Category Archives: Travel

Mustang Sally

20160204_222721We had expected cars to be expensive to rent while we were in California after we discovered we’d be there over the Super Bowl weekend.  We were pleasantly surprised that the prices were not jacked up. We were doubly surprised when we found a convertible for the same price as a standard/smallish regular car. The weather for the weekend was expected to be in the mid 70s, so we thought we might as well enjoy a bit of convertible weather in February!

The reservation said “Mustang Convertible or Similar” which we were looking forward to just for the fun of it. When we got to the rental counter, the young woman put on the full court press.

“Do you want to prepay your gas”  “No.”

“Are you sure? It can save you money.”  “I’m sure.”

“Do you want the insurance for the car.”  “No, our company has insurance that covers it.”

“Are you sure? Even for a convertible?”  “Yes, and even for a convertible.”

“Well, if you are sure they would cover you.”  “I am.”

“Ok. Oh, look, for only $20 per day, I can upgrade your Mustang to a Camaro.”

“Nope, that is fine, just what we planned for.”

“Are you sure?  It’s a pretty nice car.” “No, the Mustang will be fine.”

So, having failed at all her up-selling efforts, she sends us to the lot to pick up our car. We tell the attendant we are looking for the Mustang Convertible and show him our paperwork. He says they sent the last Mustang off an hour before, all they have is the Camaro Convertible.

Yes, we were already scheduled for the Camaro that the car rental counter person was trying to get us to pay extra for as an upgrade.

No, that doesn’t seem scammy at all.

 

 

 

 

Well That’s Just Super!

This is the conversation Philip and I had last night.

Philip said, “I made our reservations to fly into Oakland on the 4th. Our event with Bob is on the 5th and we’ll stay the weekend and have our meetings and training sessions through the next week. See what hotel you can get close to Fremont.”

So  I clicked away and checked out our regular haunts.

“Looks like there is some big event going on, the hotels are either unavailable or really high priced that weekend.”

Then I googled “Super Bowl.” I knew it was going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, I just didn’t know it was that early in February.

Philip knew it was on the 7th, he just didn’t know it was in the Bay Area.

So, here is the ugly truth– we are sports illiterates.  We are not fans, we are not followers we didn’t watch the Royals in the World Series, but did follow the final games online. We didn’t watch the Chiefs in the play-offs, again catching the final score online. We are happy for both teams doing well this year. We are happy for our friends who follow every game, who watch the Royals in the burning heat or the Chiefs in freezing cold.

We are not those people.

But those people were driving up the cost of the hotel rooms we usually stay in when we are in California.

We spent almost 2 hours finding a hotel that was within driving distance to our event on Friday  and that cost less than a month’s mortgage. We’d  enter our dates, search for a hotel , find one that listed some reasonable price, click select and the next page would show that price for one night, a price 3 times as much for the following night, and a warning that rooms were paid immediately on reservation with no refund for changes.

Um, NO!

We finally used some (a bunch, actually) of Hilton points to offset the cost of one hotel and the on Saturday we’ll move to Windsor, north of the city. I haven’t got the rooms for the rest of the week yet, but we’ll figure it out. By then, the fans will have thinned out and the prices won’t be so hard to take.

And this way, I’ll be strolling the square in Healdsburg to taste some wine while the fans are cheering on their teams. And they and we will all be happy!

On the Road Again

We just got back from nearly a week in Texas.  It was 4 degrees when we left home and in the mid-50s when we got to Galveston.  Not sun bathe at the beach weather, but certainly warmer than home.

Not that we were heading to the beach anyway. This was a work week, so we spent most of our time in conference rooms, training centers, or working in hotel rooms.  That said, we try to have some fun on the road. But, we arrived on a Sunday, so we did take a bit of time.

I had googled “Wineries in Galveston” and found one nearby, in Santa Fe, TX.  We stopped at the Haak Winery  and tasted several of their wines.  When we are tasting several, we always share a tasting, both to save money and so we aren’t drinking too much.  We sat on their deck, which was possible because they had heaters, and enjoyed the sunny but chilly day. We bought a bottle of their White Madeira to take home, and walked around the vineyard a bit and drove on to our hotel.

Rooms were a bargain in Galveston, cheaper than nearer our client site, so we drove an extra few minutes in return for a view of the beach.  Originally we had a view of the back parking lot, but the sink in our room didn’t drain, so we were moved across the hall to a room with a patio/deck and yes, we could see water, if we looked across the Walmart parking lot and the road.  I’m not complaining, since I wasn’t expecting a view. And it wasn’t as if I was spending my time on the deck drinking margaritas!

