Category: Reviews

Highway Robbery – The Tale Of The Ridiculous Toll Bill

With all the 2020ness in 2020, it seems like everyone is just wishing that this year would end. Today, though, I have a positive story for y’all. It’s about how, after a six month battle, I finally emerged victorious. Score one for the little guy, woo!  If you’ve ever wondered how to fight a toll bill, read on….

 

See, it all started a long time ago, in an era when international travel was still a thing (remember that? Me neither).   February of this year!  Ya boy was on his way to the Dad 2.0 Summit.  I flew to it out of Buffalo’s airport. I should note that I’m an infrequent visitor to New York State. The Wazes App is my best friend, the few times that I am there. I know of toll booths, from travelling on highways in the US, but I had no clue that New York used a cashless toll system.

A month after Dad 2.0, in April, I get a bill in the mail from Tolls By Mail. Apparently, I unwittingly used a toll highway at some point in Buffalo, and now they’ve come to collect. The bill was for……….

 

 

Ain’t it funny (word to J-lo!)? It costs way more to process a bill, print it, and mail it to Canada, than the actual  amount of the toll.  Why even bother? At this point, I’ll own up to making a mistake. Instead of paying this immediately, I forgot about it.

About a month later, in May, I received another bill from Tolls By Mail. For not paying the $1, I now owed……

six dollars

Fair is fair. I used their service, and I was late paying for the use of it. Tolls By Mail has an online payment option, so that’s what I did. When I logged into my account, to pay, the total owing was $2. I remember thinking that was odd, but maybe I got a discount for paying online, instead of sending a cheque.

 

HOW TO FIGHT A TOLL BILL

 

My account was paid off, end of story, right?

 

wrong!

 

Weeks later, I received ANOTHER letter from Tolls By Mail. This time, it stated that, for not paying my $1 toll, I now owed $51 in late fees!

51 US dollars!

51 US dollars was like 80 something dollars Canadian! When I logged into Tolls By Mail again, the balance owing was this amount. How do I pay off a bill, and receive a receipt indicating as much, only for the company to see that I paid it, re-bill me for it, then tack on a fine for non-payment that is 5000% greater than the original violation?

I had to call Tolls By Mail, to find out. With the pandemic, their customer service is limited, so I was on hold for a long time. When I did finally speak to an agent, I was told that, for reasons that she didn’t know, two accounts were generated for me. So, same name, same license plate, but the addresses were different. If my address was 123 Sesame Street, they had an account for that, but also for 123 Sesame Street Rural Route 4.

 

Anyway, she said that my payment got applied to the “wrong” account. She advised me to prepare a letter indicating this mix up, and mail it to their dispute department. I couldn’t talk to this department, or email them. Correspondence is by mail only, because apparently the year is 1920, not 2020.

 

Unrelated, but that 1920s Henry Ford drip is timeless, no doubt.

 

Flash forward to late June. No reply to my letter, and my account still showed $51. Another call is needed, to follow up. This time, I spoke to an agent who was working from home. Her connection and phone were so bad, though, that it was like I was talking to the speaker in a McDonald’s drive-thru. I was able to decipher in our convo that correspondence was taking longer, due to pandemic issues. Being in Canada was also a factor, due to postal delays here.

She did have a new reason for my two accounts. Apparently, last year, in June, I had been to Buffalo, and, unwittingly again, used toll highways. I incurred a charge of….$2

This was news to me, of course. And, through the phone distortion, the agent was shocked, too, that I never was informed, and that there weren’t more late fees. I did not receive anything in the mail, ever, about this $2 fee. However, when I paid off the bill online in May, that was to pay off the June 2019 amount.

Now, I’m just a regular dad of average intelligence.  My account  balance was $2. When Tolls By Mail received my payment, someone there  had the wherewithal to notice the two accounts in my name. Instead of leaving it at that, or doing up a letter explaining the error, and requesting payment for $1, this person consolidated the accounts, and charged me $1, plus $50 for being delinquent.

UMM, Why??

The agent didn’t have an answer. She suggested that to settle things up, all I needed to do was send a money order for $6  (the amount of the second letter, if you recall) along with, you guessed it, another letter explaining what happened to the mysterious, technologically backwards dispute department. I ordered a Big Mac before I hung up, (not!)  then headed to the bank. If you’ve ever wanted to be laughed at by a bank teller, I suggest ordering a $6 US money order for a $1 toll charge. Even they took pity on me, and didn’t charge any transaction fees for this nonsense.

Weeks later,  end of July, I check my Tolls By Mail account. The amount owing is $45. So, they got my money order, cool. Instead of cancelling the balance, as I was told, they just applied the $6 and left it open.

Not cool.

Another call is needed.

This agent told me that my case was still in dispute, and no resolution was made yet.  This contradicts what I was told on my prior call, as the $6 was supposed to have been the resolution. Decisions were still slow, because of the pandemic. I could expect to hear back via mail once a decision was made. I did ask if there was anything that I could do, to speed things up. It’s nicknamed snail mail, not cheetah mail, and Tolls By Mail already screwed things up in my account. The agent advised me to hang tight, and not to worry.

On August 21st, I received the following letter, dated AUGUST 3rd:

 

HOW TO FIGHT A TOLL BILL

 

ARE YOU JOKING ME?!

 

Soooo, just to recap. I paid my toll bill. Tolls By Mail received my money, then realized that they messed up billing my account.  Due to this mistake, they charged me an exorbitant late fee. After two attempts to rectify the situation, PER THEIR SUGGESTIONS, and after they acknowledged that their snail mail system of doing things is slow, they came up with this result. There was little chance that I would even receive this letter within 10 days, let alone receive it, then be able to send it back with payment within 10 days! And how the heck did they come up with this $5 settlement amount, too? I was bemused before, but now I was mad.

Time to make another call to Tolls By Mail. After telling my story, and explaining how unfair their 10 day ultimatum was, the agent gave me another number to call.  Will I FINALLY be able to talk to the mysterious dispute department?

Nope.

It was the number for their collections company, Linebarger, Heard, Goggan, Blair and Sampson LLP. Because I didn’t pay within 10 days, they sent my debt to collections.  To paraphrase some famous scholar, ish just got real, dawg!

This time, the collections agent told me to (stop me if you’ve heard this before) prepare a letter, but fax it to them.   They would then review it, and send it back to Tolls By Mail dispute department, to see if they could pull back the fees. The agent also revealed to me that they received my file in late July.

You know, so when I called Tolls By Mail around then, to ask what was up with my account, and they told me to hang tight, that actually meant that they had every intent to send my debt to collections, regardless. Then, the unrealistic, unreasonable letter that they sent me was just for show, as even if I magically was able to meet their 10 day deadline, it was pointless, as the $45 was already in the hands of the collection agency.

