Honey, I’m Home

That’s what I told Mischa when I finally got home tonight, about six hours later than I had planned.  I let him out of the cage right away and fed him (his bowl was completely empty, but I left him enough for a day and a half before I left at 11:00 yesterday morning, so we were pretty much right on schedule and he hasn’t scarfed down what I gave him so he must be OK.)

Michelle and her family have gone to Cache Creek Casino a number of times over the last several years but I’ve never gone with them.  Not that I didn’t think there was any fun to be had there, it just seemed silly to go to a Casino for a couple of hours and then turn around and come home again, and a casino not in Nevada, to boot!

When planning this stay-cation, I wanted to go on one over night trip, just to get away and not be at home.  The original plan was to go to Monterrey and spend the night and then get up and go whale watching, but Michelle nixed that idea when her sister reminded her that “it’s winter” and the water will probably be choppy.  Michelle has gotten seasick a few times when she’s gone before and she figured she’d stand a pretty good chance of getting sick again if we went “in winter” so we decided to go to the casino instead.

Cache Creek is an “Indian casino”.  One of those “on sovereign land – exempt from state gaming laws” kind of places.  I’m using quotes on the “Indian casino” because it had a lot of Asian influences, in both the casino and the hotel room.  Michelle had never spent the night there and neither one of us knew what we were in for, but I guess my hopes weren’t all that high, so when we walked into the room, I was blown away.

No sooner did I get out my camera to take some pictures than I realized my batteries were dead and I didn’t have any more, so all these pictures are taken using my iPhone.  They’re not too bad, considering, but cut me some slack if they’re a bit blurry.

We walked in the door of the room and the first thing I noticed was the beautiful wood flooring.

I immediately noticed the door on the left and knew it to be the door to the adjoining room next door.  Ignored that.  Wasn’t using it.  But here’s the deal; Michelle was supposed to send pictures to her sister, and I wanted to take pictures for you guys (you know you want them!) so I wanted all luggage and stuff out of sight.  I went looking for the closet to throw the luggage into and pulled the sliding door on the right back thinking it would be the closet.  You guys!!

The bathroom!

That door leads to a separate and private room for the toilet.  Look how all the towels are folded to look like little shirt collars.  Look at the “flower” in the Kleenex dispenser.

I wish I’d gotten a better picture of that tub!  My goodness!  It was so deep.  Sadly, I didn’t get an opportunity to use it, but I sat in it (how could I not) and it was amazing.  The only criticism I have is that it wasn’t a whirlpool tub.  How awesome would that be?  The shower could have been a little bigger, but it was pretty nice.  Also, it had one of those rain fall shower heads, which are supposed to be nice and luxurious, but I prefer more water pressure than that when I shower, so I could have done without it.  Clearly a matter of personal preference.

The main room was delightful as well.  I loved the benches at the ends of the beds, the pillows and cushions, the linens.  The lighting fixtures and options were really nice too.  The only problem was that there were halogen light fixtures centered over the head of each bed, but they were both on the same switch.  Michelle kept turning on the light without warning and blinding me.  I loved the chrome flexible reading lights next to each bed.  I didn’t use it but I thought it was a nice idea.

I always get the bed by the window.  I like it cooler and brighter and Michelle likes it warmer and darker so it works out.  If it was up to her, the curtains would be completely closed and the room would be oven warm, but we manage.  Or should I say, she manages.  She always manages to sleep anyway and I know this because long before I’ve had a chance to get situated and go to sleep, she’s ALREADY STARTED SNORING…

That bed looks beautiful right?  Unfortunately, it was terribly uncomfortable.  Clearly everyone who ever slept in it, slept just on the side closest to the night stand, because that side of the bed was all broken down and sagging. I suppose I should have complained but it was 11:30 PM before I got into it and I didn’t want to move at that point, even if they were able to offer.  Between the snoring and the bad mattress, I didn’t get much sleep last night.

The room had one of those nifty Kuerig Coffee makers.  And in the cupboard below was a small refrigerator.  A must for any hotel room, as far as I’m concerned.  Do I even need to say that I’m not being compensated by Kuerig for this post?  ‘Cause I’m not.  Although…  If they wanted to send me a free coffee maker in exchange for my mentioning them here, I’d gladly accept it and amend this post to say that they did!  Just, don’t send me this one.  I want a bigger, prettier one that has a reservoir to hold water and keep it hot.  This one took a little while to brew because it had to heat the water first.  (By the way, I wasn’t compensated in anyway by Cache Creek either…  Am I really required to say these things?)

