Getting there is half the fun…

I don’t know who said that but I hope they’re wrong. Travel is amazing, and interesting but I wouldn’t call it fun.

I and all my devices got in the truck and made our way to Minneapolis last night. We had a short sleep in a motel, where I left the truck. Everything went so smoothly at the airport that I started wondering why. I finally realized that it’s one of the benefits of traveling solo. Don’t get me wrong – I love traveling with companions as well, but this kind of freedom has a charm all its own. I don’t have to match anyone in my likes, dislikes or pace. I can be as early or as late as I choose. I can eat or go without. I have one person to watch out for – me.

I am now safely in Arizona, sitting in the waiting area for the flight to Flagstaff. I decided to check in here with a short post because I have over four hours to wait and have to fill the time. I know it won’t be long before I will have to forget my “devices” and start experiencing this hike without them.

This is my first trip in a long time without my computer. Instead I’m using my phone for everything – it’s camera, tablet, caretaker of boarding passes, as well as communication central. What a device! And I have paired it with this tiny little bluetooth keyboard, which so far is doing a great job.

I sat next to a dog! I saw a fairly large man walking around in the gate area before the flight and noticed him because he had this tiny dog on a bright red leash. You don’t see this every day. Later, much later because I was in the last zone to board the plane, I got to my seat and there they were again. The little fella was so quite, slept all the way to Phoenix, and licked my hand when he woke up after we landed. Make me decide between sitting next to a kid or a dog, I’ll take the dog.

In addition to being a travel day, yesterday was Mother’s Day. It was so nice to spend it this year with my mom, my youngest daughter and my brother’s family. We went to church, had a wonderful family brunch that I wish I had taken a picture of but didn’t. We took walks and talked. Later, at the motel, I got a call from eldest daughter to round out the day.

Thanks again for the book Ryan! And this is my mini-keyboard folio.

So here goes four hours of waiting. I have a book to read. Food and drink is close at hand. Fun is ahead as I look forward to meeting up with brother Bob and Elizabeth. It’s hard to believe I’m here, so far from where I started this morning, in such a different place.

A very different place than the one I left this morning. Yes, real mountains…

It’s Happening!

The Adventure Starts

Now the rest of the events will unfold, sort of like the domino that falls and starts the whole line up toppling, one after the other.

Suitcase (and daughter) finally made it.

I consider the adventure to have started yesterday when I left for the Minneapolis airport to fetch youngest daughter to us. It was a successful trip with the usual number of unexpected turns. Her route from Seattle was through Dallas (everyone’s intuitive path…) so the storms there delayed the flight 90 minutes. Then her luggage got put on another plane and we waited another hour for that to arrive. But she made it! We were home by 11 pm.

We have Mother’s Day to celebrate with a family brunch after church today. I have packing to finish and hopefully a relaxing walk somewhere – it is warm and sunny and spring is springing. This evening I will drive back to Minneapolis and hopefully get some sleep before my early flight out to Flagstaff. It seems quite unreal that one week from this moment I will be back here, sitting in this chair probably, having gone through it all.  One week of unknown adventure and unique Grand Canyon views (and possibly physical torture…). It will be over. How does time do that to us?

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?

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.

Thanksgiving Chronicle: Ordinary Times and Travels

wpid-20141015_0707500.jpgThe husband and I had been thinking and praying about this trip for weeks.  My family often tries to get together at Thanksgiving even though we are geographically scattered. Those of us from Florida have several times found ourselves “snowed in” up in Hayward for the holiday. Last year we combined the get together with Mom’s wish to spend the winter with us. We flew to Wisconsin, traveled in her car to Michigan to have Thanksgiving there with three of my brothers, and then continued on down to Florida. It worked, and we were trying it again this year, hoping it would work again.

Monday, I felt like a captive pretty much all day. I used to think that it was pretty cool getting to travel a lot – flying off to southeast Asia, to Seattle, to Wisconsin – but I am over that. Although I booked our flights weeks ahead of time there were no good seats to choose from. I sat in the window seat on the first leg. There was no chance of getting out over two other people, so I sat for that hour and a half, sleeping against the wall. The second leg was longer and I was in the middle seat, which to me is even more claustrophobic. With the space in front of my feet filled with a back pack, my knees touching the seat ahead of me, and a hefty passenger seated on either side of me, it was like being in a small box for three hours. The worst part of the trip was after the plane landed and everyone who could, stood up, filling the aisle. We waited for 15 minutes before anyone was actually able to leave. We were in the back, of course, and got to watch every person in every row struggle with their luggage. There was nothing to do but wait the eternity until was our turn. In my dreams I become rich and famous by designing a better de-planing procedure and selling it to airlines.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016 (very early): I sat up in bed looking at a clock that showed 5:45 and mentally calculated that it would be 6:45 in my usual time zone – no wonder I was awake. I failed to consider daylight savings time, and so had the person responsible for setting the clock in that room. It was 4:45, so I had some “think time” to consider how it was that I was thousands of miles from where I had been yesterday. I was, always am, properly amazed and thankful for safe travel. Wisconsin in winter is dark late in the morning, dark early in the evening, leaving very little daylight to save, but there was some, finally…

