Friday, August 21, 2009

Vacation All I Ever Wanted...

In determining when I was going to make my trip to Michigan I had to consider two factors:

The court date for the person who wrecked my old car, as apparently I’m supposed to get a subpoena to appear at his trial.
When my brother Brad would be available to make the trip, as he had suggested that we should go at the same time.

I never got a subpoena – and the trial keeps getting continued; currently it’s set for September 1 – and it eventually became apparent that Brad’s schedule wasn’t going to align with mine.
I ultimately decided on August 13th through the 20th.
Then there was the Riff Trax Live! thing, which meant that I had to be back before 8 PM on the 20th.
I decided to make it the 12th through the 19th, but for whatever reason flying out a day earlier would cost an extra $200.
I would have been able to get a flight back on the 20th that would get me here relatively early in the afternoon, but I didn’t have faith that there wouldn’t end up being some sort of delay, so my week in Michigan turned into six days, though with my relatively late arrival on the 13th and my early departure on the 19th it was really more like five days.
In any case, what follows is a chronicling of the events of my vacation, which actually starts the day before I left.
I had intended to duck out of work a little early on Wednesday to get some stuff done and to give the house a thorough cleaning so that I wouldn’t have to deal with returning to a mess. That plan was torpedoed by having to schedule a meeting a t3:00 and then having to make some changes to a document before finally taking off.
It was after 6 by the time I got home, so I ended up just giving the house a quick once over and doing laundry and packing until around midnight.
Thursday morning my friend Dan from work came by ridiculously early in the morning to bring me to the airport.
My flights were largely uneventful, with a long, boring layover in Minneapolis, and sometime before 5 I found myself in Michigan. I’d managed to pack everything into a small carry-on bag and a backpack, so once I arrived I was able to just pick up the rental car – the nice thing about the Houghton County Memorial Airport being so tiny is that the counter for the rental car is right there as you get off the plane and enter the building, and you don’t have to make a long trek just to leave the building – and I was on my way to my sister Kim’s house.
Once there we decided where we were going to eat (Perkins), and then we headed out.
After eating, my mom and I headed to her apartment. She lives in a new place since last I visited, as her rent was getting to be too high. The new place is in a complex designed for the elderly (and the handicapped), and she has a lot of friends there, all of whom were excited to meet the son she’s been talking about for so long.
(One of my mom’s friends is the same age as she is and is constantly taking her out to do things, in an effort, as she explained to me, to “get her away from all the old ladies in their 80s and 90s”)
Her new place only has one bedroom, so there was no bed for me to sleep on. My mom offered to give up her bed and sleep on the couch – her couch is nearly impossible to sleep on – but I didn’t want to put her out, so I offered to sleep in the recliner.
I’ve slept in it many times before, but this time it wasn’t working, and was doing a number on my back, so eventually I moved to the couch and managed - simply because I was so tired – to get some sleep.
I woke up feeling unwell, but assumed that it was just the result of having gone too long without eating anything.
However, when we headed out to get lunch and for my mom to do her grocery shopping, I started feeling worse and worse, and wasn’t able to actually eat my lunch for fear of depositing it all over the table.
When we got back to her apartment I took a nap and woke up some time later feeling a bit better, but that didn’t last, so I decided to take another nap.
This time when I woke up I was back to normal, and Kim, my mom, and I headed out to the casino for the evening. Neither of them managed to win anything, and I only played (which is to say lost) $20 on one of the machines.
We didn’t end up staying very long.
That night I was willing, at her insistence, to let my mom sleep on the couch and took her bed.
In the morning, despite her claims that she’s slept on the couch many times, she admitted that the couch is largely unsleepable, and there was talk of picking up an air mattress.
One of the people living in the building was a woman who used to work as a teacher’s aide at the elementary school I went to, and she’s always loved me and is happy to see me whenever I’m around, so we stopped in to visit her. She’s a sweet old lady – she’s in her 80s, so from my perspective she’s been an “old lady” for my whole life – and she was very happy to hear that I’ve gone on to be the “big success” she always knew I would be.
We stopped by Kim’s for a while and saw an ad for a really good deal on an air mattress in a flyer, so after stopping to get some food we went to the store to buy the mattress. The one that was on sale was sold out, but they had an even cheaper one, so we picked that one up.
Afterwards I met up with my brother-in-law Dean at the boat launch and he and I (and my niece Jenni and nephew Jacob) took his boat out to Jourdan and her boyfriend’s house to do some “tubing,” which is to say being dragged behind the boat on an inflatable tube while Dean does his damnedest to knock you off.
