Thoughts Following The Great American Eclipse

The eclipse was just about all that anybody was talking about a couple of days ago.  It was definitely eclipse fever.  Now that it’s done and over, I wanted to share some random thoughts.

The Past Was Fun To See

One of my favorite parts of the coverage leading up was showing old news reports or articles that talked about the eclipse.  One clip from a nightly news show was 38 years ago.  Also, I saw a newspaper clipping published 22 years ago which mentioned it.  I’m sure that back then, August 21, 2017 seemed so far away.

The Hype Machine Was Huge

It’s been a while since I’ve seen an event that was given so much hype.  Now that media reaches everywhere, the discussion seemed endless.  You wonder if this event had happened 40 years ago how it would have been covered.

Safety Was Big

It was interesting to see how much time was spent on how to view the eclipse safely. I suppose this was so that we didn’t launch a generation of blind people all in one day!  One of the more interesting parts of this was to do with pets.  Animals instinctively know not to look at the sun.  Even so, just about every recommendation I saw told people to keep pets indoors. I wonder how many puddles were cleaned up by pet owners that day!

People Are Greedy

It was sad to see the shortage of eclipse glasses.  It was even worse to see legit glasses being sold online for many times what they were purchased for.  The worst was the reports of fake glasses.  Around where I lived there was not a single pair to be found for days beforehand.  I have to believe a good chunk of this was a result of greed.

We’ve Overpopulated Ourselves

Hotel rooms in some cities were booked months or years in advance.  Campgrounds were the same way.  Highways had hours long backups going into and out of the popular areas.  Glasses were sold out for weeks.  I imagine that 50 or 100 years ago, such an event would not have had people pushing each other out of the way, so to speak.  Have we overpopulated the planet?  We may be at or near a tipping point.

My Favorite Part

In Michigan, we had about 80 percent of the sun covered.  I was at work, and it was really cool to see how dim the sky got.  I looked out the window at one point and commented that it was cloudy.  But it wasn’t!  It was clear skies but the sunshine was much dimmer than normal.  I thought it was pretty cool.

People Came Through And Made The Best Of It

In the end, the eclipse was a great event.  The eclipse got people talking about something that was a positive thing, for the most part.  It also got kids and adults excited for science.  Even when not everybody had safety glasses, people in crowds shared them.  In the end it was a good time.  We’ll get even more coverage during the next eclipse in 2024, so I’m looking forward to that.    Until then!

Readers, what was your experience during the eclipse?  Did you get caught up in the hype?  Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

10 Thoughts On Our First Week Long Camping Trip of 2017

We generally do a week long camping trip twice per summer.  One is always over the 4th of July week.  We wrapped up our trip and it was a success.  I thought I’d share some of our (mostly) ups and downs, as well as a few laugh out loud moments.

The Popularity of Outdoor Activities Is Increasing

Driving on the freeway to get back and forth to the campground showed just how popular outdoor activities have become.  Michigan is always home to great summer activities and always has been.  However, even versus a few years ago, you can see a tremendous uptick.  The number of campers and boats shows that more and more have climbed out of the hole of the Great Recession.

Fireworks Don’t Work At 11:30

We’ve stayed at this campground before, but this was our first time staying for the 4th.  We were pretty excited when we found out that there was a fireworks display scheduled.  Everybody headed down to the lake shortly before dusk, which was around 10pm.  We waited, and waited and waited some more.  We’re quite a bit north and it was clear sky, so it didn’t get pitch black until past 10:30pm.  We figured they’d start then.  Nope.

It was a full hour after that before they started.  By that time, our kids had enough and were already in bed.  Our son was half asleep and enjoyed listening to them, anyway.  But, really, who in their right mind starts a fireworks display at 11:30pm?

