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Palawan Paradise

Day 11 here in paradise and so much to catch up on. The beauty of this country continues to amaze me. Bohol was fun and now it was time to hit a full week in Palawan where I’d find my wingman for the week. A 20 year old friend and trusted travel companion, we met up in Puerto Princessa which is the capital of this island at the very west of the Philippine islands. Yes Gunar is shorter than me so I made him stand below me.

The must see attraction in this area is the Underground River tour which is a breathtaking 8km deep river tunnel with cathedral lake ceilings of rock carved out over millions of years and about a million bats throughout that apparently take great joy in pooping on tourists. It’s called guapa and if it happens to you you’ve been “guapaed”. Literally I had seen nothing like this in my life. Continuing to embrace an environmentally focused mindset the tour forbids any talking while on the river tour as it effects bats navigation who rely entirely on sonar pitches to fly around the pitch black caves. Instead they give you a recording device and ear buds and you follow along a narration. At one point in the tour the guide turns out his light and you can’t see the hand in front of your face. Amazing. After the river cruise we also participated in the package zip line ride and mangrove tour. Good but nothing compared to the underground river.

Puerto Princessa in the rear view mirror we next headed for El Nido which was 250km/5 hour drive away. Gunar and I went into full fragile old guy mode and rented our own private car rather than cram into a van with 10 others with no leg room. Our driver was Jeffrey who was awesome and alarmingly sane consider he does this round trip drive EVERY DAY! That’s 5 hours there and 5 hours back plus any breaks in between. Next time you think you have a tough gig at work just think of Jeffrey who grinds out each day, with a smile.

El Nido welcomed us with our own personal greeting and some world class sunsets. Our most important decision to make immediately upon arrival at happy was which 2 for 1 drink to order and find a great spot to take in paradise level sunsets.

If I have any one bone to pick with this wonderful country its an inability to make a good cocktail. I ordered a mai tai but got an orange creamsicle.

Gunar and I went to dinner one night and I was in the mood for a Martini which was a bold move. Strategically like Trump avoiding the draft with bone spurs I deferred but instead had Gunar order one first. Good thing as his drink arrived and it looked like water taken directly from a pond in Chernobyl. We sent it back and said no vermouth and the next one came back even darker and more vermouthy. Knowing they were still cooking my dinner and could sweet revenge for being that problem table that kept sending drinks back I offered to drink it but could not get through the first sip. Time to take matters into my own hands and show my Philippian friends how to crank out a world class martini. My gift to the people who have given so much to me.

Scooter bikes rented yesterday to find a world class beach which was achieved at Lio Beach about 15 min outside of El Nido. Free lounge chairs and a beach nearly to ourselves with multiple bars and restaurants steps away. It’s crazy how easy it is to find your own little peace of paradise.

Today was a travel day from El Nido to Coron for the last phase of our trip before heading home – another full day of kayaking. The ferry ride over was a scheduled Donut Monday authoring time but 15 foot swells put that plan on hold. Good to see Gunar there in my time of need.

Clearly I was still woozy from the trip later that night

Zzzzzz time

Become The Local

Day 7 here in paradise and we’ve moved on from the amazing beaches and torn up roads of Boracay to the island of Bohol and specifically Panglao. A day long trek that took a trike, jetty boat, plane, ferry boat and one more long trike. Beer me. Never did I appreciate my backpack more though it’s crazy how many folks I see with roller bags.

My new digs is a new set of villas set off from the main hotel that was just recently built. So new that the taxi trike driver could not find it and at some point pulled me into a locals home driveway that could only be properly described as “rustic. Like outhouse level rustic. Just before I could call the Expedia hot line we realized our mistake and I was all checked into paradise.

The hotel was about 3km (yeah they use the metric system here folks) from the main drag of Alona beach so some quick math determined I was going to put a trike kids though school. 400 pesos per day and the most basic signed waiver later and I’ve got my own ride, a late model yellow tourist scooter with a half tank of gas and unlimited gusto. I hopped on and cranked that baby to what I considered top speed for me, only to be immediately passed by a family on bike, with a toddler, and groceries.

Bohol is the island that always seems to be on the verge of a apocalyptic rainstorms that never come to fruition. A lightening bolt hit the water offshore and I hit the floor like someone yelled incoming but the locals never flinched. Even today when we went for an early morning snorkeling tour on what I could only describe as a boat made of bamboo powered by a lawnmover engine all I could see was a black cloud from the edge of the water to heavens. I checked the itinerary to see if this was a 3 hour tour. Indecisive if only because there is no itinerary. Just give someone 700 pesos and see what transpires. Today was great snorkeling with reefs that seem very healthy and seeing dozens of huge sea turtles.

