Visiting a Trampoline Park

This past week we decided to select an entertainment venue other than a movie theater, bowling alley, or bar. Rather, we opted for a trampoline park. In Spokane, a couple of these attractions have popped up around town in the past couple years. A trampoline park is a large area that is devoted to trampolines (big surprise) and obstacles. It is an outlet to release energy and work up a sweat.

On Monday my brother, girlfriend, sister’s family, and I went to Get Air, a trampoline park located in an anchor space in Northtown Mall. We decided to purchase the one hour jump option. I paid for my brother and girlfriend and between the three of us the total was $45. This price is broken down by the $12 fee per hour per jumper plus the special socks we had to purchase to jump in the facility. With the transaction made and our wristbands snapped on, we changed out of our shoes and entered the park.

This is the entrance to the Get Air trampoline park in Northtown Mall in Spokane.

This is the entrance to the Get Air trampoline park in Northtown Mall in Spokane.

Get Air is designed in a really cool way with lots to do. When you first enter you are greeted by built-in floor level trampolines running all over the place. Back a bit and to the right you have two foam pits that you jump into. A little ways past the foam pits you have two basketball hoops elevated at different heights. The “courts” for the hoops are trampolines. Adjacent to the foam pits is an obstacle course. There is also an additional obstacle course with different challenges located directly behind the main level trampolines. Behind the second obstacle course is a dodge ball arena. You also have other stations around the facility such as a tight rope challenge and trampolines that extend on the walls.

We entered the facility and started to jump, jump, jump. After ten minutes we all looked around at one another and admitted that we were tired. That’s right, only 20% through our experience and we were already sucking air as young kids who had been in the facility for most likely hours jumped around us effortlessly. But after facing the fact that we were not in “trampoline shape” we got back to exploring the park and the fatigue actually gradually vanished from our systems or we just simply forgot about it.

I became pretty exhausted just after the first ten minutes.

I became pretty exhausted just after the first ten minutes.

Let me say this: Trampoline parks are not easy. Some might think that you don’t need to put forth any effort to jump high and fly around like a super human but that is not accurate (well, at least not for adults). In order to “get air” you have to exert quite a bit of force on the tramps to propel you. You don’t have as much control as you might think either. For someone my age, you have to work hard to pull off even the most elementary flip.

The attraction at the park I liked the most was the foam pit. You had an especially springy trampoline to jump on that would allow you to perform your stunt and then land in a cushy pool filled with foam blocks. Any fear of hurting yourself was quickly diminished after the first jump. Tumbling into the foam pit is as pleasant as falling down on a comfortable bed after an exhausting day. It really felt that good and it gave you the confidence to do whatever you wanted. However, getting out of the pit was another story. It was a genuine struggle to navigate out of the foam blocks, a workout in and of itself.

The foam pit made doing flips very comfortable.

The foam pit made doing flips very comfortable.

The dodge ball arena was cool but it is basically a big free-for-all with little structure. I wasn’t athletic enough/tall enough to dunk on one of the basketball hoops but my brother was able to. I couldn’t take two steps on the tight rope without falling off. The obstacle course that was designed for racing provided a great challenge. You run over elevated mats, navigate over a net, and climb a wall. Although the falls don’t look too steep when you are watching people do it, once you are on top of the mats/walls you realize you have a big drop. I did the obstacle course and successfully finished although I did slightly injure my groin while climbing over the net.

Employees in referee shirts patrol the area. If you break a rule, you will get whistled at. Before we arrived we filled out the necessary waiver at home. We blindly signed the long document. There was also a video that you were supposed to watch but we bypassed that as well. Lockers and cubby-holes are available to use. A couple drinking fountains with good pressure and cold water are nearby. Inside the park there are a couple couches where you can take a load off and regain your energy.

The park closed at 9 p.m. which was perfect because it coincided with the end of our hour. I was drenched in sweat. We all had a good time and agreed that it was a great alternative to the more traditional entertainment options. If you want something different to do that will also get your heart rate up, consider visiting a trampoline park. Don’t Blink.

