Frequent Flier Madness – I WIN!!!!

The postings on this site are my own and do not represent My employer’s positions, strategies, or opinions.

As many of you know, I travel a lot for work.  In 2014 I was on approximately 60 flights.  During those flights I followed the rules – I put my liquids in a baggie, I took my tissues out of my pockets before being screened, I followed directions provided by security, and the lot.  I didn’t overtly buck the system or act like my personal rights were being trampled.  I was, in a word, compliant.

But, really, as the year began I started a secret challenge.  It actually started by accident.  You see, my best friend Tiffany always had lotion with her and I often asked to borrow it.  At the beginning of the year she gave me this bottle so that I would stop asking (ha):


I accidentally left this in my backpack for several flights, forgetting it was there.  Yes, it was NOT in my baggie as required.  And yet, when I found it a few flights later, I realized that not ONE of the screeners had flagged it.  Not once.  So, then I thought, “Wow, I wonder how far I could go before someone flagged my bag?”  And then, as the story goes, is when the challenge officially commenced.

So, month after month, flight after flight, I left the lotion in my backpack and it was not flagged.  I still had my baggie, I still removed my tissues, and yet with each flight I asked myself why I even bothered.  And by about June it became this huge competition.  I started keeping score and internally high fiving myself as if I was actually winning something!

Flash forward to December – I was in Thomasville sharing with my co-workers my 2014 travel challenge, as I had not been flagged once and I knew I was just one flight away from a perfect season.  Yes, I said season.  And then, superstitious as I am in such situations, I thought for sure I had just jinxed myself by my cocky talk.  I knocked on wood, said I should stop talking until my year’s travel was over, and hoped for the best.

So it was with great trepidation that I ventured into the security line at Greensboro Airport.  I was relieved to see a real line of people for the first time ever – about 30 people – and that gave me a sense of power.  I went into the slow moving line with confidence.  Almost arrogance.  And then, it happened.  My bag sat under that the camera longer than normal.  I stood barefoot, waiting, feeling my confidence slowly melt away.  And sure enough, the agent grabbed my bag, asked me to follow her, and I knew… perfect record was over.  I almost slouched, but silently I thought, “Dude, they only caught it once.  FOR THE WHOLE YEAR!”.  As I stood compliantly, I suddenly saw something that made me extremely relieved – a water bottle, on the side of the bag.  DOH!  I had put it there that morning and had totally forgotten about it.  The agent pulled it out, trashed it, but I was not out of the woods yet.  She began opening each section and began inspecting everything inside.  This was definitely not good.  When she got to pocket with the lotion, which was not very full, I knew I would probably lose that, too.  At that moment, she looked at me as if chastising me for breaking the rules………

Sigh.  So close Gina, so close…….

And then she handed me my bag.

My bag, in my hand, lotion bottle intact.  Water tossed.  Followed by a smile and “have a nice day”.

I.  Had.  Won!

60 flights, and not once did that lotion get screened and pulled.  100% finished rate.  It’s like I am famous.  Yep, 2014 was a good year!  🙂

Oh, and Tiffany, thanks for the lotion!

Travel Etiquette 101

I have been blessed to have not had to travel for business as much with my present job, – much less than my last job.  However, it still does occur and it brings me back to the fact that many travelers – especially business travelers – have lost touch with travel etiquette!  So this post hopes to evangelize this area for 2013!  No pressure, my 2.78 readers, but you need to help get the word out!

Here are some of the basic tenets of traveling with proper etiquette, as noted by Gina:

