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Archive for the ‘Travels’ Category

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For decades, when you drove north on I-5 from San Diego in the spring, you could see the colorful bands of the Carlsbad Flower Fields on the right as you passed Palomar Airport Road. I remember pulling off at that exit, parking by the side of the road, and walking in awe among the endless rows of flowers.

After not stopping for many years, I did last week, and learned that the entire area is now fenced in, and very difficult to see from the road. The picture above I snuck from a parking lot nearby, zooming between two trees and over the fence. Also, the condos in the back weren’t there in the olden days.

What’s worse, to get in, you now have to pay a $14 entry fee at a ticket booth. It’s like at the zoo. There are discounts for seniors and children. Then there are turnstiles to get in, and really, there is no good way to see what’s in there without buying that ticket.

I didn’t buy one.

But I thought I should show you a glimpse of the famous Carlsbad Flower Fields.

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Ohio State House

…with a drug prevention rally taking place in front of it.

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[click for picture credit: Reddit]

I have recommended that people stop flying United. It’s not good for the morale. There are plenty of other airlines that beat their prices, not their customers.

But if you bought your tickets months or even weeks ago, and you can’t get a refund, I recommend that you bring a boxing helmet on board with you. Here is what it looks like on United flights these days.

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The CEO of United Airlines, Oscar Munoz, now blames the customer. He said he was belligerent and raised his voice.

No shit!

If the airline had not bumped a paying customer off a flight, I can guarantee you the customer would not have been belligerent.

So, folks, be aware, you can book a flight with United Airlines, and if for any reason they don’t want you on the plane, you’re on your own. If you insist, they have you beaten bloody by airport security. Then it’s your fault. They make you the “bad guy.”

Go ahead, book your travels on United!

Makes for exciting travels!

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United Airlines overbooked a flight from Chicago to Louisville by four seats. When nobody volunteered to vacate the seats, they announced they needed them for four airline employees for a flight in the morning and they would randomly select four passengers to leave the flight.

Three left. One remaining, a doctor, needed to be in Louisville and refused. They beat him up and dragged him off the plane. Eventually, they let him back on. The flight ended up two hours late.

I might remind you, this is not a criminal or a terrorist. This is a passenger like you and I who paid for a ticket on an airline and just didn’t have the flexibility to arrive at his destination any later than booked.

This is a person like I am every time I fly. It’s not my problem that the airline can’t figure out how to get its employees to their destination. I paid for a ticket. It’s also not my problem that the airline overbooks its flights. I don’t mind paying enough for my ticket to cover the airline’s costs. I never bought into its games. I just bought my tickets.

Watch this video and you’ll see what United Airlines thinks of you as a passenger. I hardly ever fly on United, and now I am reminded why that is.

You have a choice in air travel.

Choose wisely!

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I always considered myself a seasoned traveler, one who is not fazed by minor mishaps.

Today I traveled to Montréal from Albany, New York. My flight, get this, went from Albany to Philadelphia, like several hundred miles south, just so I could catch another flight north again, fly right over Albany on my way to Montréal. After waiting around at the airport for a few hours, my first flight was canceled. I was stranded in Albany at 6:00pm, with no way to get there. Since I know it’s “only” 220 miles north, I went over to Avis and rented a car, one way, at a cost similar to what the airline ticket was.

Rather than dozing in cozy airline seats, I found myself on I-87 North driving through the dark Adirondacks in heavy rain. It was not a scenic or relaxing trip.

Americans crossing into Quebec, with limited French skills, are at a disadvantage, and in the age of Trump, I felt that I was interrogated much more vehemently than I remember it being when crossing into Canada in the past. But my story held, and I made it through.

When you drive over that border, there is some level of culture shock. All the signs look strange, and the street names and road numbers are unrecognizable. Distances are now in kilometers. In the dark, in heavy rain, with street markings being alien and the roads pretty crappy, it is outright scary driving into Montréal.

After about 20 kilometers I thought I’d better start figuring out where I needed to go, so I popped out my iPhone and went to Google Maps, as I always do. I asked for the Dorval Airport and it found it. Meanwhile, my phone was texting me like crazy that now I was roaming and it would charge me $2.05 per megabyte unless I answered “Yes” to some text and then it would just be $2 a day. I managed to pull over and do that.

