Riding the Bike with One Pedal.

Category: Travel

Home from Cancun….

….and what a fantastic vacation it was. More on it, of course, with pictures, but here are my bullet points from yesterday’s day o’ travel.

– Reward travel sucks, because they put you on the killer flights, as in, 7:25 a.m departure, so you are getting up at 3:45 a.m. for a shuttle.

-Cancun Airport TSA would like the world to know that KNITTING NEEDLES ARE DEADLY. The very dour Julia told me to go put them in my checked luggage as they could absolutely not go on the plane. (Addi Turbo Lace circs, #4s, about as deadly as pencils or a belt, but ok.) FYI, one’s luggage is not sitting around waiting for you to put it back in, but thanks for the hike, Julia. Also, FYI, if you try a different security line with your knitting needles, they will still take them. I thought I’d try it, since Julia was also extremely concerned about my bar of Christopher Elbow chocolate (made me open it to show it was, indeed, chocolate.) So I initially thought she was being a gigantic beyotch and thus upon seeing the second security lane open, thought, ‘What the hell’. Told JWo after the fact “I had a plan,” even though I really didn’t, I was going to feign stupidity and confusion, I think. In the back of my mind, I knew that $15 needles were not worth ending up in a Mexican prison over (nor were they worth spending $50 to check them!) Please recall the time of day. JWo felt bad and bought me a bottle of Bombay Sapphire at the duty-free shop. Along with four other bottles of booze, because criminy, duty-free airport booze is CHEAP. (Kahlua – $13!)

-Gotta love my honest husband who told the customs agent as we were funneling through after retrieving our luggage that we had 10 bottles of booze. (Five more we’d packed in our luggage, purchased prior to the airport.) Turns out we’d gotten into the Very Anal Customs Agent line, and even though we told him some of the bottles were small (they were!), he said something about seeing just how small they were and made us go into the Here We Search And Grill Ye Customs Department. There were approximately 75 people in the non-residents line, and as we entered with our carts of luggage, we were beckoned straight up to an agent, since we were, quite obviously, the only US Citizens in the HWSAGYCD.

-I will not use this agent’s name, but let me tell you, he looked like he could send us to Pound Us In The Ass US Prison without blinking. A BMF, for all you Pulp Fiction aficionados. James handed him our declaration form, that VACA had scrawled over with red ink, indicating we were here because we had ten bottles of alcohol. This very intimidating agent seemed to be struggling to contain his amusement. “Ten bottles of liquor?” We nodded. We were then informed that as Missouri residents, we were only allowed to bring in EIGHT bottles (four apiece), and as we sort of gosh-gollyed stammered our responses, he continued, informing us that Texans are only allowed one. Continuing to half-smile, but looking like he was trying not to bust out laughing, he informed us that yes, he could collect some tax from us, but really, that’s a lot of paperwork and that’s not what his purpose was, his job there today. I also got the impression that perhaps he was a bit irritated with the Very Anal Customs Agent for having even bothered him with something so trivial. He waved us towards the exit and we gushed our thanks. Oh, Julia? You could learn something from this man.

-As we exited, we found ourselves flanked by some returning military folks, and at the sight of them, two grandma-type volunteers, dressed in red, white & blue, waving patriotic pom-poms began whooping and cheering. I smiled, because I thought that was pretty cool, but then as we started to turn to the area to re-pack our luggage, I looked back and saw the grandmas were in the airport section, but beyond them was a big room, with a double door, and lined up inside were all the families waiting for their family member, pressed up as close to the door and one another as they could be, eagerly waiting for the soldier they knew was coming (thanks to the whooping grannies) to round the corner to see if he or she belonged to them. I get a lump in my throat just typing about it, because it was such raw, aching joy and love, palpable even from 20 feet away. We got an even better perspective when we arrived home in Kansas City, standing by the baggage carousel – one soldier on our flight was waiting for his bag, and he and his girlfriend were entwined, he finally just picked her up and held her piggy-back style, holding her legs, her arms around his neck. Turns out he’d been in Iraq, and they hadn’t seen each other for four years.

Happy Independence Day, indeed.

Random Orts!

It’s been a while. Yup. That whole ‘life’ thing gets in the way of blogging sometimes. Here’s the latest!