So, earlier, when I said I always get the bed by the window, because I like more ambient light than Michelle does…

This hotel is literally out in the middle of no where.  It’s about 80 miles north of San Francisco surrounded by very rural land.  It’s winter so nothing is growing but we drove past a lot of groves…  Olive groves, grape fields, I don’t know, but there’s not much around this hotel for miles.  It was nearly dusk when we got into the room and this was our view…  Well, if you looked up and straight ahead, that was our view…

This was the closer view.  What’re ya gonna do?

We arrived at the “resort” at about 1:30, but the room wasn’t available to go into until after 4:00 so we spent some time in the casino.  While it’s not nearly as bad as a Nevada casino in this respect, there is smoking allowed at he casino and the air inside was a little thick with smoke.  Normally I wouldn’t have cared, much, but I’m still trying to get over this bronchitis mess and it was really irritating my airway and triggering the coughing, so I was glad for the “fresh” air of the hotel room.  We sat in the room for a little while talking and when we were about to go back down and find some dinner, Michelle went into the bathroom.  While I was waiting for her, I was sitting in one of the chairs by the bed and I saw a reflection of the view outside through the mirror on the wall.  For a moment I thought the hill outside was on fire and I was reminded of a scene, late in the TV series M*A*S*H.  Colonel Potter is standing outside looking at the glowing horizon and one of the other characters walks up to him.  The other character (don’t remember who it was) comments on how beautiful the sunset is and Colonel Potter says, “Yep.  Only the sun sets in the west.  That’s the east.”  They had to pick up the camp and move until the fire passed.

What I saw in the mirror, was, of course, the sun setting over top of the distant mountains, which were, thankfully, to the west of the hotel. 🙂

It was really nice to get away, even just for a night.  Unfortunately, I didn’t win big.  In fact I didn’t win at all, but I went there we $73.00 and I came home with $20.15.  My philosophy of casinos is I don’t gamble, I pay to play games and sometimes I win a prize, but usually I just entertain myself for a little while.  So if you look at it that way, $52.85 for a day of game playing, isn’t so bad.  And I had a good time.  That’s all that matters!

 

 

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Mostly On Target

I’m cheating…  Well, OK, I’m not exactly cheating, but sort of…

I made no promises about daily blog posts, and I certainly didn’t make any resolutions of the sort.  But I did say I wanted to write more, and I have posted something new everyday this year… You hear that?  EVERY DAY THIS YEAR!!!  (Sounds like a really long time and major accomplishment, huh?)  😉

Anyway, I’m cheating because I’m writing this tonight, but it won’t post till tomorrow…  Except that by the time you’re reading this…

I’m cheating because I wrote this last night, but it didn’t post till today…  Yeah, I think that’s right. Tomorrow(today) I will be heading up to Cache Creek Casino and Resort for a day of nickel slot machines (probably) and an over night in the hotel, before coming back on Thursday, so I have to write this post in advance and schedule it if I want to keep up my EVERY DAY THIS YEAR!!! streak.

I had dinner to(last)night with a friend of mine named Shirley.  I met Shirley at work years ago and we developed a friendship.  She was blessed enough to be able to retire early from the company and has been living a very comfortable life since then.  We get together every so often to enjoy a meal and have a nice conversation and that’s what we did tonight.  We had dinner at a lovely restaurant called Hs. Lordships (most people pronounce it “His Lordships” – don’t know why), in Berkeley, CA, right on the water of the Bay.  Shirley asked to have an “early dinner”, which worked out nicely.  She lives about 30 miles away from me and she was coming to me since I came to her last time and she wanted to eat early so she could go home early… Or anyway that was the plan.  I made 5:00 reservations and it was nearly 8:00 when we left the restaurant and then we stood in the parking lot for another nearly 30 minutes talking.

The restaurant was deserted when we arrived, and they seated us at arguably the nicest table they have.  It’s right in the corner with windows on two sides, one of which was facing the Golden Gate Bridge.  I couldn’t not snap a shot with my iPhone and this was the view from my dinner table tonight!

