"" Writer's Wanderings: October 2018

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Why Do We Travel? Catching The Cruising Bug

It was our twenty-fifth anniversary. It just seemed appropriate to take a cruise, something we'd never done since we started traveling in the late 80s. We went to a local travel agent who specialized in cruises. She spent a little time asking us what kinds of things we liked to do and what our interests were. She wisely chose a Celebrity cruise for us in the Caribbean.

The cruise began in Puerto Rico so we flew down a day early to San Juan just to be sure we would be there in time and also to catch our breath before boarding the ship. It was a good move. I was really excited about the cruise. It was nice to not be hurried from the airport and straight to the ship.

The cruise line picked us up at the hotel late morning and took us to the ship where our luggage was taken care of and we were checked in and directed to where lunch was being served in the buffet. I have no idea what I ate. I just remember taking the tray to the outside seating at the back of the ship and sitting down to eat. That's when it hit me.

I"m here! Cue the Love Boat song (wrong cruise line but what did I know then). The sun was shining. It was warm and comfortable and my husband of 25 years was sitting across from me. It was only the beginning.

No one told us that we didn't have to do everything that was on the schedule. We ran from one thing to another trying to cover it all. Between the onboard activities and the excursions on shore, we sank exhausted into bed each night. It did not deter us from booking another cruise though.

As we got more experienced, we paced ourselves and didn't go to everything, taking a little time to just relax. We also found that there were some places we wanted to return to but not for just a day. That's when we began planning land trips to some of the port areas that piqued our interest.

Unless you have a really bad first experience or can't cope because of motion sickness, once you've cruised you'll return again and again.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Why Do We Travel? --How It Started

It was a business trip, one that would take us out of the country (other than visiting Canada) and across the pond as they say. Bob had a sales representative, David, in London who convinced him it would be to his advantage to set up a booth at a trade show that was happening in London and would attract a lot of European interest.

Passports in hand we flew to New York and then on to London and got our first taste of jet lag. Not only were we exhausted from not being able to sleep on the plane from all the excitement and, I'll admit, anxiety but when we found David and were seated in his car, we were completely disoriented. David was sitting on the wrong side of the car and horrors, he was driving on the left side of the road!

I blame the jet lag for the terror when I looked down and saw how fast he was going. The speedometer showed the needle at 100! It was a few days later when I realized that the speedometer was in kilometers not miles and he was really only doing about 60 on the freeway.

It was early morning when we arrived so before settling us into our hotel room which wouldn't be ready until the afternoon, David drove us around London pointing out landmarks to us. I could not begin to tell you what we saw. Between being on the wrong side of the road, watching the speedometer and struggling to stay awake, I was useless.

Finally, we made it to the hotel and checked our bags until we could get into the room. David walked with us to the nearby tube station. Tube? He explained that it was the subway fondly called the Tube by the Brits. We changed some money and he showed us how to buy a ticket. That would be our transportation for the duration of our stay. David would be coming into town by train from his home outside London to get to the trade show.

It was a great trip. While Bob worked the show for a couple of days, I ventured out on my own only getting disoriented once. I got off at the wrong station and was followed by a woman obviously begging. She kept saying something in such a cockney accent that I couldn't understand her. I finally back tracked and got back on the Tube and found my stop.

For a few days after the show, we visited the must sees in London and promised ourselves that we would return. And we did. Many times. The last time we saw David, years after Bob had retired, he laughed heartily when we told him that all of the world traveling we'd done was his fault. He'd gotten us started.

Now I'm wondering who I can blame for my chocolate addiction.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Cruise Wardrobe Malfunctions

Perusing the Cruise Critic forums/boards you can not only find great tips and suggestions for your upcoming cruise but you can also get pulled into reading some of the "seedier" comments. What to wear on a cruise or what the dress code is for a particular cruise line always incites a great conversation and lots of stories about what's been seen. And if you've cruised a lot, you've seen a lot.

An article on Cruise Critic cites several no-nos and starts out with nixing Speedos. Now there are some things Speedo makes that aren't bad but take a middle aged to octogenarian and put him in a little Speedo and, well, it's not the nicest thing you've ever seen. And yet those fellows who tend to wear them strut as though they still have their young Adonis bodies.

Now the ladies are not without their bad choices. There's a saying, just because they make it in your size doesn't mean you should wear it. There should also be one that says just because you wore it when you were a teenager or a twenty-something doesn't mean you can wear it in the golden years. Revealing a bit too much as you lounge around the pool may not be embarrassing to you but it could be disturbing to fellow passengers.