A Bigger Gas Tank And Engine Saved A Stop

Most of our longer trips seem to be around 250 miles away from home.  With the old Buick towing, we would always have to stop for gas.  It was around a 20 gallon tank, and generally got around 10 MPG when towing.  I got a truck with a 26 gallon tank, and we averaged 12 miles per gallon, so we ended up saving a stop.  When towing, finding a gas station that’s RV friendly always adds another layer of complexity, so I was happy to avoid that part!

The Unlucky Made The Best Of It

Remember above how I said camping is more popular than ever?  This is especially true on the 4th, when just about every site in the state is booked.  We were able to snag two adjacent sites for our entire time, and they had a lake view to boot!  Others weren’t so lucky, but made the best of it.  Many people were able to get a stay at the park, but had to move sites at least once.  I saw one camper in at least three different spots.  Yikes!

Saving $80 Was Cool

We got a note a few weeks before our trip that the campground had been having sewer troubles.  They had a line break on three separate occasions.  During these, people that were camping couldn’t use the bathrooms or showers.  They had to use port-a-potties or pit toilets.  They allowed people to either cancel their reservation or offered a $10 reduction in fees to take the chance on staying.  Since we knew everything anywhere else was booked, we took the chance.  Thankfully, the bathrooms worked perfectly, so we saved $80 by taking a chance!

It Finally Got Easier With The Kids

When we started camping with our trailer, the kids were 3 and 1.  That was tough. Someone was always napping or eating or melting down and both needed pretty constant supervision.  The kids have grown, but even last year, neither was riding a bike without training wheels.  We always knew it’d get easier where they could be more independent, and this year it hit us that we were finally there.  Nobody needed a nap, they were flexibile with the meal times, and were able to do a lot on their own.

4th of July Trips Are Bad For My Awning

During the first year we had our trailer, the awning broke during a freak thunderstorm.  It almost happened again.  This time there was no thunder or rain, just wind.  We were sitting at the beach when it got really cloudy and dark and the wind started picking up.  In the five minute walk back, it was so bad that when we turned around, all we saw was a cloud of sand.  We ran back to the site and my in-laws and wife (who had walked back a few minutes earlier) were holding down the awning as it was bouncing around furiously.  Through the wind, we were able to get it rolled up, but it really seems that thing is cursed on these 4th of July trips!

Staying Healthy Worked….Sort Of

I wrote a couple of months ago that I knew these trips would put my fitness success at risk.  Between exercising less, eating more extravagent meals, and indulding in more alcohol, these trips had potential of derailing a lot of the success I’ve worked for.

Well, while I didn’t do great, I don’t think I did half bad.  I definitely found I was more strict at the beginning and

Image from morguefile courtesy of kzinn

less so at the end.  Still, I did pretty good on portion control and cutting back on my liquor intake throughout.  Snacking was the only area that I lost a little willpower on, but it was still better.  Plus, I ran three times during the trip.  Overall, this wasn’t perfect but it could have been a lot worse!

We Need New Meals

We’ve developed some pretty cool meals.  We have a good mix of campfire, grill, and comfort food meals.  But, many agreed that we’re starting to get a bit repetitious.  We never had a bad meal that I can remember, but very little of the dinners were exciting.  It’s time to shake things up, I think!

Tomato Plants Can Double In Size In A Week

We bought two little tomato seedlings at the farmers market back in May.  They grew quite a bit in the weeks before our trip.  Still, we were shocked when the doubled again in size in just the week or so that we were gone.  And it didn’t even rain!  The watering all came from our neighbors who helped us out.  Now, we have lots and lots of tomatoes on the way!

Readers, have you done anything fun so far this summer? What fun have you had or do you have planned?  Let me know in the comments below.  Thanks for reading.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Breaking Down Our Madeira Beach Vacation

A couple of weeks ago, I was enjoying life a little bit more.  As they say, life is always better at the beach!  We took a family trip down to Florida.  Here are some things I thought I’d share about our Madeira Beach vacation.

