Our journey, like many 'round this time of year, begins in the dark. A stressful night of flight booking some weeks prior had concluded in a horrible Frankenstein monster of airports, airlines, and hectic connections between. The best option, we decided, would be to start with an early flight from Massena to Boston on Boutique Air. When we awoke, a (very) thin sheet of ice had coated the steps, path, and car, but the flight still appeared to be slated for an on-time departure. The drowsy children were ferried across the slippery path and transfered to their car seats.

At the airport, the strange woman behind the desk seemed un-phased and we went through security as planned. Our departure time approached. The plows were dispatched. They pushed some slush around and then pushed it back. Ol' Dad kept an eye on the clock. An on-time arrival would have left less than an hour between flights. The strange woman came and told us the flight was delayed an hour. We started making phone calls and checking for other flights. The woman came back and told us the flight was delayed two hours. The kids got antsy and were appeased with video games. The woman, whose voice and mannerisms grew more irritating with each passing hour, told us of an approaching break in the clouds which would surely allow the sun to do its job and melt the ice. Then she came back and told us the flight was delayed another hour. And another. Then a half hour. Then another half hour.

Then the flight was canceled.

Frustrated, I asked what Boutique could offer us for our trouble, for the thousands of dollars we were out as a result of our missed connection. "Our policy is to not make any accommodations for flights canceled due to weather," the woman whined. I considered grabbing a handful of pennies and nickels from the car and throwing them all over the lobby.

The children, however, were unperturbed. They are amazing, patient travelers. And resourceful. There's always something to run around in an airport!

We loaded the car and headed home, dejected. We called Grandma CC to brainstorm alternatives. With everything already packed, we figured it would be easiest to just leave from a different airport, even if it meant more driving and getting in late. (A surprise party for Grandpa Larry's birthday was planned for the following day...) We looked at possibilities in Ogdensburg, Watertown, Syracuse, Plattsburgh, Ottawa, and Montreal. Nothing made sense. In the end, we decided to get another early-morning flight the next day, this time on Cape Air in Saranac Lake.

Of course, this meant we'd be leaving from and returning to different airports. So, exhausted, we drove home, got the other car, drove back to Massena, got some pizza, dropped the Outback off at the airport (making sure to lift the wiper blades!), and drove home for another early bedtime.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Get up early, pack some makeshift breakfast foods, move kids to car, drive in dark to airport.

Otis: "Where are we going?"

Dad: "To a different airport."

"Why?"

"Because Boutique is the most worthless airline ever conceived."

"Which airport are we going to?"

"Saranac Lake. The one we went to on our last trip."

"Oh, man...! That airport's not fun at all!"

(Pictured above: Juniper and Otis having a ton of fun running in the dark hallway, climbing up and down the stairs, shouting at each other, watching the old mountain man do yo-yo tricks, etc., etc., etc.)

Also fun (but scary for parents with kids with small fingers), making things move on the luggage rollers without touching them!

And then we were off! There was snow on the ground, but unlike Boutique, these boys knew what they were doing. We rose above the clouds to a golden sunrise.

Nice clouds too!

For the next leg, we had to walk across Terminal C in Logan. We had plenty of time, though, so we grabbed some sammies for an early lunch. Little did we know that our planning would be in vain. We'd have plenty of time to eat lunch at the normal, civilized time...

I saw a guy that looked like Rudy Giuliani milling about outside the jet-way. I couldn't get a good look at his lower teeth, so I couldn't be sure. I took a picture of him just the same.

We got on the plane, found our seats, and settled in. Our departure time approached and departed itself. We were informed of a last-minute safety check. Then we were informed of a minor repair. Then we were informed that we'd have to get off the plane.

We found some seats outside the gate and played games, drew pictures, ate snacks, had more lunch, and listened to the gate crew blow smoke up our ass for several hours. I watched a guy with a flashlight climb up on his truck and poke around the wing of our plane. We called Grandma CC and told her we probably wouldn't make it to the surprise party and not to worry about picking us up at the airport, we'd fend for ourselves with an Uber.

Eventually they found us a new plane (long after the next flight on the same route had left, I might add) and shepherded us back aboard. We were among the last ones aboard and as one woman scanned our boarding passes, I heard another make an announcement over the intercom: "Would Rudy Giuliani please report to gate C18? Your flight is about to leave."

I turned to the couple behind me. "If that son of a bitch holds us up any longer, I'm going to heckle him."

The man replied, "Yeah! I mean, I even like the guy, but I'll be upset too!" (?!)

Side note: What does it mean that Rudy Giuliani is taking JetBlue flights to Palm Beach? I suppose it's an indication that he's officially thrown under the bus and out on his own? Trump was at Mar-a-Lago for New Years. We saw Air Force One at the airport. Guess Rudy wasn't an instrumental part of starting WWIII...

We made it. We rolled up to the party just in time for cupcakes and a glass of wine before heading to bed.

Otis and I have a tradition in Florida of waking up much earlier than everyone else and walking over to the beach at first light to check the surf conditions. We take pictures and talk about all kinds of stuff. Then we walk out on one of the boardwalks and watch the waves and sunrise for a few minutes. (It's my favorite part of going down there.)

