Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pending Posts

We dutifully put our suitcases outside our room on Saturday night, having set out clothes and toiletries we would need to get ready to go home.  Seemed risky to leave luggage out in a hallway but then I realized 'where is anyone going to go?'.  We were at sea all night.

Sunday morning dawned early and we peaked out the window to confirm we were in the San Pedro harbor - same berth we left from.  The evening before we arrived, you go pick what time you want to leave and get the corresponding colored luggage tags.  Our room steward must have been hoping we would be departing earlier 'cuz he kept checking with us - I finally told him 'we aren't leaving until 9:30AM' - and then he returned with our room charge bill shortly after and we never saw him again.

We marveled at (once again) the efficiency of the cruise operation.  They announced 'colors' throughout the morning and people proceeded in an orderly fashion to the exit on deck 7.  When it was finally our turn, the lines weren't too long and we made it through fairly easily.  Once off the ship, we had to go through customs - where the agent asked (somewhat suspiciously) 'you don't have any liquor'?  or tobacco?'  I replied 'no' to both - I saw a lady buy 15 huge bottles of booze on Saturday at the gift shop so people stock up at the 'duty free' shop.  We're not really sure what 'duty free' means 'cuz her purchase most certainly exceeded the $800 exemption allowed - but anyway.  I said 'no' because we made no purchases of those items - and all we had purchased was clearly listed on our claim form.  Souvenir stuff mostly.

J. did remind me that we did have a bottle of champagne which I'd totally forgotten about (part of our Romance Package from our anniversary!) but that had also been listed on the form so....another confirmation he was marveling that we hadn't stocked up.

I thanked God at the site of the porter with a cart who assisted us with our carry ons and the two huge suitcases.  She took us all the way back to where we boarded the ship a week earlier to hail a cab. The ride back to the hotel where our car was parked was uneventful though the cab driver had never participated in the 'stay and park' with this hotel.  He didn't understand that we weren't paying him - we did tip him - but he seemed concerned that we weren't paying the fare on his meter.  I went in to the hotel to tell them we were safely back and the cabbie seemed concerned - and they took it from there.  He got paid - just not by us.

We made it home - no car issues (thank goodness!).  We went 99 as planned - a route I've never taken from So. Cal. home - marveled out how more developed and populated it is vs. I5.  I5 has always been a barren nothing for most of the drive - vs. 99 which has tons of things to look at and towns to pass through along the way.  We made a stop for lunch just past the Grapevine and another quick stop for gas and bathroom break.  We pulled in just after 5PM which wasn't too bad.  99 takes a little longer but it was worth it for the peace of mind knowing that if we did have car issues, we had plenty of places to be towed within our 100 mile tow allowance from CSAA.

J.'s going to take the car in this week to get it checked out - hoping it's a simple tube or something since it seemed to be related to when the gas volume was low?  Who knows.  It will need to be hooked up to the diagnostic computer and see what it says.

So many posts pending and pictures to get loaded - so be ready for a 'scroll down' short post to alert to new posts about the cruise.  I just can't finalize them all tonight and tomorrow is back to work for me.  I've felt pretty awful the past couple days - still cold/congestion and just exhausted...but I will survive.  Trying to remind myself to drink more ('cuz a lot of the time, my fatigue is related to not enough to drink and that's especially true when I'm not in my normal work routine having a huge iced tea and refilling with water throughout the day).

The trip was spectacular and we are already planning our next cruise - same time next year to Eastern Caribbean from New York - 11 nights.  We've already prepaid deposits for at least 2 more cruises so..we just have to find the one(s) we want to do and book them officially - then we have until 60 days before the cruise to make the final payment.

It's a wonderful way to travel and we both think 'sea days' are tons of fun.  So relaxing to just enjoy the journey and plenty of fun activities to keep us busy (if we choose to be busy).  I think a nice cruise a year (maybe two!) will get me through retirement...though I miss Paris and we definitely have to go back there, too.

