Journey

The Journey, Getting There from Here

Although I haven’t taken this Grand Canyon hike yet, I have had to figure out how to get there. I did this quite some time ago to make sure that my reservations were in place.  For me, the hike itself was quite an investment and I didn’t want to risk not being there at the right time.

Driving by land is an obvious good choice. My brother and his wife who live about three hours from me, in Wisconsin, are driving and have room in their vehicle for all our equipment.  I am flying out and meeting them before the hike and will be traveling light. Since there are many great places to visit between Wisconsin and Arizona, including many national parks, my brother will be taking his time and may do some other shorter hikes on the way.

Flying into the Grand Canyon area usually means going to one of the nearby cities with an airport – Flagstaff, Phoenix or Las Vegas. Although there is a small airport in Grand Canyon Village, service there is  limited to private and charter flights. From the cities, car rental is the advisable travel means. My brother’s approach will be from the east which meant that Flagstaff was the most logical choice for me. It is, more or less, on his way to the canyon. We will meet in Flagstaff and drive to Grand Canyon Village the day before our trip starts.

Did I make it easy enough to see where the cities with airports are?

Our first day of the hike requires us to be present at 10 am, so we have arranged lodging in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim within the National Park. It is a small village and has limited year-round lodging. There are a dozen or more hotels including Bright Angel Lodge, El Tovar Hotel, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, the Motor Lodge and Yavapai Lodge. These hotels have been hosting visitors since the park became a tourist destination and several of them are quite famous. El Tovar is right on the Rim and built like a European castle!  Lodging is also available on the North Rim and at Phantom Ranch inside the canyon, which I will mention in a future post.

My brother was able to get a hotel room, but I was not. Instead, I have reservations at Mather Campground in Grand Canyon Village. I will be tenting the night of our arrival, the first night of the hike before the descent, the two nights at Phantom Ranch, and the night after we return to the South Rim. Hopefully, I can survive five nights of sleeping on the ground.

My airport nearest my home is 240 miles away in Minneapolis so I have transportation complications on that end as well. I will probably travel there the night before the flight and do a park and fly stay at a motel. Living in the wild of northern Wisconsin has its aggravations…

There is so much more that I could say about getting to the various destinations in the Grand Canyon. I didn’t even mention much about the North Rim or the West Rim. It’s a big place.

Rescue Adventure!!

20171129_185300.jpgI love adventure! And is there any adventure more exciting than getting to rescue someone or something, with deadlines, secret contacts, airports and in great haste? I can hardly believe I get to do this!!

Okay, the contacts aren’t really secret and I’m not rescuing a person, and I’m doing it in a mini van, but everything else is true and I’m doing it tomorrow and Friday!  I’m on a mission to deliver a shipment to its destination in Orlando. It was lost over three weeks now, including the long Thanksgiving weekend, and due to the delay the shipper cannot get it to Orlando by the Friday deadline.  Panic time for the customer! Fortunately, my brother’s company, Apple Awards, is great on customer service. He was on the phone most of the afternoon arranging alternate delivery by me, Apple Awards business blogger and emergency delivery driver.

I’m putting the “crazy train” details (my brother’s name for the operation, although no train is involved) down here so the husband has something to help him keep it all straight. It’s a little complicated but makes sense when you study it.

Step 1. Drive to airport in Orlando FL and take a flight to Memphis TN (about 6 hours)

Step 2. Pick up rented mini-van and drive to freight warehouse (eh, hopefully 1 hour)

Step 3. Load precious cargo and drive to Orlando to deliver (let’s say 13 hours minimum, and I can add sleep time if I need to)

Step 4. Turn in mini-van at airport in Orlando and drive home. (3 hours at most)

See, it’s only 4 steps and really quite simple. I think it’s the fact that it was all conceived and arranged in a couple of hours that makes it remarkable. Tomorrow I am on my way, and for once all I need is a backpack, because it will all be over in less than two days.

It’s an ideal mission for me since I love to drive, and I actually do like mini-vans for the most part. Stay tuned for my “mission debriefing” post, and if you are one of my praying readers, I’m asking for friendly skies and clear roads please.

