TRYING TIMES FOR TRAVELERS – Marilyn Armstrong

We almost never travel these days. The last time we stayed in a hotel was when we went to a wedding in Boston. We made the pricey decision to stay overnight in a nice hotel, or at least the nicest hotel we could manage. That way, we could enjoy the wedding without worrying about the long, dark drive home late at night.

I made the reservation about six weeks in advance, just after getting the invitation. A few days before the event, I got a bunch of emails from the hotel’s parent chain. I assumed that amidst all this communication there would be a reservation confirmation. I had already given them a credit card, so there was no reason why there should be any kind of problem.

aloft hotel aerialshot

There was no confirmation or even a reference to our having made a reservation. Nor was there any information about the hotel and its facilities. Instead, when I opened the email, it told me to log-in to their “club.”

You know how it works, right? Your airline, hotel, rental car are part of a much larger corporation that includes other hotels, motels, and rentals. They want to parlay your one-night reservation into a long-term relationship. Not likely, in our case, but I understand it’s their job to generate business. I don’t mind all the rest of the stuff, but where was the information I needed?

The problem was that this login screen required a username and password. I had neither. The email also lacked a few basics. Like the hotel’s address, phone number, directions, and information about parking. All of that information was probably accessible in their application. Which I couldn’t access.

They did include a corporate phone number. No address or reservation number. No confirmation number. I sighed that huge heaving sigh I use when I know I’m going to spend the next several hours dealing with customer service.

aloft lobby

I called the corporate office. They couldn’t help me. Nor could they transfer me to the hotel, but they found the hotel’s phone number. I called the hotel. After being put on hold for far too long, a man got on the phone. I explained the problem and he said, “Sorry, I’ll send you a confirmation now.”

The email turned out to be a full 6 web pages. In full color with animated graphics.

My printer has never in its life refused a direct order, but in the face of this massive overload of data, it would not load. It tried. Gamely kept trying. Eventually, it locked up my computer and refused to print.

I called back. “Can’t you just send me a plain text confirmation? And this time, please include the hotel’s actual address, phone number, and whatever other information I will need during check-in.”

So he sent me another email. Still no address, email, or telephone number.

I called again. “Uh … an address … and the check-in, check-out times … and your phone number … would be really helpful.” I paused, pondered. “What’s the parking situation? Are you walking distance from the Sheraton?” This hotel was part of the Sheraton group, so I had a feeble hope that they were near one another.

It turned out parking was $40 per night and was several blocks away. In a lot that was not adjacent to their hotel. Moreover, the Sheraton was on the other side of Boston, so we’ll definitely need a taxi. I was getting a headache. Why was this so complicated?

“I’m disabled,” I said. I really hate having to explain, but if we have to haul our stuff blocks from car to hotel, there’s no point in staying overnight. Goodbye convenience. Hello, expensive and inconvenient.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, we have disabled parking at the hotel. You could park there. That would be a lot less walking.”

“Can you promise me there will be a space in the disabled parking area?” I’ve had problems with this before, where they have two disabled spots and both are taken.

“Oh,” he assured me. “There’ll be space.” I’m wondering how come he’s sure because I’m not.

aloft guest room

Eventually, I copied and pasted the plain text email into a document, manually typed the address and phone number, then printed it. Supposedly, they’ll save a handicapped space for us. Maybe put an orange cone in the space. All of this adds up to why the joy has fled from traveling. A night in a good hotel should be fun. Easy. Why make it so complicated?

It was a nice hotel, though it had no dining facilities, not even a coffee shop. The only food you could get was from vending machines. Still, the room was clean and bright and the bed was comfortable. It was a tiny room without a dresser or closet. Just a bar with a couple of hangers. Clearly not a place you’d want to stay more than a night. It was the airline seat of hotel rooms. Rather like the least expensive room on a cruise ship when you won’t pay extra for a bigger room.

I’m old enough to remember when travel was something to which we looked forward. I would call a hotel or motel, made a reservation, then off we went. Sometimes we didn’t even make reservations but stayed wherever we happened to be. I fondly remember the good old days when a reservation involved one phone call, not half a day trying to get basic information and confirmation. Isn’t computerization supposed to make our lives easier?