My 2014 Thanksgiving Holiday

I can say without a doubt that spending a long holiday weekend with my family after seven months in a state 3,000 miles away was very nice and rejuvenating. This evening I will hop back on a plane to begin a red-eye journey back to Myrtle Beach. But before all of that happens, I will briefly share what I did during my time in Spokane.

Tuesday: I arrived at the Spokane International Airport at 3:40 p.m. after a 12-hour travel day. My parents greeted me and took me back home. After some quick catching up, my mom and I went over to my sister’s house where I got to see my niece for the first time (I wrote extensively about this in my previous blog post). We then came back to my parents’ house and waited for my younger brother to arrive. Once he did a fabulous steak dinner was cooked up and I savored every single bite. After the meal I chatted with my family for the rest of the night.

The first night in Spokane was great. My mom picked me up at the airport, I met my niece for the first time, I got to see my bro, and I enjoyed a great steak dinner.

The first night in Spokane was great. My mom picked me up at the airport, I met my niece for the first time, I got to see my bro, and I enjoyed a great steak dinner.

 

Wednesday: Still on east coast time, I woke up at 2:30 a.m. but managed to stay in bed until 5:30 a.m. I got up and talked to my parents while they got ready to go to work. During this time my mom helped me take my Thanksgiving holiday greeting. I spent a relaxing morning watching sports talk programming. I later met up with my sister and niece at their home. We then went to my dad’s work and said hi. From there we went to my mom’s work and also said our greetings. Co-workers at both places were thrilled to see Mikayla and actually happy to meet Miranda and I as well. My mom got off early and after the four of us had cold cut combos at Subway, Miranda and her daughter went home and my mom and I went to run some errands. We braved the Costco frenzy, looked around the mall, ordered a take-n-bake pizza at Papa Murphy’s, and picked up ice cream for a dessert pie at Cold Stone.

We took Mikayla to both the workplaces of my parents.

We took Mikayla to both the workplaces of my parents.

 

Once back at the house my dad and brother arrived home from their workdays. My mom cooked the pizza and we all sat downstairs and watched “Jeopardy” while eating. After watching the Gonzaga basketball game, my brother and I went out on our Thanksgiving Eve watering hole tradition. We saw a lot of old friends and encountered some new ones. It was definitely a fun night.

My mom making her ice cream pie and my brother and I right before we went out.

My mom making her ice cream pie and my brother and I right before we went out.

Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving! The day started with my brother and I going to the field of our old middle school to play in the 9 a.m. Turkey Bowl (aka two-hand touch football game with former friends and teammates in high school). On a gorgeous Thanksgiving morning, we ran around for two hours playing our washed-up hearts out. My brother and I played on the same team and with him at quarterback we connected on numerous completions. It was a lot of fun and our team came out on top.

My brother and I right before the Turkey Bowl.

My brother and I right before the Turkey Bowl.

 

We arrived back home and showered up. We watched the second half of the Lions’ win over the Bears and then watched the first half of the Cowboys-Eagles game. Right when halftime hit, it was time for our Thanksgiving feast. My mom once again outdid herself as she prepared turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, sweet potato balls, salad, lasagna, stuffing, and gravy. We chomped away and I must say I don’t think I can ever remember a better tasting Thanksgiving meal. We then watched the Eagles put the finishing touches on the Cowboys. My dad then had the chaplain from the hospital he works at come over for some Thanksgiving cheer and dessert.

On Thanksgiving we had a great feast and got to take some family photos.

On Thanksgiving we had a great feast and got to take some family photos.

 

We all went down to the basement and watched the Seattle Seahawks-San Francisco 49ers game. A good time was had by all as we ate pumpkin pie and ice cream pie and watched the Hawks beat the 49ers in San Francisco. After the game my brother, mom, and I went to the movie theater and watched “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1.” As with the previous two installments, it was an excellent movie. Despite a huge Thanksgiving feast we still managed to fill our faces with popcorn. We then came home and talked into the wee hours of the morning.