So many options and so many places to go -

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Land Ho! (Tomorrow)

The sliding door to our balcony is open and the sea is roaring just outside.  Cruising is such a wonderful reminder of the vastness and power of the oceans.  It's truly amazing to be in the middle of nowhere, no land in sight.  It's awe inspiring and sometimes overwhelming.

Last night's irrational musing was 'what if the ship is overtaken by pirates'?  I know - it's ridiculous, right?  But - just in case - I thought about the drills we do at the schools all the time.  We'd draw the dark blinds, turn off all lights and silence everything and stay in our locked cabin until instructed otherwise.  We could even 'double lock' ourselves by sitting on the bathroom floor and locking that door, too.  Then I realize 'they can shoot through anything, you know'.  I went to sleep (thankfully) shortly after. I slept fine - just my usual 3AMish awakening with a hot flash (or two) and crazy musings until I drift back to sleep.  The gentle rocking of the ocean is something I'm starting to enjoy and might miss when we get home.

I have no idea why my mind wanders to the places it does but I do realize, hugely, that I am totally and completely overwhelmed by newness.  This entire adventure is new and I feel rubbed raw a lot of the time.  Not that we're not having a great time 'cuz we are.  But my mind feels constantly on alert and tired from all the new things to think about.  Example:  if you come out of the elevators, our room is a right turn.  If you come off the stairs, it's left.  But if you cross to the other side of the ship and forget that - and then forget to cross back at some point as you meander back, you are going to put in a lot of steps getting to/from where you want to be.

Today felt like a really busy day.  We had breakfast and I headed to the casino for a bit. Then I met J. and we played Bingo.  I WON $44 on a 4-corner Bingo - sadly, sharing the $144 jackpot with 2 other ladies but still - we paid $69 for both of us to play (including a new t-shirt) so we were only $25 in the hole after my win.  We tried for the $2000 blackout pattern grand prize but no one won.  It went back down to $200ish when it didn't hit after a certain number of calls.

After we came back to our room, we headed to lunch and from there, went straight to the spa.  We purchased the 'thermal suite' package which gives us access all week to sauna, hot swimming pool, cold swimming pool (which I won't go near), jacuzzi and a viewing deck with heated (tile topped) chaises.  I didn't really care for the chaises - weird angle for my neck - but enjoyed holding my beloved's hand in the jacuzzi and then sitting in the deck chairs watching the bow of the ship move up and down.  It's incredibly quiet in the spa area which is a nice break from the gazillion children and loud adults about.  I'm reading a great book - a real, live paper book - enjoying every minute and savoring each page.

We had a tea service at 4PM (part of our Romance Package) and then canapes at 6 (also part of the romance package).  The date for the canapes was pre-booked and today just worked out to be the better day for our tea service.

Tomorrow is our first land day - Puerto Vallarta.  We are heading to Las Caletas for the day - 6.5 hours of being at this retreat where we can do as much (or as little) as we'd like.  We will be back on board in plenty of time for our departure tomorrow evening.

We booked an excursion for every land day and I think we both sort of regret that now, especially since we purchased the spa package - but oh well.  Thankfully, Th & Fri's excursions are just a few hours leaving plenty of time to return to the ship and relax.

Time changed again and we lost another hour - it's 9PM though the computer and our phones says 8PM.  Need to wind down and get some sleep - have to actually set an alarm tomorrow (crap!) but oh well.

We're already looking ahead to a 10 to 14 day cruise to the Caribbean in a year or so.  I think cruising just might be my new happy place - we think it's less expensive than Cancun (on a per day basis) and once I get the hang of the newness, it is very relaxing.  No shopping or cooking; no expensive dinners out - tons of 'help' here - a great room steward; wait staff; casino team - all ready to do anything they can to make your trip fun and memorable.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Adjusting to the Newness of it All

Greetings from somewhere south of San Diego!  We're moving at a pretty good pace this morning.

Yesterday felt totally overwhelming - and I surprised myself (not to mention J.) with some reactions to things I don't do often.  Hard to keep track of passports, room keys, etc..  Hard to adjust to not living out of a suitcase - putting things away and then having to remember 'where is this'?  Over and over.