Ironically, when I later googled the hotel, my reservation came up online with a note that only I could see displaying my reservation. Why didn’t I think of that? How did the information get into Google when I couldn’t get it on my computer?

IF THE TRAINS DERAIL, RAISE THE RATES – Marilyn Armstrong

I finally had to tell Garry that I have one more stenotic, broken vertebra. L 4-5-6 were fused when I was 19. Despite a lot of abuse and arthritis, those three are still (more or less) fused. They don’t feel particularly happy, but they should hang together for the duration. Unless I do something really stupid, like fall off a horse or down the stairs, or have a serious auto accident.

Sometime during the past couple of years, the S-1 vertebra — the one at the very bottom of the spine which supports the whole shebang — broke. I don’t know when it broke. It may have just decayed or been damaged by arthritis. I didn’t have an accident or fall, so I’m just assuming it more or less fell apart all by itself. knew something was wrong because I was finding it so difficult to walk.

There’s nothing to be done about it. I guess we could, as my friend Cherrie says, call this “My new normal.”

Anyway, what would I do with a wheelchair? Even a small one is too big for this house and we live on a road that doesn’t have a sidewalk. In town, the sidewalks are a disaster; so full of potholes, you don’t need a disability to fall on your head.

Boston’s no better. The Commonwealth has been busy “saving money” by failing to provide basic services … but hey, we have a full treasury again. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend some of that money and create safe sidewalks, ramps for wheelchairs, and repair our crashing trains. They’ve been derailing, rolling over, and generally banging into each other. There are lots of software fixes for these problems, but the tracks are so old and decrepit, you can’t install the new software.

So, realizing they had a transportation issue (and have had this same issue for all the years I’ve lived here), you know what they did to fix it? They raised public transportation prices.

A lot of people are very grumpy about it. No idea why.

Most public places don’t have ramps. For wheelchair users, there are few down ramps at intersections. In our little town, we have one traffic light and a few random stop signs to which no one pays any attention and sidewalks that resemble tank traps.

When I first moved to Massachusetts, I had to ask a friend if the driving laws were different. No-one stopped at signs or lights. I figured they must know something I didn’t know. It turned out, they just don’t LIKE traffic laws.

Someone once said the only way to get a moving violation in Boston was to run over the Governor. It really encourages one to keep walking as long as possible … though there are days …

OVER AND OVER AND OVER – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Over


I have always loved flying.

I never went sky-diving (Garry did and I envied him … and wondered how in the world he managed to actually jump out of that plane into the air), but I did go gliding. Twice. I loved flying in small planes and I was lucky enough to have two good friends who flew and took me with them. One of them got permission to fly very close to the ground so I could fly 500 feet over my house and wave to my flowers.

I discovered that when you fly in a small airplane, no matter how hot it is on the ground, at 10,000 feet, you really wish you were wearing insulated shoes. I learned I was too short to see over the dashboard of a Cessna, so if I took up flying, I would have to do it entirely using instruments.

I got to be “co-pilot” on all these little flights and discovered my main job was to “look for airplanes.” With all the technology involved in flying, planes, especially small planes without flight plans, hit each other.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

When you are looking for other planes, you have to look up, and to both sides. I couldn’t look down. I was too short but I discovered the world had more directions than I ever imagined.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

My cousin Roberta lived in northern Virginia, right outside of DC. From when I was 9 or maybe 10, I used to fly there and back. Alone. That was before they made you wear special badges or anything. You just got on the plane, sat in your seat. Up in the air and half an hour later, descending again. Seeing tiny people get bigger and bigger until they were full-sized and the plane bumped to a stop.

Watching all those cars travel at high speeds through the most astonishingly complex intersections and mostly, don’t hit each other. It’s like an enormous dance done on the roads.

When Garry and I were courting, I hadn’t yet gotten a job in Massachusetts. Most weekends, Garry drove to New York and stayed with me, but sometimes, he’d buy me a ticket. I’d fly from La Guardia to Logan. Once, I was due in at 6 pm. We took off a little late and minutes later, the plane was hit by lightning. Twice. There was only one working engine.