Golden Gate Bridge at Sunset

I expected the restaurant to fill up but the entire time we were there, there were only two or three other parties at the restaurant so it was kind of nice.  We had a wonderful and enlightening conversation and I’m so glad we got together.  It can be so hard to maintain relationships with people you don’t see with regularity, but this is a relationship that is worth maintaining!  Next time we get together, Shirley told me, I’ll come to her house where she’ll cook and I’ll get to meet and play with her six to eight year old Black Lab, Jake, whom she rescued from a shelter two years ago.  I can’t wait for that!

After my dinner was over, I ran over to the nearby Target store.  I was going way out on a limb, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

You see, a while back I bought a printer.

Sometime after that, I bought an ink cartridge.

Sometime after that, I bought a new computer because the one I had spontaneously kicked the bucket.

Sometime after that, I attempted to install my old printer on my new computer, only to learn that they couldn’t play nicely together.

Recently, I bought a new printer (spoiling Michelle’s plans for her Christmas Gift to me, as I’ve previously mentioned.)

Even more recently, I was cleaning up and I happened across that printer cartridge, which had never been opened and had never been used.

I know I bought that cartridge at Target.  I do not know when I bought it, where the receipt is, or which credit card I used to buy it.  In general Target has a very liberal return policy.  From the perspective of a former retail manager, their return policy is TOO liberal, however, as a frequent shopper of Target stores, I’m grateful for this liberal policy.  (By the way, are the gays still supposed to be pissed off at Target and boycotting?  If so, shoot me.  I don’t care.)  In addition to not knowing which card I used to purchase the cartridge, my Debit card number was recently changed, as I mentioned in a previous post, due to credit card fraud activity at my local grocery stores.  I handed the unopened cartridge box to the customer service rep and told her, “I’m going out on a limb here.  I don’t know when I bought this or which card I used but I know I bought it at Target.  She worked her magic and determined that I had not bought it on either of the two cards I had given her.  I was fully prepared to be told that it had been too long and I couldn’t return it.  Instead she said, “I can give you store credit and you’ll get $XX.XX for it.  I was perfectly happy to accept that as I had some shopping to do anyway.

I have had a number of complaints about Target over the years.  They’re in desperate need of properly training their staff not to get in their customers’ way and to say “excuse me” when they must.  Pretty much every time I’ve gone to a Target since I moved to California I’ve had at least one, and usually more, employee step in front of me and stop to put something on a shelf right where I’m looking, without saying a word.  I’ve had a number of bad experiences in their snack bars, with them usually being understaffed by under-motivated, slow-moving workers.  But I must say that I was very impressed with the service tonight and how the young lady handled my return that I expected not to go so well.

Spending the store credit was no problem.  I’m down to my last case of Diet Pepsi here at home and that’s just a tragic event that can not be!  I must have a plentiful supply of Diet Pepsi at all times!  Otherwise I get itchy.  Heh.  I needed one or two other things as well, including a wart removal product.  You see, yesterday at some time I rather suddenly became aware of a painful bump on the little webbing between my ring and middle fingers on my right hand.  Don’t know where it came from but it just seemed to instantly appear.  At first I thought it was a pimple and I tried my damnedest to squeeze and pop it (isn’t that what one does with a pimple?) but I couldn’t get good leverage on it to give it a good squeeze.  And then I thought, “That doesn’t look much like a pimple.  I think that’s a wart.”  I don’t know how I would have gotten a wart in between two fingers and so suddenly but I didn’t know what else it could be.  So while I was at Target I looked for wart remover.  I found exactly ONE product, which I’m sure is not all that’s out there.  Dr. Sholl’s Freeze Away.  “Removes warts fast with as few as 1 treatment” the package says.  I’d like to get rid of this thing with as few as one treatment.  That might be just what I need.  Though I have to admit that “freeze away” scares me and it cost $14.00 for something I’ll likely only use once.  But they didn’t have any other product so I bought it and brought it home.

I decided to be a smart boy and read the instructions and warnings carefully.  The instructions are remarkably incomplete.  “Twist the applicator onto the can, stick the applicator in the activator, freeze off the wart.”  Um… Okay.  Not specific enough.  The warnings go on to say, “Do not use this product on anything other than a common wart or a plantar wart.”  “If you do not use Freeze Away exactly as these directions say to use it, or if you use it on any other condition that is not a common or plantar wart, it may cause serious burns, permanent scarring of the skin, or blindness.  If you are not sure whether the skin condition is a common wart or plantar wart, ask a doctor before using Freeze Away“.

