Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chapter 8 -- One Step at a Time

   I have to check the weather before agreeing to a vacation.
  I don’t like to go to hot places when they’re hot. Even at home, I don’t go out much in the heat of a prairie summer, because I melt. My face gets bright red. Everything, including my hair, perspires. I’m completely miserable, so I like to stay in the house with closed curtains and air conditioning because I’m too old to be running around under the sprinkler in the back yard.
  My husband’s employers used to hold a week of business meetings in a sunny climate in February, with spouses invited along for the ride. That was fine with me, but when they decided instead to go to Miami at the end of May, I suggested Dick take one of his daughters with him and leave me home. Andrea had a wonderful time and I didn’t have to suffer from heat exhaustion. Same thing a year later: another hot-weather destination, another daughter. Whew, saved again, thanks to Monica this time, and she loved the laid-back ambience of the Dominican Republic in June.
  When we went to the Galapagos Islands, we had thought we were being quite travel-savvy, allowing a few days in Quito so I could rest before our flight to Guayaquil and from there to the islands, but we were wrong. By the time I got through the first day of the journey – the first long, long, very long day – I was beyond exhausted. We had flown via Houston and found ourselves waiting in the airport for hours before our flight to Quito. Excruciating. We should have stayed overnight in Houston, we realized later.
  When we went to Costa Rica the following December, with a change of aircraft in Florida, we arranged to spend two days in Miami between planes. I was able to rest, yet we still had time for a Miami Heat basketball game on the way down, plus a tour of the Florida Keys on our trip home.
  Yes, if at all possible, break up your travel into four- or five-hour segments. It really helps. The next time we go to Europe, for instance, I want to fly to the east coast of Canada or the US, stop there for a couple of days, then fly to our destination.
  Unfortunately, however, if you book a guided tour complete with airfare, you don’t get the chance to plan anything yourself. When we went to China, we knew we’d have to get ourselves from Medicine Hat to Seattle, which was then the nearest gateway city, but the "airfare-included" part of our tour involved a short flight to Vancouver the next morning, to wait and wait and wait for (get this) Air Canada’s 9-hour flight to Beijing.
  No amount of pleading “We’re Canadians. We have relatives in Vancouver. Can't we pick up the flight there?” could budge the arrangements, which had, apparently, been carved in stone (probably jade) and therefore could be unset only by the exchange of a considerably large sum of money.
  As it happened, I was already in the Vancouver suburbs visiting my sick father, so I took the Amtrak bus to Seattle to join Dick, who had flown there from Calgary. We spent the night in a hotel and, as part of our tour package, flew to Vancouver early the next morning. There we waited, and waited, and waited for our flight to Beijing, just to keep us on the tour company’s schedule.
  If we return to the Orient, I want to stop in Hawaii for a week first.
  If Dick and I ever go to Australia, though, I want to break the trip into several segments.
  I flew Vancouver-Sydney-Brisbane and return, when I was a whole lot younger, and swore I’d never do it again. Now I would want to fly from Calgary to San Francisco, overnight there; from San Francisco to Honolulu, overnight again; from Honolulu to Tonga or maybe the Cook Islands for another night or two, and finally to Sydney, arriving bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, not looking as if I’d been pulled through a prickle-bush backward.
  To tell the truth, I’d rather get to Oz by sea. One cruise company showed a trip from Vancouver to Honolulu, followed immediately by another from Honolulu to Sydney on the same ship. It would take a month, and would cost a fortune, but I’d sure be well-rested.
  A less expensive alternative would be traveling by freighter, but freight lines have restrictions against unfitties, discriminatory and unfair though that may appear to us. They say we have to prove we’re fit.
  Too bad, because a freighter voyage sounds like it would be wonderfully restful. There’s nothing to do except show up at mealtimes. Crew members don’t sing or dance or expect passengers to do the same, there are no Las Vegas-style entertainers, no shore excursions on camel-back, nada. I’d love it. Reading, listening to music, watching the ocean, chatting with other passengers every day or two if necessary – my idea of a good time.
  Sigh. It’s not to be.
  Freighters, it seems, have no passenger elevators, and they keep their freight elevators well hidden. I don’t think I could get our doctor to write the necessary letter about my health. “Dear Captain X, this is to certify that my patient, one Kay L. Davies by name, can go up and down four flights of stairs four times per day on a ship with no doctor, chiropractor or massage therapist on board.”
  Nope, not likely. Unless, of course, I go up and down ex-treme-ly slow-ly, stopping to rest, one step at a time.

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