2017 Vacation

I think I’ve updated y’all on the plans. At first we planned to go to Europe this year. We planned to fly into Amsterdam, then visit Rotterdam, then into Germany, where we would go to Berlin, Munich, and Heidelberg (stopping at Neuschwanstein just because). After that I had hoped to visit Brussels before going back to Amsterdam for the flight home. In my dream version of this trip, I hoped to stop off at Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau, the two towns of Belgium and the Netherlands, respectively, that are sort of intertwined with one another.

Late in 2016, we scaled that trip down to a trip to Canada. The plan was to fly into Toronto, then drive a rental car to Quebec City, where there is going to be a tall ship regatta this summer. But Alex made a friend in California and really wanted to visit there, so early this year, we scaled it further back to a week in Southern California.

I just realized this last week that one of our traditional July trip destinations is a national park. In 2011, we went to the National Mall; in 2012, it was Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park; in 2013, we had Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, *and* Cape Hatteras National Seashore; in 2014, it was Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio; in 2015, it was Statue of Liberty National Monument; and in 2016, it was Golden Spike National Historic Site and, of course Yellowstone.

But what to do in Southern California? I was hoping to get to Catalina Island while I am in California, since I’ve never been to Catalina before, but it’s expensive. Channel Islands National Park is less expensive so it was tempting, but apparently you have to pick one island, and the closest island is still an hour away by boat, and the boats leave from Ventura, which is an hour from our hotel. So that’s a four-hour round trip. And apparently there’s not really anything to do on the islands unless you like to kayak, which doesn’t seem like my sort of thing. There’s not even a place to take shelter from the rain on Anacapa, which is the one that’s only an hour-long trip.

If the boats traveled more like the ones at Statue of Liberty National Monument, where you could take one boat to Anacapa, then another in an hour or two to Santa Cruz, and so on, it might be worth it. Take a boat to one island and be stuck there for the rest of the day is less exciting for me (oh, and apparently the seagulls are nesting on the island in July, so it’s apparently noisy and smells like seagull poop). This means, of course, that if I want to go to an island, I’m back to considering Catalina.

In contrast, our hotel is about two hours away from Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve been looking at pictures and doing some reading, and you can see the San Andreas Fault from there, and there are a couple of oases in the park.  So if I’m going to spend four hours in a rental car to get to and from a national park, Joshua Tree gets my vote.

So we’ve been doing the insulin shots for just about a week now. I say just about because we had a bit of an adventure. I gave Kiliamo his first shot on Saturday, April 1, at 7:00 pm. Then I got up at 7:00 am on April 2 and gave him his second. While I was showing Alex how to draw up the insulin, he bent the needle of the syringe and we had to start over. Somehow, we ended up knocking the vial off of the counter and it shattered.

So I called the vet to leave a message asking for a new vial and we had to just hope that another 13 or so hours without insulin wouldn’t cause any damage. Monday morning, I got a message from work asking if I would come in an hour late to cover that shift instead of my original shift, so I planned to get up whenever the vet called and get the insulin. When they hadn’t called by 9:30, I called. The new vial was ready, so I went to get it. While I was driving back from the vet’s office (the only way to make it easily back from the vet’s is to continue down that street, turn at the next corner, and come back up a different street), I get a text asking me to come in right then. Well, I hadn’t eaten, or showered, and still needed to give the cat his insulin. I said I couldn’t be there for less than 45 minutes (and that would have required me to eat while I drove), and someone else offered to come in instead. So I was back to the later shift.

By the time the cat got his insulin, though, it was after 10. When you move a cat’s insulin dose, you’re supposed to move it in half-hour increments. Moving it half an hour at a time, I would have ended up late for work on Wednesday. So I ended up moving it in 35-minute increments, and now he’s back at 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.  I’m going to have to move the doses again in June, because Alex stays with his dad for the month and so I’m going to have to work only the late shift and give him his dose at 10:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. for the duration.

Well, it’s definitely been an experience.

In other news, I am often after Alex to take pictures of things and places that he thinks is important or memorable, because they won’t be there forever. I’m having that kind of experience on two levels right now. I was just at North Star Mall getting my pedometer steps in and I remembered that the mall has a basement. When my now-ex and I moved here, it was an Oshman’s Sporting Goods store. And as I walked around the mall, I could not remember where the escalator to the basement was. I think I’m pretty close, but still not quite enough.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture, if not of the escalator, of the spot where the escalator had been once it was gone.

The other thing is that the Santa Anita Derby horse race was today. I’ve been past Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. The first time my now-ex and I went to California, I borrowed the rental car while he went to work and we agreed that I’d find a pay phone and call him at some specific time (I think it was 3:30?) so we could arrange when I’d come pick him up. I passed the racetrack at pretty close to the time we were supposed to talk and I went to a supermarket to make the call.

There was a brief pause there while I gave my cat his insulin. Where was I? Ah, yes, Santa Anita.

So I’ve looked for a supermarket near the racetrack a few times and can’t find anything. This summer, Alex and I will be staying in that part of the Los Angeles area, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to find that supermarket again. I’m certainly going to try. It was more than 20 years ago, so the area has probably changed irretrievably (?), but just maybe I’ll get lucky and find that store again.

No, I haven’t forgotten about this blog. But I’ve been really exhausted after work and have been using the energy that I do have on my language-learning project (maybe I’ll start a topic for that . . .), so I haven’t had the time or energy to spend on reading magazines. Except for Vanity Fair, because I am one of that magazine’s tens of thousands of new subscribers. I’m considering subscribing to Teen Vogue, as well, for their political reporting. There’s apparently also a project going where people are subscribing Republican politicians to Teen Vogue as well (a subscription is only $5 per year).

