Monday, September 22, 2014

Onward to Vancouver

We said farewell to Chris and the twins early in the morning as they headed off to work and school. I spent some time in the morning playing card games with Orion. Before long it was time for us to head off. 

Becky graciously offered to drive us to Union Station. We arrived shortly after noon and checked our bags. Next door in the 19th century station was a restaurant, Wilf's with a lovely patio so we settled in for lunch in the Portland sunshine. You can see the restaurant's umbrella in the foreground. 

We boarded the Amtrak Cascades at 2:30 for a 2:45 departure. We followed Chris's advice and obtained seats on the west side of the train. We had lovely views as we headed toward Seattle. Not too far past Seattle, the sun set. Although the train was modern and spacious with comfortable seating and wi-fi, after dark the ride grew tedious. We were happy to hear the announcement that we were arriving in Vancouver, BC. Unfortunately there was only one Customs and Immigration official so the process was slow. Once we were cleared we caught a cab to our downtown hotel. It was after midnight so we fell right into bed.

The next morning after breakfast in the hotel dining room we packed up and headed to the pier. Since it was only two and a half blocks, we walked over. It was a glorious day. Boarding was quick and efficient. Our stateroom was ready. It was inside, as expected, but was considerably larger than the last time we sailed. We headed to the main dining room for the Mariners Lunch. It was hard to choose because everything on the menu sounded so good. I ended up with shrimp cocktail and grilled salmon. By the time we got back to our room, our luggage had arrived and we spent some time unpacking. Then we headed to the Lido Deck for sail away. With the sun shining it was quite festive. 

Here are some photos taken during sail away:

Dick enjoying the NY Times on the Lido Deck. 

Passengers enjoying the sunshine in Vancouver. 

The Vancouver skyline. 

The harbor as we prepare to sail out to sea. 

I'm hoping this weather holds for the duration of the trip. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

PDX Time is Winding Down.

We've had three full days with our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  We've walked, gone to Foster Burger for lunch, played games, travelled around on the bus and the trolley. We've spent lots of time playing Candy Crush, Angry Birds and Toca Cars. Linnea mastered purling and started a new knitting project. Here's a photo from Foster Burger. Once again, click on the picture to see the whole thing. 

We had some minor complications while we were here. I developed an allergic reaction on the plane which morphed into a full blown dry eye issue. I was able to get my internist to fax a prescription to a chain pharmacy here in Portland.  It took a day and a half of telephone tag, but I got the drops and my eyes are now fully healed. 

The other argle-bargle involved our Master Card. I got an email from Chase concerning the Home Depot breach. Our card was to be replaced. The bank was sending new ones. Since we planned to be away for a considerable time longer we would not have access to the cards. After talking to Chase, they offered to send the new cards here in Portland via UPS overnight.  Then while we were at the pharmacy, where we inefficiently made three separate purchases still using the old cards, Chase called to verify our cards were not stolen. Apparently numerous small purchases in the same store triggers this.  Actually, that's good, stopping fraud before it mounts up to a large amount. Now the big chore will be notifying all of the vendors we pay automatically on the card. That we be a job when we get home since I don't have account numbers and passwords with me. 

Tomorrow we're heading to Vancouver, BC, via Amtrak. We're told it's a beautiful ride up the coast. We'll have one night in a hotel and then board the Zuiderdam on Saturday. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

And we made it

We arrived in Portland right on time. We debated about taking a taxi but in keeping with the rest of the day, we opted for public transit. The trip from the airport to Chris and Becky's house is $1 each for "Honored Citizens."  It involves the light rail, a bus and a two block walk. Both Dick and I were wrangling two suitcases and a backpack. (I probably have mentioned this in a previous post. It's a consequence of booking a trip that combines Alaska and glaciers with the Panama Canal and sunshine) My biggest concern was the elevator at the transfer point. If it's not working, it's one big flight of stairs. I've managed it in the past, but not with two suitcases. 

Fortunately for us, the elevator was working and when the bus pulled up, the driver put out the handicapped ramp. We were able to roll our suitcases right on. She did the same thing when we reached our stop. Tri-Met at its best. 

The kids were waiting up for us and were so excited when we finally arrived. I'm always so delighted at the way they respond to us. So, we now have a little more than three days before it's time for the next phase of our journey. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Travel Day

I'm sitting on the plane enroute to San Francisco. It's full, not a single seat open. So far, no angry confrontations about reclining seats have occurred.  There have been three separate incidents in the past few weeks so I wondered if we would experience it. The gentleman in front of me is quite tall and has reclined his seat, probably because the person in front of him did so. My left knee is jammed a bit but it's manageable. When Dick and I travel together, we usually take an aisle and a window seat. The hope, of course, is that the middle seat will remain empty. No such luck this time. 