  • We’re all in this together.  That means you might be an executive making the big bucks or a lower middle class worker wondering how you’re  going to pay the rent on the first… doesn’t matter.  We have met at this juncture because we both (all) need to get from one place to another, for whatever reason, and our humanness should not be wiped out by the seat we were assigned or the order in which we were allowed to board the plane.  Planes are small enough without taking up space with massive egos.
  • Help One Another.  This is especially important for older passengers; I mean seriously, who can really stand by and watch an older passenger struggle to get their baggage in the overhead or have difficulty finding the numbers for the seat assignments?  Does is help ANYONE by getting frustrated because they’re slowing others down or don’t have a super-traveler’s speed?  Come to think of it, as HUMANS we should care for each other a bit more often instead of assuming everyone should move the hell out of our way.  Maybe if we HELP, like lift that bag for that lady or assist in helping that older gentlemen find his seat (or assist that young mother struggling with a toddler….the list goes on) EVERYTHING will work out better!  They are blessed by a kind co-traveler, the boarding process moves more quickly, and we ALL can get to where we are going that much faster.
  • There’s a person in that seat.  I know it’s easy to forget about that when you need to push up your tray or get up to go to the bathroom, but your actions directly affect the person sitting in front of you.  If you slam the tray up or push hard to latch it, the person in front of you will be slammed or pushed, perhaps harshly out of a dead sleep.    If you grab the seat to haul yourself up, said person will probably be catapulted to some degree, which is never pleasant.  So please be conscientious and slow down, don’t use the seat as your tool for movement, and everyone wins.  Remember, someone is behind you, too!
  • Headphones are a beautiful thing.  While I know it’s easy to assume the songs you love are everyone’s favorite, that is often not the case.  Nor do many enjoy listening to your FIFA soccer game, cheers and jeers included, as we try to read our books.  Nor is that R rated movie (even if it is academy award material) really enjoyable with its sex scene sound effects…..can you say “awkward”?  So please, travelers, remember to always use your headphones regardless of the type of device you are using (smartphone, iPad, or laptop).
  • Don’t be an Overhead Hog.  Lord knows everyone carries on their bags now that most airlines charge to check them.  I get that, and I have NO problem with those bags being brought on.  But there is still a tacit cost to it and EVERYONE should have a fair share at the storage!  So excuse me, but if you brought luggage and a backpack or laptop bag, put the latter under the seat in front of you.  Or if you brought a jacket or cowboy hat, don’t take limited overhead space for such trifles!  What happens is the poor guy in Group 4 gets on and his luggage, which won’t fit under his seat, has no place to go as your laptop takes up the space his bag would easily fit!  And you might say, “hey, you snooze, you lose!  I want to be comfortable!” but I argue, what happens if YOU end up in that place?  We, as travelers, are better than survival of the fittest!  And further, remember we are all in this together, and if bags have no place to go,the Flight Attendants need to coordinate their handling and this delays our flight.  So your greediness for overhead space for objects that can easily fit under the seat in front of you while also providing ample legroom messes us ALL up.  Just don’t do it!
  • There’s a Method to the Madness.  When the plane lands, especially if it was delayed at all, everyone is in a rush to exit.  Oh, who am I kidding?  No matter what, we all want to get off the plane and get to where we are going.  But even with that rush to be off the tiny area we’ve sat in for hours, there are seldom justifications that allow a person to push ahead of the exit etiquette rules (though they are broken every.  single.  time.  I.  fly.)  The ONLY exception to this rule is if the flight was so delayed that passengers that have connecting flights must to exit first to catch the connections…..and please, if that’s the case, LET THEM GET OFF FIRST!  Otherwise, etiquette demands that each row be allowed to exit, grab their overhead bag(s), and proceed off the plane.  DO NOT try to jump pass the row ahead of you because you’re already in the aisle……if there are three seats to the left and to the right in the row ahead of you, let them ALL out and proceed unless they specifically wave you on.  Demanding precedence for ANY reason causes delays to the people behind you and delays to the people who are technically in front of you.  And that is not cool.  I know it sucks when you’re in the back of the plane – I am often there – but the fact that it sucks does not mean other people should be forced to wait for you to push through.
  • Smile.  When I was traveling almost 75% of the time, it was easy for me to get bored or even frustrated that I had to listen to the FAA safety speech, wait for my drink, and otherwise go through the boring in flight ritual.  Well, imagine how the Flight Attendants feel having to DO all that, day in and day out, while most of the people they are serving care less about most of the process?  And, while I know they have chosen this job as a career, can you imagine being stuck in a plane day after day, usually filled with cranky travelers?  Make a huge difference, one airline employee  at a time, and smile and even go out of your way to say thank you!  And while you’re at it, smile to the co-travelers around you – even the ones that push their way forward or slammed their tray into your head – its amazing how it spreads like a yawn.
  • More to come soon!  Let me know what you think so far!

Observations of a (No Longer) Dormant Traveler

So I was fortunate to attend a conference this past week for the main software I support at work.  Said conference took place in beautiful Marietta, GA.  But this post is going to reflect on the travel-related portion of said trip!

Now, based on my older posts here, you know I used to have significant business travel in my career.  Not so with this new job, this was my first trip.  And overall it was not that bad and, let’s face it, conferences are pretty cool.  Free food, free alcohol, and you get to chat with mutual software users and they offer lots of dirt!  So, as far as business traveling goes, this is top of the list.

It started fairly early Wednesday at DFW Airport, Terminal E.  I have to say this leg was pretty uneventful until I went to security.  I am used to FLYING through security at DFW – 5 minutes tops – so I was surprised that the security for the Spirit Airlines area was LONG!  45 minutes long!  I almost got nervous, except for the fact I am pretty anal about getting to the airport early (can I say anal here?) so the safety buffer I usually build in saved me.  But while in line I saw some interesting things.