As I got back on the road, I think I waited too long for the proper turnoff, because as I looked down, my map showed this, which had me freeze in panic:

Check this out! There is obviously no left ramp from route 132 onto route 10 outside of Montréal. I got lost, as I progressed following the Google Map directions, pronouncing all the French names, and not finding the turnoffs. It took me some time to figure out what Canadian exit markers looked like, because I kept missing them, making my plight even worse.

Eventually, getting lost at least five times, and getting close to death that many more times, I found the Hilton Garden Inn at the airport. The rain came down in sheets. I found a parking spot. I pulled in. I let out a huge sigh of relief. I stepped out of the car and realized too late that I had parked the car in 6 inches of standing rainwater.

By the time I got to the door of the hotel, my jeans were wet up to the knees and my sneakers were squish-soaked in 38 degree water.

They are now drying on the heater in my room.

Oh, Montréal!

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The crane that lasted 400 years! I came across a 9-year-old post about the crane on the Cologne cathedral. Check this out and marvel about the crane. That crane was on top of the cathedral for longer than the United States has existed as a nation, for much longer….

Norbert Haupt

In 1977 I lived in Cologne for about a year. I was a 21 year old soldier. Many a Saturday afternoon I would walk from my apartment, across the river, into downtown, and on my way I would walk past the awe-inspiring cathedral.

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Yes, I looked up. Yes, I was awed, but what I was looking at didn’t really faze my youthful mind much.

After reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, I studied up on cathedral construction, and I was fascinated with what I found out.

Check this link for a nice snapshot.

I didn’t know that for some time, the building was the highest building in the world, until the Washington Monument was constructed.

Construction began in 1248, but by 1560, political changes had taken place, and funds dried up. So all construction stopped until 1842.

There was a massive wooden crane on top of the south tower…

View original post 306 more words

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I noticed that my license plate on my Missouri rental car had a bird on it. That reminded me of Bernie Sanders.

Then, as I sat in my car, I looked outside, and there it was, looking right at me:

As I researched, I found out it’s the Missouri State Bird, the Eastern Blue Bird.

Nature gave me a coincidental treat. It made my day. There is a bird on it!

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Missouri State Capitol


I always enjoy visiting State Capitols as part of my job. Here is Missouri’s Capitol building in Jefferson City.

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Norbert at Sunset on Maui — Picture Credit: Trisha

One of the best things about Hawai’i is that it puts me in my place. I love the islands, and I love even more marveling about them.

The islands are one of the most remote places on earth. It takes six hours by plane from the nearest mainland, California, to get here. There is no land in between. And once here, there is no other land in any direction closer than that. We’re in the middle of the Pacific, as far away from any land as you can get.

As the islands formed, only one new species of animal was added every 10,000 years, since it was so difficult for life to get here. Driftwood carried insects and seeds, and occasional storms carried birds. Of course, that all changed when humans started coming here a thousand years ago.

Whenever I am here, I am struck by how young these islands are compared to geological ages. I can see the youngness in the land, and still, compared to human history, it is ancient.

The Hawaiian islands were formed by a single hot spot under the Pacific that has been spewing lava for tens of millions of years, while the Pacific plate is moving from east to west. The oldest of the islands are toward the east, the biggest one remaining is Kauai. There are older islands west of Kauai, or remainders of islands, all washed back to the sea. Kauai is 5.1 million years old. That’s all. Oahu is 3 million years old. Maui is 1.32 million years old. The Big Island is only 400,000 years old. Proto humans already walked the earth and came out into the savannahs in Africa when the Big Island was formed.

And now, Lo’ihi is an active submarine volcano located about 22 miles off the southeast coast of the Big Island. Its top is now about 3,000 feet below sea level. When it finally reaches the surface, it will be the next Hawaiian island as the other ones slide northeast.  