Nobody talked. We just listened to silence, followed by the wail of the engine as it lifted the plane. One of the passengers was a pilot, probably going home to Boston. Everyone watched him, holding our collective breaths, wondering if we were going to land or crash.

We landed. Garry picked me up and started to complain I was late and he’d had to circle the airport a dozen times waiting for my plane to show up. I pointed out that I wasn’t sure I was going to get there alive, so he should be saying “Oh glory, you’re here and alive!” and after that, he fed me lobster for three days straight. I deserved every piece of lobster, not to mention one fabulous North End Italian dinner.

Photo: Garry Armstrong –

I don’t know exactly when the fun went out of flying. When airports went from being inconvenient and ugly and became houses of torment. When airline seats went from being small to being torturous. When all the little niceties of flying disappeared and then they wonder why people try not to fly if they have any other choice.

Unfortunately, our rail infrastructure has been neither maintained nor expanded. For example, you can’t take a train from Boston to Arizona. There are many areas where the tracks are not functional. Not only can you not take the train from point A to point C, but you have to detrain with all your luggage, take a bus, get another train which may or may not have the same seats or type of seats … all while juggling your luggage. You may need to do this several times and it will take days rather than hours.

I was still willing to give it a try until I read the notice that the train would not provide assistance with transferring luggage. I gave up.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

So if you are traveling a long distance, unless you are still young enough to like driving all day — and there was a time when I thought driving was fun — you can fly or stay home. Given one thing and another, we stay home. Mostly.

It doesn’t mean we’ll never fly again. I think now that Garry can hear better, we might fly somewhere, sometime, someday. England or Australia or New Zealand or the south of France. Paris or Tokyo. Who knows?

Meanwhile, a dozen or more Chickadees have discovered our bird feeder and they fly up and over and around it.

BEAM ME SOMEWHERE! – Marilyn Armstrong

As airlines make traveling by air increasingly miserable, unfriendly, and physically uncomfortable, those of us who yearn to travel but abhor airports and airplanes have been waiting for teleportation.

You know. “Scotty, beam me up” and off you go to another place. It might be earth. It might be an outer planet in another galaxy. It might be … well … the bar in Star Wars of that cool one in Second Generation! Who the hell knows? And who really cares?

Although I foresee a limit on luggage, I’m sure I could work with that. They are making gigantic strides in travel clothing every day!

Warning, though. This is one of the many things we won’t be able to do unless we vote very Blue this November and remove the Orange Menace from the White House. Anyone who feels we need a wall at the Mexican border isn’t going to allow teleportation for just anyone from anywhere to anywhere else.

Certainly, I can’t imagine his nibs allowing ALIENS beaming into the land of the free and the home of the cringing, whining, terrified white people who voted for Orange Peel. If you think brown, red, yellow, or beige people whose native language isn’t English are out to get you, what will you do with a creature with tentacles who loves drinking grout cleaner?

What a bunch of dumbasses. We could own the universe, but instead, we prefer being locked up behind our own walls lest we feel potentially threatened by people who are different than us. And mind you, there is really not a bit of difference between us and the other colors and styles of people. We are all exactly the same, genetically.

Obviously, there are individual differences. Smarter, dumber, more creative, more athletic, totally clumsy — but nothing that you won’t see in any group of people who all have the same coloring or background. Skin and its variations have no effect on intelligence or ability to understand the meaning of the universe.

You know that, right? Nor does not speaking English. Mr. Nobel was Swedish. He didn’t speak American. Einstein was an immigrant. Sam Adams made beer and fomented revolution … and I’m not sure where he was from. Ireland? Scotland? England? Germany? The whole world? And anyway, we are all from Africa because that’s where humanity began. Check it out.

But wait! Orange Gecko won’t be in charge forever! He’s too old! Unless we’ve also invented the no-aging device, he’s going to bite the big one just like the rest of us.

Get those transporter beams revved up. I’m ready!

Let’s open up the world while I’m can still enjoy it. We will take our elderly tricycles and electric wheelchairs with us. Surely they have sidewalks on Betelgeuse.

Let’s transform our cellular material and go with the flow. You ready? I’m definitely ready!

For today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt of Teleport.

