Articles

Enchanted World Doll Museum

(Mitchell, South Dakota)

Is that a doll museum or a fortress?  When I think of dolls, I don’t usually think “castle.”

Unless…

Oh no.  They’re enchanted dolls.  The museum curators are doing the best they can to prevent these tiny sorcerers from breaking free.  It all makes sense.   And “World” is right there in the name—they want to take over the world!  Who knows how many dolls are in there, just waiting for an uprising?  It’s near impossible to gauge the size of their army, what with those Russian nesting dolls.  Let’s just hope that castle can hold them.  As long as it stands firm, we should be safe.  Only humans can open doors.  Then again, if velociraptors can learn how to open doors, it’s only a matter of time before humanoid dolls will catch on.  We’re all doomed!

24
Sep 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert
DISCUSSION 1 Comment
Articles

Travel Tales: My Rochester Connection, or Gym Class Flashbacks

A friend of mine was getting married in Rochester, New York.  I live in Los Angeles, California.  Luckily for me, there are these flying machines called airplanes that can take you to other parts of the world relatively quickly.  Only thing is, there are no direct flights from LA to Rochester.  I guess there aren’t enough Angelenos traveling to this northern New York city to justify direct flights.  No matter.  I book a flight to Chicago with a two hour layover, giving me plenty of time to make my connection to Rochester.  I’d arrive in Rochester in time for all of the wedding festivities.  You see where this is going.

My LA to Chicago flight gets delayed.  By two hours.  We finally arrive in Chicago, and I almost give up hope at making my connection.  And if I miss the flight, I miss all the fun activities leading up to the actual wedding (and really, that’s why people go to a wedding, am I right?).  But then I remember I have a little app on my phone that lets me check flight updates.  Sure enough, the Rochester plane was also delayed!  It still hadn’t taken off, but it was about to.  So I man up.  It’s go time.

I become “That Guy” on the plane who explains to skeptical passengers I have a connecting flight that is about to leave and I have to cut in front of them.  After many glares in the aisle, I get off the plane and run into the terminal with my rollaway carry-on and backpack.  I yell at a gate employee, like someone out of a disaster movie, “Which way to Gate 4G?!”  The woman points to the connecting terminal, probably half a mile away.  Then I start to run.  I don’t jog—I run.  I take off like I’m being tested in gym class, but now I have the added weight of my backpack, a carry-on to roll, and I’m wearing unacceptable running shoes.  If I were training for a race by adding extra weight during practice runs, this would be great.  But this isn’t practice.  This is the race.  All those gym class feelings come back.  Huffing, puffing, having to stop.  You got it, I tell myself, just a little further.

I finally make it to the gate… and the plane hasn’t departed yet!  I’m thrilled, but I’m also so winded I can’t breath.  I start coughing.  Horrible, wheezing coughing—that dry cough that hurts.  Oh man, was it bad.  And I didn’t even have the pleasure of knowing how fast I ran, like in gym.  As I walk on the plane, I try to play it cool, but the flight attendant knows something’s wrong.  Maybe it’s my beet red face and lung hacking that gives it away.  As I manage to ask for a glass of water without coughing, she hands me the entire bottle.  Score!, the frugal traveler in me thinks, That’s, like, a four dollar value!  As we take off, my wheezing and coughing continues.  I was not feeling better.  I was feeling worse.

Have you ever used a barf bag on an airplane?  I’ve never seen someone use one before, but a few Rochester passengers got to see one in action that day.  Funny, it wasn’t air sickness that did me in, it was my years of never engaging in any physical activity.  As I leaned over in my seat, taking aim in a little paper bag, I finally understood why America needs to get in shape.  It’s not to prevent diabetes or obesity.  It’s so they can make a quick flight connection without vomiting.

The Promised Land of Rochester.

17
Sep 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert
POSTED IN

Airports, Travel Tales, USA

DISCUSSION No Comments
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The Portland International Rose Test Garden

The climate of Portland, Oregon is apparently perfect for growing roses.  That’s why the Rose Council of the World (or whatever their real name is) decided to have their International Rose Test Garden in the fair city.

You can wander the gorgeous grounds for free and enjoy the more than 500 varieties of Frankenstein creations by gardeners who like to play God.  Here are just a few of the many splendors:

Ahh.

Ooh.

Lovely!

Well, I haven’t seen such beautiful flowers in all my days.

“Call it any stupid name. Don’t matter. It’s still gonna smell great.” – Billy S.

10
Sep 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert
DISCUSSION No Comments
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Travel Tales: Cedar Point, or The Loneliest Day of My Life

If you don’t live in the American Midwest, you might not have heard of Cedar Point.  It claims to the “The Best Amusement Park in the World,” but they do have an asterisk next to that statement, so even they might be unsure.  As far as roller coasters go, though, it’s hard to top Cedar Point.  For all those hardcore Coaster Peeps (I just made up that nickname—not sure what to call them), this is their Mecca.  On the website, Cedar Point ranks their coasters according to intensity, the highest level being “Aggressive Thrill.”  So, at least you know going in you’ll be physically and emotionally abused.  With names like Mean Streak and Magnum XL-200, that helps clue you in, too.  So when I was in high school looking at Midwestern colleges with my parents and I wanted to visit this “assault on your senses” theme park, I wasn’t surprised when my parents passed.  I was going to fly solo, something I had never done before in a theme park.  After what I learned that day, I vowed never to do it again.

