One of the great joys in life is taking my kids on trips. My travels and adventures with Myles have been well documented. We have hit Jazzfest in New Orleans together, a Phish show and more. Most of my time alone with Cole has been day trips and activities in New York City. This changed this past weekend.
I had the privilege of being alone with him for 2 ½ days in Hershey, PA - a packed couple of days that included many meals, 2 rounds of golf, swimming, rides, watching TV in bed, a movie and a little sheepskin.
The start of the trip was rough. Cole, Myles and I headed to the parking lot to get the car. The plan was to drop Myles at school and then head to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Halfway to school Kass calls to say I forgot Cole’s toothbrush. I turn around to get the toothbrush and then we drop Myles off at school. Almost to the Lincoln Tunnel, I realize that I forgot my phone charger. So I turn around again and head home to get the charger. The charger is key as my phone is the most important device I bring on the trip as I use it to document our every adventure.
Phone charger and toothbrush in hand, we finally get out of the city by 9 AM, a little behind schedule but there really is no schedule. That’s Lesson #1 of being with Cole. He just likes hanging out. He doesn’t really care what we’re doing. It’s the hang that’s important and everything else that happens is secondary.
Kass had given us a little gift for the road, a bag of gummy bears. Gluten-free and organic Cole has had gummy bears a total of 2 or 3 times in his life. They may as well have been the most expensive caviar in the world. We savored them. To ensure that we didn’t eat them all at once, I declared gummy bear time every half hour. So when the clock struck 9:30 AM, 10 AM, etc. we would indulge. I’d ask Cole how many he wanted. He would say 2 or 3, and I’d give him 5, 6 or 7. Lesson #2 with Cole, under promise and over deliver.
By 11 AM, we have killed the gummy bears. I have to take a leak. Cole is up from a brief nap. So I decide to pull over at Exit 19 on Route 78W. Little do I know that halfway between Harrisburg and Allentown PA, at the top of Exit 19, is Pat Garrett’s Sheepskin Outlet. The outlet, which operates out of a makeshift gas station and café, sells direct factory outlet sickafus sheepskins.
If you ever want ANYTHING made out of sheepskin, hit Pat Garrett’s. And if you’re a sheep, stay away. Women's sheepskin & shearling coats, men's sheepskin & shearling coats, spanish merino, shearling coats, women's fur coats, men's & women's leather coats, leather purses & bags, sheepskin & shearling,vests, sheepskin boots and slippers, sheepskin headwear, gloves & mittens, sheepskin hides, sleep comfort & rugs, deerskin chamois, sheepskin for infants, sheepskin seatcovers, wheelchair sheepskin pad, sheepskin pet pads, sheepskin gift certificates.
We didn’t buy any sheep products. But we did buy $4.20/gallon gas (cost me $75 to fill up my Toyota Sienna!). We used the bathroom, where they promote all their wares through 1990s promo pieces. And when we checked out, the clerk gave me a bright pink card and reminded me that they run www.sheepcoat.com <http://www.sheepcoat.com> and ship anywhere. Ecommerce is definitely here, if there were any doubt.
With warm memories of sheep and a great leak, Cole and I hit the road and one hour later, we are in Hershey.
Next to the check in at the hotel was a sign welcoming the Pennsylvania State Republican Party, which was having its annual meeting at the Hershey Lodge. We waited in line as a few of “them” checked in. Cole and I then stepped up. The lady behind the counter welcomed us. I said I was here for the New York Democratic Party meeting. No one laughed.
Next stop was the Bear’s Den. Instead of sitting across from me, Cole wanted to sit on my side next to me. Very nice. The food was aweful. But Cole and I spent most of the time playing tic-tac-toe. I won each time, thank you.
We then headed to the room to check it out. Cole loved it. He had his own bed. Big TV. That’s all he needed. We sat on the bed and watched TV for about an hour, lathered on the sunscreen and then headed to Hershey Links to play golf.
Cole has been around golf all his life. He joined Myles and me from a very early age (2 years) at Randalls Island to hit balls. He played minigolf with us. And last summer, when he was 3, I took him out on the course for the first time in Turks and Caicos. Cole played his first 18 hole round this past March at Sea Island.
Cole can hit the ball. But I don’t pressure him. No lessons. No adjustments. My only goal is to make sure he has fun. Since he started joining Myles and me at the range, Cole has grown to enjoy being around the game. He likes the flow of hitting the ball, running to get it and getting back to the cart. He likes putting on the greens. And he likes eating before and after the round, and drinking water during the round. Most of all, I think he likes it because he likes being with people and likes being included.
We get to Hershey Links Friday and the golf pros and staff could not be more welcoming. They speak to him. Ask him about his game. And make him feel like one of the guys. Thank you all at Hershey Links! You guys get it. I hate when courses don’t let kids come along. Foster a love of the game at an early age and you have a golfer for life!
We hit balls and then hit the course for 9 holes of hot (90 degrees) and humid golf. I played really well. Cole’s typical hole was wait for my second shot, hit a few balls, pick up, run to the green and putt out.
After golf, we head back to the Lodge and play 18 holes of minigolf at the resort. I have 1 hole in one (that’s all we count). Cole has one on #16 to tie. He does the hole in one dance.