 

My sentiments exactly, confused shadow girls.

 

I send the fax, along with my supporting documents. Two days later, I call LHGBS (emphasis on the BS, in my case). They received my fax, and had forwarded it on to my friends in the dispute department.  Let’s call Tolls By Mail, and ask to talk to my pals, to follow up.

The agent was pretty rude, to be perfectly honest, unlike the others. After explaining my story, I was told, in no polite terms,  that the only way to communicate with the dispute department was by mail. She could not transfer me. They did not have a phone number or email for that department. When I asked how did she get in touch with them, then, the agent said that they didn’t. Mail only.

side note:

Can you imagine what the holiday parties at Tolls By Mail must be like? I picture the agents happily sipping eggnog in one place, while the Wizard Of Oz-like dispute department are hard at work in their office, because their snail mailed invitations to the party didn’t come  in time. 

Anyway, I then asked to speak to a manager. After initially being told that they didn’t have one (these people don’t have bosses? Do they all work in silos independently or something?), she then said that a manager would just tell me the same information. Fine, so put one on then, was my reply. I am then on hold for three minutes. When the agent came back, she told me that no managers were available, even though that they weren’t busy (huh?), and to call back later. Or, I could send a letter to the dispute department (since that worked out so well before).  Basically, she blew me off.

Now really mad, I did what anyone would do in the heat of the moment:

 

REACH OUT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA TO HELP ME RIGHT THIS WRONG!

 

 

Trump probably had more important things on his plate that morning than to worry about minor traffic infractions, so I quickly kiboshed that idea. I did the next best thing, though:

 

REACH OUT TO THE GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK STATE TO HELP ME RIGHT THIS WRONG!

 

I kept going to Andrew Cuomo’s staff’s voicemails, however. Not wanting to wait, I then did the next, next best thing – I called the NY State Thruway Authority’s Media Relations and Communications number.  My rationale was that they might provide me with the contact information for the mysterious Tolls By Mail dispute department, if I played my blogger card, and said that I was doing a story on them.  What? It was a Hail Mary play, but worth a shot.

I get through immediately, then tell the person my tale from the beginning.  At the end,  I ask for the contact info.  To my delight, the woman refuses to give it to me!

Don’t hate. 

It was because that she had the authority to waive the $45. She agreed with the ridiculousness, and authorized the removal of the late fee. If Tolls By Mail still decided to pursue the matter, she told me to send them her way. Perfect! And I didn’t have to play my blogger card, either.

Today, I logged into my Tolls By Mail account.  Here is what I saw:

 

 

After six months, my ordeal was finally over.

So what are the takeaways here?  Well, if you ever get a minuscule bill, just pay it immediately, for one. Tolls By Mail’s dispute process is very suspect, for another.  They’re so lacking in transparency, that even if you provide irrefutable evidence that they screwed up, they won’t admit it.  My experience is nothing, compared to some other horror stories in dealing with them, too.  Be careful when using the highways in New York!

Finally, and most importantly, any injustice,  big or small, is worth fighting for.  And even if takes a long time to make a change, you gotta keep fighting.

Until the next one, peace!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Stone Cold Truth About Hot Air Balloon Rides

hot air balloon ride

 

 

Greetings, fly guys and fly girls! If you ever considered going on a hot air balloon ride, but don’t know what you’re getting into, then you’ve come to the right spot.  Last summer, my daughter and I took flight in a hot air balloon, compliments of my friends at the US Hot Air Balloon Team. Boy, let me tell me you, the experience was something else! And as a certified balloonatic (OK, not really), I figure that gives me enough credibility (this is probably wrong, too)  to debunk myths and spit hot truths about  hot air balloon rides.

 

 

YOU CAN’T GO ON A HOT AIR BALLOON RIDE ANYTIME OF THE DAY

 

Ever notice that you’ve never looked up in sky during lunchtime in the summer, and seen a hot air balloon floating by? Me neither, but there is a reason for that.  A hot air balloon ride is very susceptible to weather, and can only fly in the most stable of  conditions. For scientific and technical reasons beyond my pay grade, this happens to be before dawn or occasionally at dusk.

For J and I, this meant taking a 45 minute long Uber ride at 4:30AM from our hotel to the heart of Amish country in Pennsylvania, Bird In Hand. We had to arrive by 5:30AM, at the US Hot Air Balloon Team’s headquarters. If you’ve ever wanted to wake roosters up, instead of vice versa, I highly recommend taking early morning hot air balloon rides. Also, to give you an idea of the high volatility/subjectivity of ballooning, ours was a shared flight, with two long-time friends, and an older couple. This was the older couple’s sixth attempt at trying to take a hot air balloon ride, as every other time that they tried, it ended up being cancelled because of the weather. Talk about your hardcore balloonatics!

 

 

THE CHASE

Unlike an airplane, hot air balloons do not need an airport to depart from. After we arrived at the headquarters, we were then transported via white van to the launch point, which was just an open field. The van’s driver and navigator also doubled as set up and take down crew. Most interesting, though, is that the van was a chase vehicle. While in the air, the van followed the balloon around, until it landed.  Watching this lonely white vehicle on the empty roads from high in the sky,  kind of made me feel like a journalist in a chopper following OJ Simpson’s Bronco. Kind of.

 

 

up,  up, and…..in?

 

At the launch point,  the crew setup the hot air balloon, which was much larger in person (like, small building-sized) and inflate it. I then realized that the basket, which was also larger in person (the size of a small car, and about chest level high) didn’t have a door. So how the heck do you get in it, you ask?

The answer is….not delicately.

The older couple weren’t especially agile, for lack of a better term, especially the wife. They thought that the basket would be on its side, and that they would get in, sit on the bottom, and wait for the inflated balloon to  pull it upright.

This wasn’t the case, though.

The crew are there to assist, but for the most part, you’re on your own, to enter the basket. In the couple’s case, the crew gently helped lift the wife up, and over, the edge of it. In the husband’s case, he climbed in on his own, with some struggle. When it came to J’s case, I gave her a boost and dropped her in, since the basket was too high for her to climb  on her own. In my case, I tried to clear the edge by leaping over it, like how this guy jumped over the wrestling ropes. Spoiler alert: my leap was U-G-L-Y, and I ain’t got no alibi:

 

 

 

 

THE SOUND OF SILENCE

 

Once you’re in, there is nowhere to go but up. For real, when in flight, the experience of hot air balloon rides is as breathtaking as you probably imagine it to be. Our US Hot Air Balloon ride was over miles of farmland in Amish country.  Picturesque views of the Pennsylvania landscape stretched as far as the eye could see.  The world seems so different when you’re gliding through the sky, thousands of feet in the air. Surprisingly, it was very quiet. Besides the chit chat of those on board, the only sound was the hissing of the burners. At one point, we could hear dogs barking below!

