30 July 2013

Colonial Williamsburg 2013

My most recent vacation was to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia this past weekend. I went with my lovely girlfriend, Caity. Read on and you shall hear more about what it was like living in Jamestown in 1607. If, however, you are an easily offended historian with a particular interest in colonial American history, it's best you stop here.
The only thing I can tell  you about Jamestown in 1607 was that it was swampy.
When Caity and I arrived in Jamestown, VA in 2013 we went to the collection of Visitors' Centers provided by the state and the nation. We looked at the different pictures of what was beyond the visitors' centers, and decided we didn't right much care to see where old houses used to sit. Seeing fields and reading plaques about the wood that used to be in the fields sounded fun and all, but we thought a ferry ride would be more intriguing. So we boarded a ferry across the James River and landed in the South. The river is as much of a divider as the Mason-Dixon line. While in Surry County, VA we looked at some peanut farms, then took the ferry back. I still feel very confident we made the right choice in skipping the 400 year old ruins to opt for a smelly ferry and a trip to the South. But, to make sure we appeased our Historian friends, we did go see a movie that night. No wait, what I meant was that we did do a driving tour around Jamestown island where we saw a fox.
Day two of our magical weekend included Colonial Williamsburg. For all my Boston readers, CW is kind of like Sturbridge Village. It's a large settlement meant to look like it did originally in the 1700s and early 1800s. There's a lot of people wearing period clothes doing period things like making shoes, riding horses, churning butter, getting stomach cramps, and whatever else happens on your period. I'm really not an expert on the subject. After three hours of walking the cobblestone streets in the sun, Caity and I turned to each other and almost in unity said to the other one, "This was kind of a strange vacation for us to go on since neither of us are really all that interested in colonial American history."
WHAT? We figure this out now? So we did what we like doing- bought some authentic root beer and drank them under a tree on a lovely bench while discussing why birds don't have arms and why the squirrels weren't in colonial costumes. It made for a delightful afternoon.
Day three of our magnificent vacation was at Busch Gardens. Busch Gardens is an amusement park just outside of Williamsburg. The last amusement park I went to was Knottsberry Farms in CA three years ago, and before that it was probably ten years. I pretty much forgot what an amusement park was. I'm often amused by a lot of different things, but primarily it's puns. I was expecting the park to be filled with clever puns, and was a little disappointed that I didn't see more. On the train ride I made up the majority of the puns because, well, monorails make the best one-liners.
Anyway, Mondays are the best days for amusement parks because most people have to go to work. The same applies for Tuesday-Friday. The longest wait we had in line was 30 minutes and that was so that we could be in the front line of a daring roller coaster: Poppy's Puppies. It was terrifying! The sign out front said you had to be accompanied by an an adult to ride it, so I knew it was going to be mind bending-ly scary. Caity and I were both too scared to be the 'adult', so we recruited another patron to go with us. He was reluctant at first, but when we sweetened the deal with the offer of 100 free business cards he was more inclined to accept. He held my hand and Caity jumped on his back for the entire Poppy's Puppies.
The other highlight of the day at Busch Gardens was the nap we took on a park bench after the Rhine River Cruise. We both enjoy a postprandial sleep, and after a big lunch we both decided that our afternoon would be greatly improved with a nap before the roller coasters. So we sat on a  wood bench by the river and slept. Hundreds of people passed us, many of them sat on us unknowingly, and a few even joined us. Unfortunately those few decided to join us at the same time, and the bench was just not big enough for 8 humans and three dogs all lying down. I didn't sleep much during that interval. But anyway, after the nap Caity and I both felt much better and headed off for more fun. When the park is open 12 consecutive hours you can afford to take nap or two.
It was a really great weekend. I'd highly recommend the historic Jamestown for the foxes, Colonial Williamsburg for the root beer and collector's spoons, and Busch Gardens for the superior wooden sleeping benches.

