Posts Tagged ‘Cottage On Wheels’

It’s Not a Sham, It’s a Sham WOW!

January 5, 2010

It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks, let me tell you.  We drove, we visited, and we ate a ton.  I cooked, I baked and I wrapped.  We got sick.  We got better.  We drove and ate and visited some more and opened a lot of presents.

We got some great stuff.  As for the list of trailer wants (in addition to the grill I mentioned in the last post) we got our screen house.  Thank you very much Auntie Caroline, Uncle Neil and Lilly.  I’m looking forward to using it.  We gave them a tent, so they can start to join us on our little excursions.

I have an amendment to the list, though.  I forgot all about the Sham Wow.  I’ve wanted one for ages.  I’ve imitated Vince and his Sham Wow commercials ad infinitum; to the point that I received 6 of them for Christmas this year.  So, consider the Sham Wow added to the list and ticky boxed off.  I’ve got Sham Wow’s comin’ out the wazoo and I don’t have a clue what I’m going to do with them, but I’m sure I can spare a couple for the trailer.

The decorations are packed up and we’re back to the grind.  We rang in the new year and the new decade and it’s time to focus on the resolutions that will keep us going until the holiday roll around next year.  Personally, I’ve eaten so much in the past month, I shouldn’t have to eat again until March.  Maybe some exercise is in order.

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That’s A Wrap!

December 16, 2009

The curtain has come down on our family’s first camping season.  We saw a lot, did a lot, put a lot of kilometres on the van and made some lovely family memories.

The trailer is closed up now, winterized and hunkered down in the side yard surrounded by a foot of snow.  I’m hopeful it won’t become a mouse hotel over the next few months.  It’ll be alright.  We mouse proofed it.  I’m pretty sure.

So…hmmm…what do we talk about now?  It’s almost time to start planning for next year.  There’s the big RV show coming up over the winter.  We could talk about winter sports!  I like winter sports better than summer sports.

We’ll muddle through.  If you have any topic suggestions I’d be happy to entertain them.  You can save me from contemplating my navel all winter.

Don’t forget to check in on the Campsite Cookin’ link from time to time.  There’s some fun foodie stuff over there.

Yosemite National Park

December 3, 2009

For many of us, the photographs of Ansel Adams are the first experience we have with Yosemite National Park.  Ansel’s masterful use of light and shadow provide a window into a place of epic beauty.  As a result of these photographs, Ansel Adams became one of the world’s most renowned photographers.

In September, our family vacation took us to see Yosemite firsthand and the experience gave me a new perspective on Ansel’s work.  His pictures are wonderful, but I’m not sure he deserves all the reverence and accolades he has received?   Yosemite is one of the most jaw-slackingly beautiful places on Earth.  If you can’t fire off a couple of attractive pictures of the Half Dome or El Capitan, it’s because you suck and it’s irresponsible of you to own a camera.  It’s just my observation.  You can take it or leave it.

Beautiful Yosemite

I didn’t do a lot of actual research in preparation for our trip to Yosemite.  Instead, I did a lot of excited bragging.  Any time I’d tell someone we were going to Yosemite they’d start talking about the giant trees; one in particular.  “You can drive through one of them,” they’d say.  “You gonna drive through the giant tree?”

“Yes, absolutely I am!”  I got excited about driving through a tree.  I was willing to go out of my way for it.  I told my two-year old about the drive-through tree.  I described to him the concept of a tree big enough to drive a car through.  He was excited about it too.  Sadly, a couple of days before we were due to arrive in the park, we learned that the drive-through tree had given up and fallen over.

It fell over in 1969!  How is it, in the much-lauded information age, it has taken 40 years for the news of the Great Tree Collapse of 1969 to reach us in Ontario?  For forty years Ontarians have been suffering under the delusion that glamorous people are motoring through trees in Yosemite and its’ just not the case.  Never mind, I’m still a little bitter but I’ll get over it.

We arrived in Yosemite intending to take the Tioga Pass and drive through the park to Mammoth Lakes where a comfortable bed awaited us.  We hoped for a leisurely drive, filled with dazzling sites and plenty of stops along the way.  We reached the park gate and learned that our plan had hit a snag.