 

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’.

Good Times and Bad Times in the Air

This sunset was so awesome. I couldn't stop taking pictures of it.
This sunset was so awesome. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of it.

I will start with the good time.  While in Seattle I got to visit the Columbia Building with daughter Esther.  This qualified as an adventure up in the air because I actually saw airplanes going toward SeaTac on about our level.  It was above the Space Needle and every other high building in the city, actually made all the rest look small.  What a great view of the city, the harbor and the surrounding geography!  We had a special invite to happy hour at the Tower Club – thank you Duncan – and it was a great experience.  To relax with some great food and drink and conversation, all the while getting to look at this.

I mean it, I couldn't stop.
I mean it, I couldn’t stop.

I did not stop.
I did not stop.

The appetizers we shared were large enough to serve as our meal.  We had lemon risotto, garlic mashed potatoes with buerre blanc and asparagus on one plate and quinoa with roasted tomatoes, glazed carrots and squash with kale and herb sauce on the other. Delicious.  Duncan was very creative with the drink he made Esther, using rhubarb liqueur and egg white.  He is the lead bartender at the Tower Club and did such a great job of making us feel welcome.  His parting advice to us was to make sure we visited the Ladies Room (even he had been there).  And the pics will show you why…

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This was so, so good!
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As was this!

Yeah, this was the Ladies Room view.
Yeah, this was the Ladies Room view.

I couldn't resist the mirror shot...
I couldn’t resist the mirror shot…

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Don’t you love this sunset?!
The flight home from Seattle was the bad time up in the air.  I won’t mention the airline because I don’t think it was their fault.  It was a “red eye” flight.  I was tired and wanted to sleep.  I had a middle seat between two strangers and as I usually do I said a few words just to let them know they had permission to speak with me if they wanted to.  I got a one word answer from one of them and that was the only exchange for the rest of the flight.  We all wanted to sleep, including the people in front of us who promptly reclined their seats.  I mention this because once that seat back was reclined I found I could no longer reach my bag which was at my feet.  My arms weren’t long enough.  And this became problematic when around 3 am I got a headache that made my whole face hurt and needed some headache relief medicine from my bag.  And to make things worse, it was really warm in the cabin.  I don’t know if they did that on purpose or maybe I just worked up a sweat trying to get my bag without lying my head down in someone’s lap.  Crashing headache, claustrophobia, heat wave and a developing nausea – perfect conditions for sleeping.  I was so glad to get off that plane, 5 hours later in Atlanta.

I took a couple Excedrin and started to feel the pain go away on the second flight, but by then I was having headache hallucinations – thinking I was eating my airplane snack while I was really sleeping.  It was very strange.  But now at home and after a good nap, I feel none the worse for the experience.  Travel, you never know what’s going to be next.  Just saying’…

Been up in the air a lot lately...
Been up in the air a lot lately…

Tuesday Travels? Wednesday Travels? I’m confused…

As we three travelers finished our journey to Cambodia, it was hard to keep track of what day it was.  It was actually early on Thursday that I finished this, or so I’m told. You will probably also be confused by the time you finish reading.    

Our flight to Phnom Penh is only six hours long and I am on it now, as I write. FT is 9 am Wednesday but over here when we land it will be exactly 12 hours later. I can tell my body thinks I should be awake, although I am confused enough that I will be able to go to sleep when we get to the guest house. It is always good to have that rest at the end of a long time of being in a non-restful position.

I have been studying the pictures of the children in PE 4 and PE 5, hoping to learn the boys names and review the girls. Even though I have seen them for three visits now it is still hard to remember the names that are very similar, especially when I have not done anything specific with them. I would like to call them all by name but it is unlikely…

We are in a fairly large plane and it is full. We have been given the only meal we will have on this leg of the journey. We were given papers to fill out to apply for our visas. The price of a visa has gone up from $25 to $37 and we will get ours at the airport when we land. So far the trip has been uneventful but I am almost afraid to say that.