Maui is called the Valley Isle. There are really two major volcanoes on Maui,  the western side is 5,700 feet high, and Haleakala is 10,000 feet high. The valley between the two mountains is pronounced and very obvious when looking down from either mountain. Driving from ocean to ocean from the north end of the valley to the south end takes only about 20 minutes. Looking at the water lapping at the edge makes me think how the ocean is biting into the land, foot by foot. Every time I drive that stretch I am aware that this land will be under water in the not too distant future. It won’t take many feet of sea level rise before this valley ocean, and Maui becomes two islands. Our descendants will see two islands where I only see one. The only question is, will it be my grandchildren, or will it be another 50,000 years?

To think that all of Haleakala will be washed into the sea, completely gone, in another 10 million years boggles my mind. Ten million years is nothing in geological terms. To wash a 10,000 foot mountain completely into the sea in 10 million years, the rain and wind only has to erode it by 1 foot every 1,000 years. Quite possible.

In my entire lifetime I just got to catch a small glimpse of land being formed in Hawaii, and being washed away. A blink of an eye only. This puts my human lifespan into perspective and lets me understand how long a span of 10 million  years actually is.

Watching time shape Hawaii reminds me of a quote in a John Denver song:  I have to say it now, it’s been good life all in all, it’s really fine to have a chance to hang around.

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On Thursday, I woke up in Syracuse, New York, and traveled back to San Diego (6 hours of flying).

On Saturday, we flew from San Diego to Kahului, Hawai’i (6 hours of flying).

I checked the weather in Syracuse and Maui as we arrived:

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I am glad I am not in Syracuse anymore.

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Breakfast at the world-famous Kihei Caffe, a real dive by the road, only takes cash, but there is always a line out the door.

All is good. Trisha is scoping out the beach:

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Trump delivered a rambling, boring address to the association of major county sheriffs and major city police chiefs. He spoke like he was addressing a classroom of fifth-graders. Just start at 1:45 and listen to 5:45, where he reads one sentence for a full four minutes.

Unfortunately, there are no views of the audience, but I expect there was much internal eye-rolling and disbelief about who stood in front of them and what he was talking about. I certainly would have felt awkward sitting in a room of sheriffs listening to this rambling buffoon.

But then, scroll down the YouTube comments and find statements like this:

Trump will be the greatest President of our time…he is so clear and concise, this make big difference between him and all those liar politician, who never kept a single promise..woooo, what a beginning of great days in America…i start to feel safe already…shake them…all the rats will come out of their hole..😂😂😂😂😂😂

— Golden eagle

Or here is another one:

The vermin are united in their hatred of the White man. The mask had been slipping for a long time. With Donald Trump it’s come off completely.

— HerzWatIThink

What is this man even talking about?

I am baffled by this. Listen to Trump’s speech above, if you can without falling asleep about half-way through, and then tell me he is clear and concise!

Our president is an embarrassment.

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Our so-called president uses bully tactics and fear-mongering to get his way.

Here he talks about how many very bad and dangerous people may be pouring into our country.

In a country, where more people were killed in 2016 by toddlers with guns than by terrorists, I have to say that the danger of being killed by a terrorist in my mind is about the same as the danger of being hit by lightning or, in deference to Betsy DeVos, the same as the danger of being mauled by a grizzly bear.

Checking monthly tourism statistics, I found a chart that shows the number of non-residents entering the United States in the first 7 months of 2016 (through July):

non-residents-enteringThis shows  there were over 21 million people who “poured into our country” and I am sure a few of them were “bad hombres.”

770,388 came from the Middle East, and another 308,658 from Africa during that period.

The only United States terrorist attack during that period that I remember was the San Bernardino bombing, and that was perpetrated by a couple that lived and worked in the United States.

No travel ban would have stopped them.

What Trump is doing here is fear-mongering for the ultimate end of grabbing political power for himself. It’s right out of the playbook for dictators. Keep the people in a fear frenzy.

How do they expect us to treat them with any respect?

Don’t we ever learn?

And that’s my rant today about our so-called president.

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…Christmas.

I am here with a co-worker in front of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.

xmas-tree

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Chicago O’Hare Fire

12:00 noon today: I got on my American Airlines plane at Chicago O’Hare to San Diego.

02:30 pm today: American Airlines flight taking off from O’Hare to Miami catches on fire halfway down the runway.

I always sit in the exit row. It gives new meaning to paying attention when the flight attendants show you how to operate the doors.

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