Well, I thought I was sure…  But I’m not sure enough to risk permanent scaring or blindness.  How is this product even available over the counter?  For $14.00, I’m taking this back and I’ll go to CVS to find some salicylic acid to paste on it.  Sure wish Target had some of that; this sucker hurts and I’d like it to be gone already!

 

So!  Now that this commentary is out of the way, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and pack for this trip that I am already on while you’re reading this. 😉

Busy Stay-Cation

I usually make the excuse that I write at work because I’m there so much and I have no time for writing at home…  That sounds nice, but since I’ve been off work since December 23rd and I didn’t write a thing between December 22nd and really, yesterday, that’s not much of an excuse.  You’d think there would have been many blog posts during this stay-cation.

This has been one of the best vacations I’ve had in a while, I mean, you know, for not having gone anywhere.  I received an infusion of cash (insurance reimbursement for my therapy bills) just as this stay-cation was beginning which enabled me to comfortably purchase Christmas gifts for all the people on my list to buy gifts for; fancy coffee for my mother, A GPS for Michelle, an Afterglow PS3 controller for Lil’B as well as art supplies for his birthday (which is 12/31), a cordless drill for my oldest niece (this is what she wanted.  Don’t judge me.), a horse game for my second niece and a little plush, radio control fire truck for my nephew.  Everything arrived on time and was properly distributed.  As far as I know everyone appreciated their gifts.  I was concerned that the art supplies would pale in Lil’B’s eyes compared to the controller, but he said he was excited about the art supplies.

I have spent a lot of time at home during this stay-cation, which is fine ’cause it was kind of the plan.  Stay home, clean, organize, generally get things in better shape.  I haven’t accomplished nearly as much as I had hoped I would, but I’ve gotten a lot done and I’m quite happy about hat.  One of my Christmas gifts to myself is something I’ve wanted for a long time but just didn’t convince myself to spend the money on.  I decided recently that I was determined to get the item and so when I got the cash infusion, I took my 20% off coupon and headed right out to Bed, Bath and Beyond where I bought a Roomba, robot vacuum cleaner.

You guys! I’m so glad I bought this thing and I wish I had gotten it a long time ago!  It’s awesome!  It does a very effective job and it requires almost no effort on my part.  I say almost, because I do have to empty the little bin pretty much every day and I do have to push the button to turn it on…  Well I don’t have to.  There is an auto start feature, I just haven’t enabled it.  I also have to make sure there is nothing on the floor to get in its way.  This thing is surprisingly assertive and I have found that I have to make sure that all cords and cables are well out of the way or it will run over them and cause problems.  Though it is smart enough to stop running before it gets too tangled up in something, it will try a bit to vacuum the thing up, before it gives up.  My biggest fear was that it would not be able to get over the lip into the kitchen, which is the messiest room because that’s where the cat litter is, but the Roomba jumps the curb like it’s no big deal.  The other concern I had was how Mischa would react to it.  He has always been afraid of vacuum cleaners and whenever I would turn one on, he would run and hide behind a chair or something.  He doesn’t seem overly concerned about the Roomba which is louder than I had hoped, but far and away quieter than any manual powered vacuum I’ve ever owned.  What’s really funny is that the Roomba, which has a built-in extra-dirt-detection sensor, seems to identify Mischa as a pile of extra dirt and it routinely targets him and heads straight toward him.  Mischa, being the mental giant that he is, just stands there until the Roomba actually bumps into him and then he acts indignant that it came after him.  Roomba has a little side brush which is designed to brush debris away from walls and out into it’s path.  Sometimes this side brush will bump against Mischa’s feet and then he tries to pounce on the brushes.  It’s really quite funny.  But I can run the Roomba everyday without causing any great turmoil for Mischa and that’s what I wanted, so I’m really quite thrilled with my purchase and wish I had done it long ago!  Now I really want a Scooba.  It’s made by the same people and it’s designed to wash hard floors.  The problem is, it says it’s safe on “sealed hardwood floors” and I’m sure mine is not sealed.  Bummer!

