WV Veterans War Memorial, honoring those who died in WW1, WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the 1996 Khobar Towers Bombing. West Virginia State Museum and Archives, with quilts and chemical industry exhibits. Flash Gordon as interplanetary Bakelite Salesman for Union Carbide. 1926 photo of people cosplaying as steampunk Abraham Lincoln. One typo in history of WV statehood movements spotted by Martin. Lunch of sandwiches in the car. Lots of cool sedimentary rock layers in roadside cuts as we pass through the Appalachians. The Ohio River. An Amish couple in full traditional outfits taking digital pictures of an Ohio welcome center/rest stop and then driving off in their minivan. Solid suburban sprawl from Akron through Canton to Cleveland. Pro Football Hall of Fame, which looks like King Kong’s lemon juicer. Rural Ohio in the Firelands, where refugees from burned-out New England villages in the Revolutionary War were resettled on free land just in time to get burned out again in the War of 1812. Dinner at an Italian restaurant that embraced stereotypes the way one grabs onto a life preserver after falling overboard in the middle of an Atlantic Hurricane.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Burned out light over doorway in Martin and Dad’s room. Nearly-dead air conditioner in Mom and Rachel’s room. Three-way switch system for one light deep inside room that for no good reason is wired up to a switch near the door. On the other hand, we finally got a pair of rooms with a useful between-rooms inner door system. Which we had to leave open most of the time so the working AC in one room could compensate for the barely-functional one in the other. Skim Milk in breakfast room was going sour.

DAY FOURTEEN: Friday, June 29th, 2012 aka “Feeding Chickens Friday”

Where We Drove: Milan, OH to Toledo, OH via Sandusky, OH

What We Saw: Dad forgetting to check us out of the motel, having to go back to do that after we’d left. Cedar Point Amusement Park, which turns out to actually deserve the title “Roller Coaster Capital Of The World”. Park Operations office to sign up for handicapped access to the bigger rides, since few of the ride lines are ADA-compliant. “Raptor”, a decent starter coaster. “Blue Streak”, a small but shaky wooden coaster. “Iron Dragon”, a decent outside-looping coaster. An adorable baby seagull living on the roof of a food court. “Mantis”, a nice standup coaster. “Mean Streak”, a large and very good wooden coaster. “Maverick”, an absolutely awesome coaster with magnetic-induction drive. Dad’s water bottle flying out of his pocket on “Maverick”, hitting mom in the foot and then going overboard, and souring Mom on the idea of riding any more coasters. “Gemini”, a nice twin-racing wooden coaster, the blue side of which Martin and Rachel won the race on. A petting-zoo farm with some rather threadbare Silkies and Golden Polish chickens, which Martin and Rachel managed to feed by hand, and a Birdzilla-level Turkey who bites. “Sum-Mer Daze”, a live revue featuring a medley of one verse and two choruses each of several of the worst pop songs of the last 2 years, interspersed with several 30-year-old classics being butchered by singers annoyed to be just a tad too old to be on “Glee”. Martin and Rachel singing along with Weird Al or other filk/parody lyrics to several of the tunes. Panda Express for lunch. The Coal Mine ride, a sub-Whizzer kiddie coaster which half of us were too fat to fit on. “Skyhawk”, a nice relaxing swing ride. “Wave Swinger”, a whirligig clone. The skies opening with rain and lightning just as we got to the Magnum XL-200 and the Top Thrills Dragster coasters, so the rides were closed. Us leaving the park in full Poncho Person mode around 6pm due to inclement weather. Unconvincing animatronic dinosaurs being perched on by their distant-descendant Seagulls. Boston Market for dinner, but as we got there just half an hour before closing, they were out of chicken, turkey, and beef…so we waited for them to cook more chicken, rather than settle for meatloaf.

How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Entryway and luggage cart positively reek of vomit. Crumbling masonry on 2nd-floor balcony/walkway. Outer casing of air conditioner in Mom and Rachel’s room falls apart the instant we open the door. Cute little foil-sticker happy face on the fresh toilet rolls in the bathroom…which will give you a paper cut in a very tender place if you forget to remove them before trying to use the toilet paper for its intended purpose. No free power outlets near the table in the room to plug a laptop into. Hillbilly guests on the floor below letting their dogs poop in the parkway, smoking cigarettes, and taking potshots at the handicapped-parking-space signs with BB pistols. Kids running on the balcony/walkway and pounding on our door as we try to get to sleep. Broken volume control on TV remote in Mom and Rachel’s room, which also has loud thumping sounds coming from the plumbing every time the hot water is used in the sink.

DAY FIFTEEN: Saturday, June 30th, 2012, aka “The Last Day”

Where We Drove: Toledo, OH to Chicago, IL via Valparaiso, IN

What We Saw: Rural Ohio and Indiana, where it was easy to tell which fields of corn were irrigated and which were blighted by drought. “Our Country is broke and our President lives like a Sultan” billboard paid for by “The Sons of Liberty”. Lunch with Dad’s cousin David Hohner, at the Strongbow Inn in Valparaiso, IN. Northwest Indiana and the buckle of the Rust Belt. The Dan Ryan Expressway and the traffic jams of home. Lake Shore Drive and the best skyline in the world. Home at last! Unpacking and doing laundry. Going to the Grocery store to buy fresh vegetables and a couple of steaks to cook our first home-cooked meal in two weeks, the first meal in a long time where vegetables are not a mere afterthought.
How Choice Hotels Screwed The Pooch Today: Cleaning up to leave our last motel, we found a half-eaten pretzel under Dad’s bed. Not the kind of pretzel we had available, either. On the way out, the entryway now smelled of vomit AND Lysol.

