Friday, December 31, 2010

IAD: An Oasis Of Calm... No, Really!

We're enjoying some quiet relaxation time in the IAD RCC adjacent to D6 before our flight to MIA out of D6. What, ask the experienced flyers?

As on previous occasional weekend layovers and now on New Year's Eve, we stroll through the spacious terminal, enter this RCC,and take our choice of seats.

If only it were like this the rest of the time...

Our First Full Patdown - Happy New Year

As we went through TSA security at SEA this morning Kathy put out the thermos cups that we're taking along our cruise, knowing there's a "thermos alert" of some sort or other.

Apparently standard operating procedure is to test both the cups and the owner's hands. While the cups tested negative, Kathy's hands tested positive. It must be the Doubletree soap.

That results in a full enhanced patdown. When two female screeners finally appeared for the search (one to search and one to watch) they suggested it be done in a private room. We said no thank you, as we'd advise anybody else, and she was patted and rubbed right out in full view.

It wasn't as bad as the worst we've read about, but still not the greatest way to start a long day at 5:30 a.m.

In any event, we're sitting in the RCC waiting to board in a few minutes, we have seats in F on our flight to IAD, and things look good for Tom and family heading through DEN so we'll remain positive - and not just our hands.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best-Laid Plans Department

Rather than driving toward Seattle, we're still at home doing what we can at this end to help Tom, Ellyn, and Haley, who looked to be marooned at the Durango Colorado Airport when UA suddenly canceled a couple of flights.

As of a few minutes ago, they've managed to rebook on a flight out of Albuquerque tomorrow morning. This will involve a one-way car rental, and a 3 1/2-hour drive on a snowy day.

Still, that's better than the alternative, which is no flight at all.

It's probably lucky they tried to start their trip one day early, but it's all a gamble at this point.

It'll be great when we see them all in Miami!

Cruising Into 2011

It's a beautifully sunny morning in Birch Bay as we ready ourselves to drive down for an overnight stay in SEA.

We'll spend New Year's Eve - starting around 7:00 a.m. tomorrow - flying to IAD and onward to MIA. We hope to meet up with Kathy's brother Tom and family New Year's Day if they manage to fly out of the Colorado snow that caused them to delay their flight by one day.

We board the Eurodam , one of Holland America's larger ships, January 2 for a six-night cruise around the Caribbean.

We're only stopping at three ports, HAL's "private island," Half Moon Cay, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, and Georgetown, Cayman Islands before returning to Fort Lauderdale. Tom, our personal restaurant consultant, is in charge of selecting Florida eateries before and after our cruise, and we'll be counting on his suggestions as we try two of the specialty restaurants, The Pinnacle Grill and Tamarind aboard the Eurodam.

Our first New Year's resolution clearly must be to hit the treadmills daily in the Fitness Center to try to burn off a few of those calories.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Passenger Rights And Canceled Flights

That old law of unintended consequences seems to be kicking in as flights are being canceled pro-actively, i.e. in advance of December storms that sometimes don't even materialize.

We're among those who've been horrified at the thought of being stuck in a plane on the tarmac for hours at a time awaiting clearance for takeoff. The toilets are overflowing, the children are crying, and the adults are rebellious.

Presto, after publicity regarding some particularly outrageous incidents, Congress passed a so-called "Passenger Bill of Rights" law. Fast forward to December 2010 and chaos ensues, including some fairly wholesale flight cancellations, affecting several of those near and dear to us.

A professor at the University of Michigan has written a sensible OpEd in today's New York Times that starts off like this:

The recent East Coast blizzard put the “passenger bill of rights” and its three-hour tarmac delay rule to its first real test. It should come as no surprise that airlines were more aggressive in canceling flights during this storm because of that Department of Transportation rule. The fines are simply too high (up to $27,500 per passenger), and there is simply too much ambiguity about when the D.O.T. will and won’t levy fines, for the airlines to take a chance in such unstable and unpredictable conditions as the recent storm.

What is less clear is how this has affected passengers. Consider the following choice: A: Having your flight canceled 24 hours in advance of your planned departure, or B: Having your flight board as scheduled, with a 50 percent chance of departing after several hours of delay sitting on the tarmac and a 50 percent chance of sitting on the tarmac for several hours and then canceling. Which option would you choose? Perfectly reasonable people might differ in their decisions.