7 days in and I’m getting the hang of this. Thank you has become “Salamat!”

“Would you like to take an island hopping tour?” Yes and I did that yesterday my friend

“Would you like to rent a scooter?” I just waive my scooter keys around my finger and a knowing smile.

“Sir you so white. Would you like some sunblock? I have special SPF120 for you!”

Some things you can’t escape

Be the local.

Tomorrow I rendezvous with my fellow Umbrellahead in Palawan and start week 2 of this Philippine adventure

Rapids, Rappelling and Roasting

Day 4 into the Philippine adventure and the theme of the day is rapids. A full day of white water kayaking with a side adventure of waterfall repelling and the most unique hot tub experience I’ve ever had.

The day starts early with a 6:30am pick up by my guide Jodil who works for Tribal Adventures, the local tour outfit that organizes this trip. This was my far my costliest excursion of the trip but it’s primarily because I was the only one in my tour. October is still off season here in Philippines and it’s a 10-12 hour day which many avoid. Throw a few others in and it’s more than a reasonable price but I didn’t care. This was an adventure I was looking forward to. It was almost 2 hours to get to our destination. 30 min on a trike, 20 to jetty boat over to the mainland and just over an hour of driving to the mountains. The drive itself is an adventure. Imagine a road full of tricycles and mopeds and we are in a big Toyota van dodging all of this at 60 mph. Not one horn. Not one angry gesture. It’s just how things work here.

Before we could arrive at our destination we had to stop and pick up lunch. I’m not talking sandwiches or fast food. I’m talking about fresh fish caught earlier that morning. A Whole chicken. The freshest of fresh vegetables. All in a bustling farmers market that was tarped to easily accommodate the average Filipino height. I’m 6’1 so I pretty much was in the crouch position for 20 minutes holding mangos, a dead chicken and rice. Feel the burn.

We then set upon our arrival to our destination at the kayak Inn which is ground zero for our adventures today. We met the Filipino family that lives here all year round managing the inn and organizing the food and hot tubs (more on that later) There are 6 kids and about as many dogs which scurry around the grounds. Assuredly I will find another canine fiend today. Everyone is happy and very welcoming as always. I realize now why our guide bought so much food for lunch to feed one guest….most of it goes to the family on site.

We started off on a quick waterfall hike with our guide Ryan. I know his name is Ryan because that was the name on his shirt but not one word came from his mouth. He’s a nice local kid who is designated to take tourists to the local waterfall. Jodil came with us too. Imagine a 3 level waterfall, each with its own pool to swim. We made it up to the top, the last part of which required rapelling up using a rope and some hopefully sturdy well gripped shoes to make it up the sheer cliff. We made it surprisingly easily though I found a new level of sweating I did not think possible. Jumping into the cool pool of natural spring water was welcome relief.

A 30 min hike back to the Kayak Inn and a hearty lunch and it’s kayak time.

These are special Filipino style kayaks that are sit on top style with special drainage to keep the water from pooling too much. They cut through the water so easily. I had some kayak experience before but almost entirely of the sea type excursions. Regardless the safety lesson was brief ( Go down the river. Don’t fall out. If you fall out reminder that you signed the waiver and the check has already cleared my friend) The outfit actually takes safety very seriously and had another kayak guide and 2 spotters down the river to guide me to the exact spots to navigate to. I never felt they would not be there to rescue my ass if I got into a pickle. It was a 4-1 ratio guides to me. Plus 2 of the family dogs that accompanied us on the trip and hitched a ride to the back of kayak when they feel like it.

I felt confident and perhaps a touch brazen which quickly evaporated when I got caught up on a shallow rock not 30 seconds into the trip and had to be turned around by one of the spotters who “walked” over in 3 feet of water to help me. But I quickly recovered what was left of my manhood by navigating through the first few rapids unscathed. These are class 2 and 3 and while they don’t look that big of a deal from the shore its verified sphincter tightening scary when you are going through the rapids in an open kayak. You try your best just to point the boat downhill and the water decides what comes next.

