Monday, June 20, 2005

Family "Beach Vacation" in Sandusky

My aunt Jeanie is such a sweetie. She has been dying to have the family gather at the beach. The two of us think it would be glorious to rent a beach house somewhere fabulous (and warm, she insists, living in Vermont as she does) & all hang out for a week. But, our family has always just gotten together at my grands' or at Vivi's or at our place. So, there is no family travel tradition in place. Jeanie thinks that if we ease people into it, we'll someday be able to do Sanibel or something. So, she sent out a letter several months ago suggesting that we maybe meet in Sandusky & that the weekend of June 17th, 18th, & 19th would be the most convenient for her.

So, that was the weekend. After the boys' father picked them up (and grunted at J when she gave him, through a barely cracked window, all the info he had requested about their summer camp & meds needs while with him later this summer), we headed out to dinner with J's new boss. He had invited all the managers & their spouses out to dinner at Derr Road Inn, so we had to do that before heading up North. It was actually fairly fun, as we sat at the end of the table with David & Kerri, with whom we actually socialize on purpose. Kerri adored my new haircut & J's little green skirt & cami outfit. J says she needs to get more little skirt outfits. I am tempted to go to Banana Republic this week & get her that darling yellow silk outfit.

Kerri, looking at the menu, asked if it was bad to get the most expensive thing on the menu when the boss is paying. I said, "I have no idea, but if you order it, I will, too" since I was considering it as well. So, we both had steak. J had mahi mahi, which was good even if they did forget her fruit salsa. We were all seated at long tables outside, with a cover band doing a lot of Van Morrison, Santana, and beach songs. To our horror, they also did a number of things like "The Lady in Red". But, it was lovely being outside on a June evening. Being in the middle of cornfields like we were, I started flashing back to John & Nola's wedding reception. What fun that was! After dinner, we stopped to feed the deer. A young velvety-antlered buck ate from my hand. How tickly their tongues are! J got to touch his soft antlers & I am jealous! We also made plans to go up to Columbus for David & Kerri's 4th of July party on the 3rd.

On the way home, we called my grands' house to see if my mom had arrived. She had, but we all figured that it would be smart to get a good night's sleep before the road trip in the morning. So, we drove through Frisch's on the way home & got hot fudge cake. We ate it on the couch, then shuffled off to bed. I am sure my weigh in will not be a happy occasion tomorrow! But, it was good.

Saturday, J woke up feeling amorous, so we didn't even get out of bed until after 10, when we should have been on the road. Oh, well, it was worth it. Once dressed, we picked up my once-again-air-conditioned car & got breakfast. Brendan had been raving to me about how good The Original Pancake House is. He was not exaggerating. It was terrific (and worth the extra time not on the road). J had pecan waffles & scrambled eggs with cheese. I had eggs Michael(English muffins with sausage patties, over-medium eggs, and sherried mushroom sauce) with potato pancakes on the side. I couldn't finish it all, but it sure was tasty. Their orange juice is a wonderful shade of rich, deep orange, just squeezed that morning. Their whipped cream is real, as is their coffee cream. Our service was excellent (we, in fact, summoned the manager to compliment our server) & the atmosphere was pleasant, despite the Kandinsky prints.

Once we got underway, I expected the trip to go quickly. It did, in fact, until we hit a detour that took us about an hour out of our way. J swears we passed the same Amish folks selling the same baskets, bread, and honey several times. However, we did not. It was extremely frustrating, though. The highlight of the detour was when we stopped at a rest area & they had dug toilets with no doors between them & the main door. Interesting. Glad I'm not very modest.

Once we got to Sandusky, we talked to Jeanie & my oldest uncle, Victor, arranging to meet them at our hotel so that we could all caravan to dinner. We checked in to the hotel. I was somewhat appalled. It looked like a slum hotel, with all kinds of questionable people roaming the parking lot and shabby-looking buildings housing 30-something lanes of bowling, a sports bar, and off-track betting. Yee-haa! Why, oh why, did I cave & stay where my grands had decided to stay. Victor & Nyoko had also opted to stay there & Vic told me, "It's a two-star". Unfortunately, the price wasn't...I ended up haggling with the front desk supervisor over the price Sunday morning because they were trying to charge me $132 with the coupon when I'd been quoted $116, which was still too much. I'm sorry, but I don't pay that kind of money for a crappy Quality Inn. Aside from the overall feel of desperation there (and, really, throughout Sandusky), the hall reeked of mildew, there was mold in the tub, the room was small & ugly, the walls were dented & dinged, and the room my grands were first put in hadn't even been cleaned. Yuck! Had the other family members not been staying there, J & I would have checked out & gone to stay with Andrew & Anne in Cleveland for the duration.

