27 June 2007

Vacation Frustration or Wounds a Little Less Fresh

When we had settled in Rapid City, SD at the Rodeway Inn for the night, I spent time on the phone with my boyfriend as he helped me book a room for the next night. The whole endeavor was besieged with problems. Firstly, we were having no success finding hotels that allowed pets and that had a vacancy. As John cross-checked cities along my itinerary with listings on Hotels.com or other online search engines, I would call potential locations for the next night's repose only to be told there were no vacancies or that pets were not allowed. The worst was the Holiday Inn reservation line that refused to let me speak with a human being because I was not booking a multiple night stay. Top that off with a rude desk clerk at a Holiday Inn Express that I managed to call after a very frustrating battle with a computer voice and then by choosing options to call the hotel under the pretext of talking to a guest staying there. It was all I could do not to throw my cell phone across the room in anger. Fortunately, my common sense kicked in, and so did the shot of whiskey I swallowed.

While I fought back tears after rejections from more than a dozen hotels and motels, John asked me why I was traveling down to Utah to get to Boise when I could take a more direct route by going across Wyoming along a pair of US Highways instead of the Interstate to the south. My mistake would not keep me from getting to Boise, but it was adding an extra night to my trip that I could ill afford. As frustration mounted, getting to Boise a night sooner than I had planned was very appealing. That's when John looked along the US Routes and found us the place in Riverton, WY that I wrote about the other day.

Booking hotels in advance is helpful for sure, but not enough information is readily available online to make that as easy as it can be. Not all the travel search sites cross reference "pet friendliness" as a criteria for reservations, leaving large sets of lodging resources unchecked or in doubt. It's definitely "call before you book" if you don't want problems during check-in.

Traveling with children and dog while being the only adult driver in the group is a big challenge. At least my children are finally old enough to know when papa has had enough, to plug in their iPods and read rather than to bicker about who's touching whom. With Dramamine at the start of the trip, the dog is a non-issue except to stop for water and to pee, which is something all of us need to do as often as he does. Thank goodness for modern, clean, well-equipped rest areas that dot most of our nation's highways. M&M's do a lot to keep me sane.

Only a week and a half remains in our automobile adventure. There is still family to visit as well as sights to see. Happy motoring!

25 June 2007

24 June 2007 - Fourth day in Boise

This was a great day. John booked a rafting trip down the main fork of the Payette River north of Boise. The four of us donned life vests, took up oars, and with the instructions of a guide and the help of two other river rafting tourists, we paddled eight miles down the Payette. Marie and Page took turns "riding the bull", sitting on the bow of the raft as we took a class one or class two rapid or active wave train. They had so much fun, giggling, squealing and getting doused by the chilly river water. They talked about the trip the whole ride home in the car, devoured their dinners as if they'd never before been fed a hot meal in their lives, and passed out in front of the television before their regular bed time. What a fun and exciting day for all of us! If ever in Boise, give Cascade Raft & Kayak a try (http://cascaderaft.com/index.asp). (Photo courtesy of Cascade Raft & Kayak, 2007)

23 June 2007

23 June 2007 - Third day in Boise

After just a week on vacation, I've been through some serious highs and lows. One good note has been our stay in a delightful little hotel in Riverton, WY. The place is called the South Federal Inn (http://www.southfederalinn.com/); it's an old motor lodge, an original motel, from the 1950's with two private garages for the high end suites. Our room had had to areas for sleeping, so I had a little privacy. The innkeeper, Jennifer Thomas, was wonderful. She gave us such a warm reception and was so kind and charming while greeting us and showing us our room. The morning of our departure, she came to see us off at 7:30 a.m., to give us directions in Wyoming, and to offer advice about moose and elk on the road as we passed through the Snake River Valley below the Grand Tetons.

On the way to Riverton, we passed through the entire state of South Dakota going from Sioux Falls to Rapid City. We were able to see both Mt. Rushmore and the Crazy Horse Memorial. We also passed through the Badlands and visited the famous Wall Drug. All of us agreed we could easily spend a week in the southwestern part of South Dakota.

