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What I did on my summer vacation — downtown Seattle hop-on hop-off bus tour

August 14, 2022 | Family,Seattle downtown,Summer,Traveling

Fountain in front of the Seattle Public Library, where we parked and got on the bus tour.
Starbucks union strikers.
There are so many trees downtown.
This is in front of the Museum of Pop Culture. I had to explain to the kids what it is.
The Seattle Great Wheel, which we got to ride the next day.
We would also take one of these cruises the next day.
Posted by Becky @ 3:14 pm | Comments  

What I did on my summer vacation — Amtrak’s Starlight Coast trip from Los Angeles to Seattle

August 13, 2022 | Amtrak,Family,Summer,Traveling

In our room.
Funky clouds out the window.
One of the stops.
View out the window.
Mountain flowers.

And all the food!

Posted by Becky @ 12:41 pm | Comments  

What I did on my summer vacation — LA

August 12, 2022 | Family,Los Angeles,Summer,Traveling

The good parts …

View from our hotel in downtown Los Angeles.
Posted by Becky @ 6:57 pm | Comments  

What I did on my summer vacation — part 4

Family,Summer,Traveling

Dream vacation, nightmare travel planning

A few days before our trip, I asked, “I just realized we have 2 or 3 ferry rides from Seattle to Victoria. Should I book those in advance? Or will we be OK to show up, buy tickets, and wait for the next ferry?” And she did NOT say, “Yes, I would highly recommend buying tickets in advance.” I already knew those words were in her vocabulary, but she didn’t choose to use them here. Nope. She didn’t answer my question at all. I was slammed with work before I left, so I didn’t have time to check on it myself or to keep after her for an answer. She sent me a link to scan passports and vaccine cards to prepare to get into Canada, and I spent what little time I had taking care of that. In any case, I had almost SIX HOURS to think about this whole thing while waiting for a ferry. We showed up before 4 p.m. at Port Angeles for the 5:15 p.m. ferry, but it was full. So, we waited on standby, not knowing if we’d even get on the 9:30 p.m. ferry. (The last one.) I had a lot of time to think how much it would cost me to get a hotel room in Port Angeles (I called and they had rooms available) and to eat the cost of the hotel and whale-watching boat tour in Victoria. We got on the 9:30 p.m. ferry and had to drive in the dark to find our hotel and check in after midnight. We were up bright and early the next morning to eat our lovely breakfast (it was an adorable B&B and I wish we could have spent more than a few hours there) and get to the pier for our tour. The tour was four hours of wonderful information and education about whales and other animals we got to see. I would absolutely recommend it.

The trip back to Seattle was brutal. We had bought ferry tickets ahead of time this time, but the 3 p.m. ferry was already full, so we got on the 7:30 p.m. ferry. After the two-hour ferry ride, it was dark, and we still had two hours to go. I was so tired, I stopped at a gas station for coffee and a power nap. It was after midnight when we got to the hotel, but they had a shuttle service that would pick us up at the airport (which is something our travel agent should have told us) after dropping off the rental car — which I did that night instead of with all our luggage the next morning. When it was all said and done, I hit the pillow at 2 a.m. and got a couple of hours of sleep. The shuttle (which was free) took us to the airport the next morning. Because they “aren’t allowed in there” to drop us off at Delta ticketing, we got directions for how to navigate from where they dropped us off to the ticketing counter. I had meant to pay for priority when checking in for our flights, but I couldn’t find how to do that on my phone. So we had to stand in line for an uncomfortably long time. Then we had to search for TSA PreCheck. It was a relief to get to our gate in time.

Then came Atlanta. People who help with travel planning do important work. I had physical challenges to deal with on this vacation, and the lack of information and misinformation I got gave me several sleepless nights and extra stress. That culminated in a panic attack in the world’s busiest airport. I really did try to power through everything, hoping whatever mistake happened wouldn’t ruin my entire dream vacation. But it’s when I look back now that I realize those mistakes by that travel agent weren’t just inconvenient. They did me actual physical and mental harm. Yes, I have some beautiful photos and some great memories, and I’m glad for that. But the “service” I got was harmful. I want to continue traveling, and I still need help with planning, but I’m scared now whether I’ll be able to find anyone trustworthy.