Anyway, enough griping! We rode with Vic & Nyoko, my mom & grands following, to the Angry Trout for dinner. Andrew & Anne were already there waiting. Jeanie & the kids got very lost & ended up arriving much later. The restaurant was right on the water, just lovely. Anne was finishing off an order of crab cakes & Andrew some mussels when we arrived. J had preceded me inside, while I talked with the grands & my mom outside. As I sat down, a waiter brought me an amaretto sour. J & I ordered feta & olive bruschetta (not so great & the bread hadn't even been toasted beyond adding some grill marks) & salt & vinegar chips (with an amazing fresh garlic sauce) for the table, things my vegetarian mom can eat, thinking we were paying. J ordered steak & crab, still thinking we were paying. I ordered a fish & shrimp platter & a chocolate raspberry martini. Only at the end of the meal did we find that Andrew & Anne had already arranged to pick up the bill! Argh! It was a wonderful meal, with wonderful company. We are planning to send Andrew & Anne some kind of thank you gift for the dinner, maybe some fabulous picture frames for their front wall. My mom went to spend the night with them while the rest of us headed back to our hotels. Jeanie & the kids were staying at The Sandcastle Suites & I envisioned her in luxe accomodations & wished I had coughed up the $250 to stay there.

In the morning, we had the free "continental" breakfast (it was more than toast & doughnuts, though) in the sports bar with the grands, Jeanie, Vic, & Nyoko. I took some of my reviews for them to read over breakfast and gave Jeanie the books I'd been saving for her. After breakfast, we checked out. The car next to us & the one in front of that had each had 2 tires slashed in the night...glad it wasn't ours!

We all headed over to the Sandcastle for the day. I found out that it wasn't so luxe after all. The suite was horribly cramped & it wasn't all that great. I guess I'm a snob, but if I'm going to pay that much, I expect something really nice. If I'd thought about it, I would have booked us a room at Great Wolf Lodge. Oh, well. We had a fantastic time visiting by the pool. It was next to the lake, so we could watch the boats go by & the seagulls wheel overhead. Nyoko had brought some Japanese cooking/lifestyle magazines for us to see. They were really interesting. When my mom & Andrew arrived (Anne was cooking spaghetti for her dad), Jeanie, J, my mom, & I went up to the room to rouse teenagers from bed & to change. J loaned my mom her swimsuit so she could swim with us. It was too large, but at least she could come in. She loves swimming but never gets to go.

The teenagers were of quite good cheer for being roused before noon. Chance, Leah's friend, had been awake for awhile, so I think he was happy to have the slug-a-beds awakened. The pool was nice, if not the cleanest. Vic & Nyoko, Andrew, & my grands visited at the tables while we swam. Aaron even joined in...I think he is getting over his not-talking thing now that he's 18.

In the pool, we got to giggling about being the Sisterhood of the Traveling Swimsuit. My mom is now Sister Baggy Legholes, J is Sister No-Butt (her suit butts have a way of wearing out due to water slide excursions), Jeanie is Sister Suit with Great Big Flowers That Looks Like Someone's Grandma Owns It (long story connected to J's loss of suit butt at King's Island once), and I dubbed myself Sister Cuban Ass. We also got giggly about how dirty the sides of the pool were. I cannot imagine paying $250 a night for a hotel with dirty pool walls. I think I just don't like Sandusky's energy.

After some swimming, we got changed & all went to lunch at the hotel restaurant. Vic's comment to me afterward was that if he were reviewing it, he'd say it had nice architecture. Actually, the Caesar salad was terrific, but the service was abysmal (he was trying, but I think the size of the group was too much for him) & the food merely okay (J's & my black & bleu burgers had NO bleu cheese...harrumph). Vic & Nyoko picked up that tab, so The Giving War is officially started. I sound awfully complain-y about quality & service, but that doesn't mean it wasn't a good weekend. We had a such a grand time visiting with everyone...and making plans for future visits...that the service/quality issues didn't even matter. I guess I should probably edit them out, but I'm not going to. Aaron is going to drive back to Ohio with the grands when they come home from a Vermont visit & stay until Jeanie & Leah come in August. We'll be spending my birthday week in West Virginia doing art camp with my mom. And we plan to have a long weekend in Cleveland maybe in August.

Too soon, the time to meet the boys arrived. Their father had deigned to meet us in Sandusky rather than driving to our place, saving him about 8 hours in the car. Was he grateful or even pleasant? Are you kidding??? Oh, well, his must be a sad little life.

We drove south & took the boys to camp, with a stop at McDonald's for dinner. Pie was so ecstatic at seeing his counselor & Jason (who is in his tent) that he ran off with them without even saying goodbye! I am sure he will have an absolute blast this week! Boot was a little less enthusiastic because Mark was sick & wouldn't arrive until today, but he, too, got swept into the activity of camp right off. I hope his week is wonderful, too. I think having friends there & a science track will make it more fun than it was last year. Having 4 tents of boys should help, too. Last year, there were only 7 boys altogether!

We drove home in the dark & made plans for our week...relaxing in the hammock is on the schedule for tonight. I'm going to make pecan-crusted catfish & we'll eat on the deck. For now, I need to clean house, work on a collage, & polish up my review.

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