Architecture, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States

Mari Vineyards – The Oak Island Winery

Thanks to the Curse We Had a Great Experience

Yep, I’m a fan of The Curse of Oak Island, but Shad, who did all the planning, is not a Lagina Brothers groupie. When he sent me an outline of what he intended for us to do, I did some poking around on the internet. It’s there I saw Mari Vineyards on an attractions map outside Traverse City. I knew this was one of Marty Lagina’s many enterprises and it would not have any direct connection to the TV show I loved, but I still wanted to go. Our host accommodated my desire.

WOW! Is This It?

Fresh off our visit to Black Star Farms, we were hoping for something a bit more, shall we say, engaging. While a covered porch and adjacent farmyard has a certain allure for some people, it’s not exactly my scene. Mari Vineyards suited my taste to a tee. To begin with, the winery sits on a gorgeous piece of real estate, with a commanding view of the area. Even if wine is not your thing, you can’t help but love the view.

As you can see from the first photo, the architecture and accoutrements are also much more upscale. The patio was particularly inviting. I loved the exterior so much I never made it inside, but according to the others, the restroom facilities were nice and the staff was pleasant.

Honestly, however, the wine was not outstanding. I’d give the wine honors to Black Star, but if I was looking for a great way to spend an afternoon, Mari Vineyards would win hands down and I’d probably bring a picnic.

Traveling with Kids

So, I don’t do kids. I like to see them at church and I enjoy my great niece and great nephews in very short spurts, if they can be returned to their parents after a bit, but I don’t dote on them the way some people do. That being said, these kids were pretty great. Major kudos to the parents in both cases. Hannah and Daniel are both obedient, intelligent and respectful.

Hannah is a sweetheart all the way around, perhaps a bit of a Daddy’s girl, but who could blame her Dad when she works so hard to please him.

Daniel is a whole ‘nother ball of wax, a real cut up and slightly naughty. Catching him for a photo was a hit or miss thing. He seemed to know just when to make that face or strike a pose to highlight the imp inside.

Hannah, who is older, can sit quietly and needs little supervision, with or without her ipad. Daniel can sit quietly forever, if he’s playing a game, but once the electronic devise is ripped from his hands, one needs to keep an eye on him and should you fail to do so, he’ll find a way to get your attention.

Wineries are not exactly kid-friendly, so after our second one, we took another tack, visiting the Old Mission Lighthouse. Come back next week and check that out!

TRAVEL

Black Star Farms

Rustic and Awkward

Having lived on the Central Coast of California, we love wine tasting, but we also know it to be quite an adventure. When we first moved to the Central Coast, wineries and wine tastings were a very casual and free affair. As the area became more well known for its wines, the casual part stayed, but the free went away.

Bill has never quite gotten over the fact that today’s wineries all charge for a tasting, but he’s learned to live with it. We’ve also learned to live with the fact that few wineries are going to be offering up wines as good as we were introduced to in Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. That’s especially true, if we’re visiting the wineries in nearby our Texas home in Grapevine.

In Michigan we didn’t know what to expect. Our first winery was Black Star Farms and it was a farm. A white clapboard building with a big covered porch was the tasting room, but one look around told us we’d much prefer to taste our wine on the porch. From the porch we could see barns, holding pens and other rustic sights.

I’m sure the awkwardness was all Covid’s fault, but I got the distinct impression we weren’t altogether welcome there. These days there seem to be doors opened out of necessity, but their occupants wish you’d had the good sense to just stay home. I’m sure a pair of kids also added to the scrutiny we received. There was no way for them to know these kids were perfectly behaved. All in all, I thought the porch would be the best choice for our visit. I love al fresco, but I got the feeling if we hadn’t asked to be on the porch, we would have been told to go out there anyway.

They shooed us out to the porch with papers from which to choose our tastings. There wasn’t much on the paper to help you decide what you wanted, nor did anyone seem interested in helping you out. Eventually they begrudgingly returned to collect our papers and we waited forever for them to deliver our selections. No one ever came back out to check on us either.

The wine itself was actually pretty good and Shad tried some of their other offerings, like bourbon. We took our time enjoying the tasting and the long porch was very pleasant. After a while we decided to move on to the next place, which was a little more exciting.

