Archive for Travel

Eight more states to go

Well, both Jodi and James have posted theirs so I guess I’m duty bound to show mine.

Thanks to World66 for the easy map-generation program.

I’ve collected 42 states (out of 51 if you include DC) = 82%
create your own personalized map of the USA

Now, I just have to strategize how I’ll get these pockets in the middle. As Jodi pointed out to me this morning, it’s pretty likely we’ll take a trip to Vermont at some point. I’m sure we’ll even take a trip to SD/NM (and maybe even ND) for the national parks. But I have no idea when I’ll make it over to Kansas, Arkansas, or Missouri!

Now, on the world stage I’m not doing so well:

Yikes. Only 7 countries (3%). And they’re all in Central or North America and Western Europe. I need to find a way to get over to China, India, Australia, or somewhere in Africa so I can make this look a little more respectable!
create your own visited country map

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National Parks Trip 2006

Jodi and I, after returning from the graduation trip(s) to Buffalo and to Houston, loaded up the car and headed out for a week of national park touring and camping. Here are the daily summary descriptions from the photos posted at Doddsnet:

Tuesday – May 16, 2006

Jodi and I left Seattle and headed east. Today was mostly a driving day… we stopped for lunch, but almost all of the rest of the day was spent in the car, aiming at the Lewis and Clark caverns in Montana. We didn’t quite make it that far (we were worried it’d be dark and hard to set up the tent if we went the whole way) so we ended up at a campground near Missoula instead.

Start 0916, 51048. Gas stop 0919, 51050. Lunch 1148. End lunch 1213. Gas stop 1428, 51367. Stop – Clinton, MT, 1845.

Wednesday – May 17, 2006

Jodi and I woke up in Clinton, MT and hit the road toward Lewis and Clark caverns. We arrived at the caverns, but decided not to take the two hour tour and to press on toward Madison campsite at Yellowstone instead. We arrived at Yellowstone and headed down to see various geysers, hotsprings, etc. Then we camped at Madison. There are lots of photos here, and that’s still after deleting the bad ones and only posting a portion of what remains!

Start 0730. Gas stop 0854, 51654. Stop – Yellowstone (Madison Campsite).

Thursday – May 18, 2006

Jodi and I woke up in Yellowstone and drove up to Mammoth Springs campground straight-away (no reservation at at that campsite and Madison was probably 100% full on Wednesday night). After securing our campsite, we went back south and viewed a bunch of stuff back down to Madison Jct. Then we went over to Canyon Village for some lunch. Then down to Fishing Bridge (where, ironically, you can’t fish). Then we drove back to Mammoth (a truly mammoth drive from Fishing Bridge) and camped at Madison. There are lots of photos here, and – again – that’s still after deleting the bad ones and only posting a portion of what remains!

Start 0805, 51862. Stop – Yellowstone (Mammoth Campsite).

Friday – May 19, 2006

Jodi and I woke up in Yellowstone and drove up to Salmon Lake State Park, via Missoula. We were a little bit disappointed by the changes to Missoula since our last visit (in 2000). It seems to have doubled in size, and not in a good way. Lots of traffic and strip malls, etc. Ugh. Salmon Lake State Park was very nice though. We had some rowdy/loud site neighbors who clearly can’t read and thought “Quiet Hours” meant “be really loud”. Plus we had our first thunderstorm; quite a big one!

Start 0904, 52019. Gas 1020, 52078. Lunch 1400, 52324. Stop 1615, 52368 – Salmon Lake.

Saturday – May 20, 2006

Jodi and I woke up at Salmon Lake and drove up Glacier National Park. When we arrived there, we discovered that the “Road to the Sun” is still closed until mid-June. Drat. So we were only able to go about 15 miles  up the road and had to turn around and go back out the entrance. Then we did the same thing at the north-east end of the park. So I suppose we’ll need to come back at some point to actually see the whole road. We were ahead of schedule, so we decided to drive on to Waterton Lakes National Park and camp there. Unfortunately, once we got there we discovered that all of the campgrounds at this Canada national park were full. So we ended up camping just outside the national park at a privately owned campground. It was very, VERY windy.

Start 0837, 52391. Gas 1012,52483. Lunch 1033,52492. Gas 1533,52673 – (outside) Waterton Lakes.

Sunday – May 21, 2006

Jodi and I woke up early at Waterton and started our drive home. Having braved the wind of Waterton the night before (it was VERY windy), we were interested to see all of the wind turbines as we made our way through Alberta. We had both breakfast and Lunch in the car, and decided to skip both Coulee Dam and Yakima (which we had earlier considered stopping for) in an effort to get home sooner. We were both feeling a bit homesick. 🙂

Start 0620,52740. Lunch 1210,53085. Gas 1310,53087. 1702,53378 – HOME!