The casino is so-so - it's honestly not very big and has pretty old machines.  In hindsight, I guess I should have expected that.  This ship arrived in port yesterday morning and offloaded 2800 people. Cleaned up after them and then boarded another 2800 - all in the span of about 7 hours.  Where does it ever find time to have newer slots installed in the casino?  Never, I guess.  There are some old familiar 'standards' and they are OK - but it's not really a place I feel much interest in spending too much time - which is good, I think given how 'expensive' it is.  Not saying I won't play at all over the next six days - but certainly not much.  There's plenty of other stuff to do.

We pulled out of port yesterday and the Battleship Iowa's staff (it's a museum now) bid us farewell over their loudspeaker.  So did a nearby restaurant.  People were standing and waving and we were on our balcony doing the same.  It was exciting.

I'm getting used to the steady sense of movement under me (always).  I don't feel nauseous at all but I do feel disoriented and I think that's partly why yesterday felt like just a huge 'adjustment' day'.  I slept pretty well (considering) and by the end of the night, instead of thinking 'what in the heck is moving under me', I drifted back to sleep thinking 'nice to be rocked to sleep'.  I think I'll survive the cruise -

We are heading out to breakfast shortly (having navigated the shower) and then have an art auction attendance planned.  We don't plan to buy anything - but we get a free serigraph for attending - nice way to pass some time and get a free souvenir out of the activity.

The food is delicious and plentiful and we are being pretty careful - BUT I enjoyed a delicious, freshly made crepe with lemon filling, chocolate sauce (from a chocolate fountain) and freshly made whip cream!

We are 'at sea' today and tomorrow full days and then it's three back to back excursion days in each port of call.

We have champagne, a dozen red roses and chocolate covered strawberries here for our 'Romance Package'.  We also will enjoy a romantic Italian dinner, hors 'd oeuvres tomorrow evening, a portrait at the portrait studio on board and tea service in our stateroom before the journey is over.

Internet works fine and there's a 'glitch' that lets us text each other for free - using the ship's WiFi. Relieved we can be in touch with H. (especially) since he's got some specific things he needs to keep us looped in on.

It's a little overcast this morning on this first day of Spring, 2017 - but it's still lovely.  Coffee this morning watching the water was a wonderful way to start the day.

From the high seas, I bid you a wonderful day - I'm with my best beloved experiencing a new way of vacationing and enjoying (pretty much, anyway) every minute -

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Cruising....

I just wasted 5 minutes attempting to confirm the lyrics to the song running through my head. You know the one I mean.  It's a male vocalist but the searches come up with other songs that aren't what I'm thinking of.  Oh well.  I tried.

I always plan to be super organized about packing and preparing for a vacation trip - and it always ends up in a mad-dash, crazed 24 hours.  I'm totally itchy this morning and I feel stressed out to the max.  We finally realized we were planning an 8AM departure for Long Beach today to do what?  Sit in a hotel room tonight?  So we've ratcheted back our departure to 'whenever' 'cuz the hotel room will be waiting for us when we get there.

I think it's also harder to pack for this trip 'cuz we've never cruised before - and I do feel compelled to have 'leisure clothes' for the beach and pool and then some other outfits for dinner.  There's no fancy dress requirement on this cruise (or we wouldn't be going) but I still like to 'dress' for dinner.  After a day of time by the sea or the pool, it's nice to get showered and cleaned up before heading out to eat and then a show or whatever else we do in the evenings on the ship.  It's complicated and requires way more room in a suitcase than usual.  They say there's no room in the 'mini-suite' we booked to have suitcases out and about - so you unpack and then stash your bags (hopefully) under the bed. If not, 'your room steward may be able to stash your empty suitcases in his storage closet'.  Heh.  We have a room steward.

It's 8:30AM now and I just made my second cup of coffee and J.'s first.