Looking back now, I see that the point I should have walked away, giving up her nonrefundable fee and paying whatever penalties there were, was when she didn’t update her system, which then threatened to cancel everything — and she called, expecting me to do something about it. But it was 1 month from our vacation, and I had no way of knowing how many mistakes she would make and how devastating they would be. Or maybe the time to walk away would have been after her I’ve-done-this-for-10-years snit. Yeah. That’s the one that should have done it. Sigh. Live and learn — and hope to do better for myself next time.

Posted by Becky @ 6:25 pm | Comments  

What I did on my summer vacation — part 3

August 11, 2022 | Family,Summer,Traveling

Dream vacation, nightmare travel planning

A few days later — less than two weeks after I contacted her — I had my reservations for the train, hotels, and rental car. I was getting excited! She was still working on several things — insurance, rides from airport to hotel, hotel to train station, and train station to airport. She was able to get the Victoria hotel that initially told her they were full. So, we were rolling right along. I asked for info about getting TSA PreCheck, which we got, so I gave her our numbers for the travel reservations.

There was trouble booking one of the cars, and I learned that my card had been deactivated. The company switched it from a MasterCard to a Visa, and I had somehow missed that. So, I called the company, and they sent me a new card, which I got in a couple of days. I asked her if she wanted me to send copies of the new card, and she said, “I don’t think there is anything left to pay for at this time. Do you?” (📌) I sent her a copy of my new card, anyway, for booking some other unrelated travel, which had a whole other set of mistakes, but that’s another story.

🚩🚩🚩Then came time for her to charge my card for the rest of the big trip. And guess what? She hadn’t updated her system with my new card, so the automated system she uses tried to charge the old card, and it was declined. I got an email and a voicemail at 7:21 a.m., telling me, “We have a problem.” She said I needed to call back ASAP because she didn’t know how long it would be before the system would automatically cancel everything. No need for coffee that morning to get my heart pumping. I called her back and asked her why she wasn’t using my new card for this. She didn’t think she had it. I reminded her I had provided her with all the required information and it was up to her to fix this problem. She did.

Then my daughter’s summer schedule changed, and she wanted to join us for a week, so I asked about that. The agent gave me a few options for flights, and I made it clear that I was willing to spend more on plane tickets to get my daughter to the Seattle airport at a decent time of day. One of the options had her arriving at about 3 p.m. So what did she book? The one that had the plane arriving at night. Because of delays, I got to pick up my daughter 📌at the airport in the middle of the night.📌 I think her flight finally got in at 1 a.m.

Before that happened, though, my son and I took off from TLH to LAX. We got there as planned with no delays. We only had to wait a few minutes before our car arrived to pick us up. We got to the hotel before check-in, but she had a room ready for us. I was messed up by the time change, and I didn’t even realize we were early. The hotel and service there was great. In the morning, the bellman got us a car to the train station. Checking in there went smoothly, and we even got free drinks and snacks in the Amtrak lounge. (I didn’t know about that.) Red Cap service took us to the platform where we would board. (I didn’t know about Red Cap service until then.) We got settled on the train, and it took off. Because we had a bedroom, we also had an attendant. (I didn’t know about that either.) The travel was nice. I got a little claustrophobic when I first got on the train, but I was able to work through it. The food was great. Our attendant, Cesar, was superb. I made sure to tell him that (and tip him).

Our train’s arrival at the King Street Station was delayed, so instead of getting there at 7:51 p.m., we got there at 8:25 p.m., the time our ride was scheduled to pick us up to take us to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to get our rental car. We exchanged phone calls, and she said she would be there soon to get us. After getting our luggage (two big checked bags each and two carry-on bags each, as well as a backpack and bag), we loaded all that into the car that picked us up and unloaded it all again at the Delta departures sign where the driver dropped us off. We walked inside, and I kept looking for a car-rental desk. We walked the length of the airport – with all our bags – to get to a shuttle. I was exhausted by this time. I called the driver and asked why she didn’t drop us off at the car-rental area. “We aren’t allowed in there,” she said. Sigh. She also told me to double-check my car bill, because I had been booked and paid for 5 people. At this point, I don’t even know why the agent did that. I haven’t found anything about it in my receipts and emails. Only thing I can figure is she was booking something for 5 people in that other trip and got confused with the numbers. (She messed up several other things numbers-wise, so maybe that’s just her MO).

