Thursday, September 19, 2013

The hows of air travel…

A couple of days ago we did our aerobic exercise by walking up hill and down dale in downtown Seattle. Actually we walked down Pike and up Seneca and boy, was it indeed way down to the waterfront, including a stroll down the Pike Hill Climb—there actually was a sign!—all the way to the harbor and then back up. The hotel valet warned us not to go downhill, but we ignored his advice. Got our 10,000 steps!

Today we managed to fritter away the whole morning in Seattle by doing…well, we don’t exactly know what we did, but pretty soon it was 11am and we needed to get to the Hotel Deca (our home for the next 7 nights) so we could catch the tour that the Renaissance Hotel set up for us to Boeing (Paine Field). As in airplanes, as in “If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going!”

Somehow the brochure about the tour made us feel as if we needed to have this escorted tour if we wanted to see how Boeing makes its airplanes. We didn’t and we could have saved ourselves a bunch of money if we just drove ourselves to Paine Field, but then we wouldn’t have had the experience of riding a bus as the only passengers with a very entertaining man (Greg) doing a lot of talking on our way up and back to Everett, WA (the home of Paine Field and the construction of 747s, 767s, 777s, and 787s). We learned a lot of very forgettable stuff—but very interesting, forgettable stuff!—about Bill Boeing on our way up to Everett. And the driver learned that a 247 is NOT a pressurized airplane. He’ll probably forget that.

The tour itself was absolutely fascinating! We have no pictures because we were not allowed to bring a purse, backpack, fannypack (for any Aussie or Kiwi readers, that’s not a bad word, it’s a bum bag) anything electronic or mechanical with us on the tour unless, as Greg-our-guide said, it ran our pacemakers or opened our car. So, off to the (for a dollar) lockers.

We watched a short movie, the quality of which rivaled the best Hollywood production (if that production was only six minutes long, that is) then out to the busses for the fairly short drive past the DreamLifter and dozens of 7xx airplanes in various states of paintedness to The Building. I call it The Building because it is just so BIG! Actually it is the largest (by volume) building in the world; Greg-the-guide said it could hold five Empire State buildings, or two and a half pentagons, or the whole of Disneyland Anaheim and still have 12 acres left over for covered parking.

We watched 747s, 777s, and 787s being built, the 787s on a moving assembly line. Pretty cool!

Monday, September 16, 2013

The joys of air travel…

I, and Randy, because, well, I don’t know why Randy wanted to come with me to a conference, but it IS going to make it much more fun, are on our way to Seattle for my first full conference as the editor of Symbiosis, the newsletter of AZAD (the Association of Zoo and Aquarium Docents) by air. Last time I went to Seattle, in March, I drove and had a nice time visiting friends and relatives on the way. This trip by air isn’t really BAD, it’s just annoying. For example, I am sitting here writing and some guy is looking over my shoulder trying to read my screen. So I’ve made the typeface—aside: I really have to look up which is correct, font or typeface—Blackadder IT which is a supremely difficult typeface to read.

Other annoyances: people who hold up the whole aircraft boarding process because he/she is taking 5 minutes trying to cram a bag that is way larger than the overhead bin into said overhead bin because they are too much of a skinflint to check it. Of course another annoyance is that United (and all the other carriers, to be fair) charges for almost everything but water, coffee, and soft drinks: you want more legroom? $$$ You want an exit row seat? $$$ You want to board early? $$$ You want to avoid starving to death? $$$ (One picture showed “Breakfast”: 3 [THREE!] skinny little strips of Swiss cheese, 1 small biscuit, 6 grapes, and a hard-boiled egg; $7!!!)They haven’t yet put a coin slot on the bathroom door, but I’m afraid that’s coming, too! The same people who held up the boarding will hold up the unboarding by not getting their bag from the aforementioned overhead bin until the very last possible moment, thus keeping everybody behind them waiting while they try to extricate the bag that earlier they crammed in there like sausage in the skin. OK, OK, I’ll stop complaining now.