You can read it all here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sometimes Happiness Can Be A Seat In The Last Row

We were pleased and relieved to learn a few minutes ago that Kathy's niece Gina was rerouted this morning after a one-day delay and will be flying from ABQ (Albuquerque) to PVD (Providence RI) today, through Atlanta rather than through Boston. We could have provided a couple of other options, but nothing that could deliver her to PVD before tomorrow.

Like son David, who endured sixteen hours in the last row flying from BOM (Mumbai) to EWR (Newark NJ) last week, she's in the back of the bus but at least she'll be able to go back to work tomorrow.

She's a lot better off than some passengers as airlines and airports continue over the next few days to unravel the weather mess.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Top Gear: The Great Airport Vehicle Race

For a change of pace, here is sheer madness from Top Gear, the British TV show, featuring a race at LHR among the airplane-steps truck, the luggage truck, the fuel-tank truck, the articulated passenger bus, the fire engine, the catering truck, and the aircraft tug.

It's neither NASCAR nor the Indy 500 but, driven by racing professionals, it's both an exciting and destructive display.

Gentlemen, start your engines.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: November and December 2010

Nov. 08, 2010 UA 386 L Class SEA to DEN
* 1,024 flight miles
Nov. 08, 2010 UA 43 L Class DEN to HNL
* 3,365 flight miles
Nov. 12, 2010 UA 72 T Class HNL to SFO
* 2,398 flight miles
Nov. 12, 2010 UA 504 T Class SFO to SEA
* 678 flight miles
Dec. 31, 2010 UA 916 Q Class SEA to IAD
* 2306 flight miles
Dec. 31, 2010 UA 7547 Q Class IAD to MIA
* 921 flight miles

The final two months of 2010 included both home-time and grandkid-time, something we really enjoy. In November we enjoyed an incredibly cheap flight to HNL (Honolulu), where we enjoyed seeing our Australian friends Bill and Sue, seen here relaxing on our balcony at the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.

And here we are, about to enjoy the hotel's spectacular Creation Show.

Another November memory was watching our youngest grandchild (and younger grandson) Blane checking out the baster and scrutinizing the Thanksgiving turkey at Uncle Dave's house.

New Year's Eve will see us winging our way to MIA (Miami) via IAD, en route to a bargain Caribbean cruise with Tom, Ellyn, and niece Haley, plus a college friend of Haley.

Our final flying statistics for 2010 (the actual miles flown) add up to 155,846 on United Airlines and a couple of Star Alliance partners (Austrian and Thai), documented on FlyerTalk here for Fredd. Kathy's UA Visa Credit Card adds some additional miles to her column, and we both flew about another 10,000 miles on HA (Hawaiian), AK (Alaska), and DJ (Virgin Blue Australia).

By Midnight December 31 we'll have flown about 85 segments (flight legs) on UA and partners and another eight on those other airlines, for a total of 93 takeoffs and landings and 165,000 flight miles. That's a lot of ups and downs by most standards.

"Britain mulls new airports law after Heathrow chaos"

We recently provided a link to The Travel Insider, who offered some strong opinions about the closure of LHR during the pre-Christmas snow. This disrupted the travel plans of thousands, along with undoubtedly costing the airlines a lot of money. Our own David was very fortunate to have been in the right place (an airport - BOM) at the right time (five hours before his flight as he'd just flown back on an Indian domestic flight) and thus snag one of the last three seats on an alternative non-stop flight that didn't connect in LHR.

Articles here and here indicate today that the British government is interested in introducing laws allowing regulators to fine airports for travel disruption.

While we're instinctively suspicious of any new laws, rules, or regulations measured against the law of unintended consequences, this is one issue that just might benefit from some governmental oversight.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: October 2010

Oct. 15, 2010 UA 6452 W Class SEA to LAX
* 954 flight miles
Oct. 15, 2010 UA 891 W Class LAX to NRT
* 5,451 flight miles
Oct. 16, 2010 UA 881 W Class NRT to BKK
* 2,887 flight miles
Oct. 20, 2010 TG 215 H Class BKK to HKT
* 428 flight miles
Oct. 24, 2010 TG 202 H Class HKT to BKK
* 428 flight miles
Oct. 24, 2010 TG 110 H Class BKK to CNX
* 351 flight miles
Oct. 29, 2010 TG 103 H Class CNX to BKK
* 351 flight miles
Oct. 31, 2010 UA 882 W Class BKK to NRT
* 2,887 flight miles
Oct. 31, 2010 UA 838 W Class NRT to SFO
* 5,124 flight miles
Oct. 31, 2010 UA 6553 W Class SFO to SEA
* 678 flight miles

One trip only in October but what a trip! We "did" Thailand in the very enjoyable company of Tom and Ellyn, Kathy's brother and sister-in-law.

