Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Unexpected Stop

Mt. McKinley (Denali), Alaska

while visiting Alaska in May, we decided to take a flight around the peak of Mt. McKinley (aka. Mt. Denali) because it seemed that everyone we spoke to said that seeing this was an experience of a lifetime. and it was. just not how we planned it to be.

the young pilot
arriving at the airfield outside of Denali, we felt excitement and a bit of nervousness. what an adventure we were about to embark on, seeing the top of a mountain shrouded in clouds that supposedly only 20% of visitors got to see. it would be quite amazing. we were set to fly on a 8 seater plane (including the pilot's seat) and (as it luckily turned out) it would be just the 3 of us and the pilot - a nice YOUNG guy no more than 20. what?! he barely looked old enough to drive a car, much less fly a plane. but, he assured us, he had flown for years and in fact had done this flight many times. age aside, he seemed to know his stuff and after brief instructions about flying over a certain elevation in a plane that small (at some point we'll have to wear oxygen masks), we were soon in the air. being that this was my first time in a plane this small, i was not prepared for how much it bounced... or the mysterious popping noise. wait, popping noise? that can't be right, could it? as it turned out neither the shaking nor the popping noise were part of the usual take off procedure (doh), and the young pilot told us through our headphones that we would be re-landing after only minutes in the sky.

the decision
unfortunately, the 'technical difficulties' plane was the only one they had that was able to go to the elevation needed for the summit of Mt McKinley. so that put us without a ride. the plane tour company (wanting to try all means to avoid refund) offered to give us a free upgrade to a plane that landed on a glacier about halfway up the mountain. well, suffice to say, we were a bit leery of getting back on a plane right away and not to mention that the other plane (another 8 seater) already had 5 people flying. doubt still lingered. was the first plane grounding a sign? as we hemmed and hawed over whether or not to go, they upped their offer. our own plane with the pilot that taught the rest of them to fly. i think my exact words were "that sounds okay", and then they hurriedly prepped the plane before we could decide against it.

the experienced pilot
a bit white-knuckled after our first attempt, the experienced pilot told us all about the plane and explained things as he did them... before i knew it we were halfway there (it was an hour to the mountain). being the only ones on the plane had its advantages... for one, we spoke with the pilot the whole way there and he pointed out cool parts of the Alaska Range. another thing that he did was to ensure that i was getting all the photos i wanted by turning the plane this was and that, it endeared him to me especially. next came another new experience: landing on plane skies. you could feel the plane sliding and it was quite bouncy, and right when i thought that it was going to slide into a huge snow bank it stopped. whew.

the amazing view
standing on Ruth Glacier was unlike anything i have ever experienced. all around you are the tops of mountains and clouds at eye level.

the flight definitely was a highlight to an already magical trip.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

window or aisle?

ultimate air travel question:

i am a frequent flier to be sure. and on my double layover back from alaska last week i got to thinking... which is better: a window seat or an aisle seat (and let's not forget the last seats chosen on every flight: the middle seats). now, me, i like to check-in online usually the day before to be able to have a relatively good seat selection. some people (especially single travelers) do not really care where they sit, while others are firm believers in which seats are the 'best' seats (aside from first class i'm sure - which i unfortunately do not get to fly) on a plane and push for said 'best' seats (even up until right before the flight). now me, i can go either way. it is is all about what i'm looking for in that flight.

my first bit of advice: be a respectful traveler
i'm a firm believer in karma. and in my mother's advice that you get a better response from honey than vinegar (basically being nice over not). so when i'm traveling alone i'm usually willing to move (especially for families with kids). but people need to also respect that people do not have to move for you (especially if they took the time that you did not to insure said seat).

my 'best' seat history
growing up i ALWAYS wanted the window... oh the things you could see. and my feelings basically stayed this way until a few years ago... when i got hooked on the aisle and, aside from the occasional seat roulette, have pretty much stayed there. until my flight last week (which was window seats the 2 flights there and 3 flights back).

first: window vs. aisle
i would assume most everyone has there own ideas of the benefits and pitfalls of both seat selections... here are mine...
note: left side window, right side aisle

view view view vs. leg room
wall to lean on vs. place to stand
don't have to get up for others vs. deboarding quicker

trapt vs. getting up for when someone needs out
cramped vs. getting hit in the elbow/knee/foot

second: how to choose??
here is my seat selecting process:
1. how long is the flight?
meaning are you going to have to get up more than once? if so, an aisle is definitely the way to go. also becoming cramped can become an issue and an aisle allows for a bit more leg stretching. but if the flight is just an hour or so, then even a middle will do.
2. where are you going?
have you been there before? then you might want to let someone else get the nice window view. if not, views can be a major pull to the window, like the picture (see below) i took from my window seat view of mount rainier as we flew out of seattle.
3. what time of day is it? weather?
if it's dark, there's mostly likely nothing to see anyway (unless, of course, it's VEGAS... that was an awesome night view!). it's the same if the weather is bad.
4. single, pair, or group?
if you are in a pair, one of you has to resign yourself to the fact that one of you is getting that dreaded middle seat (unless your in a 2-3, 2-5-2, etc). and a group has to just fit in where they can. but the single flier is obviously the one with the most wiggle room.
5. layover / connecting flights?
this is where another part of respecting your fellow passengers come in. if you do not have a connecting flight or you have a long layover, then sit farther back on the plane and by the windows to allows the ones in a rush to get out. opposite is true: if you know you have a short layover and need to deboard quickly do not situate yourself so that you can't get out in a timely manner.
6. inflight entertainment?
basically, what are you planning on doing during the flight: reading, sleeping, games?

