We got off to kind of a late start, trying to leave home at 8 Am and instead leaving at 8:30 Pm. Once we got to the airport everything went pretty smoothly.
We checked our bags at the skycap which sped things up. I never know how much you're supposed to tip for things like that. According to tipping.org, it's $1 or more a bag which is basically what we left. Grandma was gracious enough to give us some small bills that we didn't have at the time $4.
The security checkpoint went fast but dealing with a stroller, a laptop, and the many other carry-on items was a hassle - but that's fine...none of it was unreasonable.
The flight went smoothly for most of the family.
Allison passed out as soon as we were up in the air. She slept for about an hour and half until the flight staff came by with lunch. After that she was slightly challenging but we were able to keep her occupied with toys and signing times videos.
Griffin, as suspected was pretty easy. Once we were up high in the air they started the movies (Firehouse Dog and The little mitsy or something like that). Griffin initially wanted to watch the movie (having also to borrow Dad's new headphones), but quickly lost interest. After some lunch (cheeseburger, chips, kit kat bar, and brownie), he was plaving his beloved DS and would continue to do so until shortly before we landed.
Mom was the lucky one, she got the seat between Allison on the window and Griffin on the aisle, so she had her hands full most of the time. While Allison was sleeping, Mom was able to watch the Firehouse Dog moview for a little bit. I haven't asked yet but I'm guessing she would say that the flight went better than expected.
I was miserable most of the flight. I started getting a painful headache just before we boarded the plane. When lunch was served and I ate a little of the cheeseburger, my stomach started feeling upset. Throughout the flight I was battling both the head and stomach pain, while entertaining Allison for a very short bit and changing her diaper. Do you know how challenging it is to change a 18-months old diaper in an airplan bathroom? Try doing it while your ill :) Eventually, I felt so quesy I was vomitting - luckily I was able to wait until I got to the bathroom on the plane. Fun fun fun. I'm not sure why I was sick - I didn't feel anything coming on...perhaps I was sick from the flight but I've never had a problem with air travel sickness...perhaps it was the sever lack of sleep from the previous night trying to get everything packed and ready to go...I don't know...
Once the plain landed about 15 mins ahead of chedule (6:45 PM), we got our baggage and changed Allison - her clothes were wet probably due to the awkward diaper change Dad performed on the plane. We rented a cart for $3 and rolled our 8 items or so out to the ground transportation pickup area where a white minivan from Dial 7 car service arrived - we didn't have to wait long (5-10 mins). The minivan seemed quite small and the driver was going to make us hold the kids in our lap in order to get the bags in but we got it worked out to where everyone had their own seat and the bags fit just fine. The driver, having somewhat of an Indian accent, was courteous and professional and was a pleasant conversationalist. He got us to our destination safely and securely. After all was said and done we wound up spending $82 to get from Newark airport to our hotel.
When we arrived at our hotel at a little after 8 PM, the Shelburne Murray Hill hotel, we were informed that they didn't have the room we requested but would upgrade us to a 1-bedroom suite which was just fine by us. Upon arrival to our room we were quite pleased. A few minutes a crib arrived as requested.
The next thing to figure out was where to eat dinner. We looked at some info the hotel provided and did a little research on the internet (internet access costs $10 per 24 hours). Our first idea was to go to a spooky/horror-themed restaurant called Jekyll & Hyde's but decided against it because we thought Allison might be too scared of the surroundings there (Griffin would've loved it). We still hadn't figured out where to eat and I started to get sick again. I thought I could "tough it out" but I just couldn't. Mom finally made a command decision and ordered room service while Dad went out to a nearby convenience store to get some ibuprofen and drinks. After taking some ibuprofen, I was still feeling bad and finally succumbed to sleep. Mom was flying solo the rest of the night putting the kids to bed. Griffin slept in between Mom and Dad and Allison slept in her crib.
Today, we checked out from our hotel. Allison gave one last goodbye from the lobby to the stuffed animal Sesame Street characters hanging up on the second floor that she had been so enamored with going into and out of the hotel. We decided to find an IHOP restaurant after leaving the hotel and eat breakfast at a restaurant for once. The one we went to was severely cramped, but the food was decent (though the service wasn't).