In conclusion: It was an enjoyable trip, even if we somehow managed to drive through the South to Florida and back without hitting a single beach or even swimming pool, without visiting Disney World, and without even once eating in a Waffle House, Chick-Fil-A, or Cracker Barrel. The Civil Rights sites, military museums and museum ships, and amusement parks were all awesome. The motels were rather disappointing, but in all honesty, still somewhat cleaner and better maintained than our own house. Just not by much. The south was a lot less different from the Midwest than I remember from previous trips when I was much younger, but there were still more signs than I was comfortable with that they still aren’t really acclimated to civil rights and the Confederacy being gone. Suburban Sprawl is indeed starting to look the same all over the country. Douglas Adams once wrote that most American cities suffered from a misguided attempt to look like Los Angeles. I think the real problem is that they’re starting to all look like Naperville.


Last edited by spectrumwars on Wed Jul 11, 2012 11:10 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : fixing broken link)
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  Brendanan on Thu Jul 12, 2012 5:22 am

It's funny, cause I know nOthing about places in America. That, and I don't have time to read right now... That is a crapload of writing

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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  Arrowave on Thu Jul 12, 2012 7:50 am

Sounds like it was a classic American roadtrip. When my family drives down to Florida some years we always stop at the USS Alabama and its submarine neighbor. I'm usually the only one truly interested though, it took some convincing to get my family to go into the larger cannons on the front of the ship.

My family also planned to go on a Western United States roadtrip where we would pass by the Grand Canyon, see the redwoods of California, and eventually curve though the mountains of Montana. Unfortunately this has yet to happen. I'm not sure about other countries, but because of it's size and diversity across states, America is a great place for these kind of trips.
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  spectrumwars on Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:11 am

Arrowave wrote:Sounds like it was a classic American roadtrip. When my family drives down to Florida some years we always stop at the USS Alabama and its submarine neighbor. I'm usually the only one truly interested though, it took some convincing to get my family to go into the larger cannons on the front of the ship.

The Alabama is the best-preserved and most open for visiting museum ship I've yet been on. But yeah, it gets really, really cramped inside those gun mounts, I have no idea how they managed to cram 50 or so men into each one for operations.

Arrowave wrote:My family also planned to go on a Western United States roadtrip where we would pass by the Grand Canyon, see the redwoods of California, and eventually curve though the mountains of Montana. Unfortunately this has yet to happen. I'm not sure about other countries, but because of it's size and diversity across states, America is a great place for these kind of trips.

We did a 23-day trip once where we took the train to Denver, rented a car there, then drove the great circle to LA via Las Vegas and Salt Lake City, then back to Denver via the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, and Mesa Verde, and finally back home to Chicago by train from Denver. That was pretty epic.

Europe is best seen by train, because it's small enough that you can get almost anywhere in a day or two by train, and all the cities have decent public transit linked to the central train stations. America is built around cars, so it's best seen by car. Even if most of what you end up seeing is suburban sprawl seeping along the highways between cities like mold in the grout between bathroom tiles. Australia is best seen on television, because the snakes and spiders can't get at you through the screen.
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  Brendanan on Thu Jul 12, 2012 8:11 am

Australia has some truly amazing sites to see, and seems to be a popular tourist destination. However, the majority of our stuff is located along the coastline, and the rest is just desert... lots and lots of sand. We've got Uluru (ayers' rock), as well as the great barrier reef, the opera house (obviously the first thing you think of with australia, other than drop bears) and the sydney harbour bridge. We've got amazing beaches extending all the way down the east coast, with beautiful waters, due to the pacific ocean being nowhere near as harsh as the other oceans. It does get a bit cold the further south you go along the beaches, but I'm sure sret would still love it... water temperature lower than about 20 degrees, and we get out fast. Although it gets to around 22 in summer, and on a 30 degree day, it feels like ice

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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  sret on Thu Jul 12, 2012 9:18 am

In my opinion you must be out of your mind if you go to Australia, no offense Smile

USA by car on the other hand would probably be tons of fun
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  Brendanan on Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:36 am

Yeah, we manage to scare off pretty much everyone but the Asians, and the refugees (indians included in Asians)... Also, we do have the gold coast, which has 4 large theme parks (probably nothing compared to the scale of america's, but still pretty awesome), which happen to have at least 50-70% of the people there being asian

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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  Dr. Steel on Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:52 am

sret wrote:In my opinion you must be out of your mind if you go to Australia, no offense Smile

USA by car on the other hand would probably be tons of fun
Spiders, ew.