The Work of Flying Home

It’s a sad way to end a vacation, but I’ve had a headache for over 24 hours now. Nevertheless, today the husband and I are traveling home by air. I have a new phone with a “learning curve” involved. I am flying on an airline with an unfamiliar app.  I am set up for disaster at worst, awkwardness and embarrassment at the least.

At the bag drop, I tried to pull up the boarding passes. I hate looking like someone who doesn’t know how to operate my devices when other people are waiting and looking (and my head is pounding) but clearly that was me.  The husband and I stepped away to figure it out. Our second pass in front of the same attendant was no better because even though I had found the boarding passes, they didn’t have barcodes on them. “Go print at the kiosk” she ordered.

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In my opinion, this app needs serious tweaking.

The first kiosk I stood at for several minutes had an “Out of Order” sign on it that I didn’t notice at first. The second kiosk refused to scan my passport and trapped me in a vicious circular message of how to do what I was already doing without success. The third kiosk also would not scan my passport. The attendant, who had been watching, came over to see what I was doing (to help the elderly, confused woman who obviously was having trouble and about to pound on the machine). She said to type in my name and forget the passport. Out popped the boarding passes, of course. We checked the bag.

Next, we entered the security check area behind an Asian family, non-English speakers, who were having an  interesting difficult time understanding what to do.  The grandmother left her carry-on bag on the floor in front of me and tried to walk through the metal detector. I called out to her and she grabbed it and tried to pull it through the metal detector with her. Didn’t work. She was sent back to put it on the x-ray belt, along with her coat which the TSA person had to nearly take off her before she understood what to do. On the other side she walked off with her suitcase but I had to chase her down and give her the coat. It was so distracting. I also had to remove my boots with their big zippers before I could go through and retrieve all my stuff.

One of my most important jobs is keeping an eye on the husband as we travel, presumably together, but often yards apart. If he falls too far behind I wait for him so he doesn’t get lost. I am quicker at reading signs and hearing what others are telling me to do, so he naturally lets me do the navigating. Do I always do a good job of this? No.

Next, the husband and I found a seat in the waiting area by the gate. All seemed well until we began to be surrounded by families with babies and toddlers. I counted at least 10. Don’t get me wrong – I love children, but I know how much they don’t like to sit in a plane for three hours. My headache intensified.

Two hours later, somewhere flying south, as the babies began to cry and the parents began to plead I finally decided to take some Migraine Formula Excedrin. I zipped up my down jacket, which had been serving as a pillow, and put it over my head. It was nice in there. Dark, warm, quieter.

After arriving in Tampa, the remaining tasks were getting our checked bag, getting to economy parking, and getting out of economy parking. Nothing went horribly wrong but there were glitches. My whole point is that traveling is an adventure with challenges. From purchasing the right tickets, to finding one’s way through the airport labyrinths, using technology, devices and their apps, keeping track of traveling companions and their needs, managing your own comfort, and ending up in one piece at your final destination – it is a job, on its own right.  Do I get paid for this?

Something mildly crazy happens almost every time I fly.  How about you?

Going Again: Cambodia, Day 2

At least I think it’s day 2. When the trip actually starts I soon lose track of what time to call it. It makes no sense to keep on referring to the time in the zone I just left. I’m not sure what time it is where I’m going and the intervening time is hard to identify. The lights in the plane are kept low/off except when a meal or snack is being served.

The longest flight is over and I am in Seoul, South Korea with about 15 minutes until boarding for the last six hour flight to Phnom Penh.  It is 6:15 pm on June 5. I began the journey from home at 3:30 am on June 4th but somewhere in there I crossed enough time zones to gain nine or ten hours.

Getting my shoes back on after 13 hours of sitting was more difficult than I expected. Technically, I know it’s healthier to stay hydrated. Realistically, it’s airline torture to be trapped in your seat with a full bladder so I am staying more on the “dry” side.  When I think about how many people were on the plane, for all those hours, with so few facilities I get in touch with my claustrophobic self real quick.

However, I do eat all the meals, and almost all the snacks. It helps to pass time. I hadn’t heard of most of the movies but I did watch three and parts of a fourth. I couldn’t finish Star Wars: Rogue One. I used to love science fiction as a highschooler, but since then it seems more like a waste of time.  So many of the movies seem to turn to overuse of sex and/or violence in an attempt to entertain and end up being distasteful and boring. I didn’t end up reading as much as I thought I would either as I kept thinking I should try to sleep (but couldn’t).