We are down to the final rapid which is full class 3 and narrow. This is actually the pull out area above the rapid for most of the tourists but the consensus from the guide team is that I’m good enough to get through it. My chest extends slightly outward simultaneously with a slight head expansion. I’m back to full strut mode. I see a handful of local Filipino boys purched on a rock at the bottom of the rapid. Clearly word has spread quickly that a pasty white foreign prodigy has descended upon this tiny town. They are here to witness this first hand, or compete for the 500 pesos to retrieve my body. Either way I feel like I’m making a contribution.

My guide gives a few final instructions, a motivational tap on the helmet like a team coming out of a huddle on the final drive of the game. No timeouts left. It’s win or go home. And 30 seconds in on the tiniest of rapids of what is to come I get dumped into the water and now I’m dog paddling to survive. Even the dogs, who adored me, again admittedly driven almost entirely by my pork table scrap generosity, can’t look at me now. Imagine a scene from the Simpsons when Homer is rolling head over feet getting smashed, a rapid succession of “Dohs!”

The local Filipino kids admiration quickly transitions to a scoring a quick 500 pesos but even that hope is dashed as I am able to get through the rapids relatively unscathed save for my ego which is still pierced on one of the rocks from now to the end of time. I hear a monument is in the works. Philippine President Duterte exchanges tweets with Donald Trump to consult on my new nick name. They agree on Litl Canadian Hoser while my U.S. citizenship is revoked. But even at my lowest Jodil my guide fishes me out the water at the bottom and gives me a big grin smile. I think he enjoyed it more that I fell in. I love that guy.

Waterlogged but still in good spirits we shuttle back to the Inn where I’m offered (and eagerly accept) a cold San Miguel. Part of the tour experience is a hot tub which is essentially a large cast iron pot with water that is heated by fire below. It’s set to about 104 degrees and filled with a concoction of native leaves, some special bark and other various ingredients that are supposed to bring some medicinal effects. I ask the local hot tub preparer guy if they have anything in there to heal egos. He just stares at me with a big smile. There is no cure for that whitey. I hop in because when it’s 85 degrees all day with 100% humidity that mandates 3 shirt changes a day what’s better than to jump in water that is 20 degrees warmer? Go with it. The hot tub guy hovers and asks me how I like it. Takes a few pictures. Keeps smiling. I can’t help but think something is off here. He offers if I can stay for dinner. But is that a question or statement? I look down at the water. That’s not eucalyptus leaves. Those are bay leaves! That’s not local tree bark. Those are peppercorns! And why are there wedges of onion scattered throughout the water? I’m not being hot tubbed. I’m being slow roasted! Brined Canadian Pork! It’s time to go.

2 hours and 3 modes of transportation later I’m back in Boracay and while a local Filipino family won’t be having pork tonight they can still savor the time they saw a Canadian boy take on the rapids and dog paddle his way to (Not) glory.

Special thanks to the gang of Tribal Adventures for organizing an amazing day. I highly recommend them and will be using them again next week in Coron for another kayak and snorkeling adventure!

Sweaty Island Hopping

Here I am full into day 2 of my Philippine adventure and already the trip is living up to high expectations. The Filipino people are amazing and have made me feel very welcome (and safe) every step of the way so far. Other than a short layover in Manila to catch some zzz’s after a long flight over I’m hitting 5 total destinations in 2 weeks. Boracay, Bohol, Puerto Princesa, El Nido and Coron. October is towards the end of rainy season but since I’ve arrived I have yet to see a drop of rain. I’d actually welcome a bit of rain if it would cut the heat a bit. Temperatures range from mildly sweating in the mornings before 8am, aggressive sweating from 8am to 1pm and downright dripping sweat until sundown. But I just embrace it and plan on a few laundry days.

This is the journey each morning from my hotel to the main drag in Boracay which is broken into 3 stations. It’s about a 30 min walk which is a large contributor to the sweat scenarios but the view is worth it.

This is the death climb I do twice a day. I work out 4-5 times a week and I’m drenched with sweat at the top. I just jump right into the pool.

If I don’t want to walk I can take a motor trike home which is essentially a motorcycle with a side car. 200 pesos which is the equivalent of $4. The journey encapsulates the haves and the have nots. 5 star hotels with every amenity imaginable beachfront with shanty style units across the street. The road to my hotel is outside the main drag and is crammed with all the locals who serve those who visit the islands. It’s a simple and perhaps hard life but I get the sense the people of Boracay wouldn’t trade living anywhere else and the sense of community and family is strong.