First, there was an older couple being dropped off by their middle aged son (and I can say that, because I will admit, he was around MY age.  And yes, I am slowly accepting I am middle aged).  They were Spanish nationals based on the passports I viewed as they said their goodbyes before the security line (which ran about 50 feet from the actual security area) lead into the roped off area.  But what REALLY caught my eye was the mother, who was fighting valiantly not to cry, but instead silently sobbed, her body racking with spasms, as her son and husband discussed the details of the upcoming roped off maze of the security line in Spanish.  My heart soared with compassion and pity for this woman as I imagined her thinking this may be the last time she will be able to see her son, as she and her husband were obviously in their late 70’s and may not be able to make the long flight again.  Her son and husband seemed oblivious to her pain, though it was not malicious, nor was her tears dramatic in nature.  I watched her anguish evolve with each bend of the security line, as we passed each other every few minutes, and wanted to reach out and whisper, “Entiendo (I understand).”  Over and over this overcame me, as I silently prayed for the peace of the Lord to touch her love and her heart, until at last I was distracted with the busy tasks of loading my items onto the actual conveyor of security.  My heart melted as I saw her son standing just on the other side of the rope, having waited for nearly an hour, saying one last goodbye to his parents, especially to his mother.

The emotions didn’t last long as I realized I was pretty darn close to calling time for my plane boarding, so warm feelings and all aside, Gina got her butt to my gate.  And I have to say, “Budget Spirit Airlines” do some things right, but I give a shout out to Johnny for whatever he did to get us in Zone 1 and in the emergency lane on the plane!  EASY, CHEESY!  But the airline otherwise, well, is “very different”.  EVERYTHING costs extra!  Want to check in at the airport and print your boarding pass there?  $5.  Want some water during the flight?  Pass the moolah!  Seriously!  But the plane itself was very nice and the flight was on time.

Johnny, who actually didn’t make this trip after all, warned me about the size and perceived chaos of Atlanta Airport and how to make my way to the rental car area.  It was very helpful, and I survived without a scratch!  Thanks Johnny!  I was able to drive to my company’s Atlanta plant and meet some of the people I support on a daily basis and also received an amazing tour of the manufacturing facility.  Then, to the beautiful Marietta Hilton for my stay and conference!  And it also included historical Brumby Hall & Gardens!

This hotel is quite beautiful actually!  And I have nothing but great things to say about almost EVERYTHING – the art lining the walls throughout, the decor, the meeting rooms, the hotel rooms themselves, the food, the staff, the city golf course that I was able to view from my room each day……the list goes on!  The only downside was that, at least on my floor, there was NO insolation between rooms!  Night one was tough as I had an all night TV watcher and 2am phone converser.  Night two was quiet and nice!  🙂

One snag – a flat tire on my rental car.  Did you know if you waive the rental car insurance, flat tires are not covered?  I didn’t know that, either.  And I still can’t lift due to my surgery, and who wants to change a freaking tire anyway?  So $49 bucks later, it was changed.  I am very blessed with this, however, because it could have come to my attention right when I NEEDED to leave for the airport!  However, by the Grace of God, I was compelled to take my luggage out to the car at 7:15am and saw the tire.  So it was easy to get someone out, attend the last day of the conference, and there was really not much stress added.

Now, heading home was a bit stressful, at least a little bit.  The address of the rental car facility was NOT the “real” location of the return area.  Caused a bit of a stressful moment, but fortunately I found a security guard at the “mailing address” to give me some directions.  I gave myself a HUGE buffer going home as Johnny laid out the security structure of Atlanta and what not.  So it wasn’t too scary once I got in the airport.  What WAS scary were the men travelers!  I mean SERIOUSLY, they were, how shall I say this?  RUDE!  I have never been man handled, pushed, bumped, or otherwise trampled upon more in my life!  And I’ve been to Europe and Russia!  I was SHOCKED!  In fact, a man actually pushed me aside so that he could get on the airport tram ahead of me!  And all the limited seats on the tram were filled with YOUNG men as woman stood around.  Maybe I am just old fashioned, but even I won’t sit down if there is an older couple standing.  Now, let me say that I do NOT think these were “Atlanta Men”, but travelers in this airport.  Maybe they didn’t know about the security or were stressed about missing their planes, but I was very discouraged about the lack of chivalry across the board during my route to Terminal D.

One amazing realization really happened twice on this trip – the TSA is not as concerned about some things as I expected.  First flight, I realized I had packed a small Purell container that I did NOT put in the “liquid bag” for screening, but it did not raise any problem.  Going home, I didn’t realize a gift that was handed out at the conference contained liquid, which also was packed and didn’t raise a flag.  Fortunately, it didn’t hold things up and no harm, no foul.  But I would still recommend you follow the rules!  🙂  Said from the person years ago who had carried a fork in her purse through 3 airports with no problem, even unaware it was there, and almost got arrested in Mexico when they found it.  🙂

So Gina is safe and sound and hanging with her family!  And she can now share all sort of great ideas for the software, don’t forget about that!  🙂

Traveling to “The City”

I have been fortunate enough to be giving the opportunity to be trained on the latest version of AccountMate – the software package I support through my employment.  My employer signed me up and has sent me to my home state, to the beautiful city of San Francisco!  Yeah!  I am blessed.  Too bad the training wasn’t set in SOUTHERN California!