1. I spent a good chunk of my day on Friday in doctor’s offices. Basically the annual tune-up. Everything went well, all’s good – last month I felt a small lump/bump something-or-other and knew I had to get my appointment made for the now-annual mammo. Turns out, it doesn’t even register on a sonogram, so it’s just something to be mindful of and not worry about. Oddly enough, I spend so much of my energy worrying about crazy things, this incident didn’t worry me at all, up until the x-ray tech was on the phone to my doctor getting orders for additional tests. However, I was impressed with their efficiency and springing into action; in retrospect, wouldn’t want it any other way.

2. We are going on VACATION. Remember last year? We bought a $100 pool and had ourselves a staycation. Now everywhere you turn, you see something about staying home and building your own vacation. Whatev! Staycations are so last year. 😉  Don’t get me wrong – blender drinks in the pool was lovely. And we’ll do it again this year. But some of those pool drinks are going to be consumed in CANCUN. We’ve also booked two fishing trips while we’re down there – one’s at night! The resort we’re staying at looks lovely, and I’d been saving my airline miles for…wow, 12 years. So those helped a bunch. Now to count the days until we go. Oh, and the best part of this is that my doctor had asked if I’d taken a vacation or had plans to – I told her we really hadn’t gone anywhere since we got married, and that I was wanting to go to Mexico (not afraid of H1N1), and she adamantly ordered me to GO on vacation, go to Cabo, or Cancun, just stay away from Mexico City and enjoy myself.  So, Doctor’s Orders!

3. Work continues to be busy. We’ve had a few days of relative calm, but mostly it’s just all-out flying through the day. Home is busy, too – James has really put a ton of effort and time into the garden, and it looks awesome. He’s got 55 tomato plants a-growin’, so we shall not want for ‘maters later on! And peppers and eggplant and okra and beans and snap peas, plus we have lettuce and radishes and green onions and spinach right now. He’s definitely taken the garden to the next level this year!

4. So if you’re a knitter, or crocheter, or spinner, then you most likely know about Ravelry. I’d say that most places that have large gatherings of fiber-holics end up with most people referring to their “Rav Name” or even adding it to their nametag. Not a crazy thing or out of the ordinary. But there are some people who’ve been banned or kicked off the site, and let me tell you, there’s always one with an axe to grind! At the Fling, one lady went OFF on another knitter who’d just put her Ravname on her name tag. “This isn’t a Ravelry-sponsored event. What are you trying to be, exclusive?” (It went on for several awkward minutes.)  She was such a pill, and so mean about it, that those of us around her thought she was joking at first. After all, it’s not like Ravelry is some sort of niche offshoot group, in fact, it’s been a uniting force.  This lady ended up driving a couple friends of mine into a small ante-room to escape her, she was so angry and rude. I think that’s the kicker with any sort of group – even political – how you can be united in one direction or passion, and then you turn around and there’s somebody wearing a plushie suit with a confederate flag on the back, ready to pray for your sins and damn you for eating red meat. Or, just someone who loves a lotta fun fur.

5. Speaking of knitting, I’m flying along on a baby gift – the Moderene Baby Blanket (RavLink – yep, that’s me being exclusive!), which I’m making out of  Dark Horse from the Studio – it’s so soft, and not acrylic-y at all. I love the color ranges, too. Oh yeah, pictures. At some point. 🙂 BUT! I do have a picture of a stealth project a whole bunch of Spring Flingers worked on – I’ll explain more, but we had nearly 50 knitters contribute tiny knitted hearts to someone who needed some extra love. Pretty cool, and a great reminder that even though there may be bad apples here and there, the majority of folks are really good people.

Hearts Project

OK, it’s been a lazy Holiday Monday! Hope everyone had good weekends, spent at least some time this weekend remembering why it’s a holiday, and goes back to work refreshed & rejuvenated. That’s my goal, anyway. Oh, and yeah, check yer boobies. It’s important!

Hello, I Must Be Going!

Well, I am heading out tomorrow to St. Louis, to attend The Loopy Ewe’s Spring Fling. Knitters (and spinners!) will be flying in from all over to attend, including three amazing teachers – Wendy, Cookie & Anne – and then the dyemaster herself, Claudia, of Wollmeise.   I’m also excited to finally meet Sheri herself!

But the excitement doesn’t stop – there are going to be sooo many people there to meet, greet, hang out with, knit with, laugh with, all of it. I’ve made so many ‘internet friends’ between Ravelry and Plurk, I know it’s going to be a bit of an overload to match everyone’s little avatar and personality up with their real-life selves. Plus you have the thin sheen of anxiety that goes along with travel and big groups – did I pack everything? How’m I going to carry all this stuff? What if everyone hates me and I spend the weekend in my car, weeping? You know. The basics.  There is also the chance I’ll be breaking bad news to my husband, because George Clooney is shooting a movie in St. Louis, and a group is already planning a sushi dinner on Friday night…at the location where Mr. Clooney has been spotted every Friday.  I’m just saying. George probably has had his fill of tall, willowy model-types, and he might just be looking for a rotund, short, brassy sort of  knitter to round out his experiences in life.

