The Travails of Travel

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Visiting Salt Lake City means I get to see Waffles, my daughter’s pug.

This past weekend, it dawned on me why I hate to travel. It all began with a too early flight from Palm Springs to Salt Lake City. When I have to get up earlier than normal, I tend to wake up every hour to check the clock. So, by the time I got to the airport, I was already tired and wondered how I’d make it through the day.

Online when I checked in 24 hours before our flight, Delta told us we’d get our seat assignments at the gate. Well, my husband got a seat, but they wouldn’t give me one. I’d been “bumped.” They said I could “volunteer” to give my seat up but I refused. My only hope was that someone wouldn’t show up or would volunteer to give up their seat on the overbooked fight. I was asked to sign a waiver that said I had refused to volunteer and I was giving up any compensation if I didn’t get on the flight.

At the last minute, someone took a $600 voucher to travel to Ontario and take a later flight, so I did get on the plane. It was a stressful way to start a long day, however! Since I had purchased our tickets more than seven weeks earlier, I wondered why I was the one to get bumped? A woman working at the gate said I must be “non-rev.” I found out non-rev is someone who didn’t pay for their ticket and they’re flying on a friends or family free ticket. That was NOT me. I paid full price.

The weekend was so much fun and I wrote all the wonderful details about it here.

 

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Utah with my girl.

But then the problems began on the trip home when we returned the car to an offsite car rental place, Fox, which we have raved about for the past three years. We’ve never experienced anything but the best service from them. But, on Sunday night they had one employee to check in returns and check out cars to lines of waiting people. We all seemed to pull into the Fox lot at once and we all needed to get to the airport, pronto!

We had to wait and were about 10th in line returning our car and missed a shuttle driving back and forth to the airport. They had two shuttles parked in the lot, but apparently only one driver on duty. So, I was stressed again and anxious if we’d make our flight while waiting for the shuttle to return from the airport.

 

At the airport, finally, I was pleased that we were pre-check. I sailed through the short line and noticed Bill wasn’t behind me. They wouldn’t let him through, and unbeknownst to him, his driver’s license had expired. After a full body search—and I mean FULL—the TSA agents went through his suitcase and laptop. Then they ran strip tests to determine that there weren’t any bomb-making ingredients on him or his stuff.

Bill kept telling me to get to the plane and that he’d be fine. I refused to leave him in Salt Lake City without knowing what was going to happen to him.

Together, we made it to our gate where our flight’s boarding thankfully was delayed by 30 minutes. We made it on the plane and the plane pulled away from the gate. Then we sat and sat and sat. The pilot made an announcement that an outside sensor wasn’t working and we’d be waiting until a further decision was made. Bill and I burst out laughing. What else could we do? The plane made it’s way back to the gate and we sat some more.

Thirty minutes later we were escorted off the plane to another gate. This time the plane was working and we made it home.

I love visiting family and friends, but I do not like to travel. What experiences have you had with travel that you’d like to share?

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I love these two. It was worth the headache of travel.

 

 

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What a difference a pool makes in a community

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Our gorgeous city pool, home of the Piranha Swim Team.

I’m researching the history of our swim club because it’s the 50th year since the Piranha Swim Team began. Plus, a big chunk of our family life centered around the pool and the Piranhas beginning with mommy and me classes, learn to swim, through the kids’ years with our team and their high school. Now my husband and I both swim Masters.

This project has been fun because it’s like putting together a complicated puzzle. I talk to a variety of people and learn about their love of swimming and how the team and city pool has impacted their lives. I’ve spoken with an “original” Piranha, who joined the team at age six from day one of the team when it was called the Palm Springs Swim Club. I’ve talked to a coach from the ‘80s who grew the team from a dozen swimmers to more than 150. 

I learned about a woman who was one of the team’s early coaches, Pearl Miller, who was greatly loved and respected by many—and found her US Masters records online. Coach Miller competed in her 70s through age 92! She began coaching the team at age 74 and held a contest to name the team. The top two names were Palm Springs Sunfish and Palm Springs Piranhas.

