Find me online!

twittergoogle plusemail

December 20, 2009

The trials and tribulations of travelling

Friday was my day of travel, heading home to see the folks and the rest of the family for Christmas.  It was a long day, but ultimately it turned out really well.  There were no real trials (there were a couple of annoyances) and no tribulations to speak of (what the hell's a "tribulation," anyway?).  However, I just like alliteration, hence the title.

The day started out quite early for me, getting up just before 3:30 am to make sure I got ready and to the bus on time for 4:00.  I use Quickshuttle (which I reviewed a couple of years ago, and highly recommend), and they can pick you up at a variety of downtown Vancouver hotels, so it's nice and convenient.  Especially in the rain, which thankfully I avoided but it started coming down pretty quickly after I got on the bus.

The really cool thing is that all of the buses have free wi-fi access.  Having brought my iPhone, I was in heaven!  I could Twitter and Facebook to my heart's content!  And you know how I am when I have access to all that stuff.  Yes, seriously, it's an addiction.  Or at least a mild rash.

Anyway, I promised everybody on Facebook that they would be able to follow my entire trip on Twitter, because I'd be tweeting while on the bus, at the airport, and so on.  I sent off a few tweets as time passed on the bus, but otherwise I listened to music and just tried to rest.  Even though I went to bed around 9pm, I was still pretty tired being up this early.

What struck me, and always does when I'm out there waiting for the bus, is just how surreally beautiful Downtown Vancouver can be when it's that early in the morning and hardly anybody's out other than a few panhandlers and those who are just getting home from the bars.  I'm used to the city bustling with traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, and to see the wide open, empty streets, a few taxis racing from one hotel to another, can be quite odd.  The lights of the city are always on, of course, just adding to the mystique.  This is especially true in the rain.

We got to the border and had very few hassles, even less than usual!  I rarely recognize any of the border guards, but there's one in particular who is memorable.  This guy can be a real asshole sometimes.  In fact, I remember him one time making a girl cry.  He can be quite insistent when somebody doesn't understand what he's asking of them.  This time, however, he was the master of efficiency.  He was still kind of loud, but I think that's just him.  He wasn't actually yelling at anybody this time.  We got through in record time.  Usually, we have to wait for the bus to be cleared too, which can be a slow process sometimes.  This time, it was waiting for us by the time we got through.  There weren't any people who had to be detained for further questioning, either, so we got out of there in record time.

I did some more tweeting and read a little bit, but mostly I just kind of dozed and listened to my music.  This was a little strange for me, as I usually read a *lot* on these trips.  I usually finish a book by the time I get to Chicago, with a large part of that done on the bus trip down.  Not this time, though.  Just wasn't in the mood, I guess.  I did get my phone out and tweet occasionally.

We got to the aiport just after 9:00 and my flight left at 12:30, so I had some time to eat, have a beer (I don't care if it's morning) along with a small omellette from the Seattle Taproom.  Normally, I go to the Africa Lounge because I love the people there and the food's good too, but I was taking a different airline this year and I wasn't in that end of the terminal.  After eating and having my beer, I have to say that I still prefer the Africa Lounge, but this one was pretty good too.

I thought about taking more pictures, but didn't want to give Security the wrong impression.  Besides, most of you have probably been in airports, and they're mostly the same.  Just the details are different.

The wait for my flight wasn't too long, though there was one major annoyance.  The wi-fi didn't work!  First, I didn't realize that most airports don't have wi-fi to begin with.  I'm familiar with O'Hare in Chicago, where they're advertising it all over the place, and I forgot that not all aiports do that.  However, "compliments of Google," Seatac airport was having free wi-fi through January 15.  Unfortunately, I couldn't connect at all.  The signal strength was either really low or non-existent at times.  I couldn't do anything!  Thus, my Twitter odyssey came to an end.  I did, however, get a bit of my book read.

The flight out was pretty good too.  I had downloaded a bunch of podcasts to pass the time on the flight, since reading on the plane can be tiring sometimes.  Of course, when you first take off, you can't use any electronic devices, so I couldn't do that yet.  I was sitting next to a couple and the guy who was right next to me was trying to figure out how to put his iPhone in "Airplane Mode" so that it wouldn't do anything while we were in flight.  I showed him how to do that, and then we just started talking.  Turns out that both he and his girlfriend are in the army, based in Tacoma right now.  But he had served in both Afghanistan and Iraq (the initial invasion and then in Baghdad) and she had served in Iraq (Mosul, when it was really hot there).  So he and I started talking about the situation in both places.  I asked questions, based on what I have heard because I've followed both quite closely since the beginning, but I wanted to get the opinion of somebody who had actually been there.  It was a fascinating conversation, and I learned a lot.  However, when we could turn on our electronic devices, he wanted to study for some medical exam he was going to be taking (he works in the trauma center) and also get a little sleep in, so I turned mine on as well and was in podcast heaven.

I was worried about the weather in Chicago, because in Seattle the direct flight to Chicago was getting lots of delay reports.  I was in flying to Minneapolis and then Chicago, so I fully expected to have my flight from Minneapolis to Chicago delayed.  When I got there, however, it was scheduled to leave on time.  I was very happy.  What I wasn't happy about was having an hour layover (and thus, only a half-hour before you start boarding) and having to walk about 500 miles from my arrival gate to my departure gate. Ok, ok.  I exaggerate.  It was more like 450 miles.  I was hoping to grab a quick bite to eat at the airport, but it wasn't to be.  I wasn't sitting long before they started boarding again.

This flight was really nice because it was only 2/3 full, and I swear the seats had more room.  There was a woman in the window seat and me on the aisle, and nobody in between us.  So we capitalized on that and made use of the empty seat.  I used half of it for my jacket and stuff (also was able to pull the armrest up so I wasn't feeling so constricted) and she used her half.  I was very happy.

The folks met me at Midway airport in Chicago, and we had a bite to eat before going back to the hotel room.  I had arrived safely yet again on this annual Christmas pilgrimage.  I've been doing this for 7 years now (I think), and so far have only had a major hassle twice.  Since I've also flown out here in March a couple of times and had no problems, I'd say I've been getting off pretty good.  It's a fun trip to make.  Long and tiring, but still fun.  The trip back feels a bit longer, because when I'm heading home I just want to be *home*.

I'm lucky that I'm going "home" on both ends of the trip.


  1. i see my bribe at seatac worked.
    - the wife

  2. Ah, so it was all part of your sinister plan? :P

  3. you mean "cunning" plan? he's in the tv version of hogsfather the store manager where death is giving away stuff.
    - the wife


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.