Back at the airport, we found a place to sit to wait for the next shuttle. When it got there, we loaded all our luggage and then unloaded it all again when we got to the car-rental place. We wheeled all our luggage up to the desk, and I got the contract for the car. Did I already say I was exhausted? We lugged all our luggage to an elevator and into a parking lot. It was not immediately clear where our car was. I asked someone working there how the numbers worked. We eventually found our car and then loaded all our luggage into the car and took off to find the hotel. It was about a 20-minute drive, and we checked in around midnight.

NOTE: The Seattle airport was not user-friendly for us. There was the whole shuttle thing and drivers “not being allowed in there.” And when we left for home, we had a helluva time finding TSA PreCheck, which they tucked away in a corner waaaaaaay at the other end of the building. I might be wrong, but I would think a travel agent might know some of this and be able to mitigate or at least warn clients about it. (I had asked for airport assistance, but she didn’t note that on my reservation, so we didn’t get it.)

We got all our luggage up to our room on the 11th floor in the hotel. Imagine my surprise when I opened the curtains, looked out the window and saw … the King Street train station RIGHT NEXT DOOR. We could have walked about two minutes with all our luggage from the train station to our hotel, checked in, gotten a decent night’s sleep, and worried about the rental car in the morning. This is so egregious that it felt intentional. I mean, nobody can screw up that badly, can they?

Oh-huh-ho. But of course they can.

More later …

Posted by Becky @ 7:19 pm | Comments  

What I did on my summer vacation — part 2

August 10, 2022 | Family,Summer,Traveling

Dream vacation, nightmare travel planning

I went to the agent’s website and filled out her form, telling her what I wanted. I said I’d like to do the Starlight Coast train trip from Los Angeles to Seattle. I wanted to stay in Seattle for several days, and I also wanted to take a short trip to Canada. I said I needed a rental car because I have some health issues and can’t do a lot of walking. I said I’d like the best prices I can get but I was willing to spend more if it meant I didn’t have to be at the airport in the middle of the night. (📌Stick a pin in this.📌)

She replied right away, and we set up a time to talk on the phone. Within a week, she sent me the first of a few itineraries.

Let me interrupt this story by talking about 🚩red flags. I spent most of my life being oblivious to red flags until I search for them in the rear-view mirror. It’s taken lots of practice in the last few years to see them and recognize them for what they are. I mean, I saw that Perkins Restaurant-sized red flag Michelle was waving at me. But alas. Not all the flags are that big or that red. So, I’m still learning. And sometimes I still have to look back to see what happened and how many I missed.

🚩 In that first itinerary, she booked a rental car for only two days, saying, “I highly recommend you not have a car the whole time so I only included one for the days you will need to go to Canada.” In a later email she expressed how expensive it would be to have a car every day, plus I would have to pay for parking at the hotel. Mind you, I did not start out asking for the cheapest vacation ever. I made it clear that I needed a car. So, I explained further that having a car for the whole stay was important. I told her that unless everything actually passes by the hotel we’re staying in (they didn’t), I’d rather program my GPS than try to figure out whatever transportation options there are. I am horrible with directions and get lost every 15 minutes. I told her that when I visited Washington, D.C., several years ago, I got off the train at the wrong stop and ended up walking MILES to get to my hotel. I don’t have the stamina to walk like that anymore if I make a wrong turn and get lost.

We exchanged more emails, she sent me a couple of itineraries, and we kept ironing out the details until we had a final one. Once we had that, she had to start locking everything in. She said the cost of our train ticket almost doubled, did I still want to book it? I said yes, but here’s another thing that’s frustrating about the travel industry. Why does it have to feel like I’m trying to win at a casino where we all know the house always wins? Why are they allowed to change prices with the wind?

When it was all decided, I had to pay half then and would pay the rest a month before my trip. (📌) Part of all the forms I completed for her included my credit-card info, passport, and ID. She was working on lining up cars to pick us up at various places, and she would let me know when she had those. She started booking things with my card, and I got a fraud alert text message, but it wasn’t from my credit-card company. So, before I jumped on that, I asked for dollar amounts of things she’d charged already, so I knew it was a legit fraud alert. I said that it was weird that I didn’t know what bank my credit card was affiliated with — that’s why I thought I’d better double-check. She told me the dollar amounts, and they matched.

🚩🚩 And then she said, as if I were insulting her and stupid because I didn’t know how all this worked (mind you, I’m not the one who books travel stuff every day, so is it that unusual that I don’t understand every little detail?):

“It’s not MY bank. It is the bank of the rental car company. You’re welcome to call me if you have any questions. 