Familiarity Helps

We rented a condo that worked out great for us.  What really helped is that we’ve stayed in this condo complex before.  Back in 2010 we took a trip, also with my in-laws and stayed in a different unit.  On top of that, this area was where my wife and her family vacationed when she was a girl.  So, knowing so much about the area in general was a big help too.  Familiarity definitely helped improve our Madeira Beach vacation.

We Saved On Travel But Added Stress

Originally we were planning to drive, but ended up flying.  However, since all public schools in Michigan are off at the same time, the airlines all jacked up their prices flying out of Detroit.  We found some great fares out of Columbus, Ohio, which was about a four hour drive.  Saving money was great, but the added stress of driving kept me on edge.  After all, it would only take one accident along the way to take away our cushion.  Luckily, we were fine, but I was nervous.

Walking Distance

Because of our familiarity with the area, we knew that we could survive without a car.  And we did just fine!  We

Madeira Beach Vacation 2017

ended up taking Uber rides wherever we needed to go. All told, our Uber rides added up to about $125 plus tips, which was a significant saving over renting a car to drive while there.

Pool And The Ocean Added Up To Fun

We had warm, sunny weather for most of the trip, which was great.  However, a good portion of our trip was very windy.  This made being near the water very difficult with blowing sand.  But, having a pool right there definitely kept us exactly where we needed to be.  Having both options was great.

Renting A Condo Was Great

We had a really great condo that we found.  It was two bedrooms.  Each bedroom had a TV.  Having a TV in the kids room was great because they could have some down time after coming back tired from being at the water.  It was also fully furnished and had lots of supplies needed for the pool and water.

Supplies When Renting A Condo

The condo had just about everything we needed, but we ended up forgetting a few things on our shopping trip.  Paper plates, napkins, and salt and pepper were all things we would have liked but didn’t think of.  There was nothing we didn’t have but lots of things we would have loved to have had.  We made a list!

Eating In And Eating Out

We ate at a lot of different restaurants, but also made quite a few meals in.  This mix kept our costs down a bit, and made a good mix of ‘on the go’ versus enjoying the moments.  We ate all of our breakfasts in, and then would generally have lunch or dinner out.  It still wasn’t exactly cheap but it kept things in check.

We Loved Our Madeira Beach Vacation

If you can’t tell we loved our vacation.  All of us came back tan.  We all came back tired. Our son came back with a sore ear from all the swimming.  All told, those are all signs that we had lots and lots of fun.  And we did.  So much so that we already put a deposit on the same unit for next year! And did I mention that repeat visitors get a 10% discount?  Woo-hoo!

Readers, do you have any great family spring break stories?  Please let me know what you did in the comments below.  Thanks so much for reading!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

The End Of An Awesome Holiday Break

I just went back to work a few days ago and man, I need a break after the holiday break!  It was pretty much non-stop and it was fantastic.  Here are some of the day by day highlights.

December 22

Technically break hadn’t started yet, but we kicked things off from a ‘fun’ standpoint.  My wife and I both love the movie ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ and got tickets to go on the giant movie screen.  We took the kids and made a whole night of it, going to dinner beforehand.  It was a great start.

December 23rd: The Official Start of Holiday Break

I had to work but there weren’t a whole lot of people here, and everybody started drifting out en masse around noon.  I stuck it out until just around 2pm.  We didn’t do a whole lot of fun stuff this day, mainly finishing up wrapping and getting things ready for Christmas Eve.

December 24th

Christmas Eve has always been one of our favorite times.  Growing up, it was always at my Grandma & Grandpa’s house.  Even after my Grandpa passed and my Grandma moved to an apartment, we still got together.  After she passed, we took on the torch, and we now meet family at Church and then come back to our house for dinner.  It’s still one of my favorite days, even though I’m long grown up. I hope it makes great memories for my children.

December 25th

Christmas morning is always great and I try to see it through the eyes of my kids.  We opened up presents and got ready.  The afternoon was spent at my cousin’s, and we made our way over to my in-laws for the celebration for that side of the family.  Christmas is a great day but it’s non-stop.