I held on for a long time, despite Dean’s best efforts, but eventually called it quits, as the bumpiness was causing my crotch to slap against the surface of a water in a manner that was most unpleasant.
When we were most of the way back to the boat launch, the boat’s motor just stopped without warning, and Dean couldn’t get it to start back up. We flagged down another boat, which hauled us back the rest of the way.
Afterwards Dean and I went to see District 9 – which was very good – and then I went back to my mom’s place to inflate the mattress and call it a night. Or rather, I went back to my mom’s place, found that we didn’t have the 4 D batteries we needed to run the pump, I headed to Wal-Mart to pick some up, and then returned and inflated it.
It wasn’t the most comfortable thing to sleep on, but it was better than the recliner, and a hell of a lot better than the couch.
On Sunday we headed up to Copper Harbor for the day, walking through Fort Wilkins (when I get around to posting pictures, this is where most of them were taken), and then grilling up some hot dogs and brats.
It started raining while the food was cooking, so we quickly ate during the downpour and packed up and headed out. Against Dean’s protests – “We didn’t come here to go shopping!” – we stopped in one of the little tourist trap shops for a while. Naturally at that point it stopped raining and the sun came out.
We camped at Copper Harbor a lot when I was a kid, and that particular shop holds a lot of memories for me, mostly because they sold all kinds of really cheap candy. They still do, so we loaded up on sugary confections before heading up Brockway Mountain on our way back.
On Monday my mom and I took Jenni out to lunch at the Chinese buffet place, as Jenni is the only one in her family who likes Chinese food, and that evening I went over and visited with Kim and Dean for a few hours.
On Tuesday everyone came over to my mom’s for a goodbye dinner, and that night I turned in relatively early, as I had an early morning flight out.
Though I was leaving Michigan at 7:20 AM, I wasn’t arriving in Virginia until nearly twelve hours later. I hadn’t thought much about it, other than thinking, “How the hell many hours do I have to spend in Minneapolis?” When I looked at my itinerary, I saw I’d unwittingly booked a return flight that follows the Minneapolis to Detroit to Dulles path. I hate those. I spent over two and a half hours in Minneapolis – it would have been even longer if our departure from Houghton hadn’t been delayed by fog and we hadn’t been forced to circle around Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for fifteen minutes while a runway was cleared at Minneapolis – and then over three hours in Detroit.
The three flights were each about an hour long, and the whole thing struck me as being incredibly inefficient. I really need to pay attention to that sort of thing when I book flights.
On the flight to Detroit I was sitting in an aisle seat and was concerned about what sort of Lovecraftian nightmare was going to occupy the middle seat between me and the old guy sitting by the window.
I was surprised and delighted when it turned out to be a very cute and very petite young woman. I’d gotten up to let her get in, but before she sat down she had to find an overhead bin for her stuffed to overflowing carry-on bag and backpack – each of which was nearly as big as she was– and as I stood there watching her attempt to stow them away – and to keep her low-rise pants from falling down any further – I was so struck by just how adorable the entire spectacle was that it took me longer than it should have to realize that I should help her. Just as I was about to do so, another passenger beat me to the punch.
To make up for my lapse in chivalry, once we were deplaning I told her to go ahead of me so that she could get her massive luggage down. As mentioned, she was tiny and cute, and for a brief moment I imagined myself stuffing her into one of her bags – I’m sure she would have fit – and taking her home with me.
Instead I just helped her get her bags down.
I said to her, “So, all packed for your year at Hogwart’s?”
She laughed and said, “Pretty much.”
As was obvious from the amount of luggage and the “Class of 2009” shirt she was wearing, she was on her way to her first year of college. Once we were off the plane she moved out of everyone’s way, she thanked me for my help, I told her “Good luck,” and that was the end of that boring adventure.
After hours in Detroit and a brief flight I was finally back in Virginia, Scott picked me up, we stopped for dinner at Ruby Tuesday, and then I was home.
Overall it was a good trip, though I probably should have stayed a day or two longer, though really, the time goes by pretty quickly no matter how long I stay.
I’m glad to see that my mom is doing well and has so many friends. Her social life is way more active than mine. Admittedly that’s not saying much, but even so.
And that was my trip home.
I took yesterday and today off as well to give myself some time to recuperate. Going back to work on Monday is going to be rough.
I’ll most likely be back later to post some of the pictures, and to do a write-up on last night’s Riff Trax Live! event.
(Short form: it was hilarious, but the hilarity was marred by the obnoxious laugh of the woman sitting next to me)

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