Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Ferry Ride On The Plover in Blaine's Drayton Harbor

Today we treated a couple of our grandkids and their mother to a trip across Drayton Harbor on the oldest passenger ferry in Washington State, the Plover.

The vessel was built in 1944 and shuttled workers between Blaine and the Alaska Packers Association (APA) salmon cannery, at one point in the late 19th century the largest salmon cannery in the world. There's little left of the cannery but the Drayton Harbor Maritime Society has established a museum and restored the Plover, which now carries passengers hourly on summer Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

A genuine wooden boat, it's only 32 feet long and less than 10 ft wide, but weighs over 11 tons. It's listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Best of all, as you cruise across Drayton Harbor, 23 minutes from Semiahmoo to Blaine and 11 minutes on the return trip, you know you're on a genuine working boat.

It was the first real boat ride for Riley and Blane and they enjoyed every minute of it.

As we traveled from Semiahmoo Spit over to the marina at Blaine Harbor we got a good look at a lot of loafing seals, as well as some seal pups.

We also sailed by a colony of cormorants standing guard over their elaborate nests.

One of the highlights for Riley was being invited to steer the boat, after which the captain presented her with an Honorary Captain certificate, not bad for one's very first boat ride.

After landing at Blaine, we walked up to our friendly Chada Thai Restaurant, enjoying a great lunch before walking back to the marina and catching the ferry back to Semiahmoo Spit and our car. Between the sea air and the fistfuls of rice he'd eaten at lunch, Blane was by now ready for a power nap. Yes, it's Blane in Blaine.

Almost before we knew it, we steamed by the landmark water tower, a relic of the cannery that looms over Semiahmoo Resort.

This was Kathy's and Brian's first cruise on the Plover as well and we can hardly wait to treat our other grandchildren to this great little ferry ride.

United Vacations: The Case Of The Missing Bonus Miles

We prove yet again that earning points can be serious business and hard work.

Way back in March we made two quick flying trips to Canada on a United Vacations promotion. As discussed in this Flyer Talk thread, the Go Canada package featured cheap prices for flight and hotel, and 5000 bonus miles added to the miles actually earned for the flights.

Off we went, first to Quebec City for a terrific four nights and then to Edmonton for a quicker trip.

We continued to monitor Flyer Talk thread as reports surfaced of problems with the bonus miles. By mid-July, with no sight of those bonus miles added to our UA Mileage Plus accounts, it was our turn to join the fray.

Sure enough, when Brian called United Vacations the rep's response was that she saw no proof that bonus miles were ever part of this package. When Brian pointed out that the Go Canada promotion, complete with promise of bonus miles, was still linked to our reservation, the rep replied that she couldn't see that on her screen so we'd have to send proof in writing.

Brian e-mailed July 19. Lo and behold, a "mere" ten days later the same rep. calls back to tell us the miles have now been added and we should see them in our account in "six to eight weeks." She added that our Mileage Plus account number hadn't been included originally in the reservation. That's a little hard to swallow, especially since the actual miles we flew on these trips had been promptly added to our accounts. and it turns out that at least one other Flyer Talker reported the same
lame excuse.

We're left with the suspicion that United Vacations wasn't all that excited to cough up the bonus miles, and simply hoped that flyers like us would never notice. They don't know us, do they? We're nothing if not focused on earning miles, and we've already marked it on our calendar to make sure we each have a total of 10,000 bonus miles added to our accounts by the end of September.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cornered! Four Corners Monument Temporarily Closed To Tourists

We noticed this article in the New York Times, and spared a thought for the tourists who'd driven hundreds of miles out of their way for the opportunity to stand on the only spot in the U.S.A. where four states intersect, only to find the monument fenced off and out of sight.

Since Southwest Colorado is Kathy's old neighborhood, we've crisscrossed the area over the years, but only made it into the monument once, a rather bleak spot with one or two stands run by the Navajos.

It's a geographical (or is that geo-political) oddity of sorts, but we'd be among the first to console the frustrated tourists with our opinion that they didn't really miss all that much.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Southwest Airlines Will Now Blame God for Mechanical Problems? Updated With Southwest's Clarification

The Travel Insider is all over this one...

Southwest's list of Force Majeure 'act of God' events currently includes weather, war, and various other things. And now Southwest has included 'mechanical difficulties' to this list of 'get out of jail free' excuses that it can trot out anytime it might wish.

Mechanical difficulties are an act of God? Excuse me, but that is absolutely not the case at all, and it is an insult to God to suggest that acts and omissions of humans in Southwest's maintenance department should be attributed to God.

Read it all here.


All of the media coverage got results. The Southwest representative on Flyer Talk claims in this post on the relevant FT thread that that was all just a big misunderstanding and notes that WN has now, ah, clarified their Contract of Carriage as follows:

...mechanical difficulties by entities other than Carrier...

