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Archive for the ‘Airlines’ Category

Canadian Shorts

It has been a whirlwind couple of days to start this much needed vacation.  I am sitting in my hotel room in Calagary, Alberta, Canada this morning doing two things — trying to think about what I want to write and dreading going out into the cold.  Canada uses metrics, for the most part, so I’ve already spent the better part of two days watching temperatures of -15 to -20 degrees Celsius on the thermometer in the car.  Thank God for heated seats!

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Air Canada rocks!!  I have never been on planes that were so clean.  The attendants are totally professional and pleasant.  The planes have personal video screens with a large choice of programs:  TV, movies, sports, news as well as the GPS so you can see how far into the trip you are.  There are plenty of music choices as well.  Wish Air Canada operated between US cities!

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Courtesy.  It is one of the striking things about the Canadian people that there is so much courtesy.  I’m not talking about the stiff, rule driven kind of courtesy you find in some places.  I’m talking about the kind of courtesy that stems from one individual respecting and caring about another individual.  Doors are held for others.  Drivers in the parking garage after a hockey game let each other proceed.  Children who get into the elevator first will ask an adult “Which floor would you like?”

The one that really made be believe that it must be inbred was the 20-something man at the Calgary Flames hockey game.  I was standing at the condiment stand getting some ketchup.  He wanted to get some napkins, which were to my left side, as he was.  Though he could have reached in and gotten them without getting into my way, he actually said, “Pardon my reach,” as he reached in for the napkins.  Pardon my reach?!  I haven’t heard that since my grandparents were alive.  How refreshing!

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I really do love Canada and Canadians.

I will have more to say in the days ahead.

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Yes, we kicked off our visit to the rez with a road trip.  After all, we wouldn’t be doing much driving on the rez, right?  Not!

For the uninitiated, the rez is Pine Ridge Reservation in the southwestern corner of South Dakota.  As they say in real estate, it all comes down to location and that is true in this story because the rez is located near nothing.  That’s right, really, nothing is close to the rez . . .  and of course, nothing on the rez is close to anything else on the rez either.  With 2 million acres to spread out, I wouldn’t necessarily want close neighbors myself.

Our trip actually began in Hartford, CT the morning of Friday, June 3 when we boarded an early, non-stop (yes, a miracle) flight from Hartford to Denver, CO.  I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Southwest Airlines.  They do need more newer planes, as we discovered on our return flight, but this plane was new, clean and comfy.

We arrived in Denver much earlier than you’d expect — oh that’s right, there was that thing with the time changes.  Gaining 2 hours in your day can be helpful.  After gathering the baggage, we went to choose a rental car.  My husband, the rental car genius, had reserved an SUV that was going to cost us the exorbitant price of $20 and change per day.  You are not seeing a typo – we had a 2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee for that price.  Genius, right?

The drive to the reservation was going to take us about 7 hours, so it was good that we had gained those 2 hours crossing the country.  It was a pleasant drive for the most part.

On one of our stretch breaks, we happened to be passing Carhenge.  I did not misspell Stonehenge.  Carhenge is a quirky, arty adaptation of the “henge” idea.  Located right along County Road 59 in Alliance, NE (http://www.carhenge.com/), there is no charge to view the art – there is, however, a shop for snacks and souvenirs, aptly named the “Pit Stop.”  It was a good place for a break.

We entered the Pine Ridge Reservation from the south, which necessitated passing through White Clay, NE (of which I have written before), that bastion of sobriety and icon to American greed.  That last is sarcasm for those not familiar with White Clay, NE.

It took nearly an hour to reach our motel, the Lakota Prairie Lodge Resort in Kyle.  This is in the northeastern part of the reservation.  We checked in and settled in, then called our Lakota friends to let them know we had arrived.  They are now living in Allen and invited us over.  We drove to Allen (about half an hour) where we had a wonderful reunion.  They are the kind of friends you can pick right up with, even if you haven’t seen them in a year.  We finally left about 10 pm, realizing that our bodies thought it was midnight.  Since we had to pick them up in the morning to start driving to Salt Lake City, some sleep might be a good idea.