We ate at a couple of local places.  It felt like the local prices were high (tourist town) so we also went to our fall back position for diet friendly,  fast and economical– Wendy’s salads. Oh, such connoisseurs are we!

When we finished with client work there, we drove for one last night in north Houston, and finally found what Philip had been wanting– Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen had cheap oysters on the half shell.  So he had a dozen oysters, I had a shrimp cocktail with 9 large shrimp and we each had a side salad and a glass of wine and we were very happy.

Client visits went well, had some different food, found a new Texas winery.  Working hard but taking time to smell the roses (you know, the ones planted at the end of the rows of grapes!) Great way to start the year!

 

 

On the Road Again!

I’m on the road again.
We’re drivng this time— 3 states, 5 cities, 2 weeks and countless public restrooms.
I have long joked that apparently my purpose in life is to visit every airport restroom in the USA—which has had its share of yucky moments, but that pales in comparison to the sense of adventure one feels when opening the door of a public restroom in an fast food restaurant, a gas station or rural convenience store.
It is like the final bit from the old game show—What lies behind the door—relief or angst?
I’ve had pleasant surprises—clean as a clean can be restrooms in run down convenience stores in the middle of nowhere or my favorite, sparkling public restrooms that smell of bleach. I’ve had some horror stories, such as one in Mississippi a few years ago that didn’t have a door between the restroom itself and the rest of the store, though most of the stalls had doors.
But I digress. While the cleaning habits of the store or restaurant management plays a large role in how good or horrific a public restroom experience may be it is the people who used the facilities before you who make the biggest difference. To this group of strangers I have a question.

Were You Born In a Barn?

Seriously! On what planet is the way you leave a restroom acceptable?
And if you are not one of these people, you know who you are, and you may join me in my irritation.
I have a short list of rules that I think we should put into place. We could even vote on them, if needed. The problem is, when people fail to follow these rules, it is the next person in line who pays the price.

Rule Number 1–Stop peeing on the seat.
I stopped at a a chain restaurant yesterday and made my “I’ve been in the car drinking coffee for 4 hours” run into the restroom— and it was wonderfully clean when I walked in and it was clean and dry when I left.
An hour later, I made my “better go before I get then car for another 4 hours” stop and went to the same stall. This time it had pee all over the seat. Seriously ladies, unless you can levitate and hit the mark, please stop this squat, aim and miss practice. This was a sparkling clean restroom, it had seat liners in each stall which are useless because someone PEED ON THE SEAT.
If you make a mess of the seat—and by mess I mean any bodily emission of any kind—clean it up before you leave. There is toilet paper right there, wipe up after yourself. Or be defined as nasty.

Rule Number 2— Flush the damn toilet.
Flush toilets are one of the best inventions in the history of the world, so use them. I don’t care if you “let the yellow mellow” at home all that does in public restrooms is mess with the plumbing by ending up with too much toilet paper to flush and eventual clogs. And make sure the toilet flushes before you leave the stall, Self-flushing toilets don’t always self-flush, but there is always a button to do it yourself. If one flush doesn’t do it, do a second, but make sure whatever you left in the toilet is gone before you leave the cubicle. View it as you would camping in a pristine wilderness… leave no evidence of your visit.

If everyone did just these two things, public restrooms would immediately improve on so many levels.

Hello, Mr. Angry

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes while traveling we run into people who are just clueless about how to act in public. I was riding on a hotel shuttle bus that was dropping four sets of two people at various restaurants at various points in Market Square and along the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Philip, me, a couple of women, and two sets of guys, all either tourists or in town on business. Not a lot of cross talk, mostly, we were all waiting for our stops. I was sitting with a couple of guys heading out for steaks. Philip was sitting in front of me with two women going out for Mexican food. It was a random grouping of strangers who happened to be in the same hotel on the same night, and I’d not recognize any of them if I saw them today.
Out of nowhere, one of the guys sitting by me began going on about politics. Specifically, he began to discuss, loudly, his hatred of politicians. And his possibly made-up-as-he-went-along belief that something should be done–like blowing up buildings.
Although it was clear he was a blowhard, who might or might not have been spending some dedicated time at a happy hour before heading out for the evening, everyone’s private conversations stopped and it seemed like we all perked up our ears.
“Keep talking, I’m recording you,” said the man’s buddy.
And the man did keep talking—which clearly was not what his buddy hoped.
“We hear you, too” said a woman in the seat in front of me.
And the man started again.
Then I quoted Arlo Guthrie and said, “And they all moved away from him on the Group W Bench.”
My comment flustered him to the point he paused. And his friend took the opportunity to jump in, “I haven’t thought of that song in years.” The friend began singing lines of “Alice’s Restaurant” until the shuttle got to the steakhouse and he and Mr. Blowhard left the shuttle.
Do I believe this man would ever really blow up a building? No. But none of us wanted to hear him blather on about it, just as no one wants to hear people joking about blowing up a plane while they are waiting in line at the airport. It was an uncomfortable moment that can happen when strangers are thrown together even for a short shuttle ride. But I can say I usually have more comfortable moments with the people I run across in the course of my travels.

