Hotel Camping

So, we made the trip North to Ohio, and since we survived, we will repeat it this summer. I still think this drive would be a good RV run, but with rental costs where they are, it’s cheaper to drive and stay in a hotel (which pains me.)

Once you’ve decided not to fly, and discovered you can’t take the train, there are still many routes to Ohio. They all have their quirks. We had done much of the “standard” (various online map-suggested) way (Texas through Arkansas and Tennessee, then north) when we were driving my mother-in-law back and forth to New Jersey years ago (she refused to fly, and my wife refused to drug her.) So, we would take I-30 to I-40 to I-81 to I-78 and onto New Jersey roads from there. To go to Ohio, you just head north in Nashville on I-65, instead of going east past Knoxville to I-81.

We decided to try a new way North – across Arkansas, but then, instead of going west through Tennessee, head north just before the Arkansas-Tennessee border, and avoid the mountains (hills?) of Tennessee.

I wanted to avoid Tennessee because the hills are very pretty, but only when you can see them. Invariably, we went through in fog or torrential rain. Plus, that section of I-40 is very popular with truckers, so you are dodging 18-wheelers in torrential rain or fog.

So, I looked at the map, and I-55 heads north just before the AR-TN line, and puts you on I-69. It turns out I-69 is still in the planning stages in some areas of Kentucky, but the existing parkways that will eventually be upgraded to Interstate are gorgeous, and there’s not much traffic. You do pass through towns instead of around them, but it wasn’t bad. Eventually, you end up on I-65 (where you would have been from Nashville) which takes you to I-75 which takes you to I-70. Cedarville is between Dayton and Columbus, east of I-70. (Dayton and Columbus are your two main choices , if you decide to fly.)

There are probably better (faster) routes through Ohio, but it was getting dark by the time we crossed the border, so we just followed the GPS’ advice.

This turned out to be a very pretty route, through Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky and on into Ohio. We will use this route Southbound next time, so we can visit some distilleries, and possibly sidetrack to see the Ark (not Arkansas, Noah’s Ark).

Heading home, we just drove west on I-70 out of Ohio, through Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Oklahoma. This has pretty hills in Missouri (and some interesting stops), and when you enter Texas from Oklahoma, you’re almost home. There’s probably the least amount of different highways, as I-70 takes you to St Louis, and I-44 takes you to Oklahoma. We took a “short cut” in Oklahoma and took one of their toll roads (very nice, and our TollTag from home works in the toll booths) to US-69 (very small) which merges eventually into US-75. US-75 becomes Central Expressway in the northern suburbs before you hit Dallas.

All these routes are mapped on my Texas & New Jersey railroad site, as the extension railroad – the Texas & Ohio. The Northern route home from Ohio is actually part of the last route we took home from New Jersey on one of my mother-in-law’s repositioning cruises. So, we had been past the kids’ house before they were ever there.

The lessons learned were mostly past lessons relearned: don’t drive through major cities during rush hour, driving through towns is quaint, but kills a schedule, arriving after dark on a new route is not always fun, and don’t drive a new way with new things to see when on a strict schedule. Also, on a two-day trip, go beyond halfway the first day, and drive the non-scenic route home (it’s faster.)

We drove from Dallas to Blytheville, AK the first day, which seemed an easy drive. (Your first day should not seem easy.) Blytheville to Cedarville, OH the second day was a bit too long for one day but too short for two, especially since you deal with Louisville and Cincinnati either late afternoon or early evening. We had told the kids we wouldn’t see them that night, which was correct, we got in well after the grandkids’ bedtimes.

Going home, we went from Cedarville to Lebanon, MO, which was not a bad drive, except for missing an exit and touring part of the outskirts of St Louis, and then onto Dallas the second day. The drive home the second day would probably be faster on the Interstates, even though it looks further. You can do 70 on the Interstates, but on the US highways, it’s still 65 or 55 (and slower through the many small towns.) You would miss Muskogee, but now we’ve been there.

