Since Summer 2016, troop 73 has known that we would have an opportunity to go to the Philmont Ranch in New Mexico. We had won the lottery, and had 24 spots available to our troop. This means that we had the potential to take 20 kids and 4 adults in two crews out to New Mexico in 2017. And from the moment I found out that we would have the opportunity to travel, I knew that I would go. As one of the Assistant Scout Masters in our troop, I knew that I had the certifications that would be needed to attend…but more importantly, I have a son that would be just the right age to make the trip. At 15, going on 16, my oldest would be the perfect age to really enjoy what this experience had to offer.
Now, I should note, as excited as my son was to make this trip (and he was – he fund-raised nearly all of the $800 camp registration), I was probably more so. Since leaving Oregon, I think I’ve had the hardest time out of my family adjusting to Ohio. I love being outdoors, and while Ohio does have some very nice areas to camp and hike (really, it does), they aren’t the same. I miss the mountains, I miss the forest, I miss the towering fir trees that keep the forests green year round. That was my childhood…it represents some of my favorite memories with my family, with my father. And these were some of the memories that I hoped to build with my son…and hoped to relive a little bit while I spent some time in the mountains.
Preparation for the trip
Over the year, there was a lot of preparation that had to be undertaken. Equipment to be purchased, plans to be made. Some of the preparation was getting the kids ready to carry a backpack for eleven days. Some of the preparation was getting ready to hike for 5 hours every day. Some of the preparation was learning skills that would be required when camping in the back country for eleven days. Lots of preparations.
Then there was personal preparation. I turned 40 this year, and one of the things that I got into my head was that for Philmont, I was going to grow out my beard and hair. Why? Well, it was fun. I haven’t grown a beard in close to 20-25 years, so it would be something different. But it was also somewhat practical. With my hair long, and my beard full, I wouldn’t have to worry about the sun burns that everyone else in my Crew would end up worrying about. So how did it go? Quite nicely. I kept a photo record from Feb. 2017 when I started.
The last picture is in the Chicago Union Station with my son. I was quite pleased with my final Philmont beard.
The trip to and from Philmont ended up taking about 15 days. We travelled to Philmont via the train, travelling by bus from Columbus, OH to Toledo, and then from Toledo, OH to Raton, NM. For many of the kids, this represented the first time that they’d been on a train, crossed the Mississippi River, seen the plains of Kansas….it’s a great way to see the country…particularly the fly over country. On the train, we saw fields of corn, a tremendous lightening storm near Topeka, the snow covered mountains in Colorado, and a bear as we neared Raton. The kids spent a lot of time going to and from the observation train car, and generally enjoying the ride. I took a few pictures of the train trip across the country.
For us, the trip officially started in Raton, NM. This is where the Philmont buses picked us up. When you get to Philmont, everything is crazy. To start with, you have to get registered, there is equipment to pick up…lots of things to get done, including a shakedown with the ranger to make sure that everyone has everything that they will need for the trip. For the kids, this part of the trip is probably the most boring. We spend a lot of time sitting, a lot of time talking to the ranger about bears, bear protocols, snakes, water purification, etc. The ranger spends their time telling us all the terrible things that could happen out in the woods (which is fun, because some of the kids are already worried about bears and snakes) and the adults spend our time trying to keep them from going crazy.
You spend one day in base camp, and then you are on the bus.
For our Philmont trip, we hiked itinerary 9 (http://www.philmontscoutranch.org/filestore/philmont/camping/2017Itinerary/Itinerary/itin_2017_9.jpg). This would take us through Old Abreu, Crags, Beaubien, Black Mountain, the Red Hills, Cyphers Mine, Cimarroncito, Upper Clarks Fork, and then over the Tooth of Time to Base Camp. In all, it was a 61 mile itinerary, though my Fitbit with GPS clocked us way over that mileage. I actually journalled the trip, in part, because I wanted to remember what it was like, and in part, because I wanted to be able to give the parents of the kids in my Crew a taste of what the trip was like for the kids. And it was glorious. We climbed multiple peaks, including Red Hill and Mt. Philips. For almost all the kids, every day represented a new tallest mountain. We camped over 9,000 ft 4 times, over 10,000 ft once. We danced on the Tooth of Time. For many of the kids, it was the first time that they rode a horse, or had an opportunity to rock climb, or walk through an old gold mine. For eleven days, we watched the boys grow, mature, and wonder at the beauty of the New Mexico country-side. And I got to do this with my son – to make stories that only the two of us share through this very unique experience and bond. I know that I’ve been told by every kid in our troop that has done Philmont, that it’s a life changing event. It almost has to be…you are forced to push yourself in ways that you might not have thought possible, and bond with your Crew through this shared experience. But I think that as adults, we get just as much. You can’t help but be transported back to your youth. For me, it took me back to camping with my family, hunting with my dad…it let me slow down and appreciate how lucky I was to be spending this time with my own son.