Next, we were off to historic Philadelphia. We first stopped at the Independence Visitor Center. As we walked along the wide, airport-like hallway, we saw one gentleman wearing revolutionary-era garb (standard coat and three-quarter hat) playing what looked like a dulcimer (I didn't get a chance to stop and ask him what kind of instrument it was). Also, in the walkway was another costumed man who was manning a display of some revolutionary-era weaponry - a flintlock pistol and some horns. The displayed showed the various inner parts of the pistol and we talked to the man at the display for a bit about it. Griffin asked "what is that?" and the man told him to take his hand and guide him to the part - to that point we didn't really know that he was blind. What's interestings about this gentleman, is that when he asked him where we were from, he said that he had climbed Mt. Rainer twice. Amazing. Then, we picked up our tour tickets for Independence Hall - the only way you can get into the building.
After looking around for a bit we got in line for the tour. As the tour begin, we all gathered into a room (not sure which one it was) and we noticed there was about 80 people or so. Allison was not at all pleased to be in her stroller so she was being embarassingly noisy - I say embarassingly because there were few babies/toddlers and everytime Allison made a noise the lady tour director made a deliberate pause as if to say in silence "control your children"...only if it were that simple. Laura was about ready to take her out of the tour but the tour continued to a different room. Next was a courtroom were colonial Americans were made to stand trial. The tour director said that above the presiding judge at the bench stood a heavy fabric tapestry with the British coat of arms printed on it. Sometime around 1776, the colonials were fed up, took the tapestry out of the courtroom and burned it in the streets and then replaced it with the Pennsylvania coat of arms. Interesting. Next up was the room where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were both signed. The tour director spouted off several fascinating historical facts about the room and the signing of these two important documents. We went to a ballroom upstairs but that was really all to the tour there was.
Next, we visited the Liberty Bell right across the street from Indepence Hall. It didn't require a tour so we just went in to the Liberty Bell center. The whole experience of visiting the historic sites in Philadelphia was quite moving - to take in all the events that led to the birth of our great nation. When we first went to the Independence Hall, we picked up a junior ranger activity book for Griffin. He completed five of the activities in the book and then we turned in the park at the National Park Service (that runs all the historic Philadelphia sites) museum shop. In return for the completed book, Griffin got a plastic Junior Ranger badge/pin that he put on his clothes.
Finally, we were ready to leave and travel to my Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill's house. This was around 5 PM right in the middle of rush-hour traffic trying to get out of Philadelphia. The next 2 hours of car time were absolutely miserable - congestion unlike anything I've experienced in the Seattle area. I don't know if it was typical, but it was extremly painful to sit through. Everyone was restless and we finally got clear roads when we got to the King of Prussia/Valley Froger area - suburbs on the northwest side of Philly. We stopped and grabbed a quick bite to eat and were back on the road again. At 9:30 PM we finally got to Aunt Grace/Uncle Bill's house (about 2 hours later than one would expect).
We all stayed up late (Grace and Bill usually go to bed later too) and visited for a bit. As expected, Griffin was instantly impressed with Uncle Bill. Bill introduced Griffin to the game of Parchesi and Bill was chasing him around the house. Allison was intially shy around Grace and Bill but warmed up after awhile. We were all very welcome to be off the road and with family and looking forward to a good night's rest.