Would I recommend it? Yes, I would, especially if the pandemic is ever over. I think they might be happier to see you, then, but their product is lovely and porch offers a great place to relax. I hope you’ll join me next week to find out about Mari Vineyards. For now, here’s a few more shots from Black Star Farms.

TRAVEL

On the Road Again

Our Family’s Home

Visiting Michigan

Imagine our joy when we arrived at this beautiful home, which is even more beautiful inside than it is outside. Waiting for us was Bill’s niece, Maggie, her husband, Shad, our great niece, Hannah and our great nephew, Daniel. They were the most gracious hosts and hostesses you can possibly imagine. A big meal was planned and it seemed everyone had something exciting to say. I would tell you more, except for the fact I can barely remember anything. I was a zombie.

I do know the first order of business was to reorganize all our luggage, because we were leaving the next morning for a road trip. Eventually, I excused myself from all the fun and slept like the dead. I’m sure I missed a lot. These are Egyptians. Life begins at about 9 PM.

On to Traverse City

I can’t help it. I was up at five. I took a bath and got myself ready for a day of sightseeing. Bless my family’s heart! My love of Diet Dr Pepper is well known. The frig was stocked well with them and my nephew, the doctor, said my red eyes and slight sore-throat would succumb to a Claritin. By 7 AM I was human.

My great niece and I took the seats at the very back. She was an absolute joy and a great travel partner. My great nephew was a little fussy. Within an hour, we made the first potty stop. By about 10, we had to make another one. Too many women in one car. Hannah and I were the most frequent potty flyers.

The Apache Trout Grill

The first official stop on this road trip was the Apache Trout Grill. Though I had never heard of it, it’s popularity cannot be denied. We shared Brussel Sprouts and Shrimp Bruchetta for appetizers. For lunch I had something call Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad, which doesn’t begin to hint at the Bleu Cheese, Cherries and Mandrian Oranges which were in it. YUM!!

But the best was yet to come. Behind the restaurant is a dock with chairs all lined up for your relaxation comfort. Here’s a few of our moments on the dock.

After allowing our delicious meal an opportunity to digest it was time to take on the afternoon’s agenda of wine tasting. Come back next week and taste along with us.

TRAVEL

Clarkson MI via Chicago IL

So, Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

We like to save money. We can’t help it. When I researched flights to Michigan, I discovered (thanks to our friend, Mr. Pandemic) our flight to Detroit or Flint would be comparable to our flight to Rome just a couple of years before. I’d pulled every trick out of the book to make the Rome flights affordable, changing planes and enduring overnight layovers to save a few bucks. To pay virtually the same to get to Michigan seemed ridiculous.

I started looking for alternatives. Chicago was only five hours and many hundreds of dollars less, according to my research. I imagined an early flight and an easy five hour drive was worth hundreds of dollars. I mean this money was coming out of my travel budget and that’s the most precious funds I have access to. Bill said it was a no-brainer and, as I bonus we love Chicago, so we might end the trip with a day or two there.

The Good Idea Meets Reality

In my wildest dreams, I would have never guessed I would have been up for 24 hours by the time we got to the airport, but thanks to some random problem with our network, that was exactly the case. While other folks are able to catch a nap on the plane, in spite of my total exhaustion, that wasn’t possible for me. I’m lucky to grab even a couple of hours of sleep on international flights. About all I could manage on the short hop to Chicago was to rest my gravelly eyes. No sleep would come.

In Chicago, we grabbed a rental car and hit the road. Whoever (Google) said it was going to be a five hour drive obviously was out of touch with reality. Traffic was a nightmare and there was a lot of construction. There was a goodly amount of navigating to do through Illinois, so I stayed awake to help, but once we crossed over into Michigan, I was finally able to doze off.

It seemed as if I had only dozed off for a moment or two, but in reality I had a good nap. Bill, who certainly isn’t used to getting up at 4 AM, was fading fast. When I moved a little bit and fluttered my eyes, he asked if I would drive. I wanted to ask, “Are you kidding?”, but instead I told him to pull over at the next opportunity and I would fight it for a while.

The Torture Chamber

Bill dozed off the second I took over the wheel. A few moments later a sign announced I was approaching some construction and I thought to myself, “HA! As if we haven’t had it all along.”

It was true that Bill had driven through some construction, but nothing like I was about to face. As the lanes narrowed down, one truck pulled in front of me and another fell in line behind me. Then suddenly there were concrete barricades on either side of me and the road was rough. That’s when it began to rain.