 

hot air balloon ride experience

 

BE PREPARED FOR A CRASH LANDING

 

Unlike planes, hot air balloons don’t just land on a runway. In our case, the pilots pointed out a spot in an open field that looked land-able, called down to the chase vehicle to see if it was OK or not, and after receiving affirmation, started the descent. They actually missed the spot, then had to re-ascend, and get the chase vehicle to confirm another location.

Unlike planes, hot air balloons don’t have wheels, to roll into a gentle landing. They literally just crash into the ground. Now depending on how skilled your pilot is, the crash landing varies in gentleness. In our case, it knocked me off of my feet (word to Stevie Wonder!), because I didn’t have time to brace myself, and J  went tumbling into the side of the basket.

This was considered a good landing.

 

 

So….crash, and dash?

 

Once on the ground, you don’t just leave the balloon, and take off in the chase vehicle. Everything needs to be packed up, too. One of the dudes in the crew was jacked (re: very muscular), and he had the job of doing most of the heavy lifting (fun fact: a deflated hot air balloon still weighs a lot).  I tried to help where I could, as well, though. We happened to be in an Amish family’s farm, so they all came out, too see what all the commotion was. I’m sure the scene was quite the culture shock to them! Once the van was loaded up, we headed back to the headquarters, where we celebrated our save travels with the traditional balloonist champagne toast. J had orange juice, by the way, so stop wagging your fingers, people.

 

 

ARE HOT AIR BALLOONS RIDES SAFE?

 

Aww, the proverbial elephant in the room, err, post.  Are hot air balloons safe?

The answer is….I think so? I mean, it is a pretty outdated mode of transportation.  When you’re planning a trip on Google Maps, a balloon is never an option for the fastest way there. It’s all for pleasure and enjoyment now, based on skills and techniques developed over centuries of balloon aviation.

Whereas, for example, people a long time ago stopped riding those bikes with the giant wheels, because of how dangerous they were, ballooning remains a popular past time today. If they weren’t suitable, they wouldn’t still be a “thing”, right? The accident rates online seem to support hot air balloons as being fairly safe, too.

J couldn’t peak over the edge unless I lifted her up, so there was no concern of the basket rocking, if that’s what you’re thinking (or at least that’s what I was thinking, after watching that episode of Family Matters recently, where Steve Urkel and Carl go up in a hot air balloon, and that’s what happens to Carl). The basket’s floor was sturdy, too. So, to me, as someone who is pretty cautious, somewhat afraid of heights, and flying with a child, I didn’t feel like we were in any real danger….except during the landing, as mentioned.

All in all, hot air balloon rides, while not for everyone, are a really cool experience.  I’d recommend them anyone looking to book a flight with their kids, if they’re up for it.

Until the next one, you balloonatics,  peace!

 

are hot air balloons safe

 

 

 

Disclaimer: we received a complimentary flight from US Hot Air Balloon Team while on a press trip in Hershey, PA. All opinions expressed are mine, as always.

 

The Definitive Guide To Splash Lagoon in Erie PA

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

 

Believe it or not, I’m Canadian…but I hate the winter.  Some people love dealing with that cold, numbing feeling of the wind chill hitting your face. I’m not one of them. Escaping potential frostbite to go somewhere warm and sunny isn’t really in the cards, either. Luckily, however, there are places not far from me (or anyone else in the Greater Toronto Area)  to temporarily get away for some summer-like fun. Places like Splash Lagoon  in Erie, PA!

 

 

What is Splash Lagoon in erie pa?

 

Splash Lagoon is an indoor, Polynesian-themed waterpark, located in Erie, PA. At 80,000 square feet, it’s one of the biggest indoor waterparks in the USA. It’s full of aquatic activities (and more) for people of all ages, set to a tropical theme/design.

 

 

GETTING THERE

 

Erie, Pennsylvania is located about two hours southwest from the Niagara Falls border (or the comparable indoor waterpark to Splash Lagoon in Niagara, Great Wolf Lodge). This worked out to a three hour drive for us. When travelling with three small kids, this is about as good as it gets, time-wise, for a road trip. It’s almost doable in one drive, without having to stop for bathroom breaks. Also, you can schedule it so that you can hit the road after a meal at home, negating the need to stop for food along the way. Just throw on The Irishman for them to watch, and by the time that it’s almost over, you’ll be there (note: that was joke. I do not advise showing The Irishman to little children).

 

 

staying there – SPLASH LAGOON ERIE PA

 

I mentioned Great Wolf Lodge earlier, because that is more of the go-to waterpark destination, for families in my region.  My family has stayed at Great Wolf Lodge several times before. I will say that Splash Lagoon is different, but in a good way.

The experience at Great Wolf Lodge is pretty immersive.  Everything at the resort, from the hotel rooms on-site, to the waterpark, to the decor, to the  games and restaurants, all have the same kind of nature-y, rustic theme. The thing is, though, that you really pay for the immersiveness, as an overnight visit can be quite pricey.  You also can’t easily obtain day passes only, to visit the park.  If you want to get your swim on, you gotta get your sleep on there, too.

Splash Lagoon, on the other hand, is its own standalone place. However, it has three hotels connected to it: Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn and Hawthorn Inn & Suites. These have stay and play package deals which include passes to Splash Lagoon. The good thing about these, of course, is that you can stroll from your hotel room to Splash Lagoon in just your Speedo, without having to set foot outside in the frosty winter elements (note: that was a joke. I do not condone unwanted Speedo strolls. Think of the kids, people). If these don’t float your boat, a few of the nearby hotels also offer overnight package deals, and include a shuttle service Splash Lagoon, too.  Then, if none of these are appealing for whatever reason, you are able to just buy day passes to Splash Lagoon, and stay somewhere else .

 

Holiday Inn Express Erie PA

 

We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Erie PA, which is the closest hotel, proximity-wise, to Splash Lagoon.  Our stay was complimentary, but the rates online for a stay package were more affordably priced than Great Wolf Lodge.  Our room was suitably clean and tidy. Breakfast was included, too. With a family of five, anytime that you have one less meal to worry about is always nice.

One more thing. The Peace Bridge Duty Free store, near the Canadian border, also promotes Splash Lagoon overnight deals, that seemed to be very reasonable, so keep an eye out there, too, when booking  a stay.

 

 

playing there (water)

 

Alright, now let’s get to the wet and wild stuff! Over two days, my family experienced  almost every attraction. Instead of a typical Splash Lagoon review, though, I’ll break them down for you, by age appeal and appropriateness. And yes, Splash Lagoon does have life jackets on-site, don’t worry.