We ate great food and toured the klongs (canals) of Bangkok, we enjoyed a fabulous Hilton resort in Phuket, and we rode elephants and attended A Lot of Thai Home Cooking Class in Chiang Mai. All that plus another 19539 EQMs (Elite Qualifying Miles)in our UA account.

Airplane Deicing: The How And Why

Did you know that deicing may involve two separate treatments? We didn't until we read what a pilot wrote in this CNN article.


* Snow and ice accumulation on a plane disrupts airflow across the aircraft's surface
* Deicing fluid removes ice and snow; it's made up primarily of a chemical called glycol
* A separate treatment, anti-icing, is used when precipitation is falling to prevent more buildup

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Twelve Months of Travel: September 2010

Sep. 01, 2010 UA 6471 K Class ABQ to LAX
* 677 flight miles
Sep. 01, 2010 UA 6594 K Class LAX to SEA
* 954 flight miles
Sep. 02, 2010 UA 827 S Class SEA to SFO
* 678 flight miles
Sep. 02, 2010 UA 294 S Class SFO to BWI
* 2,457 flight miles
Sep. 04, 2010 UA 445 S Class BWI to DEN
* 1,490 flight miles
Sep. 04, 2010 UA 339 S Class DEN to SEA
* 1,024 flight miles
Sep. 14, 2010 UA 576 W Class SEA to DEN
* 1,024 flight miles
Sep. 14, 2010 UA 902 W Class DEN to IAD
* 1,452 flight miles
Sep. 14, 2010 UA 936 W Class IAD to ZRH
* 4,158 flight miles
Sep. 15, 2010 OS 562 Y Class ZRH to VIE
* 375 flight miles
Sep. 21, 2010 OS 563 Y Class VIE to ZRH
* 375 flight miles
Sep. 24, 2010 UA 937 W Class ZRH to IAD
* 4,158 flight miles
Sep. 24, 2010 UA 917 W Class IAD to SEA
* 2,306 flight miles

We did some fairly serious flying in September, starting with a return trip from Kathy's Durango high school reunion via Albuquerque. We then accumulated some miles by flying to Baltimore on a ridiculously cheap fare for a two-night stay, limiting our sightseeing to a quick walk through the Mall of America, a short shuttle ride from our hotel.

Later in September our destination was Vienna, which we flew to via Zurich on a much cheaper UA IAD-ZRH fare, supplemented by a short hop on OS (Austrian Airlines) from ZRH to VIE.

There we enjoyed ourselves attending a FlyerTalk Do, and meeting old and new FT friends. We took a side trip to Bratislava Slovakia, where we attended a marvelous (and economical) production of one of our favorite operas, Tosca, in the new opera hall.

A fascinating highlight was the behind-the-scenes tour of VIE, including a visit to the OS Flight Attendant Training Center. Whee...

Along with the usual tourist gawking in Vienna, Bratislava, and Zurich, we naturally found time to enjoy some lovely European meals, including a return visit to Vienna's Gulaschmuseum, for lunch.

With school being back in session, typically fine weather, and generally lower prices, September is an excllent month to travel.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: July And August 2010

Aug. 06, 2010 UA 790 T Class YVR to DEN
* 1,114 flight miles
Aug. 06, 2010 UA 726 T Class DEN to MSP
* 680 flight miles
Aug. 07, 2010 UA 519 T Class MSP to SFO
* 1,589 flight miles
Aug. 07, 2010 UA 170 T Class SFO to YVR
* 800 flight miles
Aug. 10, 2010 UA 204 L Class SEA to SFO
* 678 flight miles
Aug. 10, 2010 UA 887 L Class SFO to LAS
* 500 flight miles
Aug. 13, 2010 UA 710 L Class LAS to SFO
* 500 flight miles
Aug. 13, 2010 UA 479 L Class SFO to SEA
* 678 flight miles
Aug. 26, 2010 UA 6934 K Class DEN to ABQ
* 500 flight miles
Aug. 26, 2010 UA 386 K Class SEA to DEN
* 1,024 flight miles

We really made a point of enjoying the summer around our own neighborhood. We flew BLI-SEA-LAX on AK (Alaska) with grandchildren Jake and Taegan for a trip to Disneyland. That's another 2,096 miles of flying. Our other flights consisted of bargain fares to MSP (Minneapolis), LAS (Las Vegas), and ABQ (Albuquerque).

