Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Erica's #55 - Go to a drive-in movie

Drive-in movie theaters have been on the decline for years, but there's one in Indy I've been going to since my family moved to town in 1994.  Tibbs Drive-In has been a regular haunt for many movie fans - there is a long line to get in nearly every weekend night during the warm summer months.  There's something that's still magical about setting up camp in the back of a pickup truck or in some lawn chairs, opening the cooler to enjoy a cold soda, and watching a good movie under the stars.

That's a bit of a romanticized version of the drive-in - our reality is rarely as lovely.  We chose to go see Finding Dory at the drive-in on opening night.  It was a sold-out show, and cars were packed in like sardines.  Honestly, since it doesn't get dark until 10pm in Indiana during the summer, a good number of the kids who had arrived with excited, anticipatory energy had burned that off at the playground set at the base of the big screen, and had quietly passed out in the back of or on top of minivans and sedans parked all around us.

One downside I always, always manage to block out of my memory about attending a movie at the drive-in is that smoking is allowed, and the single guy in a pickup truck who pulled up next to us spent the entire night smoking one cigarette after the other.  Also, the line for concessions was over 30 minutes long, just to get a small popcorn to munch on.  Besides that, we enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

Drive-ins usually have double-features, but since Dory didn't start until 10, it wasn't over until nearly midnight, and we can hardly stay awake beyond that.  We decided to head home and not sleep in the back of Mel's truck through Alice Through the Looking Glass.  It was a fun date-night idea, but did remind us why we don't do it more often!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Erica's #17 - Ride in a Hot Air Balloon

This one was a bit of a cheater - we did take a ride in a balloon, in the air, but it was filled with helium, not hot air.  And it was tethered to the ground, which seemed to be much safer than the free-floating, dependent on air current, hot air balloons.  And, it was much, much more affordable :)

Anyway, enough with the excuses.  Central Indiana is lucky enough to boast a Smithsonian Affiliated historical park - Conner Prairie - that not only houses a great living history museum, but also happens to have an attraction called the "1859 Balloon Voyage", which is where the helium-filled balloon ride comes in.

We hopped into the large, circular gondola that's attached to the balloon, and the pilot (who also pilots real hot air balloons) explained how the whole ride was going to work.  Basically, he starts allowing the balloon and gondola to rise, to about 20 feet above the ground then brings it to a stop.  This is to give everyone a feeling of what the hard stop at the top will feel like, and to make sure everyone feels comfortable enough to continue the ride to max height.  The stop at 20 feet was a little bumpy, but no big deal, and everyone on our trip was cool with continuing.  The pilot told everyone to hold on to something solid when we neared the top to steady themselves, and to avoid gripping the netting surrounding the gondola.

The balloon rises for several minutes, providing ever more sweeping views of the countryside, and even the skyline of downtown Indianapolis, 16 miles away.  We reached max height of 377 feet above ground level, and the tether abruptly jerked us to a stop, which sent a shudder through the whole gondola, and sent the balloon swaying quite a bit from side-to-side.  I always had the impression that taking this balloon ride was a mild trip, but it was actually quite thrilling and a little scary as we swayed to a more normal blowing in the breeze action at the top of the ride.  The view was great though, and we had an enjoyable time at the top taking in the scenery and enjoying the breeze.  The pilot mentioned that we had come on a great day when there wasn't too much of a wind - he said he's been up there when there was considerable swaying and tipping, which didn't sound fun at all to me.

We made it safely back to terra firma, and thanked our pilot for the informative and safe trip to the top.  If you live around here or are ever in the area, check out the balloon voyage!  It was a fun time :)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Erica's #74 - Go to Niagara Falls (New York) and Mel's #54 - Have a Romantic Weekend Away

We've talked about visiting Niagara Falls for a while now, and it's actually fairly close to Indianapolis, as far as road trips go - only about 8 hours each way.  The draw for us is more the natural features of the falls, but we aren't above enjoying a few kitschy tourist trap destinations either - which Niagara Falls has in spades.  Actually the first thing we did after checking into our hotel with a view of the American Falls (forever documented here as the most expensive hotel room we have ever and likely will ever splurge on - which also, ironically, had some horrible room service, but we'll get there) was head to the Clifton Hill area, which contains all the wax museums, cheap souvenir stands, chain restaurants, arcades, putt-putt, and, for some reason, haunted house attractions.

