My sister and my mom guilt-tripped me into visiting the family in Toledo for Thanksgiving, but it turned out that airplane tickets around Thanksgiving were ridiculously expensive, so we rescheduled for mid-February. By committing months ahead of time, and getting my sister and her family to do all the hard parts (picking a ticket, arranging for parking, etc.) they managed to get me onto a plane.
Somehow, I managed not to horribly screw-up getting through security -- I mean, I still set off the metal detector and had to be patted down and have my hat specifically searched (I forgot I was wearing it), but I wasn't arrested, so that's a win. The plane ride was kind of boring (too many clouds to see anything) but we were all sitting in the same row so at least we could talk to each other.
Toledo was... not the same. Most of the city was unrecognizable, especially the area around my old house (where we were staying) since the hospital had torn down everything. Gino's Pizza was still there at least, and still as weird but strangely satisfying as ever -- they do something to the cheese that makes it into a hardened, brown crust and the sauce is really sweet.
But we spent most of the vacation doing things that were nostalgic anyway.
The first day we drove out to Pokagon State Park in Indiana, where we'd gone camping many times and occasionally canoeing. It was unseasonably warm (in the 60s and 70s) but still too cold for any of that, so instead we went on their Toboggan Run which was open despite the heat.
As soon as I'd rented the toboggan, I realized that I'd made a terrible, terrible mistake that I'm still paying for. The thing was HEAVY, and I had to carry it slowly through a long line of people waiting, and up a huge flight of stairs. Then, they put me in back and had me sit on my tailbone with my legs raised, with my arms down by my hips holding onto a couple of straps. The entire ride was nothing but pain, as my knuckles cracked against the sides of the track repeatedly and every melted spot bounced me painfully up and down -- it still hurts to sit, nine days later, and my hands are covered in scabs.
Also, even if it's warm, forests in winter with no snow are really, really ugly.
The second day we went to the zoo, which went better because I wasn't injured. And it's still a really good zoo! The tiny cages with animals in them were all closed, but they'd cleverly arranged for the animals in the larger habitats to still have nowhere to hide, so unlike the Seattle Zoo you can actually see them. Also, the Aquarium is part of the zoo and had some really neat exhibits, like the tiny flashlight fish that looked exactly like evil shadow fish from a video game.
We did try to eat lunch at the café, though, and that was terrible. The food was amazingly bad (who makes a cheeseburger and doesn't melt the cheese?) and the lines were amazingly long, because all the other food places in the zoo were closed for winter.
I don't remember what we did the third day. Grr.
The fourth day we went to the Art Museum, because we were planning to go to a science museum in Chicago later and didn't want to go to two of them. There seemed to be two wings to the Art Museum -- one wing had ancient artifacts, modern art, and foreign stuff, and the other had boring European crap that you think of when you think of art. The featured exhibit was a black artist 'blackwashing' history as a commentary on how most classical art whitewashed it. He'd replicate old paintings and replace Napoleon with a guy wearing a hoodie and ridiculously low pants that showed off his underwear, and stuff like that. It was pretty repetitive, but still better than the boring European crap.
Then, we drove to Chicago for the rest of the trip. Sort of. We never actually set foot in Chicago unless the museum 20 miles outside of downtown counts -- we were in Naperville where my brother-in-law's friend lived, although my mom and I (and her sister who came along) weren't actually invited. It turned out he was sick and they couldn't visit (except for a few hours on the very last night of the trip), but we'd already made hotel reservations and had the return flight out of Chicago, so we went anyway.
On the way we stopped at a park on the shore of Lake Michigan with gigantic sand dunes, to please Danny (the middle kid). He was, indeed, very pleased, and most of the rest of us also spent some time climbing loose sand and completely wearing ourselves out. I'd pretend I was playing a desert level in a video game, slowly losing stamina, until I was reduced to crawling and then finally collapsed entirely and splayed out unconscious on the sand. I mean, I wasn't really unconscious but I had to stop and rest three or four times and why *not* splay out and pretend to be dead? The sand was really comfortable!
Going down was easy at least. You could take giant steps and then slide further as the sand collapsed beneath your foot, like a fast escalator that also deposited sand in your shoes.
Anyway, we eventually arrived in Naperville. My mom was very very anxious about driving in heavy traffic, so for some reason she took the huge van which wasn't big enough to hold everyone so my sister's family was in a rental car anyway and it only had the three of us in it, and then freaked out about the possibility of getting it damaged since it was new and 'Bobby's'. Bobby is my stepfather -- my mom remarried after I was already in college so we don't really know each other that well. He'd hurt himself and spent the whole vacation sitting in one chair doing nothing but suffer, while mom ran around and panicked that he was 'SO ANGRY' even though he was being completely pleasant.
Anyway, mom was too panicked to actually go to downtown Chicago, so the closest we got was the museum of Science and Industry. It's a HUGE museum with some neat exhibits, but we arrived in separate cars and it took a while to find each other. Anna (my sister) sent a text saying they were in the U-505 exhibit (an underground vault with a real WW2 submarine sitting suspended in the middle, surrounded by WW2 stuff) and were losing cell reception, so we headed there as soon as we got in but couldn't find them. Then we searched around the rest of the museum for them in vain, because it turned out they'd gone on the tour of the interior of the sub, which cost extra.
But we managed to meet up, have another horrible lunch in the museum cafeteria, and completely kill my feet again by spending hours in the museum. x.x I had fun though.
Then (the next day) it was time for the flight back, which managed to not go as smoothly as the flight there, since we were in separate cars and had to meet up at the airport and I decided to go through security myself but hadn't checked my carryon because the girl at the counter told me I'd have to pay for it which wasn't true actually. Also, the TSA in Chicago wanted the whole nine yards, shoes off and everything, and had a more complicated scanner where I had to move around and do weird poses inside the x-ray machine for them.
We did eventually meet up, and the food at the airport was better, at least.
But we didn't have adjacent seats for the flight and in particular I had *no* seat and they refused to give me one until 40 minutes before the plane was leaving, which was pretty nerve-wracking even though Alex (Anna's husband) insisted that it was normal. Of course it ended up being a middle seat so I had to spend the whole flight all scrunched up and uncomfortable (extra-uncomfortable because it still hurt to sit).
But we made it home, and after driving from the airport to North Seattle to retrieve my car from Anna's house, I drove all the way back down to the Airport for the night's D+D game.
When I eventually got home around midnight Friday, I found that the management was going to install a new oven and wanted me to clean off my kitchen counters. Don't know how long that notice had been there, but I did it over the weekend so I'll see if I can get in touch with them today and tell them it's ready.
And then go to work. Sigh.