Monday, January 28, 2013

The Jersey Kill's Florida Christmas Vacation

Yeah, I know I haven't posted in a while... and not from a lack of priceless material, because there's always plenty of that to go around.  I've just been busy and in a pre/post-election sour mood. 

So The Mrs. got this idea in her head (I'm sure it was the voices) that the Kill family needed to travel (by air) on the worst travel week of the year to sunny Florida for a Christmas vacation. She booked the flights, rented a house and made arrangements to meet up with her childhood friend T and T's family, who flew in from Germany. All right - fine, I'll go to Florida for Christmas.  The first time in my life that I wasn't home for Christmas.  The Boy and his main squeeze "L" were home from school, so both of them, along with The Mrs., me and the Pudge took this trip. 

To start the trip off, on the day before the flight I got a 24-hour stomach virus (that apparently is all the rage now).  It hit me on Friday while I was in the office.  I ended up puking in a trash can.  Fortunately, I was fine by the time I got on the plane the next afternoon.  We flew Southwest through Nashville, and even though we were 45 minutes late taking off, the pilot made up most of the time, we made our connection and arrived in Tampa on time.  We had 6 bags checked and all arrived safely (and free on SouthWest - I like this airline).  Oh, this is priceless too.  The Mrs. packed a carry-on bag for me to...carry on...that was full of Christmas gifts that The Mrs. insisted on taking down so "the kids will have something to open on Christmas day".  Unbeknown to me, two of the gifts were nerf guns. So as I'm waiting for my bag to come out of the scanner, I hear the TSA agent call out "Gun check!", my friggin' jaw dropped.  I thought I was going to jail, or at the very least, that a body cavity search would be involved.  The TSA agent was very nice about it, unwrapped the two boxes, saw that they were hermetically sealed toys - and sent us on our way.

We rented an SUV and drove down to Anna Maria Island - a small barrier island southwest of St. Petersburg.  By the time we got the keys for the house from the realtor's drop box and found the right house (got it on the 2nd try - I hope we didn't scare the people down the street too badly), we were unloaded and in bed by midnight.

The house was nice.  Three bedrooms, 3 baths, kitchen and a heated pool.  It was on one of the main drags into the island, so there was a lot of traffic noise, but I tried to keep myself drunk enough that it didn't bother me.  We were only one block from a nice beach that had an outdoor cafe and bar.  But the weather, well that wasn't the Christmas-in-Florida weather we had in mind.  It only rained once, but it was pretty cold.  The 2 warmest days got into the low 70s, but with high winds.  I stood on the beach a couple of times with my feet in the 60 degree water, but that was it.  I never got the bathing suit out of the suitcase.  The kids swam in the pool twice, but the air was just too cold.

The Mrs., the Pudge, L, the Boy and me doing a Segway pitstop.
 We did a bunch of touristy things, the most interesting being a one hour Segway trip.  I've never ridden one of these things before, but after 10 minutes of instruction and practice, it was a lot of fun.  This was the highlight of the trip.

The other damper on the trip was - stomach virus.  The one I had went through the entire family.  The Boy had it for 2 days and I never saw someone puke and crap (a couple of times simultaneously) as much as he did.  But the Pudge got it in the most spectacular way imaginable.  Christmas day, we went to the Columbia Restaurant in Sarasota.  We had advanced reservations and it's a good thing we did.  It's a Cuban restaurant that's been there for 100 years and was frequented by Marylin Monroe and Joe DiMaggio back in the day when they were a couple.  The place easily holds 300 people - and it was packed.  There were 8 of us and it was a very nice dinner.  I finished paying the bill and we were about to leave when the Pudge came back from the bathroom, sat down on the bench seat between our table and the next table and proceeded to projectile vomit all over the floor.  I heard several ooohs and eeews as The Mrs. grabbed him and took the Pudge and everyone else, but me, out of the restaurant.  I apologized profusely to the waiter and people at the adjacent tables, reassuring them it was a stomach virus and not he food.  I then made a hasty retreat, going past the maĆ®tre d' station where the crowd had parted because of a second deposit that the Pudge left there on the floor (it was covered in linen napkins).  He threw up one more time after we got home - all over his bedroom floor.  The Boy woke up The Mrs. and me and then went back to retrive his sneekers, which a little splatter on them.  Didn't offer to help with the cleaning at all - typical.

The Mrs. and L got the virus too, but not near as bad as the boys.  The rest of the trip was uneventful...until we flew home...because it was USAir.  The direct flight left on time and arrived early and I thought, "this is great, I always have bad experiences with USAir".  Then we got down to baggage claim.  Everyone on the plane was waiting at the assigned carousel, only to be told by a porter that our luggage was 3 carousels down.  It's freaky how many times this has happened to me with USAir at Philadelphia.  No exaggeration - 75% of the time the bags will be on a carousel that is different from the one listed on the monitor.  And it will take a minimum of a half hour for the bags to get there - WORST BAGGAGE HANDLING PERIOD.  And this time around, 5 out of 6 bags were damaged.  That's over 80% of our bags damaged including L's brand new $400 designer one that she used for the first time (2 of 4 wheels were ripped off).  And they charged us $160 to boot.  So now we're fighting with USAir to repair or replace them, which included the Boy making a trip to the airport the next day to drop the empty bags there.

An interesting side note while we were in the baggage claim office.  A man came walking in carrying a rifle case - and he was pissed.  Gun cases are supposed to be hand carried and delivered to the owner in baggage claim.  He found his circling on one of the carousels where anyone could have grabbed it and walked out the door (there was no mistaking what it was).  And no one in the office, including a Philadelphia police officer, seemed to care.  "We'll make a note of it" was the answer he got.  I wonder how many times this has happened?  The Mrs. was so horrified that she called the airport the next day to report the incident.  Only to be told it was a USAir problem and she would have to call them.  She gave up after hearing that.

So there you have it, the misadventures of the Kill family on their own version of Christmas Vacation.  It's even money we'll do it again next year.

Addendum:  I've been sitting on this story for a couple of weeks in the hope of getting some pictures, but The Mrs.  has them on her camera and she hasn't downloaded them to the computer.  So I'm letting this story go with just the one picture.  Sue me!