It was actually entertaining to spend some time walking around this area - we
Johnny Cash

kept our minds open, and even took trips through two of the wax museums, with varying levels of horrifying and pretty decent wax recreations of some famous folks.  We walked down to the area with a great view of the falls and took in the natural beauty, in stark contrast to the crowded, neon-lit street we had just walked down to get there.  We spent some time in the arcade, because it had SO MANY of the coin-pushing machines, and I am a coin-pushing machine addict.  We played some other games as well, and cashed in our tickets for some really awesome prizes.

We had a surprisingly great dinner at a restaurant called The Works (probably a Canadian chain?), where we enjoyed a literal bucket of poutine, covered in gravy, sour cream, cheese, bacon bits, and green onions (which, by the way, we recreated at home the day after we got back).  It was so delicious, and so horrible for us.  We split one of their interesting burgers after that, which had avocado, Roadhouse Sauce (veggie mayo), sundried tomatoes, and feta cheese on it.  Yum, but we were rolling out of that place!  The poutine alone would have been enough food for both of us!

Our big plan post-dinner was to get a nice bottle of wine and enjoy the view from our room.  We paid for it, so we better enjoy it, right?  Well, we should have done our research on alcohol purchases in Ontario...after several stops at convenience stores and even a Walmart (gasp!), we found no alcohol for sale.  Turns out, they sell these in "LCBO" stores (obvious, right?).  We were right next to one in the Walmart parking lot, but had no clue what it was for.  After that frustration, we decided to have a bottle of wine (and changed our minds to Prosecco) sent to our room, since we got nowhere in our search.  When it hadn't arrived 45 minutes later, and I checked with room service on the status, it took another 20 minutes to make it's way on up, and arrived in the classiest of wine buckets.  We felt like we'd gone back to the cruise ship and had just ordered a bucket of Coronas!  Anyway, the Prosecco was good, though the struggle to finish it was real when it arrived after midnight!  They turn off the lights that illuminate the falls at midnight, so we enjoyed the tiny light-up fountain of the casino across the street while we sipped.

The next day, we had plans to spend time on the New York side of the falls, taking our Maid of the Mist boat tour right down in the thick of things, and checking out the State park.  The Maid of the Mist takes you up close and personal to the falls - American Falls were misty, but doable.  Horseshoe Falls became a complete drenching, which I was not expecting AT ALL.  All Mel could do was giggle as we got soaked, even with our ponchos on!  Those things do not cover the bottom of your pants or your shoes, and things got soggy!  I couldn't even look at the falls because so much water ended up in my eyes.  It was really pretty awesome that you can get up so close, but I was really not prepared for the drenching part :)  And there are no photos of the drenching, for obvious reasons.

The State Park boasted an attraction called "Cave of the Winds", which equates to taking an elevator down 17 stories to the bottom of American Falls and walking out on plank walkways supported by 2x4's to get a better view (and misted on again).  We also had to walk past an extraordinary number of small snakes hanging out in the sun on the side of the path.  I became Mel's snake-buffer, as she put me between the slithering creatures and her.  It was pretty cool to get up close and personal with the power of the falls, but the multiple instances of waiting in line (to buy tickets, to ride the elevator down, and then back up) pushed us to our limits of dealing with other tourists.  We hopped back in the car, and crossed back over into Canada, this time, remembering to stop at the Duty Free shop to grab some cheap wine on our way back!  We went on a hunt for a specific sweatshirt back in Clifton Hills, spent a bit more time being children at the arcade (this time we donated our ticket winnings to a little boy who would be way more thrilled with his trinkets than we were), then decided we'd hit up a Korean BBQ we saw back by the hotel for dinner.