One of my longtime writing friends told me she moved from Montreal to work as an assistant coach for the Piranhas in the ‘80s. She said her career as a freelance writer and her marriage all came about because of her years on deck. She became close friends with several swim families including her future husband’s. Another swim family’s dad worked as the sales manager for KPSI, a local radio station, and hired her as a copywriter that spurred her career of decades.

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My kids and Angus the Guide Dog flunkie who inspired my son to fundraise at the city pool.

I remember with pride my son’s second-grade birthday party when he invited his class at school plus his swim friends. I was stressed about where we could host 50 kids.The pool at the time charged less than a dollar a kid and a pool party it would be. Then my son surprised me when I said he couldn’t have presents, because 50 presents were ridiculous. I thought about the nightmare of watching him open a stack of presents and what to do with them at home. He was okay with that and asked if he could request donations for the Guide Dogs of the Desert in honor of our Guide Dog flunkie Angus. He ended up raising close to $2,000 for Guide Dogs from the pool party, not only from his friends, but news spread and people showed up at the pool to donate.

Every year our Masters team raises money for Angel View’s Crippled Children’s Homes thanks to local CPA Steven Erickson who started the event. It’s a New Year’s Eve lap swim of 10,000 yards where we adults ask for sponsors and pledges. The pool is not just for kids, but it’s part of our adult community, too.

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Two of my friends swimming their 10k for Angel View.

 

The pool sees visitors from all over the world who enjoy lap swimming in our gorgeous pool while on vacation. The Piranhas host meets several times every year with literally a thousand families traveling from throughout the southwest United States to compete at a single championship meet and stay in our vacation resort town.

I think of all the kids who learned to swim at our city pool. It must be in the tens of thousands. Pools in backyards and condos are common in Palm Springs, where summer temps hit 90 to 126 plus degrees. Because pools are in backyards everywhere, children die from drowning. The city pool offers learn-to-swim and water safety classes. It’s literally a matter of life and death, not just recreation or sport, or a way to open doors for college. Think of those lives our pool and swim team have impacted.

From the World Health Organization:

Drowning Fact sheet
Updated May 2017:

In the United States of America: drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in children aged 1–14 years.

Access to water

Increased access to water is another risk factor for drowning. Individuals with occupations such as commercial fishing or fishing for subsistence, using small boats in low-income countries are more prone to drowning. Children who live near open water sources, such as ditches, ponds, irrigation channels, or pools are especially at risk.

Teaching school-age children basic swimming, water safety and safe rescue skills is another approach. But these efforts must be undertaken with an emphasis on safety, and an overall risk management that includes a safety-tested curricula, a safe training area, screening and student selection, and student-instructor ratios established for safety.

How is the community pool part of the fabric of your life? 

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9 Reasons To Visit the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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One of the best things we do each summer is buy summer passes for the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. Palm Springs may sound like a wonderful place to live, but it does have its drawbacks—the main one being heat. I don’t want to hear “Yes, but it’s a dry heat.” Actually, it’s not always a dry heat. The Gulf of Mexico is below us and storms come through during the summer bringing humidity, thunder and lightening. Besides, even if it’s a perfectly dry day with blue skies and sunshine it’s too hot when the thermometer reaches 115 to 126 degrees.

Living in an air conditioned world feels claustrophobic. I find myself staying inside staring out the window, not wanting to leave the comfort of my home. When I do, I turn on the car and get the AC cranking before I buckle up.

I have a few strategies to deal with the constant heat. One is walking early in the morning—by 7 a.m. it’s too hot. The other is swimming at the Palm Springs Aquatic Center with Piranha Swim Team’s Masters.  The pool is cooled and feels so good—completely refreshing compared to our own pool that’s hot as a bath. Plus, I get pushed by my friends and coach and end up accomplishing so much more than if I swim laps on my own.

The third is the tram. Here’s a description from the tram website:

“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway—the world’s largest rotating tram car—travels over two-and-one-half miles along the breathtaking cliffs of Chino Canyon, transporting riders to the pristine wilderness of the Mt. San Jacinto State Park. During your approximately ten-minute journey, tram cars rotate slowly, offering picturesque and spectacular vistas of the valley floor below. Once you reach the Mountain Station—elevation 8,516 feet—enjoy two restaurants, observation decks, natural history museum, two documentary theaters, gift shop and over 50 miles of hiking trails.”