Surf was pretty flat this trip. I got four days in, all ankle to knee in size. Still worth it, though! I got my fix... For the year...

Sailors take warning! (Stay home and watch TV!)

"Dad! Take a picture of those colored leaves to show CC!"

I wasn't expecting much and didn't take time to hold the camera steady. Came out much more interesting as a result!

Good morning, Mr. Lizard.

Otis made a to-do list:

  1. TUESDAY
    ZOO
  2. Mini Golf
  3. Beach
  4. TURtLeS
    WEDNESDAY
  5. hot
    tub
  6. PLAY
    GRoUND thURSDAY
  7. MANAtEES
  8. LiGhthOUSE FRIDAY
  9. UNtitLED GOOSE
    GAME

(We ended up doing everything on the list except #7.)

When Otis wrote "turtles" on his to-do list, we thought he was talking about going to the Loggerhead Marine Life Center (where we went on our last visit). But CC had also mentioned some turtles in a nearby ditch. Otis and I stopped by after one of our daily surf checks and sure enough, the water was loaded with these little guys.

One of the more eager turtles climbed up the steep slope next to the culvert looking for a handout. (We gave him a leaf and a hibiscus, but he wasn't particularly interested in either.

Otis found a dead rat on the road around the corner from the house. It was gone the next time we walked by, but Otis was careful to remind everyone not to step "where the rat was."

Here's a visual chaser.

Three shiny balloons were brought back from Larry's party. They quickly found their way to the highest parts of the ceiling.

Back in September, Hurricane Dorian stopped moving and pummeled the Bahamas for a few days. The east coast of Florida got hit with the surge and much of the beach in and around Palm Beach County was swept away. Jupiter lost about half of the band of sea grapes that protected A1A and the houses beyond. By the time we got there, a massive beach nourishment operation was underway. A big dredging ship was anchored offshore...

...and a sand-spewing pipe was positioned on the beach. A team of backhoes and bulldozers pushed the sand into place and reshaped the shore.

Curious, we Googled to find the environmental impact of beach nourishment. Not surprisingly, it's not great. But it's better than seawalls. UCSB recommends managed retreat, but with the amount of money invested in beach-front real estate around here, I can't see that happening.

After two mornings of Otis stomping around the shared guest room and waking his sleeping sister, I asked him to quietly go downstairs when he got up. He asked for a quiet activity and I made him some coloring pages. Then I got jealous of his coloring pages and made one for myself. Rollover (or click here) to the finished product!

We went to the Dive Bar for dinner. They had many aquariums (aquaria?). The children were entertained.

We also went for a stroll along the Riverwalk when we learned that we were allowed to take our drinks! We chuckled at all the grossly overpowered rich-people fishing boats. (Click here to compare the length of the tripled up outboard engines to the overall length of the boat!)

We got fro-yo after dinner. Juniper was pleased...

...and re-energized!

We saw but a single sailboat in the Jupiter Yacht Club. There were a few more anchored in the nearby lagoon.

Mom and Dad felt a little sick on New Year's Eve, so CC and Larry took the kids to the Palm Beach Zoo for a mid-day countdown. We took naps and felt a little better, so we drove out to The Habit (a Santa Barbara staple that went public and expanded dramatically a few years after we moved out of Goleta). It wasn't as good.

On the way back, we stopped for a little stroll through the Jupiter Ridge Natural Area. We looked for gators, but didn't see a single one.

We did see some ants, though!

Had a little downtime. Took some pictures of the palm trees in the back yard. Ready?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It seems that a snake slithered up one of the trees by the front door and used the roots of an orchid to wriggle out of its skin. Neat!

One of Sarah's greatest talents is scouring the Internet for fun activities. On this trip, she suggested an outing to nearby Riverbend Park. It turned out to be most excellent! There were a ton of people out and enjoying the nice New Year's Day weather.

We spotted a large thatch-roofed chickee hut with a bunch of bikes and rented four for the family (including the last two with kid seats!). We grabbed a map and set off. This park was amazing! Miles and miles of smooth trails through trees and swamps and along the river. There was a rumor that some manatees had been spotted in the river. We kept our eyes open, but no luck.

On our way out, Otis noticed that one of the reflective stop signs made a rainbow and instructed his dad to take a picture. The rainbow wasn't very clear when the picture was in focus, so here's a blurry shot instead.

Sarah also found a killer playground nearby at Indian Creek Park. We went over with the kids while the grandparents procured some sandwiches. I tried to take a picture of a trash-raiding squirrel who had been eying our picnic. When we looked to see how it turned out, I discovered that Sarah had lobbed a cherry tomato at the cur at the exact same time.

Mom and Dad night out! These weren't our Modelos, they were just sitting on top of this transformer box in front of our parking spot. I stooped to take a picture while we discussed what a ridiculous place downtown Albacoa must be.

After dinner at a beer garden and more beer at a brewery across the street, we headed out for a little Sarah mayhem.

Christmas tree delirium.