18 July 2013

Johnson Family Reunion 2013

For the Fourth of July weekend my Mom's side of the family all gathered in Fish Haven, Idaho for a family reunion. We do this sort of thing in different locations every three years. It was a sight to behold. All of my late grandparents' posterity were there- 4 children (and 4 spouses), 18 grandchildren (and 10 spouses plus one fiancee), and 18 great-grand children. With 54 related people in attendance, how may houses would you expect us to fill? Just for reference, those 54 people live at 20 different addresses in their normal life. But renting 20 different houses is expensive, even in Fish Haven. I'm not even sure there are 20 houses total in Fish Haven. And it doesn't encourage family togetherness. Even half that number- 10- houses is expensive in Fish Haven. Have you made your guess about how many houses we rented for the weekend yet? I'll give you a hint: It's the lowest number in common between the subsets of the Natural Numbers and the Whole Numbers. Since I know you passed 7th grade math, you know that that answer is one.
Fifty four people ranging in age from 0ish to 60ish all sleeping on beds soft surfaces for three nights. This house was cavernous. Along with the rental key came 24 flashing beacons and walkie talkies for in home use only. There were strings tied tautly from the farthest bedrooms to the kitchen so that cousins could stave off starvation in their isolation and find the food. (Divers exploring watery caves use this same technique to find their boats after their expeditions.) I thought one of my cousins' daughters wasn't at the reunion because I didn't see her the first two days; it was only on the third day that I learned she had been there the whole time, in a different wing of the mansion. The description, "She's my cousin once removed" will never mean the same thing to me again.
The sleeping arrangements in this house were anything but typical. As an unmarried male grandchild, I was pretty far down on the bed assignment totem pole. At the top were the married families with young kids. Some, though not all, of my family members fitting that description got bedrooms with private bathrooms.
The next level of bedroom glory went to the direct children of my grandparents. They organized the reunion, so they got nice rooms- though none of them got a bathroom attached. Farther down the totem pole is the young, married grandchildren. In one room with two beds and a futon, there slept the three newest couples of the family. All of them married, and all three of them sharing a room. At this point we're just about at the bottom of the totem pole. This brings us to the leftover married grandchildren after all the bedrooms were taken. If you thought three married couples sleeping in the same room was low, now imagine a married couple sleeping on a futon in a common area. Ouch. Sorry, Thomas and Mckell. And finally, at a point so low on the familial totem pole that not even a midget would notice we were there, fell the unmarried-but-should-be male cousins. Me and Clayton. Sharing a futon. In the common room. The ten people who had to share the bathroom with us stepped all over our clothes on their way to the shower. It was never intentional, but when you sleep in the common room on a futon there's no place to put your suitcase but on the only available floor space, which coincided nicely with the pathway between two bedrooms and the bathroom.
Let me just say I really got to know my family well over these three days (at least the family in my wing of the house).
One of the tractors that put
boats in the water.
There were some really great activities on this reunion. We made and shot off rockets, tried to put water in a pourous PVC pipe for fun, made newspaper wedding dresses, and rented boats and jet skis on Bear Lake. My favorite of the activities was the boating. The fun thing about Bear Lake is, well, the bears. They are everywhere! On the beach, in the lake, eating your food, and getting into your car. When I got on the boat for the first time I opened up the inadequately named glove compartment looking for a place to put my towel, and therein was a black bear cub. We helped him out of the chamber and got him back to shore near his momma, who was eating my lunch in my beach chair. It's like they think they own the place or something.
One truthfully unique thing about Bear Lake is that there are virtually no docks. When you want to put your boat in the water you attach the trailer to a tractor and drive the tractor directly into the lake until it's deep enough that you can push the buoyant boat off. It was bizarre.
This grossly inaccurate misrepresentation of my glorious family reunion needs to come to a close now. I have not written 1/100 of the proceedings of those wonderful three days, but I think you at least get a sense of what it was like as far as the sleeping arrangements went.
Two more tractors that put boats in the water.

Our rocket launching pad. My rocket exploded on this very site.