Saturday, November 17, 2018

Key items when traveling

Darling and I discussed the key items for traveling. Everyone says "snacks" and I'm good with that, but don't forget these necessities.

We were on the icy slopes of a glacier between Jasper and Banff and she didn't have her sunglasses. She was almost blind.

Remember your sunglasses, sunscreen and hat. They are essential to comfortable travel, whether to the frozen north or the sunny south.

If you have a nice camera, make sure it has a hat, too. Darling's fabulous camera couldn't compensate for the bright glare from the glacier, but would have handled it fine with the correct attachment to shade her lens.

The Nikon COOLPIX P900 is a great camera, but glare is glare.

Avoid glare. Remember your sunglasses.

Of course, you need to take snacks and drinks (not past TSA). Take a knit cap or earmuffs for the north. I always take a scarf, because I can roll it up for a neck pillow or use it to stay a little warmer or cover my face like a bandit to rob banks.

Just kidding on that last one.

Safe travels...

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Getting to the Train

Apparently, any train trip from Houston starts with a plane.

Ours did.

We flew from Houston's Hobby Airport (HOU) to Chicago O'Hare (ORD) on American Airlines.

We changed planes in Dallas, of course. I have a horror story about changing planes, but that's a different trip.

A basic rule of travel is to take snacks with you.

I see young travelers with trail mix or fruit and nuts. For goodness sake! You're on a trip. You WILL eat badly. Take candy bars.

We travel light and carry our bags on the plane. For a nineteen day trip, we each had one suitcase and a shoulder bag.

Yeah, we're awesome packers. We still packed too much.

Due to TSA rules for liquids, we now use clear toiletry bags. No more rummaging for something. We just turn the bag and look. Fabulous.

I checked in for our flight the night before. While I did this, the web site told me to pick my seats, and I wanted Darling and I to sit together.

Those cost me extra money, about $38 a seat. What? Am I buying the airplane chair?

Maybe. The new seats on airplanes are tiny. I'm not a little guy, but the seats are shrinking. It's in the news.

They don't feed you, either. Pretzels don't count. I guess they're trying to slim you down to fit in your seat.

This is a lawn chair, right?
I have a technique for flying that usually works. It's called passing out. I'll take a cold tablet before I fly. Once we're on the plane and in the air (take-offs are miserable, aren't they?), I fall asleep.

My head bounces around like I'm a bobble-head, and I probably drool a little. I don't care.

Sure I wake up when the flight attendant bumps past me (little seats, remember). I don't wake up enough to be conscious.

I wake up for the drinks because it's important to stay hydrated when traveling. Then I doze off until we land.

Let's face it, if we were supposed to fly, we would have been born with wings.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Baggage, Please

I collect luggage.

I don't mean to, but over the years I managed to buy a new suitcase or travel bag for every third trip.

When I was a younger man with a strong back, I bought the ones that converted to backpacks. I still have my favorite one. It weighs quite a bit because of the built-in frame.

Oh, and you have to carry it. 😃

Rick Steves has a good bag. I have two of those, one dark blue and one black.

To match my travelling shoes, I suppose.

My back can't handle those bags any more, so I decided to grab a new suitcase.

I wanted wheels - the spinner ones that let the bag walk next to you, like a well-trained dog. I wanted luggage that had hard sides this time, but it also had to be sized as a carry-on. 

We don't check bags when we travel.

The search began. I agonized over which bag to buy. Some are beautiful and look rugged and manly. Except for the wheels. And the handle.

I could have spent hundreds, but in my experience of on-line shopping, price rarely indicates quality.

So for our train trip across Canada I chose something less-expensive. I figured if it fell apart I could invest in something else later.

I bought an Olympia that fit all my requirements. On Amazon, it cost me less than fifty dollars.

The new suitcase held up great. It took a beating, too. And it still looks good.

American Airlines let us carry it on the flight to Chicago, and the train trip of nineteen days began.

I still thought it would be epic.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

A Memory of Panama City

Facebook reminded Darling that two years ago we were in Panama City, Panama.

Yo will find a description of the trip under "disaster" in the dictionary. Really, I planned the worst trip ever.

The best part was this picture of a Yellow-headed CaraCara that Darling took on our first morning there.

I'll cover more of that trip. There are too many travel tips not to do so.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Starting our Train Trip

This post is a bit long. I thought about breaking it into parts, but I can't. You'll see why.

Not the actual train

My cousin apparently loves the Amtrak train system. In 2013 she responded to my post about bus travel with "Train travel - much nicer - even coach!"

So, fast forward to August of 2018 and we decided to plan a train trip. This isn't a verbatim conversation. Let's consider it fiction.