PHOTO A WEEK: PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION? Marilyn Armstrong

A Photo a Week Challenge: Public Transportation

Honest Abraham of Civil War fame, we ain’t got no public transportation in this town.

You have a choice:

1 – Feet
2 – Bicycle
3 – Car or truck
4 – Horse.

We have tracks, but lack trains

Most people don’t take their horses to town, but it has happened. It makes the horses nervous, though and carrying back the groceries is a bit clumsy. So mostly, it’s feet and car. We’re about 3-1/2 miles out of the village and we are definitely past hoofing it.

This is casket truck. Everyone needs a traveling casket, right?

Or maybe something smaller?

Public transportation isn’t part of the rural lifestyle. I hear rumors that, until the early 1960s, we had buses in Uxbridge! Imagine that! And the trains stopped too. I know this because we have a train station — now a real estate office — but once upon a time, it was a train for people.

Does a school bus count?

School bus, in town. I think you need to be attending a local school to get a lift!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

DEATH BY TRAFFIC

When I lived in Boston, traffic was basic. It was as much “life” as getting up to go to work. I had audiobooks in the car to keep my brain engaged. Traffic was fundamental. You couldn’t go anywhere without adding that extra hour — in case traffic was bad. Traffic was usually bad, but sometimes, it was worse. These days, I don’t need to think about traffic because we don’t have it. We don’t commute. If we need to drive, we schedule it for when there is likely to be little or no traffic. Locally, a traffic jam is a tractor with two cars waiting at an intersection. Or road repairs.

Until we moved here, traffic was a major issue. It controlled our days. Road work in Boston could make it impossible to get from one side of the city to another. Gridlock before and during holidays could effectively close the city. I once tried to pick Garry up from work. It was less than a mile from home. Normally, he walked, but he had things to carry and so he asked me to come get him.

I left the parking lot, drove a block, and had to stop. Nothing was moving. An hour later, I was in the same place. I finally made a u-turn and went home to the apartment. It was before cell phones, so I had to call the guard at the front desk at Channel 7 and ask him to go outside and tell Garry I couldn’t get there. The next day it was in the papers and TV. The entire city had been gridlocked, the Friday before Christmas.

Less than a year later, we moved from Boston to Roxbury, about 4 miles outside downtown Boston. There were trees. Empty lots. Almost the suburbs. You could park — for free — on the street, as long as you remembered alternate side of the street parking.

Then came the Big Dig.

The Central Artery-Tunnel Project, called The Big Dig, was a monstrous project involving rerouting and redesigning virtually every road in, out, around, and through Boston. If you lived in the city, there were no areas unaffected by it. It was supposed to solve the city’s traffic disaster. Ultimately, it made it easier to get to the airport, but the rest of it? It’s still a permanent jam that will never go away. Was it worth it?

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in history. To absolutely no one’s surprise, it was plagued by cost overruns, scheduling disasters, water leakage, collapses of ceilings and other parts of roads and tunnels, impressive design flaws, blatantly poor workmanship, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, substandard materials, criminal arrests for a some of the aforementioned offenses (but not nearly enough), and four deaths.

The project was supposed to be finished by 1998 and cost $2.8 billion. I am sure no one in Boston expected it to cost that or be finished on schedule — and we were right. It took an additional nine years and was finally finished in December 2007  It cost more than $14.6 billion. The Boston Globe estimates when all is said and done, including interest and fines, lawsuits and so on, the project will total more than $22 billion and won’t be paid off until sometime in 2038. Or later.

The Big Dig drove us out of Boston. One day, I had to go grocery shopping. The supermarket was a mile away. It took me two hours to get there and another hour and a half to get home.

“Garry,” I said that evening, “Let’s get out of here!”

We did.

We fled Boston. Traffic had taken over our lives. We couldn’t go to a restaurant or a movie. We couldn’t shop, park, or get to or from work. People trying to visit us couldn’t find our condo because the exit to our neighborhood kept moving and was often closed. Out-of-towners roamed helplessly through Dorchester, looking in vain for a street sign or marker to give them a clue where to go. Maps and GPS were useless.

Sometimes we couldn’t find our way home. It was unnerving.

