"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The India Journals, Ch. 3, Off and......slopping through rain and snow

Rain and a hellacious windstorm accompanied me from Moose Pass to Anchorage, with a nice helping of sloppy snow thrown in to make things fun.   Ah, but I got through it and spent the night in Anchorage at my friend Patti's, after we saw the movie Wild, based on the book by Cheryl Strayed.

But first, I had to get there to do that.  I saw a bald eagle sitting on an island in Tern Lake and it occurred to me that is the same spot where I frequently see eagles sitting.

Had to stop two miles from home and take a photo of Jerome Lake.   Someone (single to plural?) had rolled snowballs across the lake.

Cool melting patterns on the lake.

Rain near Turnagain Pass.

Just as I turned the corner in the distance of the above photo, I caught up with three vehicles going quite slowly.   Up ahead of them were two highway department trucks with belly blades, scraping off new snow.   I know, there's no snow here, but there was around the corner.

So, for the next six or seven miles, we all followed the trucks at 40 mph. until they pulled off in a turn-out.   By then we were lower in elevation and the snow had turned to rain.

That white cloud is snow from the plow trucks.

 I am not tailgating.   I used the zoom.   Anyway you can see how nasty the conditions were.

I saw five bald eagles at the upper part of Turnagain Arm.   Can't imagine what they were after this time of year.

Got to Anchorage and went right to a car wash to get the silt and salt off the truck, then to Costco to gas up.


Then I hit the movie.

This morning, it was off to Seattle on Alaska Airlines.    AS I boarded the plane, I saw a large sign on the fuselage that noted Alaska Airlines has been ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction seven years in a row by J.D. Powers.

Cloudy in town, but the sun peeked through layers in the clouds as we climbed out.

Nice pleasant flight, landed in Seattle late afternoon.   Wake up call for 3:30AM.   Will fly to JFK in New York tomorrow and overnight again before my Jan. 2 flight to India.   Four days of travel!

If this is Seattle, that must be Rainier.

All the little airplanes, all in a row,

That light-weight suitcase I was so proud of?   I'm already wishing I'd left half its contents at home!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The India Journals, Ch. 2, Preparing for Lift-off

Ch. 2   Preparing for Lift-off

"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money.  Then take half the clothes and twice the money."  - Susan Heller

I posted a note on Facebook bragging about my luggage weighing only 24 lbs., and that includes the 8 lb. weight of the carry-on-sized suitcase itself for my upcoming four-week trip to India.  I not only impressed a bunch of friends, but I impressed myself as well.   This is the lightest I have ever traveled and I’m still taking too much.

There will be two interior flights in India, to and from New Delhi and Kolkata, with a checked bag limit of 33 lbs., thus the necessity of traveling light.  These two flights are at the first part of the trip, so expanding my suitcase after that doesn’t matter.

The toys—cameras, laptop, and their accoutrements, along with other stuff I’ll need/want on the airplanes—will go in the day pack that I take on the airplane, or I will put them in my special vest-of-many-pockets.   That vest is handy; it prevents over-weight baggage when need be.

Patty T suggested on Facebook that I reveal my packing secrets, so they are as follows.  I thought that was a good idea and decided to post it here on my blog.   If a bag goes missing, or something in that bag, I will have ready access to what it was.

I dress casual and for comfort, but I will be spending seven days on a brand new fancy riverboat that encourages somewhat dressy wear for dinner.

In the suitcase:

6 Tee shirts, including my Seattle Seahawks shirt to wear on game days.
4 Pants, two casual hiking/convertible, two a bit more dressy
4 SPF long-sleeved shirts to wear unbuttoned over tees
2 Tops, long-sleeved, somewhat dressy to wear over misc. tees in various combinations
2 Blouses
6 Pair sox, all black
1 Pair sox, white
6 Panties whose wearing life can be extended with panty liners
1 Pair sneakers
1 Umbrella that’s been all over the world with me and never yet used
1 Clothes hanger for drip drying laundry
1 Pkg. wet wipes
1 Bra, extra
1 water-resistant windbreaker
1 Bra
1 Pair of $5 white cotton pants I bought in Auckland, NZ, for lounging in my room.
1 Large envelope for collecting receipts, brochures, etc.
1 Bag lamb's wool and paper tape for complaining feet 
Misc. toiletries, and extra plastic bags
Purple shoulder bag for day trips.   It comes from the Lavender Farm on Maui.

Folded or rolled and packed in Zip-locs

Sneakers full of panties, sox, umbrella, and some York mints

Lambs wool and paper tape, dental stuff and name tag

In the backpack:

Surface Pro tablet, charger, USB mouse
Kindle and charger
Envelope with flight and hotel info and maps of terminals
Envelope with misc. info
Passport, vaccination record, etc.
Camera (another goes in my pocket) wrapped in a tee for sleeping
Toiletry bag with a hook for hanging in bathrooms
Small toiletry bag for use on airplane
Cases for glasses
Meds, including malarial and intestinal tumult pacifier
Neck pillow
Goodie bag
Cell phone
Travel clock
Electrical adapter for India
Journal and mini-notebook
Extra Zip-loc bags

The tech bag:

4 2 GB SD cards, plus each camera has a new one
4 4 GB SD cards (just in case) I shoot over 5000 photos on each trip
4 extra camera batteries and charger, and connecting cord
4 AA batteries for larger camera
Surge protector
Sharpie, pen, pencil
Cell phone charger
Lens cleaning kit
2 USB thumb drives
SD card reader

I still have to decide if I will wear a pair of jeans or a pair of the hiking pants with zipped pockets.   I will wear a long-sleeved tee, one of the SPF shirts, my vest-of-many-pockets, a lightweight jacket, and a pair of slip-on shoes.