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FT 12:45 pm Wednesday but in PP (Phnom Penh) it is 12:45 am on Thursday. At about 10:30 pm we had a rather rough landing and disembarked. Some of this detail is going to be boring to many but I’m hoping it will give daughter Julia an idea of where to go and what to do when she travels here alone on Saturday. I have never had to do it unaccompanied, thankfully. Everyone getting off the plane does pretty much the same thing so following the crowd is a good way to go. This airport is older, has a few holes in the walls, and a lot of strange additions to it – not at all like Korean airports. We are directed into a large room where lines are forming along the left wall. There is a counter with a lot of uniformed men, some women, behind it. They take our passports and $2 for a picture, then we stand in a group at the right of the long counter. Our passports are passed along the officials and end up at the last man who tries to pronounce our names in a way that we will recognize. Good luck there. He also holds it up so the picture can be seen. We pay $30 for the visa and get our passport handed to us again.

One more checkpoint as we move through the large room. There are several stations with an agent waiting to take another look at the passport, stamp it three or four times and give it back. We are now official tourists and the next stop is right in front of us – the baggage carousel. And by this time the bags are there and circling. Everything arrived undamaged and on time. There are carts to help us move it all. As we get near the door the waiting crowd spills through and starts the greeting and hugging. A lot of the kids have come, some of the dorm students, and a number of adults from Asia’s Hope. It is a royal welcome.

We are driven to the Green Pasture Inn, which is the guest house we have always stayed in, but now it has new management and some changes. Still it is familiar and feels like “home, sweet home” as Mike says. I have my double room, since Julie will be joining me in a few days. The “air con” gets turned on and, as usual, the password for the wifi doesn’t work. We’ll have to figure that one out in the morning. So for now, goodnight.

"home, sweet home" for the next two weeks
“home, sweet home” for the next two weeks

Tuesday Travels #6 The Flight to Cambodia

FT (Florida time)7 am, out the door and on the way to JAX, Julie drops me off, 50 lb. bags get checked all the way to Phnom Penh (thank you Lord), I go through security on pre-check (thank you again) and am waiting for my first flight

FT 10:30 am, ATL, sitting in the waiting area for the international flight. I was able to move by tram from concourse B to concourse F, which was marked as the international terminal. At the help desk I found out I was really supposed to be at concourse E, so I walked back rather than ride the tram all the way around the circle. Easy check in at the gate, hardly anyone else there. FT 10:45, Mike and Trish arrive. They started in ATL and the security check made them unwrap the video projectors Trish had so carefully bubble wrapped, towel wrapped and duct taped. We visit and catch up on each other’s status while waiting.

I want to keep track of how they plan events on the trip to make us think in the time of our destination. I’m not going to buy food in the airports, hoping that what we get on the flight will be plenty as it usually is. Still fighting this headache for the third day now but perhaps it is getting better. Wishing I had some noise canceling headphones for this trip. I settled for new earbuds that have soft rubber cradles to keep them on my ears. My ears seem to be different from the average human since most everything pops right out the minute I put it in.

My biggest source of confusion on these trips is my back pack with it’s zillion different pockets, compartments and zippers. I’ve named it Helper, hoping that it will take the hint. I always try to have as little “stuff” to keep track of as possible, but on this long a flight you do need to have some things handy. I’ve already nearly left my driver’s license at the bag check place in Jacksonville. I’ve had to hunt for my baggage claim checks when at the Korean Air desk. I needed my fingernail clippers after tearing off a nail stowing my pack under the seat, and of course, I needed my ibuprofen. I got the Kindle out on the flight from Jacksonville but as it turned out I only opened my eyes long enough to drink my cup of coffee. All this stuff has to come out and go back in handily or I look like an idiot.

FT 12:50 We take off and are soon at over 500 mph at great height. By 1:15 we are being served beverage and snacks, I decide to watch a movie “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” which I saw on the plane coming from Minneapolis but couldn’t hear any of the words. By 2:00 we are being served a meal. I take chicken. By 3:00 the lights are being dimmed and by 3:30 it is quite dark and most are watching a movie or sleeping. I will also try to sleep because my headache is coming back.

FT 8 pm. I did try to sleep as it was a bit like taking a late afternoon nap. However, these seats are every bit as hard as I remember them being and that is what keeps me from being comfortable for long. I am sitting on actual pain, even though I have used my blanket as a cushion. Numbness.