 

Michelle had a “lounge” party, on Christmas Eve at her apartment.  She insists it was always a lounge party (wear lounge pants and t-shirts) but her sister kept calling it a pajama party and I swear Michelle called it a pajama party the first time she mentioned it to me.  I pointed out that I don’t wear pajamas and that no one wants to see that, and that’s when she started calling it a “lounge” party.  It was a nice time.  Her three-year-old great-nephew was there and Michelle handed him my Christmas present and asked him to bring it to me.  Somehow, between that time and the time he handed it to me, the paper… ahem… fell off the gift.  She gave me a heated mattress pad, which is something I had been wanting for a while, only, you know how when you build something up in your mind and it’s going to be so wonderful and then you actually get the thing and it can’t live up to the expectations you built…  Yeah, that.  I felt badly ’cause I want to take it back, but I didn’t want to hurt Michelle’s feelings.  When I got over to her house this past Friday to do my laundry (since Saturday was New Year’s Eve) she was in the process of repackaging the one she had bought for herself to take it back.  She didn’t like it.  She let me off the hook and told me that I could return the one she got me if I wanted.  I told her I would probably do that and that I’d bring it back to her (since she had the receipt) and she could take it back and get me something else and wrap it up for me, and then maybe I’ll get to open MY OWN Christmas present.

 

I took Lil’B to Benihana for his Birthday dinner…  Actually it was kind of confusing. I took him, on December 26th and I told him, this is a special dinner to celebrate his Birthday, where he will get his Christmas present, and then at the next dinner on January 2nd, he would get his Birthday present.  I hadn’t been to  a Benihana in many years and while I knew it was a lot of fun, I also thought I remembered that it was a long and drawn out affair so I made reservations for 5:00.  He was out of school so it wasn’t a school night, but I figured we shouldn’t be out too late.  Dinner was over at 6:50 and Lil’B didn’t want to go home yet.  I called his mother and got her blessing and we went to a movie after dinner.  I got to take him to one of my favorite Movie Theaters.  It’s just and AMC theater, but it’s in the middle of San Francisco and it’s in an old building they renovated.  It’s a 12 screen cinema, but there are only four theaters to a floor, and there are three levels of theaters.  Since they are stadium seating, each theater is two stories, so this building is about 8 stories tall and I just find it fascinating.

We saw Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked.  This movie was horrendous!  I mean, truly, truly, terrible!  Now I know, this movie is not geared toward my age group, but I thoroughly enjoyed the first two so it was sadly disappointing to me that I didn’t like this one as much, but on the plus side, there was a moment in this wretched movie that actually made Lil’B laugh out loud and if you’ve been coming around here long, you know what an accomplishment that is.  I’d sit through it again just to hear that!

The next day, I went to therapy, did a little shopping and went over to hang out with my friend Karin and her two kids.  I ended up staying through dinner and had a nice time.  She introduced me to some fancy operations that my iPhone is capable of and I wasn’t even aware… Giving me pause to consider the value in some new equipment purchases.  I’ll have to give that some thought.

 

Friday I went to Michelle’s house to do my laundry and hang out.  I got there early and after I started my first load, she and her great-nephew and I went to breakfast.  The boy was quite rambunctious and energetic.  It was fun though.  He runs kind of hot and cold when it comes to me, well, anyway, hot and luke warm.  Apparently, since he was a baby baby, I’m the only male, outside his immediate family that he would let hold him.  Other men would pick him up and he’d immediately squirm and cry and want to get away and with me, he was fine.  Now that he’s a little older and has a personality, he doesn’t dislike me, but he often doesn’t want to engage with me.  But this day, as soon as I walked in he was all over me, asking me questions and talking to me and wanting to sit with me.  It was almost too much, but it was still nice to see.

 

I’ve mentioned in the past how I do not want to be home on New Year’s Eve.  My mother never went anywhere or did anything and all we ever did was sat in the living room and watch TV.  Theoretically, watching “the ball drop” only my mother was forever surfing channels trying to get away from all that horrible secular music that was always on the network shows.  We would watch something from Washington, DC on PBS, which was always live and therefore an hour early, plus fireworks on TV just do not have the same effect.  From 11:00 to 11:58:30 she would surf around trying to find something that wasn’t rock and roll music and then at the last second (sometimes after the last second) turn the TV to one of the networks.  We’d say “happy new year” and then go to bed.  I swore that when I had it in my own power I was not just going to sit around at home on New Year’s Eve.  This has proven to be problematic from time to time because I hate crowds too, but I make the best of it.

