We are back from from our U.P. and Indy holiday/vacation. The Brit's "holiday" is our "vacation", I believe the Brit's "bank holiday" is our "holiday" but am not 100% sure. I am sure one of my fact checkers (Steve for English geography/terminology, Dana for English culture/customs) will correct me if I am wrong.
We had fun at home and it was great to see family and friends. Lori and the kids had mixed feelings returning to the UK (sightseeing is awesome, miss family/friends) while I am glad to be back. Lori says I have it too good here and she may be right (or is that correct Jim Lang?) but I am excited for our sightseeing trips this summer. We all miss everyone at home but our fantastic journey is just beginning so I wanted to get back and continue the experience. I may be a scrooge but if it were up to me we would have spent the Easter break holidaying in Europe instead of going home but the timing was good to go home so off we went.
We had a rough start getting there, our Newark to Chicago pilots were delayed getting to Newark so we missed our Chicago to Hancock flight. The airline did put us up in a hotel in Chicago but after eight hours in a plane followed by eight hours in a terminal followed by an uncomfortable plane ride to Chicago we were up for about twenty four hours as we finally arrived at our compensatory hotel. By now we are very tired, kind of crabby (not just me) and out of patience. So what would make it better? How about having a room overlooking the pool? It sounded like rock and roll party night with music thumping the walls and screams punctuating the air as we entered the room. Talk about capping off a frustrating day. Lori called the front desk and they switched us a quieter room so our day finally ended. One note from the day - it felt weird seeing the Welcome to the USA sign in the Newark airport. We have been here long enough that it feels like home to me but in my heart I'll always be a US citizen so I felt a little conflicted seeing the sign. Feelings sure can be confusing - good thing I don't have many left. (Inside joke for my long suffering wife. Love ya Lor!) Flying wasn't all bad however. We saw the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty from a distance as we flew into Newark on the return trip which I thought was neat.
A day later and a few dollars longer (love the exchange rate going home) we are back at Mom and Dad's. I won't cover our two weeks in great detail, I'll just try to hit the highlights. My apologies if I miss something/someone in my recollections.
We met the Stines at Mom and Dad's since they've been avoiding us for the last six months. We went to Silver Mountain which is close to my parents. Not many pictures here but we all had fun (I think) since it was a pretty nice day. After trekking the small mountain we had Irene's Pizza which is a must have every time we return. Much better than the Italian style thinner than thin crust topped with a miser's portion of meat and vegetables we get over here. They do have American style pizza here but it is a little "different" so I was really looking forward to US style pizza.
Sadie in red coat. Lori and Christy not surprisingly doing more talking than walking - you can barely make them out guarding the back trail. Women!
Ethan, Sadie, Karl, Kalle and Bear (SQUIRREL!). Cute pic of Ethan and Sadie, much cuter than the previous pic on my camera of Ethan giving Sadie bunny ears. Not sure what akimbo Kalle is huffing about. Girls!
One of the trip highlights - Karl drove the tractor by himself. Also a rare picture of dad wearing matching colour clothes. He has a history of leading edge clothes fashion but today's outfit was colour coordinated for some reason. Must be close to laundry day. He also has a history of inappropriate tee shirts I am carrying on with the help of Hardcore Dan Stine and others. Stand up btw Dad, good thing Grandma Rose wasn't there or else she would given you a lecture on posture.
Another highlight for Karl was being able to shoot our guns. One of the cultural differences here is that guns are the eighth deadly sin but swearing, nudity, drug use, drinking, sex and violence is all okay on TV.
Thanks for stopping by Tim. I haven't seen cousin Tim in a few years so he was gracious enough to be walked by his sled dogs up to say hi. We'll catch Michelle and daughter Aurora on the next trip. Aurora just turned six months old and hadn't been to Mall of America yet so Michelle took her - what a great Mom! Too funny Michelle.
We had birthday cake in Alston for Karl, Kalle and Ma. Better than the cake was the sauna (sow-na not saw-na to us Yoopers). Thanks Joanie and Jim.
We saw as many family and friends as we could. Budding pig farmer Rog and Heather, Mary Jo and Mister Rogers plus Christopher (Karl used to call Mary's husband Robert Mister Rogers when he was small and it has been a joke ever since), Ronnie and Donna (enjoy retirement Ronnie), Rick and Wanda, my Grandma Rose (starting to slow down as she approaches number 99), Meg and Lucas, Aunt B and Uncle Fran, Aunt Joanie and Uncle Jim, Tim, Kunick, and Buck (thanks again for the gift, Lori loves it). We also assembled Mom's elliptical so no more excuses on bad weather days Ma!