We took a lot of pictures throughout the trip (hundreds). I pulled a few of our time at the ranch.
Probably my two favorite pictures though happened off the trail. The first is of my crew…
We’d just come off the Tooth of Time, down the Ridge Trail, and into basecamp. We were tired, dehydrated, and excited to be home. We were also a little sad that it was all over. While the kids couldn’t talk enough about what they wanted to eat (trail food definitely gets old and hard to stomach), there was also a realization that we were done and would be going home in a couple of days. It was bittersweet for me as well. While it was nice to have a cot to sleep in, and some real coffee to drink…I really wasn’t ready to be done. Even today, as I write this, I wish more than anything that I could get back out on the trail and just walk in the woods.
The other photo is this one:
This is a picture of me and my son, as soon as we got off the trail. We sent it to my wife…our picture as 2017 Philmont finishers. I’m incredibly proud of him, and what he’s accomplished.
And that pretty much wrapped up our trip. Of course, I’m leaving a lot of things out. I didn’t talk about the poison oak that I got into, and the rash the covered almost my entire body (that was fun), or the numerous trips our crews had to the trail doctors (I did mention, this trip is hard), or the logistics of digging cat holes, or eating trail food and sketchy water for days. No doubt – it’s a challenging trip. I’ve done this kind of hiking before (in the Pacific Northwest), and while Philmont is easier (more controlled), it’s still no joke. But if anyone asks – it is so very worth it. And I’ll be back. I have a date with Philmont in 2020, when I’ll take my youngest son, when he’s 15. And I’m sure the experience will be just as challenging, just as enjoyable, and completely different. And you know what, I can’t wait.
Having gone 34 years without being a coffee drinker, I personally never got why people wanted coffee shops in libraries. But over the last year, my wife and Greenhill Farms, a Kona Coffee Grower in Hawaii, convinced me that not all coffee is bad. I’m so convinced, that having a morning cup of coffee (black, no sugar – yuck) has become a bit of a habit.
Well, this morning, I was hanging out in Vancouver, BC killing time before heading to the airport. Since I didn’t have anything to do, I grabbed my copy of Norman Mailers “The Castle in the Forest” and headed a couple blocks down the road to Tim Horton’s. There, I grabbed a medium cup of black coffee, and found myself a quite table to just sit and read. And I have to admit, kicking back, nursing my cup of coffee and enjoying a good book was really appealing. Without realizing it, I’d spent about an hour and half in my little corner of the coffee shop. I think I now definitely understand the draw.
Maybe now that I’ve had this break through, I’ll be able to unwrap other mysteries – like why people enjoy watching talk shows and reality TV, who actually liked the show FireFly and why (because as a scify fan, I don’t get it) the infatuation with Dr. Pepper, and why my cats always look like they are plotting to kill me in my sleep.
After returning home from Vermont, I had to make good on a promise that I made back in June to my boys — so we packed up and heading down to Disneyland. For Nathan and Kenny, this was their first time down at Disneyland. In fact, for Nathan, it was his first time on an airplane. And what I found was that Nathan likes to fly. He thought it all was a big race and that when we took off, we were racing all the other planes at the airport down to Disneyland. Pretty funny.
This was our first day to see the Mouse and everyone was excited, which you might be able to see from this picture.
The first thing that we did in Disneyland was head to Toon Town. This is where Mickey “lives” and has lots of little places for the boys to play. There we saw and did lots of fun stuff, like ride on the Gadget roller coaster, Roger Rabbits spinning cab rides and look at all the little houses. The boys also took some time to play on the little cars.