 

Splash Lagoon review

 

 

 

For KJ Sized kids (re: babies and little kids)

Monkey Shines Island

This play area is in a shallow pool, with seven small slides scattered around it, which have a 48″ maximum height requirement. KJ could go down these by himself, but I still had to hang out at the bottom, to catch him.  Some parents took their kids down them on their laps, as an option. There’s also a tipping bucket in this area, and “showers”, as KJ called them.

Adventure Bay

Adventure Bay is a big pool with basketball nets and balls, along with lily pads to jump on (which were off limits when we were there).  While more suited for all ages, little kids can still have fun here, in life jackets, with parents nearby, I think. B and J both commented that the water was colder in Adventure Bay than other areas of the park.  Hoops-loving B could have stayed there the whole time, regardless, challenging random kids to one on one games, like he was at the aquatic version of Rucker Park.

Wild Water Waves Pool

Billed as “the largest indoor wave pool in the Eastern United States”, Wild Water Waves Pool was a hit with my fam. Again, while more suited for all ages, KJ did enjoy bobbing up and down on the waves, some of which got pretty big!

 

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

Underwater selfies in a wave pool are hard!

 

The Frog Pond 

The Frog Pond is an area with a whirlpool for the family to relax in, and leapfrog fountains for little kids to splash around on.  It’s kind of tucked away in a corner, behind the Tree Tops Ropes Course. Not gonna lie, because we didn’t try the ropes course, I didn’t notice the Frog Pond, so we never went in it.  #planningfail

The Lava Pool

This is a small pool, with “lava” for kids to play in. Again, not gonna lie, I assumed that it was a hot tub, and didn’t stop to go in. J checked it out, though, with K, and reported back, in her words “the water was not deep, and  it was hot, and there were benches nearby, and it was relaxing.”

 

For B and J SIZED kids (re: big kids)

Tiki Tree House

This is located in the middle of Splash Lagoon, and is a featured attraction. It’s four stories high, with activities like water cannons, and a giant tipping bucket. I’m not sure why, but the Tiki Tree House didn’t seem as functional as it probably normally is, during our stay.  If fully operational, it appears to be a blast, but I can’t vouch for it, based on our experience.

The Lazy River

This is just as it sounds. Grab a tube, alone or with your kid, and lazily float around the river. It’s a decent size, so you can do a few laps without taking up too much time. Minimal congestion, too, which is sometimes an issue with these things.

WARNING: if you have a mischievous daughter like mine, she will probably steer you towards the waterfall, where you will get splashed worse than a basketball net after a Steph Curry versus Klay Thompson three point contest. I suggest singing the chorus to TLC’s ‘Wateralls’ to alleviate any potential soaking (note: that was a joke. You should obviously sing TLC’s Creep, instead).

 

Things To Do in Erie PA

Thumbs up to TLC song references outta nowhere!

 

 

Big Kahuna

This is a big, curvy water slide that actually goes outside for part of it.  It’s for single or double riders with a tube, with a minimum 36″ height requirement. Children 36″-42″ tall, like J, had to slide with an adult, though.

Python Plunge

Python Plunge is similar in thrillness to the Big Kahuna. It has the same restrictions and tube requirement, too (though this one is a lot of fun with two riders).

Shark Attack

This is a single person body slide, minimum 36″ height requirement.  It feels like you’re going pretty fast, and it’s another slide that takes you outside for part of it.  The lineup for this water slide was a bit confusing. It’s located beside the Big Kahuna, and I noticed a lot of people standing in the line for that because they didn’t realize that the line for Shark Attack was separate.  In B and I’s case, we made that mistake initially before noticing, once we got to the top, that there weren’t actually any people in line for Shark Attack, so we went right on.

Black Hole

This was J’s personal favorite. From the top of the Tiki Tree House, the whole water slide is in complete darkness.  Single riders only, no tube, minimum height requirement of 36″.

Maui Wowie

Maui Wowie is a bit of a quickie single rider slide, no tube. It shoots you down and around the sharp, sudden turns pretty fast. 36″ height requirement.

Cyclone

B’s fav because, in part, of the toilet bowl effect of going round and round before being flushed out into a pool below. For single or double riders with a tube, with a minimum 36″ height requirement. Children 36″-42″ tall gotta ride with a grownup.

Hurricane Hole

This is like the Cyclone, if the Cyclone was on Red Bull energy drinks. A bit more extreme, as it’s for tubeless single riders, which means you go faster, and end up in a deep pool. For people 48″ and up, who are strong enough swimmers to swim out of the deep pool at the end.

for DA GROWNUPS

There’s a bar upstairs called Island Oasis Bar.

What?

Stay thirsty, my friends.

 

extra playing there at splash lagoon

 

All of the above attractions are included in your day pass admission. If you want to spend a few more bucks, Splash Lagoon in Erie PA has some other fun ways to take your money. The aforementioned Tree Tops Ropes Course, for example, costs $7 per person. It’s three stories high,  of various climbing challenges, for kids and adults (36″ and taller).  $7 will also get you a spin on the Aqua Tumbler, a giant inflatable ball that loops you around and shoots water at you while you’re in it.

Upstairs from the park is an arcade. It has a decent selection of games, with the usual selection of prizes to be won when winning tokens at said games.  One unique feature, though, was the Hologate Virtual Reality game, which cost $8/person, and looked pretty interesting.

If you’re like my family, you can expect to spend $20 at the arcade, for the joy of watching your kids win about $1 worth of tokens, which they will then argue about because they want to each cash it in for a different toy. B played one of those claw pickup games, and somehow ended up winning so much candy that even Milton Hershey would have been like “dang, homey”.

Splash Lagoon Erie PA

Spoiler: We did not win 100 tickets on this spin.

 

Things to do in Erie PA

 

During our trip, The FlowRider, a wave simulation ride similar to ones seen  at other theme parks,  was not  operational.

 

 

eating there

 

Outside food is a no go at Splash Lagoon. However, there is a restaurant on site called Laguna Grill. It serves the expected theme park foods like burgers, pizza and chicken fingers.  One kind of odd thing was the ice cream stand. It’s nearby to the Laguna Grill, but to order a cone, you have to place the order at Laguna Grill, and then go to the stand to get your order. However, there was never anyone working at the stand, so you had to wait for someone who wasn’t busy at the grill to come over to scoop your order. K and the kids actually waited a half hour for an order that we placed (it was really good ice cream, admittedly, and almost worth the wait).

