Travelchick

My adventures and mis-adventures as I travel here and there

Ode to Ohio

I’d like to offer you a few small words of caution concerning the dissing of states other than your own, especially those which may be close- say bordering your state, for example. The reason being that there is always a likelihood of someone actually from that state being within hearing range.

Today at work we were discussing our travel plans for the holidays and somehow the conversation got around to how much we hate having to drive through Ohio: It’s boring, ugly, the speed limit is ridiculous, the cops there suck.  On and on we went listing the state’s many and varied flaws before I ultimately summed it up by declaring “Those boring Ohioans!!”

I then asked a heretofore silent co-worker, a recent new hire, “Where are you going for the holiday?”

“Back to Ohio.”

Yikes, foot in mouth! 

Ohio, I officially absolve all of your residents of any responsiblity for your boring and ghastly western percentage. It’s really not their fault. I also acknowledge your attempt to rectify the situation by having a fascinating and comely eastern smidge and (provided you stop comparing Cleveland to Detroit) promise to only hang my head in silent shame over our shared border.

December 22, 2010 Posted by | Car, Cities/Regions, Detroit, Travel, United States | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Airport Full-Body Scanners Pose A Travel Conundrum

My husband and I recently had a debate over which would be the better option at the airport, in light of the new security scans and alternative pat-downs. (“Better” could be defined as healthier and/or less traumatizing.)

The usual pat-down is the alternative for those who choose to opt out of the new nude full-body scanners. It might not be as great of a trade-off as it sounds, however, since TSA staff have been instructed to give a more thorough examination than travelers are used to.  How thorough is this, exactly?

My husband did a mock pat-down of me to illustrate how he imagined the new, more invasive procedures might go. When imagining that stranger was doing it, I felt violated and a little upset! I really don’t relish the thought of airport personnel rifling around in my crotch or any other place on my body that I hold near and dear. I’ve had the back-handed pat-down before and didn’t mind it at all, and I had imagined that the new procedure probably wouldn’t be terribly horrendous, but after my husband’s “demo” I almost didn’t want to risk psychological trauma!

On the other hand, who really wants a stranger to see a naked picture of them just so they can get on a plane? My husband has threatened to just show up nude at the airport and save them the trouble… Still, the images probably aren’t saved permanently anywhere and there probably aren’t any health risks from going through the scanners every once in awhile… or are there?  TSA claims that the pictures will never be used or seen anywhere else, that they’re more skeletal than fleshy, and that the scanners are safe for our health, but a whole lot of money was spent on getting these machines into use.  Monetary investments always create bias.

Our next flight is planned for the spring. We’re flying to California, and my husband has threatened to have us drive instead. I think that’s going a little overboard, but at the same time I’m still not sure which is the better choice if faced with a rock and a hard place: nude scanning or invasive groping? I still haven’t been able to decide.

The changes have provided inspiration for everything from cartoons about body scanners and pat-downs to “Don’t Touch my Junk” T-shirts.  The same scanner images appear everywhere, along with illustrations of how easy it would be for someone who got hold of your picture to merely invert the image and see your body in detail.

In the spotlight is Meg Mclain, who relates to Alex Jones a tale of trauma, overreaction, and humilation when she refused both the body scanner and pat-down. Her story, however, isn’t substantiated by video surveillance of the airport. Two videos, one of the scanner area and one of her exit, seem to contradict her story. I think we need to be careful not to get all riled up over accounts like this in which the person in question either deliberately expounded on the facts or remembers the events differently than the way they actually happened…

On the other hand, the stories in this news report sound pretty bad…. I especially feel sorry for the old man who was just trying to go celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife. 😦

On a positive note, anecdotal reports from friends who’ve flown recently indicate that the pat-downs still aren’t so offensive. I look forward to hearing from more people I know before it’s my turn to fly the friendly skies. Your comments on the subject are especially welcomed!