third: enjoy your flight experience
it is amazing to fly. far too many of us take it for granted. so take the time to feel the the takeoff. if you enjoy it, or at least try, then you are more likely to have a positive experience. this is precisely what i did on my last flight... and it worked for me.

well, i hope ya'll enjoyed the read. happy flying.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

short, but sweet.

Hot Springs, Arkansas
i flew into Little Rock airport thursday afternoon and by saturday at noon, i was gone. it was a short but sweet visit to be sure. one of my cousins and i went to visit our grandfather and family who live in Hot Springs. in the past, i have hiked through Hot Spring national park, visited the famous bath houses, admired the local pottery makers, and enjoyed the races. but with our time constraints on this trip we only did a morning tour: walking around the historic downtown and sampling some of the tasty fresh (HOT) spring water. the downtown area is filled with interesting shops and boutiques on one side of the road and bath house row on the other. i'm not a shopper buy any stretch of the imagination, although i do have to admit that i had a lot of fun exploring shops with my cousin. especially the sweet shop (called the chocolate factory) that let us sample about 5 kinds of fudge. mmm... ;)
while walking you can see the look out tower at the top of the hill in the distance and arlington hotel which looms over downtown in an almost ominous way. but one of the most beautiful things i noticed on this trip was all the lovely flowers popping out for spring (you can check out some of my floral pix @ strawberry moon). the rest of our time was spent visiting with family, which was absolutely wonderful. i also enjoyed traveling with my cousin and giving our grandfather a chance to see all his grand-daughters together which made it particularly special. you know, every trip is memorable, but i do have to say that even with as brief as this trip was, it was definitely one of my favorites. :)

one of the unique bathhouses:

Thursday, February 12, 2009

memory: slippery when wet...

Loiza, Puerto Rico

The drive from Loiza to San Juan in northwest Puerto Rico is a beautiful one. It's a tiny 2-lane road lined with natural beaches and local food stands. I suggest giving yourself plenty of time for a leisurely drive to enjoy the beauty and frequent stops in the sandy pull offs. It was at one such random stop that my friends and I discovered a gorgeous beach with no people and cool rocks along the water's edge.

This is where our fun trip took a sharp turn. Maybe it was the Gasolina (a strong Puerto Rican tasty beverage) that was consumed that morning or just a complete lack of worry that comes with being on vacation. But for whatever reason we decided to walk along the rocks to get some cool shots (and we did). To say that was a bad idea is putting it mildly. As it turns out, flat rocks don't mix well with shallow water (a thought that may have seemed more obvious had we consumed less of said tasty beverage). It was comical really. One of my comrades slipped and fell on the rocks. Hilarious, right? Well the first fall was (save for the fact that her camera lay at the bottom of a mini rock cavern filled with water). It was the second, or maybe it was the third, that done her in. She ended up crawling out of the water.

It still seemed quite funny, she was laughing, we were laughing. All was good right? Au contraire mon frère. It was actually your's truly who noticed first. Both of her knees were bloody, but that wasn't what made me stop laughing and tell the other girls to look at her knee. My friend looked at me too afraid to look down and see the damages as all our other friends gasped in surprise. Her knee had already swollen to the size of a softball.

Alas, this lead to a completely new adventure: the local hospital. But first we had to find it. It felt like we were in an old episode of The Benny Hill Show, as we drove around not knowing where we were going. We finally ended up at what we thought was an emergency clinic, which turned out to be a completely different kind of clinic (for females only if you know what I mean). Fortunately, they were able to point us in the direction of the 'real' hospital. Where the only person who spoke english was a big burly guard. But that is a whole other story. In the end, my friend felt the results of our misadventure for the rest of the trip. But she healed. And now we lood back and laugh at our crazy day in Loiza.