Tears came to eyes just as they had at 3 AM, as I fought to deliver the images to our customers, so they’d have them within our designated time frame. I knew I had a job to do. I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. Bill may not have been up for as many hours as I had, but he’d valiantly driven for hours on end, while I dozed. It was his turn.

Imagine driving, in the rain, on a strange road, with a truck ahead of you and one behind you, when you can’t see over the concrete barriers on either side of you. Oh, and don’t forget the rough road. I had no idea how Bill could be asleep.

I remembered a trip we’d taken many years ago. Bill was driving a moving truck, pulling a car. We were in Albuquerque NM and rain was pouring so hard that you could barely see the car ahead of you, much less the signs over the road. I was behind Bill, in my car, and we were using our phones like walkie talkies. In spite of the fact I could barely see, I was directing Bill, as he drove ahead of me. I looked over to my dog who was in the seat next to me. I thought animals could sense danger, but my Shih Tzu was dead asleep. I must create a false sense of security when I drive.

Back in Michigan, I put in about an hour and a half in that moving torture chamber and I was done. That’s about the time the road opened up and the trucks zoomed away. I pulled off at the next McDonald’s for a potty stop and for Bill to take back the wheel. He took us on to Clarkson and to the home of our family. Come back next week, because things do get better.

TRAVEL

Michigan Bound

The Bags Were Packed, But the Business Wouldn’t Let Go

For one of the few times in my life I left the planning to someone else. My nephew, Dr. Megala, had lots of good ideas about what we should do while we visited Michigan, so I left it to him. Meanwhile, I was squaring things away so our business would actually let us leave.

As fate would have it, we had to do five different shoots the day before we left. Thankfully, we had a second photographer, so Bill only had to do three, but while we had a second photographer, I was still the only one handling the post production end of things. This trip would be our first stab at remote operations. Bill had bought a new laptop in recent months, so my primary job was to make sure everything worked.

I had checked and double-checked every link, every app, every email address – anything I would need to do my job while I was gone. There were only a few jobs sprinkled throughout the time we’d be away, but I was still nervous. As a way to test everything, I was going to use my laptop to process the jobs that came in that day.

In order to speed up the process, Bill met me mid-day with a photo card with two of his jobs, so I could start downloading images. When I came home from picking it up, our second photographer had emailed me his first set of pictures, also. I sat down at the laptop and began to process the jobs. The laptop told me it would take about 20 minutes to download the first shoot. Nothing out of the ordinary. We use raw images which are huge.

Not long afterwards, the laptop changed its mind and told me 45 minutes. Soon it was reporting a new time frame – 5 hours. FIVE HOURS!! Assuming it must be something wrong with the laptop, I went to Bill’s computer and tried to download another set of photos. His computer said it would take 2 days. I went upstairs to my computer. It wanted 5 days!!

When Bill got home I had decided our network was broken. Oh, I could get email, social media and all kinds of other things on our wi-fi, but nothing was downloading anywhere. I had pulled out my mobile hotspot and was about to load it with gigabytes. He decided I must be doing something wrong, so he wanted me to explain everything I’d done in the hours since he’d left me the photo card.

Now, as much as I love this guy, I was frantic and he was using his calm, cool tech-support voice. My hair was was on fire and I was on the verge of a total meltdown. I tried to be calm, I really did, but I wasn’t very good at it. Somewhere along the way, as I explained the problem and recounted my steps, the computers decided perhaps they’d only need another half hour or so to finish downloading the first job. We don’t have a clue what changed, but something did.

On a good day, it would take about five hours to download five jobs and send them to the editors. I’ve improved the process in the months since, but I was still figuring things out back then. Having started with two of the jobs in mid-afternoon and the others coming in shortly afterwards, I should have been done by dinner time.

As it turned out, it was bedtime before I got all the images downloaded and sent to the editors. I’d asked for a rush on all of them, so even though I was exhausted and was supposed to wake up at 4, I wanted to get a confirmation the editors had them and to have some kind of idea when they’d be ready.

Up until then, when I asked for a rush, I got an immediate confirmation and the images would be returned within the hour. That’s not what happened this time. Finally, sometime after midnight I got the confirmation they’d received all the jobs, but in spite of all my begging emails, I didn’t get the five jobs back until 3 AM! THREE AM!!