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Airplane, Airport Security, Transportation, Travel | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Traveling with Cat in Car: Partial Success Pt. 1

Miss Ami herself, all calmed down

As if I hadn’t learned my lesson the first time, I decided to try traveling with a cat again. And this time it was for 3 entire days. Well, it’s not as if I had much of a choice. I was moving from Washington state to Michigan and I could: A) leave my cat behind, B) try to transport her by plane, or C) bring her with me in the car. A was not considered, it was the wrong time of year for B (apparently they won’t take animals on planes if the temperature is below a certain point?), so it all came down to C…

I did my research beforehand. There are prescription sedatives, Benadryl, cages, carriers, nail caps, nail clippers, leash tricks, friendly pheromones… It seems everyone who has ever traveled with a cat has their own recipe for success. Having tried the cat carrier option before and been quite unsuccessful, I decided early on that I would not try to cage my feline, but would hold her in my lap. Previous trips to the vet across town using this method had been somewhat satisfactory, though Ami (that’s my cat’s name) usually ended up crying the whole time, hyperventilating, and trying to escape the car with that wild-eyed look that only a traumatized cat can give you. When I talked with my vet about the trip, she told me that usually cats will be quite upset for the first day of traveling but will then get used to it. I hoped this would be true in Ami’s case, but seriously doubted it. In order to help her relax, I decided to give Kitty a good dose of Benadryl before we started driving. This was to be a service to her. As a service to the furniture in our new home, I bought baby blue Soft Paws nail caps and applied them to her front claws (she hated this).

On the day of departure, when the car was packed and the boyfriend and I had naught but to wedge ourselves inside and force the doors shut behind us, I sought out my cat, Benadryl bottle in hand. While the boyfriend, and my roommates looked on, I situated Ami on my lap, poured some Benadryl into the little cup, and dumped it down her throat. At this point what had been a fairly objective and clinical procedure became a wild and gory free-for-all as all pandemonium broke loose! Fur and claws flew in a frenzy as Ami desperately attempted to escape what was no doubt the most cruel torture ever inflicted on any feline ever. I knew I must hold onto her lest I never ever see her again, and in doing so I suffered deep lacerations on my hands and wrists from her blunt back claws! By the time I was able to subdue her on the ground, my blood was mixing with Ami’s fur, she was foaming at the mouth, and spectators were looking on in horror!!! As you can imagine, it was a gruesome sight. I am ever so glad that I had read from the accounts of others that Benadryl will make cats foam at the mouth or I might have feared for her life. She really did look quite awful. Usually a cat to hold herself with pride, Ami looked quite beaten and dejected, a matted little mess on the grass. I instantly regretted putting her through such torture. The boyfriend kindly held onto her while I found bandages for my hands. A couple of the cuts were really deep and hurt like crazy.

Unfortunately, we were already late in leaving, so I only had time to bundle Ami up in an old towel, attempt to wipe the foam from her mouth and the blood from her fur and get into the car.

To be continued….

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Car, Cats, Moving, Pets, Transportation, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Airports and Flying: What NOT to put in Luggage

Note to self: do not ever put a can of V8 into a checked luggage bag again!

I should have known better, but when we got to the airport yesterday, I threw some unconsumed liquids into a checked bag so they’d make it through security. This included a can of V8 (I love V8!). This unfortunate can of V8 exploded in my suitcase in the air over Oklahoma or Missouri or Illinois and, when mixed with a similarly burst bag of cashews, made a disgusting mess all over my clothes and roller blades (yes, I had roller blades in my suitcase) and crocheting. So gross.

It seems that I will never be completely trained when it comes to modern air travel. I remember my first few flights after 9-11. I made all kinds of mistakes and am just happy that I manage to have a particularly non-terrorist look. On one flight airport security x-rays found two pairs of scissors and a razor blade in my carry-on…. oops. On another occasion I triumphantly attempted to carry a suitcase onto the plane which contained all of my carefully-wrapped Christmas gifts for my family. I was so proud of myself for having everything done ahead of time, just ready to slide under the Christmas tree. The looks security personnel gave me, however, when they saw a HAMMER in one of the packages was nothing like admiration, but rather dismay. How could this girl be so stupid?! Lucky for me, I was able to check my bag, and my dad still got his hammer. Some people aren’t so lucky, however. Yesterday in the airport the boyfriend and I were noticing the mailing service the airport provides where you can put your taboo items in a little bag and have them mailed to yourself. The prices caught our attention: $20 for a liquid bottle??? I guess this helps people to get their priorities straight, as most items aren’t worth that much in the first place. When the boyfriend mistakenly left his overnight bag in his carry-on and had to forfeit his toothpaste and shower gel, only a few tears were shed. What happens, though, when you make similar mistakes regarding more expensive or sentimental items? $20.

Don’t just assume, however, that you can forget what’s in your bag and then either surrender it or mail it to yourself when the x-ray spots it. Sometimes you can be prosecuted or prevented from flying even if the banned inclusion was an honest mistake. Furthermore, security personnel can decide at their discretion whether or not you may keep a taboo item to mail home or whether they must take it from you forever. It’s a good idea to stay updated regarding what is currently allowed and what is not.