"Honey, we should take a train trip! Here's one from Chicago to Seattle and you get to stop off at Glacier National Park. Amtrak should be fun. Everyone raves about it."

She smiles at me, knowing that I make these statements and hardly ever follow through. "Go ahead," she says.

Well, I think, this should be easy. Amtrak has a vacation planning group called Amtrak Vacations, so I'll just call them.

"Hello," I say to the woman who answers, "I'd like to take a train trip. We'd like to see if trains are as fun as people say."

"I can help you with that," says J, after introducing herself. "Where would you like to go."

"We live in Houston. Can we take a train from here?"

"Nope." I pause after that and look at the gorgeous pictures on the web site, including marvelous scenic mountain views from a plush viewing car on the train.

"Well," I say, "there's this trip from Chicago to Seattle. That looks nice and it's only three days. We could try that and see how we like trains. And we'd get to see Glacier National Park. How about that one?"

"I can get you coach tickets, but there aren't any sleeping berths available. It's too late in the season. I can book you something for summer of 2019 if you'd like." She seems nice.

"Oh," I say. My disappointment colors my thoughts. I'm missing a train trip! "Any other trips? My brother's in-laws went on a trip across Canada and they loved it. Is that available?"

"Let me check." She disappears from the phone and I continue to flip through all the lovely pictures of exotic mountain train trips.

She returns. "No," she says. "Those are all booked for this year." Now she is sounding frustrated and perhaps a little annoyed.

I am starting to panic. My train is fast disappearing down a dark tunnel. "Is there anything you could recommend?"

She doesn't expect me to hear it, but she sighs. "How much did you want to spend?" she asks.

"I didn't really have an amount in mind. I don't really care about the cost."

The sigh is gone, replaced by ... what is that in her voice? Joy? "Let me check. Hang on a few minutes."

My darling wife watches me with a bemused look on her face. "How's it going?" she asks.

"I'm not sure," I mumble in response. "I might have something."

J is back on the line. "I have something. Now you said you'd fly into Chicago and you wanted to experience a train trip. I can't get you a train going west to Seattle, but I can take you east, then up into Canada, then across Canada to Banff, then to Vancouver, to Seattle and back to Chicago. How's that sound?" She's excited now, and I'm feeling it. 

I have a train trip after all. She gives me the dates and places. Nineteen days! She tells me the cost and my heart skips a beat, but this is the trip of a lifetime - and I planned it! I'm good with spending this small fortune.

"Wow," I say to her, "I didn't think Amtrak did Canada."

"Oh, we're not Amtrak," she says, "we're an independent travel company."

So the adventure began...

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Grand Rapids Airport

We went to Michigan where my brother put us up - and put up with us - for a week.

I miss the beautiful fall colors in Michigan.

We froze our ever-lovin' bums off during the horse-drawn carriage ride on Mackinac Island. Our guide regaled us with numerous tales of the isle for an enjoyable tour.

Very scenic. Lots of trees.

Eventually the trip home...

The Grand Rapids Airport displays television-like billboards on the walls. On our return trip, these billboards enticed the flyer with ... wait for it ...

Thousand dollar Tag Heuer men's watches.

It is pretty, though. I mean - manly.

The guy in the advertisement? Brad Pitt.

Well, of course Brad Pitt wears one. He probably wears two!

I think they'd be better off with a good ad for summer sausage.

Great. Now I'm hungry.

Thanks for reading. I'll tag my posts, so you will know which have semis-serious information and which are observations. This one, for instance, is an observation.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A word about travel

People (generally) like to take "scenic" routes. They mark such routes on maps. Every Chamber of Commerce for each small city boasts at least one "scenic" route.

Advertisements for travel all tout how "scenic" their tour is.

They all lie.

You'll undoubtedly see things you don't see at home. Things like...

well ... trees and water ... and trees

... and more water.

I just had to share that thought.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Let's begin

I'm retired. Retired people travel.

I like visiting new places.

So far, I hate getting there.

Come with me, and I'll grouse about those little irritations. 

I'll give some tips on travel.

I'll unabashedly give affiliate links to things I really like.

I'll post about past travel experiences, to Rwanda, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Puerta Vallarta, Cabo San Lucas, Canada, Israel, Germany, as well as places in the USA.

We'll be heading back to Costa Rica at some point. We plan to travel to France and other European countries. I'm sure I'll have something to say about those trips.

Here we go, one adventure at a time.

PS - I'll always post on Wednesdays. Other days I might... Thanks for reading.

Key items when traveling

Darling and I discussed the key items for traveling. Everyone says "snacks" and I'm good with that, but don't forget these...