Financially, an RV rental would have replaced our hotels (one night up, five nights there, one night back), but we spent just over $1000 on hotels. We would spend significantly less in an RV park. The gas would have been more expensive (as our Escape gets better mileage than an RV), and the food would have been the same. (Also, the hotel is maybe five minutes from our kids, so you also have to factor in convenience. There isn’t an RV Park that close, and I’m not dry-camping in their yard, although they’ve offered.)

So, a $1500 RV rental seems pretty expensive compared to just driving our car and sleeping in hotels for a vacation.

I’m hoping someone can correct my math.

Rentals

So, thinking of driving up to see the kids in Ohio, and thought, “This would be a good time to rent an RV.”

Oops.

So, the first one I looked at was CruiseAmerica and it’s about $1500 for a Class C (the smallest RV they have) – which is more than flights and a hotel, possibly much more. There are about 900 miles included in the rental, so by the time we got there, we’d be paying thirty-five cents a mile the rest of the time, and all the way home.

Why is it so expensive to rent an RV? It seems to be one hobby that is very difficult to test-drive.

Part of it may be our needs – the kids are two days away by car (assuming you don’t just drive straight through, and we’re too old for that), so that’s two days back. So, just going up, saying, “Hi” and returning is a four-day rental. I was looking at a nine-day, because we need an extra day to return the unit – we would never get back early enough to turn it in the last day.

A Tale of Two Cities

I’ve been in Dallas most of my life, and as much of my travel has been for business, I usually visit cities that are relatively easy connections. However, visiting the relatives can be a different story. I speak of two of my favorite “cities”, Cedarville, Ohio, and D’Hanis, Texas.

Editor’s Note: This is a filtered brain dump of a bunch of research I did in the middle of the night. So, whether or not it’s coherent is probably in the eye of the beholder. (As always, if you read something I wrote and think, “That is profound!”, please call my wife and ask for her neurologist’s name. She has a lot of specialists.) 

Here’s the ways I usually travel:

  • Ship. Fun. Relaxing. Requires deep water. (So much for Dallas.)
  • Plane. Pain. More Pain. Expensive Pain. Pretty fast, though.
  • Train. Faster than my wife’s driving. Might not be as fast as mine. 24×7 travel. Limited stops. Usually visit Chicago.
  • Bus. 24×7 travel. Small towns. Get to see a mob of people descend on a McDonalds every few hours (“Buses Welcome!”) Spousal Unit refuses to ever ride one again (something about riff-raff touching her.)
  • Car. Back-seat drivers (often in the front seat.) Stress. Highways. Rest Stops. Overnight Stops. Souvenir Stops. Still more fun than the bus.

And now, our two citites.

Cedarville

We’re thinking of visiting the grandkids later this year, and we’re thinking “roadtrip.” I believe they used to drive straight through (ah, youth!), but we’ll stop somewhere for a night along the way. (Memphis is about half-way.)  Two nights in a hotel are cheaper than flights, we don’t have to rent a car, and it’s not like I can’t afford the time right now.

There are two airports within an hour or so of the kids’ place, even though Cedarville is not a large town. (There are a number of universities in the area, so there are students to consider.)

Train service is really bad in Ohio. Cedarville is close to Dayton (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) and Columbus (Ohio State and it’s the freakin’ capital) but neither is on the Amtrak network. (Amtrak was my cruise before I found ships.)

The closest bus service is Springfield and we’ve stayed in Springfield before, so it’s not really that far. (Still, there’s a university in Cedarville. Today’s kids don’t ride the bus? The bus has WiFi onboard, so you could live blog it.)

So, you fly to Dayton, take the train to Cincinnati, take the bus to Springfield, or just drive.

This time we’ll drive.

D’Hanis

My first thought when presented with the transportation options to Cedarville was, “Geez, even D’Hanis has bus service.” Now, D’Hanis is small. It’s unincorporated. It’s in the middle of nowhere. Wikipedia lists it as a “human settlement.” It’s my spiritual home (well, one of them.) It’s also my Mom’s hometown.