Karl had another first, splitting wood with a splitting maul. He found out that it isn't as easy as it looks but did improve with some direction. Splitting wood with Dad brought back memories of MANY summer days splitting, cutting, hauling and stacking wood for the ever hungry wood stove in the basement. Karl officially became a teenager on the trip, Lori and I are soooooo excited for those years to start.
We also saw Stan and Linda (thanks for the liver in meat tip Linda, I think Lori is on a chicken only diet now), Dana and Becky, Tina and her cousin Tammy, Mark and Kathy, Frank (see you next time Darby), Kevin and Kathy, Renee, Hot Rod and Steph (I'll have your answer in my next blog Hot Rod), and Christy Powell. The kids saw their friends and managed to squeeze in a few sleep overs which was great.
We ate at a few home restaurants - Irene's, Ambassador, Chipotle, BW3, Bob Evans, Flap-Jacks, Cold Stone; the only item I missed was a steak. Maybe next time. We did get an Easter dinner with Tina at Bob and Lona's which tasted great. We also ran some errands which included dentist visits and clothes shopping. I am still recovering from the clothes shopping. Growing kids is not good for the pocketbook, plus Karl is wearing a size 12.5 shoe which is a half size less than me. I guess the good news is that I will be able to wear his shoes now. Bad news is he is only thirteen. I also put together a seventy-five slide Power Point presentation on our experience for Kalle's US class that everyone seemed to enjoy. The teachers liked it and the students had about 200 questions so I think it was a success. She spent a day with her old class which she really enjoyed.
The kids in The Ambassador in front of the Portage Canal Lift Bridge. You can read about the bridge on Wiki.
This week's Dana Johnson pic - Tostada pizza from The Ambassador.
Kalle and Bear looking for Easter eggs. Kalle 11, Bear 0.
It was great to see the Johnson's and Tina (not pictured).
The Beagle Girls in time out. Deceptively cute, I'm sure they are really planning their next crime spree.
One afternoon we went to The Exotic Feline Rescue Center near Center Point, IN. Interesting tour with tigers, lions, cougars, bobcats, lynx and other felines but not as good as I expected. Most of the felines are from circuses or illegal pets. Not many good pictures due to the fence and feline nap time. Not sure if the pictures count as Steve Frey worthy or not. Somewhat domesticated animals unless you are in the fence with them I am guessing.
This cougar must have seen us and thought of lunch.
White tiger that purred to the tour guide. The guide said cats either purred or roared. Purring is good, roaring is bad. Also per the guide the white tigers are rare since they are a product of intentional inbreeding. If I remember correctly she said one in seven or eight white tigers live to adulthood due to the side effects of repeated inbreeding.
600 pound tiger that paced near us the whole time. Very unnerving. One of the other tigers roared a few times and sprayed at the group. This area was boxed in by four cages holding the big tigers so the group was constantly looking around us so we didn't get sprayed and could see all the pacing tigers. A little unsettling even with the cages enclosing the tigers. Except for fearless Kalle who was all over the area.
Female lion eating some salad after her meal.
Tiger still working on its lunch.
We can't stop in Indy without stopping by Mark's Bar! When you coming to see us Homey?
I did find it interesting that driving on the right side of the road felt natural after being away six months. It also felt natural to drive on the left side now that I am back in Merry Old England. Not sure what to make of it.
We passed our six month anniversary last week. Some random thoughts on our first six months... a lot of American influences here (music, clothing, Ford cars, TV shows,advertising, etc.) so it doesn't always feel like we are living in a foreign country. Sightseeing has been great and we are excited about our tentative summer/fall trips - Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Croatia, Israel. Not to mention Italy, Spain, Greece and the others I had planned for next year. Plus local sights like Dover, London, York, Stonehenge, Liverpool, etc. Weather has been pretty good, warm enough and sunny enough for me. People have been friendly. A very good start to a great experience.
And I would be remiss if I didn't thank mom and dad and Bob and Lona for all of your hospitality. Free housing, transportation, meals - hard to beat that deal. Thanks again for all you did for us.
And finally, my facial hair of the month is the Kojak or no hair. Not exactly by design but I have had a few interviews for a Project Engineer position so I had to look respectable. No word on the job yet but I will keep everyone posted. I asked the kids what they thought of me working and they were both for it. Karl was okay with it, Kalle was excited for it. She wants us to eat out. I guess we all know what she thinks about my cooking now. Oh well, things can always be worse... right?
Thanks for listening,