Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Good morning!

I write this after a long night. No, that does not mean that I’ve been up all night. It just means that it was a learning experience.

See, my office recently celebrated a milestone. Some two million work hours without a day-away case. Basically, that means we are working safely. That’s saying something… we’re a printing company and there are presses, tow motors, basically all sorts of heavy stuff that can do serious bodily harm if not respected. To go two million hours without anyone being maimed or killed or worse is pretty good. As such, they decided to throw a “make your own sub” party to celebrate.

Now, given more former girth, I don’t have to say that I was always a big fan. Think about it… piles upon piles of unhealthy meats and carbs, not to mention that you could thrown some lettuce and tomato on top and kid yourself you were making it healthy. Don’t get no better than that.

Of course, just because I’m embracing a healthier lifestyle doesn’t mean I don’t like lunch meats and I wanted to participate, because, well, it’s like a bonus. So, as I trudged down to the party site (step… thump, step… thump) I concocted a strategy for making the most out of my sub experience. I obviously couldn’t have the roll… a little too much bread, but I thought why couldn’t I have some meat and cheese? After all, it’s protein and protein is important.

This wasn't how I planned it, but it was my reality

This wasn’t how I planned it, but it was my reality

So, I picked up a slice of provolone, a slice of American, and one slice each of bologna, salami, ham and turkey. The cheese and turkey went down fine. One bite of the salami was enough to make me pitch it… nasty. The ham, though, was very fatty. VERY fatty. And, well, it didn’t stay down long. So, lesson learned. Stay away from fatty meat. In this case, advantage: Joe.

In other news, the toe that just won’t heal has caused me six weeks of issues. After multiple visits to the podiatrist, I’m not feeling confidence that it’s helping. I understand that he thinks Betadyne will dry the wound, but it doesn’t seem to be healing. I dug into my bag of tricks and discovered some prescription stuff that the wound care doctors had given me for a prior toe issue and have opted to go that route. So far, it seems to be working pretty well… if I don’t show marked improvement by my next appointment, I’m ditching Mr. Foot Guy and going back to the wound care doc, who is named Paul Rogers. And no, he doesn’t periodically tour with Queen. Different spelling. Either way, I have to do something, because this is killing me to be so inactive. Plus, sleeping with one foot hanging out is kind of a pain in the ass.

It’s funny, though… even the boys have noticed my frustration level. I was at the fitness center yesterday and although they keep telling me to not get down about it, it’s so hard not to. The wearing of the boot, coupled with the uncertainty of when I’ll get it off just really wreaks havoc in your mind. If I knew that I had “x” number of days to go, well, it would really do wonders in making life a little better. Or, at least, give me an idea of how long my sentence will be. I know I shouldn’t let it get to me, but that little voice is there in the back of your head saying, “Remember, Brian, thou art mortal.”

So, this upcoming weekend is National Train Day. I’m planning on meeting up with a friend at 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and touring the equipment they will have on display. It’s always nice to ride the rails and since I’m an equipment geek, I like to walk through the various trains and private rail cars they have on display. We had discussed going to Washington, since they are offering excursions on an Acela trainset, however, given my new eating reality, we thought it best to just make it a day trip. Should still be fun.

At any rate, hope that everyone has a fun weekend and that you can kick back and enjoy some weather that will supposedly be very nice. Talk to you more after Train Day.

Song of the Day: She Sells Sanctuary – The Cult

So, I’m writing this from Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter resort. As I sit here in the half light, the gentle sounds of Supportive Partner Woman’s breathing providing a quiet counterpoint to the hustle and bustle of families getting ready to hit the parks, I realize just how lucky I am.

I spent a lot of time the past few posts basically whining about life in general. I have it pretty good. I have a job, a loving wife, a roof over my head… Ad yes, I do have a few friends. It’s funny how things work out. That united by a common interest I am closer to people I’ve known for a relatively short time than I am to people I’ve known my entire life. I’ve met people in this community who aren’t in it for the right reason, but I’ve also met people who simply ooze character and class from every pore. They give back unflinchingly and always put others first, without fail. I’m proud to call these folks my friends and their friendship is something that I treasure.