Happy Anniversary Baby, I’ve Got You on My Mind

We’ve been celebrating our anniversary for a month, and it has been a great month.

This year we celebrate 35 years of marriage.

Yes, that is a long time.

And, if you must know, yes, we were young when we got married. Around 10 years old, I think—at least that is my story and I’m sticking with it.

But I digress.

We had thought of going to Hawaii, or some big trip to France or Italy, but frankly, making the time wasn’t working, and we’d rather not have that cash outlay right now. So, we decided to have some fun here.

We bought new phones, which we love. They are fast, sleek, have big screens and do lots of thing—and the cameras on them are very good, for snapshots and things you’d need day to day.  And we got small tablets for ourselves, which make it easy to read books, nicer than the phones for searching without dragging out the laptop. Who doesn’t like new toys?  So, even though we bought them a month before our actual anniversary, we counted these as “Anniversary gifts”.

Then we went on the mega work trip. And it was work—not a vacation at all.  We were up early to go to client sites to prep the rooms, ate the free breakfasts at inexpensive hotels (expensive hotels don’t offer free breakfast!) where we stayed, lived on weak conference coffee and when available, ate free dinners, which are usually carb heavy (Lasagna, Potatoes and gravy, rice) and lots of lettuce, with maybe some cheap wine offered for good measure.  However, free is free, and really, on the road unless we are going someplace really special, most of the time   we end up eating salad for dinner anyway.

But, we also took a day off and toured the Missions in San Antonio, TX one Saturday. And went to the Lodi Zinfest the next Saturday when we were in California. And it was great fun.  For us, both counted as anniversary celebrations.  We stopped for a couple of wine tastings when we finished our appointments. We had small plates one night and people watched from a sidewalk table. On our way home on a Saturday, when they announced the flight was overbooked, we scored free tickets for an upcoming flight simply for waiting in an airport for a few extra hours—and while we were there we shared a glass of wine and some pâté at an airport restaurant that we never would have found without the extra time.  We define all of this as part of the anniversary celebration.

Since our actual anniversary was a “school night” we defined the day before as the actual celebration day. We went to a new restaurant that had just opened a few blocks from our home and had appetizers and shared a glass of wine before going to a movie at a new theater. After the show, we bought macarons and took them home for dessert for the official anniversary dinner at home—where we had filets, baked potato, asparagus and a split of 1997 Opus One wine in our own dining room.

I guess it is hard to define a celebration when life is to be celebrated. We may not buy cards or flowers or balloons to punctuate every life event, but we do tend to have a good time wherever we happen to be. I think we succeed in making the commas in our life story enough fun that we don’t have to wait for exclamation points!

Ten Pounds of Stuff in a Five Pound Bag

I’m on the road again and apparently felt I not only needed to take everything I own with me, but that it should all go in my purse.  Sounds good, but unless I buy a little red wagon to drag the purse along in, I’m going to have to lighten the load.  Not only am I carrying pounds and pounds of stuff in my shoulder bag, I’m lugging it though airports…. 3 different ones today. So, when I need something out of it, I have to dig, because inevitably the thing I want has filtered down to the bottom of the main area of the purse.  I have/had a system, but right before this trip, I changed phones, added a small tablet, and my carefully planned purse system is now just a little off. Here is a list of what I currently have in my purse.

First external zipper pocket:

  • Two lipsticks (which I usually forget to apply)
  •  Lip balm
  •  Small mirror, (in case I ever apply the lipstick
  •  Flying earplugs  in a case—since my ears have been bothering me
  • Black earbuds for listening to music
  • Two packets  of wrapped mints from restaurant last night.