We're leaving H. alone and given the drama of recent weeks (which I've stayed silent on), it's very stressful to leave him here.  Not wanting him to drive and having no way to enforce that - and he will have to drive to Modesto this week on his own for a doctor's appointment.  We are logging the mileage on his car this morning and have Map Quested the route to the doctor and that's what we expect to be added to the car when we return.  He should be able to hitch rides to school with friends and if he can't, he is OK to drive to/from school ONLY.  But there's no way for us to ensure that's what's happening - and that's just the way it is.  Really no different than when we are here, actually. He says one thing and does something completely different all the time.

But when we're here, we keep all the car keys somewhere he can't find them - and we won't be able to do that when we're gone.  (And he does have to get to school and the doctor so...).  I'm hoping this doesn't end with yet another infraction to deal with.

I also had a busy, hectic week feeling like I was getting a months worth of work done in a week. Got several HUGE projects off my list and out to the masses who needed them and my boss seemed impressed.  I just felt relieved - until I looked at the (ever) long list of stuff still to do.  There's always high priority stuff on the list and it will just have to keep until we return home in a week.

We watched a bunch of You Tube cruise hint videos which sent me back out to pick up things like small clips (to secure your towel to your chaise), etc. .  After taking 1.5 hours to do that errand, gas up my car and also get the nose pads on my glasses replaced at Costco, he mentioned something else he heard we needed - and I truly could have killed him.  I said 'I'm not going out again'.

In my defense, my sinuses are a wreck and I've been on antibiotics again for...wait for it....you know what's coming....ear infection.  I think I feel better but my head gets super stuffy and the only thing that works is Claritin D which makes me feel so 'hazy', I just can't take it everyday.  I went to the bank yesterday to get our trip money and was so dazed, I asked the clerk to run the cash through the counting machine and give me the ticket to confirm the amount 'cuz I just couldn't keep up with manually counting it.

And coincidentally, the casino I frequent north of Sacramento just sent us another 'cruise event' invite so we'll be trekking up there again on April 9th to secure another discount on our next cruise.  If we don't like our first cruise, we won't go - but if we do?  We'll snap up another offer and start planning for the next one.

Time to hit the shower and finish madly packing.  Wish us luck in getting everything in two suitcases and one carry on - OH - because as if it's not challenging enough, turns out they collect your suitcases the night before you disembark so you have to have a bag that will hold what you need for the morning -

Bon Voyage to us and wishing you a nice week.  We will have Internet and I hope to blog about the voyage when possible.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Joys of Traveling

I was up at 5AM and showered and dressed before J. woke up.  My plan was to head downstairs for one more try at a machine I hit for $550 on Saturday evening and then hit again last night for $850. Those wins gave me plenty of room for more play and we came home with money which is a win, considering we take what we plan to lose.  Coming home with anything is a great thing.

My morning play did not result in a big win but oh well.  We were packed and headed downstairs just after 7:10 for a shuttle to the airport departing on the half hour.  We were there very early for our flight (which was then delayed - they left Tucson this morning in our plane and had a bird strike so had to take extra time to get that checked out before proceeding on to Las Vegas, then Reno, then Oakland and finally Seattle.

J. forgot to check in online at exactly 24 hours ahead (he did so stupendously on Thursday for our Friday flight, we were B01 and B02 for our trip to Reno) so we were B44 and B45 for this flight.  I took advantage of the open middle seat between two guys in the very front row and all I had was a purse so it worked out fine.  It's a very short flight so I can hang anywhere when I'm not going to worry about something to read or do.

The older gentleman I was seated next to was a retired high school history teacher in San Lorenzo. He now travels all over the place for stamp shows and has quite a collection.  Reminded me of my hobby in my school days - and I'm going to dig out my collections and revisit them.  I asked what genre of stamps he collected and he said 'Airmail, Butterflies, Madonna and Child, Trains, Baseball'. Neat that he picked things he loves and then collects around that.