Hey, does anyone have funny airport stories? Stupid things you mistakenly left in your carry-on? I’d love to hear them. A good compilation of stories like that would be extremely entertaining!

One last thing: You know those funny booties airports provide for you to wear on your feet when you have to take your shoes off? The ones that look kind of like shower caps? Well, I tried those for the first time yesterday and kind of fell in love temporarily- they were so comfortable! As a person who spent her entire childhood barefoot, I sometimes bemoan the constriction of shoes (while at the same time having an insatiable love for shoes, which is weird). The booties made me feel like I was going barefoot all through the airport, but without getting my feet dirty or stepping on icky feeling dirt and crumbs. So I kept wearing them. I wore them…. probably longer than anyone who is normal would dare (people gave me funny looks)… but it felt so nice that I didn’t care!

While on the topic of acting a little insane in airports, let me share my favorite bit of airport weirdness, courtesy of Nalts:

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Airplane, Travel, United States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Countdown

WELL, everyone! After countless months, weeks, and endless excruciating days, I have finally finished a task that at one point literally felt insurmountable. I have defended my thesis, merited my committee’s approval, and after minor revisions will have my thesis paper ready to print. AAAAAAH! The relief is palpable, the peace is thick. My blog has been silent for the past few days (weeks? I have no idea how long I’ve been holed up) because I have lived and breathed my thesis! But now, it is DONE!!! I won’t try to describe my jubilee because the description would never be adequate. Suffice it to say that I feel I am a beginning a new life with the burden of a huge unfinished project behind me FINALLY!

On to the next thing. And that is moving. In six days. Aaaaaaaaaah! Ok, not really. There is no panic here. Not tonight, anyway, because I’ve been carefully preparing for this for awhile. I have a lot to do this week, but the tasks are, for the most part, relished. They mostly include preparing the car, whittling down my belongings one final time, eating up my food, bidding farewell to friends, stuff like that. My boyfriend arrives late Friday, we pack the car Saturday night, and we head out early early Sunday morning. I can’t wait to chronicle our mega road trip: 3 days, 2200 miles, 1 cat, 1 bird….. Oh, and all my earthly possessions.

6 days….

February 23, 2010 Posted by | Car, Moving, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Traveling With Cat in Car: not recommended at any time

Feline, kitty, purr-box, mouser, tabby, tiger, tomcat…. Call it what you like but a cat by any other name is still a bad travel companion! Oh, yes I know there may be some of you out there whose cats are perfectly docile when in an enclosed space hurtling down the highway at seventy miles per hour. I unfortunately am still waiting for the pleasure of that experience and there’s a story to tell. But let me start at the beginning.

This summer I spent two months at a marine station on the Puget Sound taking the very last class of my graduate school experience. While there, my cabin mate and I adopted a gaunt-looking stray. He was a large black and white hunter with a loud and pleading call (the meowing did, incidentally, nearly cease once we started feeding him!). We named him Pleoh.

Pleoh wasted no time in making himself right at home

Pleoh wasted no time in making himself right at home

He immediately began to bring us almost daily gifts. I presumed that it was in thanks for the rescue, but I had to sit him down and tell him that there were other, more effective, ways to reach me. Unfortunately I don’t speak Cat-ese… Barring the rodent gifts, Pleoh turned out to be a more-than-wonderful feline companion and we both became quite fond of him.

Toward the end of the summer we began to discuss the fate of Pleoh since we both had rather territorial cats at home and didn’t feel we could add another kitty to the litter. I put up an add for a free and adorable cat and waited. And waited. No one wanted our poor little guy! My cabin mate was flying to Michigan and so it fell to me to transport the cat six hours to Walla Walla, via Lester. I was not excited and my previous experience traveling with cats did nothing to pique my enthusiasm. As a test, I introduced Pleoh to my car and drove a few feet through camp. He went berserk! Yowling and clawing, he attempted to force his gangly body through the small opening in my back window.

I did a Google search on making travel with cats more bearable to find some (hopefully) lifesaving tips. Advice was to accustom the cat beforehand to its leash, harness, and travel carrier. I had only a few days to work with, but I got a harness and put it on him in the cabin. He walked in a funny stilted manner for awhile but finally got used to it. Then I attached the leash and let him drag it around. “What’s that blasted thing following me everywhere I go?!” his face seemed to say, but he dealt with it. I looked at pet taxis, but his size cost $25 and jobless me could only think of the meals I could eat with that money. I ended up purchasing an $11 fold-up cat carrier. It was like a cat tent and really cute! Pleased with myself, I introduced it to Pleoh who, to my surprise, sat contentedly in it for more than a few seconds. It was enough to lift my spirits considerably. Perhaps this trip would not be so bad after all! Trips to the vet with my beloved Ami were always noisy, panting affairs that left us both shaken, and the cross-country trip I had once taken with my friend’s cat, make that my friend’s sedated cat, was anything but peaceful, quiet, or free of cage-soiling. Nevertheless, I foolishly told myself that this time it would be different.