The closest airport is Hondo (one town to the east), which is a regional airport (and former Army Air Force training base) so there’s no commercial traffic. My Dad flew in there once in a private plane, and had to wait two days for the weather to clear before he could leave again (instrument ratings are good to have.) The closest “real” airport is San Antonio. Let’s just say people go to the Hondo airport more for the restaurant than the flights.

D’Hanis had train service when my Mom was growing up – in fact, when the first train line was built in Medina County (in 1881) and bypassed the town, they just moved the town closer to the tracks. (This is why there is technically an Old D’Hanis and a New D’Hanis.) By the time I was riding Amtrak for fun, the Sunset Limited passed through town, but the closest stop was San Antonio. I had to stay up late to see D’Hanis from the train, since we passed through before the crack of dawn, but I did manage to see the town – just for a second. Again, it’s a small town. I also found D’Hanis in the 1954 Southern Pacific timetables, so the Sunset Limited stopped there at one point, on the eastboound and westbound runs.

D’Hanis had Greyhound service and the Kerrville Bus Line which was a Continental Trailways affiliate. I actually rode the Kerrville Bus to HemisFair ’68 with my Mom and little brother, who got car-sick. (Bus-sick?) Greyhound absorbed Continental Trailways years ago, and the Kerrville Bus just goes to college towns and casinos now (an interesting market plan.) However, Greyhound seems to be routing on I-10 instead of US 90, so they don’t stop in D’Hanis any longer. So, no more bus service. Ouch.

So, now you have to go to San Antonio to get anywhere. That hasn’t changed much, it’s just now you can’t get to San Antonio.

So, D’Hanis is off the grid. Unless you have a truck. (Pretty much everyone has a truck, but still.)

This really distressed me. It took a while to figure out why, but then I realized that D’Hanis was the place I always knew I could go when I was down to my last $200 (bus fares kept going up!) I would get off the bus, and go mooch off call on my relatives. By the time they realized it was more than a visit, I would be moved in. D’Hanis was the place my late grandmother once said I could be buried if I “died alone” because there were extra slots next to her and my Granddad. (I think she was comforting me after my divorce, since that was the last time I was alone.) Sweet and morbid at the same time. (That’s pretty much the definition of my family.)

Cedarville was the place I knew I could go when I was down to my last $200 and the kids would give me a cup of coffee and point me to D’Hanis. So it goes.

This also means neither town will ever be in a country song. If you can’t get out of town, you can’t be in the song. It’s in the rules.

Driving School

Looking around for an RV driving school – one was mentioned on Facebook so I have to go find it.

It seems like your options are test drives at the dealer, renting something similar to what you want, or buying and learning as you go.

Rentals may risk less of your money but they seem very expensive to me.

So, off to find the post on school.

Annus Horribilis

In the Caribbean, this has been a horrible year. I know, because I’m scheduled to go there at Christmas. My wife and I have our annual cruise scheduled, in spite of the fact I’m still looking for a job, because we just need to get out of town for the holidays.

This year, there was a particularly nice cruise available on the Norwegian Jade, a ship we have sailed before and enjoyed. It’s ten days, so a good length of time away. It wasn’t that expensive, compared to other years. It was also calling on a number of ports that we had never visited before. So, with all the stresses of not working, I was looking forward to a cruise.

Then Irma. Then Maria.

Here’s our cruise plan, as of the original booking. All the red ports are currently closed. We should know in a couple of weeks where we’re actually going to sail, but as all the cruise lines have the same problem, and all of them will have a multitude of ships in Florida for the winter, it’s going to get interesting. The scheduling of multiple ships of multiple sizes (which limits which ports can be visited) with random cruise lengths to the same area of the sea will be challenging, to say the least.

[googlemaps https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/1/embed?mid=1kbPmaybP4z1WkWlnI4xa1W6DBc0&w=640&h=480]

This is not a complaint letter about our cruise being changed, although you can find plenty of those around. Our itinerary will change, we know that, whatever. It’s hardly Norwegian’s fault that two of the worst storms in history tracked almost exactly over their planned Christmas cruise.

