A Grand Plan

This entry is part 6 of 25 in the series Cruising With the Mothers

“They just announced that the shore excursions are available for booking,” I said. “I think we should act fast.”

“Well what are the options?” Kris asked.

“The standard HAL excursions,” I said.

“What are they?”

“You never looked at the list?”

“No. Was I supposed to?”

“I suggested it a long time ago.”

“Well, I didn’t look. Tell me what they have.”

Oh, boy… I got my telephone headset and plugged it in. “Still there?” I asked.

“Yeah. Go ahead.”

Over the next hour, I read and re-read the available excursions. For Kris, only one excursion stood out – a trip to Bird Island off Sydney, Nova Scotia, to see the Puffins. “You need to find out what your mother wants to do,” I said.

“Hang on a second. She’s coming in now,” said Kris. I could hear her call to her mother. “Hey ma, we have to pick our shore excursions…” The rest of their conversation was muffled. Kris came back on the line. “She already got her tickets, and there’s a shore excursion booklet in the package.”

“And she brought it to the camp?”

“Yeah. We’ll look at it and call you back,” said Kris.

I made an exaggerated growling sound into the phone. “Grrrrrrr…”

“Sorry – I didn’t know.”

After we hung up, I took a deep breath and dialed my mother.


“Ma. You need to tell me what shore excursions you’re interested in. Did you get the booklet?”

“Yes. I’ve already looked at it. I’ve been to every single place they’re offering, except for the coal mine in Syndey.”

“Is that because you aren’t interested in coal mines?”

“No, I didn’t know there was one up there. I’d love to go. It sounds fascinating. Did I ever tell you about…”

I interrupted. “Well, you know I’m claustrophobic, so I won’t be going with you.”

“Oh, I don’t mind going alone if nobody else wants to go. Otherwise, I’ll do whatever everybody else wants to do. You decide.”

“OK, I’ll get back to you.”

“You should really go to the Alexander Graham Bell museum when we’re in Sydney. You’ll love it. Did you realize that he invented…”

An hour later, we exchanged goodbyes. I hung up the phone and it rang immediately.

I answered. “Hello.”

“Hi, it’s me.”

“Can’t be – I’m me. You’re you.” Always the wise guy…

“Here’s the deal. My mother wants go to the Anne of Green Gables house in PEI, and she wants to do the ‘Sailing on the Bras D’Or Lakes Grand Tour’ in Sydney,” Kris began.

“Whoa, wait a minute. That’s a small boat tour. Your mother won’t go on a small boat.” I said. “Now that I think of it, I’m surprised she agreed to go on a huge boat.”

“I know, I know,” said Kris, “but that’s what she said.”

In more than 25 years at the lake, I had never seen Pat in a boat. The family told stories about the last time she played the role of “observer” for the water skiers, more than 30 years ago – bundled up in a life preserver, white as a ghost and holding on for dear life. I think they mentioned something about screaming, too. “Come to think of it, Bar Harbor is a tender port. How are we going to get her to shore?”

“She’ll have to cope,” said Kris. “I’ll go with her on the lake tour, in case she freaks out. You should do something with your mother that day, unless you guys want to do the boat thing, too.”

“My mother wants to do the mine tour.”

“You wouldn’t do that, would you?” Kris asked.

“No way,” I said. My claustrophobia requires that I keep my lower legs and feet out from under the covers in bed. Only my phone-a-phobia is more powerful.

“Would your mother want to go by herself?”

“She said she wouldn’t mind.”

“Then you can come with us,” Kris said.

“You have the book right there, don’t you?” I asked.


“How much is it?”

“$119,” Kris answered.

“If that’s Canadian dollars, I might. If it’s American dollars, forget it.”

“Well, what are you going to do?”

“’Nothing’ sounds just fine to me. Maybe I’ll get a massage in the hot tub – and a pedicure…”

“Whatever. Maybe you should treat yourself – you deserve it.” I could see right through that one.

“I could get my nose hair done, and…”

“Oh, stop it,” said Kris.

“OK, I’ll go on the sailing trip with your mother. I wouldn’t want you to miss the Puffins.”

“Oh, thank you, dear. What about Bar Harbor?”

“Well, we’ve all been there, so maybe we should just…”

“My mother has never been to Bar Harbor,” Kris said.

