Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Safe and Sound - but once again not at home

When you’re safe at home you wish you were having an adventure; 
when you’re having an adventure you wish you were safe at home.  - Thornton Wilder
I was home an entire week before hitting the road again. No trips to New York, New England, out West or places in between. I went food shopping and cooked several real home-cooked meals. I caught up on the laundry and worked outside weeding and preparing the garden.  I bought new bird seed, replenished the feeder and welcomed the birds to our yard. There were a couple of Zumba classes squeezed into the week and Saturday night dinner out with friends.

After rainy and generally windy, cold weather throughout most of April, hub and I got a chance to stretch our muscles and ride our bikes. We needed to practice for this Sunday’s (May 1) five borough bike ride through New York City, all 42 miles if we actually complete the ride. We managed two outings, preparing our bodies. My butt will be on that bike a long time…    
Then it was time for another trip out of town.
I am writing this from a motel room in my old home town. We did not tell anyone about this trip. Hub has a medical procedure tomorrow and did not want to schedule anything, assuming he would not feel well. If he is recovered by tomorrow afternoon we will see my mother-in-law before heading back home.
Once again my home sits silent, lonely, awaiting the smells of home-cooked food and voices – mine, my hub's, the TV, neighbors and friends stopping by. I don’t miss the cleaning that goes along with the living, but I do miss the living.
I never thought I would be one of ‘those’ people who were very happy staying home. I always enjoyed going away – anywhere. I still like going away, but I am also beginning to enjoy coming home and hanging out at home – at least for a while. Long enough to do some laundry, read the piled up newspapers, take a walk around the neighborhood, scope out the goings-on and watch the flowers grow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Megabus Experience

This was written yesterday – Tuesday…
I am on a Megabus trip from Boston to New York, and then a second leg from New York to Atlantic City. I flew to Boston on Sunday on a cheap Spirit Air flight that was hassle-free. Monday was the Boston Marathon. My son participated. It was a beautiful but windy day; the tailwind worked in the runners‘ favor. Last year my son ran Boston for the first time; this year he met his goal of breaking three hours. He was hurting, but no injuries.
There were no cheap flights home today. I probably waited too long to try and book a flight. After searching alternatives I decided the best bet was Megabus, a fairly new bus company offering low-cost travel between major cities. The company operates in England, Canada and now the U.S. They are not yet national; they travel throughout the Northeast and the Midwest. Each leg of my trip was only $15; total cost $30 from Boston to Atlantic City, New Jersey.
I am now two hours into my four hour trip to New York. I am on the upper level of a double decker bus. It is clean and probably fairly new. There are free outlets and free Wi-Fi. I am plugged in and working. The only problem is tight quarters. The guy in front on me put his seat back, so that really limits my lap space. The bus is not really bumpy, but it is not the same as sitting down, working at a desk or anywhere not in motion.  The bus is full. It is quiet – there are some toddlers and at least one infant on board. Most people seem to be sleeping; this is an early morning bus. It left Boston 7:00 a.m., so I guess a lot of people are making up for lost sleep. My ticket was for the 8:00 a.m. bus, but my arrival at South Station was early enough to get me on this bus. 
The real problem is that I am getting nauseous. I was never good at reading in a car. This is not much better.
The Second Leg
It is a good thing I made the earlier bus. We arrived in New York about 15 minutes late, not too bad considering the time spent maneuvering through city traffic. The Megabus stop is literally just another bus stop on 7th Avenue. There is a list of the bus numbers that stop at this particular corner, and one reads: Megabus. The bus stops at the curb and everyone piles out. In bad weather it might be dicey if you have to wait for the driver to unload your luggage.
The drop off point and pick-up spot for my two trips were in different locations. I walked about 15 blocks to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, where the second bus awaited. The walk was refreshing and settled my stomach, even though it was nasty and drizzling. If I had made my scheduled trip and that bus was 15 minutes late I would not have had time to walk the distance and make the bus. I arrived at the terminal in time to grab a snack before boarding.
The Academy bus is also a nice bus, not a double decker. It is equipped with electrical outlets, but apparently not Wi-Fi. We were on the road about half an hour when we pulled into a rest stop. I was not quite sure what was going on; I did not think one was warranted on such a short trip. The driver dropped off one passenger and picked up several more. This was a transit point. The stop turned into a much longer than expected one when the New Jersey police decided to carefully check the credentials of our driver to ensure he was qualified to drive the bus. They are spot-checking drivers after a couple of bad bus accidents recently. It took a while for the police to review and check our driver. There were no problems and we were finally on the road again.
The bus is not a bad way to travel. I can nap, read, compute, converse while someone else drives. I don’t have to get stressed out about traffic, bad weather, or airport hassles. I don’t mind flying out of small airports – it is quick and easy. Maneuvering large airports can be an exhausting experience before you ever leave the ground. I would not consider the bus a cross-country alternative, but for shorter city to city trips it is definitely worth a consideration.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Hope Springs Eternal...I am going to try gardening again