Any stroll down the beach front inevitably comes with tourist pitches to do any number of activities and I was happy to indulge in an island hopping tour. 5 hours to hit 2 snorkeling destinations, 2 beaches and lunch over 5 hours. 800 pesos which is $16. You can’t beat that deal. The entire country is incredibly reasonable cost wise by western standards and in some cases downright cheap. 500 pesos ($10) for a 1 hour massage (still on my list to do) $3 for full laundry service. $2 for pretty much any alcoholic drink. No tipping required but I do it anyway. I’ll remember Boracay from now on every time I have to pay $35 to park for a sporting event or $25 for a glass of wine.

I had some time to kill before my island hopping excursion started so I hit a Starbucks aka a sweat break zone with killer AC only to be outdone by the view. I defy you to find a more amazing view in any Starbucks in the world. And I had the place almost entirely to myself.

My boat was filled with a hodge podge of tourists from all over the world. There was the 3 Saudi men who only spoke Arabic and spent most of the trip making fun of each other, culminated with the part of the trip that had one of their friends getting hit by wave after wave splashing over the side of the boat. There were the 2 K-pop Korean women in their early 20s that were posing and posting selfies to Instagram ever 19 seconds. I’m not far off on this time estimate. I did my best impression of a small sampling of their favorite poses below

The rest of the boat were all Chinese, most at or near retirement age. Very friendly. Very aggressive on getting in whatever line for snorkel gear, lunch or whatever. I was always last which personified my island time mentality. They are masters of this trade craft. The snorkeling was just ok. Very small fish and the coral looked very bleached which is an indicator of a reel in stress. Global warming is everywhere. I was just happy to be floating and swimming in a sea that is the most beautiful turquoise you have ever seen. The Boracaians are very environmentally friendly. No trash anywhere. Banned straws. Limited fishing.

This is where we stopped for lunch. It’s essentially someone’s house in the backyard with extremely tasty local Philippine cuisine and hungry yet well behaved dogs that will welcome any scraps but don’t beg. This is my new friend who enjoyed the head rub almost as much as the pork I was sharing with him. (Editorial update – we interviewed the dog and he confirmed his attention was driven entirely by the pork)

5 hours later I’m back at the port and my tricycle was calling for a ride back to the hotel to rest my weary feet. The decision was culminated when my driver said he needs to go very fast to have enough power to make it up the hill road to your hotel. Is that OK? Hell yes that’s ok.

Evening time and I’m back at station 2. Traditional dinner of Filipino cuisine and 3 beers later $17 total) I’m strolling down the main drag. Every bar has live music and I settle at The Bom Bom bar (it’s not what you think you heathens) and drain one more beer listening to live reggae band with a lead singer that should probably be on American Idol he was that good.

My head hits the pillow 30 min later into a very welcome air conditioned bedroom and day 2 is officially put to bed.

Fijian Adventures Week 2

 

 

For those craving an update here’s the recap of Fiji adventures week 2

 

After the 1st week of orientation Donelle got assigned her class. It’s 5-6 year old Fijian girls and boys from town. For most of these kids this is their 1st structured teaching environment and it’s more equivalent to pre-school than kindergarten. Basic shapes were her first teaching assignment as well as helping the kids make name tags.

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It’s 4 kids assigned per desks and classes are 2 hours per day for each set of kids. Donelle has 2 classes so the mornings are set for classroom time

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It’s definitely rustic conditions in the town where she stays but it’s safe and everyone seems happy.

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Here is group picture of the full time teachers and volunteers that help at the local schools. Of course Donelle fully accessorized to match the color of the day. Good job!

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The community of volunteers are constantly changing with new arrivals and departures with volunteers staying anywhere from 1-12 weeks. The average age is about 22 years old and many volunteers are from Australia and Germany. They have not called her mama Donelle yet, probably because she can roll with all of them fun and energy wise.
School days are Monday through Thursday. Most of the volunteers take off for the weekends to explore other areas of Fiji. Hostels are throughout the region and Donelle has made a good crew of friends with the “Older” volunteers who are closer to 26.

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and I don’t even know where to categorize this one but Donelle is a pro now at cracking coconuts!  This was part of the orientation cooking class for local cuisine.

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Where’s Reice?

Conquering jet lag and powering through the fear of what lies ahead Donelle arrived safe and sound to her home away from home for the next 2 months. Hit head on with a wave of humidity and trepidation she boarded the bus for the multi hour ride to the volunteer compound. We decided early on that dorm style housing is for the young so we upgraded her to the presidential suite which features a thin foamed bunk bed, a rickity chair and all the hot water you can use daily as long as it’s less than 3 minutes.