Due to the dredging, there were a lot more shells than usual on the beach this year. We found some good ones and then decided to up the stakes a little bit and look for a shark tooth. Otis and I spent hours on the beach looking for one. Here he is in his PJs on one of our early morning walks.

Spot the shark tooth!

Just kidding. Despite our efforts, we found no teeth.

I'd read that "where there's sharks, there's teeth." Seeing as how we found no teeth, however, the only logical conclusion was that there weren't any sharks in Florida.

But then we went to Hobe Sound to add a little variety to our beach outings. And to get away from DuBois Park, where an algae bloom had rendered the usually idyllic cove unfit for swimming kiddos. (We'd been earlier in the week and were grossed out to learn of the beach closure after we'd already been in the water. There weren't any signs!)

At Hobe Sound Beach, we dug a big pit, played in the surf, ate some deli subs, and, of course, looked for a tooth. No luck. At least, not until Sarah and I went for a walk and searched one last pile of shells.

Jackpot.

On our way back to the kids, shark tooth in hand, we noticed a large number of people walking toward us on the beach. Many of them had cellphones in the hands and they were pointing them at a couple of guys passing a fishing pole back and forth. Judging by the angle of the line and the bend in the pole, they'd caught something big and it was close to shore. The crowd was following the fishermen as their catch dragged them down the beach.

A fin flashed in the water and we knew they'd caught a shark.

It took them about fifteen minutes, but eventually they got the shark into the surf zone. It would get thrown up by a wave and then washed back down into the deeper water. One of the guys grabbed its tail a couple times, but the shark was too slippery. Eventually he took off his shirt, wrapped it around his hands, grabbed the slippery fish, and dragged it up to the dry sand. They posed for pictures, almost got bit and tail-slapped several times, and took the hook out.

I thought I'd be able to find more videos, but this is the only one I could dig up. (Source.)

Larry's cousin Harry and his wife came over for dinner on our last night. The dining room table had been taken over by Lego and markers, so we ate outside. This little feller climbed up to see what all the commotion was about.

On our way back home, we took a detour to North Carolina to visit Nana. Otis was feeling a bit under the weather and the weather outdoors wasn't very inviting, so we mostly stayed inside and opened Christmas presents and played video games. Nonetheless, it was a very nice visit and we're looking forward to going back in the summer!

For our last leg, we had to get from Raleigh-Durham back to Massena to pick up our car. The night before we left, I got a text message from Boutique informing me that our flight had been canceled. Here we go again...

I got on the horn with customer service. They told me the flight was being canceled due to weather. "That's odd," I told Customer Service Rep Karen, "the National Weather Service is reporting clear skies tomorrow afternoon in both Boston and Massena." This stumped her. She had to talk to her supervisor. After a while on hold, Karen came back with news that the flight wasn't canceled. The alert had been a mistake since the same flight the previous day had been canceled. (Suspicious.) After about an hour, Karen didn't know if the plane was going to fly or not.

While I was on hold, I booked some seats on a Cape Air flight the following morning (sound familiar?) just in case. I asked Karen where we could pick up our hotel vouchers and she fed me that same old line: "Our policy is to not make any accommodations for flights canceled due to weather."

"Ah yes," I replied, "but that doesn't quite apply here since the forecast looks perfectly clear, no?" Karen was again stumped and asked if she could call me back later that night or the following morning.

She never did.

Instead, I called customer service when I woke up. The conclusion was that the plane was in fact going to fly and that our seats were still available. I said, "great, we'll be there. Can you send me a confirmation?"

"But hold on," the new agent replied, "you'll have to check your credit card statement to see if we've already reimbursed you for the flight."

"That sounds like more of a you problem than a me problem," I said, "Your bookkeeping isn't my responsibility." Nonetheless, I logged into my bank account and saw no credits from Boutique. "I don't even see a refund for the first flight you canceled," I continued.

"OK, well we're going to need your credit card again," came the reply. After ten minutes of arguing, I gave in and booked my original seats a second time.

After saying goodbye to Nana, we drove back to Raleigh, dropped off the rental car, and checked into our Delta flight to Boston. It was, of course, delayed; a problem since they'd refused to try and book our luggage through to Boutique. The future clock was ticking and all I could do was plan our sprinting route out of Logan Terminal A and into Terminal B. After some confusion with the checked car seat, we collected our bags and bolted over to the Boutique desk. They told us we had plenty of time and we sighed a sigh of relief.

We made it to the gate with ten minutes to spare and ate some quick snacks instead of dinner before boarding our last plane. Only... They couldn't find the plane... And then the ten-minute refueling turned into a one-hour refueling... And despite sitting right next to a restaurant, at which we would have had plenty of time to eat, our patient children settled for a fruit-snack and fig-bar dinner.

As we drove back home from Massena, with exhausted children snoozing in the back, we felt a smug sense of satisfaction. We'd made it. We'd managed to wrest at least some of the actual value from the tickets we'd spent thousands of dollars on. We reflected on the horrors of air travel and looked forward to sleeping in our own bed.

Rant-y enough for ya?!