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Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Nisbett Cousins' Trip 2007 - Hershey, PA!

OK, Here's the full report on the cousins' trip. The second group left for the airport at about 1:45 on the way to our 5:40 flight out of St. Louis. We started a game of Phase 10 in the car on the way, with all 8 of us playing.

After parking the van, we took a shuttle to the terminal. On the way we learned that the first group had arrived in PA. While checking in, we found that because of a storm over Atlanta our flight had been delayed to 6:30. We were a little concerned because we had only planned for about a 30 minute layover in Atlanta and so with this delay we might miss our flight and have to spend the night in Georgia.

Nevertheless, there was nothing to be done at the moment, so we went and found dinner and watched the planes taking off and landing.

And then we broke out the Phase 10 game again!

When we finally got onto the plane, we were told that we were supposed to arrive in Atlanta at 9:08pm. Our flight out was supposed to leave at 9:06 and so it was going to be close, but the weather might delay the flight and we were also hoping that with 8 of us on the flight, they might wait for us anyway.
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Soon after getting on the plane, the cards were out again and the game continued.

For some reason, Japheth developed a tendency toward skipping me, which he said was because I was taking pictures of him. It continued after I handed the camera off to someone else though.

As the sun went down there were some really nice clouds. Unfortunately, the airplane windows were hard to photograph through and so very few of my pictures turned out. This one was actually taken by Josiah on the other side of the airplane.
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While on the airplanes, we used the overhead lights to signal when someone had laid down their cards and made the phase.

When we reached Atlanta, it was about 9:20. We got off the plane as quickly as possible and rushed to the departing flight schedule to check which gate we needed. We discovered that our flight had been delayed until 11:00 and so we actually had an hour and a half! The flight departed from the next concourse, so we walked all the way from the end of concourse B to the escalators and took them down to the train between the concourses.

These trains moved very fast, and we learned that when the little electronic voice said to hold on because the train would be stopping, it would be wise to do so.

After we reached the proper gate (which happened to be at the very end of concourse C) the cards came out yet again for the continuation of the game.
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We hadn't played much more than one round though, when an announcement was made that our flight would now be departing from gate D 32 (yet another concourse over) so we packed up the cards again, walked back to the train, took it to the next concourse, found our gate, and as should be expected by now, got out the Phase 10 game.

Here, Donna took advantage of having the camera to spy on Joel's cards. She had to try a couple of times before she got them in the picture because she couldn't see through the camera's viewfinder while pointing it over the seat.

We finally reached the Harrisburg airport just after 1:00am and we were greeted by Amy. I don't know that I've ever seen such an empty airport before.

The next morning the kids were playing their own card game after finishing their breakfast.

Here, Joy is holding Eliah, our first cousin once removed (in other words, our cousin Jordan's son). The cousin shirts this year were modeled after Hershey's bars, with the front saying Nisbett's cousin trip 2007 and the back displaying statistics on our trips (i.e. percentages of Six Flags and non Six Flags theme parks, number of states visited, etc.) in a form that looked just like the nutrition facts label.
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Since we had flown into Hershey, we didn't have a vehicle to take to the different locations, but they weren't extremely far from where we were staying, so we had a 15 minute walk each morning on our way to the activities of the day. I didn't bring my camera to HersheyPark but you can see the Wildcat (a wooden rollercoaster that was added to the park in 1923) which we walked by on our way to the Chocolate World building.

Josiah is examining the building while standing in front of an advertisement for the Really Big 3D Show. It was one of the best 3D shows that I've seen, not for the plot (which was creative, but a little silly), but for the extra special effects. We were showered with water several times (once was when a juicy spider popped in our face!), snowed upon, felt the ground shake under our feet, and - the only one that I couldn't figure out until I examined the seats after the show - could feel mice and other little animals brush against our legs as they scattered through the crowd. It turns out that there were small rubber tubes that extended from the seat and then whipped around, flopping against your legs.

After the show, we ate lunch at the cafeteria there. Amy mentioned that she thought it was a little cool in the building and so Rhonda fashioned some sleeves for her with napkins and the sticks that had been placed in our sandwiches to hold them together.