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I know – you can’t tell the difference with this shower and the 4 Seasons d8bc8757-8899-43c1-9999-aefe9dd8bb53

After settling in she got a tour of her surroundings. It was the weekend so most of the other volunteers were gone on mini excursions with a fresh batch of 8 pledges (I mean recruits) arriving on Monday. There are 20 other current volunteers that were already in various stages of experiencing their time here when she arrived. Everyone was very nice and welcoming. There are also 2 resident dogs who go everywhere and are super loving and loyal.

This is Spot. Little known fact. Fijians pick obscure names for their pets that have nothing to do with their behavior or physical look.

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This is the common area where the team gathers every night and has the welcoming ceremony for new arrivals and departing ceremony for those that that are completing their volunteer work.

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On Sunday night Donelle was officially welcomed to the team with her induction ceremony. She dresses up and drinks a ceremonial drink called kava which numbs your mouth and is a slightly happy narcotic. Ironically the same concoction I’m taking intravenously daily to get me through 8 weeks of single dad_dom. American name for is is Cabernet.

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Then it was off to the elegant open air dining room to feast more and presumably drink more Kava.

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Meanwhile back in that house that testosterone built me and the boys are having a blast. Want to lounge in your boxers all day on the weekend? Green light. Top 25 NCAA basketball games at 10, 1, 3 and 5pm? We’re in. Impromptu yet brilliant Sharks game tickets audible 3 hours before puck drop? I like your style child #2. Hit the buy button. We are clearly still in the honeymoon phase of operation Mommy ain’t here to bail you out. This should be interesting.

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Funny thing barely worth mentioning. This happens to be the last photo of Reice at the Shark game and we kinda haven’t seen him since. I’m sure he will turn up and he’s just being practical joker Reice hiding (for 5 days) He’s clearly dedicated to his craft to pull one over on good old Dad. Haha. 7 weeks to find him.

 

 

 

Trail Blazin!

So proud of this Chickita Momita Seniorita. This unsung hero who takes care of the kids every time I get on a plane for the last 14 years is getting her due. Donelle heading out tonight for a solo 2 month volunteer trip to SE Asia to help make the world a better place. Some people get out of her comfort zone..this lady cashed in all her points for a mom sabbatical, took a stick of dynamite to her comfort zone and is heading out to do her little part to make the world a better place by working with impoverished children in Fiji. In lieu of high heeled shoes and all the trimmings of a typical tropical vacation she has loaded up a suitcase of school supplies, books, games, and other staples that we all take for granted here which are in short supply where she is headed.

Either that or she got on Survivor and is keeping it a secret…Nah!

This lady is truly going to rough it. Not our standard definition of roughing it when we think vacations when there is only weekday butler service, 200 thread cotton sheets (ick) and wifi that tops out at 100Mbps (unfathomable) She will be sleeping in a dorm with no AC and heavy humidity.  Working 5 days during the week and weekends off to explore on her own. Then a side trip to Sydney at the end of her tour and heads back end of March. We will miss her a ton but so happy for her upcoming adventure.

Meanwhile back on the home front single dad Scotty has things covered. I mean how far can kids grades drop in 8 weeks and do you really need to change the bed sheets that often? Pretty sure there’s only a small chance I loose one of the kids but that’s why we had two. Backup.

Stay tuned on DM for more updates on the adventures of a traveling volunteer mama and single dad shenanigans.img_9892

A Parental (Un)Guide to Surviving DisneyLand

(Disclaimer – If you think this will be a traditional helpful hint guide that tells you all the ins and outs of the parks, which apps to use, which Disney characters to seek out and where to save a $1 on a coke please turn that cruise ship around now and find another port of call. If I could tell you to seriously consider cancelling your trip, call up your bookie and put it all on red and you would seriously consider such a move please read on)

 

So whoever coined the phrase Disneyland “The Happiest Place On Earth” never had to deal with a 3 year old with diarrhea and a 6 year old that declared It’s a Small World frightens him in hour two on the 1st day of a 3 day park hopper pass that cost more than your 1st year of college tuition and he’s tapping out on any more rides. And for every parent out there that has made this trek you know what I’m talking about.

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It’s been three years since our last pilgrimage to see Mickey and friends and with my kids now 13 and 10 I thought maybe I’d made my last visit but when we sat down for the annual family vacation planning summit it was declared that Disney was on the rotation again this year. There was concern raised in various focus groups commissioned as part of the pre-summit preparation that the kids were on the verge of getting too old to want to go again until they would have kids of their own and suffer the same fate like a generations of parents before them. The commission was right on the outgrowing part and yet there was no room for negotiation. My counter focus group commissioned by Mr Donut Monday made a unanimous recommendation to leave the kids at home, got to Scotland for golf and scotch tasting and talk like Sean Connery for the rest of the year. That focus group was permanently disbanded.

