Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Round and Round We Go!

Last week, my husband and I set off on great traveling adventures--in different directions. From our home base in Chicagoland, I drove to The Farm in Winona MN. As you long-time readers will recall, that's where I "hide" to write, which is my labor. George hopped in his friend's car and off they journeyed toward Naples FL. As you long-time readers will recall, George is retired.

--TEST ONE: Notice anything missing from our travel plans? (RIGHT! AIRPLANES! Yippee! )

I always drive to MN. Since I currently have two book projects in the works, I fill up my little SUV with bins and boxes, notebooks and a laptop, food and miscellaneous supplies. I bet these days it would cost me no less than $500 to check or ship all my stuff. George and Butch, his long-time friend, first considered flying to FL to cheer up their ailing buddy. But then they got to talking about how much fun it would be to stop on their way and visit another friend. After all, Aiken SC wasn't that far off the trail. And hey! If they drove, they could take their golf clubs, a cooler, and any size liquid or gel products they wanted! A no brainer.

Helen, Butch's wife, stayed home in WI to hold down their homestead, continue her part-time and volunteer jobs, do some weeding, and command complete power over their remote control. Oh, and to cut the grass. For the first time ever. Yes, they have a riding mower, but Butch claims it cuts the grass too short. Helen could use their non-riding self-powered machine.

When Helen told me what she was about to do, I shared with her a few details from my virgin mowing experience. "I somehow accidentally ran over the bagger and mowed a hole in it. That's the last time George 'let me' mow."

--TEST TWO: Who's the dummy? (RIGHT! )

But back to our road trips. Let me render a few traveling stats. I get 19-22 miles per gallon in my vehicle. The journey to The Farm is about 300 miles, takes one tank of gasoline and 4.5 – 5 hours, depending on a few things, mostly my bladder. Kornflake, our big red mutt dog, rides in the back seat. He has a bladder of steel. Once I arrive, it takes me about a half-hour to unload my car and drag everything in. Neither Kornflake nor the cows help with this process; they just stare—although I find them to be a relaxing audience.

Butch's Honda Civic Hybrid manages about 50-55 miles per gallon. The guys switch drivers every two hours. They need a couple twelve-hour days to get to their destination. Add another day for their Aiken-buddy stop, a few days in Naples, an overnight and a round of golf or two on the way home . . . . I'd venture to say a few tanks of gas will be in order, along with some great camaraderie and memory building.

--TEST THREE: Who did I say was retired, and who is still working, mowing, volunteering and typing? (RIGHT!)

George, Butch and I travel with cell phones. When I'm at The Farm, where I'm forced to use dial-up, I still manage to log on once or twice a day. When Butch and Helen were on cruises together, George and I would receive emails from them. Butch has even managed to send off a line or two during this road trip, too. Woman to woman, guys to gals, guys together on the golf course, we are all staying connected. This is one of the wonders of modern-day travel.
Our round-robin "touch-bases" with each other can be summed up a number of ways. Let me line out a few:

For instance, George called just to tell me that Butch likes Waffle House as much as I do. George isn't a big fan of Waffle House, so I found this tidbit very entertaining!

Why isn't George picking up his cell phone! I have a piece of business he needs to know about.

"We didn't want the phone to interrupt our golf game."

I used to golf, so I get that. Nonetheless, I am frustrated I can't go on vacation right now!

We all take comfort knowing that those whom we love are safely tucked in for the night.

George loved hearing how our granddaughter enjoyed the tilt-a-whirl at the county fair. (Hey, I get to have some fun here in MN, what with family just 20 minutes away. Check out that county fair find! Aren't those three little--okay, biggie--piggies adorable?) George found it very humorous that as I staggered toward a bench after our round-and-round ride, I had to say to our beaming granddaughter, "Grannie B needs to sit down for a minute." The feeling in my gut, dear reader, could best be described as one of a Round-and-Round Traveling Travesty.

--TEST FOUR: Can you say hurl? (PLEASE DON'T!)

What you can say, however, is thank you. Yes, give thanks that we live in a time when traveling spouses, family members and friends can head out in separate directions, or stay home and hold down the fort, and still remain in touch. We can collect and share travelogues as we go, sometimes in Real Time and with instant pictures!

--TEST FIVE: Is it funny to laugh at someone's Round-and-Round Traveling Travesty? (WHY NOT? HOW ELSE WILL WE STAY SANE?)

Besides, the whole tilt-a-whirling incident kinda reminds me of business air travel today. Before you can take off, you gotta secure yourself with safety equipment. You are crammed in. You don't have control. You're not sure when the "ride" will end—or begin. When you finally get off, you often feel like you've been going round and round between websites, customer service, canceled flights and your sanity. Sometimes you're so exhausted and dizzy from it all that you just wanna hurl.

But you don't. After all, someone's grandchild might have her eye on you, beckoning you to hop right on that colorful Twirling Dragon. I believe you might be able to compare this dizzying adventure to connecting flights between AA to UA.
But you, dear seasoned traveler, are smart enough to say NO.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Bag-O-Rama Boogie

In response to my last couple posts, astute TravelingLaugh reader Linda Toft emailed details of her recent Bag-O-Rama experience. I laughed, I groaned, I felt her pain and determination to meet the rules while maintaining her senses. I have her permission to share her email. She, too, is married to a George.


George and I flew to Austin TX last week for a conference. We flew Delta out of the Cincinnati Airport on our way to a conference in Austin TX. As we started for our security check gate, the line was FOREVER! We crawled along with the group and were stopped by a guy with a radio at the top of the escalator. He said a few words into it and finally let about 10 of us proceed down the escalator. We were greeted by his radio buddy at the bottom. But we had to stop again when we came to another long line winding through the maze of roping leading to the security check.

I found it so funny that the airport had to dispatch two employees to guard and control the traffic on the escalator, but I could see how it was necessary: how else do you control a moving escalator with creeping lines of people? I couldn’t believe how angry travelers were as I watched the guy stop them at the top--especially the privileged Fast Pass people who were used to sidestepping the lines at security! If I were that top guard, I would have been tempted to send them on down and watch the pile grow.

I didn’t have a carry-on bag when we arrived at the airport--at least until George found he was going to have to pay $25 for our third bag. I did some fast repacking and turned one of them into a carry on. At least until we boarded and they told me it was too big and I had to check it plane side…at no additional fee?! Makes sense to me. Or does it?!

On the way back, we decided to take the bag as a carry on, again planning to check it plane side. We got to check in and our other two bags were set on the scale, only to find one was way over weight (the junk from the conference we just had to have!). The clerk said it would be an $80 charge for the over-weight bag! $25 to check a third bag…

I’m no dummy. Once again I did some repacking right there at the desk, and the third bag turned back into a checked bag! Creative math is needed now for flying.

After all of this, I am wondering if we might someday have to “pay to pee.” Remember Pay Toilets? I can see it now! It could happen! We empty our pockets of change, pack away what we don’t need to go through security . . . and we’ll find we need a quarter to go to the potty on the plane. A new venue for the Random Acts of Kindness Folks: passing out quarters to desperate looking folks on planes!

Thank you, Linda Toft, for sharing your drama. Like you also said in your email to me, these are the days we're learning to travel lighter! Let me just add that they are also NOT the days to lose our lighter sides!