The Korean BBQ was on the second floor of what appeared to be an office building, and we were looking forward to a bit of sushi, which was advertised outside on the building, but had been removed from the menus inside.  Oh well.  We had some Karaage (battered chicken bites, drizzled with a yummy sauce), Mel had chicken BiBimBap (and not only because it sounds hilarious rolling off the tongue), and I tried a beef Guyudon (beef and rice and soup broth and veggies).  All of the food was good, and the staff were impressed that we could properly pronounce the menu items (thanks to our local little Korean street food place).  We left stuffed, once again, and headed back to enjoy our view and much more affordable bottle of wine.

The next morning, we got a rude wake-up call when the hotel fire alarm went off at 5:15am.  After some confused minutes wondering what the heck was going on, we marched down 20 flights of stairs with our fellow hotel patrons (most of whom seemed to still be in their casino attire and reeking of booze), down to the outdoors of the hotel where it was, of course, misting and a bit chilly.  Over the PA system in the hotel, they let us know that we didn't need to evacuate if we didn't want to, but better safe than sorry!  It turned out to be some sort of false alarm in the tower of the hotel that we weren't even staying in...

A few hours later, after hitting up Tim Horton's for some coffee and breakfast, we headed out toward home via Buffalo, NY.  After a stop at the Duty Free shop for some of Ontario's famous ice wine (which is so, so good, if you ever get to try it), we scooted across the bridge to Buffalo to check out the Teddy Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site.  We got there too early for it to be open, so we hit up Starbucks for our second round of coffee, then headed back.  We arrived on half-price tour day, since they were hosting a fashion show and luncheon for some group in the house, but we got to see everything on our own anyway.  Neat little historic site.  Then, we hit up the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor, OH, since it was on the way.  We didn't do the full tour for lack of time, but the museum was interesting.

The rest of the drive home was uneventful, until I discovered upon arriving at home, after waiting out an insane thunderstorm complete with inches of hail and tornado warnings, and after heading across town to Mel's parents to pick up the dogs, that I had managed to lose my phone somewhere along the way.  The fact that it had a dead battery didn't help, since the "Find My IPhone" feature ceases to work when that happens.  After a good 2-3 hours of searching for it in the truck and around the house we gave up hope.  I called everywhere we stopped the next day, but still, no luck.  I'm guessing it fell out and we backed over it (that's probably best case scenario, so no one gets any of my info off of it), but it felt like losing an old friend.  RIP, white iPhone 5 :(

All-in-all, we had a great and much needed romantic weekend away together.  If you're thinking about a trip to Niagara, I'd say a long weekend is probably enough, unless you want to tour the dozens of wineries in Ontario (which, had we known about, we probably would have done.  Ice wine is delicious!)
This is supposed to be Beyonce...

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Mel's #75 and Erica's #78 - Take Pictures in a Photo Booth

I'll admit - this is a fairly goofy thing to add to a list of things to do, but it's fun and not something we really do, so we added it.  It isn't something we do often - I mean, with the invention of smartphones and selfies, who needs photo booths anymore?  There is still some amazing instant gratification involved when you actually get a physical photo printed out just seconds after you posed for it though.

So, on our weekend getaway to Niagara Falls (which will be a blog of its own later on), we spent some time in an arcade that featured a goofy photo booth.  For the bargain basement price of $5 (Canadian dollars, but with a 5% conversion fee from our bank), we got to take some silly photos of us in the quintessential barrel going over the falls.  And got one technicolor print-out of our very own, with all three showing up online instantly.  It was a steal.

Without further ado...

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mel's #35 and Erica's #83 - Tour Crown Hill Cemetery

Crown Hill cemetery has been around since the days of the Civil War.  There are a ton of famous people buried on the grounds - from General Jefferson Davis, to outlaw John Dillinger, to President Benjamin Harrison.  Aside from the famous folks interred there, we'd heard that the grounds are absolutely beautiful, and the cemetery offers tours during the warm months, so last July we set off to see what this place was all about.