Here are my nine top reasons to visit the tram:

ONE
Architecture.
From the mid-century architecture of the Valley Station to the Mountain Station, the beauty is striking. Pay close attention to the details of how the architects made the most out of breathtaking views. “Both tramway stations were designed by notable mid-century modern architects. The Valley Station, finished in 1963, was designed by Albert Frey and Robson C. Chambers. The Mountain Station, built in 1961, was designed by architect E. Stewart Williams. Additionally, the distinctive Tramway Gas Station at the foot of Tramway Road was designed by Frey and Chambers.” —Wikipedia

TWO
Hiking Trails.
A quick fix to feeling cooped up in the summer means a short drive to Tramway Road and a 10-minute ride up the mountain. We start the season off with small walks—either on the Long Valley Discovery Trail or the Desert View Trail to get used to the elevation. Once summer is well under way, we advance to more challenging hikes among the more than 50 miles of hiking trails. My favorite is Round Valley Loop which is described as a “moderately strenuous 4-mile hike,” but manageable for after a day of work. It’s a really good work out.

 

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Round Valley Loop view.

THREE
Fresh Air.
Did I mention it’s hot in Palm Springs during the summer? The first thing you notice riding up the tram car is fresh air. The windows are open and on the 10-minute ride up the mountain, you feel a cool breeze. At the mountain station, the air is about 30-degrees cooler than on the valley floor—and it’s cool and fresh. What a relief from air conditioning!

FOUR
Fragrance.
I’m hit by the delicious aroma of pine trees and especially the Jeffrey Pine’s butterscotch smell. Not only is the air fresh and cool, the aroma of the forest is enticing. It lifts my spirit.

FIVE
Breathtaking views. Everywhere you look, whether it’s the panoramic view of the Coachella Valley or a view of the Mountain Station from the Round Valley Loop, it’s amazing. A babbling brook or a stately pine are awe inspiring.

 

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A stop along the Desert View Trail.

SIX
Wildlife.
“The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is a major gateway to the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument traversing the southerly side of the Coachella Valley – officially designated a treasured natural and cultural resource.” There’s plenty of squirrels and lizards and I’ve heard there’s raccoons, foxes and big horn sheep. I notice the birds most of all. I must bring binoculars and a bird book next time.

SEVEN
Bring Your Children.
You’ll hear the excited voices of children ringing as they chase lizards, pick up pine cones and enjoy the outdoors. Many families visit the tram to let their kids explore nature. What a great way to escape the heat with your children and let them burn up energy.

EIGHT
Elevation Training for Athletes.
When my daughter was in high school, she used to run a few miles dryland training for her swimming. She and I would buy summer passes and she’d run at least two days a week at elevation. We often saw other athletes running the Round Valley trail, too.

NINE
The ride.
Some people buy their ticket for the tram for the ride alone. The views are spectacular and it’s a unique experience all its own. We, however, enjoy the tram for the world it transports us to. Ten minutes above the valley, we get to experience a slice of heaven and it makes the summer doable in Palm Springs.

 

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Granite views from the tram window with the other tram approcahing in the distance.

 

You can see why the summer pass is such a great deal!

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How do you stay active during hot summer months?

Am I Cut Out for the RV Life? Or, What Could Possibly go Wrong?

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Camping at Carpinteria State Beach

I love camping. My favorite memories as a child were Fourth of July weekends at Ross Lake near the Canadian border in Washington.

Open campfires, roasting hot dogs, followed by s’mores. Families laughing together, watching stars.

We introduced our kids to camping with an annual trip to Carpinteria State Beach, playing cards, sitting around bonfires and flying kites.

So what could possibly go wrong when we looked at RVs and decided to graduate from our tent?  We had the perfect excuse. We would use the RV once a month at swim meets, instead of paying for hotels out of town. Our kids could sit inside between swims diligently doing their homework, rather than hanging out under a pop-up tent with their friends. Yeah. Right.

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July 4th, 2012 camping trip.