Bleary-eyed from being awake for 22 hours or so, I was totally stressed out and started delivering the jobs via email with tears in my eyes. At 4:05 AM the jobs were all sent and I walked downstairs to get ready to leave the house at 4:30 AM.

Now, I thought I would receive a hero’s welcome when I reported to the bedroom. Instead someone in this household, who will remain nameless, started telling me I had done it all wrong. Some day I will forgive him, but I am still working on it. Come back next week and see what happened next.

TRAVEL

New Year, New Trip

What Have I Done Since the Last Trip?

The pandemic has been tough on this traveling girl. In 2020, I was still blogging about the adventures of of my Anniversary Cruise of 2019 and was glad for the chance to get caught up. When that was over, I shared a trip to Arizona we’d unknowingly squeezed in, right before Covid-19 became a thing. That took the blog through the early part of 2021, but in my real life, I hadn’t been anywhere since February of 2020. So, I recapped a few of the local things I’d done for distraction during what I thought was going to be the end of the pandemic.

Only the pandemic stayed and Bill wasn’t budging. He’d kept me home (as in, in the house) for months on end. Several of my friends had used the break from normal life to travel, but not Bill. For one thing, real estate had been deemed one of those necessary industries and Bill’s a real estate photographer. While many of the other photographers in our industry chose to take off, Bill kept on shooting and because of that we were busier than ever.

For the other thing, he was of the opinion that the closer you stayed to home, the less likely you were to get the virus. We didn’t get the virus, but I nearly went insane tied to the house. I was thrilled when various networking groups started meeting. I’m not that crazy about networking, but it was better than staying home.

During the pandemic, we had a vacation package I was dying to use and I must have planned a dozen different vacations to take advantage of it, but none of them came about for a variety of reasons. Then I planned a holiday road trip, but that didn’t happen either, because the pandemic had an uptick at the end of 2020 and on New Year’s Eve, hen we were going to pop up to Oklahoma, the sky started falling.

In March, as senior citizens, we got both our Pfizer vaccinations, but by then business picked up. Not that it had actually ever slowed down that much. December was a little slow, not dead as it had been in the past, but at least we got to breathe. In January, the phone started to ring again and by March we were in over our heads. We had to outsource our editing, just to keep up.

Let’s Go to Michigan!

About this time we got an invitation we couldn’t resist. For several years we’d been promising our niece and nephew in Michigan we’d come see them. The pandemic kept us from keeping that promise, but now we were vaccinated. When they extended the invitation again, we had to say yes. It’s not that we were in anyway reluctant to see them. It’s just that Bill still had his Covid concerns. However, my mental health was also a concern and if I didn’t go somewhere and soon, then who knew what might happen. So, even though the invitation was for July, the busiest time in our business, it was the right time to visit Michigan, so we started making plans.

Among those plans we started interviewing photographers, found one we liked and started training him to expand our ability to satisfy customer requests and to let us leave town. We still warned our best customers that while we’d have a photographer to handle them, if they wanted Bill, they needed to get the homes shot by a certain date. Come back next week and see how that went.

DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods, the Final Scene

Act III, Scene 1

Zeus:  Good Morning!  Thank you for tuning into Jagged Journeys on KVOO radio, the voice of Olympus.  I’m your host, Zeus, Greek god of sky and thunder.  On the air with me is Isis, my lovely Egyptian co-host.  Today is the grand finale of the Bill and Jane episode of our game and what a journey it has been!

Isis:  You are absolutely right, Zeus.  There are several gods and goddesses we have to thank for contributing to the success of this episode, but I think we should start with Mercury, because he selected these amazing players.

Zeus:  Yes, Isis, Mercury played an important role, but how did you like the storm I cooked up on their first day of travel?

Isis:  It was certainly something, Zeus.  It’s now almost two weeks later and New York is still trying to sort out the luggage.  It’s no wonder that you are the god of thunder; but you weren’t the only member of your family who made this game exciting – how about your wife, Hera?

Zeus:  She certainly made a difference.  Without her, the travelers might still be lost in Dusseldorf, but that’s ancient history now.  Why don’t we check in and see what’s happening with Bill and Jane.  Are they almost home, Mercury?

Mercury:  Yes, Zeus, our travelers are already in DFW airspace and Jane’s parents are waiting for them at the terminal.  This last leg of the flight has been most uneventful – a real yawner!