That said, we learned a couple of bizarre things while watching Mother Nature destroy our vacation plans. One, many people care more about their vacations than other people. When Norwegian announced all their Eastern Caribbean cruises were suddenly sailing Western Caribbean routes until at least the end of November, people complained. Complained.

There are people living in the islands who depend on tourism who now won’t get tourists because the port has been destroyed, and by the way, their house is gone, and you’re whining that your vacation was ruined? Get a grip, people.

It was particularly painful for us, because we’ve been to some of the islands and we know some of the people. I fed birds in St Thomas. I haven’t heard how the resort made out. We made our own perfume at Tijon in Saint Martin. The store remains, the owner’s house is gone.

We support a dog rescue on Saint Martin. We donated what we could to their campaign to build a shelter last year. The shelter is gone now. It took a couple of days for someone to locate the founder of the organization because the power was out, nobody could get to her house, and she had refused to leave the dogs. Even though we haven’t met in person, it was freaking us out that nobody knew if she was OK.

So, having to go to the Western Caribbean instead of the Eastern Caribbean is not really a problem. Trust me.

I was very pleased to see multiple cruise lines donate ships, crew and time to get supplies to the islands and get stranded people off of them. I was horrified by some of the comments of passengers diverted by a hurricane to Cozumel. (“It’s humid here!”) Honestly, I would be freaking out if I was working (and paying a dog sitter) and suddenly had my vacation extended by an unknown amount of time, but I would like to think I could handle it more gracefully. It’s a freaking hurricane. It’s not really under the cruise line’s control. Have a margarita. Chill out.

We also learned that the islands don’t seem to exist in much of the US media’s eyes. At best, they’re flyover country – a large number of independent entities that are all just lumped together. Storms generate in the Atlantic, pass over the Lesser Antilles and then go towards Miami. There are over thirty islands. It’s not one clump. Some were hit, some were grazed, some were missed. The distinctions are important and it is newsworthy for each individual island. The Weather Channel seems to dwell mostly on what might or will happen instead of what has just happened.  CNN did a better job of reporting results, but if you’re all about weather, why aren’t you covering where the weather just occurred? Personally, I don’t really care right now if Miami is going to get hit in four days if someone I care about is getting hit at the moment.

(I also learned that you can find information, you just need to find the official channels or newspapers on the web. However, when their power goes out, the news gets spotty.)

Also, the US Virgin Islands are part of the US. The name should be a major clue. Newspeople don’t seem to know this. These people are your fellow citizens. (Here’s where to donate.) The same applies for Puerto Rico. I’m really appalled by the lack of coverage or concern because everyone was looking down the calendar at Florida.

I’m actually appalled by the media not covering more of the islands at all, even the ones not directly tied to the US. The Caribbean is a major tourist destination. There are expats living all over them. There are cruise ships steaming towards them, filled with drunk Americans. There are people spending their vacation money, planning to visit in the next few months. It does matter.

The Caribbean should be more important to us.

The islands will rebuild. They always do. However, a lot of what they need is imported (expensive), so it will take time. Months. Maybe years. Support them. If the ports aren’t open, I’m pretty sure you can still transfer funds. Donate, people.

I personally don’t mind visiting an island that’s half recovered, just to spend some money there and help the recovery by having some fun. I hope more people think that way. From what I’ve seen online, there are some who agree with me.

“It’s not like at home” is one of the great reasons to travel. I hope we all remember that.

Oh, and if you’ve been thinking about adopting a dog, I can help set you up. You just have to wait until they can arrange the flights, assuming the airport is open.

Southwest RV Super Show Notes

Virginia and I wandered around the RV Show yesterday, and got some answers and a few more questions. It’s always nice to actually see the vehicles up close and personal, as opposed to just seeing photos online.

We know a Class B won’t work for us. It’s too small or we’re too big, but it’s not happening. Here’s a question though – why are they so bloody expensive? There were many Class B rigs that were priced higher than Class As that dwarfed them in size. A Class B is a just van conversion, so I really wonder what’s driving up the cost.

A Class C would be very tight for us, depending on the model. I’m not willing to write off the entire class, but Virginia has.