We were actually just about ready to leave Toon Town when someone dropped by to say hi…Pluto! When Nathan saw Pluto he decided that he wanted to give him a hug.
and then Kenny…
followed quickly by Goofy and Minny
The rest of the day was spent riding rides. We rode lots of kids rides (the tea cups, story time, the Mad Hatter, etc), some not so kids rides (Thunder Mountain, Splash Mountain) and those in between (Star Tours). The funny thing is that Nathan is my little dare devil. On Thunder Mountain, he was sitting besides me yelling faster, faster while the train ran down the mountain and would have rode it again and again had the line not been so long. Pretty funny. And the Buzz Light Year ride, that was a favorite because you got to have ray guns and shoot at the bad guys. We kept trying to see who could score the most points. I like the Buzz light year ride as well, at least, up to the point where I broke my digital camera. I’d set it down on the floor and it got pinched between between the console and shattered the led screen. Dandy. Fortunately, it still takes pictures — I just can’t see any of them which will mean that I’ll likely be taking lots of duplicate pictures over the next few days to make sure that some of the pictures that I’m taking are getting saved correctly.
Anyway — that’s pretty much day one. I have a few more pictures (prior to shattering the screen), so here are a few from the rest of the day.
On the second day, we thought we would try to do a few of the rides in Disneyland that we had missed and then go over to California Adventures and see what that park had to offer. In general, we were holding off on the California theme park in part, because a number of the rides that I know that Nathan would like to ride, he’d be too small for. And he was so proud of being a big boy, that I didn’t want to disappoint him.
So on to the day. We went over to Disneyland and the first ride that we tried to get on was Nemo, but I swear, the lines there are just crazy — and I can’t figure out why. Since we didn’t want to stand in line for an hour for Nemo, we went looking for other fun. To start, we went on the Buzz Light Year ride again, followed by a ride on Star Tours. Kenny really like Star Tours, so that one was for him. Then, while walking over towards Splash Mountain to get a fast pass, we saw that Space Mountain was pretty much wide open. Not surprisingly, Nathan was game for a ride on the roller coaster…Kenny was a little unsure and Alyce was ready to give it a go. After the ride, Nathan was ready to go again, Alyce was walking around on wobbly legs and Kenny told me that he never wanted to ride on Space Mountain again. 🙂 But I was impressed that everyone was willing to ride it with me — because I’d long since given up hope that I’d get anyone to ride Space Mountain with me. My little thrill seeker and I rode on Splash Mountain one more time, and then we grabbed some lunch before going to California Adventures.
At California Adventures, we did a lot of rides just for Nathan — and that was partly because Nathan got jipped out of one of the rides. They have this ride called the Grizzly Run — which pretty much is a ride where you just get wet. Nathan really wanted to ride it, but you have to be 42 inches so he was just too short. He was really disappointed, but was a champ about it. And because of that, we road a lot of other kids rides and then stayed for the pixar parade. After the parade, we went back to Disneyland to ride on Thunder Mountain one more time (I’d promised Nathan) and then we headed back to the hotel. Overall, I think that everyone had a great time so it was definitely worth the trip. Anyway, here are a bunch of pictures from our second day.
The past couple of days, I’ve been spending a few quite days in Vermont ahead of the ReadEx Digital Institute. I’ve had the opportunity to be able to attend and speak at this little shin-dig for a number of years, and this year is no different. I actually like this get together a lot for a couple of reasons. First, you get a real diverse range of librarians and libraries that attend. The audience can range from the very technical to the not so technical — but every shares an interest in digital libraries, preservation and digitization in general. Secondly, it gives me an opportunity to spend time in New England. What a wonderful place to visit. I’ve fallen in love a number of times with the hiking in this area and like previous years, I took a couple of days prior to the Digital Institute to head to the back country and do a little bit of hiking.
This year, my hiking partner and went for something a little more leisurely and hiked up something called the Roosters Coop (I think). Not very high (the book I think said 2700 ft) but really scenic. On the climb up, we came across a waterfall off trail and decided to take a closer look:
and then decided to go off trail a little more and climb up the side of the waterfall (because it’s quite a bit higher than the picture). It ended up being a little bit slicker than either of us would have thought, but the view from the top was worth it.
After fooling around on the waterfall and making back down without falling, we started back up the hill. The climb opens up into two vistas. One over looks Keene Valley (small town), while the other looks out more towards Giant Mt. Throughout the climb, we were rained on, hailed on and at the vistas, enjoyed lots of sun. A great day. And while I didn’t get it in the pictures, I got to see snow on the mountains as well. Around 3500 ft, their was visible snow on the mountain tops — which make me wish we’d picked a little bigger mountain. 🙂
One thing I certainly love about this area is you can so tell that it’s fall. The leaves change color in a way that just doesn’t happen in the Pacific NW. Anyway, here are a few more pictures.