 

 

Hooch and Blotto’s Sports Bar& Grill is also connected to Splash Lagoon, and it’s a great place to go for a change of pace of the waterpark. While we didn’t partake in any food,  the menu was pretty tasty looking.  There was nice selection of craft beers featured, which I may have had one or two of. We did hit hit up the lanes there one night, to play some bowling. No shoe rentals required, and small balls with bumpers in the lanes available, so it was very kid-friendly. At the end, though, you might leave the prohibition-themed restaurant with the same thing on your mind as B did: what’s with all the moustaches?

 

 

Beyond these options, there are several restaurants a couple of minute’s drive away. Because, as I have noted before on here, we are kind of suckers for chains that aren’t near us, we went to Applebee’s one evening. It was delicious. Come to Hamilton, Ontario, Applebee’s. Sheesh.

 

applebee's erie pa

Who goes to Applebee’s with their family and takes a picture of his oversized drink? This guy.

 

 

this, that and there

 

Some closing points about Splash Lagoon in Erie PA. Staying at the Holiday Inn Express did allow us to walk back and forth to the waterpark and our room swim-ready. However, I did duck my head into the change room on hand, and it looked really clean. The closeness also meant that we could just leave our stuff in the room. Otherwise, a locker might have been needed, which are available on the premise, for various prices. As an option, there was lots of tables and seating around, which people would claim by leaving their stuff on.

Towels, unfortunately, are not available, unless you want to buy them at the Surf Shop store upstairs, so you gotta bring your own.

Parking is free.

In terms of staff, everyone that I encountered was friendly, and helpful. There were  plenty of lifeguards on hand, too, at every attraction.

 

 

getting out AND ABOUT there in erie pa

 

things to do in erie pa

 

I mentioned above about doing other stuff as a change of pace to Splash Lagoon. In terms of things to do in Erie,PA, it is a nice little city, with some cool options to keep you and your family busy, if you want to take a break from the water.

I loves me a good children’s museum (yes, even more so than my kids sometimes), so I, uh I mean we, really liked The expERIEnce Children’s MuseumLocated about 10 minutes away from Splash Lagoon, it’s three stories high, along with an outside play space.  Each floor focused on a different  play-inspiring theme: creativity, explore, and imagination. I  do think that it’s a bit more suited for smaller kids. B’s ten years old, and was more into goofing around with his brother and sister than most of the exhibits. However, J and KJ both had lots of fun, especially on the imagination floor being doctors, grocery store clerks, and firefighters.  The expERIEnce Children’s Musuem is definitely a nice place for kids to safely run around and blow off some steam, while learning a thing or two, in the process.

 

experience children's museum

 

 

 

experience children's musem

 

 

 

experience children's museum

Surprisingly, this wasn’t taken at Splash Lagoon.

 

 

 

If you want to blow off some steam, in the offline retail variety, Erie is also home to the MIllcreek Mall. It’s one of the largest mall complexes in the USA. Even with the Canadian dollar being where it’s at, there were some good deals to be had there.  Also, there’s no sales tax on clothes in Pennsylvania, to boot.

 

Millccreek Mall

 

For the sports fan, Erie, Pennsylvania is also home to teams like the NBA G League’s Erie Bayhawks and the OHL’s Erie Otters. Neither were in town during our stay, unfortunately.

 

While we didn’t do a heck of lot of sightseeing and exploring in Erie, PA, what we did see and do was very worthwhile.  Splash Lagoon, in particular, was the obvious highlight. When it comes  to affordable road trip destinations where you can pretend to get away to somewhere tropical for a day or two,  put Splash Lagoon at the top of your list.

Until the next one, peace!

 

Disclosure:  though our accommodations and experiences during our stay were covered by Visit Erie, all opinions expressed are my own, as always.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Idea – The Sony Xperia 1 Cell Phone

 

 


sony xperia 1 review

Disclaimer: Compensation was received from Best Buy in exchange for this post about the Sony Xperia 1 phone, but all opinions expressed are my own, as always.

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! If you are still looking for that extra special gift for an extra special person, then have you considered the Sony Xperia 1 Cell phone?  Since my FAQ posts are sometimes always popular, let’s do this in that way!

 

A POST ABOUT A PHONE? JEEZ, YOU’RE REALLY PHONING IT IN TODAY, HUH?

What? No! I like to keep up on the latest and greatest in mobile devices, and the Sony Xperia 1 is pretty sweet. Plus, Best Buy has a nice deal on it right now, too.

 

 

FINE, YOU CELL-OUT.  TELL ME ABOUT THIS PHONE THEN.

The Sony Xperia 1 smartphone has a triple-lens camera system and advanced autofocus technologies, which makes it easy to take stable, detailed images and capture 4K videos. It’s unlocked, and has a 6.5-inch 4K OLED touch screen that really brings out the detail in captured footage and streaming videos.

 

 

6.5 inches? that’s big! bigger than my current phone.

What phone do you currently have?

 

 

hey, i’m asking the questions here!

Right. My bad. Anyway, besides the screen, the storage is good-sized, too. 128 GB internal memory with a microSD slot.

 

 

go on.

It’s powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 processor with a respectable 6GB of RAM, and runs on the Android 9.0 Pie OS at 4G LTE speed.

 

 

SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT I CAN TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES OF MY KIDS PLAYING AT THE PARK, UPLOAD THEM IMMEDIATELY TO  MY “KIDS PLAYING AT THE PARK” FACEBOOK ALBUM, AND LIKE ALL THE PICTURES, TOO? ALL BEFORE THEY FINISH GOING DOWN A SLIDE?

 

I….I didn’t say that.  You’d have to try doing that on your own, and get back to me. The Sony Xperia 1 does have a 12.0MP triple-lens camera system and 2x optical zoom to capture details without losing quality.  Also featured is Motion Eye, which lets you capture slow motion videos at up to 906 frames per second,  and Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, to help keep your images free from motion blur.  All of this will result in some dope shots of your, uh, kids on slides.

Wait. Why do you like your own photos on Facebook?

 

 

I’M WARNING YOU, pal! STOP ASKING QUESTIONS! NOW, CAN I DROP THIS PHONE IN A TOILET, OR NOT?

 

Uh. I mean, the Sony Xperia 1 has an IB68 rating, so it can stand being submerged in static water, to a point. I wouldn’t want to find out if it can survive a toilet drop, though. Neither should you!

 

 

YOU SAID THAT BEST BUY HAD A DEAL? EXPLAIN IT, PLEASE.

From December 9 to 22 2019,  you can save $200 on the Sony Xperia 1 at Best Buy. Check it out here!

 

 

$200? do you hoW MANY SUBSCRIPTIONS TO DISNEY PLUS I CAN BUY WITH THAT?

Why do you need so many Disney Plus subscriptions?

 

 

THat’s it, mike! i warned you about asking questions. i’m leaving!

Yeah, I think we are about done here.

Happy Sony Xperia 1 smartphone shopping at Best Buy!