It was a fun 30 minutes of chatting with this person.  His entire family (wife, daughter, son) are teachers and it sounds like he's had a great career.  He's enjoying retirement and traveling.  I asked if he stayed at Atlantis in Reno and he said 'no, they wanted $139 a night for a room - I stayed at Circus Circus for $39-$49'.  I chuckled 'cuz we (almost) stayed at Circus Circus in Vegas once with my Mom when B. was little and I took one look at the room and said to J. 'no - I'm not staying here'.  We moved to the Mirage and never looked back.  I haven't set foot in a Circus Circus since - and never will.  It's just not my 'type' of hotel.

The stamp show was at The Atlantis (where we stayed) and I sort of wish (now) that I'd gone to the show to check it out. He said anyone is welcome and attending a stamp event is what got him hooked. I collected for a long time and I know how much fun it can be - to get a stamp order in the mail and to hunt and search for the one stamp you need to finish a series.  It's a great hobby and I need to revisit it.  I think I stopped because the possibilities were endless.  I have a lot of foreign stamps and there was never any rhyme or reason to my collecting - I picked things I liked and ended up with quite a variety.  It got overwhelming, I think.

We were home just before one and that included making a stop to get some lunch to bring home.  The dishwasher was running and the left side of the sink is full of dishes.  The floors look OK but they need to be swept which I plan to do shortly.  The cleaning ladies come tomorrow but I can't leave dirt and debris from outside on the floors just because they are due to arrive in the morning.  I'm pretty sure we were the party capital of Tracy over the weekend 'cuz there's candles, etc. outside.  Not sure why -

I've updated our Quicken registers; opened the mail and written checks to the exterminator and the cleaning ladies.  Now it's on to emptying my suitcase of dirty laundry and taking my suitcase upstairs. Two weeks from today will be our first full 'at sea' day on our cruise to Mexico - looking forward to the cruise.  Not the drive to Long Beach but the cruise will be lovely.  Have to figure out what to pack and start making lists so we take only what we plan to wear.  There's no room to lug a bunch of extras.

Work looms tomorrow.  And the time change this weekend.  My cousin is happy 'cuz we'll be on the same time now and we miss each other a lot during the months of the time change.  But I dread the missed hour of sleep and know the house will feel it for at least a week.

Chicken pot pies for dinner!  And You've Got Mail is on to ease into getting ready for work tomorrow.  Clothes picked out; breakfast and lunch to go planned.


Sunday, March 05, 2017

Snow Flexibility

J. and I are in Reno - arrived Friday.  We flew - normally extravagant but we had a credit on Southwest that expires on the 8th and we're frugal.  Well.....we're sort of frugal.   As I count my cash for slots later today and remind myself how blessed we are to be able to blow cash if we like.  We just didn't want to waste that credit so...Reno was a quick weekend get away.

We had rented a car for the day and planned to spend today house hunting - but there's quite a bit of snow on the ground and it's not looking like it's going to clear.  We've seen a little sun but it's back to cloudy and grey so...we're staying in.  Kudos and thanks to Budget Rental for automatically cancelling our reservation and not charging us - we prepaid for the rental to get a cheaper rate - but they realize having people who rarely drive in snow borrow cars to do just that is probably not safe. So no rental car charge!  More gambling $!  Yay!

We might be brave enough to take Uber or a cab downtown later today though neither of us have snow clothes with us.  We'll see.  For now, we're enjoying a slow, lazy morning - getting showered and ready to go down and enjoy a nice brunch.

We thought about trying to head home today instead but odds are flights are sold out and/or who wants to sit in a plane waiting for a clear runway as I did at the end of January?  And then I hit a nice win at the end of the evening yesterday so that gave me back some play money for today - so I'm fine with hanging out.  We thought about watching Pay Per View movies - Manchester by the Sea - but at $17.99?  We just can't do it.  It will be on our cable TV soon enough.

H. is home alone and is our house sitter and dog keeper.  So far, he says everything's going well - he's managing Chloe's shots no problem and they spend a fair amount of time on the couch together sleeping a lot.

I return to work on Tuesday and it's a board prep week so it will be busy.  I am gearing myself up for long days 'cuz I've shorted myself a day and that time will likely be made up by early arrivals and late departures this week.  Have dinner with a friend this week and can't wait for that!