Isis:  But that’s been the exception rather than the rule; hasn’t it, Mercury?

Mercury:  Absolutely, Isis.  Even after they escaped from the consequences of Zeus’s storm and joined their friends in Germany, the trip continued to be a roller coaster.

Isis:  I remember when Bill and Jane arrived at the Kettler Hotel in Bad Laer.  They were so exhausted they were barely civil to the wedding party.  Even though they’d been trying to them reach for three days, all they could do was sit staring into space. They would have enjoyed some food from the buffet, but it had all been eaten.  Before too long, they went right up to their room and almost slept through the wedding.

Mercury:  Yes, they certainly would have if the groom had not come and knocked on the door.  Ludgar thought they might actually be sick.

Isis:  But they weren’t – only a bit worse for the wear.  Bill and Jane immediately jumped up and started getting ready, but very quickly found out they hadn’t packed the cufflinks and studs for Bill’s tux.

Mercury:  They lost a lot of points for that, too.  They were very irritable after sleeping so long and lost a lot of points for bickering.  This was a serious mistake after losing so many points for sleeping through the afternoon.  In fact, they lost so many points that they made the bride late for the wedding.  When they hit 498 points, Eris flew down and confused the driver of the bride’s car.  Even though everyone in the bride’s entourage saw the cathedral, they couldn’t figure out how to reach it.

Isis:  The bride saved the day.  They all got out and walked, leaving the cars to sort out the problem.  Things did go more smoothly after that.

Zeus:  You’re right Isis, for the first few days after the wedding it seemed as if the trip had turned into a real bore, but then Bill and Jane locked horns with The Couple from Hell.

Isis:  Actually they were from New York, but our contestants thought The Couple was sent from the devil – even though Lucifer certainly had nothing to do with it.  Remember the first time Bill and Jane noticed them.

Zeus:  Yes –initially, the couple from hell melted into the larger group of wedding guests – but as the days passed, more and more guests headed off with other agendas and the crowd dwindled down to our travelers, the newlyweds and The Couple From Hell.  That’s when they rode the cog wheel rails and cable cars up to the Zugspitze.

Mercury:  What a beautiful site that was!  Then the men decided to climb even higher than the observation deck to a shrine.  The Wife From Hell decided to go along, but she climbed the wrong way and had to be rescued.

Isis:  And it was Bill who rescued her, not her husband!

Mercury:  That’s right; and once again, Bill brought a lot of points to the board.  But that evening as they were looking for their hotel, The Couple From Hell nominated themselves as the official navigators and took everyone on quite a wild goose chase.  Somehow, Jane kept her mouth shut, but you could see how frustrated she was.

Zeus:  Yes, and The Couple from Hell insisted on holding on to their navigational position, but they weren’t exactly a pleasure to travel with.  If they’d been our players, this would’ve been a very different game, wouldn’t it Mercury? 

Mercury:  Absolutely, Zeus.  The husband loved spouting off about how capable he was at navigating, but never did take his turn driving – and that led to a completely different problem.  Didn’t it Isis?

Isis:  It did, Mercury.  Like school children on a bus, The Couple from Hell was jealous because they were stuck with the middle seat and didn’t get to sit in back.  They even complained to Tammy about it.

Mercury:  But, Bill and Jane had only been sitting in the back, to give The Couple from Hell a better seat.  Since The Couple from Hell didn’t appreciate it, our contestants were quick to move to the middle.  Then The Couple from Hell found out how hard it was to see out of the back and how uncomfortable it was.  Bill and Jane not only got points for cooperation, they got a better seat!

Zeus:  But they still had to put up with the hellish couple’s navigating.

Isis:  That is until Vienna, when Jane had finally had enough.  The entire group was on foot en route to a subway station.  Don’t you have that conversation cued up to play for our audience, Zeus?

Zeus:  Yes, I do.  The first man is the Hellish Husband, the second one is Ludgar and our audience should recognize Jane’s voice.

Hellish Husband:  OK, we continue on this street until we get to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Simply marvelous.  Isn’t this wonderful weather?  What do we do then?

Hellish Husband:  We’ll turn right and then it should only be a block to the underground station.

Ludgar:  I hope we find a place to eat when we get to the palace.  I’m a bit hungry.

Hellish Husband:  The lady at the hotel said there would be plenty of places to choose from.

