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Monday, July 16, 2012

Road trip + gypsy curse!

I've mentioned that my son wants to be a composer.  Here in America, our music conservatories are on the East Coast and we live in the Midwest.  Since my son is 17 and off to college next year, it was time for a college road trip to scout out his top choices.  Our first challenge was his list of 7 colleges to visit. I was thinking of a number between 1 and 3 but my son had different ideas.  Clever boy, he formed a cabal with my  wife which I could not crack, dent or negotiate with.  Cabal 1- Dad 0!  In a portent of things to come, there was a meltdown at work that required an impromptu and immediate visit to Long Island, NY.  Since I going to be in the area anyway, we rearranged a few of my son's college visits so I could squeeze 2 work days into our family road trip vacation. Yea work!
A reasonable reproduction of my family just before launch.
I believe good planning, organization and a GPS will see you through a big trip like this and why not?  It's worked for me every other family vacation we've taken.  I don't believes in ghosts, voodoo or bad mojo. Nevertheless, I began to suspect that we were operating under a gypsy curse due to daily misfires, mistakes, challenges and even debacles. Want proof? 

Baltimore, MD:  The hotel in Baltimore was nice, being right across from a baseball park.  Unfortunately, there was a motorcycle rally nearby. The Harley Davidson crowd believes that the louder their glass pack muffler, the less likely it is that a car will drive over them.  These overage and oversized rough riders were roaring up and down the avenue in front of our hotel all night long.  I lost 5 years of my hearing and a full night's sleep on that stop.

Philadelphia, PA:  We drove into downtown during rush hour.  In Philadelphia, the downtown streets are extremely narrow on account of the thinness of its citizens.  Apparently a lifetime of eating Philly cheese steak subs with cheez whiz has caused the good citizens to waste away to next to nothing, much like their roads. Despite a brand-new talking GPS, I could not find our hotel. As it turns out, it was a brownstone walk-up with no parking, pullout, doorman or anything at all that might signal that yes, this is a hotel!  I had to unload the luggage from the trunk of my car in bumper-to-bumper traffic, blocking up the right lane entirely while the locals gave me a brotherly "Hello!" honk on the car horn.

Once we got to our room, we opened the door to see...a single bed for our family of four.  I called dibs but the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the rest of the crew was such that my wife went down to the lobby to explore our options.  No, we could not have a cot or pullout due to a supposed "fire code."  Yes, they had one room left and if we didn't pay for it quickly, some other schlep was going to buy it out from under us and we'd have to sleep in the streets. Ca-$$$-Ching! Sold to the weary family from out of town! When my son and I went down to our room, we named it "The Mole Hole." The room was a long hallway, thin (like the local citizens) and dark.  All it lacked was worms!
May I bring your bags up to your room?
New York, NY: The closer you get to New York City, the worse the traffic gets. In a huge stack of cars crossing the George Washington Bridge, I glanced nervously at my GPS.  A decision point-GPS said to take a left but the signs said to take a right?  Did I see that right?  I had seconds to decide.  In a panic, I threw the decision to my wife by belting out "Which way, honey?!!"  She fretted and mumbled so I stuck with the GPS, which naturally was a huge mistake.  I found myself on a series of descending ramps taking me to Manhattan at rush hour.  

I'm normally a calm, cool, and collected gent.  I rarely swear.  The verbal dam burst as the reality of my mistake sank in.  I was driving into the heart of the carpocalypse known as Manhattan.  At rush hour.  F bombs peppered the air as I cursed my GPS and then the satellite which couldn't send a signal to the GPS as it kept repeating "Recalculating!  Recalculating!  Recalculating!" without it doing anything of the sort.  After 10 harrowing minutes, it finally threw me onto a side street and back up to the George Washington Bridge, one slow-moving block at a time. Cruel gypsy!  The swear jar would be filled to the brim after this one.  
I'm the blue car in the middle.  No, not that one...
New Haven, CT:  New Haven showed some promise as an interesting spot on the map but then the curse kicked in.  I picked a restaurant that served something we don't have a lot of in Minnesota-soul food.  The neighborhood was a tough one and the restaurant didn't have air conditioning on a night that was 90 degrees.   We didn't let that dissuade us. We sat and talked and talked and talked. After an hour of talking, I saw an employee stroll in with a bag of groceries that I'm certain contained the ingredients for our dinners. Dinner took so long to serve that we were rushed to find and visit the Lighthouse my daughter was looking forward to. I tried to punch it into GPS but being a lighthouse, it didn't have a street address.  Desperate and trying to beat the sunset, we drove in the direction of the Atlantic Ocean but of course, we couldn't find it. I mean, its only a lighthouse.  On the beach. How easy are those to find?  We did find ourselves in a terrible neighborhood with competing dealers on street corners.  I was wondering if I was being a little paranoid when one of my kids said "Mom, you have got to get us out of here.  What are you THINKING???" Yes, it was that scary.  Even so, I was tempted to roll down my window and ask "Mr. Dealer, sir, do you have anything for gypsy curses?  No?  How about stressful vacations?"  Sometimes your best adventure awaits you on the path not taken.  