We took a taxi to the Westfield Transit Station and caught the train to the airport. We considered walking to the station, we have done this in the past. But, each of us had two suitcases and a backpack. The train to Newark was an express which was fortunate. We found elevators every place we needed them. The biggest challenge was navigating what NJ Transit refers to as "the gap" between the train and the platform. In Newark it seemed enormous. Good citizens and a train employee helped us at each point. Once we got to the airport we were able to shed the large bags. The journey from home to EWR involved four legs but was totally seamless. 

We have a long layover in SFO. We used our guest passes to the United Club which is quite comfortable. There are snacks, drinks and wi-fi. It's given me a chance do do some blogging. We're told the terminal has a number of good restaurants. With the time change, it will soon be dinner time for us. We plan to give one a try. 

Click on the photos to see them full size. 

Here is Dick doing what he does best, reading the NY Times. The United Club was a nice place to do that. 

It was a six hour very full flight from Newark to San Francisco. As luck would have it, I was seated next to a knitter. We had a lot to talk about during the flight as we both worked on projects. I made a lot of progress on my sock. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Packed and Ready

Well, we did it, packed all the things. There were frantic moments, mislaid sunglasses, a quick run to Target for another suitcase, lots of pill counting and packaging. It's amazing how much work it is to go on vacation. We each have a carry on bag and one to check. It's going to be an arduous day because I was unable to book a direct flight. We're flying to San Francisco and after a long layover, on to PDX. I'm told there is free wi-fi at the SF airport and many good restaurants. And we have passes to the United Club. I'm sure we'll find ways to pass the time. 

I feel as if we are going off on a great adventure. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Bucket List Cruise

On Monday we set off for Portland, OR, on the first leg of a great adventure. We'll spend a few days with our west coast family before boarding Amtrak to Vancouver, BC. There we will board the Holland America ms Zuiderdam and set sail for Alaska. Seven days later we will return to Vancouver but rather than disembark, we will continue on as passengers as the ship relocates for its winter season in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. It's a total of 27 days. You can see the map below. Click on the photo to enlarge it and you will see the entire itinerary. 

I haven't used Blogger in over a year and my skills are rusty. I'd like to continue the text after the graphic, but it's resisting my efforts right now. I'm planning to report regularly from the ship with photos and remarks. I hope you will follow along. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Week One in the Great Smoky Mountains

I'm participating in back to back Road Scholar hiking programs in Smoky Mountain National Park. At least I thought I was. Come to find out the first program at the Hinton Rural Life Center in Hayesville, NC, actually consisted of hikes on the AT in Nantahala National Forest.

There were 17 participants and two leaders. Each morning after breakfast we made a bag lunch and set off in two vans to hike a section. The hikes were planned to be in and out which was a bit of a disappointment. Since there were two vans it was possible to hike the same distance and cover more trail mileage but unfortunately this is not how the trip operated. Monday we hiked from Deep Gap to Standing Indian Mountain where there were fabulous views. We ate our lunch on the summit and returned to the vans. We stopped at Standing Indian Shelter.

On Tuesday we hiked about 2.6 miles from Rock Gap to a side trail that led down to Standing Indian Campground. We found a spot for lunch and then walked back out. On this hike we stopped at Rock Gap Shelter. It was empty on the way in but on the way out we were joined by a number of thru hikers who were planning to spend the night. A shuttle service operates from Rock Gap to the town of Franklin, NC, where many go to shower and re-supply before entering the Smoky Mountains. The hikers we met were planning to visit Franklin the next day. The shelter is quite close to the road.

You can see our fearless leader, Jack, in red, standing in the shelter.

On Wednesday, in order to give group members alternatives, The vans traveled to both ends of the section. From the north, it was a two mile hike to Siler Bald, from the south, four miles. This gave hikers the choice of a four mile round trip, an eight mile round trip or a six mile point to point hike. I was delighted and chose the six miler. As we took the two mile steeper walk in, we arrived on Siler Bald much earlier than the other group. The views were magnificent and we enjoyed our lunch up there.

On the way out I took the opportunity to visit Siler Bald Shelter, located quite a way downhill on a loop parallel to the AT. I joined the group taking the four miles back down at the trail junction.