“The roads closed,” the man in the box told us.  “It’s been closed for the past two weeks because of a wildfire.  It’s supposed to open up at 5 o’clock today.”

A wildfire!  How inconvenient.  I did a little post mortem research on the fire with startling results.  The Big Meadow Fire, as it came to be known, was the result of a prescribed burn gone wrong.  It was purposely started on August 26, 2009 with the intent to burn 90 acres but it changed direction right off the bat and raged out of control.  In the end, it had consumed 7,425 acres and cost $16.3 million USD to fight.  Woops.

Our Little Naturalist

Well, at least Yosemite is an easy place to kill time.  There is plenty of hiking to be done, and there are plenty of educational exhibits to be visited.  We enjoyed ourselves and then, shortly before 5:00 p.m. we made our way to the road closure to join the other tourists waiting to make their way to the Tioga Pass.

Five o’clock came and went.  Impatient Europeans paced back and forth along the road, wondering what the holdup was.  I joined them.  Pace, pace, pace, what’s taking so long?  They’ve had two weeks!  What could they possibly be doing to take an extra 20 minutes…an extra 40 minutes?  You know the kind of ludicrous impatience that can develop when a group of strangers are waiting for something that’s behind schedule; an airplane to take off, a road to open.  You know.

The road did, eventually, open and as we drove, we realized the magnitude of the fire that had delayed us.  We saw acre upon acre of, still smoking, white ash covered ground.  Sooty, tired looking firefighters were cleaning up their tools.  The smell that hung in the air was the, normally pleasant, scent of campfires but magnified about 1,000,000 times, it became sickening and gave me a headache.

We drove out of the fire zone and through the Tioga Pass, which provided vista after vista of startling beauty.  It’s seems surreal that views like that exist on Earth.  Nature is often configured in some startling and awe-inspiring ways.

Awe Inspiring Vistas

It was dark by the time we reached our hotel in Mammoth Lakes.  A man who, I’m assuming from his attire, was a Jimmy Buffet fan, handed us a key to a 1980’s time capsule of a room and warned us that bears hang out in the hotel parking garage.  I didn’t care anymore.  I wanted a Big Mac and my bed.  I was wiped out.

Now Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Blog, Already In Progress

October 21, 2009

I feel I need to explain my resent absence.  Having long gaps on a blog is tantamount to having long gaps on a resume.  One must come up with excuses to make the dead time seem as though it was well spent and not just frittered away.

Let me assure you that I have not been frittering.  I’ve been painting trim and visiting with family and friends and performing my wifely and motherly duties.

Lately, the greatest thief of my time has been school work and a couple of seriously ominous assignments.  I have to write a short story.  I don’t ‘do’ fiction.  I certainly don’t do 3000 words of fiction.  The story is coming along now.  I’ve already abandoned one work in progress, but I have a really good feeling about the piece I’m working on now.  Fingers crossed, I’ll have it behind me soon.  Then the world can go back to normal.

To be honest, I’ve been procrastinating.  I’d have the assignment done by now, if I wasn’t constantly finding other more important things to do.  I’ll work on it tonight.  As soon as I’m done blogging and reading Tuesdays With Morrie.

Just a Quick Update

September 5, 2009

Our Tom Tom died died, piece of crap crap that it was.  It prompted an emergency trip to WalMart for a new GPS receiver.

We spent the better part of the day driving up Pacific Coast Highway 1.  It was gob smackingly beautiful.  Many times so-called scenic drives end up being a disappointment, but this was honestly some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen.  We saw mountains, the ocean, vineyards and wild elephant seals.  It was so, so worth the drive.

We are staying in the Hilton in San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley.  I love staying with Hilton.  It’s always a cut above the average.  Liam was a very good boy to sit patiently in the car all day so he was rewarded with a swim in the hotel pool.  I used the fitness room so we all had some exercise to work off the Carl’s Jr we had for supper.

We’re off to San Francisco today.  I’ll update again in a few days.

A Postcard From The Road

September 4, 2009
Venice Beach

Venice Beach

Hello from Santa Monica!

We’re having a great time.  The flight went well.  Liam did his very best to be patient but came to hate the seatbelt light above his head.  When we finally got off the plane he just kept giggling and exclaiming “We did it!  We did it!”