But true to form, I have some traveling scars!  So of course I want to share them with YOU, my 2.78 readers!

First of all, I am a little OCD about traveling – I generally like to be at the airport 2 hours before my flight is scheduled to leave, even for domestic flights.  My thing is that you never know when there will be a car accident or other things out of your control that will delay your forward motion to the airport.  This philosophy has caused stress on my family members at times, as many of them are late to EVERYTHING, so having me freak out because we are behind the 2 hour rule stresses them out (and, well, to be honest I am pretty stressed, too!).  But for this trip, it was all me…….

In this case, I am glad that I am OCD, because there was a SERIOUS accident on the main freeway I needed to take, which SERIOUSLY delayed my driving time.  What should have taken me 1 hour took me 2!  But I need to divulge something…….I actually left even earlier than I was supposed to, because I was going to a long-term parking lot I’d never been to and I was not sure how efficient they were, so I had plugged more time there “just in case”.  So even with this delay, I got to the airport 2 hours before my flight.  LOL

ANYWAY. DFW is a very large airport and they are very efficient in the security area, etc.  I got in very quickly and found my gate and settled in.  I am reading a very good book right now – biographies on Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots and how their very lives worked to create animosity between the two.  Very interesting and it was nice to have down time to enjoy it.  But soon it was very apparent that the boarding was delayed, as “the plane was still being cleaned”.  At this point I usually get nervous in general, because now that AA charges for checking bags, EVERYONE has carry on bags and many are pretty darn big.  So I was stressing as I was in group 4 and I was concerned that there would not be room for my bag.  I admit, I have never had that happen to me, but I have ALWAYS stressed about this and the new rules made this anxiety worse for me.  But I chose to not freak out and be especially nice to those around me……..

In this case, I easily found a space and was very pleased to see the other passengers assist to help strangers find room, too.  So the anxiety was unnecessary.

So we got settled, but the time to take off just kept going.  We were scheduled to take off at 12:25pm, and I easily could see that we had passed that by about 15 minutes.  I was concerned but what could I do?  I was very glad I didn’t have to catch a connecting flight, so really there was no reason for me to stress…..

Suddenly, the captain got on the speaker and said that Maintenance was reviewing a mechanical problem and that a decision was pending as to if we would be taking off or if we’d need a new plane.  Said decision was expected within 10 minutes.  So, 20 minutes later we were told that the decision was that we needed a new plane.  Really, my only stress at this point was if the NEXT flight would have room for my luggage in the overhead compartment!  🙂

This situation reminded me of the times I’d fly to Dallas to visit Deana and the kids when they were living in Frisco and I had not yet moved.  During that time I was stranded more than once due to mechanical issues, and yes those were with AA as well!  So this new situation was a reminder of days gone by.

Anyway, I am of the mind that I’d prefer not to fly on a mechanically unfit plane, so the change was not horrible.  And I have to say, I was pleased to hear our new gate was very close – DFW is a HUGE airport and the hub for AA, so it could have easily been an ordeal.  Our flight, when all was said and done, took off by 2:40pm so that’s not bad.  And truthfully, my first seat was kind of broken so the new plane offered a more comfortable ride. 

But now for the fun part!  PEOPLE!  They ALWAYS seem to provide me plenty of material on this blog!

First, there was a young guy on the first flight that, once he heard there was a possibility that the flight would be grounded, he got on the phone right away with AA and got his name on a totally different flight.  I have no problem with that.  But once the announcement was made that we WERE changing planes, he bolted out of his seat and almost mowed the guy in front of him and put his stupid little “I am an important person” ass right in my face.

I have to say, why do people on planes often think THEY are more important and should be let off the plane before the people in rows ahead of them  This is very common on planes and too often I feel the need to teach them airport etiquette.  (Of course, people who are about to miss their connecting flight do not fall into this category.)  This was no exception, especially since I now had an ass in my face.  (I was on the aisle).  So I stood and said, “wow, so much for being a courteous traveler!”  The gentleman across from me, who was mowed over, looked at me, smiled, and I knew he was a good guy.  Of course, we had to wait a while as we were in the 18th row and there were about 85 people ahead, and the nice man and I had no problem with that.  But “ass man” seemed to become more agitated with each moment.  As it got closer to our ability to move, the nice man says to me, “Go ahead and get ahead of me.”  I smiled and said thank you, and then he adds, “I hope I earned points for that one.”  I replied, “Well, you certainly did!  I have been shown that chivalry is not dead and that others are not selfish.  I will certainly make mention of you on my blog!”  Ass Man was FURIOUS, especially since I would not push forward until the rows ahead of me got their bags, etc.

It was SWEET!