 

 

 

Holiday Gift Idea – The DJI Global Mavic Mini!

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Best Buy, but all thoughts expressed are my own, as always.

 

OK, so today we’re talking drones, and in particular, one that might be at the top of the photographer/tech toy fan in your life’s wish list, the DJI Global Mavic Mini! Let’s do this, FAQ-style!

 

 

Hold up. YOU’RE doing a post about a drone?

Yes.

 

YOU?!

Yes!

 

What do you even know about drones?

Well, I know that the Mavic Mini is small and lightweight, but it comes with many of the features of other quality drones.

 

How lightweight is it? If I sneeze, will it blow away like a tumbleweed?

249 grams, and no?

 

That’s a relief, because I’m allergic to tumbleweeds. List off some of the specs, now!

30-min Max. Flight Time

 

4 km HD Video Transmission

 

Vision Sensor + GPS Precise Hover

 

3-Axis Gimbal 2.7K Camera

 

 

explain the features, but do it in a way that makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about.

I do know what I’m talking about! Anyway, the Mavic Mini supports 12MP aerial photos and 2.7K Quad HD videos. It also has a 3-axis motorized gimbal, which provides great stability, and clear, smooth, vivid footage. When fully charged,  it can stay in the sky for up to 30 minutes, which is better than comparable drones. As well, the dedicated remote controller is easy to use, and it maintains an HD, low latency video feed of up to 4 KMs.  I should also mention that the DJI Fly app gives users integrated access to SkyPixel, a social media platform for users to share their aerial photos and videos.

 

 

What type of camera modes does the Mavic Mini have? Slow-motion establishing shots of  a city skyline at night, set to some groovy saxophone music are my thang.

That’s your thang? Regardless,  it has QuickShot modes, which include Dronie, Circle, Helix, and Rocket. Just select your QuickShot, and the Mavic Mini will execute an elaborate preset motion while recording.  For narrow or complex spaces, there is the CineSmooth mode, which slows down the flight speed and movements, for extra precision and stability.

What else does it come with?

Accessories include:

Two-Way Charging Hub: The Two-Way Charging Hub can charge up to three batteries in sequence. Itcan also be used to store and transport batteries, and even as a power bank to charge your mobile device.

DIY Creative Kit: Make your FlyCam truly yours with this kit that includes shell stickers and colorful markers.

Charging Base: Show off your Mavic Mini while charging it with the convenient charging base.

DJI Mini Bag: Pack your Mavic Mini and Two-Way Charging Hub easily with this signature shoulder bag that’s perfect for everyday use.

Snap Adapter: Personalize your Mavic Mini with a wide range of compatible accessories when you use the Snap Adapter.

Propeller Holder : This lightweight propeller holder protects your FlyCam propellers from being damaged during transportation. It can also be used to fasten your Mavic Mini to your bag or belt.

Did you just cut and paste that from the Best Buy website?

Nope! See for yourself here.

Fine. Any other points, Mike?

Sure. The Mavic Mini looks it would please drone rookies and hardcore enthusiasts alike. I wouldn’t mind getting one, as I think that the kids and I would have a lot of fun using it!

Hold up. YOU want a drone?

Yeah.

YOU?!

And we’re done here. Later!

 

 

A Beginner’s Guide To Disney Doorables

Disclaimer: My good friends at Imports Dragon recently sent me a complimentary package of Disney Doorables, to review. All thoughts expressed are my own.

 

The holiday season is fast approaching! So, today, I’m going to tell you about some hot new toys that I think are going to be on many a wish list, Disney Doorables. Let’s go, FAQ-style!

You just made me spit out my pumpkin spice latte! It’s too early to be talking about Christmas. What’s wrong with you?

Uh, that wasn’t exactly the kind of question that I had in mind for this.

I don’t even know what Disney Doorables are. How can I frequently ask questions about something that I’ve never heard of?

I think that you’re missing the point here.

Fine. What the heck are Disney Doorables?

Basically, they are Disney’s entree into the mini collectibles and blind bag game.  Think Shopkins, but on a Disney tip, with a door theme.

what are disney doorables

A door theme?

Yeah. The motto is “behind every door, a surprise is in store!”  Basically, the packaging that they come in is a blind box, with an opening that looks like a door. Cracking them open reveals which character (or characters) you got.  The element of surprise is what makes it fun!

So what does Disney have to do with them?

Each character is from a Disney property of some sort, which so far includes: Mickey and Friends, Tangled, Lilo and Stitch, Moana, Beauty And The Beast, Zootopia, Peter Pan, Frozen, Monsters, Inc, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio and Winnie The Pooh.

Go on.

Uhh.  So we’re talking lots of iconic and memorable characters. Ya dig?  Besides being tiny, what sets them apart from other mini collectibles are their sparkling, glittery eyes. For real, they’re pretty cute. Adoorable even. Haha. You won’t be able to handle them. Hoho. Your kids won’t be board playing with them. Hehe.

what are disney doorables

 

If you keep making terrible door puns, I’m going to pun-ch you.

Whoa sorry. I’l knock it off. Let’s move on.

That’s better. So how many Disney Doorables are there?

As of this writing, about 80. Like all things collectible, they vary in availability. According to the check list, they are categorized as common, rare, ultra rare, special edition, and limited edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you say limited edition? That sounds valuable. You’re hoarding a fortune’s worth, aren’t you? Pass ’em over, Mikey boy!

In the shipment that I got from Imports Dragon, I didn’t get any limited edition figures.  I’m not sure how valuable they are yet, either.

What ages are these things for? Can I leave them with my baby in their crib and walk away?

Nope. Despite being cute and shiny-eyed, they are really small. Like an inch high, that small.  Manufacturer recommended for children 5+.

That’s good, because I don’t have a baby?

Then why did you ask –

Are there just the figurines available? Or is there more stuff?

  Actually, there is more stuff. Each group of Disney properties also has an appropriately themed mini playset, available seperately. An island for Moana, the Beast’s chateau from Beauty And The Beast, a closet from the factory scare floor in Monsters, Inc, etc. The playsets come with Doorables and little accessories, too. The cool thing is that they are connectible and stackable, so you can mix them to make your own little Disney universe.

 

Can my kids connect them with other toys? Like Thomas The Train tracks, or a Breaking Bad lab playset?

Um, no to both, especially the second one. Stick to connecting the Disney Doorables sets only.

Got it. Disney. Hey, isn’t The View owned by Disney? When will we see a Whoopi Goldberg Doorable?

I’m guessing….never?

Well, if they do, shut up and take my money! I’ll buy them all. Speaking of which, where can I buy Disney Doorables?

Keep an eye out for them in the coming months at a retailer near you. Maybe they are already there. Otherwise, the usual suspects online, like Walmart, Amazon, Toys R Us (Canada), and Target all seem to be carrying them, presently.