We could get a travel trailer or 5th Wheel, but it was confirmed the dogs couldn’t ride in the trailer while we’re moving. We weren’t really considering this as an option just because of the possible cold or heat (depending on location) but we hadn’t considered the ride. Apparently, it gets pretty bumpy back there, so it’s confirmed the dogs have to be in the truck with us. If we got a large enough SUV, we could pull a smaller travel trailer, but not a 5th Wheel, and it would depend on the towing capacity. So, if we get a 5th Wheel, we need an extended cab or similar to make this work. (I would prefer a 5th Wheel to a travel trailer for stability and maneuverability.) I’m concerned about three dogs in a confined space that includes us and movement.

So, a Class A may still be the best choice, but Virginia is afraid to drive one, so that’s a major problem to solve. I need to find an RV school – we asked one of the sales team about lessons, and I don’t think there is such a thing at many dealers, who will let you take a test drive, but that’s because you’re thinking about buying it.

I would like to drive a 5th Wheel rig, just for the experience, but that may be even more difficult to arrange.

Research continues.

Early Research

Virginia and I spent part of the afternoon at Motor Home Specialist in Alvarado yesterday. The first lesson of RVs is that none of the dealers are very close to town. For example, Alvarado is literally on the other side of Venus (but Venus has a Whataburger). The second lesson is that dealerships are big – especially if they have a decent selection. This is the first dealership for anything I’ve ever visited that will lend you a golf cart to get around. 

You trade your drivers license for the key to a golf cart (it will start any of the guest golf carts) and you are then released to wander the 160 acres. This is truly low-pressure sales (and a show of great faith.) The RVs are all open – you can wander in, turn on the A/C if it’s not already on, open the cabinets, turn on the TVs and lie in the beds. The only request is that you not test the toilets, which seems reasonable.
We wandered around until heatstroke threatened, but we learned quite a bit. For example, I may be a bit large for a Class C. So, we’re looking mostly at Class As. Now, Virginia is concerned about the driving. That’s for another weekend.

Our RV Specs So Far

  • Table & Chairs. Much like asking for a table rather than a booth when we go to restaurants, I either need movable chairs or to lose some weight. Movable chairs seem easier to accomplish.
  • Washer & Dryer preferred – maybe not a deal-breaker, but the ability to do laundry in-house (even minimal loads) would be nice.
  • Square shower – there are some long, thin showers available. We are not supermodels.
  • Oven – a requirement for an Italian. I’m grateful she’s not asking for two.
  • Side & Rear Cameras – we need to see what we’re about to hit.
  • Auto-leveling – why do manually what a machine can do?
  • Toad-ready – we will need a car eventually.
  • Two (or more) AC units – this was easily proven by looking at RVs in Texas in August.
  • Bed over cab would be more useful than bunks, from a space-utilization standpoint
  • Bunkhouse non-optimal – it takes up space that we need for dog crates. This can’t be a unique requirement. 
  • King Bed preferred – did I mention we’re not supermodels?
  • Three slides – although this is a Virginia requirement. I just want enough room, and I’m not hung up on how you get it.
  • Full-side slide preferred – this is probably going to solve my room issues.
  • Leather furniture – cheap protection against the dogs. We learned this in the house.
  • Doggie window preferred – really, we need three. I’m sure the dogs won’t bark at everything. Maybe this is optional.
  • Bath 1/2 preferred – two baths is probably overkill. One may not be enough.
  • Distinct areas preferred – in spite of the open floor plan movement, having spaces that can be closed off would give the dogs separate spaces.

Toad?

As newbies, there are many questions we have. (The ones that concern me most are the ones we don’t have yet.) The one that came up early was – do we need a toad?

In this case, it’s not a frog’s cousin, it’s a small vehicle that is towed behind the RV, so you have local transportation when you get to a stopping point.

If you don’t have a toad, then every time you want to go somewhere not in the RV park, you have to disconnect everything and drive away. Then, you get back and have to reconnect everything.

This is a pain.

However, to me, adding a few extra feet and a tow vehicle behind a rather long vehicle already can also be a pain.

So, I asked for advice on a Facebook group – where else would I go?