Ludgar:  Hey, Jane!  Where are you going?

Jane:  This is Ringstrasse.

Hellish Husband:  No, this street is Joseph Something Street, we’re looking for Ringstrasse Street.

Jane:  No, you’re wrong!  The Ringstrasse is a series of streets – strasse – that make a ring around the city center, hence Ringstrasse.  The street has different names in different parts but it’s all The Ringstrasse.

Ludgar:  Are you sure about this Jane?

Jane:  Yes, I am.  This is not my first trip to Vienna.

Ludgar:  Come on guys, Jane thinks this is the way.

Hellish Husband:  We are supposed to go to Ringstrasse Street.

Ludgar:  Jane, why don’t you come a few more blocks this way with us and if we don’t see Ringstrasse Street, then we can come back.

Jane:  You guys go ahead, I’ll wait right here, because this is Ringstrasse.  I’ve already made too many extra steps on this trip and I’m not going on another wild goose chase.

Ludgar:  Come on, Jane, we should stay together.

Jane:  And we should turn right here.  If you don’t believe me, since you speak German, ask one of the locals.

Isis:  So Ludgar spoke to someone in German and headed off in the direction Jane insisted they should go.  The Couple from Hell followed reluctantly.

Zeus:  Ugly Americans!

Mercury:  Zeus, Isis, the plane has landed.  Bill and Jane are headed towards the terminal.

Zeus:  Then we should hurry up and tell them about my second storm.

Isis:  OK, Zeus.  Up in the Alps after a nice al fresco lunch, the group heard bells ringing and asked the waiter what they signified.  The waiter told them the bells meant a storm was coming.  Since ancient time the people living in the mountains rang the bells for storms, because the mountains hid them.

Zeus:  I always thought that was a nice touch.  Tell everyone what happened then!

Isis:  Well, Zeus, then the group walked down the street a few blocks to a pastry shop for dessert.  A funny noise made them look outside and your storm was pouring down.

Zeus:  Yeah – grape to golfball sized hail filling the street curb to curb!

Isis:  It was very impressive, Zeus, but since you are only allowed to interrupt the trip once in a game, by the time they ate their dessert, you had to move the hail out of the area.

Zeus:  That’s right, but it was something wasn’t it?  So where are they now, Mercury?

Mercury:  They’ve just exited the doors of the terminal and Jane’s parents are waving like crazy.  Jane has gone up to her mother and given her a hug.  They are breaking the embrace now and I’m going to see if I can get close enough for you to hear what they say.

Jane’s mother:  I’m glad you are home.  Did you have a good time?

Jane:  We certainly did, but for a lot of the trip, we felt like we were tossed about at the whim of the gods.   

TRAVEL

A Six-Month Covid Hiatus

Photo by Peggy Anke on Pexels.com

An Apology and a Resumption

Let’s start with the apology. I just ran out of energy. I had too many balls in the air and for the time being, my blog was the one with the least amount of consequences, should I drop it. I’ve turned a page and caught up with myself, to a certain extent – at least to the point that I’ve missed blogging. So, welcome back to my tales.

At the Whim of the Gods

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that I left you guys at the altar. I was sharing a piece I’d written of a landmark travel experience, which took Bill and I to Germany for a wedding. I got as far as the rehearsal dinner and then life happened, as it has before, but it left us wishing the dinner buffet hadn’t been quite so popular with Tammy’s guests, because we were starving.

Part of the reason I stopped there, was because I had to change gears. I originally wrote the story as a play and what I was sharing with you was the re-write in narrative form, but I had never finished the rewrite. I toyed with the idea of completing it for the blog, but there were all those balls I was juggling, so it never happened.

Juggling the Balls

I should have known. I started the series during the early part of the year, which is slow in our real estate photography business and about the time I should have been completing the rewrite, the slow was over.

In fact, it was very over. This was the year we had to outsource our editing and hire extra photographers. I’d also started a little side gig. Something that seemed like a good idea in our slow season, but totally insane as I tried to juggle everything else. So the blog fell through the cracks. Eventually, my side gig also fell through the cracks, but more about that on another day.