We then hit the only “nice” restaurant we can find near the Lodge, Houlihans. The place is packed, so we hit the bar. The bartender, a nice woman in her mid twenties, takes a liking to Cole. She gives us a drink (he is drinking watered down lemonade and I have a beer) and chips as we wait. She asks him his age. Cole turns around and ignores her out of shock that a cute woman is speaking to him, embarrassment and shyness. We then eat – he has pasta and red sauce and I have an asian chicken salad. Beaten down and tired, we head to the hotel.
Cole takes a bath and plays his Ninendo DS. I then take a shower and go dressed for bed. I get into his bed to cuddle before he goes to bed at around 8 PM. 2 hours later I wake up from a successful nap, jump into my bed and go to sleep.
7 AM, Saturday. Cole wakes up. All I hear. “Dad, are you up? Dad, are you up? Can I get up?” I tell him he can do whatever he wants to do. It’s his trip and he’s on vacation. So he grabs his DS and turns on the TV as I sleep another hour.
8:30 AM. Dad is now up. Cole is feeling good. Good sleep. Video games and TV in bed. Time to grab food. We drive to Friendlys, right across Route 422 from the hotel. Closed. We then head into “town.” Red Robin, closed. Everything is closed! Hershey ain’t like NYC. We finally find a Starbucks. We grab a muffin (actually, he grabbed a donut, but don’t tell Kass) and head to Spring Creek Golf Course.
The golf course is a short, family-oriented 9 hole golf course just north of Hershey Park. It is long enough for me to enjoy and short enough to be fun for Cole. We play 3 holes and then run into a backup so we join up with a single golfer named Mike. He’s from Hershey, has a kid at RIT (5th year) and is getting ready for a golf trip to Myrtle Beach. He also sucks at golf. Cole beats him form the back tees.
We finish 9 holes at around 11 AM. It’s 90 degrees again. We’re drenched and head to Hershey Park via the shuttle at the Lodge.
We get there and Cole clearly has no idea what’s going on. We have gone from a nice golf course to Americana at its best, or worst – funnel cakes, more chocolate and crap food, obese families, too many people, rides, rides and more rides, more obese people, Crocs, Tivas and more Crocs, and giant Hershey bar characters. Hershey Park is to candy what Disney World is to imagination and princesses. The entire celebration of chocolate makes me sick. But I’ll leave that to another post.
We’re there to have fun. We’re having an awesome time together. So we decide to try the rides. First stop is the ski lift thingy that takes you from one side of the park to the other and back. Cole loves it. The chair lift takes you between the giant roller coasters, which is pretty cool. Cole makes it a point to tell me that he doesn’t want to go on “those” rides. They look too scary!
We grab some food (chicken nuggets for him and a turkey Subway sandwich for me) and then head to more rides. The train and then the flying airplanes. You sit in the open airplane and are twirled around at like 80 miles per hour. Cole loves it. I’m ready to leave. We grab a pretzel (he wanted candy but I push back on that due to the gummy bears from the day before and a chocolate bar after lunch).
Next stop, the swimming pool at the Lodge. Perfect break in the day. After being outside all day, we are overheated and need to cool down. The pool is not too crowded. We sit, play and head back to the room to change.
At this point, I figure Cole is going to pass out for the rest of the day. I have dreams of a nap and room service. Cole, however, has Kung Foo Panda stuck in his head. So we head out to see Kung Foo Panda with Jack Black at Cocoaplaza Cinemas.
When a big movie comes out in New York, it sells out. So I assume we need to get there early for opening Panda weekend. That’s not the case in Hershey! We get to the theater 45 minutes early. And we’re the only ones there. The ticketboy looks at us like we’re crazy. Cole sees the video games and we head over to play games while we wait.
He takes 2 attempts at the “big claw gets small furry stuffed animal” game. No luck. So we head over to the snowmobile game and end up burning $10 trying to finish in first. Cole’s best finish, 6th place. Mine? 3rd. Argh. We could have stayed there for hours, but the movie was starting.
We LOVE the movie. We’re both laughing throughout. The other 2 people in the theater think we’re crazy. The movie ends and I realize that we’re 10 ½ hours, 9 holes of golf, several rides, a swim and a movie into the day. I figure I need to get back to the hotel so Cole can crash. Nope. He wants dinner. Lesson #3: Cole is never too tired to eat.
So we head to a little Italian place right next to the Lodge. I’d use the actual name if the place weren’t completely forgettable. We split a chicken parm and now we’re both exhausted. Totally, completely exhausted. Sun-burnt exhausted. The kind of exhausted you usually only get after 36 holes of golf on a hot day. It feels like we’ve played 65.
So we head back to the hotel. Cole is too tired to take a shower. He passes out. I get a second wind and I spend the next 4 hours writing my presentation for a conference this week.
We get up on Sunday, hit the breakfast buffet since we know nothing else is open, and we head back to New York City.
The good news is that no one got hurt. The great news is that Cole and I have had a weekend we will both remember. Forever. Cole is a wonderful boy. He is kind and sweet unlike any other kid I’ve ever met. I say often that I’m the luckiest man in the world. And Cole showed me why this past weekend. Cole is a joy to be with and I have no doubt that he will grow into a loving, kind, really cool man.
I can’t wait until our next trip together, Colie Bear!