Of course, it’s easy to relax on a trip like this, when I know that batman is at home holding down the fort. 🙂
Not library related but fun, I guess. My wife sent me a list because she wondered what kinds of crazy things on this list I could say I’ve eaten. Some of the things on this list, I honestly don’t even know what they are. But, I’ll play the game. I’ve bolded the items of things that I’ve eaten in various forms.
The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison: (Growing up, deer and Elk were regular things on our table. I actually prefer it to most other meat, though it’s not something that I’ve had in a while.) 2. Nettle tea 3. Huevos rancheros: (Not my favorite. I love eggs, but tomatos, salsa, etc. should never be on them. It’s just wrong. Pure, de, wrong.) 4. Steak tartare (I love raw meat — most of the time) 5. Crocodile (Actually, Alligator — bbq’d. I actually like it — though the meat is a little salty for some reason [though, I’ve found that’s the case with most reptile meat). 6. Black pudding 7. Cheese fondue: (I prefer chocolate, but in San Jose, Kyle Banerjee and his wife took me to a nifty fondue place which was my first, and so far only experience.) 8. Carp: (I actually like to catch them.) 9. Borscht 10. Baba ghanoush: yum\ 11. Calamari 12. Pho 13. PB&J sandwich 14. Aloo gobi 15. Hot dog from a street cart (I love street vendor food. In fact, I’ve eaten some pretty interesting things from street vendors in the past and while sometimes an adventure — almost always my favorite food from my trips.) 16. Epoisses 17. Black truffle 18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes 19. Steamed pork buns 20. Pistachio ice cream 21. Heirloom tomatoes 22. Fresh wild berries 23. Foie gras: (I’ve never eaten anything that almost made me thow up when I ate it, and then almost throw up for hours after while I suffered the after taste.) 24. Rice and beans 25. Brawn, or head cheese (It’s kindof like ham and alright if you don’t know what it is.) 26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper 27. Dulce de leche 28. Oysters: (I love them raw — or as close to raw as possible.) 29. Baklava 30. Bagna cauda 31. Wasabi peas 32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl: (Thank goodness I don’t live in New England, because I’d eat this just about every day.) 33. Salted lassi 34. Sauerkraut (As Nathan, my youngest would say — Boogusting!) 35. Root beer float 36. Cognac with a fat cigar 37. Clotted cream tea\ 38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O 39. Gumbo 40. Oxtail 41. Curried goat (I’m not sure if it was curried, but it was goat.) 42. Whole insects (Honey ants and chocolate grasshoppers) 43. Phaal 44. Goat’s milk 45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more 46. Fugu (I’d love too — but I’ve never had the opportunity) 47. Chicken tikka masala 48. Eel 49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut 50. Sea urchin 51. Prickly pear 52. Umeboshi 53. Abalone 54. Paneer 55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal: (This must be for the people that have a death wish) 56. Spaetzle 57. Dirty gin martini 58. Beer above 8% ABV: yes, but I don’t like beer. 59. Poutine 60. Carob chips 61. S’mores 62. Sweetbreads (Yuk) 63. Kaolin 64. Currywurst 65. Durian 66. Frogs’ legs 67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake (Can you believe all of these) 68. Haggis (I’ll try anything once — thankfully, there isn’t a lot of chance that I’ll have an opportunity to have this in Corvallis) 69. Fried plantain (Not a fan favorite) 70. Chitterlings, or andouillette 71. Gazpacho 72. Caviar and blini 73. Louche absinthe 74. Gjetost, or brunost 75. Roadkill 76. Baijiu 77. Hostess Fruit Pie (Somehow, I find the thought of eating beef lard unappetizing — but I’ve had it) 78. Snail (In maple syrup — yum) 79. Lapsang souchong 80. Bellini\ 81. Tom yum 82. Eggs Benedict 83. Pocky 84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. 85. Kobe beef 86. Hare 87. Goulash 88. Flowers: pansies, on salad. 89. Horse 90. Criollo chocolate 91. Spam (ewwww!) 92. Soft shell crab 93. Rose harissa 94. Catfish 95. Mole poblano 96. Bagel and lox 97. Lobster Thermidor 98. Polenta 99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee 100. Snake (I prefer the kind that rattles — again — the meat is kind of salty)
So that is their 100 (where is pretty euro-centric). Were I to add to the list, I’d add a few more favorites:
1) Buffalo — lean and tasty 2) Pacific Salmon (any other salmon basically tastes like spit) 3) Fish and Chips (cod and vingar) 4) Avacodos (fresh off the tree) 5) Turtle soup 6) Sturgeon (has a very, non-fishy taste) 7) Hot dog from a baseball game
I’m sure there are others, but that’s what jumps off the top of my head.