THE COST

I must have spent years of my life in traffic. By the time we slouched home, exhausted and beaten, we were wrecks.

Is there a solution to this? Not that I know of.

You don’t find good jobs in small towns or the country. We underestimate how seriously the wear and tear of commuting affects us. It wears us down physically. It tightens our backs and necks. When it take hours to get to work, you are already tired when you get there. Maybe it’s easier by train, but we haven’t lived anywhere with direct train — or even bus — service to where we worked, so we had to drive.

If not for the commuting, I might have survived longer in the work place, but it was hopeless. One day, something snapped. After that, no amount of pushing was going to keep me going. I was done. There were other reasons too … but if I hadn’t had that two to three-hour twice-a-day commute? I might have found a way to hang on. Traffic has a lot more to do with our survival than we think.

Work is easy. Commuting is a killer.

FLYING THE BLOODY SKIES – HAROLD MEYERSON, THE AMERICAN PROSPECT

Soon, no one will fly unless they have no choice. The financial “bonanza” airlines have seen will diminish. Vacations involving flights will sink to the bottom of the pile — and are already doing so. 

We know many people who won’t fly. We are two of them. Between TSA and the airlines, it’s horrible, more like torture than vacation. Every day, more people say “NO PLANES. NO THANKS.” When the numbers start piling up, watch how quickly the airlines will shift position. 

You can’t continuously mistreat the majority of your customers without a payback. It always comes. Sooner or later. 


Dr. Dao received exceptional treatment, but passenger abuse is built into the airlines’ business model.


 By Harold Meyerson / The American Prospect  –  April 12, 2017

Dr. Dao received exceptional treatment, but passenger abuse is built into the airlines’ business model. While the videos of security cops dragging a bloodied physician down the aisle of a United Airlines plane clearly shocked the millions of people who viewed them, my guess is that, at some level, it didn’t surprise them. Indeed, the reason the videos were so damaging to United—and at some level, to the entire airline industry—is that everyone who’s flown in coach during the past several decades knows that the welfare of airline passengers, save for those who fly first- or business-class, is the least of the airlines’ concerns.

Photo Credit: PhotonCatcher / Shutterstock

The systemic abuse of those who fly coach has become the sine qua non of the airlines’ business model, as the incessant shrinkage of the seats and legroom afforded passengers clearly attests. “The roomiest economy seats you can book on the nation’s four largest airlines,” according to Consumer Reports’ Bill McGee, “are narrower than the tightest economy seats offered in the 1990s.” Maverick airlines that try to market themselves as more customer-friendly have been compelled to revert to the industry’s dismal norm.

JetBlue did indeed offer coach passengers more space, partly because many of its planes didn’t devote space to a first-class cabin. When Wall Street analysts condemned company management for being “overly brand-conscious and customer-focused,” however, the airline deposed those executives and in came a new team, eager to install first-class accommodations up front even if it meant squeezing the saps in coach.

The rest of the story on Alternet: Flying the Bloody Skies @alternet

DYING IN TRAFFIC

When I lived in Boston, traffic was basic. It was as much “life” as getting up to go to work. I had audiobooks in the car to keep my brain engaged. Traffic was fundamental. You couldn’t go anywhere without adding that extra hour — in case traffic was bad. Traffic was usually bad, but sometimes, it was worse. These days, I don’t need to think about traffic because we don’t have it. We don’t commute. If we need to drive, we schedule it for when there is likely to be little or no traffic. Locally, a traffic jam is a tractor with two cars waiting at an intersection. Or road repairs.

Until we moved here, traffic was a major issue. It controlled our days. Road work in Boston could make it impossible to get from one side of the city to another. Gridlock before and during holidays could effectively close the city. I once tried to pick Garry up from work. It was less than a mile from home. Normally, he walked, but he had things to carry and so he asked me to come get him.

I left the parking lot, drove a block, and had to stop. Nothing was moving. An hour later, I was in the same place. I finally made a u-turn and went home to the apartment. It was before cell phones, so I had to call the guard at the front desk at Channel 7 and ask him to go outside and tell Garry I couldn’t get there. The next day it was in the papers and TV. The entire city had been gridlocked, the Friday before Christmas.