“In the state of FL, I am licensed as a travel agent and have been for more than decade. I follow the laws explicitly and the laws state that I am an intermediary between you and the travel providers. You’re not paying me. You are directly paying the suppliers and I am facilitating that payment. All of this information was in the reservation form that you signed.”

Whoa, Nellie. Well, that was uncalled for. I went back over my email to see if I had implied that she was doing anything wrong or illegal. I hadn’t. She misconstrued what I said and got all pissy about it. But I was this close to having everything scheduled for this vacation. So I ignored the red flag, I apologized to her, and I hoped maybe she was just having a bad day.

More later …

Posted by Becky @ 1:24 pm | Comments  

What I did on my summer vacation — part 1

August 9, 2022 | Bad service,Family,Summer,Traveling

Dream vacation, nightmare travel planning

Several years ago, I dreamed of a family vacation to California because I’d never been there before. Fast forward to a time when I don’t have to ask anyone else’s permission for anything, I started planning that vacation. I knew it would be in July. I’d worked with a national travel company (the one that shows up to jump your car) to plan getaways to Orlando with the kids, so that’s where I called on a Saturday in January. I spent an hour on the phone with someone named Brian. He said he’d get some information to me by Monday. Monday came and went. I know things have been chaotic in offices everywhere, so I tried to be patient. At the end of the week, I sent him an email, saying, “There’s no rush yet to get information, but I thought I’d check in with you since you said you’d have something for me Monday. Is everything OK?” I got back an automated reply:

I am currently out of the office 

Please Note: I have been out of the office for an extended period of time and am following up with member requests as quickly as possible.

Maybe everything was not OK. I checked in again about a week later. Got another automated message. A week after that, I got a real email from Brian:

I am back in the office FINALLY !!!     Trying to dig out on emails and Voicemails …..       Have you given up on me or are you still looking ?     Please let me know and I will get this to you !!!!

Please accept my apologies !!!!

I replied that, yes, I was still looking for help. I gave him travel dates again, and he said he would get to work on it. Almost two months later, I checked in and got the automated message again, this time with more red and all caps. The next day, I called the main number, hoping to speak with him or someone else. Michelle answered the phone.

First, I asked for Brian. He wasn’t in the office. I asked if she had access to his notes so I didn’t have to start all over again. She checked (or she said she checked) and said he had no notes in my file. What?!? How could that be? I had spent at least an hour on the phone with him in January. And now this? I started giving her details of the trip I wanted to take, and she said she would send me an itinerary. Then she said, “And going forward, what I am not gonna do is listen to you complain about anything.”

My head tipped like a dog’s would when trying to make sense of a new sound, and my brain said this to me, “Oh-huh-ho. Going forward, there will be no going forward with this shit.” Out loud, I said, “Thanks, bye.”

She sent her email, and I ignored it. I asked folks I know for travel-agent recommendations. I got three, and I chose the local one.

More later …

Posted by Becky @ 7:20 pm | Comments  

Broken Horses by Brandi Carlile

April 15, 2022 | Uncategorized

For some reason, Brandi Carlile has flown under my radar for a good 15 years. Granted, her feet are rooted in country music, even though she’s not necessarily a “country” country artist. I have opinions about country music — and she articulates in her book some of the things I find problematic about it — but she has performed on awards shows (that I somehow missed) and in collaboration with musical artists I adore. I somehow missed all that until just recently.

I saw her perform a Joni Mitchell song for the Kennedy Center Honors, which aired in December. I have since learned that she performs Joni’s entire Blue album. Then I saw her New Year’s performance with Miley Cyrus. And I was stunned. Who is this? Has she been here this whole time? How did I not see her before? I decided not to be mad about it but to be happy that I had something good to discover in 2022. Listening to all her music was like having a wild bird land and settle in my hand for longer than I would have ever thought possible. And it felt like I held my breath the whole time.

Listening to her book was a special treat. At the end of every chapter she sang a song or two or more. Every musical artist’s memoir should be done like this. Give me a chapter on your life, then play me the songs you wrote about that chapter of your life. And joke about Elton John if you can. I bought the Kindle version of Broken Horses, hoping to find a photo of her Honky Cat getup. Sadly, it wasn’t there. But her book and her music … what lovely things to put out in the world. Experience them if you get a chance.