Good idea.

Julien Reid? Our Favorite Airline Misplaced This Nine-Year-Old Boy

He eventually made it home and United is going to refund the "unaccompanied minor" fee and "reach out" with a goodwill gesture. Good idea!

Boy, 9, spends day in airport limbo

And, judgmental commenters at the bottom of the article to the contrary, we see quite a few unaccompanied minors on flights, and it seems to be a very civilized alternative enabling them to make otherwise impractical visits to separated parents or even to loving grandparents.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

July's Birthday Girl And Birthday Boy

Riley belatedly celebrates her third birthday in Birch Bay at a family party with her little brother and five cousins. One good look around the table and then at Barney The Dinosaur before blowing out the candles...

Jake, the oldest at eight, isn't too hold to enjoy a party hat...

And Blane, the youngest at seven months, isn't too young...

Then it's fast forward to the very next July weekend and a surprise birthday party for Brian. After everybody emerges to Brian's amazement from behind the restroom (!) as Kathy and he walk by Sand Dollar Park in Birch Bay Village, we enjoy a beautiful picnic lunch and a couple of hours on the beach.

A sophisticated tone prevails later on back at our house as appetizers and glasses of bubbly are served, followed by a stupendous meal co-ordinated and prepared by our three children...

Sadly it's possible to over-indulge but Blane's daddy John cuts him off in the nick of time...

And now it's Brian's turn to blow out the candles...

Grandpa Brian (also known as Gappy and Dapa) can think of no better way to celebrate that grisly 65th birthday Saturday evening than surrounded by his grandchildren...

And Grandma Kathy (also known as Gammy and Nama) can think of nothing more enjoyable early Sunday morning than cuddling her three youngest granddaughters.

Happy Birthday To Us!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

WN (Southwest) Passenger Removed For Obesity: No, Not What You Think

Are we fatheaded for believing this story contains traces of irony?

Southwest Airlines made headlines earlier this year for kicking overweight actor-director Kevin Smith off a flight because he took up more than one seat.

Now we're hearing the airline recently removed a 5-foot-4, 110-pound Sacramento-area woman from a plane so a hefty passenger could have an extra seat.

Bob Shallit: Petite passenger booted from Southwest flight

Friday, July 23, 2010

On Joe Sugarman's Bad Air Day: What She Said She Thought He'd Said

The not-so-sweet Sugarman saga continues:

I will take a lie detector test. The LEO factor

If you’ve been following this bazaar [sic] tale when United Airlines kicked me off a flight because a flight attendant thought I was a security threat. (see the previous blog for details).

United Airlines contacted me and shed more light on the situation. In their investigation of the incident, they learned that the flight attendant thought I said, “Is there a LEO on board.” LEO is an abbreviation for Law Enforcement Officer. “I actually said, will you be serving a meal on board.” I asked all my friends and family if they knew what a LEO was and the only thing they would come up with is that it is an astrological sign.

Although “meal” and LEO could be mixed up, she further said that she then asked me to clarify my request. She did not. That was an absolute lie. And I’m willing to take a lie detector test to prove that she made her statement about security and then walked away. There was no clarification, no questions—nothing. I had also never heard the term LEO before in my life.

Indeed. How many people other than those, for example, who read the Travel Safety/Security Forum in Flyer Talk, actually are aware of that L.E.O. abbreviation?

While one of Brian's favorite sayings is "Even paranoids have real enemies," this sad incident is shaping up as one more example of paranoia in the name of security. Anybody else remember the plane diverted when somebody noticed "BOB" scrawled on an airsickness bag and deduced it might stand for "Bomb On Board?"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Excellent Resource: The Travel Insider

We just noticed that the Travel Insider Blog discussed the same incident we recently referenced, in which a United 1K alleges he was removed from the plane for "security reasons" after asking if a meal would be served. You can read the Travel Insider's take here.

Beyond the fact that great minds think alike, we've subscribed voluntarily to David Rowell's useful and entertaining newsletter for several years. He covers a wide range of topics from the aforementioned security nightmares to noise-reducing headphones and airline news.

While we haven't met this irrepressible Kiwi transplant to the Northwest in person, we've corresponded on a couple of topics and - bonus - he even had a kind word for our modest little blog the last time we were in touch.

Anybody interested in travel - active or armchair - could do a lot worse than to sign up for his free e-mailed columns.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Don't Ask The Flight Attendant If Breakfast Is Being Served

Another United 1K who obviously flies a lot claims here in his blog that he asked the flight attendant on his early-morning flight whether a meal was being served.

She allegedly thought he asked if there were police on board and he was removed from the flight by two police officers.