Oh, and Ass Man was not on our replacement flight.  🙂  But, true to form, the person that got his seat didn’t know or care about letting the rows ahead of him exit first, either.  THE IRONY!

Now, for my seat mates.  Next to me was a man I’d guess was in his late 40’s or early 50’s.  He was a small man, about my height (5’ 6”) although he had a nice build.  He was attractive by American standards.  What was GROSS, at first at least, was that his obvious girlfriend was close in age to my daughter……EARLY 20’s!  I don’t know, that just grossed me out but maybe I’m not being fair.  But that was not all that bothered me.  First of all, he was one of those loud “everyone should listen to me because 1) I’m good looking and 2) what I have to say is meaningful” talkers.  Additionally, his girlfriend had the same view of HER conversation!  So that bugged.  But then it quickly came to realization that Mr. Small Arrogant Guy had a bladder of a peanut because he asked me every 10 minutes to let him out.  It was further aggravated by the fact that he ALSO asked to get up to get into his overhead bag 3 times, to get water twice (hello, small bladder), and really just expected me to move without any problem.  He also had no respect for my personal space, not even pretending to not put his drinks right in my face and wait for the Flight Attendant to get them, etc.  But don’t worry, two hours in I pretended to sleep and he was VERY antsy.  LOL. Oh, and before that I put my iPod on so I wouldn’t have to hear their stupid conversations.

Once I landed at SFO, things were easy.  Got the shuttle to the hotel, checked in, and then met up with some of my co-workers for dinner.  The hotel is very nice and, because of the time change, it felt great to “sleep in”!  (5:30am local time = 7:30am “body time”).  NICE.

So now, here I sit writing this blog in Word as I don’t have internet access and am filling “down time” with my thoughts here.  I can check my mail on my iPhone, so that’s cool.  Oh, and Facebook.  Important!  J  BUT, I just got an email from my COO saying that I need to buy the internet access for work, so WHOOT!  I will do that later today as it covers 24 hours so that way I will have it throughout the day tomorrow, too.

It is NICE to be in California again!  Wish I had friends and family close enough to visit.  But seeing the sky and water – AWESOME!  Well, not that there isn’t sun in Texas, but you know what I mean.

A London Story

So we had many adventures on our trip to London and Edinburgh!  But there is ONE story that I just have to share!

So when we arrived in London, we quickly realized that Deana’s phone (the first rendition of the iPhone, with no 3G capabilities) would not be able to receive a signal.  Mine, which is the 2nd rendition, could.  However, I noticed with some surprise that the local phone service did not update my phone’s time to local time; it was instead displaying California time.  While that seemed pretty darn lame, I am educated enough to do the math in my head – as I used the phone for my alarm clock; I would set the alarm for the California time that corresponded to the London time we wanted to wake up.  I did that several days with no problems!

However, another problem occurred; despite the fact that I brought an outlet converter, my phone did not seem to be charging!  I tried different outlets, different converters, and was worried that my beloved phone was dying.  So, several days into the trip I actually turned the thing off completely to reset it.  I should probably add that Deana had suggested this days before and I poo pooed her idea.  🙂  But, when I turned it back on, the charge showed full and everything was back to normal!  There was loud rejoicing in our hotel room!

In great relief, I set the alarm and tried to go to sleep (something that had pretty much eluded me, even after having bought sleeping pills OTC from the lovely London people!).  As I tossed and turned, and as Deana (who had similar problems falling asleep) did as well, we began to chat.  We did this for a time and then insisted that we better TRY to at least sleep a little.  I think we did, but before we knew it, the alarm went off.  It was the first day we were trying to wake at earlier – we had previously been getting up around 8am.  Since it was our last day, we wanted to get an earlier start.  I jumped up, told Deana to do the same, and we surprisingly got ready pretty quickly despite our limited sleep the night before.  We were moving, shaking, and anxious for the day!

When we were near finished in our prep, we both dismayed at how dark it was.  It got dark very early in the evening as well – around 5pm dusk would move in quickly and it would be pitch black before 6pm.  Looking out the window, I was amazed that at 6:30am, it was still so very dark!  I shrugged and thought “wow, I guess London is much further north than I realized!” and continued to get ready.  That’s when I put my watch on…….the watch that clearly reflected London time…….the watch that clearly showed 12:33 on its face……..

“Um, Deana?”


“Remember when I reset my phone and the charger thing was fixed?”

“Yeah….” as she looked at me like “what does that have to do with anything?”

“Um, I am thinking maybe when I reset my phone, it also reset the clock on the phone as well……”


“Um……I am thinking when I set the alarm for California time so that we would wake up at the right time, it reset so it’s like 12:30 at night……..local time…..”


Needless to say, my theory proved to be correct – we had gotten up and TOTALLY gotten ready in the middle of the night!  We basically went back to bed with our clothes on and slept for several hours until it really WAS time to get up!  And, just for the curious, it is NOT pitch black in London at 6:3oam!  🙂

Hope you have a wonderful day!