So, on to the meat of the post.

Supportive Partner Woman (World’s Most Beautiful Pack Mule!) and I come to Walt Disney World around the same time every year. Not only to meet up with the aforementioned friends, but to get ourselves into the holiday spirit. There are many special events going on with a holiday theme, each of which serve to increase our excitement. There’s the Candlelight Processional, in which an orchestra and massed choir perform while a celebrity narrator recounts the tale of Christmas. SPW and I were fortunate enough to see it on Wednesday evening, and it does not disappoint. Our celebrity narrator was Neil Patrick Harris for the second year in a row… However, this year was actually dry, as opposed to the biblical rains of last December. The orchestra and choir was wonderful, as always, and well, here’s a video clip:

I hope that works… Using the WordPress iPad app is not something I do often. I usually write it in Pages, then just copy and paste it into WordPress.

One of the other points of the Disney holiday trident is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. This event has some five million lights dancing to well known Christmas songs and is probably the one event that really gets me in the mood. SPW (Osborne fan!) and I had the opportunity, thanks to MEI and Mouse Fan Travel, to take in a private viewing of the lights last evening that was just amazing. I took a lot of video, none of which I’ve gotten uploaded yet, but here’s an example from last year’s Osborne Lights:

The third point of the trident is EPCOT’s nightly show called IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Every year, the holiday season adds an extra five minutes of pyrotechnics accompanied by the Boys Choir of Harlem and a narration from the late Walter Cronkite. This really finalizes the prep for me. Just hearing the soaring music of the whole show as the lasers and fire and fireworks burst over the lagoon, topped off with the extra tag just never fails to send shivers up and down my back. I know that one day, the current IllumiNations will go away in the name of change, but believe you me, that will be a sad sad day.

At any rate, I have much more to tell, but suffice it to say that as of now, the feet have shown no blistering. This makes me very happy, especially considering the amount of walking we have done. The only wound is from the first day, when removing the protective moleskin also removed a tiny chunk of Wayne. A little NuSkin and gauze padding has worked wonders.

Well, I’m going to grad a shower and wake up SPW (Sleeps like the dead!) and we’re off to EPCOT for another day of fun and camaraderie.

More in the next few days!

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Things on the bucket list

Posted: November 15, 2012 in bucket list, Travel

I’ve managed to cross a thing or two off my personal bucket list over the years….

  1.  Marry the girl of my dreams? Check.
  2. See the Phillies play in the World Series (that they won)? Check.
  3. See The Wall performed live? Check.
  4. Walk the Roman Forum at night? Check.
  5. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower? Check.
  6. Visit the Tower of London? Check.

 

So on and so on. There’s still a lot I want to do, but one that always strikes me is that I want to see this phenomenon with my own eyes:

The Northern Lights (although I’d probably see them from Alaska or Canada)

One day I’ll get there… I first thought about it 15 years ago or so, when Molson Ice sponsored their Polar Beach Party in Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories. The advertised the lineup, which featured Metallica, Hole and Veruca Salt and the trumpeted that the light show was provided by Mother Nature. I kind of said… Damn.

So, that’s about it for today. Maybe the bucket list items will make an appearance in future posts, but I recommend having a list. Never know when you might have the chance to cross something off of it.

In the big news, I decided to try a new method of insulin delivery. I had read of the flex pens and the ease of injections and the like. I also saw there was a $50 coupon. I had no idea how much they would cost, but I assumed it would be in the neighborhood of what I currently pay. For the record, the price on a vial of insulin, which lasts about a month, is about $37, once the insurance deductible is satisfied.