Disneyland was fun...

Later in the summer we enjoyed watching granddaughter Riley as honorary Captain of the historic little ferry that runs across Blaine's Drayton Harbor in the summer.

At the end of the summer, we drove up to Durango from our cheap flight to ABQ and attended Kathy's Durango High School class of 1965 reunion. Now that was a trip down memory lane. Along with renewing acquaintances, a highlight was touring the old high school, now headquarters of the school district bureaucracy.

As to scenes along the way...

From a sunset on our SFO-YVR flight:

to a Mount Rainier sunset flying LAX-SEA on AK:

to driving some of the miles and miles of New Mexico...

we have some great memories of Summer 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

LHR Weather Delays - Who Is To Blame

One of our favorite travel bloggers, David Rowell, The Travel Insider, has written a characteristically feisty column pointing the finger of blame at the owners of London's Heathrow Airport for their role in the collapse of the airport during the recent spate of bad weather.

Since that shutdown affected the travel plans of our own son, David, en route from a business trip to India - although fortunately he was rerouted and home in good time, albeit in the worst of coach seats - we found it intriguing.

This worth-reading article may be found here. A brief excerpt to whet your interest:

...Heathrow is owned by BAA (no relation to BA – BAA a company formerly known as British Airports Authority) which in turn is controlled and largely owned by a Spanish company, Ferrovial.

Let’s first look at whether Heathrow is proving to be profitable or not for BAA/Ferrovial. If Heathrow is losing money terribly, we arguably might accept weaker expectations for the standard of service provided at Heathrow than if it is profitable...

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: June 2010

Jun. 09, 2010 UA 840 W Class MEL to SYD
* 500 flight miles
Jun. 09, 2010 UA 870 W Class SYD to SFO
* 7,417 flight miles
Jun. 09, 2010 UA 6316 W Class SFO to SEA
* 678 flight miles

We spent the first few glorious days of June in Australia before flying back to enjoy some time at home with our grandkids and our yard.

What a treat to watch our second "footy match" at the MCG, the Melbourne Cricket Grounds...

We also enjoyed the beaches of Australia.

We had a lot of fun on a rare rainy Melbourne day attending a food and wine fair in the convention centre next to the hotel with our Australian friends Ross and Jenny.

Our friends Bill and Sue walked with us back to the Hilton on our final full day, which included Bill's insider tour of the RAAF Museum as a former pilot and flight instructor.

And Vikki, the friend of daughter Karen and her fellow Rotary Exchange Student in Strängnäs Sweden a couple of decades ago, changed her schedule twice to drive her four-year-old twins Sam and Jorja in for a visit before taking them to kinder.

Seeing this busy mother and her kids made us even more eager to see our own grandkids again. And a few days later we were back at home attending birthday parties and seeing our own very special grandkids as summer was beginning on our side of the big pond.

AOL Investigation: "No Proof TSA Scanners Are Safe"

Yes, we're on record as doubting it's been established that the new backscatter "Advance Imaging Technology" X-ray scanners are safe.

Who will guarantee the machines will always be operated properly?

Who will guarantee the machines will be maintained properly?

AOL has just published a disturbing analysis that seems to confirm our concerns.

Just for starters...

The problem is that the TSA offers no proof that anyone is checking to see if the machines are "working properly."

The TSA ticks off a litany of groups that it says are involved with determining and ensuring the safety of the controversial devices, including:

* The Food and Drug Administration
* The U.S. Army Public Health Command
* Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory
* The Health Physics Society

However, AOL News has found that those organizations say they have no responsibility for the continuing safety of the alternative to TSA's grope.

The entire unsettling article may be read here.