The rumors were true - the cemetery was a truly gorgeous place!  Aside from being surrounded by mosquitoes, we had a fabulous time walking through some of the best parts of Crown Hill.  It's so large, they offer several different tours - we didn't even see a quarter of the property.  We also got to see a few deer who must live in the woods on the grounds.

The cemetery also boasts the highest hill in Marion County, where poet James Whitcomb Riley's tomb stands.  The tour leads up the moderately steep climb to the top just about as the sun is setting for the evening.  And it really does offer a beautiful view of Indianapolis' downtown skyline.  Being that it was just a week after the 4th of July when we took our tour, we also got to see a bit of a fireworks show from the top of the hill.

Erica's #60 - Go to the driving range

For the past couple of years, Mel and I keep talking about going to the driving range and just hitting a bucket of balls for fun.  Since neither of us has a set of clubs, we were going to rely on using whatever the course had laying around.  Finally, we stopped in to a local 9-hole course, borrowed a few "well-used" clubs, and headed for the driving range.

I took golf lessons when I was 9 or 10 years old, and I don't remember being particularly good at it, or enjoying it too terribly much.  I think there were a few times I went out golfing with my dad, and the very last time I golf, it was pouring rain and I was wearing jeans.  Not a pleasant experience.

Other than a few things we overlooked, we had a really good time, and only took out a few divots from the turf.  Our first mistake was not buying tees.  Solution to this problem - we scoured the turf for usable tees leftover by previous golfers - score!  Second mistake was going out there without gloves.  Blisters on your hands are not fun, my friends!

We ended up going back a few more times in the Fall, and then hitting Goodwill to scoop up a rag-tag set of clubs so we no longer have to borrow and beg the course to use theirs.  Up next will be an actual round of golf!  First things first though - we need more practice to make sure we can actually hit the ball every time we swing.  We'll get there ;)

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mel's #44 and Erica's #44 - Go to an NFL (Football) Game

Those of you who know us know we're Seattle Seahawks fans living in a state filled with Indianapolis Colts fans.  It often strikes people around here as odd that we are far more likely to be wearing Seahawks 12 (Twelfth Man) jerseys rather than a Colts 12 (Andrew Luck) jersey on  game day.  It's been just a little bit tougher to root for the Colts since Peyton's departure...

We had two options to see the Seahawks near Indy this year - vs. the St. Louis Rams on opening weekend, or vs. the Cincinnati Bengals in October.  We'd been meaning to get to St. Louis and see the sights anyway, so we opted for the Rams game.  After plenty of checking around for the most affordable seats that got us close enough to the action, we opted for some Stubhub tickets about 16 rows off the field, right on the 25 yard line, on the Seahawks' side of the stadium.  These seats were nearly perfect, and we were surrounded by fellow Seahawks fans!  We'd seen people decked out in their blue and green all weekend, and shared several "Go Hawks" cheers with them.  We even ended up in one of those tiny pods coming down from the St. Louis Arch with three fans from Seattle who had flown out for the game.  Now that's dedication!

The game was a nail-biter, as anyone who watched it will recall.  It ended up tied at the end of the 4th, sending the game into overtime.  The Seahawks led things off, and for some ridiculous reason, opted to attempt to recover an on-side kick instead of letting the Rams possess the ball, which did not end up working out for them.  The Rams won possession with fantastic field position, drove down and kicked a field goal for three points.  New NFL rules state that both teams have a chance to posses the ball unless one scores a touchdown on the first possession, so the Seahawks would get (and blow) the chance to win.

While it was a very disappointing ending to the game, it was an exciting one nearly all the way through, and we were happy to have such a great view of it, especially since it was Erica's first NFL game.  Win or lose, we'll always welcome the opportunity to cheer on our favorite team - Go Hawks!