 

 

My destiny locked in there was only one thing left to do. Embrace my fate and Initiate the Disneyland Ultimate Family Unification for Survival plan (AKA Operation DUFUS) This is essentially a survival guide that has been honed and refined over the span of about 45 minutes it took to churn this out, passed down from generations of parents who bought into the Disney dream and came unprepared. It’s so sacred and secretive that even the illuminati don’t have a copy of it but I share it for my fellow donut disciples. Some of these need to be executed prior to the trip and some are initiated on site but each are proven techniques to help you survive and dare I say enjoy your trip. And I’m not talking about how to use Fast Passes or which day to visit the park to minimize crowds. Let’s face it, the last time Disney was not crowded with endless lines was never.

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  1. Fake a Disney Bookings Website Crash

A true patriot of deception goes cloak and dagger in day one of Disney trip preparation. Get out in front by volunteering with strong enthusiasm that you will immediately work on booking the tickets online only to come back with academy award winning frustration that the Disney ticket bookings site has been down all day. Position yourself accordingly for a fast acting yet sly unplugging of the router if she tries to access the site on her own. Inevitably a Google search will produce a toll-free number to call (1-800-Shoot-Me) so you’ll have to set up a fake call center routed to your Thursday night drinking buddy who will be instructed to pleasantly take a ticket order while simultaneously suffering a Tourette Syndrome attack and/or making inappropriate advances. Alas she will recognize your friend’s sailor mouth from regular Thursday night drinking experiences and the gig will be up. You’re going to Disneyland.

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  1. Contaminate your kids with ride fear

Embracing your fate, it’s time to plan out your day. One technique I like to leverage is to compare the average wait time for each ride (which I like to categorize Death March 1 through 4) and then subconsciously convince your kids they want no part of the ones with the longest wait times. No kid interest = no ride.

So it would go something like this if you want to avoid Pirates of the Caribbean.

“Hey kids did you hear that Disney upgraded Pirates of the Caribbean with real life pirates this year? It’s going to be so much fun. They try to actually snatch children out of the boat and sell them for ransom but don’t worry your Dad will negotiate a fair price for your return”

Think you will lose your mind if you have to ride the Jungle Cruise one more time? No problem

“Hey kids I’m pretty excited to ride the Jungle Cruise! It’s so fun to avoid the poison darts that are shot at the boats by the natives from the shoreline. Aunt Gertrude loved it to until she got a little slower in her advanced age last trip. RIP Aunt Gerty”

This technique can work on enthusiastic adult family members as well.

“You are the best mother-in-law ever! Thank you for coming on the trip to hang with us and the grandchildren. I’m just sorry you picked the year to come when Disney profits are down and they had to fire all the sanitation “cast members” who were responsible for cleaning the park rides and the restrooms on a regular basis. Here take this TP. We brought it just in case. Now let’s go snuggle into a It’s a Small World paddle boat!”

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  1. Train like it’s your last Olympics

Embracing the fact that your daily itinerary will not end until you have knocked out 24 rides in 12 hours with a maximum of 12 minutes of down time for you and your family (to visit those sorely neglected Disney bathrooms….see point #2) speed is the name of the game to get from ride to ride especially in the early hours of the park opening. A navy seal level regimen of wind sprints for the kids should start T-minus 4 weeks before the trip. Set up obstacles that resemble frail grandmothers using walkers, obese slow walking teenagers who wear extra tight gaming T-shirts and triple wide strollers and employ a no mercy policy. If taking them out determines whether you get to the next ride before the fast pass window closes you go Jonny Lawrence Kobra Kai on that obstacle my friend.

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4. Get your doctorate in Traveler Boozology

Ah ha ha..you’re so smart you brought a flask to sneak into the park to share with your significant other to help get you through the day. Rookie. Good luck getting that through Disney security and enjoy your day drinking lukewarm $10 cokes. You have to get one step ahead of these security guys who are looking to bust a cap in your ass and by bust a cap I mean voiding out your $600 park hopper pass. I choose death instead.