Second external zippered pocket:

  • Phone –not too much else can fit, this phone is larger than my last one

Larger external zippered pocket

  • Driving glasses in hard case (So I can see to drive)
  • Sunglasses in hard case (So I can see in the sun)
  • Reading glasses in soft case—these are hardly ever used, but they there if I need them
  • Receipt
  • Paper napkin—from fast food place at an airport
  • Packet of lemon juice from fast food restaurant at airport
  • Pen
  • Two tea bags

Small internal Pocket:

  • Business cards–mine and other people’s
  • Electronic key card
  • 2 packets of Equal

Second small internal pocket

  •  Half roll of Tums  (For my tummy)
  • Package of dental floss
  • Larger internal pocket
  • Two  pens
  •  Small fold over note pad
  •  Two receipts
  • Conference badge on a retractable cord.

 Main Purse area

  • 7 Inch tablet in case (This is new, and I love it for reading my Kindle books—much better than my old phone that I used to use for reading books!)
  • Oversized Billfold.  (Love it, but it is too big and too heavy )
  • Sheet of paper with list on it. (Could likely toss this, since I usually use Evernote)
  • Small hairbrush
  • White earbuds
  • Blue scrunchy
  • Car charger and wall charger and two cords in a case that is too small for all that stuff
  • Checkbook (I write almost no checks, but I seem to always have it with me)
  •  Wendy’s coupons
  • Two emery boards in a plastic cover
  • Empty Ziploc bag
  • Quart Ziploc bag filled with:
  1. Five bottles nail polishes (Glass bottles are heavy—this should be in the suitcase, really)
  2. Allergy meds
  3. Four- 5 Hour Energy drinks (this is 20 full hours of energy, folks)
  4. Hand sanitizer      
  • Package of Southwest peanuts
  • Package of Southwest pretzels
  • Package of Wheat Thins, also from Southwest
  •  Three magazines
  • Rolling Stone (left for me by seat mate—saved for article on musicians favorite songs)
  • Psychology Today (bought at airport newsstand for the article on Reinventing Yourself)
  • Spirit magazine (Southwest free magazine kept for Sudoku puzzles)

So, yes, some of this is clearly temporary and travel related, but—I am going to find a tote or specific travel purse to deal with this, because a lot of this is now standard for any future trips.

And I’m not  even going to discuss what is in my briefcase— but it at least has wheels!

To Sleep, Perhaps to Dream!

I got 3 hours of sleep Sunday night.

It is my own fault, We had a 6 AM flight, so I was up at 3 AM to shower, dress, prep the house, zip up the suitcases and drive to the airport. So… any logical person would have gone to bed sometime before midnight, but somehow Sunday got away from me. I worked on a project that a teaming partner decided to kill and I ended up spending about 2 extra hours with a service provider getting some things taken care of before I left town– so I ended up packing much later than i’d planned.

Then i was surprised when i dropped the car off at the parking lot.  The line for the shuttle bus was very long– 2 were filled before I could board mine.  Monday is “off to the races day” for road warriors, so I’m used to busy Monday’s at the airport, but it had been a cheaper flight — which usually means a less popular flight.  Instead, the flight was full and possibly overbooked. They announced they were potentially offering vouchers for anyone who would take a later flight.  Philip and I volunteered, because this is one of the very rare days where we could adjust our schedule, but they didn’t want 2, and apparently someone missed the flight, because as far as I know, no one got a voucher.

I did, however, get a middle seat on both legs of my flight, which makes it harder to sleep. Philip had the aisle,   The man who got “my” window seat on the first flight was looking at pictures of birds– no captions or stories, just pictures of birds–on his i-Pad, then slept a bit.  The guy on the second flight slept the whole time.  I slept off and on during both flights, but I find it hard to sleep in the center seat, since I’m busy trying not to touch the stranger next too me.

One thing that made me laugh this morning was when Southwest announced , as they always do, after about the first 60 ticket holders board the plane  “If you are travelling with small children you may board now.” I couldn’t help but edit the sentence to “If you are travelling with small children on this flight, you either are suffering through an out of town  emergency or you have incredibly bad planning”.  It was no surprise there were no kids on this particular flight.

Fortunately for me, we got our rental car, drove 2 hours to our hotel and checked in. Time from out my house door to in the hotel door was just over 8 hours. Clients tomorrow, but a nap today!

Is One Day Off Really a Vacation?

I earned every ounce I gained while I was in California for business. I began the trip well enough with mostly fast food salads during the work week, but then we found ourselves in Monterey on Friday night—how sad is that?  We were staying at the Hyatt, which looks like they are doing a remodel with mid-century modern touches. This was emphasized by the cool jazz group playing in the lobby bar the nights we were there.  (Any time the band uses drum brushes on the trap set, I’m a happy girl!)

