Hold On Daddy's Coming!

Stories, rants and reflections by a clueless father of three

Archive for the category “Vacation”

Mario-Karting Through Tokyo Is A Thing You Can Do and It’s Glorious

When someone told me you could actually drive a go-kart through Tokyo while dressed as your favorite Mario character I really didn’t believe it. And apparently I’m not the only one….

Indeed, MariCar is a Tokyo-based company that is not affiliated with Nintendo, Mario, or anything having to do with the game that makes this activity so nostalgically amazing. I’m told this was all the subject of contentious copyright litigation. Evidently MariCar has some amazing lawyers.

Anyway. A group of friends from my command organized a 90-minute tour around the streets of Tokyo and it was on…like Donkey Kong. Oh yes.

We started in Yokosuka at the Navy Base and headed over to the train station. It’s about an hour and fifteen minutes to some place called “Akihabara”, which is the launch point for the trip. Meanwhile, “Akihabara” is super fun to say.

Navigating the Tokyo train system as a newcomer is not fun. I got through by repeating “now what am I supposed to do?” to my patient Japan-based friends each step of the way.  This is far more desirable than actually learning the system.  

Eventually we arrive at the MariCar location. They verify that you have an international drivers license and collect $50 – a small price to pay for a night of pure glory.

Now for the important part: picking a costume. I intended to go as a legit Mario character but the group was already saturated with Marios and Luigis. So, Jackie and I went with Toy Story.


Some members of the group were a bit more courageous and in no way is that a bad thing…


Having paid and dressed, we head out to the garage.

Now for the safety brief. The company rep asks us questions and gets a kick out of giving those who answer imaginary gold coins. As it turns out, they don’t allow you to throw bananas into the road, and this whole thing isn’t a race per se, its actually just a tour.   Regardless, the entire time I’m fantasizing about living out all my favorite scenes from Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift.  I’m sure it was a great safety brief.

We hop into the cars and they divide us into 5 person groups, each of which gets an assigned lead driver. Ours was sporting an amazing cat outfit and kinda didn’t speak English.  This worked out perfectly.

Ready, set, go!  

And there I was, driving through downtown Tokyo at sunset dressed as Sheriff Woody. It was fantastic. Unfortunately the initial rush didn’t last long, as our leader blew through a light just before it turns red, leaving half the group separated at a busy intersection. The cars straddle a busy intersection and the leader hops out to navigate the rest of the group to weave through a few cars and perhaps a bus or two. And that’s when I grabbed my camera…


Right about here is where it dawns on me: the fact that this whole thing is legal is a legit miracle. I mean, here I am making a mess out of local traffic without the slightest idea where I’m going and how to drive on the left side of the road…all while cars and busses go whizzing by just feet away.  But, whatever. “Hey guys let’s get a picture!”  


You’d think locals would hate everything about this operation, but quite the opposite seemed to be true. We found ourselves receiving applause and thumbs up virtually every step of the way. It was incredible. I mean, just imagine a business in the United States that encouraged foreigners to drive on legit city roads.  It’s actually horrifying.

About 45 minutes into the trip we stopped at the Tokyo Skytree for pictures. I’ve already taken hundreds, but when you’re gallivanting around Tokyo dressed as Sheriff Woody this is just what you do. Besides, any given picture could be that magical Facebook pic that says “I’m an adult with responsibilities but I also like to party.” Cheese!


We hop back in and drive. The course is a mix of highways, cross roads, and narrow alleys, and the route is not self-explanatory. Indeed, during our picture break someone tells me his lead driver got lost and had to use Google maps to get back on track. I don’t recall this being an option in Mario-Kart, but then again this is MariCar, which is totally different.

As for speed, these things go about “60km,” which means nothing to me because I’m from America and don’t use the metric system. It was fast enough.

Eventually we hear the sirens of a cop car. But the sound is ridiculously loud.   In addition to the siren I hear a man barking orders in Japanese from some megaphone. Apparently this is a regular thing here.  Fortunately he wasn’t coming to arrest me (although being dressed as Sheriff Woody would make for a great mug shot…).  This guy means business, so I make sure to get the heck out of the way.

About 90 minutes into the trip and we arrive at the garage where this adventure began. But we’re missing the fifth member of our group. None of us can recall how long she’s been missing. Uhh, whoops…

We notify our lead driver that a member of our group has gone missing. I’m guessing something got lost in translation, because immediatley his eyes light up with joy as he declares “THAT MEANS YOU WIN!” 


Minutes later, our entire group was reunited safe and sound.  Everyone provides assurances they will send the pictures they took.  

Frankly, the trip was glorious.  I cannot conjure up a better, more fun way to take a tour around Tokyo.

If you have a pen, put Real World Mario Kart on your bucket list immediately. And if you’re ever in Tokyo, run – don’t walk – to the magical place where they give you a car and a costume and let you tear up the city at night. I mean, the worst that could possibly happen is someone gets lost. And you know what that means?



Traveling With Twins: How We Survived A Week In Paradise

A note to all the soon-to-be-dads out there: nothing will slap you in the face and make you realize how different life is with children than going on vacation with them.  Trust me.   

Last month, we went on a family trip to Jamaica (awesomely paid for by my mother-in-law) and stayed at an all-inclusive resort.  The trip was excellent.  But also kind of exhausting.   

Preparations commenced days before the trip even began.  Jackie and I went through a mental checklist of things the babies “needed” to have, which also got us thinking about all the things we wouldn’t have on the trip – things like exersaucers and electronic pianos and bouncy seats.  Oh my!

Even so, Jackie packed a lot of stuff.  Mind you, I used to go on trips with literally just a grocery bag, so you can imagine my disbelief when I discovered we were bringing the following items: two gigantic suitcases, two not-quite-as-gigantic suitcases, a backpack, a stroller, a diaper bag, and Jackie’s purse.  Hooray baggage fees!

