Monday, January 30, 2012

Blog Snafu

There are problems with the gadgets that were on the blog until 1-22.  I am trying to sort it out and will work on it when we get to our apartment in Quito later this morning.  

One of the missing gadgets is the link to SPOT, so here is the address for the Spotwalla page:

It appears that SPOT did a good job tracking our on-shore excursions in the Galapagos.  Of course, we did not sail through the islands as the lines suggest, but actually sailed around them!  We usually relocated during the night while we were sleeping and I only activated the unit when we were exploring the various islands.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sitting Up Front

A little over three years ago, for the first time, we decided to pay an annual fee for a credit card, one that would give us frequent flier miles on American Airlines.  It is surprising how fast the points add up when you charge everything from fast food to plumbing bills on the card.  We used miles to get from Buenos Aires to Miami last year and our flights (except for those to the islands--we are earning points on those flights) on this trip were purchased with points.  There is a real maze one must navigate with various point levels and classes of service to consider.  For instance:   I soon discovered that we could fly from Green Bay to Quito for the same number of miles it would cost from Miami to Quito.  Forget driving to Miami and flying from there, we'll start the trip from Green Bay.  Well, you've already heard how that went!

So when all was said and done, we had a mix of economy flights and business/first class legs.  Green Bay to Quito was business/first class (they were the same thing on the 757s from ORD-MIA-OUI), but not out of GRB on the small Embraer.  Quito to Lima will be economy, Lima to Santiago business, and Santiago to Green Bay (unfortunately) back to economy.

As a pilot, I had the best seat on the airplane.  As passengers, RuthAnn and I have always been in the back with rest of the economy class proletariat.   I've had my share of long flights with my knees jammed against the seat in front of me and having to move quickly when the person in that sest decided to recline.

First class flying......what can I say?  I always knew it was nicer at the front of the plane, but had never experienced it.  Wider seats, tons of legroom, trays stowed in the wide armrests instead of attached to the seat in front of you,  attentive service, bottomless drink glasses for everything from water to champagne, and the food!  Hot, tasty, and served on china with real silverware and cloth napkins!

On the ORD-MIA leg we were served a piping hot cheese omelet with delicious home fries, roll and fruit plate; the other choice was cold cereal.  Flying from MIA-OUI we started eating as soon as we reached cruising altitude.  The appetizer was a small china cup full of warm mixed nuts (accompanied, of course, with your beverage of choice).  The starter was a nice green salad with vinaigrette dressing.  The entree choices were chicken or fish and we both opted for the fish; a nice piece of halibut au gratin, sautéed veggies, and very tasty orzo.  For dessert I went for the ice cream with hot fudge and nuts; RA, the cheese, cracker, and grape plate.  Real food does exist on airplanes, you just have to sit up front!!


Saturday, January 21, 2012

View From a Room

It was raining lightly when we got here last night, but the sun came out this morning and it has warmed up into the high 50s. We went for a long exploratory walk this morning and found a nice open-air eating establishment for lunch. We made it back to the hotel before liquid sunshine began again and are reading, blogging and washing clothes before we venture out for dinner. We can see and smell my steakhouse (Esteban Steakhouse) from our hotel window.

This is the Eugenia Hotel from the gated parking lot. The dark colored pick-up is a support vehicle for a Colombian motorcycle rider in the recently completed Dakar Rally.

Here are a few pictures I took during our walk today.

PLEASE NOTE: We are leaving the hotel at 0630 tomorrow morning for our flight to the Galapagos and will return on Sunday, the 29th (no NFL for us!). Upon landing in the Galapagos we will go straight to the boat that will be our home for the next week. I am quite certain we will not have internet access there, but be assured we will probably be doing some writing there, so expect a flurry of posts when we return.

The Alpha Ramblers

About a dozen of us gather each Saturday morning at a local eatery/bakery, Alpha Delights, for breakfast in memory of a dear friend who died too early of a brain aneurism. We have been dubbed the Alpha Ramblers by one of the members and were given a photo of the members to take along on our journey (sort of like a Flat Stanley).

Here is a picture of the Ramblers and the first photo of the journey. It was taken by the fountain in the hotel's parking lot.


Anonymous Comment on January 22, 2012:

Surprised to be with you. Be sure I get a good view, I'm not traveling with you again if I get stuck in the back of the bus! And nothing too spicy, but top wines please. This is my winter blues trip so make it count. Mo


Friday, January 20, 2012

It's a Job

 We traveled in India in 2008 and in Central/South America with Ross and Jean Copas in 2010/11.  We've spent many hours talking with them  over drinks and some interesting meals.  Ross has some defined views of the world and life in general and RuthAnn coined the word "Rossism" to describe them.  One Rossism was applied to our trip from Green Bay to Quito on the 19th and 20th.  Ross said that traveling from Point A to Point B on any given day must be looked at as a job.  Sometimes the job is easy; other times the job is hard, long, tedious, hot, sweaty, hunger and thirst inducing, get the idea.  

The flight from Green Bay to Chicago and to our hotel was one of those easy jobs.  A quick ride to the airport with a neighbor (thanks, Lenny), fairly easy check-in (there were some problems with my ticket that the CSR corrected), no problems with security screening, an on time flight and shuttle ride to the hotel.