Of course, we had gotten one surprise when we arrived that evening.  Our original plan had been to take my friend and her husband to visit her daughter who is currently in a treatment facility near Salt Lake City.  She had not seen her daughter since Christmas.  Salt Lake City is a long way from home for a young Lakota woman.  We love my “goddaughter” and know how much she misses her family.  She has been through so much in her years, much of which I have written about and won’t repeat here.  Suffice to say here that her anger has real roots.

We knew our Lakota friends did not have a working car and could not afford to pay someone to borrow a car to drive there or pay for the gas.  So we had thought it would be something we could give them, what with the almost free rental car that, by the way, had unlimited mileage.  It would be like the honeymoon they never had, room and board paid for as well.  So we had thought.

Our surprise was that, in addition to our friends, we would be taking her 20 year old daughter and another daughter’s 5 year old son.  We had 3 adults and a 5 year old in the back seat.  Talk about tight quarters – especially since my friend’s husband is over 6 feet tall and wears 3X shirts.  Enough said?  I was particularly concerned over the lack of seat belt use and sort-of held my breath on this whole trip.  So grateful my husband is a careful and wary driver.

We stayed at Hampton Inns on this part of the journey.  Good prices and good accommodations.  They 5 year old particularly enjoyed the pool every evening – a rare treat for a rez kid.  Our first stop was Casper, WY.  Some might dare to drive the 12 hours in one long ride, but this gal, having fibromyalgia, knows her limits.  6 hours sitting in one place in a car or twisting around to converse with the folks in the back seat is plenty for this body.

We arrived at South Jordan, UT on Sunday, June 5, in time for a visit with my “goddaughter.”  It was a tearful reunion for mother and daughter.  I stood back and observed, not wanting to insert myself into what was an intimate and private moment.  I looked at my “goddaughter” – she’d grown since I’d seen her last.  She will be 16 years old in July and is starting to look like a young woman.  She looked healthy and beautiful.  Some of the stories she told were less than pretty, though.  When you are living in a center for troubled youth, many things can occur – fights, bullying, etc – that the staff cannot always control.  But she is working hard to learn what she needs to and hopes to be home soon.  I pray she succeeds.

Monday morning, June 6, we returned to the center for a final visit.  Then midday, we had to leave to return to the rez.  Although the initial reunion had been tearful, the leave-taking was stoic.  Not easy, to be sure!  But strong in a way I have seen many Lakota people endure difficulty.

We stayed in Rawlins, WY on the way back to the rez, then completed the trip back to Allen, SD  on Tuesday, June 7.  The return trip always seems to pass by faster, regardless of where we travel.  That certainly was the case here.

After we dropped our friends off in Allen, we still had about an hour to drive to get back to the hotel we would stay in for the remainder of our vacation.  Allen, as I said, is in the northeastern part of the rez and our hotel at the Prairie Wind Casino and Resort is just west of Oglala, in the southwestern corner of the rez.  If you could drive directly from one to the other, it would be a diagonal – the hypotenuse of the triangle, which we former math teachers know is the shortest distance.  But there is no road that does that.  As they say in Maine, “You can’t get they-ah from he-ah.”  At least not directly.

We finally checked in to the hotel.  People who want to travel to the rez often ask me about accommodations.  Choices are minimal.  There are a couple of bed and breakfasts – which I have not tried yet.  There is the motel in Kyle and the hotel at the Casino.  I have written about the motel in Kyle before.  This was our first stay at the Casino.