In years past I’ve gone out of town for New Year’s Eve spending a few days in another place away from home and with more excitement than I’ve got here.  Most of the time, New Year’s Eve was just the excuse I needed to go on a trip, but I still enjoyed myself.  I’ve been to Las Vegas a couple of times, Los Angeles a couple of times, Reno a couple of times.  Last year we got a room a the Embarcadero Hilton in San Francisco and had a really lovely evening, but it ended up costing as much as a three night trip out of town.  This year, Michelle and I had 10:00 reservations at a restaurant called Skates on the Bay, which is, as you might imagine, on the San Francisco Bay.  I had never been, though Michelle had a couple of times.  The plan was to have dinner and then stroll out side to the water front where we would watch the fireworks from San Francisco at midnight.  In an all too familiar scene, Michelle was in the bathroom at midnight and I stood by the windows of the restaurant where we had JUST gotten our check and watched the fireworks by myself (le sigh).  It’s okay.  This is kind of terrible for me to say, but I feel like midnight on New Year’s Eve is a moment that, ideally should be shared romantically and I don’t have any romantic feelings for Michelle, maybe being alone at that moment was better.  The fire works display was nice, though I feel like it looses some of its splendor when you can’t hear, and just as importantly, feel them.  The display was the same one we watched last year, which means it was shot off from a barge outside the San Francisco Ferry Building, about six and a half miles away.  I’m always caught a little by surprise at how small they are from what seems like such a short distance.

After dinner, I took Michelle back to her sister’s house, dropped her off and came home.  I would have liked to have been somewhere else for a little vacation and I got a wild idea that may not really be financially feasible that I’d really like to go to Australia for next New Year’s Eve, but as long as my 19 1/2 year old cat is with me, that can’t happen.

Last night was another dinner with Lil’B.  We went to a local place I’d never been to called The South Shore Cafe.  It was very ordinary, but it was something new for both of us and I’m trying to expose him to new things, so it was fun.  We talked a little bit about his birthday.  He said he couldn’t remember what kind of cake he had but that it had Oreos on it.  I asked him if they had ice cream and he said no, so I had to rectify the no birthday ice cream problem.  We went to a local ice cream shop called Loard’s (I learned it is supposed to be pronounced “Lo-ard’s” as it is a compilation of the two founders last names.)  Loard’s is a 100% local company that makes its own ice cream in a local factory and it was really quite good.  When I was looking at the flavors on the board I was caught by surprise and was a little grossed out by “Avocado flavor” but I had to taste it.  It was surprisingly good, although, honestly, it tasted mostly like Vanilla.

 

This morning I had an orthodontist appointment, I wasn’t holding my breath, though I was hoping today would be the big day.  No such luck.  In fact based on the conversation I had today with “Dr. Jeff”, (I always wondered how the staff differentiated between the father and the son, now I know) it looks like two to three more months.  The day Dr. Jeff put them on he told me 12-18 months, this is the 13th month.  On the plus side though, I paid my final payment today and have one few debts hanging over my head! Yay!

 

Tonight I have dinner with an old friend of mine, and tomorrow Michelle and I are going, over-night, to Cache Creek Casino and Resort.  It’s an Indian run casino about 90 minutes north of here.  We’ll go and play for the afternoon, then spend the night in a hotel room, have breakfast and head back.  That’s about as long as I can leave Mischa on his own since he’s confined to the cage and he eats canned food, but it’ll be nice to get a little tiny break anyway.

 

*Oh by the way, I guess I’m supposed to say that despite my glowing report (and despite the two additional people I’ve about talked into it – my mother says I should get a commisison) I am not being compensated in anyway by Roomba, or Bed Bath and Beyond or any other products or merchants I may have mentioned here…  Dammit.

A Quickie

Minds out of the gutter people, that’s not what I meant!

This is going to be a quick post as I’ve much to do and little time to do it.

I’m terrible at preparing for travel.  I’m pretty good at traveling, I rarely even forget anything, (knocks wood that this will not be the first time I do), I’m just bad at  preparing.  I hate to pack and I’m always at the last minute with the compiling of  things to go along for the ride.

Michelle will be picking me up from my house (where I currently am not) in about 45 minutes so that we can go pick up our rental car for the drive up to Reno  tomorrow, and then I have to get back home, and take a shower, fix something to  eat, and pack my suit case – while trying in vain not to let the cat see (he gets  upset) – and then do a minimal amount of housework so that my downstairs  neighbor who will look in on said moping kitty while I’m gone will think I live in less than squalor.  (By the way, this is wasted effort as she was in my apartment yesterday so I could show her where everything is, but it’ll make me feel better.)