After an 0400 awakening to catch the 0500 shuttle to the airport, a very friendly welcome to the TSA screening (first time for a full body screen for us) our world came crashing down when we saw on the first flight monitor that our flight to Miami was CANCELLED!!!!  By 0530 we were at the gate, but no one was there.  I immediately called American AAdvantage customer service to see what was going on.  RuthAnn was booked on another 0735 flight, but I was on a flight at 0935!  A big snow storm was approaching Chicago and was supposed to be there by 0900.  I could see it now:  RA in Miami, me stranded in Chicago for a couple of days while she went on to Quito, hoping I would make it there for our flight to the Galapagos on Sunday morning.  I enrolled RA's phone in the AT&T World Traveler program, gave her all the hotel info in Quito, and sorted out other details.  

By 0630 the departure desk was open and the wonderful CSR there finally got me a seat on a completely sold out airplane!  We were not able to sit together, but that was a minor annoyance.  Another good flight, plenty of time in Miami to catch the next flight; but at boarding, the nasty ticket monster raised its ugly head again.  My reservation had been cancelled in Chicago and I must step aside while they re-booked my flight! It took, about ten minutes and I was on my way.  I was greeted at the jetway by a drug sniffing dog and then had to run a gauntlet of a least seven TSA, DEA, and other uniforms I did not recognize! before reaching the aircraft door.  RA had gone ahead of me and wondered where I had gone.  Detained? Denied boarding? 

We are less than an hour out of Quito as I write this, let's hope that getting through customs and immigration and then on to the hotel is a little less stressful.  I hate the airlines!!

PS:  We are safely ensconced in the very pleasant Eugenia Hotel--the check-in clerk, a nice young Ecuadorian, recently graduated from a high school in Sioux Falls, SD!  We were among the first off the plane and through immigration/customs in less than 15 minutes--just love traveling with only carry on bags.  Time for bed; it's been a long day with one big pile of stress dumped on us early.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Guide to this Blog

I have always used a small laptop for publishing to my blogs in the past, but this trip I am using an iPad 2 with a small Zagg bluetooth keyboard.   Blogging on the iPad is different and the learning curve seemed a bit steep last week when I was sorting it all out.  I am using three apps to make everything work as needed:  Blogger, BlogPress, and Blogsy.  It appears that Blogsy will get the most use and that is what I used in the first post.

I want to guide you through the layout of this blog so you can get the most out of it.  

At the top on the left side you will see SPOT.  Click on it and you will get a map showing where we are courtesy of the satellite tracking device, SPOT.  The orange dots will show our progress and a green flag will show where we are staying for the night.  The last known position will be indicated by an icon of an airlane or a boat, or whatever I put there.  In the adjustments box you can change the number of days shown on the map to see as much of our trip as you wish;  there is also a place to leave comments at the bottom of the box.  In the upper right-hand corner of the map you can select map or satellite.  The map display is what comes up when you click on SPOT.  The satellite selection will give you a view from space--if you zoom in, you can probably see the building we are staying in!!

Check Weather and you will see the weather for our current location.  There is a lot of information there and you can use the search box at the top to bring up weather from any place you wish.  I will change the link as we move from one place to another.

The total pageviews will tell you how many hits the blog has received.

You can now seach the blog for specific items--that will be more useful as the blog lengthens.

You can look at my very slim profile and see links to my previous blogs; I may change the picture some day :-)!

On the right side is a new item. If you type in your e-mail address, submit, and follow the directions you will receive an e-mail each day whenever a new post/comment is made to the blog.  I tried it and it works--will keep you in the loop.

You can also sign up as a follower if you wish.

The archive will show you a list of the blog's history and makes it easy to go back and look at previous posts.

I will be putting pictures in the body of the posts so they will be larger and easier to see than in my previous blogs.

At the end of each post  there is a place to comment--please do so as we love the feedback.

I've got a YouTube account now and plan to post videos as well as still pictures--enjoy.

If you have any suggestions, comments, or complaints, let us know!

We leave tomorrow and will go as far as Chicago, then on to Quito on Friday the 20th.

See you south of the equator!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Return to SAm

 As most of you know, a year ago RuthAnn and I were riding our motorcycles in South America.  We saw a lot, but there is much more to see and this winter we are planning to do just that.
We are leaving on January 19th to fly to Quito, Ecuador, to begin our new adventure.  We bypassed Quito on the bikes so will now explore it in detail by spending over a week there.  From Quito we will fly to the Galapagos Island and spend a week on a large yacht exploring several of the islands and seeing wildlife that abounds there and no where else.

There are three identical yachts that have ten cabins each:  the m/y Eric, the m/y Letty, and the m/y Flamingo.  We will be on one of them for a week as we explore the islands that lie on the equator and are a little over 600 miles west of the South American continent.
After leaving Ecuador, we will spend about ten days in Lima, Peru, and fly to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to see the big stone heads. The rest of the itinerary will involve spending a week in Mendoza, Argentina, the heart of Argentina's wine country on the east side of the Andes Mountains.  After a bus ride over the  mountains we will hunker down in Santiago, Chile, for about a week before flying to Miami.  A week in Florida visiting friends and family will precede our return to Wisconsin on March 14th.
Come along with us; when the winter gets a little too grim, join us for a glimpse of life south of the equator!