May 20, 2015

The plain truth about travelling by plane

It seems I’m constantly going somewhere. The only thing that seems to change is the mode of transport and the destination. Good thing I like traveling.

I love watching people when I travel, especially in airports. They are always in a hurry and rarely in a good mood.  Some travel for business, some are on holiday and some should have taken the train!

There are two simple things to remember when traveling by air: Be prepared and be patient.

No one likes to stand in the security line. But I would rather go through all that than end up on a flight like American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77 and United Airlines Flight 93.  If you aren't familiar with those, just remember what happened on September 11, 2001. It maybe almost 14 years later, but the threat hasn't decreased any.

The TSA has prepared a brochure that can help get read for your travel. Get it HERE. It's only two pages, but has a wealth of info to get you through the security line.

Be prepared for delays, cancellations and a lot of waiting. If you have to be there for a meeting, consider traveling the day before the meeting rather than the day of. Take a book or two. Small electronics like smartphones, tablets and e-readers can now be left on and used during take off and landing as long as they aren't in a transmitting mode. That means cellular reception, WiFi and bluetooth must be off. If a plane has WiFi, you can usually log on after the flight has taken off and reached 10,000 feet. Instructions for in-flight WiFi usage can usually be found in the in-flight magazine in the seat pocket in front of you.

It costs money to check a bag these days. Many will pay the extra money not to have to deal with luggage especially if they are changing planes. Doesn't mean that your bag won't get lost. Be prepared for that. Always carry a change of underwear at least.

Most of all, remember that air travel is mostly a hurry and wait situation. So patience is a virtue. There is a reason that airports have bookstores, restaurants, and coffee shops. It’s always good to have something to keep yourself entertained.

Sep 11, 2014

Stuck in the middle of nowhere

You’ve heard this a thousand times before. "I was stuck in the middle of nowhere.” But I actually got stuck there!

Driving across the United States is nothing foreign to me, I’ve experienced flat tires, bad shocks, snow and ice storms, driving rain and sleeping at truck stops. However, I’ve never lost the tread on my tire before. I’ve seen semi-trucks shed treads often. You see them on the side of the road and occasionally have to practice your obstacle course driving to miss one in the middle of the road. Somewhere on Interstate 40 in New Mexico, I lost the tread on a rear tire. Amazingly, I just pulled off onto the shoulder and remained calm. I had to sigh, because I had had a flat the night before and removed that tire and placed my full-sized spare in it's place. That left me with nothing but a poor cell signal and the hopes that the Automobile Club could hear me through the static. A tow truck was dispatched, but I had to wait a warm hour and a half.
What does one do in the middle of nowhere while waiting for a tow truck?
Count cars? Trucks? Campers? Too boring!
You break out your iPhone and take photos :)
And that is what I did. Mishaps are only mishaps if you let them be. This one was a photo opp for me.

Jun 18, 2014

I'm a native

Mt. Shasta is a volcanic mountain located in Siskiyou County.
When people talk or think of California, they tend to think of sandy beaches, crowded freeways, Hollywood, Disneyland, movie stars, wine, the Golden Gate Bridge and earthquakes. Those are all part of the California culture to be sure. Some people forget all about the giant redwoods, the expansive farms and ranches and the snow capped mountains.

California's diverse geography ranges from the Pacific Coast, to the mountain ranges – from the Redwood forests,  to the deserts. The Central Valley dominates the center of the state and is a major agricultural area. California contains both the highest and lowest points in the contiguous US (Mount Whitney and Death Valley), and has the third longest coastline of all states (after Alaska and Florida). Earthquakes are a common occurrence because of the state is located along the Pacific Ring of Fire so earthquakes are common, but most are too small to feel. At least half of the fresh fruit produced in the US is grown in California. Other industry includes aerospace, education, manufacturing, and high-tech.  If it were a country, it would be the ninth largest in world and 34th most populous. And we are just one state out of the Union!

People from California are normally all thought to be weird. This makes me laugh. Sure there are some hippies still roaming the streets of San Francisco (among other areas), but there are a great number of cowboys, Native Americans, surfers, grannies and grandpas, migrant workers, white and blue collar professionals, military, stay-at-home moms, redheads, brunettes, blondes, short, tall and average-sized people. Many races inhabit the state, some legal, some not. We have Republicans, Democrats, Independents and various others. I guess this does make us weird. We have an entire country's worth of people and lands. We know how to shake, rattle and roll with earthquakes and think nothing of living next door to a snow covered volcano.

I really can't stand when people refer to the state as "Cali." People! That is a city in Columbia! We are California, the mythical place in a popular 16th-century romance novel, The Adventures of Esplandián. California was the mythical island populated only by beautiful Amazon warriors using gold tools and weapons. It was written by Spanish author Garci Rodriguez do Montalvo. Hey, we did have a gold rush! We do have all those golden, tanned perfect bodies on the beach. Think about it!