The decor and bed were excellent.  The bathroom was . . . well, amusing.  The plumbing in the shower had been installed upside down and backwards somehow.  Typically, to turn on the shower, the lever arm is attached at the top of the regulator and is lifted to turn on the water.  In this shower, it was attached at the bottom of the regulator, was already in the lifted position and had to be pushed in to turn on the water.  It was a bit like learning a foreign language.  Amusing.  The water is very soft and it takes quite a while to feel that you’ve rinsed off the soap or shampoo properly.  Of course, that is only in part due to the soft water.  It is also due to the very low water pressure from the showerhead.  Between the soft water and low pressure, I’m sure it took me 3 times longer to shower than it usually does – which sort of defeats the purpose of water conservation, don’t you think?

It was a good night’s sleep that night, however.  After I stopped feeling like I was still rolling down the road in the car.  Strange feeling to be stopped after so many miles on the road.

Denver to Kyle                 371 miles

Kyle to Salt Lake City       717 miles

SLC to Kyle                      717 miles

Kyle to Casino                  79 miles

TOTAL for 5 Days          1884 miles   (approximately)

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I would guess that some of you are wondering what kind of high I’m talking about. So let me assure you right now that this high is NOT from smoking anything. In fact, in the “goody-goody” world I have inhabited for over 58 years that is one experience I have never had. Some tell me that is my loss; others tell me I should be proud of that. The fact is that it was never an issue – it was never something that interested me much.

It’s probably a good thing I never smoked weed or anything else. Otherwise I might be having an even more difficult time today.

I guess I’m probably feeling high because I’ve let myself get so unconditioned aerobically in the past year. It’s been one thing after another – or perhaps I should be honest and say one excuse after another – that has kept me off the treadmill all this time.

We got back to the Denver area after a week in South Dakota just last night. I know from previous experience that it takes my body several days to adjust to high altitudes so it doesn’t totally surprise me that I am feeling it. But the degree does surprise me.

Yesterday afternoon, when we arrived at our hotel, I had to lie down for a while after walking in from the car.

Today ws returned the rental car at the airport. We took the luggage out and I rolled the 2 small bags to the shuttle bus. By the time we reached the bus stop (a VERY short walk) I was so short of breath, I probably sounded like a dog after a long run in 90 degree heat.

By the time the bus reached the terminal, I thought I was okay. It was a delusion! I got off the bus and walked the 20 steps to curbside check-in. I was winded again! By the time I walked through the labyrinth of taped lanes to reach the TSA agent who was checking boarding passes and ID’s, my chest was aching and I was light-headed.

I must have looked a bit off because he asked if I was okay. I told him briefly about my challenge with altitude. He asked if I needed a wheelchair.

Dilemma! Do I admit my shortcoming and swallow my rather miniscule pride? Do I allow someone to push me through the airport to the gate? Or do I tough it out and drag through the airport, gasping with every step and worrying my husband?

I have dealt with fibromyalgia for 45 years. I have learned when to push myself and when to wave the white flag. I surrendered and here I sit at my gate. My attentive husband got me something to eat and I’ve been writing this on my phone – a serious challenge itself.

I love the mountains! We are returning to Yellowstone National Park in September.

I guess that means I’m getting on the treadmill Monday!

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No, not the book Flatland written by Edwin A Abbott, which I thoroughly enjoyed when I read it many years ago.  The actual land that I saw much of the day in my second day of 6+ hour drives.  The problem with driving that many hours when the land is flat, as I’m sure many long-haul truckers would agree, is that what was interesting and fun becomes boring and tedious after you are too far into the drive to turn around.

Yesterday, after rising at 5 AM Eastern Daylight Time, we flew to Denver from the East Coast.  It was a great non-stop flight and we were again pleased with Southwest Airlines.  We picked up an SUV rental (my travel-genius husband got us this car for $20.10 per day with UNLIMITED mileage) and headed up to Kyle, SD on the Pine Ridge Reservation.  The land flattened out about the same time my body started to rebel against all the sitting I had been doing.  But with stops to stretch, we persevered.

We got to our room about 7:30 pm Mountain Time (9:30 pm EDT).  Then we went to visit our Lakota friends for a while.  We left there about 10:30 pm because we finally realized our bodies thought it was after midnight!  Besides, we had to be up early today.