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Meeting new people

I had to rush to post the photos and blog post yesterday in a few free minutes, but today I wanted to talk about something else that was sort of interesting about both Buffalo and about the first part of our time here in Texas…

It has been so great to meet some new people on this trip!

We had the great pleasure to meet Martha’s BF Adam for the first time during the Buffalo part of the trip. He’s a towering fellow (he really is as tall as he looks in the photos), and he’s a great guy! Jodi and I really enjoyed spending some time with him and with Martha as we went around to the museums and such on the morning of graduation. And thanks for driving us around most of the day also!

Then out in Texas, we got to meet Donna — David’s (father of the graduates) sister — and her husband Don. Although I’d met all the rest of the family who were here a bunch of times before, I hadn’t ever met this part of the family. Donna is a nurse practitioner in a neo-natal unit, and she and Jodi had a lot to talk about. Very fun!

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Buffalo, NY

Our vacation started on Wednesday with our (very early morning) flight from Seattle to Buffalo (via Cleveland). Flight was relatively uneventful, apart from the fact that we got great service *AND* were served breakfast. And I don’t mean peanuts and water for breakfast… we got actual breakfast. Yay Continental, you’re my new favorite airline!

In Buffalo we spent time with the family on Wednesday night, went running along the trail Jodi had been planning for on Thursday morning (Catherine and I took a photo-walk), had breakfast, went to the Albright-Knox museum to see the Tanguy (our entrance was paid for by Bank of America, sweet!), then to the science museum, lunch, and graduation. Then on to some games, bedtime, and early breakfast the next morning.

Whew, whirlwind-tour description of our buffalo trip in one paragraph. See the various photos at Doddsnet here. I took way more than are displayed, but I cut out the ones that were irreparably blurry or redundant.

Now, this morning I’m rushing out the door right now for breakfast and then up to Sam Houston State for more graduations today. I’ll write that up later on.

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Strange experience while the plane was landing

Forgot to blog about this earlier, but I also had a bit of a strange experience while the plane was landing last night.

You know how they tell you to be in your seats with the seat-belt fastened sometimes? There are really only two times it matters – when the plane is taking off, and when the plane is landing. The other times they’re just saying it’d be good if you were in your seat. But at those two times it really matters, I guess.

Anyways, they generally turn on the seat-belt signs a good 5–10 minutes before they actually land. So if you jump up pretty soon after they announce we’ll be landing in a few minutes and run to use the bathroom, nobody really cares.

But on this trip yesterday, we were literally under a minute from landing (you know the part – where you’re starting to skim over the treetops…) and this woman across the aisle from me darted from her seat back to the bathroom.

The flight attendants looked at each other briefly, somewhat bewildered. We were so close to landing that THEY had already even belted themselves in!

They called gently over the intercom that “all passengers must be in their seat, since we’re about to land” and then waited another 5 seconds or so.

When the woman didn’t come back, one of the attendants quickly got out of her seat and moved to the back of the plane to try to get the woman back to her seat. Right about this time, we were definitely under 30 seconds to landing, and – if for no other reason than that we were already nearly an hour late – the other passengers on the plane were getting a bit antsy to get this woman back to her seat.

A different flight attendant was notifying the pilot, I presume, that we were having some trouble getting folks into their seats. And a few moments later, made a more forceful announcement that “if all passengers were not immediately in their seats with seat-belts fastened…” we were going to have to “abort the approach, and potentially lose our landing window as we circled”.

The woman got back to her seat a few seconds later, and we made the approach successfully.

But it was very strange. I’d never seen quite such pandemonium seconds before touchdown. The flight staff handled it well, but I can’t help but wonder what in the world this woman was thinking!

As a side note, if I die of bird-flu in the next few days, blame it on her. Even though she was across the aisle from me, she was sneezing every few seconds during the whole flight. I really felt for her, as she was clearly pretty congested and miserable. But for gosh sakes, she couldn’t have gone to the bathroom 2 minutes earlier?

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Complaining about my air carrier (or “entitlement”)

Couple of historical background tidbits:

  • I flew a TON last year, mostly on a single carrier, so I got “preferred” status on this carrier.
  • People with preferred status get a few perks… like boarding the plane first, free upgrades to first-class when it’s available, etc.
  • When a flight is overbooked, SOMEONE isn’t going to make it on the plane.
  • Last year, I volunteered my seat on an overbooked plane for a later flight to my destination, plus a voucher for free travel later on.

Ok, that’s enough to start with. Here’s my story:

Over this weekend, I flew from Seattle->Pittsburgh (through Charlotte, ugh) and back on this same carrier… for obscurity’s sake, let’s call it “US Hareways”.