Around FT 6pm we were offered a glass of juice and choice of a brownie, peanuts or a hot bun. I’ve had the hot bun before and it was good – has something in the middle that tastes like a spicy stew gravy. Nothing like it in our country. So that’s what I had. Decided to watch another movie. Cinderella, just because I’m curious about this recent remake.

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My Helper, with it’s many pockets, compartments and zippers…

Now we have just crossed the international date line, so it is no longer Tuesday here. We are at 36,000 feet going 537 mph and a little over half way there. I smell food again. I have been smelling something not so good as food for which the young boy sitting behind me is responsible, I think. He is also the one creating “turbulence” by kicking the back of my seat periodically. When we were all strapped in our seats during takeoff, he released himself from the seat belt and took off down the aisle. Two attendants quickly left their jump seats and grabbed him which was a bit dramatic since the plane was on quite an incline. They all three kind of fell down the hill, and then climbed back up. I’ve done pretty good finding things in my helper, except for my glasses case. I searched every compartment before I remembered where it was. That happens. As I said it’s now 8pm in Florida where I started, I’ve had a good nap but the plane is still dark. It’s disorienting to sit in this room with no outside view and with a constant loud white noise of the engines. I think they are counting on people being disoriented so they can play with our internal time clocks…

FT 4am on Wednesday morning. I am in Seoul, South Korea where it is 5:10 pm Wednesday. Confused yet? As I said about six hours ago, I smelled food. Meal number two was served at FT 9:30 after hot, warm washcloths were passed to all. We ate and the room was darkened again. I was sitting on both the pillow and the blanket which made my seat much more comfortable and I was able to sleep for several hours. This would have been normal sleep time for me at home. At about FT 2:30 we were awakened and readied for landing.

Incheon aiport is very nice, very busy. We followed the crowd to the line for International Transfers and went through another security check. My backpack was carefully examined by x-ray and then a manual search was requested. For some reason my wooden jewelry box with its two pair of earrings was hard for them to identify and after seeing what it was, all was good again.

There was sufficient time for us to find food, use the restroom and find Gate 20 where the next flight to Phnom Penh will board. I have gotten a welcome message on my phone from South Korea stating that I can receive calls and texts but cannot make them until some special authorization. I may not have wifi until we reach the guest house later tonight. All for now.

Me, being helped.
Me, being helped.

G for Going North

This morning once again I’m leaving the “family story” theme behind and writing about present experience. I am going north. The destination is Minneapolis for the Association of Writing Professionals conference. My daughter attended the conference last year when it was in her home town of Seattle and it was an outing she wanted to repeat. So for her April birthday she gave herself a present – the trip to Minneapolis – and for my birthday (which is today) she invited me along. I am masquerading as a real writer for three days and hoping to pick up some interesting experiences, and knowledge.

In the next three or four posts I hope to give a picture of what the conference is like. To be part of it I’ve had to join the Association, of course, and purchase my registration. I have already spent several hours looking at the hundreds of things on the schedule trying to decide what to take in. The online portal allows me to choose and develop my individual schedule which I can access at any time through an app on my phone. The app also links me to others at the conference and gives me a map of the conference center. I say that I’ve spent several hours wading through the many offerings but I’ve only gotten through day 2 of the conference. There are presentations on all kinds of writing and publishing, workshops, author signings and a huge book fair.

As I was getting ready for this trip, I asked my daughter “what do writers wear at these things?” Probably it was a stupid question, but honestly if I’m going to buy new clothes that don’t have stains on them I might as well fit in so I don’t feel conspicuous. As I suspected, writers don’t have a uniform. The most important thing is to have comfortable shoes and a sweater to keep warm. It is still snowing in this part of the country.

But the going part is also interesting. My ticket choices did not include a non-stop so I am airport hopping in what was supposed to be a three city trip. Unfortunatley our plans are “up in the air” so to speak. What do you do when the destination airport closes because of a storm? Evidently you circle until you run out of fuel. Actually, the pilot was kind enough to inform us that if we get close to running out of fuel we will land at another city that is kind of on the way (but not really). I don’t think I’ve ever been on a four city trip, and I’m desperately hoping I’m not on one now. It would mean missing my flight to the final destination for sure.

Maybe this is the start of my first novel!  Will she make it safely to the conference or will the plane mysteriously disappear over the cornfields of the midwest! The turbulence is getting rather dramatic. I’m just sayin’, stay tuned …