“Hey, can I survive without a toad?”

I got three answers.

Yes. No. It depends.

Well, that pretty much settles it.

Of course, the other option is to buy a truck and just pull a trailer.

So, question one is still open.

Voltaire and the Dog Whistle

I’m flying home. 

One random note, before my actual notes on the flight – we were served pasta with a lot of garlic for lunch and a black bean empanada for a snack. Someone at American Airlines hates U. S. Customs & Border Protection.

As some already know, flying over to France, I had the incredible sleeping woman sitting between me and the aisle  – and therefore, between me and the lavatories. I was determined to prevent 3000 miles on a full bladder this time.

So, I did some research on SeatGuru. I like SeatGuru, it’s a very interesting site. Check it before you fly. Trust me.

As an aside, I still maintain the idiots that outlawed our business class travel should be forced to have monthly team meetings in Kuala Lumpur, and fly home via Madrid and JFK, but that’s just me.

The American Arlines 777 has multiple models. The one that does the Dallas to Madrid run is the 777-200, also known as the “crappy” one. I’m pretty sure the pilots complain about their seats on this cattle car. If you read SeatGuru, there are complaints about the First Class seats on is aircraft. Ouch. That, my friends, is a bad plane. Plus, there’s no WiFi. Joy.

All of the recommended seats that I would consider were taken, but after checking at random times through the week, I finally found 31J – which should be a window seat, but there’s no window. It’s an emergency exit row, so you have to self-certify for the exit, but I sit in exit rows all the time. Come to think of it, the flight crew never even asked if I was willing to open the exit, in the case of an emergency. Hmmm.

SeatGuru mentioned that the slide compartment takes away some legroom, but I have pretty short legs, so that didn’t frighten me. It should have, a little bit – I can sit and point my legs sideways, but it’s annoying. I can’t imagine if I had long legs, especially since American advertises the seat as “extra legroom.” The “offset” window – there’s a window in the door which is in front of the seat doesn’t bother me too much, as in, I’ll tolerate it. I can’t see out of it without leaving my seat.

Another comment was that it is right by the lavatories and people tend to congregate here. So far, this has been true. There have been any number of lines.

Also, people keep missing the lavatory door. The gentleman sitting next to me has become the Potty Director. So, it occurred to me – on every flight tells you where the exits are, and there’s escape path lighting to lead the way. This is for emergencies, which by definition will not happen that often. Why don’t they light a path to the nearest potty? People need those all the time. 

In fact, I would say, based on the number of visitors, this particular group of passengers has produced so much waste, that I hope the cargo bays are in the front and back of the plane to balance the weight. If we dump the poop, we’re covering a small city or fertilizing most of Arkansas.

Now, my assumption on actual groups (people not hopping up and down, just waiting to pee) was that if you get the usual older, bitchy international flight attendants (“Where did I go wrong? Why aren’t I working First Class by now? What am I still doing in steerage?“), they tend to break up groups, because they can, so that didn’t scare me.

Oops.

I actually slept a bit on this flight. I managed to turn sideways, point my legs out, and approximate curling up. I woke to the low-pitched drone of a French lecturer – I’m assuming French, because every third sentence or so ended with “uuuuhhhh” – or as Basil Fawlty once said about his wife Sybil’s laughing, “It sounds like someone machine-gunning a seal.” 

“Uuuuhhhh” is French for “Uh”, because much as every dinner there takes at least three hours, everything takes longer in French. (This is not a bad thing.)

I opened one eye, and there were three skinny-jeans EuroTrash gentlemen in a circle, stationed (unfortunately) blocking my view of the actual speaker.

I’ve just spent a week with the French, and they are lovely people, and most are not what I would consider boring. Most are quite delightful, as long as they remember to speak English for me. However, this guy was droning on and on, except for the “uuuuhhhh”‘s and none of the others were saying anything.

What was this? A philosophy class?  

Hey! Voltaire! Find another potty to hold your lectures!