Here’s how it went down: we woke up at 3:30am, left at 4am, and got to the airport at 5am.  We were hoping the babies would be asleep the whole time, but one sure thing about vacations is that they throw sleep routines out the window from the moment they begin. 

Note: there are three sleep routine killers: vacations, Daylight Savings Time, and grandparents. That is a scientific fact.

Anyway.  We were sure to bring passports for the babies so they would be legit. 

Fast forward.  We’re checked in.  Next major obstacle?  Getting through security. 

Before we had kids, pretty much the only thing I ever worried about when going through security was whether or not my socks matched.  But with two babies and a million bags, there are far more important things to consider.  Things like… 

– What the heck am I supposed to do with this gigantic stroller?

– How am I gonna take off my shoes while holding a baby and placing bags onto the conveyor belt?

– Are there chemicals in this baby formula that will trigger a TSA pat-down?


Somehow we got through and on to the gate.  Once we get there, the kids are being pretty loud, but I have coffee at this point so it doesn’t really bother me.  And then I hear: “would Mr. Howland please approach the ticketing counter?” Oh boy… 

Note: I have never heard my name over the loudspeaker at an airport and had it be a good thing.  I’m gonna go ahead and say that unless you’re on standby, hearing your name at an airport is pretty much always a bad thing. 

So anyway, I hear the guy say something about how (I’m paraphrasing) “somebody’s flight somehow got mixed up and (blah, blah, blah), so I regret the inconvenience but you have been moved to the very back of the plane.”  Translation: your family’s gonna be obnoxious, so sit in the back and like it.   

Note: we actually did like it.  I would much rather be in the back of the plane where crying is drowned out by the sound of a ridiculously loud engine, and the babies can roam free.  So my whole theory about hearing my name over the loudspeaker is pretty much false…

Before we had kids, I slept on planes.  (Sigh…).  That was nice.  Now I hold babies.  On this particular trip, I got to sit with Riley, who hates sitting still!  I spent a decent portion of the plane ride on the ground, playing with her and allowing her to crawl through the aisle. 

Internal monologue: I used to see people doing these things and thought about how ridiculous they looked.  But then again I’m a big fan of American flag ties, Hawaiian shirts and fanny packs, so I guess I’m just carrying on a long history of looking ridiculous. 

Internal monologue continued: but seriously, there’s nothing ridiculous about American flag ties…

Well, we finally made it to Jamaica.  Normally when we arrive at all-inclusives the first thing I do is snag about six pieces of pizza from the kitchen and order a strawberry-banana daiquiri from the bar.  But now before I do any of that I need to make sure the hotel knows that we need two cribs in our room. 

“No, no, TWO cribs…twins…”

 After a great dinner, everyone is tired.  It’s a good night for everyone pack it up early and get some sleep.  And by “sleep” I mean stay up and party all night.  I’m serious.  You would have thought we laced their bottles with Red Bull.  Remember what I said about vacations throwing everything off?  It’s soooo true.      

A message to dudes out there who don’t have kids and think it’s ridiculous that new parents always talk about bedtime/naptime routines: you’ll be here soon, young grasshoppers.     

By 6:00am Jimmy was asleep and Riley was awake, so I took her out to breakfast where I notice lots of young couples with their infants/little children.  We didn’t sit together, and we didn’t talk to each other, but we all gave each other that forced “I-know-why-you’re-miserable” smile.  We’re all just parenting in paradise… 

I also talked to a woman who told me that there was a free nursery at the resort, and that she used to take her baby there during the day.  I asked: “IT’S FREE?”  Then I told Jackie about the nursery and she pretty much goes: “WAIT! IT’S FREE?”

That’s my wife!

Since this is not just a vacation story but also a survival story, let me just say that the resort nursery was our lifeline.  We took them in there from 1pm-5pm.  Until then, it was the storm before the calm.  In fact, one day, I asked Jackie what time it was.  A few minutes later I asked again.  Then I got busted.

Jackie:  “are you counting down the minutes until the babies go to the nursery?”  

Me: “uhh… no?”

When the babies weren’t in the nursery, they were in the sand.  Literally.   Of course, before we went out to the beach, we had to apply gallons and gallons of sunscreen.  See, Jackie usually gets the kids dressed and ready to go places, but because she hates putting on sunscreen and the kids get their pale complexion from me, she “allows” me to do it.  We cover them good: hats, sun shirts, etc.  At the beach, those babies looked more like they were going paintballing. 

And here’s another problem: one night Jimmy literally didn’t sleep.  He cried uncontrollably in our room for hours, and the only thing that calmed him down was fresh air.  So, at 2:30am, I grabbed the stroller and walked him for about an hour.  He eventually fell asleep in his stroller, and I slept on a loveseat in the lobby.  Turns out he had a fever…FOR MORE COWBELL!!!**

**Actually, he had an ear infection.  True story.  A cowbell probably would have made things worse…

Some lessons learned from our big trip:

1. Jamaican ants are attracted to baby formula.  Fortunately, Jackie doesn’t believe in killing ants… she believes in genocide!

2. Saying “respeck mon!” instead of “thank you” gives you a little bit more street cred in Jamaica. 

Note: but every time I said “respeck mon” people looked at me funny…

3. Riley loves having ice cream and cheese fries served to her on the beach.  And who wouldn’t? 

4.  Jamaicans are great dancers, but nerdy white guys like me can still teach them a thing or two!    It’s a good thing there’s paradise in parenting, because parenting in paradise can feel like it’s anything but. 

Jamaica: we came (with babies). We saw. We…survived.

This picture pretty much sums up the week perfectly

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