Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

No, we @!$! AREN'T there yet!

More hissing in car than in snake pits on family vacation

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It's summer and everyone with a family knows exactly what that means.

It's time for the annual fun family vacation, wherein everyone piles into the family car and, within minutes, drives off a cliff, because you have been driven insane by the constant bickering and the fact offspring No. 1 insists on sitting on offspring No. 2's side of the (bad word) car, even though No. 2 drew an invisible line down the middle of the (bad word) seat.

The problem is, as Canadian citizens, you are required by federal law to experience fun family vacations so that, in years to come, you can look back and, in your heart of hearts, come to a deep spiritual understanding of why everyone in your family hates one another.

The biggest challenge in planning a family vacation -- even bigger than deciding which offspring you are going to leave at the nearest gas station -- is to figure out where to go to maximize your fun experience. As a public service, I spent several minutes on the Internet on Tuesday plotting out some attractions you will not want to miss.

Based on an outstanding article I have just read in Reader's Digest's online magazine, I am going to suggest you start your excursion at the Calgary Stampede, where you can take in the 20th annual Testicle Festival, which I wish I was kidding about but, sadly, am not.

Every year during the Stampede, Calgary's Buzzard's Cowboy Cuisine restaurant and its adjoining pub, Bottlescrew Bill's, serves up platters of prairie oysters, the polite term for bull bits. You can feast on something called "bacon-wrapped tendergroin." Don't forget to pick up the official festival T-shirt, sporting such sensitive slogans as: "Having a ball!" You'd be nuts to miss it.

Now that everyone has eaten, hop back in the car and head west to the bustling city of Duncan, B.C., because the kids are going to want to feast their eyes on the World's Largest Hockey Stick, which stretches 62 metres and tips the scales at 28,000 kilograms.

Listed as No. 3 on Reader's Digest's list of Canada's 10 Biggest Things, the giant stick was made from Douglas fir and was created for Expo '86 in Vancouver, which I attended and can therefore state categorically that, if you were to use this stick in an actual hockey game, you would instantly be crushed flatter than that poor porcupine Dad ran over when you left Calgary.

But you don't have time to worry about flattened porcupines, because it's time to steer in the direction of our beloved province -- which, in case you have forgotten where you live, is Manitoba -- to spend some quality family time at the Narcisse snake pits.

Mom and Dad will especially have fun trying to cover the kids' eyes to shield them from the fact that what the tens of thousands of garter snakes are doing is rolling themselves into huge hissing balls to have (Note to sensitive readers: Skip this next bit if you are offended by words beginning with the letter S) sizzling snake sex.

If you stick to the special viewing platforms, you will have time to marvel at a miracle of nature and answer some difficult questions from the kids, such as: Why don't these snakes just get a website like everyone else?

Once the snakes have reduced their stress level, they slither off to wetlands and spend the summer getting fat on minnows and toads, which are better for their health than smoking tiny snake-sized cigarettes.

Speaking of places with naughty names, once you've savoured snakes, it's time to visit the picturesque Niagara region of southern Ontario to view one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. No, we are not talking about THOSE waterfalls. We are referring to the majestically named Balls Falls, which are the highlight of the Ball's Falls Conservation Area.

You might want to hurry, though, because the website offers this urgent tip for tourists: "You should be warned, however, that the falls can dry up completely in late summer."

We hear there's medication for that, but that's not today's travel point. Today's point is we have arrived at your final vacation spot, which rates as No. 4 on Reader's Digest's list of Canada's 10 Strangest, Crudest and Rudest Town Names. We are referring, of course, to Crotch Lake, Ont.

Travel tip: Make sure to bring along a lot of baby powder, because as the website points out: "Poking fun at its name is a shot below the belt, especially since Crotch Lake gives plenty of reasons to visit the nether regions of the North Frontenac Park Lands."

Once you've scratched that off your list, so to speak, you can point the car towards home, stopping first at the kennel to pick up Rover and Mr. Whiskers. They sure look relaxed, don't they? Maybe next year you can join them at the kennel. Talk to the spouse about that, just as soon as you get that big ball of snakes out of the back seat.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 10, 2013 A2

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