So what did I learn from this experience?
Beware of hidden dangers that are concealed behind a beautiful facade. Sure.
Remember, rocks are slippery when wet. Of course.
And above all, Gasolina and the beach do not mix. :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

UPDATE: new posts...

i've decided to start a new line of posts for memorable trips, experiences, or just some of the places that stick out in my mind. i have previously discussed this but had never decided on a format. from here on out, all posts starting with MEMORY are exactly what they claim to be and all else is current. so hopefully i can really get this thing going as i've always wanted it to be. :)

as always, you can check my other blog for more pix.

thanks! :)

peace. love. travel.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

not just another day at the beach

one of my many resolutions for 2009 has been to appreciate what i have... one of the ways this has manifested itself, is trips to the beach (something that i know i take for granted, and yet it is most people's fantasy place to be). so far this year i have taken several trips to the beach and just absorbed its beauty and calming effect. here are a few photos of the beach from my visit this past weekend. i hope you gather a sense of calm when you view them.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

a weekend getaway: Disney World

one of the many benefit to being a Floridian, aside from all the natural beauties, is the theme parks. not only are there many close at hand, but fortunately if you are from here there are discounts and special offers. this past weekend, i took advantage of one of these: Disney's Florida residents pass. and as WDW is just a quick 2 hour drive from SRQ, it is totally doable for a fun weekend getaway. Disney is one of those magical places that can bring out the kid in me (though it is hard for some to get past the crowds). to me, it is magical in the sense that most people are happy to be there and tend to act just a little 'goofy' themselves: i like to buy character ears and/or hats whenever i go to wear for the day (this time i chose a pirate gooft bandanna for MK and a safari hat for AK ~ too fun!). even if you are not planning to fully give yourself over to the idea of the Disney celebration, it is hard to avoid the excitement upon entering a park (especially if you have kids in tow). and i was lucky enough to go with my 2 nephews on their very FIRST trip to Disney (their joy was palpable). tlak about feeling the magic!

T-Rex Cafe @ downtown Disney

awesome fireworks display @ the Magic Kingdom

the entrance to the Animal Kingdom

for more photos of Disney World, go to Strawberry Moon.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

appreciating what you have (part 2)

Sarasota, Florida
in a recent day trip around sarasota i really got the sense of reconnecting myself with areas of my community that seemed to have been previously placed on the back burner of my mind. i set out that day with purpose: to rediscover some of the things i enjoyed as a child and to avoid tourists (if at all possible). well, i guess one out of two ain't bad. ;)

i started the day with a trip to the local grove store. it's funny, you know it's only about a block away from where i work but i couldn't tell you when was the last time i visited. but, to my joy, it had not changed. same green shingle roof, same smell, same free orange juice samples. mmm... there is nothing like fresh orange juice during season, so good. so i sampled my orange juice while i explored the store and topped off my visit with a orange/vanilla swirl cone (a childhood favorite to be sure). after taking a moment to reflect and swing on the porch swing outside, i was on my way.

my next destination was downtown to the park on the bay, where i took in the fabulous scenery and admired the art pieces along the bayfront. these art pieces change from time to time, but this year a previous piece was brought back (supposedly under controversy, if you
talk to the locals - however, the interim statue looked like a huge tooth to me, so i personally was pleased to have the previous piece back in place). the piece was a recreation of the famous photograph of a couple kissing on V-J day, which was built into a larger than life statue and placed again at the north end of the row. while taking some fun photo shots around the statue, i ran across a few interesting characters, one of whom was an artist painting the statue (talk about remembering a moment in time: a painting [shown right] of a statue of a photograph of an actual event from over 60 years ago). another man (whom i took to be a semi-local, or a snowbird), was very friendly and starting giving me the complete background of the statue and the controversy behind it. he was so into giving his tutorial that i never had a chance to tell him that i wasn't a tourist, but he enjoyed the telling and i was pleased to hear him. after a while, i walked back towards island park, making sure to read the names on the boats parked along the row as i went (some were pretty amusing). at island park i took brief respite on a bench by the bay where i watched a few kids make some humorous attempts at sailing.

from there i headed to the north end of siesta key, as there are a few secluded beach access areas (ie. less tourists). i only stayed about a half an hour or so, and i didn't even walk all the way down to the water, but i truly appreciated it while i was there. i took my shoes off, walked in the powdery white sand, and people watched. unfortunately, i had to head out and ended up leaving before the beautiful sunset. but i was able to catch the sunset a few days later, because here beautiful sunsets on the beach happen almost daily. and for that i am most appreciative. :)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

on a more serious note...

another hiccup in my travel postings. i cut my sarasota blog into parts because i unexpectedly had to go out of town. i traveled with my entire family up to south georgia to attend my uncle's funeral. it has been a very sad time, but having blogs has actually been a good outlet that has allowed me to remember him well.

a beautiful pecan orchard
i will try and start posting again soon.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

appreciating what you have (part 1)

Sarasota, Florida
i think it would be fitting that my first blog post dedicated to an experience in traveling be about the beautiful place in which i live. far too often i forget what a wonderful and beautiful town i live in. perhaps i'm too busy plotting and planning other places i want to immerse myself in. but for whatever reason, every now and again (usually when family and/or friends visit) i stop and appreciate what i have. white sandy beaches, an artistically and culturally diverse community, parks full of lush vegetation and green marshes, water all around us in every shape and size (gulfs, rivers, creeks, lakes, ponds, the intercoastal water way), and citrus groves (which comes with one of the best aromas in the world: oranges). all of this, yet i never fail to find new discoveries with each exploration of this fabulous city.

a few pix to give you a feel of the area:
the myakka riversarasota bay
marsh landsnatural floridasunset off north siesta keysmall inlet surrounded by mangrovesstatue downtown