(Probably not.)

(But when my co-workers asked if I’d knit him socks, the answer was an unequivocal, bellowed, “HELLZ YEAH!”)

Meanwhile, work crazes on, and it’s whack-a-mole times.  Partly because of the vacation time I’m taking (all whopping 2.5 days of it, whoa nelly!) and partly because the demands are there – this business has a crazy broken roller-coaster-ness to it, where things are slow and plodding and then suddenly you’re hurtling along at 100 mph and hoping your cart doesn’t go off the rails when you crest the top.

I’ll also be going to Trader Joe’s while I’m in STL – I can only hope that they ask for our zip codes when we checkout, as I know the Kansas City contingency plans to hit their store close to our hotel pretty hard before we drive home on Sunday. Listen up, TJ! Kansas City wants/needs a store (more than one would be awesome!) and we want it NOOOOW! (I’m bringing a cooler. And shopping for co-workers –  Three Buck Chuck, of course.  Perfect for the aforementioned roller coaster!)

James will be selling more tomato and pepper plants this weekend – a couple varieties have sold out already, but he’s got loads of great plants left. Cherokee Purple seems to be the hot tomato this year (yes, Virginia, there is a cutting-edge even in the gardening world!) and he has oodles of those.  It will keep him busy & off the streets while I’m gone, I know that much. EMAIL  him at jworley1@ HOTMAIL [dot] com if you have questions or want to place an order! Yes, you have to type out his  email, but it’s faster than leaving a comment – my computer access will be very limited.

So I’m off – I’ll be Plurking from my Blackberry, certainly, and then I’ll report back next week with pictures & stories! See you then!

Bustle, bustle!

Yep, it’s bizzy ’round here. Big client meeting yesterday. Off to NYC tomorrow, back home on Thursday, then keep dog-paddling because there’s a big meeting/presentation next week to boot. woo-hoo! In the midst of all that, got to keep getting the ‘regular’ work done, and then handle the curve balls on top of it all. Because boy howdy, there was a curve ball, and I seriously wanted to remove heads from bodies with a croquet mallet. Yes, I was channeling my inner Red Queen, and all I can say is, good thing I read the emails at  home so I had time to explode and then calm the hell down by the time I could actually address it. GAH! Life is hard enough, when things are going well, it’s in everyone’s interests to make! things! work!

OMG Tripper is going to start marketing his weapons-grade gas to the government. That’ll help pay the dog food bills ’round here. He is seriously, seriously toxic with his farts. I keep a bottle of Febreze ‘Air Effects’ right by my chair, and it’s almost comical – he gets royally offended when I counter-attack with one puff of “Linens-n-Sky”. Sometimes he even gets up and moves. It’s the only weapon I have, and I have to use it!

Speaking of crazy dog stories – last Saturday night I met up with some of the LSG folks on Ravelry, which was great fun – and when James got home from his banquet duties (MWA banquet in Oregon, MO), I headed for bed & left him to take care of the dogs for the night. Good thing. Polly apparently dashed in the door, and he only caught a glimpse out of the corner of his eye, and knew she had something in her mouth. Uh, yeah. “Something” turned out to be an enormous full-grown rabbit that was in dire straits. At least I have a husband who can calmly handle these things, humanely. I’d just shriek and run into doors.  Just a regular Mutual of Omaha around here, I tell ya…..

Speaking of wild kingdoms, the seed-planting is well underway, as the gardener of the house starts getting excited for planting and gardens and spring. Since he’d gotten me a Christmas present when we’d agreed not to exchange gifts, I decided Valentine’s Day would be my turn to surprise-treat. I took the rest of the money I’d left in my PayPal account from my Loopy Ewe DPN holders, and with just a smidge extra, I bought him a set of Texas Tomato Cages. After all, tomatoes are the “Love Apple”….and he grows them so extraordinarily well, with all kinds of fantastic varieties, knowing how much I love love love fresh tomatoes. Apparently these things are THE support system for growing tomatoes, so we’re just going to start investing in them and add to the pile as we go.