TusCa restaurant at the hotel had a flat bread with Tenderloin Tips, Gorgonzola Sauce, Candied Onions, Fresh Arugula that was good –tender pieces of beef, just enough sauce and onions to leave you wanting a bit more—so  yummy and we split one with some salad.

Saturday, we did winetasting in Monterey.  We did hit the pier, but just down and back.  Seafood restaurants lined each side of the pier, and (as we’d been told/warned by the concierge) nearly every one gave samples of clam chowder, which Philip compared and I avoided. Like many tourist districts, the pier was mostly restaurants, bars, cheap silver and souvenirs that I just don’t go for.  We walked to the end, and back, then drove to another touristy part of Monterey, Cannery Row, where we found more what we had come to find in Monterey—Central Coast California wines.

We shared a tasting at Carmel Ridge Winery Tasting Room, and they suggested we also try A Taste of Monterey – Wine Market & Bistro, as they offer selections from across the region.  We climbed the stairs to the second level and where we split a tasting of their wines of the day.  They have a great view of the water so we ordered some small plates.  We had a window view of the bay, wine, food and no place else to be. There were not a lot of people eating, so no rush to change out the table, so we had a long, leisurely time, talking and watching the people and the waves. We had a great  time!

Sunday, we got up a little late, grabbed a cappuccino at Peet’s in town for breakfast, then drove the 17 mile drive through Pebble Beach, which was interesting enough and gave us a chance to see the Monterey area seaside.  We did an exploratory drive through Carmel, but didn’t stop. That will have to be another trip.  We stopped at a funky little house converted into The Corkscrew Café, where we shared a salad and split a burger—and since we don’t usually have burgers this was a treat.  The waiter had a small and stylized handlebar mustache that looked great on him and made me smile.  I meant to tell him how well he wore it but didn’t.  I suspect he doesn’t care what I think of his mustache, but it is always nice when people compliment Philip’s look (he has been wearing a variation of a Van Dyke lately and gets a lot of compliments).

We drove the rest of the way toward our destination intermittently slowing to glacier speeds.  At one point, the traffic was so bad for so long that our Garmin said “Do you want to convert to Pedestrian Mode”?” (No, we want the traffic to speed up!)  We finally got to our hotel, to prep for meetings the next day.

My Bags are Packed, It’s Early Morn

A day in my life–

Wake up at 3 AM

Shower

Finish packing

Leave house at 4 AM

Drive to airport parking area

Board shuttle

Arrive at airport 5 AM, check baggage

5:50 Board plane

6:15 Jet pulls away from gate

6:30 Jet returns to gate

Disembark

7:15 Board new plane

7:15 Sleep during take-off

7:35 Log on to computer (Yay inflight Wi-Fi)

Drink coffee while flying

Send Emails while flying

Drink more coffee and eat little package of airline cookies

Fly over Grand Canyon

Fill out online form

Land

Make traditional airport restroom visit

Wait for luggage

Drag luggage to car rental shuttle

Ride Bus to Car Rental Office

Wait with luggage while Philip checks out car

Admire Mustang and BMWs in parking lot

Drive away in Chevy Cruze

Follow Garmin instructions to get to meeting

Eat a fat free cheese stick in car

Go to meeting

Drink coffee

Talk shop

Talk shop some more

Get in car

Look for fast food along way to next meeting—must be before we get to freeway and on the right side of the street No luck

Drive rapidly toward next meeting

See highway patrol

Drive more slowly

Find place for next meeting.

Notice hot dog stand across street from building

Buy 2 hotdogs while Philip confirms meeting location.

Walk to meeting building—would be 3 PM at home Have been up for 12 hours (excluding 15 minutes on plane)

Eat hotdogs on steps of building

Old saying “Hunger is the best sauce” is proven by incredible perfection of hot dogs

Enter building and discover a Peet’s coffee bar—but no time to grab coffee.

Go to meeting

Listen to first presenter—he is great

Philip presents, also great, and well received

Tour facility

Schmooze

End meeting and drive to hotel

Check in

We have now been up for nearly 19 hours, after 4 hours sleep the
previous night–take 45 minute nap

Go to dinner–split an order of Chicken Masala.

Return to room–drink decaf, prep for next day’s work

Lay out clothing,

Put on “Life is good” sleep shirts–it is 1:30 AM in our home time zone.

Sleep(Yay!)