Later: It is over. I am here and breathing a great sigh of relief. On the last flight I had a seat between two men, and we had friendly conversation as much as we could without knowing much of each other’s language. One was from Japan, the other from South Korea.

I was so grateful to be on the ground and out of a sitting position at the Phnom Penh airport. There were probably 50 of us in line to apply and get visas, and as usual at least ten very stern faced men and women sitting behind glass taking all our passports and passing them down the line to each other. I can’t figure it out – some of them don’t seem to be doing anything. We wait at the end of the line for our passports to be returned with the visas attached, one at a time. Although I was early handing mine in, I was second to last getting it back. Although I paid $3 to have a picture taken, no one took my picture. But I was motioned on to the next desk. Every time I shoved papers back in my pack, there would be another need to drag them out again. They seem to like regulation and uniforms and scaring tourists. Not one smile, all business. Oh well.

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This unusual water feature is actually the pool at the hotel. We pass it as we enter the lobby.

My lone suitcase was going round and round on the carousel, thankfully no waiting for that. My hotel driver was outside the building holding a sign with my name. It was so sweet! The Double Leaf Hotel is near the Russian Market and I am very pleased with the room and the service. It is now 12:30 am here and I certainly should be tired enough to sleep, except that my internal clock says 1:30 pm and is trying to be alert. I will make it adjust. So glad to be here safely and be able to rest.

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What a welcome sight this was!

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This simple type of art is found throughout the lobby and rooms of Double Leaf Boutique. Clearly hand drawn and painted.

Preparation

 

In about 12 hours I’ll be going to Cambodia again. It is always a surreal experience for me, as I am such an unlikely candidate for such far away travel. I’m old enough to be a grandmother and never had expectations of going farther away than the edges of my own country. I don’t necessarily have a yearning for travel and can’t imagine why it has happened to me (for the fifth time now!) except to say that an unseen hand must have picked me up and dropped me on the plane.

 

These days preceding the flight have been filled with hectic activity, not leaving much time to think about the trip, but when I have thought about it…

  • How different will it be for me, doing it alone this time?
  • I don’t have suitcases full of toys, crafts, and medical supplies this time. What am I supposed to do with all that room? Take clothes?
  • What will I do with those 26 hours of travel time if there are no good movies? if it’s hard to get up and walk around? if I can’t sleep?
  • I hope I don’t break the hot pink headphones I borrowed from Gracie.
  • At last I’ll get to be that person at the airport looking for someone holding a card with my name on it.
  • I wonder what the taxi fare will be – have no clue. I should have handled more of my own money matters on trips before.
  • I wonder if I will remember the children’s names, or even recognize them after two years. They’ve grown so much. I wonder if they will remember me…
  • A real hotel this time, not a guest house with known hosts. The Double Leaf Boutique, at the exorbitant price of $40 per night. Times have changed!
  • I wonder if my aging computer will make it through the two weeks. And my phone’s camera…
  • But I’m not going to take as many pictures (haha – I say this every time). I’m just going to put new dates on the old ones.
  • I’m not going to buy anything at the markets. No, not a thing. I don’t need anything.
  • I’ve seen their chickens. How am I ever going to stay on my paleo diet?
  • Two weeks without my favorite pillow, should be interesting. I’m tired already. And beds in southeast Asia are mostly hard in my experience.
  • I shouldn’t have cut my own hair – this is how they are going to remember me forever. There will be photos…
  • How has the country changed? I wonder if the roads have gotten any better.
  • How many hours of TV will the husband log while I’m away?

It’s the last few hours and I’m making myself finish packing. I’m hoping that once I get there the long trip will be forgotten and I will regain my enthusiasm, but for now, I have to admit I’m lacking in that category. I’m asking God to show me, definitively, why I am doing this. And I know he will.