We bought the RV four years ago and took it to exactly NO swim meets out of town. We brought it to our own pool to give kids on our team a break from the pool deck during a big meet. I think the kids spent a total of 15 minutes inside.

We took three camping trips with our kids. Here are three things that went wrong:

• The first trip, the RV got stuck inadvertently under the roof of a gas station. The gas station owner yelled that he was suing us for damages to his gas station.

• The second trip, the generator went out while we were dry camping.

• The third trip, my husband said he hates driving it and buying it was the biggest mistake he’s ever made.

We’re trying to use the RV this summer. If not, it’s gone in the fall.

We took it out of storage. We plugged it into our house’s electric, so I could get it cleaned up for the trip to the mountains. What else could go wrong?

First, the power went out in our house. The refrigerator, TV and computers went dark along with the lights. This was before I started cleaning.

Second, the AC went out in the RV so I cleaned in the “hot tin can” heat. When I went outside for breathers, in the 110 degree temps, it actually felt cool compared to inside the RV.

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Mt. San Jacinto in the background on a cloudy summer day.

We got “The Beast” up the mountain by hiring someone to drive the windy roads for us. He got it all set up and we were happy campers for about two hours.

Then, I turned on the faucet and it smelled like rotten eggs.

Next, we turned on all the faucets to clear out the smelly water and someone knocked on the door to tell us we had a leak. Water was pouring out from under the hook-ups.

The toilet wouldn’t flush and started leaking.

The carpet in the bedroom was damp from the leaks.

After our first night in the mountains, we decided to call it quits and come back to the heat of Palm Springs. At least we have a pool, AC, toilets and running water.

The good news is we get return to the mountains to hire a repairman and try RVing once again. My friends keep telling me I’m going to love it. I’ll let you know. 

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View during our morning walk in the mountains.

Are you a happy camper? What problems have you had RVing?

5 Tips to Beat the Summer Heat in Palm Springs

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A view from my morning walk.

It’s been a hot week and the “but it’s a dry heat” comment doesn’t cut it when the thermometer hits 122 degrees. I’m tired of breathing hot air and it’s been less than one week of extreme heat. I miss the days of hanging out at the beach with the kids. Those were the days!

Exercise is important. You have to get moving every day or you’ll go nuts. I think it must be similar to living in a wintry, snowy place during winter and experiencing cabin fever.

Here are my tips for keeping cool:

Get up early.
I moved my morning walk up by an hour and a half. It’s still hot, but bearable.

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Palm Springs pool.

Swim.
The Palm Springs pool is a cool place to be. Masters with Piranha Swim Team ensures that I get my workout in and I feel great afterwards! There’re workouts offered six days a week at a couple different times, so no excuses!

Tram Pass.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers a summer pass for only $75 May through Labor Day. We go several times a week to enjoy a fresh, cool breeze. On Sunday morning at 8 a.m. it was 68 degrees, while it was 100 at home. Elevation 8,500 plus with more than 50 miles of trails. 

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PS Tramway — 50 miles of hiking in cool weather.

Movies.
There’s nothing better than sitting in a dark, air-conditioned theater in the afternoon to beat the summer heat. We’re fortunate to have the Regal Palm Springs Stadium for the first-run films and the Camelot Theatres for indie movies.

Backyard Pool.
We float and kick in the pool every evening until we’re water-logged. IMG_2176 (1)

How do you stay cool during the summer heat?

“You’re Only as Happy as Your Least Happiest Child”

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic.

“You’re only as happy as your least happy child.” I heard a friend say this recently. I do believe it’s true. When you see your kids happy, you’re happy, too. When they are smiling and proud of their accomplishments or in love, we feel thrilled for them.

On the flip side, when they’re struggling, we have an ache in our hearts.

My son had a horrific last week of college, but managed to get through it alive. I got several phone calls where he wasn’t sure if he’d make it. He had five papers, plus finals, and I doubt he slept much.

I kept telling him, “You’re under the flags. Keep going. You can do it.”

I also received relieved phone calls as each hurdle was overcome. Today, he’s coming home for a brief stop before he starts his new life. I’m a worrier and I’m wondering how is he sleeping? How is he going to drive a U-Haul trailer with his worldly possessions up to his new life? How will he survive on his own?