Scotland and Other News

Hello People!  Sorry that I’ve been AWOL!  It’s been a little hectic with the time changes, life, etc.

So Deana and I made it to Scotland safely!  We got up EARLY to catch the underground to the Victoria Train Station, where we caught an express train to Gatwick Airport.   The flight, when all was said and done, was a pretty short one – just over an hour.  We landed to dark skies in Edinburgh, but we were jazzed to check things out!

The local transport in Edinburgh is, IMHO, not as tourist friendly as London.  No underground, but TONS of busses flying here and there.  It was a bit daunting to figure out how to navigate the system (especially with two way-too-full suitcases), but here is where I share that Scottish people are UBBER friendly!  We took the express bus to downtown Edinburgh and then connected to the local bus that lead us to our hotel (which was a bit off the tourist stomping grounds).  At the time we didn’t realize that there was a freaking bus stop RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR HOTEL, and instead got off two stops before…..walking a bit with our luggage.  We laughed about that once we figured it out.  But we were SO pleased with the Holiday Inn Express, Waterfront!!!!  Felt just like home and had a HUGE room by European standards, a HUGE area for the continental breakfast, and stellar staff that were VERY friendly!  In fact, when we checked in the receptionist was named KIRSTIE!  Isn’t that cool?

Anyway, Edinburgh proved to be amazingly beautiful.  The buildings, the green grass, the expansive views…..and always friendly people who went out of their way to be helpful.  We were able to take a Trike Tour with a good looking man named Gordon, and viewed some of their cathedrals as well as their museum.  The food there was similar to London (not surprisingly), but at least they gave us malt vinegar for our fish and chips!  It was also very COLD!  Oh, in earlier posts I said it had to be below 45 degrees – it was!  Most days were in the low 30’s!  I even was victim to walking on black ice in London!  THAT is another story in itself!  🙂

Anyway, it was cold to be out all day in that weather, but surprisingly we survived.  It helped that we would stop in pubs for meals and such.  But let me tell you, my hair still feels dry and damaged.  LOL  Like I care.

So, heading back stateside, we again needed to leave before the sun rose (which is an interesting idea, since often the cloud cover hid the sun all day!).  We got on the local bus right outside our hotel at about 4:30am and took that to the express bus to the airport.  Once we got there,I freaked at first because our flight was with American Airlines…..but they were nowhere to be found!  Fortunately, Deana is much more level headed in such situations, and she clearly remembered that British Airways are partners with AA, so we were actually flying with them.  But the travels were LONG and a bit HARD.  We first flew to London Heathrow, then connected to a flight to Chicago.  But first we needed to go through security at Heathrow that was an ordeal in itself.  That took about an hour alone!  Once we got to the plane (which was jam full, by the way), we just sat there and flew, you know?  But then in Chicago we needed to go through customs.  By this point we had been traveling about 16 hours!

And I am not ashamed to say, the Chicago Customs people are FREAKING LAME!  First of all, their system seems whacked.  They separated US Citizens from foreign visitors.  I have no problem with that at all.  However, one would think that there would be a system to determine which gates needed employees to screen incoming travelers.  In our case, 75% of the travelers were US Citizens.  However, I would guess that 75% of the staff were working on foreign travelers.  The foreign travelers were processed in about 7 minutes, while us US Citizens took upward of 45 minutes.  We got to the front of the line at about 38 minutes when someone had the great idea to start utilizing the agents that were just standing there, as there were no foreign travelers to process.

THEN, when it finally got to my turn, I get a total jerk!  I have been blessed to have been able to traveled all over the world.  I have had to go through a bit more intimidating immigration processes, such as into Russia.  But overall, the standard questions are, when returning to the United States, are “where are you coming from?”, “how long were you there?”, and “was this business or leisure”.  I have no problem with that.  In fact, truthfully, I have no real problem with ANY question because, in truth, these people are there to protect you and me from scary people entering our country.  But maybe it was this guy’s attitude (which I suspect was related to him being a “little man”), coupled with my 16+ hours already into my trip……..the interaction didn’t go well.

First of all, I was already irritated as I had just spend the last 30+ minutes in line watching these agents do nothing, as the rest of us stood there waiting for someone to process us.  THEN, when I finally got to Mr. Custom-Little-Man, he immediately treated me like a criminal.

MCLM:  Where are you coming from?

Me: Scotland, after a few days in England

MCLM:  Why were you there?

Me:  Vacation

MCLM:  Why did you go there for vacation?

Me:  (suprised)……um, I love London and wanted to see Edinburgh

MCLM:  How many times have you been to London before?

Me:  (getting irritated) this was my second trip

MCLM:  I don’t see another stamp for London

Me:  I changed my last name since I went there the first time……..the stamp is in my old passport

MCLM:  Do you have a job in the United States?