Anyway, I contacted my healthcare provider’s office and requested a scrip for the flex pens. The insulin brands I use are from Novo Nordisk, a Danish company that concentrates its business in diabetes care, and they offer the pens in both flavors of insulin that I use. My primary insulin is called Novolog. I take three shots a day with meals. My other insulin is a longer-acting variety called Levemir that I take at bedtime. Basically, I go through 4 syringes a day as well as multiple sticks to test my glucose. I really am a human pincushion.

Getting back to the pens, I read how this is an easier method of injection, and was thinking ahead to travel. Touring Disney parks while toting insulin vials and syringes is a pain in the ass, not to mention the hassle of getting a slightly unfrozen ice pack through airport security. I realize that the vials, once opened, do not need refrigeration per se, they just need to be kept under 86 degrees. That can be a challenge in the Florida heat, as you can imagine. I knew the pens had the same refrigeration standards, but offered durability and less prep work to use, so why not?

The office called in the prescription to the local CVS and I got the call that the pens were ready for pickup. I dutifully took my $50 coupon to the pharmacy, handed it over, and was greeted with the news that my total (which I figured would be around $100-$120 was in fact $255.26. AFTER the coupon!

Yikes.

It just makes you wonder how the price would be that much higher for the same drug in the same proportion. I was too flabbergasted to contact the insurance about it last night, but I think I’m going to look into this. That’s unconscionable, in my opinion. I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, after trying it, I think the vial and syringe method is actually less painful. Go figure. Pay more and it winds up hurting in more ways than one. Sigh.

Continuing with the Disney eating marathon, I had some food porn I was hoping to share and talk about some other high points of our trip.

Our flight to Orlando was scheduled for a 6:15 departure from Baltimore, or, as we call it, the asscrack of dawn. We left the house around 3:15 AM and headed south. Many of you might remember the issues that I had with Southwest Airlines trying to book the flight in the first place. This was that trip. We all queued up in the cattle chute and prepared to board. Supportive Partner Woman and I had coveted “A” boarding slots and we managed to snag two seats about three rows back. SPW (bestest wife ever!) took the middle seat and I had the aisle. It was cramped, but in the good news department, I did not require a seat belt extender. Yay me.

The flight took off on time and I had loaded Killer Elite on the iPad for in-flight entertainment. I spent about an hour watching that and noticed a lot of activity, namely a flight attendant racing down the aisle with the AED, followed by a general call for trained medical personnel. Soon after, the captain came on board to say we were diverting to Charleston for a medical emergency. He must’ve had the 737 firewalled to get us in to Charleston as quickly as he did. The passenger was conscious when he was removed from the plane, and after refueling, we continued to Orlando, arriving around 45 minutes late. Whatever issues I might have had with Southwest, the flight crew really exhibited professionalism and handled the medical crisis like it happened every day.

We split up at that point… SPW went to claim the luggage, I went to pick up the car. I had booked a midsize and in Alamo’s midsize row were 14 minivans. And a Dodge Avenger. Sigh. I got in and headed back to the terminal to pick up SPW only to find that she had claimed the bags and thought she could catch up with me. Turns out she went below baggage claim and I had no way to get to her as that’s only open for buses. I sent her back to the baggage claim and I circled the airport again. Turns out the escalator she went up on took her to the ticketing level, which necessitated another trip around the terminal. Quite the comedy of errors.

Earl of Sandwich tomato soup with Earl’s Club and the Original 1762.

Anyway, we headed off to Disney’s BoardWalk Villas for the night. For those who are not familiar with the BoardWalk, it’s a really nice hotel, quite centrally located and within walking distance of Epcot. That alone makes it a favorite. This time, though, we were determined to spend a day outside of a park, so we got ourselves checked in and over to our room where was chilled for a while, then headed to Downtown Disney to grab some lunch. The weather was quite muggy, which made things a little sweaty, but we made our way to the Earl of Sandwich for lunch. This is one of our favorite spots… the food is tasty and reasonably priced and they offer AAA discounts which are actually better than the Disney Cast Member discount. Our normal MO is to buy two different sandwiches and split them… this time, we opted for the original, which consists of finely shaved hot roast beef with cheddar and horseradish and the Earl’s Club, which consists of roast turkey, applewood smoked bacon and swiss cheese, with lettuce and Roma tomato. We each added a drink and a cup of tomato soup and the total bill wound up being under $20. Best value on property. We shopped a bit, then took a pontoon boat out on the lake.

