Clipped Wings

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​My passport expired on May 31st. My passport lapsed once before, but other than that very brief time, I have had a passport since approximately 1986. I remember checking it’s validity when President George H.W. Bush tapped Dan Quayle to be his Vice President. Remember potatoe? I thought we could not get anyone stupider to run our government, and then the Republicans in 2015 said, “Hold my beer!”

In looking back at my twenty-one year old self, a mere child compared to the knowledge I hold now, it was epically short-sighted and judgmental, especially towards VP Quayle. That’s not to say that I’m no longer judgmental. I do try to be a bit more even-handed in my judgment calls and personal opinions on people in the public sphere. In looking back on Dan Quayle, he wasn’t a terrible Vice President. He was non-descript. I was just out of college when he and Bush were elected, and despite my working for the federal government I really didn’t have a whole lot of attention spent towards the upper levels of the Executive Branch.

That continued for quite some time. Despite each of the following Presidents’ difficulty and shortcomings, I slept well. I trusted what was in their hearts in spite of the disapproval of some policies by them and the Congresses that opposed them.

Now, we have a malignant narcissist running our country into the ground. I’m not going to get into the legalities or the politics of impeachment or armchair psychological diagnosis of dementia or any other possible cognitive or personality disorder. We do know that anything can happen because of the President’s lack of knowledge on many issues and his pettiness and impulsiveness and I live each day in fear for myself, but moreso for my children.

However, other than the security of an escapist sense of protection; a shield against the unknown and the rising anxiety, not only in me, but in the country, the expiration of my passport is a cryptic feeling; not bittersweet, not unambiguous, a little sad, a little motivating to get it renewed, a little feeling of captivity; of being a prisoner in my own land. I’m stuck.

Now, in a country the size of the United States it’s not as though I’m trapped in a 10×10 cell or even a two acre plot of land. I have the entire expanse of the width of the North American continent, so there is definitely a bit of privilege slipping out into my bluster.

We’re planning a family vacation, and with one child already on his own, I’m not sure how many more of these will be available to us. We really love spending time with our kids, and I miss them when they’re off with their friends. 

One of the places on our list of possible destinations is Toronto, which is closer to us than many of our states. 

But… 

I need a passport to get there, to cross the border into Canada. It has never felt more like a foreign country than it does now. I traveled to Canada many, many times as a child and young adult. We had (and continue to have) family there; my grandfather and his family were from Toronto and I have many cousins still living there. For a time, I had considered moving there to go to college, but that didn’t work out for a variety of reasons. I certainly wouldn’t have needed a passport back then. Even though we are not planning on seeing family during this trip, Canada, and especially Toronto and Niagara Falls still feel like going home. While so many things change, the awe of being a tiny part of this foreign land is like breathing new air.

So here I sit, contemplating a haircut, a special outfit for my photo, and popping into the post office to get a renewal application, and then sending it in as soon as possible. I do know that whether or not I use my passport or if I just carry it in my purse, it is the freedom that it grants that lets my heart rest easy. And gives peace of mind. And perhaps, one day will lead to adventure again.

Crowdsourcing Travel

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Earlier in the month our family was having some difficulty deciding on a vacation destination. Our original plan was to take nine to ten days, but our son couldn’t get the first day off (or approved yet) and a very close friend is getting married during the second weekend. Consequently, our time away was cut down to five days. That’s still a decent chunk of time, and we are very grateful to be able to take our kids somwhere special.

I made a Facebook post solicitating suggestions from my friends. I gave them three criteria:

1. Nothing south of the Mason-Dixon Line

2. Nothing west of the Mississippi

3. Able to enjoy ourselves for 5 days with no air travel.

I’m sharing what places were suggested along with some links to the area tourism and travel guides.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

     Visit Fort Wayne

Maine

     Visit Maine

Nashville and/or Memphis, Tennessee

     Nashville

     Memphis from Lonely Planet

     Memphis Travel – free map and guide

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
     Visit Pittsburgh

Ontario, Canada – Toronto and Niagara Falls (or Niagara Falls, NY)

     Toronto from Lonely Planet

     See Toronot Now

     Niagara Falls, Ontario

     Niagara Falls, NY

General Travel Info

AAA
Lonely Planet

August – Vacation/Staycation – Reflection

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We won’t be getting a vacation this year. My husband will get the time off, but we don’t have the finances to go anywhere, so what special thing can we do before school starts up again in a little more than two weeks.