We have forgotten lots of things on this trip even though we weren’t pressured for time at all: I actually forgot my camera! I feel naked without my camera, how on earth could I forget it? I’ll have to learn to use the cell phone! Randy forgot the stuff to clean his hearing aids. He also forgot his Red Carpet Room card. There’s probably other stuff we just haven’t realized we’ve forgotten. Better get our act in gear before our big trip next year.

I think our problem is that we have too many checklists. When you’re married to a pilot, you learn to live with checklists. Heck, we even have checklists of our checklists! We have: a before leaving checklist, an electronics checklist, a camera checklist, clothing checklists for both of us; as well as travel by car checklists, travel by air checklists, travel by cruise ship checklists, timeshare checklists, hotel checklists, and RV checklists—all of which include the camera checklist, the electronics checklist, etc. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. As a result it’s kind of overwhelming so we end up not looking at any of the checklists, at least not on the morning we leave for the airport. Hence, the forgotten camera.

But life goes on, and I’m sure we’ll have a great time in Seattle and at the conference. Even without my camera. And even if Randy can’t hear as well.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Here we go again!

Randy and I are off on another trip next spring: Tucson to Fort Lauderdale (via UAL) to Dover (via the Holland America Ryndam to Istanbul (via UAL) to Bucharest to Amsterdam (via Uniworld River Princess to stay in a houseboat for 4 day (the Prins et Brouwer—we’ve stayed on her before, in 2006) to Tucson (via UAL). So it’s a fly-cruise-fly-cruise-fly trip!

Along the way we’ll pick up our children and their spouses (in Vienna) for part of the river trip. That was the original idea, that we’d have a family vacation in Europe (our son-in-law has never been to Europe). That became a two-week river cruise which became a four-week river cruise for Randy and me (we haven’t found a cruise that’s too long!). And then we had trouble getting a flight to Istanbul using UAL miles so we thought, what the heck, let’s cruise to Europe on the supremely convenient double Ryndam cruise (meaning it is actually two back-to-back cruises, Fort Lauderdale to Barcelona and Barcelona to Dover).

It was much easier to get a flight home FROM Amsterdam than it was to get one TO Istanbul and it was a piece of cake to get a London-Istanbul flight. So there we had it. Almost. We had stayed with Greg and Yolanda (our son and daughter-in-law) on a houseboat in Amsterdam seven years ago so we thought it would be fun to do it again. But I just couldn’t find the right one. I set my wonderful daughter to work on finding the perfect houseboat—and she did: the Prins et Brouwer, moored at the intersection of the Prinsengracht and Brouwersgracht canals, one of the most fabulous locations in Amsterdam. AND we had stayed in that exact houseboat seven years ago. I had been told it was no longer for rent. Wrong! So now Kathy has it reserved for June of 2014.

So, while the trip is still almost seven months away, we have most of the travel plans all squared away (wherever did that expression come from?). I’ve even logged on to the Rollcall for the Ryndam so perhaps we’ll make some more good friends on the ship. There’s  a lot to live up to, however, from the ‘round the world cruise of last year!
Cruise Itinerary for the Holland America Ryndam

River cruise itinerary for the Uniworld River Princess

The ports/stops the Ryndam makes are: Ponta Delgada, Malaga, Cartagena (Spain, not Chile—maybe we’ll get to the Chilean one the following year), Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona (a repeat from the world cruise), Valencia, Alicante, Motril, Gibralter, Cadiz, Lisbon (a repeat from 2006), Bilbao, Portland (England), and Dover. Only two cities we’ve ever visited before! Then the river cruise goes to: Istanbul (a favorite from the world cruise), Bucharest, Giurgiu, Rousse, Vidin, Belgrade, Vukovar, Pécs, Budapest (two days), Bratislava, Vienna (four days), Durnstein, Passau, Regensburg, Nuremburg, Bamburg, Wurzburg (we were there 2005), Miltenberg, Frankfurt (also there in 2005), Rüdesheim, Cologne, and Amsterdam (we’ve been there several times). That’s 37 different cities and only six have we ever visited before!