Tomorrow, I pick Michelle  up at noon and we make  our way to The Biggest Little City in the World for a little holiday fun and poor man’s gaming.  I’m not much of a gambler, so much as a “I pay to play a slot machine” kinda guy,  going in with $X amount of money that I’m willing to  pay to play and if I happen to win a “prize” while I’m playing, so much the  better…  (And God?  I could really use the prize  right about now!  I’m just  sayin’.)

I spoke to Michelle earlier today on the phone and she was all sniffly and gross.  So much for avoiding getting sick before our trip.  Now we’re both going to be  congested as we travel through the mountains and we won’t even be able to have a conversation because we won’t be able to hear each other.  Oh well, we’re going to have fun anyway!

We were in Reno two years ago and there wasn’t a whole lot going on.  We’ve heard rumors and I hope they’re true that things are picking up again and we hope  there’ll be more going on.  The main thing is that we’re not sitting around at home doing nothing like a couple of unloved losers!  (No offense to anyone who is  spending New Year’s Eve at home.) 🙂

I guess that’s it for now.  I don’t imagine I’ll be able to do much blogging while I’m in Reno, but you never know.  I’ll try and tweet a bit (Michelle gets cranky when I tweet, but she might just have to suck it up.)  So if you don’t already follow me on twitter and you want to, look for me at https://twitter.com/riggledo

I’ll be back as soon as I’m able.  And just in case I don’t get another chance,  “HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!”  See you in 2010!

A Month of Travel, Part 1

At long last, I am fulfilling the demand of my reader and I’m here to tell you about my extended period of travel this July.  Strap yourselves in, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

Right from the outset I got off to a rocky start.  Because it was domestic travel, I presumed that arriving at the airport an hour ahead of my travel time was sufficient. This is generally what I do and it works out fine, however, I don’t generally travel so freaking early in the morning.  Because it was a last minute booking the most affordable fare I could find had me leaving at 7:30 in the morning.  Michelle picked me up to take me to the airport in plenty of time and I arrived at the airport at approximately 6:40.

I checked in at curbside.  Back in the olden days of yore I was always afraid to do that because I assumed there was probably a fee associated with it.  One trip when Michelle and I were going somewhere together, we were running late, there was a long line inside the airport and hardly anyone outside so we decided to go for it.  It turned out to be faster, easier and freer.  Of course in today’s climate where you have to pay to check a bag, it hardly matters anyway.  I approached the kiosk put my suitcase next to the counter and presented my ID to the ticket agent.

“Where you headed today?” he asked.

“Albany.” I said confidently, a sentiment that did not match my state of mind at that hour.

He began pecking away at his keyboard.  After several seconds he asked me, “Do you have another stop first?  I’m not finding you on the flights to Albany.”

No, I don’t suppose he would.  “I’m sorry,” I told him, “Albany is the next leg.  I’m headed to Tulsa today.”

He smiled and went back to his task.  He found me easily enough after that and printed out my boarding passes and my luggage tag.  When he had finished and I had paid the fee for my checked bag, he handed me my boarding passes and sent me on my way.  He didn’t give me any instruction as to what gate I was going to or what direction to go to get there.  At the time, I felt this was odd and poor customer service.  The rest of my  journey would prove to me that, while it’s still poor customer service, it is not at all odd.  It is just one more example of how courtesy and customer service is a thing of the past.

As I walked away from the kiosk, making my way to the doors to find the security check point I needed to go through, I looked down at my boarding passes to determine what gate I needed.  The first boarding pass said Gate D60.  I looked around for signs to direct me and found the sign directing me toward the gate numbers in the 60’s.  Oddly, there are no letters associated with the gate numbers, but whatever, gate 60’s thata way, thata way I shall go. By this time it was creeping up on 7:00 and I knew that if the flight was to depart on time, they’d begin boarding shortly after 7:00.  I picked up the pace.