While a lot of ships are getting more casual there are still some guidelines and certainly some common sense that should reign. Bunny slippers at the dinner hour are not the rule and neither are pajamas and robes at breakfast unless you are eating in your room. Those and more have been spotted  and reported on the forums according to the article.

There will always be the person who throws caution to the wind and will display some sort of unusual wardrobe choice. That kind of entertainment is not on the cruise program but it is amusing. Check out the article on What Not To Wear On A Cruise. It'll bring a smile and offer some other suggestions as alternatives.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Anticipating Sea Days

It's been almost a year since we've cruised. That's a long stretch for us but a new knee takes a while to heal and get strong again. I'm more than ready. This upcoming cruise will only be ten days. Long to some but short to us. Still ten days and some very interesting ports are eagerly anticipated.

Along with the port days will be sea days--those days where it takes a full day to get from one port to another. Or as some might expect, a day or two at sea to rest from port activities and as most cruise lines hope, spend money on the ship. Chances are we won't be spending a lot on the ship. We have learned how to budget sea days. There are plans though.

First of all is downloading several books. Finding a cozy corner or sitting on a veranda with a good book is one of my favorite things.

There will be time spent in the gym for me this trip. I need to keep my new knee in shape and am counting on some of the machines and the bicycles to help me with that.

As I researched some of the available activities on our ship (a new cruise line for us to try out) I found several comments about the excellent lectures on Cuba that will be offered. This was our primary reason for taking this particular cruise--to see Cuba before it gets too touristy. I'll look forward to hearing more about its history and culture.

I'm sure there will be several special demonstrations. In the past they've been napkin folding, ice sculpting, cooking or fruit carvings. It's amazing what some of the chefs can do with a watermelon.

Whatever is presented, I know there will be plenty to keep us busy or not busy. Sometimes just sitting and looking out to sea is enough. It's relaxing and you never know when you might see a pod of dolphins or a whale spout or my favorite, flying fish. Can't wait!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Disembarkation--A Little Review

It's been a while since we've cruised but now with my new knee in place and rehabbed, it's time to board ship again. Just to make sure I'm not rusty (nothing to do with the knee), I thought I would take a look at the Cruise Critics list of things to remember at disembarkation.

First on their list is to check your bill before you get off the ship. We always do this. As a matter of fact, Bob usually checks half way through the cruise as well. Better to resolve any differences before you leave.

If you are really in love with a photo that was taken by the photographers, be sure to get it before the last morning. It may not be there or the photo shop may not be open on the last morning. The pictures, even if electronically stored will not be there to purchase after you get off the ship.

I know this sounds a little elementary but check the room and recheck the room before you leave it--especially the safe. While we've never left anything in the safe, I have left behind a hair dryer/curling iron and favorite visor because we didn't recheck once. I really miss that dryer.

We always have breakfast before disembarking. After all it's free--make that included. We get up a little earlier if we have to to have time in the dining room to sit down and eat so that we are relaxed before we begin that trip home. You never know what awaits you at the airport.

One of the newer things most cruise lines have established is letting you handle your own luggage on disembarkation which gets you off the ship a little earlier. It's one of the reasons we are careful not to overpack. It sure beats having to leave your luggage outside the door at night and rummaging through the mess on shore to find it. Plus we're out a little earlier to catch a taxi which can sometimes get scarce if the port is really busy.

There are several more points that the article makes. You might want to check it out. It's called What Not To Do At Cruise Ship Disembarkation. 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Okay, No Straws But Don't Take My Bottled Water!

A Cruise Critic news article caught my attention recently. Cruise lines are joining the ranks of restaurants on land and banning the use of plastic straws. No alternative was given other than to say that if a straw is requested it will be available and if you order a slushie type drink that requires a straw, it will come with it. That didn't bother me so much but what followed did.

There is also an initiative to ban all one time use plastics. Now you are pinching my nerve. That would mean there would be no bottled water. The suggested solution is to supply refillable containers. That's fine but not always a pleasant alternative as you would need to refill them with ship's water and let's face it, it doesn't always taste as good.

And then they moved on to no plasticized take out coffee cups. I didn't know they were plastic other than the lids. Is there no alternative? Where are our inventive designers of such products? I've used refillable coffee mugs before. After a while they taste bad and are hard to clean. I doubt they are recyclable.

The last question I have is, what will happen to all those people who use recycled plastic to make new products? Does this mean their market is going to phase out as well? Will we return to glass bottles that, heaven forbid, should they fall in the ocean will at least break apart and become sea glass and be made into jewelry?