So there you have it. Now here’s the rules: 1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions. 2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. 3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. 4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.
I just got back home from without a doubt the most horrendous travel experience I’ve ever had dealing with an airline. And to be honest, it wasn’t until this weekend that I never really realized how little help travelers have when something goes wrong. For me, my story started back in January of this year. Oregon State University and Penn State University had agreed to play one game at Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley. I’ve always wanted to attend a game in a Big 10 stadium — to be in a crowd of some 100,000+ fans, so my friend and I got tickets to the game and immediately started making plans.
I was pretty much responsible for making our arrangements — partly because I fly more and have status on the two primary airlines that fly into State College, Delta and United. I probably fly close to 20 times a year, so I do a fair amount of travel on each one of these airlines and have never had any trouble with either of these companies. So, I had no problem booking a flight on Delta in January for travel between Portland and State College. My original itinerary had my flying from PDX to Cincinnati and then to State College which sounded great. However, the problems started in June. While I was at ALA, Delta called to inform me that their regional carrier into State College no longer would be serving that area — so they would need to rebook my flights. Fine — so long as they could be me to State College around the same times, I was happy — and after talking to the ticketing agent, they were able to accommodate me. At that point, I had confirmed flights on Delta a flight that would take me on Alaska Air and Northwest so at this point, I’m thinking that everything is taken care of. I was wrong…so very, very, very wrong.
Sept.4th — travel day.
My friend and I got up early Thursday morning excited that we were finally starting our trip to Penn State to see our mighty Beavers take down the Penn State Lions (oye, the game — that’s another painful story). We got to PDX about 2 hours early and made our way to the Alaska ticket counter and entered our Delta confirmation number (the Delta ticketing agents had assured me numerous time over the past three weeks that this was all I’d need because I’d been calling them making sure everything was ok for our trip — I was just a little paranoid about traveling on so many partner airlines) — nothing. So, we went to the ticketing agent — a wonderfully nice lady that pulled up our boarding passes and printed them out. Just one problem — it said that a coupon from Delta was required. Huh? Apparently, when Delta rescheduled our flights, they didn’t let Alaska know what they were doing, I guess — so the nice lady spent close to an hour and a half with us working with Delta getting this resolved. After a lot of back and forth, the Delta agent told her that our tickets had never been re-issued after the change — hence the problem. They apologized for the mistake and said it was corrected. The Alaska ticket agent was able to print out our boarding passes to Seattle and told us that we’d need to get boarding passed from Northwest at the gate. Fine — we thanked the nice lady from Alaska, walked over to the Delta counter to get our confirmed itinerary from him (which we had and still have) and then went to quickly catch our flight to Seattle. Again, happy that we’d arrived early and was able to get this issue fixed.
So, we caught the flight from PDX to Seattle, arrived at the Northwest gate for the next leg of our flight and walked up to the gate agent. Now, I don’t know what the life of a gate agent must be, because I don’t think I met a single one that was helpful throughout this trip. Maybe it’s because they are so busy trying to get people through the doors of the planes — I’m not sure, but the Northwest gate agent in Seattle, Mandi, basically looked at our itinerary and said that it was a Delta ticket — we weren’t getting on the plane. Huh? We asked for a little explanation. Apparently, within the Northwest system, there were two Delta tickets reserved for the flight. These tickets were controlled by Delta for Delta passengers (like ourselves), but Delta never issued the tickets to Northwest. So, while I quickly called the Delta custom support to get this worked out, Northwest promptly gave away our seats because the plane was over booked anyway. After watching our flight fly away, stranding us in Seattle, a Northwest agent spent a little time with us to explain that it appeared that Delta never released any information to Northwest about us — and that we would need to go talk to someone at Delta to get this fixed. At this point, I’m mad. I also know at this point, we won’t be flying to State College. It’s a small airport and the flights are booked solid. But we are also stranded in Seattle. Soooo, we leave the security area and go to the ticket counters at SeaTac to talk directly with a Delta ticketing agent. This was around 11:30 am.