We’re zipping around the west coast in a brand new Ford Focus.  It’s a good little car.  It’s big enough for us and our luggage but still small enough to be really good on gas; which is good because they apparently don’t like to sell gas to foreigners.  Never mind, I’m just griping.

We spent our first night it Las Vegas.  What an amazing city!  It’s just a complete sensory overload.  I just about short-circuited.  We stayed at the New York New York Hotel and Casino.  It was an absolutely massive hotel, but every hotel on the Vegas strip is an absolutely massive hotel.

The next morning we got up and headed straight to LA.  Actually, we headed straight into an hour long traffic jam.  That was awful.  Once we were free of the traffic jam we just kept following the wild fire smoke into California and fought traffic the whole way to Santa Monica.  Duncan was very annoyed that California drivers don’t reserve the left lane for passing.  He kept muttering away about the lack of lane discipline.

Needless to say, I was more than ready for a beach day yesterday.  I had a headache I just couldn’t shake and I needed to relax.  We spent the day at Venice beach.  The beach is so peaceful and relaxing, it gives you no indication of the wackiness you encounter once you hit the street.  I’ll tell you all about it when we get back.

Today we went into Hollywood and did the Hollywood tourist stuff.  Liam was terrified by a guy in a Darth Vader costume on Hollywood Blvd.  He’s still talking about it.

Anyway, I’ll post pictures and more details later.  Tomorrow we’re going for a very long, scenic drive along the coast from LA to Santa Clara.  It should be good, as long as Liam takes a nap.

Wally Bronner, You’re My Hero

August 21, 2009

Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland is to me, what Tiffany’s was to Holly Golightly.  “Nothing bad could ever happen to you there.”

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

Bronner's CHRISTmas Wonderland

You can walk through the doors of the world’s biggest Christmas store, on a hot day in August, and drift away into a holiday haze.  A soundtrack of your favourite Christmas tunes follows you as you meander your way through two-football fields worth of sparkling, glittering ornaments, trees, and trimmings.

This was our second visit to Mr. Bronner’s masterpiece and this time I had a plan.  The first time we shopped at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland we were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the place.  The number and variety of ornaments is dazzling.  Every interest or occupation or motif you can think of, Bronner’s will have an ornament to suit.  Prior to this trip, I visited the website and honed in on my areas of interest.  Like last year, we went into our shopping trip with the intent to each purchase one special ornament.  This year, Duncan got a log cabin with a red roof, because it looked a bit like our house.  Liam debated between a sparkly elephant and a John Deere Tractor.  In the end he chose the tractor.  I got a pop-up trailer and had it customized to say Cottage On Wheels on the top.

Cottage On Wheels

Cottage On Wheels

Not Sure if it's Daddy or Not

Not Sure if it's Daddy or Not

They have, pretty well, everything you might want for Christmas; including Santa suits.  Duncan went behind a shelving unit and came out wearing a Santa hat and beard.  Liam wasn’t sure what to think.  It was as if he was almost sure it was Daddy, but didn’t want to trust his intuition.  As soon as Duncan took the costume off, Liam thought it was tremendously funny.

When we got back to the trailer Liam grabbed his favourite blanky (also John Deere) and stuck it in his mouth so it spilled down like a beard.  He announced, “look Mommy, I’m blanky Santa”.  Very imaginative, I thought.

Blanky Santa

Blanky Santa

Year Round Christmas Displays @ Bronner's

Year Round Christmas Displays @ Bronner's

We were staying at Jellystone Park, right across the road from Bronner’s, so once it was dark; we went back over to see the Christmas light display that’s set up year round.  The lights and displays were lovely and fun to see in shorts and a tee shirt.  We had the dog with us that time and she was thrilled.  She was absolutely positive that the sheep in the nativity were real.  She had to investigate and give them a good sniff.  Eventually she joined the nativity herself.  I’m fairly sure there was a small black and white dog by the manger when Jesus was born…can’t rule it out anyway.  When she realized that she couldn’t herd the sheep she got bored and we left.  No harm done.

An Addition to the Display

An Addition to the Display

I’m already planning our next shopping trip.  I’m going to need a shot of Christmas next summer too.