As for the language-learning project, as of yesterday I have hit the $90 mark, and as of today I’ve finished Level 1 of Rosetta Stone Vietnamese. As far as Spanish goes, I’m apparently somewhere in the midst of heading towards CEFR* Level B1. B1 is a high intermediate/low advanced level, so I can live with that, I think (for now, at least). The only thing stopping me from being at a higher level is vocabulary, so I’m considering adding vocabulary flash cards to my regimen. One of the things that bugs me about Duolingo is that the gold circles (indicating that you’ve completed that exercise) stop being gold after a while (as a prompt to make you practice more). I wish Duolingo would let me specify that I use Spanish nearly daily in my job, so that the circles take longer to stop being gold. Having to do the same lessons over and over because Duolingo assumes that I don’t use the language enough to keep the vocabulary fresh can be kind of frustrating.

I’ve also discovered a new tool, Language Zen, which I’m trying out. So far they only have Spanish for English speakers (and their second plan is for English for Spanish speakers), but if the site takes off, they’ll be adding more languages later. It’s a little translation-heavy (they give you sentences in English and you have to write the Spanish for them), which doesn’t do so much to prepare you to speak the language, but it’s hopefully going to broaden my vocabulary.  There’s an odd “less than (number) words need practice” thing in the corner that I haven’t quite been able to figure out yet. I had 60 words at one time, then worked my way down to ten, and now I’m at 255. I can’t wait to figure out what that means. As I worked on this post, I was working on that site and I’m down to 245. Still don’t know 245 words until what, exactly.

There’s also been a change in plans for our bigger 2017 trip. Alex has a friend in California that he wants to meet in person, so we’re going to be going to Southern California for the week. I have been there four times before (and Alex went once as a baby), but, again, the now-ex (who still doesn’t have a pseudonym) has most of our photos from those trips. So I’ll be taking new pictures of those places to replace the ones that I no longer have. I also hope to make it to a few new places (the Queen Mary and Catalina Island, specifically).

*Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

1. It looks like my step count will likely be a lot better for June than it was for May.  It’s bedtime on June 9 and I’m done with my average step count through June 11.  I will still have to get the actual steps on those days, but if I’m two days ahead already, I doubt that I’ll end up behind like I was in May.  Also, hopefully July will be pretty easy to take care of, despite the 2nd and 3rd being weekend days because July will be our big vacation and I suspect that between running through two airports twice and visiting the Fishlake National Forest*, Salt Lake City, the Golden Spike National Historic Site, Yellowstone, and Dinosaur National Monument (also, possibly Craters of the Moon National Park), I can probably come up with a few steps. It probably won’t be as step-heavy as Italy and New York were because we will have a rental car with us. I have pretty high hopes for August, though, since we’ll be spending four days in Chicago without a rental car.

2.  Originally, our 2017 vacation was supposed to be our return to Europe.  To that end, I started saving up for our 2017 vacation when we returned from our 2014 vacation. Since we’re not going to Europe, but Canada instead, I’m now done saving up for that trip.  Now I am going to continue saving money for two smaller trips next year — a long weekend in Southern California (the last time I was there, Alex was a baby) and the eclipse weekend.  Let’s see how that goes.

3(a). I still have a box full of envelopes of pictures to scan, but the other day I passed the 20,000 picture mark.  I really need to remember to pick up two more SD cards to back up the pictures. Then I have to remember to take them to my safe deposit box. No sense making a backup if I then lose it in a fire or something.

3(b). My dad has a shelf full of genealogical materials.  After I finish my photo scanning project I will, likely, begin scanning all of that in.  Wish me luck.

*Because if you’re that close to the most massive single organism on the planet, it would be foolish not to see (and photograph!) it.  I doubt we’re going to get far enough east on our planned 2018 trip to Washington and Oregon to visit the largest organism in terms of area.

I’m currently in the process of rethinking our upcoming travel schedules.  Not for 2016; those are paid for and thus graven in stone at this point. Rather, I’m rethinking 2017 and following years.  Originally, we were planning to go to Europe in 2017, but then I discovered the SAIL Amsterdam event, which is an event where tall ships converge on Amsterdam every five years.  The next one will be in 2020.  I really wanted to take Alex for this, however, SAIL Amsterdam is held in late August, which would interfere with his school schedule (even though Alex will be in college by then).

When I was considering taking Alex to SAIL Amsterdam, I thought about taking Alex to Canada in 2017.  Then I discovered that SAIL Amsterdam was too late in the summer, so I was back to Europe in 2017. However, when I was researching other tall ships events, I found that there is a tall ships thing in Quebec City during what would be my normal window for our big vacation (from the Monday after the second Friday in July until the fourth Friday in July) in 2017.  This is perfect.  I had also hoped to return to New York City in July of 2017 anyhow, so we could fly out to New York, then take the train from there.  It would probably be easier to take the train from New York to Toronto then go in a circle, coming back to New York from Montreal, but we wouldn’t be able to spend much time in Toronto that way, not and make it to Quebec City in time.  Maybe Montreal, then right to Quebec City and then take our time coming back through Montreal to Toronto and back to New York?  That’s got some potential.

I’m not sure what will happen with Europe now.  2018?  We usually go to see a volcano in even-numbered years, and there are three volcanoes in Germany, so we could do that.  Or we could stick with our current plan to go to Seattle (Mount Rainier would be our volcano in that case) in 2018 and go to Europe in 2019.

If we do the New York to Canada and back to New York thing in 2017, both times I’ve flown out of Terminal 2 at JFK, I’ve had terrible vertigo, so don’t let me forget my Benadryl.