"Hunger Games 3" was a great movie.

“Hunger Games 3” was a great movie.

 

Friday: My brother and I left the house at 8 a.m. to join in on the Black Friday mania. Although it wasn’t exactly mania. Thanksgiving sales have taken a big bite out of the Black Friday rush. But we still had a good time going to a couple malls, Sports Authority, and Old Navy. Before noon hit, the two of us honored another longtime tradition as we bellied up at the Mustard Seed bar in Northtown Mall to watch football. We watched several games including the Arizona-Arizona State rivalry tilt. The highlight though was when our good friend Siera came and hung with us. I met her at a volunteer opportunity about 7 years ago and we have remained friends since then. It was great to catch up.

My brother and I had our annual Mustard Seed Black Friday tradition and we got to see Siera.

My brother and I had our annual Mustard Seed Black Friday tradition and we got to see Siera.

Glen and I returned home and my mom heated up all the Thanksgiving leftovers. The four of us (me, mom, dad, brother) made plates and had a great meal. After letting the food settle for a little bit, my brother and I went out to Northern Quest, a Vegas-style casino on the outskirts of town. We had a wonderful time hanging in the beautiful sports bar and at the tables. Although I lost a little, my money stretched for a long time. My brother was a little luckier than me and cashed out ahead. The ending table we were at was a lot of fun with some colorful characters sitting next to us. After Quest we went to downtown Spokane and met up with my great friend Jessie and her friends. More catching up was done as both of us have gone our separate career paths since last time we hung out.

We had a great time at Northern Quest in their ultra fancy sports bar and casino and then had a wonderful time meeting up with Jessie.

Leftovers were once again delicious. We had a great time at Northern Quest in their ultra fancy sports bar and casino and then had a wonderful time meeting up with Jessie.

 

Saturday: I woke up in time to see the 9 a.m. kickoff between Clemson and South Carolina. I watched most of that game while also flipping around to the other early morning rivalry games. During this period I heated up Round II of Thanksgiving leftovers. My brother and I then went to a northside restaurant called Poole’s where we watched the FCS Playoffs. We sat right up at the bar that let us see both the Montana-San Diego and Montana State-South Dakota State games. Both contests were played in snow and both contests had great results. The Griz smashed San Diego and South Dakota State defeated the undeserving Bobcats.

We returned home and watched Florida State barely edge Florida to remain undefeated. My mom, brother, and I then went to St. Thomas More for 4:30 p.m. mass. I enjoyed celebrating mass in the parish I received my first communion in. After church we went to my all-time favorite restaurant, Tomato Street. I love this place so much because the food is great but the atmosphere is top notch as well. I ordered angel hair with pesto sauce and marveled at how good it was. With full bellies we returned home and watched the football game that matters most in my household, the Apple Cup. Although the first half was close, Washington pulled away in the second half to beat the alma mater of my dad, Washington State.

Tomato Street was delicious!

Tomato Street was delicious!

Sunday: So here we are at the present day. My mom made a terrific brunch for us that included biscuits and gravy, hash browns, eggs, and sausage. We then went downstairs and watched a combination of NFL football and “Bar Rescue.” As I sit here at our kitchen table right now I am watching my mom make turkey soup. In a few hours it will be off to the airport but I am sure we will do something meaningful with the short remaining time.

Enjoying the last few hours with my family.

Enjoying the last few hours with my family.

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What an awesome time I had here in Spokane. No reason to feel sad about leaving though, I will be back in a few short weeks. Until then I am anxious to get back to the beach and return to work at Coastal Carolina University. I can’t thank my family enough for hosting me and treating me to such a memorable Thanksgiving. I love you all. Don’t Blink.