We are able to quickly talk to a Delta ticketing agent. Now, for as unhelpful as every gate agent was, the ticketing agents, both Delta and Northwest (yes, we talked too many) really tried to make this work for us. What seemed to be the biggest impediment was the policies that each airline follows. For airlines that are suppose to be merging, getting each airline to talk to the other was next to impossible. Anyway, we talk to the Delta ticketing agent. She punches up our ticket confirmation number and says everything looks great. Well, if everything was great, I certainly would have been standing there talking to her. So, I explained what had happened and we asked what she could to for us. Well, she started looking for flights into State College and was able to offer us a flight the day after the football game. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work for me. So, we asked how close she could get use to State College — at which point she told us that it was Delta policy to charge for changes in flight destinations. At which point, my friend called BS — these are tickets that we have had since Jan. 2008 and if Delta couldn’t get us to our destination, they at least had an obligation to get us as close as possible to our destination. She started looking — the closest Delta could get us was Pittsburg, but to get there, we would have to take a red eye flight from Seattle at 10:40 pm into Atlanta and then fly from Atlanta to Pittsburg, where we would arrive around 9:30 am on Sept. 5th. Fine — if that’s the best they could do, we’d take it. At the same time, we asked the agent if she could confirm that our tickets home, tickets issued by Delta to fly on Northwest, were confirmed and ok. She checked and said we were good to go. Great — so we left the Delta counter and walked over to Northwest to confirm that indeed, when we got to State College, that indeed, we’d have a ticket back. It was now 1 pm.
At the Northwest ticketing gate, we found the nicest lady. We explained our plight and she agreed that it would best to make sure everything was good prior to making the trip to Pennsylvania. Plus, we had almost 10 more hours at SeaTac before our new flight to Atlanta, so we certainly had the time now to make sure that this was all taken care of. The gate agent started looking up our information. Nothing. Just like at the Northwest gate, the clowns at Delta had neglected to issue us a ticket through Northwest. On the Delta end, everything looked peachy — unfortunately, we didn’t have any records in the Northwest system. At this point, the nice lady could tell that we were frustrated and tired. So she told us to go sit in the lobby and she would talk to Delta and try to get this straightened out. A miracle — I thought. Because when we were at the Northwest gate, I asked the Delta support to talk to the Northwest gate agent and got some asinine excuse that they don’t talk to anyone but customers. Thanks for the help. So, the Northwest agent disappears into the back for about an hour, and when she comes out, she’s not looking happy. Delta apparently gave her the run around as well. Her advice to us — call Delta support and ask to speak directly to a supervisor. So, back we went to the Delta ticket counter. My friend called Delta and asked for supervisor and I got in line. My friend got Delta on the line first and got on the phone with a supervisor. He explained the situation and the supervisor called Delta’s representative at Northwest. Fifteen minutes later, the supervisor comes back on the phone and tells us that he’s identified the problem. Apparently, indeed, Delta screwed the pooch and now, they can get us one seat on the flight from State College to PDX, but not a second — but that he would see what he could work out. More silence. Another fifteen minutes pass and the supervisor gets back on the line to tell us that we have confirmed seats, gives us a Northwest confirmation number, and tells us that the flight from State College is 20% overbooked, so arrive early. We thanked him and then walked right back to Northwest. This time, armed with a Northwest confirmation number, they found our itinerary and printed us out Northwest flight information — with seat numbers and everything. This was around 4 pm. when we finally wrapped this up.
With our new flights and Northwest itineraries in hand, we had to now make sure that the hotel in Altoona would hold our rooms (since we weren’t going to be checking in on the 4th) and make a reservation for a rental car from Pittsburg to State College. The hotel was easy — they said we’d have to pay for the night we were going to miss, but that they’d certainly hold our room. That was $108 down the drain. Thank you Delta. Then we called Alamo to change our reservation. Our local rental for 3 days was going to cost about $120. Now, since it was a one-way from Pittsburg to State College, the reservation would cost close to $400. So, that’s another $280 down the drain. Thank you Delta. And my friend, who use to live in Pennsylvania and planned to visit his 90 year old grandma that Friday, had to call her and tell her that we wouldn’t be able to drive to see her because we were going to have to be driving from Pittsburg to State College airport (because my bags had no trouble making the trip) to pick up my luggage and then down to Altoona where we were staying. Thank you Delta.