Let’s see… working furiously on some more knits, including a couple of fun projects for classes I’ll be teaching, and really, just trying to not let too much slip through the cracks.  It feels kind of crazy that tomorrow is already Ash Wednesday, that next week is -yikes- March! and pretty soon we’ll see Spring really settling in, bursting through the ground and in the trees, welcoming us to a new season and another chapter. Despite being agitated about dunderheads, and feeling like I’m burning the candle at both ends, I’m really excited about what’s on the horizon this year – both with work and my life outside of work. (For instance? The Wo and I are going to take a vacation! YES! Where? Dunno! But it’s going to happen, and that’s all there is to it. The pool will be there for later in the summer, yes, but staycation be damned!)  And yes, eventually I’ll be able to throw all the nice facts up about the zombie, proving once and for all, the dead truly can live comfortably in California.

Oh, hi. Miss me?

It’s been another crazy week here! Yup! Work has consumed a big chunk of my time/life/brain, and as a result of that work, I’m heading back to NYC on Monday. Since I was a late-addition to the itinerary, my co-workers & I are going to be engaging in an Amazing-Race-esque travel event, with me leaving before everyone, flying to Atlanta, then on to NYC. They leave an hour and a half later, go through Cincinnati, and yet we’re all supposed to arrive at La Guardia at the same time. My brain keeps seeing the two colored lines peeling out from Kansas City in two directions, and I hear Phil Keoghan’s voice conjecturing if one team will encounter delays, or will we both arrive on time, and someone…..may be eliminated.

So, there are worse places to be stuck for 2.5 hours, which is my layover time in HotLanta, and I have loving, fond memories of that airport, because I walked off a plane once and saw a Body Shop in front of me. That was the trip where I’d forgotten my hairbrush, so it was a welcome sight indeed. I’m going to charge up my Zen and add some more music/This American Lifes to it, and of course, I’ll pack a knitting project, and a book. I dreamed a couple nights ago that I ran into the Yarn Harlot on my travels, too, which was pretty cool. My favorite part of this trip was when my boss told me that if they encounter delays, to just take a cab and get to Times Square. (That’s when my AE said that’s where we’d have the Amazing Race carpet to jump on.) So if you’re there on Monday during rush hour, and you see a fat lady talking to the singing naked cowboy dude, come up and say “hi”, I’ll be there waiting to get my next clue.

In other news, it’s a busy day here at the shop, because we’ve got our annual client/vendor party this afternoon/evening. There’s been a lot of hustling & bustling to get the place ready, and I’m just going to say it, my office is a disaster. I’m going to have to remedy the situation pretty quickly, but I also have another piece of my presentation to finish for Tuesday’s meeting. Instead, I’m blowing off a little steam & blogging. I miss my blogging!

Last night, we went to BB’s Lawnside BBQ, which is a fixture in the KC BBQ community (and I love that they underwrite on NPR); I had never gone there, despite its proximity to our house, so when I heard co-workers were taking our out-of-town AE there, I ran it by the Wo, who heartily agreed it was better than scrounging in our (very messy) kitchen for something. They had a band, and a helluva special, with a full slab of ribs & two sides for $15. Pretty tasty! And the music was great, and I even got snorgled by the harmonica player. I was engrossed in conversation (more like listening to the conversation between my hubby & a co-worker), and suddenly there was a man with a cowboy hat & a harmonica, playing by my face. Whenever I leaned away from him, he followed me, tickling my cheek & neck with the air from his playing. I couldn’t stop laughing, it was that crazy mixture of fun, unexpected attention and a pinch of embarrassment!

All right, I need to crank out my spreadsheet, and determine what’s for lunch. I know I’ll be Plurking my way through New York again, so if anything hilarious happens, I’ll let you know, and I’m going to see if I can blog with my phone as well. Just in case there are pictures that need sharing. Who knows? It just might be my week for cowboys!

I Believed Customer Service Had Died, Until the Last Leg.

I cannot believe it’s only Wednesday. I feel like I’ve been traveling for a week. I’m thoroughly exhausted, I’m out of sync with virtually everything, I still have birthday thank-yous to write, and I just want to sleep for an extended period of time, to wake up refreshed and discover it is Saturday. That would be sweet.