Spending Christmas Eve Waiting in Line

I did a good portion of my Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve this year. Mind you I did start early in the morning. By around 2 p.m. I had completed almost all of my shopping and I headed off to Northtown Mall (yes, that Northtown Mall) to meet my friend Jessie who also waited to the last second to purchase the remainder of her holiday gifts. With our shopping lists taken care of, we casually strolled around the mall taking in the last hour blitz.

To be completely honest, the mall was not in a frenzy. Anarchy had not broken out. Rather, it seemed very tame and dense as we walked through the center. Of course there was one exception.

We made our way to the upper level of the mall and looked over one of the balconies. We casted our eyes downward and caught a glimpse of what some may call a depressing sight. A line stretched completely around the large North Pole/100 foot Christmas tree display and down a significant stretch of the mall not even in the vicinity of the winter wonderland. Of course this windy, stretched line of adults and children existed because they wanted to get their picture taken with the Fat Guy. At the forefront of the North Pole display sat Santa Claus in his big red throne surrounded by a couple of photographers with those multi colored dust brushes. The line seemed to be moving at an agonizing slow rate.

A small portion of the line. Sorry for the terrible quality. I had to capture it from an Instagram video.

A small portion of the line. Sorry for the terrible quality. I had to capture it from an Instagram video.

Excuse me, but why would all those people choose to get their picture taken with Santa on CHRISTMAS EVE and why would they insist on standing in that line when the wait was probably at the very least TWO HOURS?

This was the point where everyone wanted to get to. Again, I apologize for the photo quality.

This was the point where everyone wanted to get to. Again, I apologize for the photo quality.

Now I know you sense complete hypocrisy as I type out these words. I of course was out on Christmas Eve myself. I decided to procrastinate until the very last minute that ultimately led me to the exact same place that all of those people in line were. Yeah, I am not proud of myself. But I don’t think things are exactly the same.

I got home well before festivities started. I never wasted any of my time standing idly in line.

Why wouldn’t you get your family Christmas photo with Santa well in advance of Christmas Eve? Isn’t the point to show off and send out your photos to others before the new year actually hits? Or isn’t it the goal to let your children see Santa at the very least three weeks before Christmas so you have ample time to use leverage against them to be on their best behavior? Or wouldn’t you want to go earlier in the month so you can help perpetrate the myth of Santa Claus to your kids just a little more? I mean come on, most youngsters have the sense to realize that Santa can’t possibly afford to sit in the middle of a mall in Spokane, Washington, at 3 p.m. PT on Christmas Eve.

But most of all, why would you want to spend multiple hours of your time in a line during the late hours of the afternoon on Christmas Eve? I guarantee that half of the poor souls I saw waiting to see Santa were still waiting in line while I attended Christmas Eve mass with my family. I don’t do well in lines. I definitely don’t do well in lines when I could be out celebrating one of the most joyous holidays on the calendar.

A couple days after Christmas I sat in Santa's throne in Northtown Mall.

A couple days after Christmas I sat in Santa’s throne in Northtown Mall.

However, I definitely know that I could be missing something. I mean heck, out of all the mall trips I took during the holiday season, nothing compared to the one I saw on Christmas Eve. A reason must exist for why people freely sacrifice their holiday to stand around a cheaply manufactured holiday display in a halfway abandoned mall for hours on end…right?

Is it because of tradition? Is it because of the magic? Is it because people want to stay away as long as they can before they have to go over to their relatives’ house? I know I am assuming a lot so if I am in fact way off and narrow minded please enlighten me.

To each his own! I know I will probably hear some answers that will put me in my place. For all I know, Santa Claus might very well be real and he just so happens to take up residence at Northtown Mall while giving everyone who visits him on Christmas Eve lavish gifts and winning Mega Millions tickets. If so, I might find myself in line next year. Don’t Blink.

My Five Shopping Mall Holiday Trends of 2013

I decided to start my Christmas shopping early this year as I ventured out this weekend to knock some people off my list. As Missoula’s Southgate Mall was one of the places I risked my sanity to shop in, I noticed some trends inside that shopping center that also corresponded almost exactly to things I observed while zipping through the Spokane malls during Thanksgiving weekend. For today’s blog post I want to highlight the main five trends I have identified inside malls during the 2013 holiday season.