Years ago I had a vegetable garden. It was somewhat successful, but other life activities got in the way. The garden was planted with grass and a couple of decades passed. I experimented with various flowers in our yard after that. I never had great success. I would buy small flats of annuals, place each flower carefully in the ground and watch as they struggled to grow, bloom and prosper. Sometimes that actually happened. A good deal of the time they just languished, yielding some flowers but rarely flourishing.
Our new home has a small front yard and some beds in the backyard that the former tenant spent hours cultivating. Flowers have already emerged in the front yard. I am going to try very hard not to kill what is already there.
I also want to add some flowers and vegetables. I spent some time a couple of weeks ago perusing seed catalogs online. I finally purchased several from an heirloom seed dealer. I tried not to over buy and over plan so much that I doom myself to failure. The seeds last more than one year, so the packets purchased will supply seeds for a couple of years to come.
The one vegetable I purchased was tomatoes, a small one that can be grown in pots and a larger-sized variety. I am also going to plant two herbs – parsley and dill. I bought two perennial flowers and one annual - zinnias. Last summer I planted a number of annuals and the only flower that thrived was zinnias.
I officially began by planting seeds indoors this afternoon. Assuming they turn into beautiful little plants they can be transplanted outside in a few weeks. I realize my expertise is minimal and enthusiasm may wane as the season proceeds and my work does not produce an abundance of flora. We will see what happens.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Steamboat Vacation Part Two

It has been several days since our Steamboat adventure and I believe I am finally recovered. Kids can be exhausting to an old lady, but they do keep you young-at-heart and constantly in motion.
Steamboat is known for its hot springs. The city has a wonderful outdoor hot springs pool facility where we spent one morning. The kids got a kick out of swimming outside when it was snowing!
We spent one afternoon snow tubing. The tubing hill was located on a ranch several miles outside Steamboat. The main road was fine, and the side road wasn’t too bad, although there were a couple of tricky switchbacks. Once we reached the ranch entrance we figured we had arrived. We were wrong. It was more than a mile to the tubing hill on a rocky, bumpy, partly snowy dirt road. Tubing was fun and a little scary at first. The best part was the tow up the hill. The tube connected to a clasp, you jumped on and enjoyed a slow ride up. The 3-year-old was too little to go alone, so the two G’s took turns going down with her. Her older brother went off tubing on his own. It was a good thing we paid by the hour – it felt like all afternoon to us – but the G’s had enough, the 3-yr-old had enough, and the 6-year-old had to quit.
One morning we went ice skating. I went a couple of years ago for the first time in decades. The next time was at Steamboat.  We were the first ones on the indoor ice arena for the morning public skating session. The 6-year-old - hereafter called H1 - went out on his own, stumbling a bit, falling, but managing. The 3-year-old – H2 in future posts - needed help. I held her arms and we moved forward together. I was thinking – how long can I keep this up? We were on the ice about 15 minutes when other people began making their way onto the ice. Little ones went barreling out with what Grandpa called ‘ice walkers’. We got one for each of the kids, and they were off and skating. H2 was suddenly the big shot, skating all over on her own. Grandpa ended up twisting a leg muscle and is still recovering – he has an unbelievably huge black and blue mark on his leg – but will survive.
We drove back to Denver and spent the weekend before flying home on Monday (Sunday flights are the most expensive). We had tickets for the Colorado Rockies baseball game Sunday afternoon but it snowed. Snowed! It hit 80 degrees (that’s not a typo) on Saturday. Sunday afternoon it rained and sleeted and snowed. The game was cancelled, so the kids can go to another game this season.
We arrived home to flowers in our front yard. The first fresh flowers of spring now adorn my house.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Steamboat Springs Here We Come!