Today we woke early in preperation for one of the main reasons for our vacation, the Marzolf family reunion. Grace cooked us all a wonderful breakfast and then we were out the door. On the way to the reunion about an hour and a half away, Allison got sick, something she had been doing a lot of lately. I was a bit dissapointed when I initially got there, I was hoping to meet several reconizable faces but instead found very few. The reunion was held at Herb's house - an old house built in the 1860's that he had done a masterful job of restoring. Upon entering the house we met a whole bunch of people we didn't know. I introduced myself as Bob's son and everyone understood who I was. A couple of people remarked that they met me as a young child at another family reunion when I was much smaller - a reunion that I clearly remember. We continued to meet a bunch of new faces and ate a nice lunch provided by Herb and his family. While walking across the house, I came across Aunt Caddie (sp?) who was one of my grandfather's sisters. She seemed tickle to see me and kept remarking over and over again how pleased and surprised she was to see me and my family. Everyone enjoyed the kids, especially Allison since she was the youngest. In the midst of meeting everyone, we also came across some Marzolf's who live in Lake Stevens, Washington not too far from us (about an hour) - Jeff (not sure whether he was a Marzolf in name or not) lives there. My cousin Jimmy tried to catch me up on how we were related to all of these people towards the end of the reunion and I think I caught most of it. Jeff, I believe is the son of one of Jerry's (my grandfather) sisters (Aunt Jane?). We also met a couple of Aunt Jane's daughters as well. Unfortunately I forgot a lot of names. We didn't get too many pictures but hopefully I'll get some from other folks. Towards the end of the reunion, Herb's wife (forgot her name) took us all on a walk down to the Susquehanna River (it seemed like it might have been a mile away). It was a pleasant walk and we watched as everyone was out on the very wide river (I think the widest east of the Mississippi) doing typically lake activities - boating, skiing, sailing, etc... Allison napped for most of the walk and Griffin took turns getting a piggy-back ride from me and a shoulder ride from Jimmy.
The reunion came to a close, we drove back, and again Allison got sick - I'm sure this was a combination of several factors but I think kids being car sick is a fairly common thing. We came back to Grace & Bill's place, had some dinner, played a 3-way game of Parchesi, tried to catch some lightning bugs (but had no luck), watched a movie (Flubber) and finally went to bed.
Today, our destination was Hershey Park. I had visited there a couple of times and this amusement park has a special place in my heart - not so much because it had the best rides or the best food or the best anything really but the overall character of the park and the way it was run was always something that enticed me in previous visits.
The parking area was huge and they had frequent trams going from remote places of the parking area to the park entrance - we were extremely thankful for those trams.
Before entering in the park they had these box "height stations" (my term for them). You stood in front of each tall rectangular box and if your head was above the line on that particular box, you knew you could ride rides with that particular designations. Now instead of using 36-inch, 42-inch, or 48-inch height boundary designations for rides, clever Hershey Park uses different candy bars as height designations. The smallest one were designated Hershey minatures, the next was Hershey Kisses, followed by Reese cups (this was the designation Griffin fell into), and finally Hershey bars, Twizllers, and Jolly Ranchers (in that order). How they choose these candy brands, I don't know...I would have picked different ones but I'm sure there's some market research behind the decisions they made.
So, at each ride was a sign with the different candy bar designations that were allowed to ride that ride. The rides Griffin went on, had designations of Jolly Ranchers, Twizzlers, Hershey Bars, and Reese Cups. The signs on every ride were well presented and had a little small cartoon-like depiction of what the ride did above the name of the ride so everyone knew exactly what kind of ride they were getting on.
I was surprised how many rides there were for Griffin to ride on. I'm guessing we didn't make it through all the rides available to Griffin in one day's time. Griffin had lots of fun on several rides that he hadn't experienced in other amusement parks. There was the old Comet rollercoaster that I remember riding on prior visits and really enjoyed (again it's more of a character thing rather than it being one of the highest, fastest, or even most fun to ride) - Griffin and mommy got to experience the coaster this time rather than me. Griffin and I went on the SuperDooperLooper - a one-loop metal rollercoaster that was a very quick ride but fun nonetheless because of the loop - I think that may be the first time Griffin's ever ridden a looping rollercoaster that turned him upside down. Then there were the typiclly family fair-type rides that spun around a lot like the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Scrambler and a newer type spinning ride called the Flying Falcon. In between rides, we ate the park food and Allison took a small nap (under an hour) while we finished eating - this would be her only nap for the day and she was very cranky towards the end of the day as a result. There really wasn't much for Allison to do as far as dry rides go at Hershey park, so Laura had her hands full keeping her entertained while Griffin and I went on the majority of rides.