December 26th

Having spent the night at my in-laws, we had breakfast and then opened gifts together.  The kids love having back to back Christmas celebrations!  This was official day where you have to put some serious effort into figuring out what day of the week it is.

December 27th

We finally got a break from Christmas celebrations (but more to come), and instead started on some fun activities for the kids to keep them busy.  The library has a big Lego building event where kids get to spend an hour rummaging through bin upon bin, creating something that they then get to put out in the kids area for all to see.  They offer this program about once every six weeks, and it was fun for me to take them.

We also did an impromptu dinner out with my in-laws.  My father in-law has a car that he drives only during the summer months, and wanted to free up some space in his garage, and asked if he could park it in our extra space.  Since they were over anyway, we decided to go out for some great pizza!

December 28th

The fun continued as we spent a few hours at the Henry Ford, which is a local museum with lots of history.   They have lots of cars, old airplanes, steam engines, locomotives, and other stuff.  They even have the actual bus, which has been fully restored, in which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat.  It’s informative and fun at the same time.

December 29th

My son loves building Lego and has a whole table (a converted train table) in his room to do so.  It’s gotten a bit out of hand, so we spent a few hours cleaning up sets and re-organizing his collection. It was, of course, all done in preparation for building new Lego sets that he got for Christmas!  While he and I did that, my daughter and wife had a field trip at a local chocolate factory!

After all this, we did the third and final Christmas gift celebration, as we got together with my parents for dinner and a gift exchange.

December 30th

We had another really fun day.  My wife took my daughter to get together with some ‘old’ pre-school friends.  They had fun catching up.  Once they got back, we went to a nearby trampoline place where they converted a few storefronts into a giant trampoline where people come to….well, bounce!  We had scored tickets on Groupon a few weeks back with the sole intent of coming this week, and it was a blast.  Afterward, my wife surprised the kids (me, too) by stopping for frozen yogurt.  Yum!

After the kids went to bed, my wife and I rooted for our favorite college football team, the Michigan Wolverines.  Unfortunately, despite a furious comeback, they came up a point short this year.  Maybe next year!

December 31st

New Year’s Eve!  For us, 2016 was a pretty good year and we went out in style.  Where we’ve often gotten together with my sister-in-law, this year that didn’t work out, so we kept the kids and had some old fashioned family fun.

During the day, we went out bowling, which was great, and then went to see Moano, the new Disney movie.  Everybody enjoyed that.  We went to dinner at a new (to us) restaurant, where we had good food and excellent service.

At home we did a family game night, including Pie Face, which involved canned whipped cream.  I made a fantastic chocolate chip cookie cake, and the kids stayed up until midnight to ring in 2017!

January 1st

We had tired kids but they held up remarkably well.  My dad’s Birthday is on New Year’s, so we went out to brunch and then came back to our house for cake.  Later, the four of us went for a walk as it was a sunny day, which is rare during the Michigan winter.  We had a fun dinner with dips, pigs in a blanket, shrimp and some other goodies.

After the kids went to bed, my wife and I again rooted for our favorite football team, this time the Detroit Lions, but were disappointed once again as they fell to the Packers.  They still ended up making the playoffs, but it would have been nice to have seen them win their first division title in nearly 25 years.  Here’s hoping for a miracle in the playoffs!

January 2nd

It was a cold day but was, again, relatively sunny, so we decided to go to the zoo.  It was surprisingly busy and the kids made it about 2.5 hours, which I thought was great.  I had estimated two hours as their maximum tolerance, so they came out ahead!

On January 3rd, I sadly returned to work, signifying the official end to our holiday break.  The kids had two more days off, not returning to school until the 5th, but the family fun had by the four of us was officially over.

You know it’s been a great break when you wish you had a couple more days!

Readers, how was your holiday break?  Any big happenings?  Let me know in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.