On the flight over to Charlotte, I requested and was upgraded to first class… using my “preferred” status perk. Awesome!

On the flight from Charlotte to Pittsburgh, I again requested and was upgraded to first class. I mean, why not… there were tons of empty seats up there and I get free upgrades when it’s available.

Here’s where it gets a little dicey. On the flight back from Pittsburgh to Charlotte, I requested… and was denied. Ok, I thought. Maybe it’s full. It wasn’t. No biggie, it was only a 1 hour flight.

And then in Charlotte, I again requested. Again, shut down. This was a little more despiriting because it was a 5.5 hour flight. Plus, they were so empty in first class that they were announcing every 5 mins or so that they had first-class upgrades available!

Hmm, that seems strange, right? Why wouldn’t they let me upgrade? Because the ticket I had purchased was with my “volunteering to be bumped” voucher from a year ago.

They proved (with half the first-class seats empty for this flight) that they would rather fly with empty seats in first class than give me my free upgrade. 

I suppose that’s their policy and they’re welcome to it. But it doesn’t make any sense to me to not fill all of the first-class seats. Ever. Even if they’re not giving one to me out of principle, wouldn’t it be a great show of good-will to randomly upgrade folks from the main cabin to first class? I’ve had that happen to me on another carrier (who will remain unnamed here) and it was a great feeling — very much appreciated. And I’ve flown that airline several times since when I had other choices.

So, my message to US Hareways: You irritated a frequent customer yesterday *PLUS* you missed the opportunity to “delight” some other random fliers who ended up with me in the main cabin instead of first-class.

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Ok, I’m back

I was gone from Wednesday -> Saturday for a brief visit out to some of my east-coast relatives. It was a super-short trip, but it was pretty worth it to see some of my family. I dropped some photos on the website here.

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Home again, home again

Previously posted on September 28 at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!207.entry

Well, we’re back. We rounded out Monday going to the Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam, and Lake Mead. Lots of photos from throughout the entire trip are now posted at:

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Not our typical vacation

Previously posted on September 26 at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!206.entry

Yesterday we went to the spice buffet champagne brunch at the Aladdin (as planned). It was excellent. We ate WAY too much –  and yet, strangely, not enough. It’s never enough at that buffet.
I was momentarily distressed this morning to read that they’re converting the Aladdin into a Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino next year. Since the Aladdin is about my favorite casino on the strip (both for the buffet and for the fact that we’ve won some $$ there in each of these last two trips), I’ll be quite sad if it goes away and becomes something that looks like Hollywood (or a Planet Hollywood)… ick.
We spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying a day off after our busy Saturday. We were zonked, and needed a good nap.
Rounded out the evening getting dinner with Matt and Amber, and then hung out a bit on the strip before heading back out to the hotel.

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Vacation Update

Previously posted on September 25 at:!1phaOgcvNsBxzvBN9Zpx1vbQ!203.entry

  • Friday night had dinner with Amber, Matt, Matt’s father and sister. Good times!
  • Saturday J&I went to the strip, and parked the car for the whole day at the Venetian (yay, free parking!)
  • We ate lunch at the Venetian and got lousy service (over an hour for a salad and a pizza). We were told by our server that the pizza had been burned the first time, but the manager separately explained that the server had forgotten to put the order in. Whoops.
  • Gambled a bit at the Aladdin – Jodi won a bit too (Evan’s advice came into play here — always do “max” bet or if you get a decent win it’ll be a sucky payout. We were doing max bet.)  🙂
  • We got 1/2 price tickets to the comedy club at the Riviera casino.
  • We had a buffet dinner at the Imperial Palace
  • We saw our comedy show
  • We walked back to the Venetian, just in time to see a bunch of “stars” arriving. It was actually a bit funny, because they had a bunch of people dressed up like Monks (even had little “bald” hair coverings on their heads) and each time some “famous” person would walk down the runway into the building they would bang a gong. They did not, however, get it on. We eventually got tired of waiting for anyone we actually recognized to arrive and came home. I was disappointed to not get any celebrity photos with my cool new camera, but I suppose that’s the price I pay for not recognizing any of the B-level celebrities.

Observation of the day: The best deals in Vegas are in the older/smaller/less-glitzy casinos. We asked about hotel prices at the Riviera, for instance, and it was about what we’re paying out in the Suburbs (and a small fraction of what they wanted for the newer places on the strip). And good luck finding some “inexpensive buffet” at the Venetian. 🙂

 Tomorrow: Champagne Brunch Buffet at the Aladdin… Theme is “Remembering 2003”

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