The great day arrived. My cabin mate kissed Pleoh goodbye and I stuffed him into his tent with his harness on. He immediately sensed that this wasn’t a test run. We started to drive and the yowling began. And the panting. And the clawing. “He’s going to tear that tent to shreds,” I warned myself, but miraculously it held up. With each pull of his claws, it yielded to the pressure. Kudos tent for being resilient! But Pleoh didn’t care; rolling, yowling, tossing, and crying, he made himself a miserable mess of panic. Always one for good eye contact, Pleoh pleaded with me with wide terrified eyes to stop the torture. After a few close calls on the road, I apologized for ignoring him, but maintained that I must focus on driving lest we both die. “You,” I reminded him, “are actually NOT going to die in there.”

But I wondered if I might. How much of this could I take? Six hours much? Heading toward Seattle, we hit traffic almost immediately, and I found the distraught cat beside me to be quite a distraction. A few times he wrenched the stiff supports out of place, turning his tent into a sack. There wasn’t much I could do to help him. Then I looked up and saw that the sunscreen in front of my sunroof on my stupid car was coming off! One end of it was gyrating freely in the breeze, a heartbeat away from flying off and hitting the truck behind me! So there I am, holding the sun thing on with my right hand, driving with my left, trying to ignore the flailing cat beside me, and attempting to pull off the road in thick traffic! That was the first stop. I took the stupid sun thing off- what is it for, anyway?

Back on the road, Pleoh got more and more frantic. A couple of times he even catapulted himself and his tent over directly into my lap. That’s when I noticed that he had peed in his tent. I guess terror negates bladder control in cats. Great. 5 1/2 more hours with a urine-soaked cat. I was just glad I had protected my car seat with an old blanket. (BTW a tent in ones lap does not bode well for steering control)

Just as I was wondering aloud how much worse it could get, Pleoh popped out of his tent! Apparently the tent’s weak point was it’s zipper. He literally broke it! In the stunned moment in which he sat in disbelief to comprehend his freedom, I was luckily able to grab his harness. This also does not assist steering ability in anyway. Make that the sixth time I almost broadsided someone. Another stop, a stowed tent (it was urine-soaked anyway), and Pleoh was firmly leashed to the passenger side door (uh… on the inside, mind you), keeping him in the other seat, I hoped.

On the road again. Traffic is really bad. Pleoh is still terrified but mostly quiet. He looks wild-eyed out the window and then tries to claw his way up the back of the seat or over onto me- ouch! But not else bad could happen now, right? I just need to keep my eyes on the road and trying to ignore the acrobatics unfolding on my right? Not exactly. With one strange twisting flipping crunching maneuver, Pleoh (aka Houdini) slips right out of his harness, collar, and leash!!! Aaaaah! Maneuvering in Seattle traffic and holding a yowling, scratching, clawing, biting, urine-soaked monster by the scruff on the neck, I wanted to cry. Moreover, I couldn’t seem to get over to a place I could stop. Road rage took over, “MOVE IT, PEOPLE! Can’t you see I need to get over??!”

But then, like a soft fog descending into a valley at dusk, Pleoh crawled into my lap, hid his face in the crack by the seat, and lulled himself into a sleep (or trance or coma, but who cares!). I held my breath. Barring the occasional wiggle, he stayed calm. And that was my strategy for the rest of the trip. Every time I started the car up again, he panicked briefly, but as long as I could keep him down in my lap, he seemed to be able to shut out the horrors. It took him hours, though, to relax long enough to drink any water or stop hyperventilating.

Traveling with cats. Just don’t do it. I won’t do it again unless I have a cat in a pet taxi with heavy sedation and a catheter. I can’t describe to you how many times I almost died on that highway and I probably scared countless other drivers to death. Just so you know, Pleoh has made himself quite at home here, waiting for my cabin mate to pick him up in a few weeks. He also hates my Ami and tries to attack her, but that’s another story…

August 25, 2009 Posted by | Car, Cats, Cities/Regions, Pets, Puget Sound, Transportation, Travel, United States, Walla Walla | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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