I did a one-month camper tour thingy from Las Vegas to some national parks and then back to Vegas.
Obviously the first time I went to Vegas, it rained.
I've seen a whole lot of national parks tho, including Bryce Canyon, Zion, Grand Canyon, etc.
I've also been to NYC.
Oh, and here's some pics. Some aren't that great but I've made a quick selection Smile
http://imgur.com/a/HVXgx

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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  spectrumwars on Thu Jul 12, 2012 12:17 pm

The main thing holding us back from going to Australia for some family vacation one of these years, aside from the obvious factor of the insanely long plane trip and prohibitively expensive airfare (even assuming we don't end up on the LOST island...and given how many transportation snafus we've experienced, that's not an idle worry), is that if we're gonna spend several thousand dollars to take 4 people to the other side of the world, we need to justify it by seeing something we can't see at home. I'm sure Australia's beaches are awesome, but even leaving aside the fact that half my family hates getting wet and the other half can't really swim, as well as the fact that none of us exactly look good in a Bikini or the male equivalent, we've got perfectly serviceable sandy beaches along Lake Michigan a 20 minute, two-dollar city bus ride away. Unless the Aussie beaches are confectioner's sugar next to a sea of iced tea featuring playful buxom redhaired mermaids who give out free handjobs, I can't really see them being worth the expense of getting there.

And that's also ignoring the fact that Lake Michigan is wonderfully free of sharks, blue-ringed octopi, box jellyfish, stonefish, or cone snails, something the beaches of Australia can't quite promise.

Chicago's main drawback is a lack of history. As recently as 1800, a mere blink of the eye in European terms, Chicago's site was an empty swamp where even the Indians didn't maintain any sort of permanent settlement, and the only structure was a trading post operated by a French-Haitian ex-slave who buggered off for greener pastures as soon as a few other settlers started building nearby a few years later. There's nothing within a 100 mile radius of us older than steam power. We fly to Europe every few years to visit somewhere with Roman Ruins and Medieval Cathedrals and real castles, or at least with Museums with different exhibits than the fine ones we have right at home.

And Australia being a colony the Brits set up to dump their convicts in once the US war of independence cut off Georgia as their socioeconomic dumping ground, darn little there is any older. If we want British colonial structures from that period, Boston's a lot closer and cheaper to get to. For even newer British colonial structures so new the funny multicolored Monopoly money with the Queen on it is made of plastic, there's always Canada. As awesomely weird as the Aborigines were, they didn't even leave ruins as spectacular as Cahokia right in our own home state.

Even its natural wonders are hardly worth the airfare. Great Barrier Reef? Caribbean is closer and a reasonable substitute. Ayer's Rock and the Outback? The American Southwest is closer and a reasonable subtitute. Your wildlife is mostly viewable for free in much safer surroundings at Lincoln Park Zoo another 20 minute, 2 buck bus ride away. Your mountains are nothing on the Rockies, even the beauty of Sydney Harbor has trouble competing with San Francisco Bay, and even if any of us knew how to ski or surf, we could do both in California for half the price.

Even if we just wanted the novelty of being South of the Equator...we'd rather go to South Africa or Buenos Aires, sorry.
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Re: My recent family vacation

Post  Brendanan on Thu Jul 12, 2012 1:07 pm

There is quite a difference between seeing the australian wildlife in a zoo, and actually being with it... And then you have the option of going to australia zoo... come on, even you americans know Steve Irwin.

Not saying you should come, just saying we've got our reasons to come... and hey, we're full of bogans, not obese, idiots Wink (sorry, just using big stereotypes for both countries there... american stupidity really does astound me sometimes, but then again, it seems to be spreading everywhere now).

Honestly, despite what we always say about it, the beaches are fairly safe if you can swim adequately. I have never been stung by a jellyfish, and never seen a shark. I'm too far south for crocodiles, so it means smooth surfing for us. I'm sure your lake doesn't offer waves, does it? If it weren't for waves, the beach would just be a sandy swimming pool. I don't know how to surf, but it's fun enough without knowing. We just try to scare all the excess tourists off with the stories of all our deadly animals (which, if you don't know hwat you're doing, are quite dangerous).
And unfortunately, no free handjob mermaids as of yet

The aboriginal history isn't much anyway... a few paintings and some boomerangs and digeridoos... now they're all just on the street, yelling "This is our laaand" demanding even more compensation than they are already getting, and spending all on booze and cheap petrol to sniff (and at $1.50 a litre, none of it's cheap).

The australian outback is considerably different to what america has. The entire culture about it is nowhere similar.

Our mountains barely count as big hills...

Although we are one of the worlds largest exporters of coal, and we have a diverse range of different mines (come on, you all love mines dont you? Very Happy ), from opals, to the remenants from the gold rushes, about the only thing worthwhile in early australian history

The main reason I'd go to australia, if i was a foreigner (based on what I currently like) would be for the beaches, north queensland (nice and warm all year round, around 100 in the Fahrenheit scale) as well as many great views, Ayers rock, and the bush. Hiking through the australian bushland is much different to anywhere else in the world.

I still want to visit other countries, but I think top of my list is egypt, and italy...
Wait, scratch that, make that anywhere out of australia Very Happy

Glad you had a great trip though Smile

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