As I was dragging our luggage down to the lobby the next morning, I saw a huge road construction machine working the street in front of the hotel.  I remember my Spidey senses tingling and a thought like "Uh, oh, this can't be good."  My wife pulled in with our car and the machine proceeded to dig a 3 foot trench in the road we needed to exit on.  Really, I would not have been surprised if Gandalf himself had popped out of the trench in a hardhat, an orange blazer, and a "STOP" sign in hand, shouting "YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!" Ho-hum, another day, another obstacle.  7 days down, 7 to go and that cruel gypsy was not finished with us yet.  To be continued...


23 comments:

  1. Now, you didn't drive off forgetting you'd tied your family dog to the rear bumper did you? No? Good!

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    1. At least our vacation didn't start with that. Or with me putting our family dog in a kennel on the car roof top. Nope...off to mom and dad's with her! Thanks mom!

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  2. Home will never feel so good!

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    1. Oh, you said it Rosbif. Two weeks of eating out. Two weeks of sleeping away from home. We were so pushed for time that we'd sometimes drag a box of cereal, milk and and bowls to our room for dinner. Cheap Monty didn't mind cereal for dinner too much! So glad to be back!

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  3. Hmmm, if you see a smoothly-dressed gentleman at a deserted country crossroads, drive on and don't look back. Fortunately, it appears that the Monty GPS could find a rush hour city route for you anyway - even if there were no city - so perhaps that's one thing you don't have to worry about!

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    1. Pru, this smoothly-dressed gentleman, will he trade me 20/20 eyesight and great painting skills for my mortal soul? lol. And about GPS, sometimes its good to have a paper backup. Someone better tell Slitherine that.

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  4. You do have the whole Christy Brinkley skinny dipping thing to look forward to.

    The family business has crews out on the East coast almost constantly. We've learned to NEVER deviate from the "something" Inn chain hotels. Also, anyone with any sort of perceived authority over you will try and screw you. They're looking for some bakeesh (bribe) to do their job. I, for one, am looking forward to that Canary Island collapse initiated Tsunami.

    You might want to steal some local plates so they don't know you are from MN. Y'know, like when over in Wisconsin...

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    1. I missed out on the Brinkley bit and forgot about that scene entirely. It might be time to watch Vacation one more time! Being a world class traveler means having a few systems, something I was short of. I did learn alot but was at a bit of a cost. ;-)

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  5. Looking forward to AAR of the next 7 days:)

    Have a nice tripp, I hope you brought some minis and paint for your "tripp spare time"...

    Best regards Michael

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    1. Dal, I'll try to not disappoint. In the next installment, there's a Schwimmwagen to look forward to!

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  6. Ordinarily, Monty, I'd be sympathetic, but you made me laugh so hard I had coffee squirt out my nose, so I've got my own troubles . . . ;)

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    1. Mission accomplished. You guys have made my day!

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  7. Oh My Gosh. And this iwas just the beginning. I believe that there was the curse awaiting you. AND I believe that it is a gene that is passed down from generation to generation. Can you remember some of those types of vacations with dad at the helm of the wheel? I do!

    Can't wait for the next chapter in this interesting vacation.

    Sis

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  8. Hey Sis! I'll never forget our driving vacations. Drive 15 hours, get out at the Grand Canyon, look at it for 15 minutes and then drive on. I think I was channeling dad a time or two, when my temper snapped. Maybe dad and I should do a 15 hour drive in one day, just for old time's sake! :-)

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  9. Have you tried the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music? It's a big name, at midwest prices, and much less far to drive!

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    1. Hey Rob! I recognize the name but truthfully, my wife and son are point on this. I do like the words "midwest prices!" Some of the East Coast conservatories will be difficult if not impossible due to the limit on how they stack scholarships and financial aid. Thanks for the tip!

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  10. Sounds like a real fun trip... Looking forward to part two! ;-)

    It was much easier for me. I took a mojor for which there are less seat in all German universities then applicants. So you end up in some kind of complicated evalution system that that things like your highschool marks, age, place of residence, voluntary (military, civil defence or social) service and the fact that you might have some relatives that require care into account. [Or in other words... It is a lottery!] Based on my good highschool marks and my service in civil defence I had the luck to at least end up in the university closest to home. So no road trip for my!

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    1. Good topic! I heard a story recently about Germany's low youth unemployment rate. If I remember right, the trade schools, apprenticeships and evaluations help get kids into career type jobs out of high school. Sounds fascinating but filtering out who goes to college based on grades probably wouldn't fly here in the US.

      I told my kids during the trip that when I went to college, I looked for the one closest to home so I could live with my parents. Their contribution to my college education was free room and board! Times have changed.

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    2. It is not as bad as it sounds. As long as you have a highschool diploma you are free to study. And unless you choose to study something where there are less seats than applicants you can start at once and where you want. It is only when there are more applicants than seats, when you might have to either wait or go some place you do not want to go. Or you can attend one of the few private universities, but they cost about as much as the ones in the US.

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    3. Thanks for setting me straight. Germany is on a roll-green energy, trade surplus, low youth unemployment and last but not least, great gaming!

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    4. Oh lets hope the Greeks, Spanish and a few others get their economies straight... Otherwise we might end up with only great gaming! :-/

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  11. so Monty how were the colleges??
    haha
    your favorite cuz! kp

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    1. Hey Karen!

      Well, it will be $ driven and right now, it looks like Indiana with their music conservatory has the best stacking scholarships. His dream school is Curtis Institute. If they pick you, its a full ride. But they only take 160 students a year so its a tough one to get into.

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