Don’t Forget Your Pic-A-Nic Basket Boo Boo

August 20, 2009
Posing with Yogi

Posing with Yogi

Have you ever wanted to take a vacation in one of your favourite cartoons?  Try this on for size.

We spent two nights at Frankenmuth Jellystone Park, which is part of the Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp Resorts chain.  This was the first experience I’ve had with this chain of parks.  Actually, it was the first I’ve heard of this chain of parks.  There are more than 70 Jellystone Park locations but only 5 of them are in Canada, the rest are in the U.S.  I guess that’s why I was so clueless.

At $55 a night, it was a little pricey for a campground but, in exchange for the extra ten bucks, you’re getting a great location.  Jellystone is right across the road from the world’s largest Christmas store and is, literally, walking distance to downtown Frankenmuth.  You don’t get that kind of convenience at most campgrounds.

I’m not going to lie to you; taken at face value, the campsites are very small.  Had the park been full, I think the sites would have been untenably small.  As it was, however, even on a weekend at the height of camping season, the staff was able to space the campers out with two or three sites between them and never backed one pop-up directly behind another.  This gave everyone plenty of space.  I’m actually getting used to the fact that most vacation parks have smaller campsites than government parks.  As long as everyone respects each other, it works out fine.

The park has a variety of amenities including a fantastic mini-golf course, a playground, free wi-fi, and a fantastic store with all sorts of cool souvenirs.  There’s a snack bar serving hot food and ice cream.  The park shows Yogi Bear cartoons in the morning and family friendly movies in the evening.  There’s a recreation hall where there are crafts and activities planned everyday.  Yogi himself can be spotted in the park at different times through the day and there are Yogi statues scattered around, just begging to be posed with.

Liam loved the indoor pool and declared that he “can swim now”.  His father and I disagree.  I’d call it floating around in a PFD holding onto Daddy for dear life.  He’s obviously becoming more comfortable with the water, though.  He’s doing just fine for a two year old.

Look!  You're Floating!

Look! You're Floating!

Here’s a heads up about an unusual rule.  There’s a Frankenmuth city ordinance that requires a campsite fire be contained in a fireplace that is one foot off the ground.  The flames cannot exceed two feet high.  If you don’t have a fireplace and you’d still like a fire, there are community fire pits, in the park, that can be shared among the campers.  Fires must be extinguished by 11:00 p.m.

There really isn’t much I can criticize about Frankenmuth Jellystone Park.  The staff made sure we had a good time.  I can’t say enough about how friendly and welcoming they were at Jellystone.  There’s no shortage of things to do without ever leaving the park and when it’s time to go site seeing you’re a hop, skip and a jump away from everything Frankenmuth has to offer.

Now that I know about the Jellystone chain I’ll be on the lookout for them.

Frankenmuth: Michigan’s Little Bavaria

August 18, 2009

Frankenmuth is home to the all-you-can eat fried chicken dinner.  It’s impossible to leave that town with a healthy digestive system.  I love it there, but it’s probably a good thing we only go once a year.

The Cottage Crew @ Zehnder's Restaurant

The Cottage Crew @ Zehnder's Restaurant

That's Some Good Lookin' Chicken

That's Some Good Lookin' Chicken

There are a couple of popular spots, in Frankenmuth, for family style all-you-can-eat dinners.  The gang from the cottage reconvened at Zehnder’s Restaurant.  It’s a good idea to wear you’re Thanksgiving pants if you’re going there.  Zehnder’s is the largest, family owned, restaurant in America with seating for 1,500 people.  They had no problem accommodating our group of eleven.  The service was friendly and fast and the food was delicious, as always.  We sat there and ate for two solid hours.  I got the chicken sweats a couple of times, but it was so good.

The next day, Duncan, Liam and I tried the competition across the street.  The Bavarian Inn Restaurant was comparable to Zehnder’s in price, menu, quality and service.  I got the impression Zehnder’s is more likely to accommodate a large group.  I believe both restaurants are actually owned by the Zehnder family…but don’t quote me on that.  The meal was good but as it was our second all-you-can-eat dinner in as many days; I ruptured something important and had to stop eating, or die.  I did get to hear Eleanor Rigby on an accordion, though.

Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

Covered Bridge in Frankenmuth

Now, there’s more to Frankenmuth than the food.  It’s not called Michigan’s Little Bavaria for nothin’.  The architecture and style of the whole city is reminiscent of a German fairy tail.  It’s very tempting to lose yourself in the whimsy of it all.  Some of the town’s highlights include (but are not limited to) a covered bridge, a glockenspiel and innumerable shops, hotels and businesses all built with the Bavarian aesthetic in mind.

The Frankenmuth Clock Company is a great place to stop and examine the craftsmanship that goes into making a good cuckoo clock.  It’s also a funny and noisy place on the hour.

Cuckoo Clocks

Cuckoo Clocks

The Kids Watching the Riverboat on the Cass River

The Kids Watching the Riverboat on the Cass River

If quaint modes of transportation are your thing, you may be interested in taking a cruise on the Bavarian Belle Riverboat or in taking a horse-drawn carriage ride down Main Street.  I haven’t done the carriage ride, but we did do the Bavarian Bell last year.  It was cool because I was able to cross ‘ride a riverboat’ off the list of things I wanted to do in life.

Whether you’re shopping for fancy cheese, fresh fudge or a pair of lederhosen, Frankenmuth has it all.  But, if you’re not tired of shopping, it’s only a short trip to the Prime Outlets at Birch Run.  The outlet centre is home to over 140 stores all prepared to set you up with some bargains.  You can spend a whole day there…if your husband will let you.

I know you’ve noticed that I haven’t said a word about Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland.  That’s because it’s too awesome to talk about now.  I’ll tell you all about it later.  I’ll also let you in on the pros and cons of Frankenmuth Jellystone Park.  All in good time my friends.

Cottage in Cheboygan

August 17, 2009

Putting three small children together in a cottage was harder than anyone expected.  They weren’t good at sharing but they were good at screaming.  We heard a lot of screaming.  There was so much screaming.  All hope of a relaxing cottage getaway was dashed with the first shriek of “No!  It’s mine!”  We adults spent the trip chasing kids and dogs but I guess that’s what parents are for.

Huntin' for Critters

Huntin' for Critters

The best strategy was to keep the kids busy.  Uncle Fred went hunting for critters and came up a winner.  He caught a frog, which the kids were thrilled with, and came very close to catching a snake.  Snakes are mighty quick!

Three Kids Staring @ a Frog in a Bucket

Three Kids Staring @ a Frog in a Bucket

They played with trains and Play-Doh and bubbles; all of which kept them busy and fighting with each other.  They did behave pretty well on our shopping trips to Wal-Mart.  The best place in all of Cheboygan is the Wal-Mart Supercenter; groceries and bargains under one roof.

We cooked together and shared the cost of food, feasting on such childhood delicacies as hotdogs, Kraft Dinner and Hamburger Helper.  We don’t regularly eat that way, but it was a yummy retrospective on the food I loved as a kid.

The grown-ups got some down-time in the evening, when the kids fell asleep.  We played a bunch of games of both the board and video persuasion.  We managed enough time to work in, among other things, a six hour game of Risk and a complete round-robin Bomberman tournament.

Just Look @ the Concentration as They Battle Through the Bomerman Final

Just Look @ the Concentration as They Battle Through the Bomberman Final

Frolicking in the Water

Frolicking in the Water

I think the best day for adults and kids alike, was the day we went to the beach at Cheboygan State Park.  The kids had fun running around, playing in the sand and splashing in the water.  The big boys had fun digging a big hole.  They called it an engineering project, to make it seem like they were doing something more important than they really were.  The beach, on Duncan Bay in Lake Huron, was lovely and sandy with nice, clear warm water that stayed shallow quite a distance out.  It costs $8.00 for an out of state car to enter the day use area but we found a public road that ended 200 metres away from the beach, so we parked for free and walked in.

That's Some Big Hole!  Well Done.

That's Some Big Hole! Well Done.

After the beach, we were all out of ideas and the kids were still at each other’s throats.  We decided to call it quits at the cottage and head down to Frankenmuth for some shopping and chicken.

The Cottage Crew

The Cottage Crew

The cottage is beautiful and in a lovely and private location.  Maybe next year the kids will get along better and everyone will be able to relax.  It was a good idea to spend an extra day in Frankenmuth, anyway.  I’ll tell you about our stay there next time.