Getting Back to It

So, we’ll go back to Germany, but there will be no rewrite. The final act will be in the form of a play. So, sit back and get ready to enjoy the show. I’ll be back next week with Zeus, Isis and the rest of the At the Whim of the Gods gang. And though I forgot to mention it before, I’ve missed you guys.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #12

Meanwhile, the celebrity deities were having quite a conversation.   Zeus said, “Well, I’ll be.  The last time Hera took this much interest in anyone, it was Jason and his Argonauts, and that was to pursue her own interests.  I had no idea she was so upset over Europa.”

“Ah, a woman scorned.,” Isis replied.

“I thought I’d bust a gut when Bill started flirting with Hera,” Mercury chuckled.

Zeus exclaimed, “Who did he think he was?”

“Take it easy,” Isis warned. “Don’t throw any thunderbolts.  He was just nervous and couldn’t think of anything else to say.”

“No offense, Zeus, but Hera wasn’t all that appealing. She was about one half step up from a bag lady and smelled twice as bad,” Mercury chuckled.

“Don’t be disrespectful.  She is the queen of Olympus,” Zeus reminded him.

Isis countered, “But she’s got a great sense of humor!”

“Maybe,” Zeus sniffed, “but I think this was beneath her dignity.”

Sitting on Demeter’s couch, Hera snorted, “Beneath my dignity?  I bet he’s not thinking about my dignity when he makes those puppy dog eyes at Isis.”

Demeter said, “Well, it’s after five.  That’s means it’s happy hour and I’ve worked up quite a thirst.”

 After a couple of martini’s the goddesses were glad to see the contestant’s train pull up to Dortmund, but even more relieved when Bill, Jane and all their luggage were standing on the platform.

Bill said, “I’ve got to find a phone. Let’s just hope they’re at the hotel.”

 He picked up one of the bags and Jane said, “What are you doing?”

“I was going to move everything a little closer to the station.”

“But there’s a bench here.  Just leave me be.”

“There’s bench down there too and it’s in the shade.”

“Maybe so, but I can’t carry myself one inch further, much less a piece of luggage.”

“Come on, I’ll carry the luggage.  I’ll even carry you.”

“Well, if you carry the luggage, I might make it.”

“That’s my girl.”  After transporting the luggage to the shaded bench, Bill sat next to his wife with a concerned look on his face.  “Are you going to be OK?”

“I don’t suppose they’d have a Dr. Pepper in the terminal.”

“Probably not, but I’ll see what I can find.”

Bill was gone for awhile, but he came back empty handed.  “I can’t believe this!!  These guys are crazy.  They wouldn’t take American money.”

“Well, this isn’t exactly a gateway city.”

“I could have understood if it were just coins, but I offered one guy a $10 bill for a can of Coke.  He just said, ‘nein.’”

Jane shook her head, “Thank you for trying, but you did get Ludgar didn’t you?” Bill nodded.  “How long will it take for someone to get here?”

“Actually he didn’t say.  There was a lot going on in the background.  You know they’re having the rehearsal dinner.”

 Not much happened after that.  The celebrity deities recapped the highlights of the journey up to that point and Demeter poured some more martinis.

Then a small car careened into the Dortmund parking lot. Two men got out and scanned the platform.  Bill jumped up and waved.  “Are you Ludgar’s friends?” The driver shouted.

Bill nodded and started gathering luggage.  Jane would have picked up a bag, but Bill said, “Just get in the car.  These guys can help me.” It wasn’t that easy.  Only two bags fit in the trunk.  The rest had to be placed around the passengers in the car.  Even the driver had a bag in his lap.

Hera stood. “Well, it’s been a fun day, but I need to get home.  I need to have something ready when Zeus comes home for dinner or I’ll never hear the end of it.”

Demeter saw her friend to the door and watched as Bill and Jane arrived at the 5 star hotel in Bad Laar.  Tammy saw them come through the door and greeted them, introducing the few guests who’d lingered at the rehearsal dinner.  She finished up by saying, “I’m afraid there’s not much left on the buffet.  Should we order you something?”

Bill assured Tammy they weren’t at all hungry and Jane’s eyes bored holes into him.  Jane fell onto a nearby sofa and tried to make small talk, but she was barely coherent.  Bill went off with Ludgar to get his key.  Then he returned with bellhops to carry the luggage. Demeter turned off the scrying bowl.

TRAVEL

At the Whim of the Gods #10

Photo by Trace Hudson on Pexels.com

Mercury faded as the contestants filled the screen. Bill took the phone and put it between his head and shoulder.  He dug into his pocket, pulled out a slip of paper and began dialing.