You have to think out of the box now and get ninja stealthy. Buy one of those kits that are crafty booze smugglers designed as real day to day products like hand moisturizer, sunblock and Tylenol containers and pack them right on top of your bag in plain sight while you cackle walking though security with an extra spring in your step. Right after that first kid melt down you say “Hey honey can you pass me the sunblock and a coke? I’m feeling hot and thiiiiiiiirsty.  Ah yeah all better now. I love SPF 80 proof. You look a little red too. You want a single or double application?”

You see a man at Disneyland that loses his shit because his wife forgot to bring extra “tampons” and think what a freak. I see a fellow drinking ninja who ran out of booze and needs a new wing man. My wife would never make that rookie mistake.

 

  1. Don’t look at a bank account or credit card bill

Perhaps the most important tip. Pre-embrace the fact that you are going to get fleeced. Some dumbass and now ex SVP in the Disney picture division greenlit The Lone Ranger and they have to make it up with $24 water misters, $18 sunblock (but hey don’t worry you brought your own 🙂 and $12 hot dogs to help pay off Jonny Depp’s salary and “alleged” coke habit on your back. But I gleefully smuggle booze into kid theme parks so who am I to talk. Sure you can try to sell some 3rd rate traveling carnival as the new Disney to avoid the fleecing but the kids will see right through that sham and there is a 34% chance one of them suffers a traumatic injury from the death trap they call carnival rides. Either way you are hitting your medical deductible.

So enjoy my fellow donuters and next time you see Mickey give him a good poke in the eye.

The Path To Mancavedom

On the day we consume massive quantities of turkey, beer and 12 straight hours of glorious football it only seems fitting I celebrate the official grand opening of my very own man cave. My accountant would rather I call it my home office but calling this blog entry The Path to HomeOfficedom is super lame and I’m paying him good money so work on those tax write offs from the “man cave” investment.

You see man needs his own space and that was easy for him to obtain in his early days roaming the earth. But then man fell in love, married and created little men that eventually look over his home office sanctuary and found himself parking his ass regularly at Starbucks to get some peace and quiet and taking conference calls over endless hours of baristas making double shot skinny mocha latte frapacchinos . That life was getting old.

This path to mancavedom was not an easy one. It started as a vision years ago. became reality last year when the CFO of DonutMonday Inc signed off on the project (wife) and broke ground earlier this year. During this trail blazing journey to build his new castle I documented each milestone of the arduous process and I share that with you today.

Step 1 – Find a suitable location. I live in a modest home in Northern California where housing is expensive and general contractors are in high demand. So visions of a grand remodel adding square feet were not in the cards. Fortunately my property contains a shed in the backyard that was the inspiration for a number of horror movies ground zero for every child’s nightmares. Actually my wife keeps her off season clothes and holiday decorations in here so we’re good to go. Location secured. img_2710

Step 2 – Execute Operation Shed Crap Transfer. This is my dining room table. I think. I didn’t actually see it for almost 2 months because it was the interim staging area of where we stored all the crap we had in the shed. However this was a principal condition of getting the CFO financial green light so failure was not an option. img_2719

 

Step 3 -Knock that old mofo shed down. This was going to be the fun part of the project. Just me, a home depot special entry level low torque cordless drill with accumulated dust from non use and ingenuity. I may not be able to build but I can destroy! img_2708

 

Step 4 – 3 hours later, throw away the cheap ass drill, scrap the elegant de-assembly plan and just start sledgehammering with middle age dad anger. That worked way better. Eventually I was left with the final skeletal remains of the old shed. One i-beam remained holding everything together that required accurate precision to ensure full safety precautions and avoid any injury from walls falling in on the demolition crew.

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Unfortunately that plan did not work but the ladder and what was left of my dignity took the brunt of the collapse.

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Step  6 – Draw up your plans. This was the first rendition of the vision for what my man cave would look like utilizing cave man like drawing skills. Possessing no ability to draw a person from a sky view makes it look like I’m lying on the floor sprawled out face up on the floor with a beer in my hand. That’s entirely in accurate. I’m normally face down.

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Step 7 – Throw away that 1st grade level crayon drawing and hire a real outfit that can do the job right. In my case I went the pre-fab route and worked with a company called Modern Shed (www.modern-shed.com) These guys were great as was their design options and I’m not just saying that because I get $500 for every sales referral I send them. That said if you are in the market for a man cave/home office I highly recommend this outfit and I’ll give you unlimited use of my soon to be new kegerator which happens to be $499 on sale today at Home Depot. Weird coincidence on price. Did I mention these guys were great? So very great.