Cell Phone Cases Galore: With the proliferation of smart phones comes the proliferation of smart phone cases. The malls I have visited have had at the very least two cell phone case kiosks in high walking traffic areas. People want to protect their phones while also adding a little personality as well. Many of these kiosks sell cases with every design, color, sports team, movie, cartoon character, celebrity, etc. that you could want. However, I feel they are a complete rip off. While shopping for someone on my list I spotted a potential cell phone case that would make a good gift. I asked the person behind the kiosk if I could hold it before I made a decision. He grudgingly allowed me to and the second I placed it in my hands I said “No thanks”.

The dingy plastic cover would never protect any phone and the design was not even that cool. Add in the ridiculous price and I would tell most people to not consider purchasing cases from cell phone kiosks in the mall. Seriously, check out www.case-mate.com. There you can personally design your own case while getting a product that will save your phone when you do drop it (just ask me from experience).

Gift Cards: While gift cards have been a mainstay in every holiday shopper’s diet for several years now, I feel it has reached a new peak this year. Not only does every store offer gift cards in 10 different designs with 10 different card holders to choose from, but now there is an added incentive to purchase them in high dollar amounts. Every place (no exaggeration) that I have purchased a gift card from has offered me a deal where if I purchase a certain dollar amount I will receive additional funds for free. The most common example is the $100 gift card purchase. If you go to a clothing retailer or restaurant and purchase $100 in gift cards (either on one whole card or say five cards at $20 each), you will get an additional $20 free to either add on to one of the cards or to just slap it on to a brand new card.

Obviously you get no complaining from me on this one. What is not to like about going to a popular store and buying a $20 gift card for five of your favorite friends and then getting an extra $20 card for free? You can now give a gift to your sixth favorite friend or if you don’t have that many friends you can keep it for yourself (or maybe give it to charity).

Authentic Santas: Something that I have noticed this holiday season is the very visible step up in mall Santas. Each one I have seen has actually looked like Kris Kringle himself. I am talking real full grown white beards, jolly eyes, and white hair flowing from under the back of the hat. Even the suit has looked pristine, with a couple opting to not even go with the traditional Christmas Eve red ensemble but rather a type of outfit that Santa might wear while making toys at the North Pole. Every Santa I have seen could pass for the one from the most recent version of “Miracle on 34th Street.”

I applaud malls for going the extra mile to hire legit looking Santas. Over the years I have seen some cheesy looking Santas with awful looking fake beards and sloppy fitting suits. Obviously the people who take the time and sacrifice to make their actual physical appearance simulate that of the real Santa are going to do the best job and give children the best experience .

Samples: This year when I have strolled into malls I have had to ask myself if I was actually in a Costco. Stores and kiosks are giving away samples like never before. Employees with wide smiles holding trays are encouraging shoppers to try their product. **Well, even though I have no intention of buying your meat tray you don’t need to twist my arm to at least taste it for free**. I have watched in semi amazement as the employees handing out samples will rush from their storefront across to the other side to offer customers walking in the opposite direction a bite of their frozen yogurt or a small trial size of their scent. I have never seen the Costco sample ladies do that before!

Surprisingly Good Deals: Black Friday is long gone but that hasn’t meant that the good deals are too. I was pleasantly surprised with the numerous bargains I encountered while shopping over the past couple days. Sure, I did see my fair share of jacked up scams but I also saw lots of 40% off sales, $10 long sleeve shirts, and buy one-get one free offers. Anyone who took time and care to investigate what was out there could easily find affordable gift ideas. I also encountered many helpful and cheerful employees who were eager to answer my questions and also point me in the direction of where I could find the biggest savings. While I don’t relish holiday shopping by any means, this weekend it wasn’t too painful.