We were also treated to a ride through a mock factory and showed all the steps in the process of making milk chocolate and packaging the candy.
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Once we were finished at the Chocolate World building, we walked around HersheyPark to ZooAmerica - a zoo specializing in North American animals. It was interesting, because most of our zoos here have mostly exotic animals and not as many natives. I had my supertelephoto lens on and so I only got pictures of the animals. Perhaps I can find someone else's people pictures later.

A Crocidile eye


some sort of Tortoise (I never saw the sign that told us what it was)

A Barn Owl
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Red Tailed Hawk

Prairie Dog

Golden Eagle

A Porcupine hanging out and looking cool.

At this point, my camera battery ran out and so I don't have any more pictures. We took a trolley ride around the town that was really fun. The "conductors" were actors who talked about the history of Hershey. Well, one of them talked about the history while the other one ran off the trolley early on because he forgot his camera. Then all through the ride, various historical people showed up at each stop and shared some of the history with us. Surprisingly they all looked and sounded somewhat similar to our original conductor. ;-) We were also treated to songs whenever we weren't driving by anything of interest. Our original conductor finally caught up to us just before the end of the ride, but he had already missed the trip. Supposedly it was his first day and so he apologized for running off and then told us that we had no idea what he had gone through while finding us.

Our flights the next morning were at 6 and 6:30 am the next morning so we planned to leave at 4am. Rather than get just a few hours of sleep, 5 of us guys decided to try to do an overnighter for the fun of it. We made it fine until the next morning, but it was increasingly hard to stay awake the next morning during the flight and drive home. Instead of getting a bunch of taxis to the airport, we hired a trolley from the taxi service. We got a call from the security guy that morning telling us that our taxi driver was there and that he had told him to pull around to our building. When we got downstairs with our luggage, we found that he was very surprised when a trolley came around. Apparently he wasn't expecting that at 4 am! We had fun imitating the conductors from the previous day's trolley ride and sang songs half of the way to the airport. The driver seemed a little amused.

We tried playing Phase 10 again on the way back, but some of us started falling asleep; Japheth even managed it in the middle of his turn. We were fine as long as there was activity, but sitting in comfortable seats with nothing going on made it hard to stay alert. Our flight arrived whithin a few minutes of the other group and so we all piled into a shuttle to the parking lot. The ride home was fairly uneventfull from what I saw, although I took a nap during the last hour or so.
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Monday, July 09, 2007

Nisbett Cousin Trip 2007

Today all the Nisbett kids (except Glory) embark on our 18th annual cousins' trip. It all started with a trip to Six Flags each year with Dad's sisters Donna, Margie, and Rhonda. As we got older we extended the trip to a longer camping trip with various activities but we always go to a theme park. We have been all over the country with destinations including CO, IL, OH, AR, MO, TX, and KY. This year we are breaking a bit from tradition and are flying (instead of driving) to Hershey, PA - "the sweetest place on earth" - and staying in a suite (rather than camping)

The picture above is from one of the first trips to Six Flags. Amy and I (Adam) were the only ones in our family old enough to go on that trip

Here the little kids are preparing to leave this morning. We are split into two groups for the flight; the first group left this morning and will layover in Cincinatti and our group will leave later this afternoon and will layover in Atlanta. (We got our tickets on priceline so they're affordable, but not as convenient.)

If we have time (and internet access) at the hotel, I may try to post somewhat live updates from the trip. Otherwise, I'll have a report when we get back. We'll be going to the Hershey factory tour and theme park as well as ZooAmerica.
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July 4th activities

I failed to get any pictures of our main display of fireworks, but we usually also get an assortment of the smaller fun things for the younger kids to play with in the following days. These mini displays are often quite creative with the highlight this year being when a tank attacked a house, which started to smoke, crackle, and burn. Just at the highlight of the display a parachute was launched out of the top of the house.

Joel and John also devised a game in which they tried to catch the sticks from the little bottle rockets before they touched the ground. Here are a few pictures from their game:

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We've discovered that if a firecracker is bent in half, it will simply shoot flames out, rather than explode. Josiah set up a chain reaction of these and lights the first one.

Which lights the second one...

Which lights the next one... and so on until the end of the line.
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Any and all leftover pieces are used to make the firecrackers more interesting. Here, Nathanael prepares a small display using bent firecrackers.

John lights it...

And it blows!
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An interesting smoke bomb concoction

Snap pops look more impressive at night!
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