We left Kansas City on the 6:11 am flight with a connection in Detroit. My memory of that plane ride is a bit hazy, it could have been in part because we were in the very back row and the engine noise was so incredibly loud, I was pretty sure it had rearranged some fillings in my teeth.  We landed somewhere in the 20’s of Concourse A. Our connecting flight to White Plains was on Concourse C, Gate 35, supposedly leaving around 10:30. So off we trek, and even with moving sidewalks, it was a bit of a haul. Only to discover the plane we’re supposed to take has been hit by lightning. And our flight has been canceled.  The gate agent offered no solution, no recourse. When my boss asked about the next flight, she snapped, “Nine pm.” He told her that wasn’t acceptable, and so she found four seats on a flight going into LaGuardia, departing at 11:30. Which was better than 9 pm, but still would make our new business meeting a near impossibility. But we got the car reservation changed and then went to our new gate. Which would be Concourse A, Gate 77. The very end of the concourse we’d left. Sweet cheeks mary and no pockets of cheese, were my dogs a-barkin’ by the time we got to that flight. Because we were all in our “outfits” for the pitch, because even when the original flight was scheduled, we would be pressed for time. That flight was full, and miraculously, the package we checked actually followed us to LaGuardia, and we didn’t have to get a courier to retrieve it from White Plains.

So our plans went all to hell in a handbasket, and our prospective clients were so incredibly understanding, they rescheduled the meeting to the next day. I got to ride in a rental car through midtown Manhattan (I Plurk’d and Facebook updated throughout this journey, it was my entertainment), and my boss is a good driver & aggressive enough to handle the NYC traffic. To his credit, he even refrained from reading his Blackberry, something we all appreciated!  We had a different meeting in midtown, and I was reminded why I like NYC – the hustle and bustle, so much packed into tiny amounts of real estate. But my yarn stash and I could never, ever, call it home!

We got lost in Yonkers, just like the movie title, and eventually found our hotel. I’ll skip over the middle of Tuesday, just because everything went so well, and was such a fantastic experience for me, personally and professionally, that I simply can’t take the risk I’d jinx it somehow. It truly was a notable moment in my life and I enjoyed it immensely. And I will say that my background and NPR-listenin’ and funny dad stories all were natural fits. So. More on that, I do hope, just at another point in time. Right now I have to complete the travel circle.

I should point out that in KC, I got patted down. I don’t know if they thought my boobage or bellyage were secret weapons (of mass destruction?) or that my flowy clothing disguised some non-metallic item that they couldn’t wait to seize, but the TSA at MCI (KC) are nothin’ compared to the grouchy, over-the-top folks at the Westchester County Airport. The line was long, and one worker started yelling at all of us that there were TWO TABLES and to SHARE and KEEP THE LINE MOVING. Hi. Have to quibble with you, mate. When you STOP THE XRAY MACHINE to examine shit, shit piles up. When my jewelry sets off the sensor and I have to remove it, send it through the machine, and retrace my steps? It HOLDS UP THE LINE. It’s the way it works. Unless you’re going to open the other inspection post, we’re all sucking it up and lining up as best we can, so STFU with the angry, contradictory commands. And through all of this, I have a blinding headache, borderline migraine.  What else could happen? Well, newbie TSA boy scout has to inspect my luggage. Awesome. You know what it was?  A small bottle of talcum powder. I’d like to point out neither my jewelry, nor my powder tripped any alarms in Kansas City. And this airport is a darn sight smaller. You walk out to the tarmac and climb friggin’ ladder steps to get into the teensy plane.  In any event, I had purchased 4 Excederin and downed those as soon as my “inspection time” was completed. They finally kicked in and I was able to take off my sunglasses!

Our plane was delayed out of Westchester (after we’d boarded) and our area of the plane kept doing timetable calculations. We were going to KC, my seatmate was going to St. Louis, and the guy behind us was going to Milwaukee.  All of our connecting flights in Cleveland? Last flights out. And with the delays in NY, we would have (respectively) No minutes, 10 minutes, and 15 minutes to make our connections. Sweetness. I was pretty sure we were going to be spending the night in Ohio. Fortunately, though, our flight to KC was delayed by two hours! And finally, I got some decent customer service – the gate agent moved my seat to guarantee I wouldn’t have a seatmate, even gave me a choice, and her co-worker chimed in to tell me which row was better. Bless them both, it was perfect.  I finished my book on the flight home, had a Bombay Sapphire and tonic, and walked in the house after midnight. The dogs and the Wo missed me, they all waited up for me, and James had made me a plate of fresh tomatoes and a couple pieces of cheese, since my dinner had been two tiny bags of mini pretzels, granola bars and a couple Ghiarardeli squares.

The meetings were fabulous, the travel could be improved. But some of my fears were unfounded – the small planes were just fine, and I fit in the seats, and my spinner suitcase is awesome. Except when you’re trying to climb up stairs!

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