What will be next? Once the plastic is gone, the plastic recycling is over, will paper and cardboard go? What would they replace it with? Of course, ceramics! All the potters will be happy. And then the archaeologists of the future will be able to dig up our old dishes and cups and piece them together to see what life was like back when they banned all the plastic.

Okay, my rant is done. I'm as concerned as anyone about the ecology of the ocean (and land for that matter) but before you start taking all those plastics away at least offer some better alternatives. (Guess I wasn't quite done with the rant.)

Friday, October 19, 2018

What Do You Do After All The Canning?

It's autumn here in the north even though some days are feeling the nip of winter coming. We've brought in all the rest of the tomatoes from our plants and the last of them are turning red. I didn't do any canning or freezing since we really aren't around in the winter to eat what I might preserve. But I know many of you are busy putting things in jars and freezer bags and soon it will be time to sit down an put your feet up. Why not read a good book while you're resting from all that hard work? Here's one about a lady who turned who pickling into a business. Unfortunately she got into a little trouble when marijuana got into her recipe by mistake.

It's a fun read. Available at Amazon.com. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

What Working Together Accomplishes

A couple of weekends ago we were privileged to watch a high school band show that involved about six bands from the southern Ohio area. I was impressed with all of them from the smallest of about 50 to the largest ones over 100. But what impressed me most was at the end after the whole show was finished.

Two schools whose football teams had played each other on the same field the night before decided to do something special. After the game, the visiting band stuck around for a short time and along with the home band put together a routine that blended both bands.

What impressed me so much? All the time I watched I kept thinking of how much better so many things could be if we only worked together and put aside differences and rivalries.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Preparing To Cruise

It won't be long before we are cruising again. It's been a while and I am going over some of the things we need to remember to take along.

1. Need to check our take along med kit. In it I have Tylenol, Ibuprofen, cold tablets, Bonine for motion sickness, a small Vick's rub, antiseptic spray, and bandaids. I need to refresh some of that as it's been a while since we've added to it. If you do nothing else, pack some bandaids. Walking a lot more than usual will ensure some blisters no matter how good your shoes. I also pack a couple of large square stick on bandaids as well. There was a time when I skinned my knee and the only thing the ship's medical office could give me was huge gauze pads and some tape.

2. Bob will be gathering all our documents--passport, boarding passes, etc. You still need to print out some for boarding purposes and now most cruise companies have you print out your luggage tags. I hate the new way of doing that. The old tags were easier to just loop on a handle. Now we take a small stapler so that we can staple the luggage tags on just before we go to the ship. It's also a good idea to make a copy of your passport to tuck away in case your passport is lost or stolen.

3. Digging out our adapter comes next. While the ships have both North American and European outlets, an adapter will let you plug in a few extra electronics to charge. Just remember that you can't plug a hair dryer or curling iron into the adapter--unless of course you like to see sparks and smell smoke and do without it for the rest of your cruise. Don't ask me how I know.

4.  I'll need to buy some packages of peanut butter or cheese crackers. They come four or six in a package and because they are pre-packaged, you can take them with you on an excursion just in case it goes a little longer than you planned and there is no stop for a snack or food. Fresh fruit is usually not allowed to be taken from the ship to shore so you can't count on grabbing an apple or banana from the buffet at breakfast.

5. A couple of ziploc bags are always a handy thing to pack. If you should happen to need an ice pack it will be convenient to have the bag to use. A gallon sized bag can hold a wet bathing suit in case you need to pack before your suit dries. A quart sized bag will help protect your phone on the beach from water and/or sand.

6. Open the file I have with my cruise packing list in it and print it out. Long ago I decided to put together a list of things we usually take. Sometimes I add to it. Other times I delete some things. A lot depends upon where we are going and what cruise line we are sailing with. It does save a little sanity and panic over what I might be forgetting.

Okay, now I need to get busy and start gathering it all together. The dining room table is where it all accumulates. When it's all there, we can decide what suitcases to use or go over the pile of clothes and things and decide what we can cut back on. Even though we've traveled a lot there is still that little voice that says, "Don't forget." As long as that little voice speaks up before we are on our way, it's a good thing.

Friday, October 12, 2018

CLEMET Zoo--Cornstalks and Pumpkins and Ghosts, Oh My!

The tiger is made from bundles of straw.
The hot weather finally over, we took a trip to the zoo for a little exercise. I forgot that Boo At The Zoo was coming but it didn't take long to realize that it was soon to happen. As we started down the trail that leads around the African Savanna a worker smiled at us and said, "Be careful. It's scary down there."