If you are opting to rent a boat, the best bet is to rent it from one of the Magic Kingdom resorts. That way you have over 400 acres of water to explore. It was a beautiful day to be out with a nice breeze and very little lake traffic.

Following that, we went back to the room to change before meeting some friends for dinner at Raglan Road. We haven’t seen these folks in many months, but it was great to catch up and enjoy a lovely meal. I opted for Raglan risotto with grilled chicken. The portion size was very nice and the food was flavorful, but not outstanding.

That concludes the food post today. More tomorrow when we talk about LeCellier!

 

Greetings!

I know, its been quite awhile. I started writing this from the laundry room of Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort. I know… I go to such interesting places on vacation. What can I say? It’s a gift.

So, it’s been about a month since I scribbled anything down. Just been crazy busy at Chez T and, well, just nothing really interesting to report. Done some stumbling recently, food-wise, not a serious backslide, but enough that my last doctor visit resulted in just a one-pound loss. In a month. Granted, I wasn’t working out like crazy… trying to keep the tempo down to prepare for our trip. Fat lot of good that did me.

See, after one day of serious walking, with preventative measures in places (Stubby cocooned in moleskin, his counterpart wearing a gel pad), I get a freakin’ blister NEXT TO THE GEL PAD!!!! This, as you can imagine, did not make me happy. Especially not with five days to go.

Supportive Partner Woman (de facto nurse of unparalleled skill!) then decreed an easier pace and began a regimen of rubbing my feet with ammonium lactate cream, which, according to the surgeon, is good stuff. This, coupled with Betadyne and gauze and a lot of moleskin, really enabled me to stay upright. It’s the one blessing of neuropathy… I can’t feel the pain of a blister. Looking back, I thing the problem was due to the crazy high humidity. It made the air chewy and we usually wound up with two showers a day.

So, for us a vacation to Disney World is more about the friends and the food than anything else. We paid two visits to Ohana for meeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaat on a stiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiick! There’s an art to eating somewhat healthier at Ohana… that is to view it as a high protein meal. Just keep in mind that when the nice server brings a sizzling skewer of dripping meat, he or she will automatically adjust your request by a factor of three. So, if you would, in fact, like one more piece of steak, make sure you have friends to share it with, because you’re getting three giant pieces.

The food at Ohana is not bad… you start with the Ohana welcome bread, which is a sweet Hawaiian style bread that has a touch of pineapple flavor. Then you get a salad, which would be better with less dressing. It’s positively drowning. I’m pretty sure I saw a lettuce shred clinging desperately to a life ring as its mates all drowned in the Vinaigrette Sea.

The staff follows this with the chicken wings and dumplings. I’m not a huge fan of wings to start with and these are just meh, so I usually pass on them. The dumplings are awesome, though, and it takes a great deal of self-restraint to not totally strap on the feed bag. This is followed with the greens, which consist of snow peas and broccoli that are well prepared. The share a plate with some tasty lo mien.

After the BS is dispensed with, it’s on to the main event. The meat. See, Disney wants you to believe that Ohana means family, but in reality, Ohana means meat. Lots of meat. Lots and lots of meat. We’re talking meat with a capital MEAT. The room is dominated but an open wood fire cooking giant skewers of steak, chicken, pork and shrimp. I love the shrimp. It has a nice level of spiciness without being too much to numb the palate. The steak has a wonderful marinade… not sure what all is in it, other than garlic, Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce. Makes it very bold.