Less than a year later, we moved from to Roxbury, about 4 miles outside downtown Boston. There were trees. Empty lots. Almost the suburbs. You could park — for free — on the street, as long as you remembered alternate side of the street parking.

Then came the Big Dig.

The Central Artery-Tunnel Project, called The Big Dig, was a monstrous project involving rerouting and redesigning virtually every road in, out, around, and through Boston. If you lived in the city, there were no areas unaffected by it. It was supposed to solve the city’s traffic disaster. Ultimately, it made it easier to get to the airport, but the rest of it? It’s still a permanent jam that will never go away. Was it worth it?

The Big Dig was the most expensive highway project in history. To absolutely no one’s surprise, it was plagued by cost overruns, scheduling disasters, water leakage, collapses of ceilings and other parts of roads and tunnels, impressive design flaws, blatantly poor workmanship, nepotism, corruption, payoffs, substandard materials, criminal arrests for a some of the aforementioned offenses (but not nearly enough), and four deaths.

The project was supposed to be finished by 1998 and cost $2.8 billion. I am sure no one in Boston expected it to cost that or be finished on schedule — and we were right. It took an additional nine years and was finally finished in December 2007  It cost more than $14.6 billion. The Boston Globe estimates when all is said and done, including interest and fines, lawsuits and so on, the project will total more than $22 billion and won’t be paid off until sometime in 2038. Or later.

The Big Dig drove us out of Boston. One day, I had to go grocery shopping. The supermarket was a mile away. It took me two hours to get there and another hour and a half to get home.

“Garry,” I said that evening, “Let’s get out of here!”

We did.

We fled Boston. Traffic had taken over our lives. We couldn’t go to a restaurant or a movie. We couldn’t shop, park, or get to or from work. People trying to visit us couldn’t find our condo because the exit to our neighborhood kept moving and was often closed. Out-of-towners roamed helplessly through Dorchester, looking in vain for a street sign or marker to give them a clue where to go. Maps and GPS were useless.

Sometimes we couldn’t find our way home. It was unnerving.


I must have spent years of my life in traffic. By the time we slouched home, exhausted and beaten, we were wrecks.

Is there a solution to this? Not that I know of.. You don’t find good jobs in small towns or the country. We underestimate how seriously the wear and tear of commuting affects us. It wears us down physically. It tightens our backs and necks. When it take hours to get to work, you are already tired when you get there. Maybe its easier by train, but we haven’t lived anywhere with direct train — or even bus — service to anywhere we worked, so we had to drive.

If not for the commuting, I might have survived longer in the work place, but it was hopeless. One day, something snapped. After that, no amount of pushing was going to keep me going. I was done. There were other reasons too … but if I hadn’t had that two to three-hour twice-a-day commute? I might have found a way to hang on. Traffic has a lot more to do with our survival than we think.

Work is easy. Commuting is a killer.

COUNTRY VERSUS CITY LIFE – ELLIN CURLEY

I lived in an apartment in Manhattan for over 40 years. I’ve lived in the woods in Connecticut now for over 25 years. I think I’m something of an expert on both life styles. It’s a common misconception that getting around is easier in a city than in the country or suburbs. I disagree. Having lived with both transportation options, I’ll take my car and the country any time.

In the city there are often many things that are within walking distance. A small supermarket, a pharmacy, a dry cleaners, some restaurants and stores, etc. For those destinations, it couldn’t be more convenient (unless you count having to be outside in inclement weather as more than mildly inconvenient). But you can’t live your entire life within a ten block radius of your apartment or house. You always need to go downtown or outside your residential area. That’s where you get into trouble.

You have to walk to bus stops or subway stops, in all kinds of weather. Then wait for the next bus or train, when it decides to come for you. Delays are inevitable. After you get off the bus or train, you’ll have to walk some more to get to your final destination. Add kids, strollers — and the logistics become mind-boggling. Remember, you have to do it again going back.

You could grab a taxi. On television, snap your fingers and there’s a cab. In real life, you have to find one. And then sit in traffic. There’s always traffic in New York. The taxi may be easier but it can actually be slower. It’s also less predictable and definitely more expensive.