We'll be looking for factual rebuttals and will be sure to post any we find.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: May 2010

May 06, 2010 UA 386 L Class SEA to DEN
* 1,024 flight miles
May 06, 2010 UA 227 L Class DEN to LAX
* 862 flight miles
May 06, 2010 UA 935 L Class LAX to HNL
* 2,556 flight miles
May 18, 2010 UA 74 L Class HNL to SFO
* 2,398 flight miles
May 18, 2010 UA 62 L Class SFO to SEA
* 678 flight miles
May 25, 2010 UA 140 W Class SEA to SFO
* 678 flight miles
May 25, 2010 UA 863 W Class SFO to SYD
* 7,417 flight miles
May 27, 2010 UA 839 W Class SYD to MEL
* 500 flight miles

The above United record doesn't include our round trip flights on Hawaiian Airlines from HNL (Honolulu) to PPT (Intl Tahiti Faaa, Papeete, PF) for a total of 5480 miles.

Two big trips in May included our stay on the magical island of Moorea in Hilton's over-the-water bungalows, and our trip to Australia for our fourth consecutive attendance on FlyerTalk's Oz Fest Do in ADL (Adelaide).

Six nights of paradise...

The view from near our "front door."

Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Can Airports Be Fun?"

That's the attention-grabbing headline of this design-and-architecture column in the New York Times describing details of the redesigned international terminal at SFO (San Francisco International Airport) that is scheduled to open this spring.

Without getting into all the high-falutin' ideas about using recycled water in the toilets and how it's a "terminal designed in part to spark ideas about how people can live sustainably," we noticed immediately some features we'd like to see in all airports.

There will be convenient "hydration stations" allowing people to refill their plastic water bottles (we carry ours empty through the TSA check point and then refill to save money). Speaking of the TSA, there will be a "recomposure zone" immediately after the check point with ample room and seating for people to put on their shoes, belts, and outer garments.

Those of us with laptops will "enjoy lounge-and counter-seating options with places to re-charge electronics, and will no longer be forced to huddle on the ground near power outlets." Last but not least, those traveling with small children will be pleased to discover "well-considered play areas."

We've seen all of those "innovations" (hydration stations excepted) in various airports around the world. Wouldn't it be great to see them in all airports?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: April 2010

Apr. 02, 2010 UA 352 S Class SEA to ORD
* 1,720 flight miles
Apr. 02, 2010 UA 6223 S Class ORD to YQB
* 880 flight miles
Apr. 06, 2010 UA 5915 S Class YQB to ORD
* 880 flight miles
Apr. 06, 2010 UA 757 S Class ORD to DEN
* 888 flight miles
Apr. 06, 2010 UA 407 L Class DEN to SEA
* 1,024 flight miles
Apr. 07, 2010 UA 875 W Class SEA to NRT
* 4,769 flight miles
Apr. 08, 2010 UA 803 W Class NRT to SIN
* 3,328 flight miles
Apr. 09, 2010 UA 896 W Class SIN to HKG
* 1,603 flight miles
Apr. 15, 2010 UA 862 W Class HKG to SFO
* 6,914 flight miles
Apr. 15, 2010 UA 322 W Class SFO to SEA
* 678 flight miles
Apr. 26, 2010 UA 696 T Class SEA to DEN
* 1,024 flight miles
Apr. 26, 2010 UA 7638 T Class DEN to YEG
* 1,020 flight miles
Apr. 28, 2010 UA 6624 T Class YEG to DEN
* 1,020 flight miles
Apr. 28, 2010 UA 5964 T Class DEN to SEA
* 1,024 flight miles

We didn't do much in April, other than make two trips to Canada on a United Vacations deal that offered a cheap price plus bonus miles, with a trip to Hong Kong via Singapore sandwiched in between, for a total of 26,772 miles flown within that 26-day time period. Whew!

We enjoyed great weather in Quebec City, a wonderful six-night stay on points at the Conrad Hong Kong, and a pleasant, if not too memorable, two-night stay in Edmonton.

Easter Brunch in Quebec City...

We greatly enjoyed our second visit to Hong Kong. Among the many sights, we enjoyed our day trip to Lantau Island, to see the seated Buddha and to watch other tourists snapping photos as well.

We couldn't visit Hong Kong without navigating the world's longest escalator.

Quebec City to Hong Kong to Edmonton. That was some month of travel.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: March 2010

Mar. 07, 2010 AC 95 C Class SCL to EZE
* 694 flight miles
Mar. 08, 2010 UA 846 W Class EZE to IAD
* 5,217 flight miles
Mar. 09, 2010 UA 83 W Class IAD to LAX
* 2,288 flight miles

March was below average for flight miles, but it was nonetheless an interesting travel month.