Thanks for the information, but I kinda don’t trust you or your opinion.

For what it’s worth, my daughter, who really likes Shopkins, really likes these. Does that help?

I guess so. Anything else?

Nah, that’s all that I got. Happy Holiday shopping!

I hate you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dad’s Night Out – Toronto Festival Of Beer

toronto festival of beer

 

Despite how the saying goes, you can have too much a good thing. Take, for example,  the  Toronto Festival Of Beer (TFOB).

Now, in theory, a festival dedicated to all things brewed sounds pretty freakin’ glorious. And make no mistake about, the Toronto Festival Of Beer is pretty sweet, especially as an option for a dad/mom night out sans kids.  Taking place at Bandshell Park at Exhibition Place, this sprawling festival featured over 90 breweries setting up shop and offering over 400 beers. Not surprisingly, it also featured thousands of people looking to party.

Upon arrival, you’re given a mug, which is the most important piece of equipment that you’ll need for the duration of your stay, because the breweries will only serve you beer in it. You need to buy tokens, too (I went with 20 tokens for $20).  Depending on the brewery, one token usually got you half a pour; two tokens got you a full mug.  Some places required more tokens, though.

And this is where the problem of having too much of a good thing starts. With so many options, ranging from the big names, to less popular craft brews, to even non malt-based drinks, coming up with a game plan if you want to sample as much as possible isn’t easy. Shoot, even if you assume just sticking to the two-token half pours is a good idea, since a premium priced product should be superior, this isn’t even true. One of those that I tried was decidedly mediocre, and left me wondering what the fuss was about. To each their own though, especially when it comes to hops.

Complicating things is that TFOB isn’t just about drinking. There was also a nice selection of food choices, to satisfy many appetites. Not only that, but the music was banging, as well. On the night that I attended, the headliner on the OLG Bandshell Stage was Ludacris! I kind of forgot how many hits that guy has. This didn’t seem lost on the 11000 or so other people in attendance that night, who showed Luda a lot of love and created a dope atmosphere.

toronto festival of beer with ludacris

 

In addition, there was even non alcohol/food/music stuff to enjoy. I ended up lining up at an OLG truck for a while, to get my picture taken, and to receive a free prize (lottery tickets), for example. Fireside Cannabis also had a big area set up, where you could toast smores over a fire pit. So, of course I hung out there for a bit, toasting smores over a fire pit.

Basically, between the myriad of options of things to do, eat and drink, plus the fact that I staked out a spot in the middle of the crowd to watch Ludacris (negating my ability to go back and forth to grab drinks), I can honestly say that I left the  Toronto Festival Of Beer disappointed. Disappointed in a good way, though. It was a ton of fun, and I only wish that I indulged and took advantage more.  And really, for kid-free night out, what more could you possibly you want?

See you at next year’s fest!

 

 

Disclaimer: I received media passes to attend this event.Opinions expressed are my own.

Wings And Things – A Buffalo Bisons Baseball Game Story

buffalo bisons game

(Disclaimer: I received complimentary tickets for a Buffalo Bisons game from the team, in exchange for writing a post about the game. Opinions expressed are all mine, as usual).

Recently, I found myself doing something that I never would have dreamed of – cheering on a team of chicken wings.

Let’s set the scene.  The date in question was Father’s Day.  I had decided to celebrate by doing two of my favorite things – hanging out with the fam, and taking in a baseball game.  As a Toronto area guy, the obvious option would have been to go see the Toronto Blue Jays. In all honesty, though, that option was a pretty big meh for me. I love the Jays, but it costs a pretty penny to go a game. Which I get, don’t get it twisted. Big league product with the best players means you pay a premium to enjoy it. However, when you’re talking about an outing with a family of five, it ain’t a cheap afternoon. As well, the Jays just haven’t been all that good this year. I  really wasn’t feeling it, so I came up with a different idea – we’d go to Buffalo instead!

Buffalo is home to the Bisons, an AAA minor league team, who is a Blue Jays’ affiliate. While not major league quality, it’s not that far off, plus there are a bunch of recognizable names on the roster.  They were playing that day against the Rochester Red Wings.  I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I really do like the experience of attending a minor league game.

For one, it’s more affordable. Not just the tickets, but also the concessions, too. As well, the teams usually do more for the fans, to make things more enjoyable, For example, the Father’s Day game also happened to be ‘Logo Baseball Giveaway Day’, and you were allowed to play catch on the field afterwards. Between innings also had lots of freebies and giveways, too. The manager of the Red Wings even took the time to walk over and throw B a ball! Little stuff like that really does go a long way.

The Bisons play their games in Coca Coca Field. If you’ve never been to a Buffalo Bisons game, the downtown area is fairly nondescript, but smack dab in the heart of it is this beautiful stadium.  And really, it was night and day watching a game there, versus the Rogers Centre, where the Jays play. The atmosphere is just so much better in a ‘real’ ballpark, for lack of a better term.

Ok, now let’s talk about the wings. The Bisons and Red Wings decided to re-name themselves the Buffalo Wings and the Rochester Plates, respectively, for that weekend, both named after popular local food fares. Their logos and uniforms were rebranded, too, accordingly.  I gots love for Rochester, but Buffalo has more of a soft spot for me, from the Jays connection. And so, for one day only, I found myself sitting at a ball diamond, cheering on a team of chicken wings.

I even got to take a picture with a giant celery!

All in all, it was a pretty unique Father’s Day, and an awesome time at the park.

 

Casual Views From The Honda Indy Toronto

 

I’ll freely admit to not being much of a race car fan. Sure I appreciate the drivers’ abilities, and the engineering and speed of the vehicles. However, it’s just not something that I’ve ever gotten into. So, every year, when the Toronto Honda Indy takes place in Toronto, since the race runs on streets near the lake shore, I’ve been one of those people who would complain about traffic sucking that weekend, and stayed away from  the city. And I don’t even live in Toronto!

This year was different, though. I discovered that the Indy puts on a Fan Friday event. Instead of paying admission, a voluntary donation to Make-A-Wish Canada gets you onto the grounds, to experience all kinds cool stuff, both on and off track. Stuff like watching the drivers’ practice on the course, autograph sessions, and tons of other festival attractions, games and activities. Figuring this was a great way to find out what all the fuss about the Indy was about, I secured a media pass, and checked out Fan Friday with B.  Here are some thoughts and views, random style!

  • To avoid the traffic, we took Go Transit. It stopped at the Exhibition GO Station, which was right where the gates for the Indy were. Even better, kids under 12 ride free, if an adult has a ticket to the Indy!
  • The cars are loud! It was just practice sessions that day, but the roars of them speeding by was pretty deafening. Ear protection was a must, especially for B.