Ordinary Times and Travels: Christmas, post 2 (the trip)

I can’t say that I really love airports. They often have associations with travel difficulties and anxieties that I don’t care to rehearse, but yesterday I had a “moment” of niceness. It will probably moderate the moments that have not been so nice.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is so huge that going from one concourse to another, even on the tram, can cause a time crunch. Last night was different and I had time to spare and not a long way to go, so I walked instead of taking the tram. I came to a section of the walkway that was, well… a delight. I was strolling along looking at my phone for messages when I became aware of faint noises, like you might hear walking under a forest canopy alive with birds. The hall was dimly lit from the ceiling with gold and green leaf-like layers. Simple, calming and somewhat magical and exactly what one would like to experience in a busy, oppressive environment. For a moment, I was taken away from it all and totally immersed in the sounds and sights.

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the approach to the walkway

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I should have thought to make a recording – it was so relaxing…

So far on this trip, my major airline has cancelled my desired flight, and rebooked me on a late afternoon flight across the country which ended  up being delayed two hours.  All in all it was 12 plus  hours from my departure from Sarasota until the time my head hit the pillow in Seattle. It was a long day/night trip.

I did see more security personnel on duty in my first airport. Other than that there was very little to remind me of the dangers we hear about in our world today. The flights were full. People were in a good mood with full expectations of reaching their destinations. I read a book, the whole thing and did a lot of thinking. Travel these days is really an impressive thing. In spite of some inconvenience, here I am thousands of miles from where I was, in just one day. Our ancestors who crossed the nation in wagons pulled by horses would certainly think this was a different planet.

Seattle daughter pulled herself out of bed to come get me at 1 am, for which I am soooo grateful. We traveled up to West Seattle, Alki Beach area where she set me up for the night in her lovely Airbnb bedroom.  Feeling tired, feeling blessed. Day 1, completed.

How to make four hours go fast…

It’s not a statement,  it’s a question. I’m all settled in at this big airport, at the place I think I’m supposed to catch the shuttle to my final destination. It doesn’t arrive for another four hours, and when it does we’ll have a three hour ride farther north. I’m tired of sitting which is about all I’ve done since leaving home at 7 this morning. 

But, it’s been a safe, uneventful flight.  Every time I dig for something in my backpack I’m enveloped in this heavenly smell of essential oil that has evidently been leaking in there somewhere. And believe me, I am so glad it’s the one that does smell heavenly rather than the one purported to smell like cat pee. Small blessings.

Growing up, I had no idea that I lived somewhere called “remote”. We seldom went anywhere farther than our 60 mile trip to get school clothes in the nearest town with a department store. But school away from home changed all that.

 And as time wore on, the girl from the north, in school down south (Texas), met a man from the east (Pennsylvania) and moved west (California), before coming back home to Wisconsin for a few years. I live in Florida and am afraid to guess what part of the U.S. is going to be next. I don’t know whether to say the world has gotten bigger or smaller. 

When I fly I look down at the land below. Although this is a very big country, it seems to be pretty full of people. All the habitable space is divided up into squares or circles with clusters of dwellings at every intersection. At night, I see towns dotting the darkness everywhere I look. During the day we fly between cities so sprawling and large that it scares me. Our ancestors could not have imagined this. And I cannot imagine the future.

I guess I’ve talked myself into being thankful for a destination that’s still three hours from a major city. It’s gotten bigger (but not much) and there’s more traffic but it is still beautifully remote and it’s home to many family members and friends, making it even more beautiful. 

Two and a half hours to go… just sayin’.

Trucking

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I was waiting out by the road so my brother wouldn’t have to come down the drive. When I saw what he was pulling I understood why.

We started our adventure about 5pm yesterday and drove until 2am with stops only for gas. It turned out well that we were through Atlanta at night and didn’t have morning rush hour to deal with.

The motel was great!  I am highly impressed by any place that has a variety of pillows, that all smell good. Nice, nice, nice. ..for about five hours.

A full day ahead, in which I may attempt driving this thing – but absolutely no backing up (my bro is great at that).

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Where did the time go?

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The town of Hayward, Wisconsin where my family lives is about four hours from a major airport so I have become  familiar with the shuttle service, Northwest Travel. This morning at 6 am, I climbed into the van with Dave, the driver, for the ride to Minneapolis. It was dark dark. Dave had just made it home at 10 pm the night before, having made the same run.

We talk from time to time about the area were driving through. Most of the drivers are retired people with a history in Hayward and we usually find we have people and places in common.