I’m saying lecture because the others never said anything. If he was talking about cars,  sports (the Rugby World Cup just started – what could be more important than that?), or carnal conquests (that would be more important than rugby), then guys being guys, there would be laughter and the others interrupting to one-up him. So, he wasn’t talking about anything interesting or important. Maybe he was their manager.

They finally just left – all as a group. I guess classes are still forty-five minutes, just like when I was in college.

This meant I never had to implement Plan B, which was putting my feet up on the exit, kicking the handle, and “accidentally” blowing them into space. This was good, since I never would have gotten another drink, and I wouldn’t be able to visit the potty without holding on to someone.

So, now I’m awake. However, I can’t really blame Team Lead Voltaire completely, because the one noise that will always keep people awake on a plane is the high-pitched, almost dog-whistle constant exclamations of a very small child. (The usual English version is “Dad! Dad! DAD! Mom! MOM! Look!”) These noises can only be tuned out when the child is in your direct lineage, say a grandchild. Then, it is somewhat cute. Somewhat. If it is your child, you learn to tune it out or you will lose your mind. The rest of the time, it tends to cause anyone within earshot to consider strangling both the child and his parents – which, I believe, is the real reason that the airlines tell you to stay seated and keep your seat belts fastened all the time.

This is why I say, “Children should be in the overhead bin, and not heard.”

Luckily, this child was in my row, on the other side of the aisle, although he could have been within a 42-row radius, and I would have heard him. People on cruise ships below can probably hear him.

So, before my next long-haul flight, I am going to put my excess weight to work. I have finally found a use for my beer belly. 

I’m going to grow a beard, dye it white and get myself a red cap.

If one of those little bastards starts chanting, I’m going over, and I will just say, “Hi! I’m Santa. I’m on vacation, and you just woke me up. Four times. You are never getting anything for Christmas again. I will have Rudolph crap on your house as we fly by. I hate you.”

I can sleep through crying.

Off The Grid

I’m flying home from a week in Nice, France for a bunch of meetings – actually, some successful meetings for once – and I just realized I am off the grid. Since I finally had a data plan in Europe this week, it’s quite disconcerting.

I can’t get online.

I’m on one of American’s rather tired 777s – basically, a cattle car with wings. I did score a bulkhead seat, so even though I have a slide sticking out of the door in front of me, I don’t have someone reclining into my lap, and I can go pee any time I want, even with someone sitting next to me. All I’m missing is a window.

Here’s the issue – there’s no Internet access on the plane. So, that’s 10.5 hours across the Atlantic without email, Facebook or Google. Email doesn’t bother me too much – I checked it before I left Nice and there’s one work crisis that’s going to have to wait until Monday anyway. Facebook can wait.

Looking up stuff is problematic.

I just noticed on the TV screen that it’s -52 degrees outside. I was wondering why American thought anyone would care – it’s not like you can go out on the wing for a smoke, and you can’t open the windows. So, I assume it’s a measurement they take, and they share it because they have it. I wondered how they measure it, and “pitot tube” popped into my head. I know a pitot tube is used to measure something on aircraft during flight, but what? I’ll Google it. Oops.

I’m off the grid.

I would rather use my maps than the maps that scroll in English and Spanish, Imperial and metric. I have a GPS adapter for my iPad, but I need WiFi to load the maps. Oops.

At least, I can write this and sync it for publishing later.

It is interesting to me how many applications now just assume there is a network available. Most applications require it – as opposed to years ago, when apps were written defensively, to recover if there was no connection and restore or update when it came back.

Having a data plan in Europe meant my phone worked all the time, not just at the office and the hotel, where I had WiFi. Suddenly, it was more than a clock!

I could use Maps to find the restaurant, even while walking down the promenade.

I could use Uber to get a better car at half the price of a cab – Uber in Nice is impressive, as in three days, I rode in a Mercedes van, a BMW and a Jaguar. Also, the driver knew where I was and where he was going without requiring my fractured French.

I got text messages about flight delays before I got to my destination, which was a pleasant change.

So, after a week of discussing cloud solutions with colleagues, it’s painful not to have a network connection.

I may be going through withdrawals, but I can’t check my symptoms until I get back online.