This was a good idea, Patty T.   Now if something gets lost, I’ll have a readily available list of what was in the bag.

This afternoon I folded/rolled all the clothing on the dining room table, close to Pablo’s cage.  Then I got really brave and brought down the suitcase and packed it—right in front of him!  He hasn’t caught on yet that I’m leaving, so he and I are still besties.

Usually, to save my skin from multiple punctures, I use my spare bedroom for packing central, hiding everything until the last moment.   It tends to keep peace in the house.

About that silver suitcase with the blaze-orange duct tape stripes.   I bought it at Costco and expected there would be many silver suitcases showing up on luggage carousels.   I thought about a bright luggage strap, but they tend to come off.   Duct tape it was!   Easily identifiable, easily spotter on a carousel, and one other benefit:

Years ago when people bought new skis, they would spray them with paint and make them too ugly for people to steal.   Same idea.  Would you steal a suitcase that looked like that? 

Packed, ready to go.  NOW I’m getting excited!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The India Journals, Ch. 1: A Hitch in the Git-along

Ch. 1:   A Hitch in the git-along

If you are going through hell, keep going.—Winston Churchill

It is with some apprehension that I approach the departure day for a trip to India, a country I have never visited and which seems quite mysterious to me.   What has me nervous isn’t India’s mystery.   I look forward to exploring that.

No, what has me troubled are all the stumbles and mulligans and pratfalls involved in signing up for this voyage.  They are:

1.      The trip offered a pre-extension to Kathmadu, Nepal.   That definitely that got my attention.   Except, it isn’t available on my departure date and subsequent departures are sold out.

2.     The single supplement wasn’t available either as someone had already taken it.   Vantage Travel offers one free single supplement for most of their trips.  It means a person traveling alone does not have to pay double, as in “based on double occupancy.”

3.     As a solo traveler, I could not book the lower-cost cabin for the week we will spend on a riverboat.    $$$!

4.     I asked if it were possible for me to fly from the West Coast to New Delhi, rather than flying to the East Coast to get to India.   I was assured I could.  I like letting the travel company make my air reservations because it’s so much easier, and having them do it means all airport transfers are included in the price and any problems will be solved by the guides.

5.     When my air itinerary was e-mailed to me, it had me flying from Seattle to JFK in New York, overnighting there, then flying to India the next day.   When I contacted the company that does the flight itinerary, I was told that flying from the West Coast was impossible because I would get there after the boat left.   What?

6.     “After the boat left?”   What was that?   The program itinerary said we were to stay in Delhi, recover from all that time in the air, and tour around there for two weeks.  Then we would fly to Kolkata (Calcutta) for a week-long cruise on the Ganges River.  Ah, but it turns out the itinerary will run in reverse on my departure.   So, after flying 3-1/2 hours to Seattle one day, overnighting, flying 5-1/4 hours to JFK, overnighting, and flying 14 hours overnight to New Delhi, I get to get on another airplane and fly 2 hours to Kolkata.   Aren’t I lucky?   Will I still be able to walk?  Will I be conscious?

7.     Then there was the visa that India requires.   Again, this is subbed out to Generations Visa, a company that has handled my visa requirements in the past.  I filled out the form and mailed my passport with the required documentation.  Then I got a message stating the company needed something with my street address, like a utility bill.  All my bills had my mailing address—a post office box.

8.     By the time I found something with my street address that was acceptable, the embassy had already approved my visa.  

9.     Besides me, only one other person signed up for a four day post-extension to Varanasai, so Vantage canceled it, requiring me to change my return ticket from Seattle back to Anchorage and change my hotel reservation in Seattle.   By this time, I was beyond expecting everything to flow smoothly, so all this did was mess with my composure.

So, yeah, I’m walking on egg shells here, waiting for the next hitch in the git-along.   In the meantime, please don’t tell Pablo I’m packing my suitcase or that he and Julie will be having some quality time together while I’m gone.

PS:   About that seven day trip on a riverboat?   It's billed as brand new for 2015.   Would my trip be its maiden voyage?   What could possibly go wrong?

Don't pay too much attention to this as everything changed (see above), but it gives you an idea.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Turnagain Arm in the Fog

Guess who knew I was going somewhere and wasn't happy about it?

Early morning

Late afternoon

In the rear view mirror.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A Phenomenal Three Hour Dash-and-Grab

My dash-and-grab trip to Anchorage Saturday was an emergency, albeit an emergency in my eyes only.  My latest project was stopped dead in mid-print, all for want of a cyan ink cartridge, and I was running dangerously close to being out of the special paper I needed, too.