We are taking my Lakota friends to Salt Lake City, UT so they can see her daughter who is in a program there.  If you’ve read my stories about my “goddaughter”, you know the kind of issues she has had.  If you’ve read my posts about Pine Ridge Reservation and my friends, you know there is no way she could make that 12 hour trip to see her daughter if we did not take them.  We found out last night that in addition to my friend and her husband, we were taking her 20 year old daughter and her 5 year old grandson.  Very tight quarters – if we’d known ahead of time we might have rented a mini-van instead!

We picked everyone up about 9 am and set off through the rez, with its many road construction projects, headed for Casper, WY.  After the fourth hour or so, the land began to flatten out quite a bit.  While the incredibly long freight trains, many hauling coal, were out some interest initially, there are so many trains that even they could not keep interest from waning as the vista of flat land began to tire our eyes.

Tomorrow we have a six and one half hour drive, not including pit stops.  The first couple of hours may be flat but the final hours will be through the mountains – a better way to do it in my opinion.  It will wake us up with varying vistas as we tire of riding rather than the other way around.

After a visit and overnight stay, we’ll have to reverse course to get back to the rez.  12 more hours of driving over 2 days.  It will be interesting to see how my fibromyalgia reacts to 5 straight days of  riding 6+ hours in a car.  I know, I can hear you saying, “But all you’re doing is sitting on your butt in a car.”  Absolutely true.  But that can make my muscles just as unhappy as doing some physical activity too long.  I don’t know why!  But it is a fact and I usually try to balance my activity better than this.  Sometimes you have to do what you have to do and deal with the consequences afterward.

I think the change from flat land to mountains will be good for my brain, my eyes and my fibromyalgia – at least I won’t be sitting as still in one place.  I don’t think I could ever live where there was nothing but flatland.  zzzzzz………

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You can take the word “surprises” as both a noun and a verb.  I recently spent 4 days in Illinois with my husband.  I was surprised (verb) that I enjoyed it as much as I did, having never really investigated what there was to do in Illinois.  We had a number of surprises (noun) that made the trip an eye-opener.

We flew from Boston to Chicago non-stop on United Airlines.  I enjoyed the flight.  That was the first surprise.  I actually was comfortable on the flight and we arrived early – yes, you read that right, I said early.  We effortlessly retrieved our luggage and got a rental car.  Surprise – the rental was brand new.  It only had 77 miles on it when we set off (that definitely changed!).

Since we planned to spend our first 2 days in the Springfield, IL area, we had two choices: travel by highway and arrive early for check-in or take the low road.  We often prefer the low road anyway, but in this case, the low road was US Route 66.  “America’s mother road.”  Route 66, “the Main Street of America,” began in Chicago, IL and meandered through Springfield, IL, St Louis, MO, Galena, KS, Oklahoma City, OK, Amarillo, TX, Albuquerque, NM, Flagstaff, AZ and finally arrived in Los Angeles, CA.

We had landed in Chicago, the starting point.  It made sense to us to set off from there and follow Rte 66 as much as possible.  I say as much as possible because there are now places where it runs with a “new and improved” super highway or with state routes.

As we watched Chicago recede in the rear view mirror, we passed through towns like Joliet, Elwood and Wilmington.  After that, we began to find towns that still resembled the places where you could “get your kicks on Rte 66.”  Braidwood (where we stopped at a WalMart for supplies), Godley, Braceville, Gardner (which has a memorial site that includes the US and a Rte 66 flag), Dwight, Odell (where a 1930’s Sinclair gas station still stands) and Pontiac.

Pontiac held more surprises!  Pontiac proved to be a gem.  Remarkably well-preserved, it had plenty to see and do.  Our first stop was the Route 66 Association Hall of Fame and Museum.

Route 66 Association Hall of Fame & Museum

Route 66 Association Hall of Fame  & Museum

See Route 66 memorabilia from Hall of Fame members!