You can never be sure, in a city like New York, how long it will take you to get somewhere. You’re constantly at the mercy of traffic, trains, buses, — all factors outside your control. My ex and I would have endless discussions about the best way to get to the theater or to a downtown restaurant on time. Going anywhere in the city was stressful. I dreaded having to take my kids anywhere. I dreaded going out when it was very hot, very cold, or very wet. Weather is a big thing for me. I was ALWAYS rushing and always worried I’d be late.

In the country or suburbs, you get in your car and go! Mine is in my garage so I don’t even have to go outside. You always know how long it will take to get where you’re going. If you don’t, you can always look it up on Map Quest. There’s rarely traffic and normally plenty of parking everywhere. You don’t have to battle the elements for more than a few yards. You may technically be farther away from the necessities of life, but from where I live — in the middle of nowhere — I can get to anything I might need or want. Movies, dinner, theater, 15-20 minutes door-to-door. You can’t go anywhere on public transportation in a city in less time than that!

When I drive, I’m in control of my schedule. I’m traveling in style and comfort. I’m in my car, listening to my Broadway Channel on Sirius Radio and singing along at the top of my lungs. I’m looking out the window at trees and grass and maybe a reservoir. The view makes me happy no matter the season. Snow is beautiful if you don’t have to shovel it. There’s nothing like watching the leaves come out on the trees in spring, or seeing them turn red, orange and yellow in the fall. Or watching my dogs running around and playing at any time of year.

For me it’s a no-brainer. Me in my car, singing and watching the beautiful scenery? That’s the winner. No stress, no worries, no environmental issues. I’ll take that scenario over a crowded subway any day. Even if it means I can’t walk to the local market, restaurant, or store. I can walk down my tree-lined road to commune with nature or get some exercise.

I always thought I was a city girl at heart. I grew up as an ethnocentric, arrogant New Yorker. Now, I’ve seen the light – and the trees. Especially the trees!

WHICH WAY DOWNTOWN – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – August 24, 2016


Marilyn reminded me that Cee is on vacation, but the eye of the camera never sleeps. Well, maybe it does sleep. Yet — I seem to have quite a few new ones and they fit this challenge.

72-Path-Dog-Canal-GA-082216_51

72-Bridge-Signs-Mumford-GA-082516_123

72-Then-&-Now-Mumford-GA-082516_096

In the third photo of our town’s mosaic wall, I was aiming for the juxtaposition of transportation “then and now.” I’m not sure it worked out quite the way I planned, but I still like it.

72-Mumford-GA-082516_002

72-Downtown-Mumford-GA-082516_063

Cee which way photo challenge

TIS THE SEASON TO DO ROAD WORK

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – August 17, 2016


All the roads are under construction. This is not an exaggeration. This is literally true. The only places not under construction are scheduled for construction shortly, or they are taking a break before the next phase begins. This is not only true here in the valley. It is true pretty much everywhere in North America where you get a real winter … from the east to the west coast and north into Canada.

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Someone in the grocery store commented that the places not under construction have really terrible roads. Because winter destroys roads.

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The ice, snow, plows. The deep frozen cold and the thaws in succession. The bridges crumble, paved surface heave in the frost. So. From whenever the ground emerges from the cover of snow until the first new snowfall, it’s construction season.

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There are no other seasons. Just these two: winter and road work.

Cee which way photo challenge

BY TRAIN THROUGH THE VALLEY — PHOTOS BY OWEN KRAUS

Once upon a time, trains were the way to go. Last week, my son — a longtime railroad enthusiast — was offered a rare opportunity, to travel through the Blackstone Valley by train. There are no longer any passenger trains here and even the freight trains come through perhaps once a week.

You can hear the long whistle as they approach the town. The train station is no longer a stop of the rail line. It has been saved from destruction, originally turned into a bank and now a real estate office and it is beautiful, but the train doesn’t stop there or anywhere in this part of the Valley.