———–

You got roughly nine days of shopping left! Over these never several days when you are out at your local mall don’t be surprised when you notice these particular trends. In fact, I would love it more than anything if you snapped a photo of any mall Santa you happen to stumble across and send it to me. That might be worth a candy cane and a Christmas card from yours truly. Have a great week everyone! Don’t Blink.

What is Going On at Northtown Mall?

While in Spokane last week my brother and I decided to do some Black Friday shopping. Well, we didn’t really do any shopping but we wanted to check out the day after Thanksgiving pandemonium. After we hit up the Spokane Valley Mall we drove across the city to Northtown Mall, the largest, and most recognizable, shopping center in town. Growing up in Spokane, Northtown Mall was a landmark. It had recently received a very extensive expansion and was the place that out-of-town shoppers flocked to. The place had energy.

However, this Thanksgiving weekend when I returned to Northtown on Black Friday there was a dramatic change in the mall. I would estimate that about 20% of the stores were vacant. Spaces where well known businesses had staked out for years were now gone. At one area in the mall it was especially eerie. Except for the anchor stores, everything was gone, even the ATMs that were once attached to the walls! The place had seemed to turn into a ghost town. I questioned my brother and cried out on Twitter asking what was going on.

It took a while but today I found out my answer. It turns out the mall will soon be undergoing another massive renovation project. The area that had turned into a graveyard will be demolished and then resurrected in grand fashion. Northtown had supposedly moved/bought out/kicked out all the businesses in the area in preparation for the upcoming huge project. It suddenly made sense to me. Except for one thing…

In the bottom level of Northtown Mall there used to be a fun center called Bumpers. The large area contained bumper cars, an eighteen hole miniature golf course, a climbing wall, full arcade, party rooms, and pool tables. During our youth, my brother and I spent a lot of time there. However, like many of the other tenants in Northtown, it packed up and left. The business headed out to the valley to attempt at a fresh start in an old bowling alley location.

The bottom level where Bumpers resided used to be partially exposed to shoppers. While you were on the second floor level by all the ice cream shops or even further up on the third level you could look down and see the bumper cars and redemption front desk of the center. The climbing wall elevated all the way up to the second level, showcasing one of Bumpers’ most popular attractions to shoppers who may have not had the chance to make it down to the basement level yet. An escalator and see-through elevator connected Bumpers with the other levels of Northtown. However, that level of transparency is no more.

When Glen and I visited Northtown last week we were a little shocked to see that the gaping hole in the middle of the second level that allowed people to see inside of Bumpers was totally gone. The black and white tiled floor of the mall now extended completely across where the open space used to be. It was as if the once busy kids arcade zone had never existed. If you were a first time shopper to Northtown you would have absolutely no idea that you were walking across a floor that had just been there for a couple months, let alone realize that underneath you rested a large vacant basement.

Or is it really vacant? That basement level in Northtown is vast. There is a whole lot of space down there. Would Northtown really leave that space totally empty? Why did they feel the need to completely cover it up? Although I don’t generally believe in conspiracy theories I do enjoy considering them and let me tell you, Glen and I had our minds rolling about what was going on underneath us. My first suggestion is that it is now an underground dance club where loads of illegal activities occur. Or thinking about it now, maybe the space is now used for a secret fight club. Maybe they have converted it to a detention area where lost kids, unruly teenagers, and out of line shoppers get transported to and forgotten about. Or perhaps one of those roller derby teams have made the area their new practice headquarters.

It crossed my mind that it might be a graveyard for old and dysfunctional furry characters that play in those bands at Chucky Cheese’s and other kids centers. Maybe the seasonal store Spirit is holding the space for next Halloween. Or maybe it is where 2Pac and Elvis are now hanging out. For all we know, it might now be a holding zone for excess Area 51 materials.

Bottom line, I just feel as if someone is trying to erase the memory from our minds that a giant basement does in fact exist at Northtown Mall. By patching up the hole, making access impossible, and by not disclosing future plans for the space I must say that I am intrigued about what is really going on underneath the mall. Does anyone else have any ideas? Don’t Blink.