We were keeping our fingers crossed March 5 that we'd be able to disembark from our cruise at Santiago Chile in the wake of the Chilean earthquake and fly back to Buenos Aires. Oceania Cruise Lines looked after us splendidly. Air Canada, on the other hand, offered some pathetic treatment at the Santiago Airport that resulted in a rare letter of complaint from us. An abject apology and several hundred dollars in future flight credits for us made us feel that somebody at Air Canada at least was listening.

We felt truly fortunate to finish our South American cruise and to return home safely to spend some time with our grandkids.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Hypnotic "Paths Of Flight" Video

We just ran across a fascinating video little video produced by G.E. Aviation that provides an artistic perspective of passenger planes taking off and landing.

The backdrops are two airports, YLW (Kelowna B.C.) and OAK (Oakland International). The special effects create fascinating visual images.

An investment of 1'50" of your time will be rewarded here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: February 2010

Feb. 05, 2010 UA 356 T Class SEA to DEN
* 1,024 flight miles
Feb. 05, 2010 UA 790 T Class DEN to MCO
* 1,545flight miles
Feb. 14, 2010 UA 228 T Class MCO to IAD
* 758 flight miles
Feb. 14, 2010 UA 917 T Class IAD to SEA
* 2,306 flight miles
Feb. 17, 2010 UA 946 W Class LAX to IAD
* 2,288 flight miles
Feb. 17, 2010 UA 847 W Class IAD to EZE
* 5,217 flight miles

February saw us on one cruise during the early part of the month and on our way to another cruise in the middle of the month. The destinations were MCO (Orlando) and EZE (Buenos Aires). Oddly enough, both trips included experiences with significant bad weather.

Our cruise on the Disney Magic with Avery, Peyton, Lily and their parents was a lot of fun. We did end up stuck at the dock of their private island, Castaway Key, for an extra day, which we're convinced in more ways than one was Disney's fault. They fronted in rather than backing in and they were afraid to call everybody back to the ship for an early departure. It ended up costing them a lot of money. The disembarkation the next day was in an old and very small facility that resulted in what was by far the worst of our cruising career. Still, we managed.

After leaving them at MCO, we flew home, with little more than 24 hours on the ground before flying to EZE via IAD.

Once there, through a happy coincidence, the wine shop recommended by one of the Birch Bay Wine Club gurus turned out to be a FlyerTalk acquaintance, Gaucho100K, known also as Alex, the owner of Terroir Casa de Vinos, and purveyor of fine wines.

Here's it's obvious that he's retreated from the torrential downpour that engulfed us all for awhile to pour us another glass of wine.

We met up with Kathy's brother Greg and his wife June, who flew in the night before the cruise, and embarked on our cruise around the Horn on Oceania's Insignia. Bad weather slowed our ship to a crawl and caused us to miss our first port. As we cruised, our thoughts eventually turned to the Chilean earthquake, and and caused us to wonder naturally, if somewhat selfishly in the midst of the tragedy, when and where we would disembark. That, however, is a story for next month.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Twelve Months Of Travel: January 2010

Jan. 12, 2010 UA 821 W Class SEA to SFO
* 678flight miles
Jan. 13, 2010 UA 837 W Class SFO to NRT
* 5,124flight miles
Jan. 14, 2010 UA 875 W Class NRT to SIN
* 3,328flight miles
Jan. 18, 2010 UA 876 W Class SIN to NRT
* 3,328flight miles
Jan. 21, 2010 UA 838 W Class NRT to SFO
* 5,124flight miles
Jan. 21, 2010 UA 322 W Class SFO to SEA
* 678flight miles

Our first flight of 2010 was from Seattle to San Francisco. After an unexpected overnight delay due to foggy weather, flew to Narita Japan, and onward to Singapore, where we enjoyed attending our first Singapore FlyerTalk Do, including a day trip to Malaysia, a return visit to Singapore's Jurong Bird Park, and lots of great food and company. From there we flew back as far as Narita, where we actually entered Japan for the first time after transiting (transferring) there many times.

After a couple of days of sightseeing in Tokyo we flew back home, finishing January with a lot of miles in our account and a lot of good travel memories to start 2010.

Watching the birdies at the Jurong Bird Park Show...

The Conrad Tokyo: Ahhhhh...