We left Denver after breakfast: me, hub, 3-year-old granddaughter and 6-year-old grandson. We all packed into the family van equipped for a long ride and mountain vacation. There were suitcases, snacks, movies, books, video games, pillows, stuffed animals, boots, coats…it was a wonder there was enough room for the four humans.
It wasn’t long before there was a request for movies and a snack. I am not sure which came first. Of course the kids could not agree on a movie. They said two movies could play at the same time and told us exactly where each DVD went; one in the bottom slip on the dashboard, another behind the radio. Each kid would need earphones, but we soon discovered one set did not have batteries. After much maneuvering they settled for one movie at a time. (Grandma and Grandpa are technologically challenged when it comes to the devices found nowadays in cars and grandkids’ homes. I still cannot use two remotes to turn on their big TV, locate a show and actually watch it).
Before arriving in Steamboat Springs there was one proper pee stop, one stop combining gas, Starbucks snacks and potty, an emergency pee stop on the side of the road, a stop for lunch and a stop at the Information Center. The 157-mile ride took a good part of the day. We arrived at our hotel by late afternoon.
We were pleasantly surprised at how nice our accommodations were. We used to locate and book our place. The quoted price sounded great so we were not quite sure what to expect. There were two large bedrooms with plenty of closet space, a kitchen/family room in between the bedrooms and three bathrooms (yes – 3 bathrooms!!). The hotel had an indoor pool and very helpful staff.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around downtown Steamboat Springs – not exactly a metropolis, but offering several restaurants, boutiques and art galleries, a consignment shop (I almost forgot – bought the kids each a hat), movie theater and assorted other businesses. We found a book store that was unfortunately going out of business. We spent some time reading, looking at books and buying a couple of books (50% off all merchandise). The kids played in the snow and climbed on statues.
A stop at the local grocery store ended our day one travels. We bought a cooked chicken and vegetables, milk, bread, some breakfast foods and of course dessert before heading back to the hotel. The kids spent some time in the pool before dinner, and we all collapsed (at least Grandma and Grandpa collapsed) into bed for some sleep to fortify ourselves for the next day’s activities…

Friday, April 1, 2011

On the road again...

I am sitting on a plane enduring a 4 ½ hour trip. The entire journey will be longer door to door, but once we land it will be over as far as I am concerned. I enjoy traveling, but the plane ride can be a challenge. I am in the middle seat wedged between a young woman wrapped in a blanket (her own) sleeping, and my husband. The plane is quiet – no crying babies or screaming toddlers, although there are both aboard – but it is tight. My hub says the particular plane we are on is narrow, and there are three seats on each side of the aisle. I am hoping I do not have to get up and pee before we reach our destination. I think I will be able to get out, but getting back in might prove difficult.
We are on our way to the grandkids. It is spring break, and we are helping Mom get through the week with three kids. Only the oldest is in elementary school, but keeping all three busy and on schedule for a week without school can be daunting. We will be taking the two oldest – all of 3 and 6 years of age - to the mountains for a three day winter vacation. Meanwhile all I can think of is spring. I cannot believe I had to pack my long underwear again.
Why does flying make you feel so tired? It doesn’t matter what time of day, I am always exhausted. By the end of a trip all I want to do is take a nap. I am fine the next day, but the flying day can be a lost one. We are three hours into the trip, and my eyes feel heavy and sleepy. I feel drained and worn out. We will be arriving about lunch time, so we will have almost a full day with the kids. No nap time for me. I will be in bed tonight just a few minutes after the kids.
I should have thought this through ahead of time. We should have flown later in the day and arrived so we could go to bed, or before they changed the clocks. But the very early morning flights are always the cheapest ones. Can I go to bed when it is still light? After all, it will be two hours later (and dark) at home.