Apr 13, 2014

April in Denver

I always thought it was April showers brings May flowers, but in Denver it's April snow brings May flowers! As we waited for our flight crew to arrive, we were treated to a nice storm and an inch of accumulated snow.
Sure left me feeling a bit chilled since I had no coat or even a sweater! Denver was only a stop over between to two points where Mother Nature proudly had the sun shining and temperatures in the 70s (F). But if the flight crew didn’t arrive soon, we just might be stuck in the chilly spot.

Delayed for an hour, our flight crew finally arrived, and we were able to make it out and to the Golden State.

Thankfully, I made all my connections and happily landed 30 minutes to midnight in my beloved, little local airport, where the night-time temperature was a nippy 65 degrees (F). But had I been stuck in Denver, I would have been up a shivering creek.

Did I learn anything from this? Yep! Always, and I mean ALWAYS bring a sweater.

BTW, did you know that most air carriers do not count a jacket or sweater as one of the two carry-on items? It is considered as part of the clothing on your back. Be prepared to don it when boarding a full flight however. Also, if you do not have room to stow your jacket or sweater under the seat in front of you, DO NOT PUT IT IN THE OVERHEAD COMPARTMENT. Trust me, it will be safer and more likely to survive with out any rips or tears if you sit on it as if it were a pillow. Roll it up and use it for lumbar support if you are stuck in an uncomfortable economy seat. They also make excellent lap blanks for when your seat neighbor turns their vent in your direction.

Sep 10, 2013

Hurry Up and Wait

The thing about traveling, especially by air, is dealing with the hurry up and wait. Most complain about it, dread it. Frankly, I make good use of it. I play. I take photos, I explore airports (especially those with moving sidewalks and terminal trains). I count the number of coffee shops and bookstores. And probably my most favorite, I watch people.

New or once-in-awhile travelers don't realize that there can be delays that last hours on end or even all night. Most freak out. I've watched I don't know how many go through fits. Many tend to travel on the busiest travel days, where the littlest thing can really cause delays.  If I can afford to take extra time, I tend to stand back and allow those travelers get in the customer service line ahead of me so they can get a seat ahead of me. It benefits me in the long run. I'll end up with travel credit or extra frequent flyer miles, but it does seem silly for them to freak out.

Sometimes I'll strike up a conversation with them. "Are you going on vacation?" Many answer yes and then add and "it's starting off badly!" I smile and usually reply, "Wow, if this is worse than working, I want your job!" Well 99% of the time that breaks them out of their grump and they smile, laugh or decide that maybe it isn't THAT bad a start. Hey, after all, the travel gods have to ease you in and out of that vacation.

Traveling sure isn't like it used to be however. Back in the day, everyone dressed to the nines and didn't have to go through such security measures. You just stood in line to get a handwritten boarding pass and get on the plane. Overhead bins didn't have doors, airlines served full meals and even gave you a choice by showing you a menu. Checking your luggage was free. Of course, when you played solitaire, you did so with a deck of cards and not on a computer or iPad.

Today, you have to suffer the lines at security and pay to check that bag, but you have more flights than 40 years ago, fancy gadgets to help you pass the time, you can bring food onto the flights (International flights still feed you for free though). Suitcases have wheels! Overhead bins have doors and noise cancelling headphones are great for dimming the sounds of screeching children and engine noise. And you still get there faster than if you drove. Clouds do have silver linings.

So remember when you next travel, delays aren't aggravations, they are your chance for adventure.

Oct 30, 2012

Fly the cloudy skies

On a recent trip from Indianapolis to Cleveland, I decided to get crafty with my iPhone and took this photograph. I used the Slow Shutter app and held the phone as still as possible to keep the wing in focus and let the clouds.

If you have any photo apps you like to use on your iPhone, let me know what they are.

Jan 14, 2012

Hello Ben

After a nice sunny day of strolling around, we ended up at the Westminster Tube stop where we strolled along the Embankment and then across with bridge to get a closer look at the London Eye, the aquarium and watch the boats on the Thames (did you know the Thames is the second longest river in the UK?). The views were impressive, but we thought, "Wouldn't it be more dramatic at night?" and so we popped into a pub.

After eating fish and chips with mushy peas and downing a pint, we strolled outside to this lovely view.

Big Ben, which everyone believes to be the tower, clock and bell, is actually the name of the bell. The clock is the Great Clock and the tower is the Clock Tower. It was built in 1859.

For those of you who like to be creative with your cell/mobile phones, download Big Ben ringtones here.

For more photos, click the "Scrapbook" tab at the top of the window under the "Mouse Tales" title or click here. If you click on any photo in the scrapbook, you will get the slide show feature.

Big Ben
Wikipedia Big Ben