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Step 8 – Check your non-handy ass ego at the door and get out of the way. This is Jose and Gaspar. These guys know how to build and simultaneously silently mock me with real power tools which they leave scattered around my property to torment me.

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Step 9 – Find a suitable side project. While Gaspar and Jose did all the heavy lifting building out the cave I found a way to make myself useful by building out the storage closets that would house all of the wife’s clothes and decorations that previously resided in the horror house shed. Just look at the precision on how the cabinet doors don’t quite line up nor the 3rd unit on the right which is an entirely different sized storage closet I accidentally purchased and didn’t even realize it till assembly stage 14C.


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Step 10 – Pimp It out. That wall spackle is not even dry and I have the TV fully mounted. Boom! It’s the corner piece centralized universal of any certified man cave and mandated by the city permit that I did not secure when putting up this bad boy. But don’t tell the  city and for god sakes don’t tell that to my accountant.

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Step 11 – Invest in a wifi extender. I cut the cable cord and bought an Amazon Firestick to broadcast HD TV over wifi. Great plan on paper. Unfortunately my current home wifi did not adequately reach the outer confines of Casa de DonutMonday and watching impressively consistent levels of buffering on aforementioned TV in VHF display quality got old fast. So I invested in the titanium grade Sports-A-Saurus 3000 model to deliver 100MB grade HD delivery with the 1 click push button pizza delivery feature. Comcast is NOT getting my money today.

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Step 12 – Once Sports-A-Sauris is installed ensure you have your man cave built during MLB baseball post season, NFL, NHL and college football seasons for proper and thorough quality assurance testing.img_3072

Step 13 – Understand you will fall victim to purchase every ManCave themed shwag on earth.I tried to fight this but who can say no to a one of a kind Mexican license plate themed sign sold by ten thousand street vendors in Cabo San Lucas? I didn’t think so Judgey McJudger

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Step 14 – Equip your man cave. Check out this bad ass hand stitched Italian leather dual motorized reclinable couch imported directly from Florence for a mere $4500. Unfortunately that was not a CFO approved purchase so check out the plan B Costco sofa bed special that currently resides in the cave instead. img_3080

Step 15 – Landscape, paint and rejoice. My kingdom awaits and it comes equipped with full time child labor who will keep the beer fridge restocked knowing access to the Xbox relies upon completion of those duties. Pretty nice upgrade over the horror shed and packs a 140 SF of certified man themed punch on the inside.

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How do I explain a Trump presidency to my kids?

Today was a tough day for me as a parent as I tried to explain to my kids that Donald Trump will be our President. There is no playbook for this so I went on instinct which is the only way I know how to approach this unprecedented moment in our country. As a father of 12 and 9 year old boys I feel its important for them to be informed on the political system and how elections work. My family teases me that if there is one constant in our house it’s that if it’s Sunday It’s Meet the Press. Consequently my kids saw firsthand the hateful rhetoric that Donald Trump ran on during his campaign which ultimately got him elected and questioned why so many people would vote for him. Here’s what I told them. I had to sugarcoat some of aspects of what Im thinking but tried to keep it honest and real. 

  • We respect the constitution and accept that this man is our President. Its the will of the citizens of this country to choose our leader and we will respect that choice even if the President elect himself did not offer the same assurances had he not won. We must give him a chance to try and unite this country. 
  • You will be safe and protected. Our founding fathers created a constitution with checks and balances to prevent a President from taking us to war, enacting new laws or appointing judicial appointments without congressional approval which is many cases takes more than a simple majority. I remain gravely concerned that he will control the nuclear codes but that is not a burden of concern I want to put on my kids at these ages.
  • There is hate in this world and Hillary was right that there is a percentage of deplorables who voted for Trump but I have to believe many more people are decent people and voted for him simply because they wanted change and mistrust the current political establishment. They want higher wages or just to have a job again. They want a congress that will work together. They want to pay lower taxes. They want to protect whatever it is they feel is important to them that they don’t feel Hillary would stand up for. And for whatever reason they feel Donald Trump can deliver this. So far as I believe much of this is based on a foundation of ignorance and fantasy we can still take solace that is it’s still not hate. 
  • We live in a state that mirrors our moral and social values and the constitution allows us to enact our own local laws based on the will of the people. 
  • We will not be influenced by the actions we see in government.  We will support and love our family, our friends and never discard anyone based on race, color, sexual preference or financial stature. 

And if all else fails and the shit gets real I still have Canadian citizenship and can move back where we can hang out with Jon Stewart and Cher.