Towards the evening, we decided to hit the new waterpark area that they built this year that they named "The Boardwalk". Hersheypark is a bit behind other combination amusement/water parks in therms of number of rides, but Hershey's entrance in to the water-park arena is a great initial effort. They have all the typical waterpark stuff - raft rides, a huge kids play pool area with lots of moving parts and great decorations - in fact I think I'd say I like Hersey's kid area more than any other water park. They also have a small kids wave pool and some interesting water rides other's don've have - like this raft ride that empties into this gigantic funnel. I didn't ride it but it sure did look fun.
The evening finally came to a close and we decided to head back to Grace & Bill's house. When we got in, we realized that I had dropped the keys on the floor of the driver's seat of the locked minivan. This was a problem that have to wait for tomorrow...
The problem of keys in the locked car was upon me immediately upon waking up. After showering, I called the Budget roadside assistance number at 8:30 AM. Two and ahlf hours later they finally took action and called a local towing company. A half hour after that, the towing service guy spent less than a minute to unlock the door. Budget's roadside assitance service was bordering on incompetent and I'd hate to say but for that reason plus the hassle in New York City, I can't say I'd recommend going with Budget.
Before leaving, Great Uncle Bill gave Griffin a wonderful gift - the Parcheesi board game that he and Griffin for a lot of the time we had been visiting them. I think that probably made Griffin's day. After that, we said our goodbyes and were off.
On the way to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, we met up with Uncle Chet and Aunt Joanne near Chambersburg at an Iron Skillet restaurant. We had a pleasant time visiting and eating lunch with them - well until Allison was getting real ancy to leave. Again, we said our goodbyes and were on the road.
We left about 1 PM and finally made it to Aunt Kathy and Uncle Mike's house at about 9:30 PM after making a few stops here and there. The long drive wasn't all that bad because we had two very important modern devices - a portable DVD player and a portable Nintendo DS video game system. These two devices kept the kids occupied and made the drive almost stress-free.
Mom Marzolf, Aunt Kathy, & Uncle Mike were all very happy to see us when we arrived. We toured the house and to our surprise, small gifts were waiting for each of the children in their respective bedrooms (each of us got our own room to sleep in - well Laura and I shared one room). Griffin got a Spiderman nerf football and Allison got a cute camoflouge outfit. Mom Marzolf brought over lots of stuff to play with as well.
The kids were wound up from all the new toys and the new place. We finally settled them into bed and went to sleep for the night ourselves.
Today we woke up and visited a little more with Kathy and Mike. Everyone was ready to go just about the time Grandma came over from a half day of work at around noon. After she ate a quick lunch, we were off to go visit Grandma's coworkers at work. We tried hard to keep Allison on the ride over but weren't all that successfully. We woke her up just in time to go up to the 7th floor of the FirstEnergy building where Grandma worked. There we met many of Granma's coworkers, most of them women. They all enjoyed seeing the kids. Griffin was very friendly with everyone and Allison was a handful, wanting to get down and run around everywhere. After visiting with everyone we got a bite to eat downstairs in the building where Grandma worked. The downstairs area has changed quite a bit since I've been there last.
Next, we headed back to our temporary home. Allison fell asleep immediately on the car ride and we layed he down for a nap when we got home while Griffin got some time to play his DS video game system. Mom and Grandma decided to go out for a quick pedicure and Dad stayed at home.
Around 5 PM everyone started showing up for the family get-together. Lots of familiar faces and people to talk to. Aunt Kathy and Uncle Mike made up several batches of their world-famous Whiskey Sours. Yummm... Grandma invited some friends of hers as well - Valerie (who Laura and I got to meet on one trip out to Seattle) and her husband Bernie and Sandy and Dave who the parents of one of my childhood friends, Brian - who now loves out in Airzona with his wife working on his music PhD. I got to see my two older cousins closest in age - Scott (along with his whole family) and Missy. None of my younger cousins nor my uncle Bill were there but Aunt Margaret was. Everyone had a good time together and we all had a very nice dinner - grilled pork, salad, fruit salad, rice, and other various things. My Uncle Eddie, who couldn't be there because he worked evenings, sent us a lovely Smucker's ice cream toppings gift basket. So, of course, we had all had to have some ice cream. The toppings were great and a few other things were added like chopped M&M's which Griffin requested :) and chopped nuts. It was a very yummy dessert and everyone