We assured him our hearts were strong and we were brave and we continued on. Not very far along the path we found two witches stirring their brew and chanting. Further on we encountered skeletons, large spiderwebs with hairy spiders and ghosts. The decorating was still going on so I'm not sure how much more would be set up.

Through out the zoo there were plenty of cornstalks with pumpkins and blow-up displays that were ready for inflation. Some lighted displays that were in the shape of animals were also set up. Pumpkins were in some of the exhibits for the animals to have some fun with as well.
Of course we walked our usual route which took us past the Asian Highlands exhibit just in time to see the little snow leopard cubs come out with their momma. They have grown since last we saw them in the summer when they first went on exhibit. They are still playful but not in the same way they were. Guess they are growing into "teenagers".

Momma snow leopard took a post on one of the wooden platforms in the exhibit and kept a wary stare at all the visitors below. From her expression, she was one momma you wouldn't want to cross.

The merkats didn't seem to mind the cooler temperatures. They were busily digging and of course the ever present sentry was perched high and keeping watch to the sky for any danger. They are still my favorite to see.

Our favorite place to have lunch is in the Rainforest Cafeteria and I enjoyed a delicious bowl of butternut squash soup. I couldn't pass up the chance at a soft pretzel that turned out to be very fresh and yummy. Bob enjoyed a bowl of chili and we left just as the school kids were coming in to have their lunch.

If you haven't been to Boo At The Zoo consider taking the kids. They were also setting up a row of canopies that appeared to be the area where there would be trick or treating going on. In the large food pavilion there is a hay maze and 4-D movies as well. The event takes place over the next three weekends. Check out the webpage.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Ohio State - A Trip Down Memory Lane

An invitation came for Ohio State's homecoming weekend for a reunion of some of the Electrical Engineering classes of the 1960s. We couldn't pass it up. Bob wanted to take a trip down memory lane. The event began with a tour of some of the engineering buildings--old and new.

Bob and his brother had fond memories of the motors lab and insisted on that being a part of the tour. The student guide and a professor were more than happy to accommodate them. The stories flew. "Do you remember. . .?" A lot of them involved sparks and some smoke.

One of the most impressive new labs was the high voltage lab. I would love to tell you what all goes on in there but most of the explanation of the things on the tour went over my head. My area of the campus was in the college of education and the art department. They did do a demonstration but anyone with a pace maker, or metal implants was asked to sit out. I stayed outside with two other ladies who had some replacement parts as well. Bob did take a video so I got to see what the impressive electric show was.

Following our tour, we were invited to a dinner at the Mitchell's Fish Market, a really nice restaurant on Olentangy Road. The evening was spent learning more about what everyone had been doing since they graduated. It was quite impressive and the group was involved in a lot of development work in a variety of companies and areas of expertise. Their educations were definitely put to good use.

We didn't get to the tailgate the next day or the football game which Ohio State won against Indiana. The rest of our weekend was spent watching grandkids in softball and marching band. Well worth the trip as well.

Monday, October 08, 2018

Baggage Costs--Packing For Less

Once again it looks like all the airlines will be squeezing the traveler with higher baggage costs. Gone are the days when checking luggage was included in your ticket price. In the guise of making ticket costs less, airlines began backing out lots of their services and charging individually for them--baggage being the big ticket item.

With all our travel we have learned to cut back on what we pack but it looks like we may need to get even tighter with our packing list. I remember earlier in our travel experiences when we were standing in line to check our bags and realized the couple in front of us each had a medium sized suitcase and it had a tag on it to indicate they were going on a cruise. We were too but we had two suitcases and a large garment bag.

Bob's curiosity got him. "How is it you only have only two suitcases and you are cruising?" he asked them.

"A while ago," the man said, "we realized we were bringing too many things home that we hadn't used or worn. We decided to put a safety pin on each item for the next trip. If we wore it we took the pin off. If it made it home with a pin still attached, we knew not to take it the next time. It cut our packing in half." He flashed a satisfied grin.

While we didn't go the safety pin route, we did start making note of what we took that didn't get used and planning to do laundry when we could. That has cut down on a lot of extra baggage. Some common sense taught us to buy sample sized toiletries. We don't pack anything that won't be worn more than once and pack more tops than bottoms.

Shoes are tough sometimes but usually it goes with one nice pair if cruising, sneakers and an everyday pair of sandals.

Our next challenge will be to get it all into just one suitcase between the two of us. Wish us luck.