Me:  (Now getting pissed) Do I have to have a job to be allowed in?


Me:  (rrrrr) Do I have to answer that question to be allowed in?

MCLM:  Do you have a job?

Me:  Yes

MCLM:  What is your profession?

Me:  Are you serious?!?!!?!!?

MCLM:  Answer the question.

Me: (who, seriously, had wished I could have thought to answer “Exotic Dancer” at this point, but it came to me later) I am an accountant.

MCLM:  Okay, you can go. (this interchange took about 3-4 minutes)

I took my passport, gave him the dirtiest look I could muster, and stormed off.  Of course, Deana did NOT go through a similar experience because, apparently, she didn’t get a little man who needed to prove he was this strong authority or something.

But the fun didn’t stop there.  Because, as it happens, we were required to GET our luggage and ROLL it to put on a belt “for security screening”, before we could connect to our next flight.  I wondered what the point of THAT was, as we didn’t stay, didn’t have to divulge anything…….so why couldn’t the process be done by the airline????  But maybe I am asking too much.

Once we got on our final connecting flight from Chicago to LAX, I was so ready to be home!  I really don’t have much to complain about at this point (shocking, I know!).  We arrived, grabbed our bags, and took off.  At this point we were close to the 24 hour mark of our travels!  All  on my birthday, no less!  One good thing about flying west on your birthday is that the day lasts a very long time!  Whoot!

Okay, that is all I am going to write about now.  More later for sure.

Gina out

London Visit Continues

So we are ending day 3 in London…..oh wait, is it 4?  Hmmmm.  It’s hard to keep track.  We have spent two days of intense site seeing since I last wrote, and unfortunately I don’t have much time left on my internet hour to get into great detail.  However, it’s been a BLAST and I am blessed beyond words!  Just a short list of things we’ve seen:

Kensington Palace

Big Ben

Westminster Abbey (an AMAZING tour that had us both in awe)

The Tower of London

London Eye


Hampton Court

The Original Hard Rock Cafe (London baby!)

Taken the Underground, a Train, as well as the River Boat

That’s all I can think of right now.  It was raining every day except today, which proved to be a very sunny day.  NOT warm however – in fact it seemed much cooler than the other days!  I would say it didn’t get above 45 degrees.

And as for the American Dollar – I curse you!  I now understand at a very personal level how very weak you are!  Do you know how painful it is to change in $200 and get about £102?  And although it is not Great Britain’s fault my money is so weak, do you know how painful it is to sit down to get a burger, let’s say, and think “Wow, this burger is going to cost me about $18!”  PAINFUL!  But I wouldn’t change this trip for the world!

That’s all I have now……..more later I hope!  We leave for Scotland tomorrow early in the morning – have to catch the underground to a train that will take us to Gatwick Airport, where our flight leaves at 8:45am.  Neither Deana nor I have ever been to Scotland, so we are very excited!  Let’s see if it competes with our current favorite place – LONDON!

Gina OUT

Hello from London!

So if you didn’t know, Deana and I are presently in the glorious city of London – my very favorite place in the world!  We were blessed to be able to go here via a huge miracle – one I will elaborate on perhaps later as I have only paid for 1 hour of internet service and there’s so much I need to accomplish on the internet before that!  So onward….

We left LAX on Friday, 11/27 at 5:30.  The non-stop flight was just over 8 hours and was not the best, nor the worse I’ve been on.  I guess flying to Russia a couple times makes an 8 hour flight seem shorter, huh?  In any case, I have a few things to suggest to international travelers:

1.  Do NOT talk really, really loud when the people next to you are sleeping!

2.  Do NOT laugh outrageously loud at the movie you are watching as the people next to you are sleeping!

3.  Do NOT assume the person next to you will be your personal pillow.

(Do you see a theme here?  lol)

We arrived at Heathrow Airport on Saturday at 11:15 local time (London is 8 hours ahead of Pacific Time).  Deana and I did not sleep a lick on the plane (based on the above, I guess you know why!)  In any case, we were jazzed to be in London!  We found the underground quickly but had to figure out where our hotel was.  The underground ticket attendant was UBER helpful and not only told us the station to end at, but even what streets to walk down!  We got to the ending, walked a short skip, and were at our hotel.

Now the hotel is typical Europeanish – very small rooms by American standards.  But, having been fortunate enough to travel thus far, we are no longer shocked by the size.  However, we DID decide to “take a short nap”, which turned about to be about 6 hours!!!!  Whoa there!  In her defense, Deana DID try to wake me about 1 hour in, but I asked for 5 more minutes.  The rest, as they say, is history!  But, once we woke, we took off into the immediate city for dinner and checking out the night life.  And, as fortune would have it, we found a Wagamama!!!!  This is the first restaurant we ate at during our 2003 trip as well (based on a recommendation we received then) and we repeated it this trip, too!  Wagamama’s is a japanese restaurant chain and it is very, very yummy.  And, since it was rainy, the soup I got hit the spot.  Chaching!