Travel the highway by visiting Route 66 towns on our flip-rack library!

See the Route 66 State Farm Arch!

Much much more!

Winter Hours Start December 1st!
Mon-Fri 11:00 – 3:00
Sat-Sun 10:00 – 4:00

Summer Hours:
Mon-Fri 9:00 – 5:00
Sat-Sun 10:00 – 4:00

Hosted this day by a friendly volunteer named Ruth, we wandered through several floors of memorabilia and displays, listening to the stories Ruth told as she wove the history of the road into the displays we saw.  She took us out the back door of the building to see the Route 66 mural that was painted on the back of the building as well as the Roszell’s Soda Fountain  mural on the building behind the museum.  More on murals in a bit.  Admission to museum:  Free.

The top floor of the building contains a number of rooms that house the Livingston County War Museum.  At first we hesitated to go in.  I’m not a big fan of war.  We quickly checked out one of the outer rooms and were about to leave when we were caught.  A wily veteran snuck up behind us and invited us into the inner rooms.  How can you refuse a veteran?

So we followed him into the main room of the tiny museum.  We learned that this is a living history site because the staff is made up of military veterans and history enthusiasts who share experiences and answer questions.  The folks who were there on the day we visited were warm and friendly.  They have a small library and artifacts from veterans of IL from World War I until the present.  I personally think they are going to need a larger space soon – there have been many generous veterans who have donated items to this museum.

One aspect of the museum that I found particularly interesting was the huge display of uniforms from every war.  The uniforms are displayed on mannequins instead of in cases.  Each uniform has a photo and story about the actual person who wore that uniform.  This makes the display really personal and intimate.  I highly recommend this small museum.  Admission:  Free.


After visiting the shops near the museums, we headed off to eat at the Log Cabin Restaurant.  The restaurant has been in business since the 1920’s, so we figured there must be some good food there.  We were right.  And while the restaurant is now housed in a newer building than the original log cabin (which remains next door), it has the ambience of a well-loved local eatery.  Service and food were both good.  This was not, of course, free.  But we got value for our money.

Oh yes, I said I would tell you more about the murals.  Pontiac, IL currently has 19 murals painted on the exteriors of various buildings throughout the town.  No admission needed to view these amazing pieces of pop art.  There are numerous locations to pick up a free map/brochure.

To be honest, we almost hated to leave Pontiac, IL.  The people were so warm and friendly, the town so clean and the attractions reasonably priced (free) that they draw you in and make you want to stay.

But we had to move on to Springfield, so after eating we left Pontiac behind and continued on Route 66.  I’ll give some links to the Pontiac locations at the end of the post.

We passed through more small towns and open, flat fields.  In the Bloomington area I saw something I hope never to see again.  It was one of the most ugly housing developments I could imagine.  No, it was a “project” or low income housing.  It was large, new homes – all in shades of pale yellow – that must have numbered in the hundreds.  Houses that were all the same, more or less.  As far as the eye could see, yellow houses, all on very small lots that would allow you to see into your neighbor’s house.  Route 66 actually went through the area and it was clear to see that, if you didn’t know where you were going, you could get very lost very easily.  I could never live in a place like that.  What were those developers thinking?!!

We gladly left that area and passed through more small towns:  Shirley, Funks Grove (famous for maple syrup, though I think it must be a really funky place to live (groan)), McLean, Atlanta, Lawndale, Lincoln, Broadwell, Elkhart and Williamsville.

It had taken us hours longer to get from Chicago to Springfield than it would have if we’d taken the highway.  But taking “the mother road” was a lot more interesting and far more fun.  We met wonderful people, saw interesting sights and arrived in Springfield relaxed and ready for the next day’s sightseeing.

I highly recommend this stretch of Route 66 and especially encourage you to visit Pontiac, IL.  You won’t regret it if you do.