The flights from Seattle to Atlanta and Atlanta to Pittsburg went without a hitch. However, we were tired. I can sleep on a plane, but it’s not a restful sleep so by the time we reached Pittsburg, we were already tired. However, what could we do? We had to get to Altoona because the game was the next day. So we went down to the Alamo rental desk and chatted with a nice guy. He felt for us and ended up suggesting that we rent the one way from Pittsburg to State College for one day, then make a second reservation and rent a car at the State College airport locally for two. When we did the math, we saved a little more than $50 bucks, so that’s the route that we took. And off we went to State College. Five hours on the road, up I-60 to I-80 to State College. I swear, every road in Pennsylvania must be under construction right now because the drive took forever. But we got to the airport, got my bags, got an upgraded rental and were finally set to watch the big game. So after putting our Beaver flags on the car, we drove to Altoona and finally got a chance to get some sleep.
I’m not going to say much about the game because I’m selectively blocked those memories — but I will say that I left Penn State with two impressions. First, the fans there are fantastic. I’ve never felt more welcome as a visiting fan. When we got there, everyone offered to let us tailgate with them, everyone was telling us how impressed they were with how well OSU fans traveled and everyone was thanking us for making the trip. The stadium is impressive. The attendance for the game was over 108,000 — and the student support was impressive. When we went into the stadium, the 5000 orange shirts supporting our OSU Beavers was impressive. Then, Penn State kicked off the ball and went about kicking our butts. The final score was 45-14 — but it easily could have been 60+-14 had they wanted to run up the score. I’ll admit, that was a very impressive Penn State team that I saw — and I wish them the best of luck the rest of the season.
2:30 am — we’re up. Remember, the Delta agent told us that our flight home was overbooked and we wanted to make sure that we go there in time to ensure that we claimed our seat. Who knew how important it would be that we showed up so early. At 4:30 am, we were first in line and tried to check in. The machine found our confirmation number. Great. Knows who we are. Great. Then the machine tells us that we need to speak to the gate agent. Uh, oh. We talk to the gate agent and he pulled out the passenger list. There we were. So, he started typing on his computer and uh, oh — Delta still hasn’t done something. Basically, he can see our reservation, see our Delta ticket, but something that needs to be linked between the two systems isn’t. At which point, he tells us that we aren’t getting on the plane. It’s over booked and unless we can get someone from Delta to fix it, we won’t be leaving State College till Monday (if at all — meaning that we may have to drive back to Pittsburg). My friend calls Delta, talks to a supervisor and I kid you not, the supervisor tells him that it’s fine on their end, that they don’t feel that there is anything more that they can do so good luck. I called Northwest and Thank God I did. I got a nice Northwest agent on the phone, gave them my confirmation number and explained the situation. She said she’d look into it and put me on hold. 5 AM — I’m getting nervous because the flight boards at 5:30 am. Finally, she comes back and tells me that she has no idea what Delta has done to us — but that she can see that we have valid tickets so she has issued us two Northwest tickets. I went back to the gate and asked the gentleman to look up our reservations again and he was really surprised because our reservations were completely different. Now, they were Northwest tickets, with Northwest ticket numbers. Finally, everything was OK. I checked my bag, got our boarding passes for State College and our connecting flight into PDX and got out of there. I don’t know what that Northwest customer service agent did for us — but I am really grateful to her and her willingness to fix this problem for us because Delta pretty much had been sitting on their thumbs for the past three days jerking us around.
And so now I’m home. But I’ve learned a few things. First, if ever I have a schedule changed like I did for this flight — I’m going to contact all airlines involved and ensure that all tickets have been reissued between the various airlines and get ticket and confirmation numbers for each airline. You wouldn’t think you’d need to, but apparently this is the traveler’s responsibility because no one at Delta was doing this for us. Second, I’ve learned that when you have a problem, ask to talk to the supervisor. They were the only ones that seemed to be able to talk to another airline’s representatives. No idea why — but that’s just how it seemed to work. And finally, that if you buy tickets and something goes wrong — be ready to fix it yourself because the people at the airline may want to help you, but in reality — they probably can’t. Oh, and one more thing. I won’t be flying Delta again — at least not by choice. At least, that’s how I feel right now. I’ll be writing them a letter to let them know how unsatisfying this experience was — I don’t expect anything to come out of it. I just can not believe how unhelpful this company was — and how many times they failed to make things right.
I’d mentioned sometime back (http://blog.reeset.net/archives/489) that I was planning on being one of the crazy Beaver fans that will be making the trip to Penn State this year to hopefully watch out team spank the Nitty Lions silly. At the time, I didn’t have football tickets, but was smart enough to make airline reservations and hotel reservations assuming I could get my football tickets sometime down the road. I figured at worst — we could always count on scalpers.