He was told, despite his protests, that it was his word against the flight attendant's. Still, he was allowed to board the next United flight. We're guessing he didn't ask about anything.

Most of our writing here tend toward the happy, upbeat, and optimistic, but every once in awhile we have slip in something as annoying as this appears to be.

The worst part is that, whether the complaint is accurate or even true, it completely plausible to those of who fly a lot.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mount Rainier Sunset

A view across the aisle and out the window from Alaska Airlines Flight 471 July 13...

What A Goofy Bunch Of Characters

We enjoyed Chef Goofy's buffet lunch,but still don't understand why one dog, Goofy, keeps another dog, Pluto, for a pet, especially since Pluto seems to be the more intelligent of the two. Just curious...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Seattle Layover: A Rare Experience For Us

When you fly Alaska Airlines from Los Angeles to Seattle on the first leg, and Seattle to Bellingham on the second leg, and when your first flight lands nearly a half hour early (not that we're complaining), there's enough time for the grandkids either to nap or to watch a teeny-tiny movie on the iPod.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Doubletree Guest Suites Anaheim Resort

This Doubletree been a great stay for us and our grandkids.

Since we're Hilton Diamonds (at least Kathy is), we like to think we know something about hotels and this one has proven to be absolutely first-rate. The employees are without exception friendly and helpful, our suite itself has been clean, comfortable, and spacious, and the breakfast buffet is terrific. The pool and hot tub provided a pleasant oasis for us to cool off after a hot morning of traversing Disneyland.

The restaurant is a pleasant surprise, and we've eaten here most nights. The food is first-rate and reasonably priced, tired grandparents can order a glass of beer or wine with their meals, and kids eat free. We had the same server, Joel, every evening but one, and he is not only good at his job but great with younger people. The folks at the excellent morning buffet have been equally hospitable.

The only drawback (and it's not the hotel's fault) is that the shuttle service used by most of the hotels here is not as dependable as it could be. Rumor has it that the hotel is thinking about setting up its own shuttle service to and from Disneyland. A shuttle that ran dependably every hour on the hour would be a huge improvement over the current situation and make this excellent hotel a "perfect 10" for a Disneyland stay.

Cooling Off On A Hot Day At Disneyland

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Big Chill

It's interesting to be reminded during our visit to Southern California the extent to which people who live in places with perfect weather complain and downright whine if it's anything less that that. A few clouds in the sky can set off a veritable barrage of whinging, so imagine the topic of conversation when they're actually in the middle of a record cold spell, i.e. this piece in the L.A. Times, plaintively titled What Summer?

Unusually cold temperatures in Southern California continued, with Los Angeles International Airport setting a record low on Friday.

LAX got to only 67 degrees, breaking a record set in 1926, according to the National Weather Service.

Temperatures are expected to stay fairly cool Saturday, with highs around 70 on the coast and in the 80s inland. Conditions will be a bit warmer on Sunday, according to the weather service.

July has turned out to be cooler than normal.

Instead of daytime highs approaching the mid-80s, downtown L.A. has experienced temperatures in the mid- to high 70s. From June 1 to July 5, daytime and nighttime temperatures have averaged a relatively cool 69.8 degrees.

That makes that stretch one of the cooler ones for that time of the year in the last 10 years, just slightly warmer than the same period in 2004 (69.4 degrees) and 2002 (68.9 degrees). The cooler ocean air early in the day has a moderating effect on daily temperature conditions. And low-lying clouds have been tempering the sun's heat.

In the meantime, we're enjoying the relief from our recent Northwest heat wave. It's all a matter of perspective.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Great Location

We've found a fine hotel in a great location to stay for several nights with Jake, age 8 and Taegan, age 6.

Why is it such a great location?

Yup, that Anaheim California...

Last night we ate dinner back at the hotel after one too many rides for Jake in particular on our first afternoon and evening. A ride around the park on the Disneyland Railroad provided a great introduction, the Matterhorn was thrilling, but all that pitching around on Star Tours was one too many and the hotel restaurant was happy to cook Jake some scrambled eggs and rye toast. This morning we'll start a little more slowly.

Jake at least won't be disappointed to learn that he'll never ride Star Tours again, since it's permanently closing later this month.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Weekends and Weather: Who Cares?

Specifically, if you're retired you don't ordinarily worry about the weekend weather too much. We made it through an overcast weekend from Canada Day July 1 to Independence Day July 4 with only a few of the tiniest sprinkles of rain.

Some grandkids and we watched a parade in Blaine, viewed the fireworks all around Birch Bay, and even exploded some of our own small-scale pyrotechnics in the back yard. Suddenly it's Tuesday and warm weather has arrived in the Northwest, supposedly topping out in the high 80s later this week.

Time to get out and enjoy the rest of our five-day weekend, known to some as Monday-Friday.