"" Writer's Wanderings

Friday, May 26, 2017

Flashback Friday - Our First International Trip

Our very first passports in hand, we flew to New York and then on to Heathrow Airport in London. It had to be the late 1980s. There was no fuss with security and once through immigration we were greeted by Bob's sales rep, David, who was English but had lived for a few years in the US. He popped us into the car with our luggage and we were on our way.

Of course the steering wheel was on the wrong side of the car and we were driving on the wrong side of the road. With little sleep and anxiety over being in unfamiliar territory we began our crazy journey through the streets of London. Roundabouts made me dizzy and then I happened to glance at the speedometer from my place in the back seat. He was doing 100! It wasn't until later that I realized it was only about 60 mph. All I could think of was, "I'm gonna die!"

Finally it was time to check into the hotel and see if we were lucky enough to have our room ready for us. Thankfully it was. We may have napped a bit. I can't remember but I do remember the visitors we had. A knock on our door and we kind of looked at each other. Had David decided to stop by? Had we left something in the car?

Bob opened the door which was around the corner from where I sat. I could hear a female voice but couldn't understand what she was saying. Bob's voice came through loud and clear though.

"Uh, no. No. That's won't be necessary. Thanks anyway. My wife is here with me."

He closed the door and gave a chuckle. He explained there were two ladies-of-the-evening who had offered him their services. I laughed. He looked so uncomfortable.

Later we saw them hanging out in the entryway to the hotel. They didn't acknowledge Bob. I guess they didn't want to embarrass him with his wife. When we returned to the hotel, they were gone. We assumed when we never saw them again that they had been removed or just moved on.

During the day, Bob worked the trade show (our reason for being there) and I got to explore. David had shown us how to use the tube (the subway) and I ventured out several times. My only scare was hearing a rowdy crowd headed in my direction and I feared it was one of the demonstrations that were happening around that time with the IRA. They were upon me before I had a chance to react but I realized with relief that it was only a group of young men all dressed in soccer gear and celebrating. I breathed a sigh of relief although today I know that it could have been just as dangerous a situation. Those soccer fans can be intense.

Sadly David is gone now but while he was still with us we always blamed him for getting us to travel to London. It was the beginning of a wanderlust that has not yet abated.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Have Hot Dog, Will Travel

Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I'd truly like to be.
For if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me. 

And now that little chorus is stuck in your head too. On my trip to the Walmart's near me a few days ago I was surprised to see the iconic wienermobile sitting at the entrance. Now that's a way to travel in style.

There are six wienermobiles that travel the highways throughout the year. The drivers who are hired to work from June to June of the next year are called hot doggers. They also hand out the iconic whistles which I should have stopped and picked up but forgot.

The 27 foot long vehicle was first created in 1936 by the nephew of Oscar Mayer, Carl. Since 2004 the wienermobile has been able to play the Oscar Mayer song in 21 different genres from Cajun to Rap to Bossa Nova. 

The last time I saw a wienermobile was when we visited the Henry Ford Museum. The 1952 version of the vehicle is there. This one in front of Walmart's though was a double-take moment. What a way to travel!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CLEMET Zoo - The Trumpeter's Nest

A couple of years ago we had our granddaughter at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and were thrilled to watch little trumpeter swans following mommy all over the pond where they had nested. They were soft fluffy cuteness and we enjoyed revisiting to see their growth over the summer. If I recall correctly they were sent to another area to try to reintroduce the trumpeter swans into the environment as they are slowly disappearing.

This year we were excited to see the pair of swans nesting again. Well, mom was on the nest and dad was sleeping nearby. Trumpeter swans mate for life and it was good to see this pair still together and healthy. They are the largest of all waterfowl measuring up to six feet in length and can weigh almost 30 pounds. Their trumpet sound can be heard all over the zoo when they are excited.

We stopped and mom eyed us for a minute. They choose to make their nest which is about 5 feet in diameter near a walkway. The nest is always in the same spot each year. Bob jokingly said, "Can we see what you've got in there?" A moment later, mom stood up and sure enough the nest was full. There were about a half dozen eggs the size of my fist in there.

She stepped around them carefully and then stuck her head under a couple and moved them a bit. Once she liked where they were positioned, she turned herself around and sat back down. Either the eggs needed to be turned or she was just trying to make it a little more comfortable.