The sun trying to break through clouds on the way to Anchorage.

During my sojourn in Halibut Cove I finally completed formatting The Africa Journals, a “book” I will print and have bound at Office Max.   It's better than a photo album because it contains all the stories from my blog about the trip as well as many photos.

Printing had to wait until I returned home as I needed my printer with its ability to print on both sides of the page automatically, as well as the above-mentioned special paper.   Sold under the HP label, the paper is two-sided, meaning it is specially coated to produce photographs and text with quality and without bleed-through. 

The Alaska Railroad annual Christmas train, full of partiers.

It is heavier than normal copy paper (20 to 24 lbs.) at 32 lbs. It’s also expensive, selling at just under $40 for 150 sheets.   I usually wait until it’s on sale at half price before I buy it.

My Africa Journals came in at a whopping four volumes, requiring more than 300 sheets of paper, printed on both sides, and requiring two three-packs of color ink to produce, plus at least one black ink cartridge.

With ink and paper, a four-volume set was going to cost me in the neighborhood of  $300 to produce.  That was a deal-breaker, but I needed at least two sets.

So, with expensive paper and expensive ink cartridges (just under $90 for a pack of the three colors), I headed into town.

A very blurry drive-by shot of the Rainbow sheep at Windy corner had photographers out.

My first stop, Office Max, dashed my hopes.   Not only wasn’t it on sale, it wasn’t in stock.  A couple years prior, I had checked prices at Office Depot and they had been higher, so it was with a heavy heart I went there, after stopping at Costco and buying three packs of color cartridges and one of black, and getting $10 off each pack.   Well, now, things were looking up.

On my way out of the store, I paused at the photo counter to see if they refilled a different type of ink cartridge for my “travel printer.”  A very nice man handed me a brochure with a list of cartridges they fill and lo and behold they now fill 950XLs and 951XLs, just the ones I need and had just purchased.   Now I can get cartridges filled for about $10 each, a big savings.

Costco had Seattle Seahawks tees for $16.99, my favorite team.

Costco now carries Stephen's hot chocolate mix, my favorite, $8.99 for 4 lbs., as opposed to one lb. at Wal-Mart for $5.69.

I also got a new pair of my favorite jeans, marked down $3 to $14.99.   I went to the gas pumps to fill up the truck and got another pleasant surprise.   The last time I’d been in Anchorage was Nov. 5.   Since then gas has fallen from $3.42 to $3.15 a gallon at Costco.  Things were definitely getting better.

A rear-view mirror shot of clouds and fog over Turnagain Arm.   Though it's nearing sunset it really isn't this dark.  My camera is aimed at the sun.

I went into Office Depot with a heavy heart and searched for my paper.   I found it and gawked at the price.   Not only was it on sale, it was on sale for $7.50 for a pack of 100 sheets!  I checked the description on the box five times to make sure I was getting the right paper, then bought every one they had, and beat it out of the store before they realized their mistake.   

Usually selling for almost $40 a pack of 150 sheets, I bought this 100 sheet pack, and all its brothers,  for $7.50!!!

 Then I made a dash to the other store location and bought the last five packs they had.

Just before I completed my transaction, the clerk said “We have reusable shopping bags on close-out for 14 cents each.”   I handed five to him and said, “Fill ‘em up,” which is a much safer method of carrying heavy packs of paper than plastic bags.

My 14 cent reusable shopping bags.

My next stop was Wal-Mart where I found two-packs of 2GB SD cards for my cameras for $12.47.   Two GB cards are hard to locate these days because purchasers are opting for the higher capacity cards.   I prefer the 2 GB cards for a couple reasons:

1           1.   If I lose my camera on a trip, I haven’t lost all my photos.

       2.  I use Picasa for my photo program.  To import photos, my tablet downloads and copies every single photo on the flash card, even if it’s in the thousands like on 8 GB and higher cards.   This was I only have to wait through a few hundred.  Because I do this every single day, it can become a time hog with a higher capacity card.

       Wal-Mart also had my favorite tea for $2 less than the grocery stores.   Bought every one they had because they are pretty slow about restocking their shelves.

My last stop was for something to eat before I fainted.  Subway was across the parking lot and WOW!   They had pastrami again after a year without.  Pastrami on flatbread with just a bit of mustard.   Nothing else.

(Sorry, no photo.  I ate the subject.)

Then I headed for home because (in case Patti is wondering why I didn’t drive across town for a visit) my energy level on three hours sleep was running dangerously low and I did not want to subject myself to driving almost a hundred miles through the mountains in the dark. 

What's this at Potter Marsh?   The rear engine of the Christmas train heading south again.

On the way out of town, there goes the ARR Christmas party train again, full of revelers.   I have fond feelings for the ARR.   It was the promise of a job for my dad that brought us to Alaska.   He retired from the railroad 30 years later.

I could not have scripted those three hours in Anchorage any better if I’d tried!

And my little Thanksgiving cactus is blooming.