Posted by Becky @ 6:01 pm | Comments  

Winding down with 2021

December 31, 2021 | Chaos,Geraldine DeRuiter,Jennifer Hudson,Julie K. Brown,Lyz Lenz,New Year,Nikole Hanna-Jones,Pandemic,Pandemonium,Renee Watson,SNL,Stephanie Land,Twitter,Writing

Is this thing still on? I guess we’ll see.

My 2021:

Vaxxed, boosted, flu-shotted, masked.

Started catching up on medical stuff that had been postponed or canceled for far too long.

Started going back to the salon.

Continued grocery delivery.

Traveled for Thanksgiving (carefully & masked).

Thinking I should probably start canceling all my appointments again (if they’re not canceled for me).

Getting ready to hunker down again in 2022.

Sigh.

Betty White died on New Year’s Eve.

Dammit.

My reading has been waning, but I did consume some interesting media and art this year.

I listened to Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story by Julie K. Brown, the Miami Herald reporter who doggedly investigated and covered Epstein and was there in New York when the jury found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of sex trafficking children.

I watched Maid on Netflix. Because of that, I had to listen to the book, Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land (foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich, whose work I have read and recommend). Both intense and excellent.

I subscribed to the Lyz Lenz newsletter called Men Yell at Me. I’ve read her books, and I follow her on Twitter. She lives in Iowa. She is hilarious and serious as a heart attack.

This was the most amazing thing I read on Twitter this year: “Bros., Lecce: We Eat at the Worst Michelin Starred Restaurant, Ever” (https://everywhereist.com/2021/12/bros-restaurant-lecce-we-eat-at-the-worst-michelin-starred-restaurant-ever/) by Geraldine DeRuiter. Amazing in that it just kept getting worse and worse until you thought it couldn’t get any worse. And then it did. And watching what happened online after that was amazing, too.

Now I have to listen to her book, All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love, and Petty Theft. I guess it’s about time. I’ve been following her on Twitter for a while now.

I got the hard copy of Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson (illustrated by Nikkolas Smith), and I’ve started listening to The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones.

I don’t know if I’ll get to them, but here are some books I hope to listen to this year:

(I got Bell’s Palsy a day before my first child was born. It has never completely gone away. I tried not to let it bother me for the most part. But it really hurt when someone laughed and called me “Grace” when I struggled to eat a sandwich because my face is still partially numb. I still have the numb face. I no longer have that someone in my life.)

I watched Babette’s Feast again after editing a review of a play performance of it. Such a sweet story and worth a second viewing experience.

I watched Respect, a film starring Jennifer Hudson as Aretha Franklin. She was superb.

I watched the Summer of Soul documentary. If you love music, you will love this.

I watched Field of Dreams again before watching Kevin Costner return to Iowa to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the movie with a real-life major-league baseball game. Experiencing the movie again was less bittersweet than experiencing the anniversary commemoration.

I watched Get Back, the Beatles documentary series. I couldn’t watch it all at once. I was mostly relieved that it didn’t show anyone to be a complete jerk. The most amazing parts were watching a couple of their songs being born right before our very eyes.

Some of my favorite TV shows are Yellowjackets, Kenan, and We’re Here. I got hooked on TikTok and Dave Grohl. I didn’t even know about the Hanukkah Sessions until I saw him cover “Copacabana.” Then I discovered his Night One cover of “Stay.”

Even with all of that, though, my heart this year belongs to Ted Lasso and all the weird, wonderful characters in his world. It was an extra treat that he was host on SNL. I can’t wait for the next season.

All this beauty made 2021 suck less than it would have without it. I will say to 2022 in my best RuPaul voice, “Good luck and don’t fuck it up.”

Posted by Becky @ 5:06 pm | Comments  

Father’s Day without you

June 19, 2016 | Dad,Family,Father's Day

dad-028

You visited me in a dream last night. That hasn’t happened for a while. As usual, you didn’t talk to me. You were busy doing something for me, though. You were working on my taxes. You wore a checked short-sleeve shirt and dress pants. You also wore fuzzy slippers. “Where did he get THOSE?” I wondered. At some point, I realized this was a dream and I might not see you again for a while. I didn’t want to waste my chance, so I walked up to you and gave you a hug. You wrapped your arms around me and held me tight. Thank you for that. Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you.

Posted by Becky @ 9:50 am | Comments  


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