  • The grandstands were open to everyone. B and I hung out for a little bit there, to scope out the action, but many fans were there for long periods.
  • B and I spent a lot of time in the Honda Speed Zone. This area had the most kid-friendly games and activities. It also had free popcorn, cotton candy and snow cones.
  • The various sponsors’ booths and displays had quite a bit of free swag available, actually. There was also a decent selection of food trucks there, too {not free), and numerous beer gardens (also not free).
  • We were really looking forward to doing the Junior Red Riders. Kids would put on the proper safety gear, and ride dirt bikes in a controlled evironment. However, I didn’t realize that you had to come early, to register for this, and registration filled up quick. While waiting in line to play a game at about 11:00AM, I overheard another dad saying that the earliest time to participate in the Junior Red Riders was 4:30PM. Then, when we went over afterwards, registration was full for the day. Pretty disappointing, especially since I don’t think the early registration was made clear anywhere.

  • Many people were also rocking gear of their favorite drivers. Canadian James Hinchcliffe, in particular, was a big favorite.

  • Man, I suck at remote controlled car driving.  In our races, B consistently outran me. Don’t worry, he made sure to ask if I felt embarrased about the L.
  • Wandering around the paddock area is eye-opening.  Each team basically has an area set up, some more spacious than others. The cars are handled with such care and delicateness, too. It really is impressive, in terms of the amount of effort and manpower that they need, to get those things in peak condition.

  • Again, B and I are Indy car novices. While in the paddock area, our main discussion was who had the coolest name (conclusion: Will Power).
  • You didn’t have to go through the paddock area to get up and close personal to cars. Sick rides were all over the grounds.

All in all, B and I enjoyed our time there. I do have a newfound respect for the Honda Indy.  The crowd wasn’t overwhelming at Fan Friday, too, so it was a good way for novice fans and young fans to ‘get their feet wet, in terms of attending an Indy. For the price you pay, you really can’t go wrong.

Ok, let’s wave the checkered flag on this post. Until the next time, peace!

 

“Your Kids Shouldn’t Be Walking Around Here!” A.K.A. A CFL Game Experience With The Family

Disclaimer: My friends at The Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian Football League provided my family with complimentary tickets for their first game of the season.  Here are my random musings and thoughts about the experience that night, the Hamilton Tiger Cats players, and Tim Hortons Field:

hamilton tiger cats players

  • There’s a palpable buzz towards the team lately. Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy winning, former NFL quarterback, has taken his talents north of the border, and is making his “comeback szn” with the Ticats this year!
  • There were a lot of Manziel fans in attendance. Based on the conversations I overheard, there were also people who weren’t even football fans, but came to see what all the fuss was about. He was by far the most popular of all the Hamilton Tiger Cats players that night.
  • Admittedly, I’m a very casual fan myself. J and little K accompanied me that evening , but neither are fans. J’s six years old, so she was happy checking out the stadium and stuffing her face with food. KJ is one and a half. He was happy being anywhere.
  • We spent some time in Stripes’ Jungle, which is a really cool kids area in the stadium. I believe it was introduced last season, but this was new to us. It had a playground, and a face painting spot, while various mascots/team ambassadors were there, too. For little ones who get squirmy or restless during the game, this is a great place to go blow off some steam.

  • The Ticats’ gameday experience has really evolved over the years. It’s not about just buying a ticket to watch the game anymore. It’s also about hanging out, socializing and partying. Check out the stadium map, for example:

As you can see, almost everywhere you turn in the stadium, you’ll encounter a patio or lounge area of some sort.  I’m sure this has helped them attract more of the demographic who are into this type of vibe.

  • Back in the day, when I was a young boy,  I used to go to the odd game. The messed up thing is,  while I don’t remember anything specific about the games, or anything kid-friendly that occurred, I vividly remember incidents in the crowd. Drunk people yelling crude and vulgar things. Drunks fist-fighting. Drunken people making asses of themselves and being dragged out by police. I honestly don’t know if this was a Hamilton thing, or a CFL football thing, or what the deal was. It wasn’t this extreme at say,  a Toronto Blue Jays game, for example. Regardless, when I had kids, the memories of boorishness and non-family friendliness made the idea of taking them to see the ‘Cats unappealing. Eventually, I did bring B out years ago, and it wasn’t that bad. There is the odd belligerent person, and profanity, but it is better than I expect.
  • My most recent game was fine, too, in that regard, in the seats.  Some people were cussing out the starting QB and other Hamilton Tiger Cats players, because they wanted Manziel to come in. OK, whatever, not a huge deal. However, venturing out of our seats, to say, get food, or go the bathroom, was eye-opening. The concourses had a sports bar-atmosphere to them. Very rowdy, very alcohol-fueled. While fun, if you’re holding hands with two small kids, trying to navigate through it, it’s a bit treacherous. One large,stumbling dude almost trampled KJ, apologized, then yelled at me about it. “Your kids shouldn’t be walking around here!” He said, “There’s a lot of drunk people here!”
  • So, by that logic, if the concourses are boozefests, and almost every corner of the stadium has some lounge or patio, which potentially could also be full of inebriated individuals, the only “safe” place for small kids, then, is the Family Zone?
  • Yo, I’m not saying keep your kids away from Tim Hortons Field. J and KJ both had a great time, and there were lots of other little happy faces in attendance, too. Shoot, one of B’s all-time best memories was when he entered the Ticats’ Halloween costume contest two years ago, as Drake. People that night at the game were going nuts about him, treating him like he was the real Drake. He got to go down to field, be on the big screen, and win a gift card!
  • I’m saying that, in my experiences attending live sports, I’ve encountered some of the most drunken, disorderly fans at Ticats games. I’m sure lots of people go and don’t have any issues.  You get thousands of people together in one setting, looking to have their own version of a good time, well, it’s basically buyer beware, for sure. I’m not complaining; I made the choice to go, right? This is just my observation as a parent, to other parents. Take it for what it’s worth.
  • Moving along,  the Ticats’ all female cheerleaders have been replaced this year with a co-ed “performance” team.  When they weren’t entertaining the crowd with routines on the field, they entertained the crowd throughout the stadium. Their engagement level with the fans is more than the cheerleaders’ from the past, I think. I saw some of them in Stripes’ Jungle for example,  interacting with everyone there.
  • We didn’t stay for the whole game, as KJ and J both started to get sleepy after halftime. From what I saw, Manziel looked OK playing, for what it’s worth.

That’s all I got. With the Tiger Cats feeling optimistic, and Johnny Football in tow, this definitely has the makings for an interesting season in the Hammer.  Oskee-Wee-Wee!

 

 

 

 

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