Read the rest of the story: By Train Through the Valley… Photos by Owen Kraus

THIS AND THAT – TRAVEL IN TRYING TIMES

We are going to a wedding this weekend. And staying in a nice hotel in Boston overnight so we can enjoy the wedding without worrying about the long, dark drive home. A few days ago, I got a bunch of emails from the hotel’s parent chain. I assumed that amidst all this communication there would be a reservation confirmation. I already gave them a credit card, so there was no reason for problems.

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Except it wasn’t. When I opened the email, it was not a confirmation. Instead, I’d been sent a login screen for their “club.” You know how it works, right? Your airline, your hotel, your rental car are all part of large corporation. They hope your single night reservation will evolve into a steady customer relationship. Not likely, in our case, but I understand that it’s their job to generate business.

The problem was that this login screen required a username and password. I had neither. The email also lacked the hotel’s address, phone number, directions, and information about parking. All of that information must have been accessible inside the application which I couldn’t access. All they gave me was a corporate phone number. No address. No reservation number. No confirmation number. Oy.

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I called the corporate office. They couldn’t help me. Couldn’t transfer my call to the hotel, but they gave me the hotel’s phone number. So I called. After being put on hold for a ten or so long minutes, a man got on the phone. I explained the problem and he said, “Sorry, I’ll send you a confirmation now.”

Which turned out to be 5 or 6 web pages. In full color with animated advertisements.

My printer has never in its life refused a direct order, but in the face of this massive overload of data, it totally would not load. It tried. Gamely kept trying. Locked up my computer and absolutely would not print.

I called back. “Can’t you just send me a plain text confirmation? And please, this time, include the address, phone number, and any other information I should have at check in?”

So he sent me another email. Without an address. Or email. Or telephone number.

I called again. “Uh … an address … and the check-in, check-out times … and your phone number … would be really helpful.” I paused, pondered. “What’s the parking situation and are you walking distance from the Sheraton?”

Turns out parking costs $40 and is several blocks away. In a lot not adjacent to the hotel. The Sheraton is on the other side of Boston, so we’ll definitely need a taxi. I was getting a headache. Why was this so complicated?

“I’m disabled,” I said. I really hate having to explain, but if we have to haul our stuff blocks from car to hotel, there’s no point in staying overnight. Good bye convenience, hello expensive inconvenience.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, we have disabled parking at the hotel. You could park there. There would be a lot less walking.”

“Can you promise me there will be a space in the disabled parking area?” I’ve had problems with this before, where they have maybe two disabled spots and they’re taken … leaving me totally screwed.

“Oh,” he assured me. “There’ll be space.” And I’m wondering how come he’s sure because I’m anything but.

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Eventually, I copied and pasted the plain text email into a document, manually typed the address and phone number. Then printed it.

Supposedly, they’ll save a handicapped space for us. Orange cone in the space. I’m counting on it. All of this adds up to why the joy has fled from traveling. A night in a good hotel should be fun. Easy. Why make it so complicated?

I’m old enough to remember when travel was something to which we looked forward with happy anticipation. I called a hotel, made a reservation, then off we went. Yes, those were the good old days.

A final note of transcendental techno-weirdness: While I was writing this, I Googled the hotel. My reservation came up online with a note that only I could see it. Why didn’t I think of that? How did it get into the Google cloud when I couldn’t get it into my own computer?

ON THE ROAD IN BLACK & WHITE

CEE’S BLACK & WHITE PHOTO CHALLENGE: ROADS (ANY KIND)


How timely! We had to go into Boston today so I could pick up a piece of paper I needed from my doctor’s office. We were lucky. Traffic was moving, except for a short stretch of the inevitable road construction.

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They say there are only three seasons in New England: Autumn, Winter, and Road Construction. To be fair, Road Construction can overlap with Autumn and Winter. It’s just that it totally consumes what ought to be Spring and Summer.

We have re-entered the construction season. Garry thinks we never entirely left it because they worked on the roads through the whole winter this year.

The better news is they are finally rebuilding the bridge to our favorite park. It had become so rickety, driving over it was an adventure. Not in a good way. Our little park will be inaccessible for months. You can’t get anywhere near it, right now. Hopefully the construction won’t last for years.

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And, the day being beautiful, I brought my camera. I took pictures of the road, something I do only occasionally. I told Garry “You never know when you’ll need a few pictures of the road … ” Voila!

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