Bob thanked her for her kindness and we walked off feeling we had witnessed something special.

That's why I love the zoo so much.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Flashback Friday - The Smokies

One of our first vacations with all five of our kids was to the Smokey Mountains. We rented a beautiful house on a mountainside near Gatlinburg and drove to it from our home in Ohio. We had a station wagon at that time (later we would graduate to a van) that we packed up and headed south. There were no problems with it until we reached the mountains and began the climb.

Our youngest son, newly adopted at the age of five, did not have good speech skills yet. He is developmentally handicapped and at that point in life had few words in his vocabulary communicating mostly with grunts and sounds and hand signals. What he did and still does have is a great smile. He smiled all the way to Tennessee.

We began to notice the car not getting much acceleration up the inclines. We would make it to the top of one holding our breath and hoping that the next one would be okay. At one particular incline almost to our destination, the car crept along slowing and slowing almost to a stop. We were so close to the house. Bob didn't want to turn around and try to find a service garage at that point so he kept the pedal pushed to the floor and his hands tight on the steering wheel.

 I don't think any of us were praying out loud. Maybe I didn't realize it and I was. The kids had been very quiet feeling the anxiety of the situation with the car not having any power. Suddenly we heard a loud pop and for a moment the car lurched and chugged then began accelerating on the incline. Before anyone could say a word we heard a chuckle from Donny and then, "God fixa car!"

Not only did God fix the car (it ran like a charm after that) but it was definitely a break through in Don's language skills.

Oh yes, the rest of the vacation. We hiked. We relaxed in the big hot tub. And we fished. The fishing was the other dear memory. It was a stocked trout pond. Now imagine trying to keep track of five kids who were pulling in trout one after the other. Finally one of the attendants said, "Ma'am how many fish do you want to take home? You know you buy them by the pound."

I looked at the kids and the pile of fish. Yikes! "I think we'll stop now." It was a quick but successful fishing session and we enjoyed the fresh trout on the grill for dinner.

And then there was the indoor skydiving. But that's another flashback for another Friday. Fond memories.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Avoiding The Local Travel Scams

The older we get the more likely we are to be targeted for scams. Seniors are thought to be less savvy than younger travelers but no matter what your age, those who feel they can cleverly scam you out of money and/or possessions are ever present in the tourist areas of the world. I could tell you what the most recent scams are that I read about but by the time I post this and you read it the scammers will be on to something different. So here are a few common sense things to remember as you are out and about in foreign places.

Whenever you are approached by someone who wants to stop you and talk or sell you something be wary. When in Paris several years ago we were approached not once but three different times with the is-this-your-ring scam. Someone would run after you with a ring in their hand and ask if it was yours. If not, they would offer to go off and sell the ring. Of course you are not going to go with them so they will conveniently let you pay them half of its value and then you can have the ring to pawn or sell yourself. Others have approached us with items to sell and one almost succeeded in emptying my fanny pack which was in front of me and under my jacket.

Stay with authorized taxis. You can find out that information in tourist books or on board your cruise ship or at a tourist information booth. Otherwise you may be overcharged or be given counterfeit change.

Be aware of your surroundings. Travel in groups when possible or stay on the main roads and byways. While pickpockets may like large crowds, muggers will enjoy the less traveled alleys. Get a money belt but don't carry a large amount of cash. The best place to get money at an ATM is inside a bank or at the airport. It is less likely you will encounter trouble. And for goodness sake--don't take all your money out of your wallet or pocket or money belt at one time and hold it in your hand showing how much you are carrying.

Probably the scariest scam that we encountered albeit not directly was when we passed through Mozambique. While we were escorted with a tour group on our way to a safari in South Africa, others from our ship were exploring the capital city. Whether actual police officers or not, there were two instances of cameras being confiscated. We had been told that you could not take a picture of someone in uniform or an official government building. The camera owners were accused of taking forbidden pictures and were told that if they paid a fine they would return the camera. One man was told they would detain his wife too. Luckily they returned wife and camera when he emptied his wallet for them. I think I would have left my camera on the ship.

Whether home or abroad, common sense is the best thing to travel with. Don't leave home without it.

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