Feb. 5, 2007

Last year's cruise winners return with warm memories

By Linda Scherer
Staff Writer

Clare and Pam Johnson of Winsted returned from Florida last week, rested and pleased with their nine days of fun and sun.

Although their vacation did not quite go as originally planned, they definitely enjoyed the terrific vacation they won in last year’s “Great Escape” Caribbean cruise giveaway.

The Johnsons were already planning a trip to Florida, but were still very excited when they learned they had also won a free Caribbean cruise for two, compliments of the Herald Journal.

When KDUZ announced the Johnsons had won the cruise, Pam was at home alone, listening to the radio.

“Oh man, I was here all by myself. When they picked the third place and then second place winners, my heart was going 100 miles an hour,” Pam said. “When they picked our name for the cruise, I was all by myself, jumping up and down, screaming and hollering.”

A lot of people must have been listening to the radio announcement because, almost immediately, people in town began calling to congratulate the Johnsons on winning the trip.

Then, the big dilemma began. How to work the cruise in with their already-planned family trip to Florida.

They knew when they went to Florida for a week, the girls would miss some school, but they did not want them to miss too much. That made them certain they were not going to take them on the cruise.

Pam’s parents, Dale and Pauline Lundgren of Sheldon, Wis., had planned to go with them to Florida, and the Johnsons did not want them to have to change their plans either.

The Herald Journal made the decision easy. “It was great when the Journal told us we could have a gift certificate to put towards our trip,” Pam said.

A six-passenger van from Holt Tours of Cokato, stopped at the Johnson home Jan. 12 on its way to the airport. It picked up Clare and Pam Johnson, their two daughters Jaime and Nicole, and Pam’s parents.

“That was really nice. We did not have to pay for parking and we did not have to worry about somebody taking us down to the airport or picking us up,” Pam said.

Clare and Pam’s airfare, hotel accommodations, and car rental were covered with the gift certificate – an eight-night, nine-day vacation, including the ride to and from the airport.

Florida’s weather was perfect. The average temperature was about 80 degrees and the sun was shining all nine days of their vacation.

“In fact, I watched the weather channel just to see what the day was going to be like,” Pam said. “I think that Florida was the only part of the country that was nice. We were very lucky!”

With the weather cooperating, and many things to see, everybody was kept plenty busy the whole time. Lundgrens had never been to Florida before and looked forward to seeing the ocean for the first time, and Epcot Center.

Both Clare and Pam had been to the Kennedy Space Center when they were in Florida about 15 years ago and they hesitated to go again because they had not been that impressed with the tour.

Nevertheless, the space center turned out to be everybody’s favorite, except for Pam, who liked the Busch Gardens the best.

They were able to see the Apollo space ship that landed on the moon. “It was huge. Just the bottom end of it was approximately 618 feet,” Pam said.

At the Kennedy Space Center, they were able to see a movie of all of the events leading up to landing on the moon.

“During the movie, we were able to feel how the building shook and what the lift-off sounded like the day the space craft took off, even though the launch pad was three miles away,” Pam said.

Returning to snow and cold Jan. 20 was a little depressing for the family, but they have lots of memories including photos from the seven rolls of film Pam took to document all of the things they were able to see.

The photos can be a reminder of the warm, sunny weather they were able to enjoy while the rest of the country’s weather was so unpleasant.

Besides the photographs, the Johnsons brought home another souvenir – a very large, stuffed tiger.

While touring Busch Gardens, Clare won the tiger in a ring toss game. All he had to do was get a ring over the top of a pop bottle. He did it and claimed his prize!

“My husband won a life-size tiger,” Pam said. “This thing is huge. It’s like five feet long. We had to carry it around all day, because my husband won it in the morning. You never think you are going to win.”

Getting it home created another problem. It would not fit in a duffle bag.

Pam found a UPS store and, for $53, they were relieved to be able to ship the tiger back to Minnesota separately arriving home shortly after they did.

It’s hard to understand why the Johnsons were surprised when Clare won the tiger. Winning the Herald Journal cruise should have given them a heads-up on the ring toss game. When it comes to winning, some people are just very lucky.

See this week’s Herald Journal for information on how you can win this year’s “Great Escape” Caribbean cruise giveaway.

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