J. says 'this is what it will look like here often in the winter - and before the streets are cleared, we're not going to want to go anywhere'.  I think it sounds like heaven - especially assuming I won't be working so won't have many days where I 'have to' be somewhere in particular.  I can't wait to live here - I feel that way every time I visit - I can't wait to call this town home.

My turn for the shower.  OH - a huge thank you to my husband who bought a 'device' designed to keep guys from snoring - I was skeptical 'cuz if it worked, wouldn't everyone already know about it. But it was $99 and worth a try, he said.  IT WORKS!  First time in 29 years together that we've shared a hotel room and I haven't resorted to waking him up to get him to stop snoring.  I slept 11 hours last night!!  In a hotel room!  With my husband!!  It's a miracle!!

I cleaned out the pocket of my rolling back pack and found a note pad from our hotel in Paris two years ago and I want to go back so badly....time to start shopping for airfares and maybe we take a trip in late September?  We'll see.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Loss

The phone rang very early Wednesday morning - it was B. .  Rare for him to ring the land line.  I knew the minute I heard his voice something was wrong.  My first thought was 'he wrecked his brand new (to him) car'.  But no.  Not anything as simple as that.

A good friend had died.  He'd seen it on Facebook and had very few details.  He was just stunned and shocked and sad.  It was the guy who sold him the truck he drove for a few years - the first car he ever bought on his own.  He loved that truck - and he loved his friend.  He told me that S. was one of the first friends he made in El Paso - a few guys sitting around outside with an ice chest full of beer and S. asked 'hey, you want to hang out and have a few beers with us'?  The rest is history.  There are plenty of pictures showing that group of guys having fun over the years.

B. was so sad thinking that maybe his friend had hurt himself - a not uncommon thing among military.  And shocked - just stunned.

The next day, I googled the young man's name hoping to find an obituary - and came across a news article.  S. was working on tree cleanup on Hilton Head Island and he died when he was hit by a tree part.  He was airlifted to a hospital and died the next morning.

I sent B. the link and he wrote right back and said 'I just found out and was about to message you so you would know'.  Still sad and sudden but grateful he died in the outdoors (which he loved) and working with a group - which by everything I've heard about him was his element.  He was a great all-around nice guy - always smiling; always happy - no matter what he was doing.  He will be missed by many.

We just got an emergency alert on our cell phones - shrieking like we've never heard before. Scared us both and for a few seconds, we weren't sure how to make the shrieking stop.  There's a levee break near Manteca on the Stanislaus river - not 'close' to us but still worrisome because the San Joaquin River isn't too far from the Stanislaus and the SJR is overflowing it's banks and flooding everywhere it runs in San Joaquin County (where we live).

We aren't near the flooding but we have friends who have a home on 3 acres that's built up a bit - and it's likely they are surrounded by water.  I'm checking in with them shortly.

I enjoyed a 3-day weekend off which I really needed - I feel tired to my bones.  I still have quite a bit of things to juggle at work and while I am looking forward (very much!) to our weekend in Reno, I have so much to accomplish in order to be able to get away and enjoy that weekend without fretting about work.  It's hard to believe we are almost officially in March - can't get over how quickly time goes.

It's still steadily raining and J. drained the pool quite a bit - again.  I think this is the 5th time.  This is definitely a wet winter and we are so grateful for the water.  But we're so tired of rain.

Chloe isn't feeling well.  She spent Thursday at the vet for her glucose curve - she's still really high and they upped her dose of insulin again.  She hasn't been 'right' since she got home and we're trying to figure out what's going on with her.  She's itchy and sullen and whining a lot for no reason.  Poor baby.

I'm heading up to bed soon - it's early but tomorrow is a 'Monday' technically and I want to be well rested.  It's a board meeting day so super long -


Pending Posts

We dutifully put our suitcases outside our room on Saturday night, having set out clothes and toiletries we would need to get ready to go ho...