2010: The Twelve Months Of Travel

We're not scheduled to fly again until New Year's Eve, so we can relax, get ready for Christmas, and reflect on a good year of travel. Not counting our December 31 flight SEA-IAD-MIA, which will add another 3227 flown miles to our 2010 totals, we flew 152,619 BIS ("butt-in-seat") miles on United Airlines and affiliated Star Alliance carriers. That doesn't count the odd trip on non-Star carriers, most notably the 5480 miles on our Hawaiian Airlines round trip flight between HNL (Honolulu) and PPT (Papeete Tahiti). Our United flights comprised 82 separate legs. A leg refers to to each time you take off, fly, and land. For example, our upcoming SEA-IAD-MIA flight consists of two legs. That's a lot of ups and downs.

It's great to relax around home for awhile, to see our grandkids here and there and even to attend the odd social event such as the upcoming Wine Club Christmas Dinner in Birch Bay Village, but we're already looking forward to some serious travel in 2011.

In between checking out hotels and activities for some of those 2011 trips, we're going to look back at this past year. Come along if you'd like in the next few entries.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thai Orchids

We managed to hang Christmas lights on our house today without getting too wet. We've had rain and wind and even a little sunshine the past few days.

It's a good time to reminisce about that warm October weather we experienced in Thailand.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"The Ripple Effect Of A Canceled Flight"

Scott McCartney, the Middle Seat travel columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and a fellow with whom we briefly rubbed shoulders during last year's FlyerTalk Star Alliance Mega Do, has written an informative column based on a canceled flight he endured in November.

When bad weather or mechanical problems hit, airlines react typically the same. They quickly rearrange aircraft and crews, working to cancel the lightest-booked flights to what executives call "balance" their systems. While cancellations are rare—just 1.63% of all U.S. airline flights have been canceled so far this year, according to—they're a test of airlines' organizational and communications skills. It's a test that airlines big and small often fail.

Although there are no magic solutions if your flight is canceled (other than it's worth making contact with the airline by phone immediately if you're fortunate enough to have elite status), you'll have a better understanding after reading the entire column here.

There's Always Something Else To Worry About. Now It's Airplane Seats

You'd better read this sitting down, unless you're on a plane.

Thanks to The Travel Insider, we learn in a New York Times article that the airline seats in which we sit on flights may not comply with safety standards.

Maybe some no-frills carrier will let us bring our own folding chairs for an additional discount.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Leavenworth Christmas Lights

The Wenatchee weather has been fantastic. Last night we took full advantage of it by driving the half hour or so over to Leavenworth, mainly four-lane on Highway #2, to take in the town's absolutely spectacular Christmas lights. By the time we arrived it wasn't nearly as crowded as the scenes in this video, but it was just as beautiful, and we enjoyed walking a couple of blocks past some beautiful window displays in the small shops. Yes, for a few minutes Kathy and Brian felt like they were back strolling around a small German or Austrian town.

Everyone from nearly one-year-old Blane up to Grandma and Grandpa were impressed by the spectacle. It appears that three-year-olds like it too, although it was probably a tossup for Riley between the lights and the hot chocolate in the restaurant where most of us ate non-Germanic hamburgers, Brian's Bratwurst sausage excepted.

We also confirmed that some American three-year-olds love sauerkraut - in fact, Riley preferred it to the quite-pleasant cup of split-pea soup that was ordered for her.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wenatchee Weekend

It's started off as a beautiful morning in Wenatchee, although it's clouded over in last few minutes. A great day to celebrate a grandson's first birthday.

Enjoy your birthday cupcake, Blane!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

American Roadside Kitsch: The Corn Palace

We stopped by the Corn Palace in Mitchell South Dakota some years ago, while driving from Iowa back to British Columbia.

If you believe this recent piece in the L.A. Times, it's facing a difficult future. Sad to say, we didn't find it nearly as compelling as, for example, the Little Bighorn Battlefield along the same route.

It's certainly a different world than it used to be. We've visited a few roadside attractions during road trips in the U.S. and Canada, from South Dakota's Wall Drug to the World-Famous Hole N" The Rock in Utah (our favorite souvenir in the gift shop was an illustrated "God Bless Our Camper" plate suitable for hanging) to the long gone Santa Claus California just south of Santa Barbara. Roadside America is an elaborate website devoted to such attractions.

We can't help but wonder how many will still be around when our granchildren set off cross-country, and whether there'll be any entertainment value left to those remaining as the 21st century unfolds.