This certainly won’t be the first time we have a staycation. To be honest, most of our “vacation” time was spent traveling the two hundred fifty or so miles to and from our parents’ houses. When my father was ill, and before my oldest started school, we would drive down one weekend, my husband would take my father’s car home so he could work, and then return the next weekend. We did this at least once a month.

In those ensuing years, I was able to travel a bit with help from friends, and my husband went to his mom’s with the kids for a weekend or to ComicCon, and we did many road trips – day trips – just to get away from our four walls, which always seemed to be in need of housekeeping. It still does.

What’s a family to do?

We are fortunate to live in and around the capital of New York, and so there are many options for day trips from amusement parks to historical sites, horse racing, and shopping. We recently did a quick overnight to Destiny USA, the largest mall in New York, and very similar, if not in size and scope, to the Mall of America. It was like a mini-vacation, and my husband and son checked off nine new comic stores (in less than twenty-four hours) while my daughter and I went shopping at Lush and drank bubble tea at Kung Fu Tea. We’d never been there before, and so it was nice. It was different. And it was really not expensive at all.

Where to start?

AAA

Tour books, maps, they can even make reservations for you. I actually prefer to do this myself since we rent our car from Enterprise, and this trip was free because of points accumulation.

Priceline

We booked our hotel (in the carr on our way to Syracuse) online. We didn’t find out the hotel until after we chose and paid for it, but we got a comfortable $78 room with free breakfast for $46.

Know before you go

In NY, we have a wonderful I Love NY app that offers you suggestions on where to visit, where to eat, and what to do. Google your own state, and discover what’s right in your backyard.

Look for discounts

Again, use AAA. I always forget to ask about a AAA discount when I’m at home, but it’s available in many places. Military, senior, and student discounts are also often available. Look online for special offers, coupons, and recommendations.

Make memories

Buy an inexpensive journal in the dollar section of Target or any dollar store. Use your cell phone camera to take photos of the places you’ve been, and the family you’re with.

One of the things that amazes me is discovering the “tourist” things to do in my “hometown”. We spend all of our time traveling somewhere else that we forget that people often are traveling to our neck of the woods, and we should take some time to explore our own environs.

Here are some suggestions for the central New York region, whether you’re local or visiting from afar:

1. ESAM – Empire State Air Museum

2. Erie Canal Cruises

3. Six Flags Great Escape and the Lake George Area

4. VIA Aquarium

5. Grant Cottage

6. Saratoga Race Track

7. Schuyler Mansion

8. Niagara Falls – New YorkCanada (You will need a valid passport for travel to Canada. Visit the State Dept. for more information.)

9. Destiny USA

10. National Comedy Center

Inside Lock 17. Erie Canal Cruises. (c)2018

50-47 – Niagara Falls

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I can’t remember how many times I’ve been to Niagara Falls. It is the one place that I’ve been to in almost every place of my life. I went as a kid with my parents and siblings, I went with my husband while we were dating, we brought my young son right before he started kindergarten, and we recetnly went with our whole family of five.

The city iteself changes, and over the last forty years or so, the Falls have even changed, but yet, they still remain the same.

I recognize the crowded streets, the carnival like atmosphere, the bright lights, the cold spray from the Falls, the huge ferris wheel that we could see from our hotel room window.

Parking was worse this last time, and I had trouble with my knee, but overall it was a lasting memory that we will enjoy for a long time.

Standing across from the Falls, my hand on the cold stone wall that kept me from falling down the hill to the sharp rocks below. I would stand there and stare, occasionally taking pictures, occasionally closing my eyes and just standing there, listening to the wind, the water hitting the bottom. I couldn’t feel the spray from there, but I could see it.

We wanted to take the kids on the Maid of the Mist, but the boats had also changed. Maid of the Mist only docked on the American side. The Canadian had a new tour from Hornblower Niagara Cruises. The boats were red trimmed, and the ponchos were red and biodegradable. The boat was less choppy and I liked it much better than when I was a kid.

When I was a kid, I refused to go on until my family came back safe, then my Dad took me alone. Since they didn’t drown, I figured it was okay for me to go. The anxiety is strong in me. At that time, you couldn’t keep the rain jackets. They were much heavier, rubbery, and hot, so very hot.

This boat still rocked and we were drenched from going under or close enough to the falls that the spray was heavier than any torrential downpour I’ve ever been in.

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