Following the signs, I walked down a long empty corridor which ended abruptly with nothing more than doors to go back outside.  Well, dang. If that guy would’ve told me where I was going I could’ve saved some time by staying on the sidewalk.  Oh well. I exited the doors onto the sidewalk and saw a sign posted on a tall orange traffic cone directing through a temporary covered, construction-type “side walk” to get to the gates in the 60’s, still no letters, hmmm… and continued my journey.  Another long walkway led me to an entirely different building around the departures driveway.  I walked in the doors, by this time panting, lacking breath, but there ahead of me I saw another sign for the gates in the 60’s and beyond that I saw a security checkpoint.  I hustled there.

The line wasn’t tremendous but there was a line and it was going on 7:00.  As I stood in line, making my way to the first stop where I’d show my boarding pass and ID, I looked up at the monitors searching for my flight number to see if, by chance it had been delayed and I would be OK.  But wait, my flight number isn’t up there.  What on earth does that mean?

As a rule of thumb, I’m a very anxious traveler.  From the moment I wake up the day of the trip, until the moment I’m in the departure gate waiting for boarding to begin, ticket in hand and confirmation that this is the right gate and flight number obtained, I am anxious.  I have only had one instance in my life where things didn’t work out just fine and as such, I’m trying really hard to rid myself of this habit of fretting needlessly over the maybes and worst case scenarios and instead just go with the flow confident that things will work out fine.  Even if things don’t go absolutely according to plan, they will still work out.

So there I stood, the security checkpoint line advancing slowly, looking at my watch as the minutes ticked by and looking at the monitor and not seeing my flight number, actively telling myself not to worry, that this was going to work out fine.  And that’s when I noticed it.  The only flights listed on these monitors were American Airlines flights.  Well, that’s weird, I thought, why do they only have American Airlines flights listed?  There are other airlines you know.  No matter, at least I know I’m in the right place; I’ll just have to hustle to the gate when I get through security.

I was up next and I walked up to the attendant and confidently handed her my boarding pass and ID.  She looked at them, and then looked back at me.  They always confirm that the photo on the ID matches the individual so this didn’t strike me as odd.  And then she said, “Are you traveling on another airline besides American?”

Duh! You’re holding my boarding pass, why don’t you look at it.  Of course I am! I thought before answering, “Yes, I’m flying on Delta today.”

“Well, this is security for the American Airlines flights,” she told me.  “Delta is back that way.”  She pointed the direction from which I had come.

I looked dumbfounded, I’m sure.  I looked down at the boarding pass she had handed me and began to speak.  “But my boarding pass says gate D—“  And that’s when I saw it.  Right there, on the face of my ticket, in plain letters:

DEPARTURE CITY:  Salt Lake City

ARRIVAL CITY:  Tulsa

The guy at the curbside check-in kiosk had given me my boarding passes with my second flight on top.  Since he didn’t tell me where I was going or what gate number I was looking for, I assumed that the boarding pass on top was the correct one as has always been the case.  Sure enough, the departure gate for my flight from San Francisco to Salt Lake City was gate number thirty-something.  I was in the right place to begin with and I had gone far out of my way.

I hurried back down the corridor, out the doors, through the temporary walkway, back into the building and down the long corridor I had started from.  As I emerged from the other end of the corridor, I saw the security checkpoint for this batch of gates off to my left.  I rushed over and got in line, watching my watch, and losing my artificially imposed calm, instead giving way to the panic that was creeping up.  What if this line takes too long?  What if I don’t get to the gate in time?  What if they’ve given up my seat? I was really beginning to worry, and that’s when, as if someone heard my cries, another line was opened up.

I rushed through the process of removing my laptop from its bag and putting it in a bucket, removing the buckle of my belt, taking my cell phone from my pocket and removing my shoes.  All items went into a tub with my jacket and computer bag and I headed through the medal detector where I did it all in reverse.  Throwing my coat over my arm and my computer bag over my shoulder, I made my way to the gate which, fortunately, was not far from the check-point.  As I was approaching the gate, I heard an announcement overhead, “Paging Delta Airlines Flight (whatever it was) to Salt Lake City, Passenger Kevin Riggs.  This is your final call.  Please report immediately to the boarding area or your seat will be given up for a stand-by passenger.”

Fortunately I was just walking up to the counter as he finished his speech.  Not only did I just make my flight but I was in the first row, aisle seat, just the way I like it.

There is, obviously, much more to this story, but as I’m already at 1560 words, I will bring this to a close for today.  More to follow in the coming days.

Stay tuned for a special announcement, unrelated to my travels.