Being a sixteen-year-old kid, at first I’m thrilled I don’t have to slow down my pace for my parents.  I’m zig-zagging through the crowds, getting to each roller coaster much quicker than I would have with adults.  But then, when I get in line for the roller coasters, I start to realize how boring it is to be in a theme park by yourself.  You have no one to talk to when waiting in line, and waiting in line takes up the majority of your day.  The groups in front of and behind me in the lines are having a blast talking about all the fun stuff they’re going to do, couples are engaging in disgusting Public Displays of Affection, and here I am just standing there.  And this was before smart phones, mind you, so I couldn’t even read the news or play a game as I waited.  I think some famous writer once said you can be surrounded by people but still feel alone.  I don’t know who said that, but it’s true.

So the day keeps going the same way, me getting in line alone and riding a roller coaster.  At one point, I go to one of those “Guess My Weight” games and win a teddy bear.  A cute, very furry, teddy bear.  I think, “This’ll be a great present for my mom” (I’m adorable, I know).  But what I don’t consider is now I have to carry around basically an itchy sweater on a 90 degree, humid, July day.  But I carry it around nonetheless, because I’m a good son (I’m really adorable).

It’s getting to be closing time, and I decide to treat myself to a frozen yogurt waffle cone.  Why not?  I deserve it.  I managed to get through a day without talking to anyone.  To a sixteen-year-old, that’s worth a frozen yogurt.  I get my waffle cone and sit down at an empty table with my teddy bear.  As I start eating, I notice two cute teenage girls looking my way.

TEENAGE GIRL 1:  Aww, look at that teddy bear!
TEENAGE GIRL 2:  I want one of those!

Now, me being a post-pubescent boy, I want to respond to these potential girlfriends of mine.  I want to tell them in a Fonzie-type way exactly where they could get the teddy bear and maybe see if they want to go on a few rides together.  But, I hadn’t talked to anyone the entire day, and adding in my excitement of talking to girls, this is what came out:

ME: T—teddy bear?  Yeah, I got—I got teddy bear over there!  Guess My Weight.  I won Guess My Weight!

The girls look at me—this boy eating a massive waffle cone alone, holding a teddy bear, probably with frozen yogurt on his face—and think the only thing they could think: I am mentally challenged.  They smile politely and speak in that condescending tone people use when addressing children.

TEENAGE GIRL 1:  Wow.
TEENAGE GIRL 2:  Thank you.

I knew asking if they wanted to ride a roller coaster with me was out of the question.

So, yeah.  Not gonna do that again.

03
Sep 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert
POSTED IN

Midwest, Travel Tales, USA

DISCUSSION No Comments
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“I don’t eat fish”

I took a tour of Iceland once.  Lovely people.  Beautiful country.  Other-worldly with all of its various landscapes.  Anywho, the tour went all around Ring Road, the road that circles the entire island.  We ate in restaurants around the country, as well as in locals’ homes.  And this one friggin’ lady on the tour, every time we stopped to eat, would remind our guide, “I don’t eat fish.”  Not because she was allergic, or for religious reasons, or because she was vegetarian and wanted to respect all living creatures—she just didn’t like eating it.  The woman’s in Iceland.  Iceland.  You know what Iceland has?  Fish.  That’s what they have.  They’re a tiny little island surrounded by an ocean full of fish.  And we go into a local’s home, where they have spent hours making a fish-based meal for us—because, remember, that’s what they eat in Iceland—and she doesn’t have the decency to stomach a little trout.

(I actually ate this in Buenos Aires, but Iceland’s fish was just as scrumptious)

You know how they talk about the Ugly American traveler?  A stick-in-the-mud tourist who is unwilling to adapt to a new culture while traveling?  This woman was the poster child of the Ugly American.  And “child” is a good word for her.  It was like she was refusing to eat her broccoli.  I’m getting a little too worked up over this.  Pump the brakes, Robert.  But seriously, when you go to Grandma’s house and she serves you crap food, you eat that food and lie and say it tastes great.  Just because you’re never going to see this Icelander again doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do them the same courtesy.  And the craziest part was this was delicious fish.  It was caught, like, fifty feet away that day and wonderfully prepared.  Of all the times to give fish another shot, this would be it.  But nope, Ugly American Woman stuck to her guns.  All she ate was potatoes for the entire week.

Please, don’t ever be like her.  If you ever visit a place where the local food doesn’t meet your delicate sensibilities, for the sake of international relations, suck it up and eat.

27
Aug 2012
POSTED BY travelbugrobert
DISCUSSION 1 Comment