The chicken is pedestrian… not a ton of flavor, probably kept mild for people who don’t care for spice. The pork, though, is not that great. It’s usually a little overcooked and the BBQ sauce is way too sweet for my palate. I think the open fire is simply too hot and dries out the meat. Pork, IMHO, should be done low and slow with just enough sear on the outside to keep the juices in. Here’s a view of the cooking fire in action:

After the gorging is over, they hit you with dessert. They bring a banana bread pudding topped with vanilla ice cream. If that’s not enough, they will dump an Exxon Valdez sized load of caramel sauce on top. I’m lucky, though… since I have dietary restrictions, they usually bring me a nice plate of fresh fruit.

I will provide more food details over the next few days, but suffice it to say that even with all the food, I still managed to lose 2.5 pounds while away. So, not a total loss.

Talk to you again tomorrow.

Song of the Day: Gangnam Style – PSY
Currently Reading: The Tombs – Clive Cussler

So, when we last spoke, we were talking about me fitting in t-shirts I haven’t worn for a while. That’s old news. Well, it’s still news, but not the newest news. You get the picture.

<RANT ON>

I decided to take advantage of the Southwest sale on Friday. I could get the flights to/from Orlando for $150 less than what I would’ve had to pay and I even got to add an extra day to the vacation. Apparently everyone had the same thought, because things were FUBAR from the get go. I got a confirmation. Then ANOTHER confirmation. And ANOTHER. Oh, and one more for good measure. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s four confirmations. All with different ticket numbers, for the same flights on the same days. For the same people.

I waited another hour after this.

I called their toll-free number and it was busy. I retried 12 times before it rang. After making my selections, a pleasant recorded voice told me that my call would be answered in the order received and that my estimated hold time would be between 42 minutes and 1 hour and five minutes. I wasn’t thrilled, but I figured I could use the hands free and get some things done while waiting. Now, Southwest does not have hold music. They have a series of amusing vignettes starring real ramp workers and customer service reps talking about the policies and services they offer. I should rephrase. They cease to be amusing and become annoying after about the sixth repetition. I mean, I KNOW you can’t take a #$%^#$ giraffe on a commercial airliner! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

After about two and a half hours, I decided to go to bed… besides, if they would’ve answered, I might have erupted. As it was, I tried again in the morning and was told my wait time would be between 23 and 42 minutes. 90 minutes later, I packed it in.

So, I finally got through to a real live person around 11:30 PM last night. Becky was very helpful and apologetic, had the extra flights cancelled and everything good in around 10 minutes. I was still annoyed, but relieved that things were set. I added an additional night’s DVC lodging and was ready to go. Went to bed, and, well, when I woke up and checked my email, there was ANOTHER email from Southwest stating that my remaining reservation was cancelled. WTF? I went and called, and was told everyone was busy, but they would call me back, which they did. Again, Cindy was helpful, but I couldn’t get a reason as to why this reservation had been cancelled, other than “confusion” and “a glitch”.

Now, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but this isn’t “LUV”. I’m not looking for anything but a specific explanation. It doesn’t help to go off on the phone rep… it’s not their job to listen to that, but I am still not happy. Grand total of over four hours on the phone… they could’ve updated the hold message saying that they had a systems problem and they are working to correct it instead of the stupid “You can’t bring a giraffe on the plane” bit.

Suffice it to say, I miss AirTran. Never had an issue with them and the one time they cancelled a flight on us, well, I called and asked about it and without being prompted, they issued travel certificates for our next trip as a way of apologizing for my inconvenience. I’m going to think long and hard before I decide to travel via Southwest again. I know people love them, and maybe I just got the perfect shitstorm of issues, but it is what it is. I’m an unhappy customer and I’m not finding it easy to contact someone who can give me the answer I’m looking for.

Granted, if they tell me I’m too fat to fly, well, then all bets are off.

<RANT OFF>

Hope you all had a nice weekend. I’ll be back later with the tale of the family dinner.