Special shout out to Kenny, who called me at 8:45pm California time – or around 4:45am our time!  LOL  We had a nice chat when we finally connected and he is awesome.  I talked to Josh too and that rocked.

Today we got a late start based on our usual travel cycle – 8:30am.  We picked up our 3 day London City Pass and took off!  One instant set back……two of the main lines that we needed to get where we were going were shut down!  Dun dun dun!  Hello!  But don’t worry, we are resourceful!  We pulled out our underground map and figured out an alternative route, which meant we had to walk for about 15 minutes towards to Tower of London.  We made it no problem!!!!  And let me remind you, or tell you as the case may be, I am a HUGE English history buff!  Walking on the grounds and throughout the Tower was IMPRESSIVE!  Seeing the area where Anne Bolyn, Katherine Howard, and others were executed was surreal (and, fwiw, I feel for the queens…..).  Seeing the carvings (or graffiti) of those held in the Tower was amazing.  Just BEING where so much has taken place over hundreds of years blew my mind…….words cannot express really how I feel!

We then puzzed around, getting lunch at a local pub.  Me, fish & chips (I would have enjoyed it more had the fish not had the skin) and Deana pizza (which was very yummy indeed!).  We then hopped on the City Cruise that took us up the Thames to Westminster Abbey, which is near Big Ben, the London Eye, etc.  Too bad is was FREAKING FREEZING!  LOL  Nothing we can’t handle.  We then had the same problem with the underground routes being closed, but we just walked a bit and figured our way using various other routes.  I must say, I feel pretty darn resourceful!!!

Have I mentioned that I LOVE London?

We stopped by Starbucks, where my order of Cafe Mocha with four shots of espresso caused not one, not two, but THREE confirmations (“Do you REALLY want 4 shots?!?!!?”)  That has never happened to me before!  We then went to the Pharmacy and score two boxes of pain meds with codiene, OVER THE COUNTER!  Whoot!  Love that part of London!  We will probably get two more tomorrow too!  Love it.

Now, we sit surfing the net, drying, and sipping our Starbucks.  It is almost 6pm local time and already dark.  We haven’t planned tomorrow’s agenda yet, but I will try to update you next time!

Also, if you are a praying person, I’d appreciate yours as I tentatively have an interview scheduled for 12/8.  They know I am Great Britain so that’s cool.  More on that later.

Gina and Deana OUT!  🙂

Update – Destination California

I made it!!! FINALLY!

I will rant and rave about my ordeal later as I am tired, but here is a quick summary:

~ While I do not blame American Airlines for the delays or the mechanical problems, I DO have an issue with the multiple lies I received from their staff.

` I used to be bugged by US Airways, but they were MUCH better to deal with when I was hunting down my luggage

~ Super Shuttle rocks

I got home around 2pm, took a much needed nap, then took a much needed shower, and then TRIED to go to the market but it was way too crowded! What, is something special happening tonight?!? So I went to El Pollo Loco instead.

So that’s the update for now.

At the Airport – Day Two!!!!!

Yes, this is me. Yes, I am still in the same clothes as all my clothes AND MAKE-UP are sitting in Orange County.

I am still in Dallas! It was a NIGHTMARE trying to get out of here yesterday! Here is a recap and update just in case you didn’t read my last post – My original flight was supposed to leave at 5:40 – American Airlines – and I was connecting to a US Air flight in Las Vegas. The AA flight was delayed an hour – still okay because I had a long lay over in Vegas. Then it was delayed another hour and a half, cutting my time very close and they had no idea how close my gates would be. So, to be nice, they switched me to a non-stop flight to Orange County at no charge, but I had to stay until 9:30pm, but would arrive in California the same time as my original flight. This was key because my bag would still be on the original flight. So okay, no problem – I planned on staying here for 7+ hours but at least it was a direct flight.

Loaded the flight but there was another delay – mechanical this time but it wouldn’t be too long. NOT! Turned out the plane was grounded! So we got off and waited for another plane. Got one, but it was just in from an international flight and needed to be cleaned and receive an “international security check”. So then they said that Orange County had a curfew so we’d have to fly to LAX and take a bus to Orange County. My bags? I wouldn’t be able to get them as the baggage claim would be closed. ETA of arrival in OC would be 4am California time. So I instead opted to get on a flight today and Deana picked me up – at least I slept in a bed last night! We left the airport around midnight Texas time.

So, I am back here waiting for my new flight. Hopefully it won’t be as crazy today! I am due to arrive in CA at 12:30pm and hope to be able to get my bag – AA said they would request it from US Airways so I hope that goes well. Sigh. But in comparison to flying on a defective plane, I guess this is okay!!!!

Hope you all have a wonderful New Year’s Eve! Don’t party too much!