The trip has had its ups and downs. The sites have been amazing apart from having to skip some tours because we couldn't leave the dog in the car. The hotel experience has been difficult quite often as far as making reservations in advance where accomodations would accept a dog. Driving over 2500 miles from Atlanta to Boise on the route we chose has also been a strain on me physically. My back is pained and it's taken the last two days to rest and recuperate. At least I've got a few more days here to relax before I have to get in the car again with kids, luggage and dog to get to Las Vegas for four days to visit my mother and other family. When this adventure is over, I hope to have some lasting memories that are good enough to overshadow the frustrations.

18 June 2007 – Third day on the road

I hate fucking traveling by car. And you can’t get a hotel in America unless you’ve booked it weeks in advance and go the secret code to get the non-existent discount available only online to special customers who know the wink and handshake to give at check-in.

16 June 2007 - First day on the road

After 9 hours on the road with me, the two kids and the dog crammed into my boyfriend's Kia Sportage, we were all glad to arrive at the Howard Johnson's hotel where despite the lack of connectivity as advertised, they welcomed our pet. Sixteen miles from St. Louis, MO, we have stopped for the night on our first leg of our journey from Atlanta to Boise to Las Vegas and back. We'll cover a great bit of the highways and byways of America, enjoying the scenery, seeing some sites, and finally I'll get a few days of reunion with my beloved John. Regardless of the distance, he is very supportive of my needs.

Our first remarkable point of interest was in Metropolis, IL, the Home of Superman. We took the obligatory photos of Page and Marie before the giant Superman statue and of their faces over the life-sized cutouts of Superman and Supergirl. We also bought a few trinket souvenirs the Superman Museum gift shop. We did not tour the museum itself because we had no way to keep our dog Beau cool and comfortable in the summer heat. Maybe one time on another trip, perhaps to Chicago, we'll stop in and see all that Metropolis has to offer.

Tomorrow we will pass through the Gateway to the West and take our pictures before the Gateway Arch. I'm not sure how much touring we can do around the site with Beau in tow, but definitely we'll have a good time. If we're lucky, the hotel will have a decent breakfast to get us off to a good start before we cross the Missouri River.

12 June 2007

Mobile computing—do I need it?

Whether or not I need it, I have it now. With an upcoming freelance translation job, I need to have easy access to a computer to be able to complete translations quickly for at least a couple hours a day while on a road trip. In addition, I need to have the ability to connect to the Internet in WiFi hotspots or in hotel rooms that have broadband in order to verify information on French Canadian Web sites and to check online French language resources when I hit the occasional translation bump.

Shopping in the electronic stores was in order. Doubtful that I would find anything within my budget or that wouldn’t devour my potential earnings, I stumbled across a clearance sale. When I was able to find a well equipped, dual-processor multimedia computer that would leave me more than two thirds of my upcoming paycheck for the job, I bought the Toshiba Satellite. It took a short while to configure, mostly to delete all the bloatware I don’t want and to install the handful of applications that are useful to me.

Although I considered a switch to Mac, I have to stay within my budget. Besides the cost, right now is just not a good time for me to change platforms though I do understand it’s easier than ever to do. What frustrates me about Mac is its price tag. Why is it so high? Even budget computers from Apple are outside my price range while I have other debts like my car and my credit card balance. Eventually, I’ll own the kind of Mac I want, but this interim Vista-based computer is very nice. For the most part it can do everything I need when I’m on the road. If it works out well, I may switch entirely to laptop computing and wave goodbye to my desktop the next time I upgrade my computer.

One thing is certain, despite the “bazillion” updates I had to install for this brand new operating system, Vista works far better as the native operating system on a new machine than it did as an upgrade to my older but well equipped desktop. With 20/20 hindsight, I see that I should have left my desktop running XP Media Center and waited until I needed the laptop computer to upgrade.

My next goal for home and mobile computing is to get my wireless router installed. Then I will be able to work in the living room. My boyfriend John will be glad to know I’m using the rest of the apartment rather than staying holed up in the bedroom with infrequent trips to the kitchen or laundry room. At least then I’ll make better use of the widescreen TV and the TiVo.

09 June 2007

Thus I begin my 39th year

With little or no fuss, my 39th year on this Earth began today. My boyfriend is in Idaho, building a turbine for a power plant. My son is camping with friends. However, my daughter is here today, and we went out for ice cream. This morning my father called as did my mother this evening. A card from my grandmother came in the mail today. Two of my students sent text messages of birthday greetings. Lastly the little blessing on top: my car insurance company sent me a dividend refund of $79.30 just in time for my birthday. Here's to good prospects in the coming year.