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The city pool where my kids swam club and I swim masters.

My daughter was home for a week and it was a pure joy for me. She got me out of bed at 4:50 a.m. and drove me to swim practice. I loved the beauty of the early morning and the shifting lights in the water as the sun rose. By the time we were done, I felt elated. It wasn’t even 7 a.m. and I felt like I had accomplished so much. I hope to continue on with the early morning practices, although I must admit I’m back to my noon routine today. At least I’m going. Right?

Besides swimming, we hiked at the Tram, went shopping, got pedicures, went out to lunch and hung out together. The constant activity was different than my normal quiet writing days.

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Hiking on Mt.San Jacinto, PS Tramway.

I love having my kids home. But, I’m proud they have their own lives and are ready to take on the world without me.

P.S. On the last morning, my daughter, husband and I took a walk. We noticed we had company. Olive the cat followed quietly a few feet behind us. We’d stop to look at her and she’d look the other way. Finally, we stopped several blocks away to admire an apricot standard poodle. Olive decided that was enough. She stopped for good. When we returned home, several miles later, Olive was nowhere to be found. I retraced our steps and called “Here kitty, kitty.” She leaped out of the bushes across the street from where we saw the poodle. She was terrified and confused. She wouldn’t let me touch her but after one pitiful “meow” she followed me. When she finally recognized our neighborhood, her tail went up and she jetted all the way to our house leaving me behind.

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Olive the cat.

Bring Tissues to My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2


MV5BNTA1MjMzNDM2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTg3NzQ1NzE@._V1_SX214_AL_Last weekend, my husband and I went to see My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. It’s the second movie about the Portokalos family, written by and starring Nia Vardalos.

It was the first time we were alone after enjoying two separate spring breaks. First, our daughter had driven from Salt Lake City to So Cal to spend a few days with us. I delighted and luxuriated in the little moments I spent with her. Whether it was getting pedicures, or lounging in the back yard, I just wanted to drink her in, sit next to her, be near her.

I was pleasantly surprised that she allowed me! She seemed to enjoy our company and wasn’t embarrassed to have us hang out with her and teammate Maryssa. Evenings, we went to the pool, sat with the current crop of swim parents and watched Piranha practice. Just like the good old days.

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My daughter and her teammate during Spring break. Honestly, I’m not that short!

The following week, my son spent most of his break with his girlfriend. Oh well. We did spend his birthday weekend with him in one of the most beautiful cities ever, Santa Barbara. He’ll be graduating from UCSB soon, and we may not have the pleasure of visiting him there more than once or twice more. Our friends live there, so we’ll be back. I’m sure I’ll feel a hollowness in my heart my first visit to Santa Barbara knowing he’s moved on.

Back to the movie. This past weekend, once again kidless, we went to see the second installment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

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My son’s birthday celebration with our good friends in Santa Barbara. Homemade Black Forest cake by Debbie.

We’d seen the first one as a family, bought the DVD, and it was a favorite with all of us. Michael Constantine, who plays Toula’s father Gus Portokalos reminds us of my husband’s Uncle Luciano, from Sicily. When we mentioned it to him he said, “I’m nothing like him!” I don’t think he took it as a compliment.

We laughed so hard at the first movie. The second one, not as much. It was a good movie, don’t get me wrong. It had the same quirky, awkward moments for Nia Vardalos, the writer and star. There were laugh out loud moments with all the characters in Toula’s family. I felt reunited with close friends that I’d missed for far too many years. 

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Santa Barbara Mission with my son and husband sharing a laugh.

It hit too close to home. The aging father, the teenage daughter ready to leave home. Toula, having to rediscover and find herself after years of taking care of others. Going out to dinner with her husband, swearing she wouldn’t talk about their child.

The hardest part for me, sitting through the movie, was the tears. How much I miss my kids smacked into the center of my brain. I kept dabbing at my eyes. My husband would look over at me. I wiped my eyes some more. Finally I gave into the tears. That’s all I’ll say. Go see it for yourself and let me know how you like it compared to the first movie.

Warning. If you’re new to an empty nest, bring tissue!

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Sunset at Carpinteria State Beach during a picnic dinner.