I’m grateful my mom packed cheese and crackers and apple slices which she thought would make a good snack on the plane. They are breakfast for me and are gone in the first half hour. The flavor of the smoked Gouda mixed with the sweetness of apple is so right for fall and the quiet darkness of the trip.

It was a busy time, this last ten days. The routines and tasks were different from my usual so in that sense it was a vacation, and a refreshment, not my usual work.

I got along fine with the one outfit of clothing that I wore. Mom and I made a trip to the thrift shops and at $4 a bag I was able to put together a nearly awesome northern wardrobe. I recommend the no pack method to anyone brave enough to try it.

I enjoyed spending time getting to know my neice and nephew as teenagers. I stayed with them a couple of times when they were much littler. Now they are homeschooling, driving, babysitting others and doing their own cooking and shopping. Times change. Missed my brother and his wife but so glad they were able to take a much deserved anniversary outing.

And of course the precious (can’t really think of another word for it) time with mom and dad, sharing some of their routines, talking. We laughed over lots of things, got stocked up on jigsaw puzzles for the coming thanksgiving holiday, and last night we cried over a sad movie. More memories, and hopefully we will be able to remember them, although you never can count on that.

Thankful for life, for the ability to travel, for the opportunity to share simple things. Thank you, once again.

Fear Not

I am always, ALWAYS thankful for safe travel.  Air travel especially is a marvel in this day and age.  When you look at the statistics, which I don’t happen to have at hand, going somewhere by plane is many times safer than going by car on a road trip.  Yet we all get in cars and travel without giving it too much thought.  But many people have a phobia about getting on a plane.

Maybe it’s being strapped into something akin to an aluminum can, with dozens of strangers….

Maybe it’s knowing that one man’s alertness, judgment and skill determines whether your flight ends well or badly….

Maybe it’s wondering what you would think about for the last 120 seconds of your life should you be accidentally sucked out of the plane….

Maybe it’s walking down that aisle and discovering that your seat for the next three hours is next to… a baby.

A baby that’s already been on the plane for two hours.

A baby who is possibly putting on that look of “I’m done here.” and whose mother is nervously bouncing her up and down on her knee, hoping for the best, whatever that is.

Meet Eleanor.

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Ellie’s carseat had the window place, she and her mom were in the middle seat and I was in the aisle seat.  I always choose aisle seats.  Somehow it lessens the claustrophobia.

The nice man across the aisle from me felt obligated to say what a good baby she was the whole flight from Ft. Lauderdale.  “Smiled all the way.” he said.  I know babies.  Two hours of smiling at one stretch is about their limit.

Sure enough, as we sat endlessly watching people trying to put their way-too-big carryons in the over head bins, Ellie got tired of being bounced and cajoled and started to, well, cry.  She got red, and angry.  She let her mom know that she didn’t want to be stuck under a blanket to nurse, most definitely not that.  She was hot, sweating, infinitely uncomfortable.

Honestly, at that point I was overcome with sympathy and compassion for mama, because everyone in the plane was turning around and holding her responsible.  Her worst scenario was coming to pass and she had emptied her bag of tricks. (No really the worst scenario would have been trying to put oxygen masks on herself and the baby… I’m guessing.)

“You know, it can’t get much worse. Give me the baby. Maybe stranger shock will quiet her down.”  Was that brave of me or what?  And a second later, with no argument at all, it was me and Ellie.  Seat mates.

She really was a good, sweet little child and this story turned out much better than I hoped.  The change of perspective, someone else’s lap, and the air vent that we opened full blast in her face, quieted her down right away.  Personally I think she didn’t want to be bounced any more so I held her quietly and sang in her ear.  As the jet engines roared  to life (and they were about six inches outside our windows on either side – love the back of the plane, not) and we took off on our journey, Ellie went back to her mom and fell asleep for all but the last few minutes of our flight. Nothing as peaceful as a sleeping baby. I got to look at her the whole trip which was sort of a blessing for my blood pressure.

Sleeping child, sleeping mother.  Peace for the whole plane.
Sleeping child, sleeping mother. Peace for the whole plane.

Leaving me free to crochet and enjoy a snack.
Leaving me free to crochet and enjoy a snack.

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