“You’re kidding. She grew up in Maine.”

“I know, but she’s never been there.”

“OK. How ‘bout this,” I said. “I remember seeing a really cool tour where they pick you up at the dock in a limo, drive you all over the place and then take you to a mansion for a private lunch and a walk through the flower gardens.”

“Oooo. I saw that one in the book, but it’s pretty expensive, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but our mothers are worth it,” I said. “It’ll be our special treat.”

“I think that’s a great idea,” said Kris. “Now, I’d like to go sea kayaking in Halifax, and mom would like to go to Peggy’s Cove for the lobster lunch.”

I was taking notes, and added to the list. “OK – what do you want to do in PEI?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Nothing really appealed to me. Will your mother go with my mother to Anne of Green Gables? I’m not really interested,” Kris said.

“I doubt she’d want to. She’s been there before.”

“Will you ask her? I thought you and I could go on the Confederation Bridge tour,” Kris said.

“Bridge tour?” I asked with surprise in my voice. “Unless the Confederation is a ship, why would you want to go on a bridge tour?” I knew all about the Confederation Bridge. It is a remarkable bit of engineering: 8 miles long and 36 feet wide, averaging 131 feet above the water. I’ve been forthcoming about my phobias, and although bridges aren’t high on the list, they aren’t my favorite places to be. Kris, on the other hand… “Excuse me…do you remember how you reacted on the bridge into Charleston? This is just like that – a skinny little thing way high up, except a hundred-thousand times longer.”

“I know. You don’t actually go on the bridge. They just take you to look at it,” she said.

“I don’t know…maybe we’ll just rent a car and drive around,” I said. “I’ll work something out.”

“Good. That was easy,” said Kris. “When are you coming up to the lake?”

“As soon as I book the excursions,” I said. “See you soon.”

We disconnected. I needed to call my mother back and finalize the excursion choices, but felt the need to stretch a bit. I walked down to the end of the driveway and collected the mail. In the pile was a package from the publisher. I opened it. First, the good news – they loved it. Then, the bad news – they wanted some changes and corrections. Then, the worst news – I had seven days to finish two weeks worth of work. So much for the lake. So much for the Fourth of July…

I called my mother, and in 87 minutes, obtained the following information:

  • She was up for anything in Bar Harbor (I didn’t tell her what I planned – that was to be a surprise).
  • She had indeed been to the Green Gables House – twice – but would gladly accompany Pat because she’d been everywhere else on PEI twice as well.
  • She’d gladly go on the lake sailing tour in Sydney, but still wouldn’t mind going to the mine alone.
  • She wouldn’t mind going to Peggy’s Cove again, but she reminded me that she doesn’t like lobster. I admitted that I wasn’t aware of that fact, and questioned how a New Englander could possibly not like lobster – especially when it is drenched in butter, which, after all, is mother’s favorite food. I got nowhere with that reasoning, and assured her that they served chicken, too.

I made one more call to Kris to verify the plan and tell her that my holiday was cancelled. Here’s how we left it:

  • Bar Harbor: Everyone takes a limo tour to see the spectacular sights, and then we dine in luxury.
  • PEI: The mothers go to Green Gables. Kris and Chester walk around and refrain from making ill-considered purchases – maybe rent a car and take a thrill ride over a scary bridge (that would be a surprise, too)…
  • Sydney: Kris sees the Puffins, and the mothers sail on the lake. Chester gets his nose hair done on the ship, unless he feels guilty and includes himself on the sailing tour at the last moment.
  • Halifax: The mothers go to Peggy’s cove for chicken and chicken lobsters, Kris goes sea kayaking, and Chester takes the Titanic Tour.

Excellent. Now all I had to do was make the reservations.

I love doing things online. Computers are so logical and efficient, and with the advent of cable modems, there’s not a telephone in the process anywhere. I work with computers every day, and I know how to make them sing…

I sat at my computer and made my way to HAL’s website. I was struck by the irony. Presumably, most people are familiar with the movie 2001, A Space Odyssey, and remember well the villainous computer central to the story – HAL.

I chuckled at the name association, clicked the shore excursion link and plunged straight into a computer nightmare that even Stanley Kubrick couldn’t have envisioned…

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