Pontiac Illinois Tourism Bureau   http://visitpontiac.org/

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It’s 8:20 PM here in Anchorage, Alaska – though you couldn’t tell it by looking out the window.  If I were home, I’d think it was about 5:30 PM. 

I really had to think about what time it was here because I can’t see a clock from here and when I looked at the time on the computer, it said 12:20 AM.  That’s right – AM!  As in morning.  After consulting my husband, I now have a formula.  Take the time on the computer and subtract 4. 

But it’s helpful to know what time it is back home.  No wonder no one is available to chat on Facebook!  I was up at 5:30 on Saturday morning.  It’s now almost 12:30 AM on Sunday there – so I’ve been up for 19 hours now!  Please forgive me if I get goofy or incoherent.

We flew Northwest Airlines from Bradley Airport in Windsor, CT.  My husband, in his thoughtful way, saved enough for us to fly first class so that my fibromyalgia might not act up so badly.  Although service at Northwest’s ticketing counter left a lot to be desired, the flight itself – from Hartford, CT to Minneapolis, MN, then Minneapolis to Anchorage, AK was very smooth. 

We checked into our Homewood Suites hotel about 3 PM and got settled.  Then because it was still so light out, we decided to go for a short drive.  We drove along Seward Highway for a while, watching the tide rushing back into the Cook’s Inlet on the Turnagain Arm. 

When we got back, I tried to write this.  But I was losing mental acuity, even though I wasn’t sleepy.  When I got knocked off line by AOL, I took it as an omen and gave up for the night.  I played silly computer games, trying to turn off my brain.  Nothing doing.  After being awake for almost 20 hours, I went to bed.  But I still had to pull the covers over my head (no small feat when you sleep with a CPAP mask) before I could fall asleep – the light was still coming around the edges of the curtains! 

Have to plan better and try some different methods tomorrow night!

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Usually, travel days are tough on me.  I usually end up feeling exhausted and frustrated by all the hoops necessary to air travel these days.  Just the fact that an over-sized woman like me has to take off her shoes and put them back on in the midst of a crowd is unpleasant.  When you add in the attitudes of airline employees and inconsiderate fellow travelers, it can take some of the joy out of leaving on vacation.

But I must admit – Delta delivered.  After all the times the flights were rescheduled due to a one or two minute change in arrival or departure, I wondered how well orchestrated the actual journey might be.  Well, you know I don’t lie to you – so here goes.

We arrived at TF Green Airport in Providence, RI with plenty of time to go through the TSA screening.  It was a very organized and efficient operation.  People were friendly, not gruff and rude.  Boarding the plane went very smoothly and we set off for Cincinnati on time.  We arrived in Cincinnati a few minutes early.  Although it was a long haul, we made it to the gate for our connecting flight to Denver with time to spare.  The second plane quickly and smoothly.  We left early, with a full plane.

The flight from Cincinnati to Denver was smooth and pleasant.  You could hear the captain’s announcements clearly over the PA system.  You could also hear the lead flight attendant (Phyllis was her name, I think) when she made all her announcements.  She let her humor shine through in her requests, such as “Bring your seat backs to the upright and uncomfortable position in preparation for landing.”  Or reminding passengers to collect their personal belongings.  Otherwise, they can check E-bay for the I-pods, cameras, designer sunglasses, etc by looking under the Flight Attendant Pension Fund benefit auction.  When you can make a plane full of tired travelers chuckle, you’ve surely done your job well.  Our Captain also kept us informed of the reason we were not able to land as early as we had arrived.  Apparently there was some significant turbulence with possible microbursts right near Denver.  Frankly, you wouldn’t have known there was that much turbulence – I’ve driven worse road back in New England – so he must have been a very good driver.  At any rate, we still landed early.

We got the rental car, drove to our hotel (Courtyard by Marriott), and took our things in.  Then we went back out to WalMart to buy water and Diet Snapple and snacks.  We settled into our room for a restful night.

This was the best travel day we’ve had in years!!  I had not be optimistic, but Delta delivered.  Amazing!!

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