 “It’s ringing!” He announced, and then said hello, but it was clear he couldn’t understand the answer.  He kept repeating, Ludgar, American and English, each time a little bit louder.  Then he broke out in a smile and a real conversation began. Bill joked as if Ludgar were in the next room.  Jane clapped her hands and did a little jig.

Bill handed the phone to his wife, “You’re better at instructions.”  She grabbed a random sheet out of her bag along with a pen and wrote furiously, tears of relief brimming above her lower lid.  After a warm farewell, she hung up.  Bill immediately grabbed her up into a bear hug.

Zeus said, “I wonder what Hera did.”

“I can’t imagine,” Isis replied, “but whatever it was, it was exactly the right thing.  We’re on our way to a wedding.”

“Should I go ask her,” Mercury wanted to know and Zeus quickly assured him that it wasn’t necessary.

Demeter and Hera watched the contestants wander through the terminal, following the signs to the train station, confidence exuding from every step they took.  The confidence disappeared when the clerk didn’t recognize the German town they named.

Bill asked, “Didn’t Ludgar tell you what train to take?”

“He gave me a list of cities we’d have to go through, but I couldn’t get them all written down and I can’t read most of them.”  She stared at the list as if it could help.  Then she smiled.  “Dusseldorf!  He said we’d have to go through Dusseldorf.”

That made the ticket clerk smile, too.  He stated punching buttons and asked for their credit card.  As he handed the tickets through the window he said, “But you’ll have to hurry.  The train leaves soon and the next one is tomorrow.”

The contestants looked at one another in surprise and then back at the ticket clerk.  He pointed toward an escalator and said, “Down there. You’ve got five minutes.”

Grabbing luggage willy nilly, the pair ran off to the escalator and hopped from one moving step to the other.  Quickly checking a sign above the train tracks, they bolted off towards their train.  They dragged their luggage onto the train and the door closed behind them.  Seconds later the train started moving.

Hera said, “Let’s go get some lunch.  I want to try that new place at the mall.”  Demeter grabbed up her handbag and the goddesses headed out the door.

A couple of hours later, they returned and their shopping bags proved they’d done more than eat lunch.  Hera tossed her purchasses on the sofa and headed to the powder room.  Demeter disappeared into the bedroom. When Demeter returned, Hera already had the scrying bowl tuned to Jagged Journeys.

Hera turned down the volume and said, “You’re not going to believe this!  There’s been a train wreck!”

“Are the contestants hurt?”

“It wasn’t their train, but now their train is sitting idle on the tracks.”

“Did Eris do this?”

“No, and it wasn’t Bacchus either.  I promised him his grape crops would be ruined by rain for the next ten years if he so much as thought about pranking these contestants again.”

“Do you really think Zeus would do that?”

“Probably not, but Bacchus doesn’t know. Besides, their points are way up over one thousand.  They lost a few in Amsterdam, but not many.”

“Should we try to help them?”

“Short of carrying them on our backs I’m not sure what we could do right now.  The wedding isn’t until tomorrow afternoon.  Surely they won’t be stuck there all night.”

“So, should we make the cookies for the bake sale?”

“I guess so, but put you’re thinking cap on, because we may have to rescue them, yet.”

The goddesses made their way to the kitchen and soon flour was flying.  After an hour’s delay the train lurched forward and the contestants were once again on their way to Dusseldorf.  From time to time one goddess or another would stick their head out of the kitchen to check on the contestants’ progress, but the conversation on the train was pretty boring.

Eventually, several paper plates of assorted cookies were wrapped in plastic and set on the dining room table.  The goddesses plopped down on the sofa just in time to hear Mercury say, “Well, Zeus, the train is just out outside of Dusseldorf.  They must disembark, buy tickets for Dortmund and catch another train to get to Tammy and Ludgar.”

“That’s nothing compared to what they’ve been through,” Isis assured him.

“That may be so, but three days into this ordeal, they’re not thinking as clearly and they’re very irritable.  We’re drawing up to the first stop in Dusseldorf…Oh no!  What are they doing?  Bill and Jane are getting off the train with all of their luggage.  This is a commuter stop.  They should stay on the train.”

“This isn’t good.” As they stepped off the train the judges took their points down to seven hundred and twenty nine.