Friday, October 05, 2018

Oversold? Not On A Cruise Ship

A headline on a Cruise Critic article caught my attention recently. It had to do with what might happen if your cruise was oversold. Oversold? I'd never heard of such a thing. It turned out that it indeed was a headline to catch your attention. The article explains very nicely why this might happen on airlines but would rarely, if ever, happen on a cruise ship.

One of the reasons is that you have to make a deposit and as it gets closer to sailing, you need to make payment in full. If you should happen to cancel, the closer you are to your sailing date the less money you can get refunded. Therefore the cruise lines have a better idea of exactly how many guests they will have on board.

What may happen however, is that you could book a room with a guarantee meaning you are paying to get a room in a certain category--say a room with a veranda. If those rooms are selling well and as it gets closer to sailing, the cruise line may ask you to upgrsde in order to have the room available for another guest who has requested it. Usually upgrades happen to those who have some past experience cruising with that line.

There was one time when we were asked to change our plans for a cruise. Some very large group had actually booked the whole ship. The cruise line gave us some nice perks and savings on our cruise to have us change to another week. When you're retired, it's not as difficult to make those changes. Remember, when you are asked to make changes, the cruise line is eager to keep your business so usually they will go out of their way to make it reasonable.

The article on Cruise Critic is: What Happens if Your Cruise is Oversold? It would be worth your while to take a look at it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Need A Ride? Who You Gonna Call?

Up until a couple of years ago, we called a local cab company for a ride to and from the airport when the cost of a cab was less than what parking at one of the parking lots would be for the length of our trip. That is still the formula we use in deciding to ride rather than drive. It usually works out to be a trip that is more than seven or eight nights. Rather than call a cab, now we call Uber. So far it has been a good experience and usually saves us some money as well.

So far we have had a good experience coming and going. There has always been a pickup on time and we've never had to wait too long for a ride from the airport. We haven't used the service much on our travels though as we've usually no need to because we either have transportation provided or plan to use public transportation--or of course good old shoe leather. The exception has been Tokyo several times.

When visiting with our son, we ended up taking Uber a couple of times in Tokyo because of rain showers. The service there is quite different. The driver showed up in a very nice black SUV with lace covers on the seats. He was dressed in a black suit and wore white gloves. Our son explained that the Uber drivers in Tokyo were usually people who provided limousine services and used their down time to supply Uber requests.

If you use Uber or Lyft services just be careful and use some guidelines for safety. Be sure to check your driver's license plate and name and ask him who he or she is there to pick up before you give your name. Never pay in cash. The apps automatically charge your account with the credit card you have registered. No matter what you choose, Uber, Lyft or a taxi, sit in the back and wear your seat belt if traveling alone. 

We all tend to get chatty as we ride to the airport. Try to contain yourself and talk about the weather or sports (I'd avoid politics). Don't share a lot of personal information and especially as it pertains to how long you will be gone from home and whether or not someone is watching your home. If you do mention a cruise or other tour that obviously will be a week or so, you might turn to your spouse and say that you remembered to call the police and activate a house watch. It never hurts to cover the bases.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Dining With History

Some of you are probably tired of hearing about our 50th wedding anniversary but one more post can't hurt. On the actual date of our anniversary we revisited a place where we have enjoyed dining for special occasions--Don's Pomeroy House. It is in Strongsville, Ohio, not far from us. After our delicious dinner and the house specialty dessert, a chocolate eclair, we waited for our car to be brought by the valet. (Bob likes to make a special evening very special by valet parking.)

As we waited, I noticed the historical marker by the steps. I don't know why I hadn't seen it on previous visits. Perhaps we haven't been there since it was put in. That piqued my curiosity and I decided to investigate further. I had no idea we were dining in such a historical setting. I was just enjoying the atmosphere and the food.

The house dates back to 1847 and was built by Alanson Pomeroy. Next to it he built a general store. He was also connected to some banks in the area. The really interesting part of the history I found on the Pomeroy website was that it was used as part of the underground railroad during the Civil War era. Slaves would be brought from Oberlin concealed in a wagon of hay. They would hide in the basement until Pomeroy received word that a boat was sailing from Rocky River to Canada. He would then transport them at night in his own wagon and send them on their way.

The only way they discovered that the "Homestead" as it was called was a stop on the underground railroad was through Harlan Pomeroy who witnessed his mother taking food down to the slaves hiding in the basement. His father then later told him the story.

The history of the house is fascinating as well as the job of restoring it. Now I need to go back and look at it more closely. We ate in what is called the library. I'd like to explore a bit more now that I know about some of the original woodworking and staircases. Besides, there is a lot more on the menu to explore as well.

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