Well, last month, it all got worked out. My friend and I got word that we’d been given tickets to the game, so we were feeling quite smug about the fact that we were ready for the game, especially when friends that I knew had waited until they had football tickets in hand before trying to get airline/hotel reservations for game day weekend. Like the ant who admonished the grasshopper, we probably were having a little too much fun giving our friends a hard time over the premium prices that they were going to be paying to fly to Happy Valley since at this point, a single airline ticket to Penn State costs more than what we paid for two back in Dec.
Anyway, I think that maybe we’ve been having a bit too much fun because I get a call while I’m in Anaheim at ALA. My wife called to let me know that Delta had just called to let her know that the regional provider that was going to be taking us to Happy Valley from Cinny was no longer flying to that airport. Suddenly, I wasn’t quite so happy. Ugh.
With all the flights that are being dropped next year (and regional providers going out of business), this was actually something that I was a little concerned about. But I kind of figured that we’d weathered the storm when I didn’t hear from anyone the first week of June (plus, I forgot what airline I was flying on — so I wasn’t sure how worried I should have been). But, like many others, we got bit by the current airline insecurity — and for a brief moment, fell into Airline purgatory (you have to imagine and ominous echo here), a special place reserved for people that have paid for tickets, but now no longer have a seat on a plane. Certainly, this had to be payback for the fun we’d been having with our fellow travelers.
Fortunately, I say that this was brief stay in airline purgatory. While it took about 45 minutes to resolve, I have to say that when I called Delta’s customer service, they worked it out which was a bit of a feat considering how inflexible our schedule is due to game times, etc. Of course, our flight plan now looks more like a jigsaw puzzle than an itinerary and we are flying on a number of regional/partner airlines (which makes me a little nervous) — but they were able to get me on flights that have me arriving a little later than before in Happy Valley but getting home about at the same time. So, A-Plus to Delta for making this a lot less painful that it might of otherwise have been. They made the experience so good that I’m almost tempted to start feeling smug again. I just wish I could remember how the ant and the grasshopper story ended up…
Since ALA seems to shutdown around noon so folks can go and get some lunch, I decided to try my hand at getting a little run in before heading back. I’ve tried running in California before (mostly San Francisco), and the number of people and cars always foil me. I’m use to my afternoon runs in Corvallis where I run on the backroads around the university without having to deal with a single stop light or my 5-6 mile run in Independence where I might cross a single person on my jogging path.
Anyway, I dug out google maps and mapped out a 3.2 mile trek around Disneyland. Looking at the outlay of the roads, it appeared to have the fewest number of intersections. I figured, run it today and if it looks promising, running twice tomorrow morning. Well, it wasn’t bad. About 1/2 was uninterrupted save for dodging people — the other 1/2 had a few stops — about 6. That’s still more than I’d prefer, but not bad for the number of people in this general area — so I think that I’ll definitely loop it twice tomorrow. Of course, I’ll run earlier tomorrow — maybe 6 – 6:30. The weather isn’t bad here — but again, I’ve been running in weather closer to 70’s — I don’t think it’s that much hotter here but the air just feels heavy. Hopefully, running in the morning will be better.
For the first time, in a really long time, I won’t be home on Mother’s Day. A trip to Boston last week was extended to include some time in NY to talk to friends and the Geneseo library about the resource sharing project that they are working on. I was really impressed by the work that had currently been done on this project. Their work to integrate ILLIAD instances to work towards unmediated article sharing within their partners as well as their ability to generate workflow reports generating time spent on each part of the request and delivery process (seeing information about both the borrowing and lending institutions) was pretty cool. At this point, this group is looking to expand their current work into a very ambitious open source project that could potentially help both their own consortia, but also provide an open tool that could be utilized by other Interlibrary Loan offices to deal with issues relating to publisher licensing guidelines, as they relate to lending digital articles. If anyone happens to be working on something like that, they should contact Cyril Oberlander. At this point, they are starting work on their next implementation of this project and are interested in knowing if anyone else is working a project like this.
So, its official (as of last week I believe), but Oregon State University’s football team will be traveling to Happy Valley to play the Lions — and I’ll be there. My wife has given me the ok so I’ve got the plane tickets, a hotel room in altoona, pa and a rental car. Now all I need are tickets to the game. :). But how hard can it be to get tickets to a stadium that holds over a 100,000 people, right? No, I’m asking. 🙂