This summer, after yabbling about doing this for years, I finally enrolled in the TSA PreCheck program.
The online application was easy. The total cost was $85.00 for five years. But it did require an interview with a real person at a TSA-approved IdentoGO office that happened to be nowhere close to where I live.
My interview appointment time, the soonest I could get, was 4 weeks from when I sent in my enrollment– and then it was 10 days after that before I got my official TSA Known Traveler Number [KTN].
For me this was not a fast process
Do I need this TSA PreCheck status? I dunno. But after some of my air travel experiences, most notably standing in the Las Vegas TSA line for 1 hour 45 minutes, I’ll do anything that *might* make the process less painful.
[Click HERE to read an article that helped me to better understand the program.]
And on that note, having talked about the practical side of travel, I’ll share the following fun and pretty stuff.
I created these images using the Visited Countries Project on Douwe Osinga’s website. You may already know about this because it’s been around for a long time.
Nonetheless here is where I’ve been
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QUESTIONS OF THE DAY
Are you in the TSA PreCheck program? If so, how has that worked out for you?
Where did you go for your favorite vacation ever? Where did you go for your worst vacation ever?
“The world is a book. If you do not travel, you read only a page.”
The above quote, that I see every day when I’m at home, is on a framed piece of artwork that I have hanging on a wall in our home office.
I only mention this quote, attributed to St. Augustine, because I believe it to be true, a guiding principle. Thus I said “hell to the yes” when I had the opportunity to spend a few days in pleasant and pretty San Antonio, TX.
You see, last week Zen-Den was in San Antonio for a conference. Remembering how much fun we had there years ago, I joined him after the conference was over and we goofed off for a couple of days doing things in America’s 7th largest city that is celebrating its 300th birthday.
[Did not know either of those facts before visiting there. Feel that I’m a better person for having shared them here.]
THINGS WE DID
• The San Antonio River Walk which is a meandering multi-level path around an urban waterway surrounded by restaurants, shops, and hotels.
• The Briscoe Western Art Museum which was beautiful, and wherein I saw Roy Rogers’s saddle, a real Wells Fargo Wagon, and ate a complimentary cupcake.
• The Alamo Quarry Market which is an open-air shopping area filled with stores and restaurants, not necessarily unique to San Antonio but a nice place to wander around in the warm sunshine.
• The San Antonio Zoo which was lovely, with more animals from South America, Australia, and Africa than any other zoo I’ve been to.
• The Alamo City Comic Con which was our first adventure into the happy, trippy subculture that revolves around comic conventions. Here are my observations: 1) people, often entire families, were costumed like comic book or TV or movie characters [we were not]; 2) people were standing in line waiting to pay to have photos taken with and/or objects signed by celebrities [we did not]; & 3) people were buying memorabilia and posters and t-shirts from the displays set up by many vendors [we did not].
And with that I’ll end this post with a hat tip to St. Augustine and his travel advice, suggesting to you, my gentle readers, that San Antonio, TX, is a fun + friendly place to visit for those of you inclined to want to read more than one page of this book we call the world.
• An impatient baby arrives mid-flight attended by not one, but two, doctors. Cuteness.
• A free drink in the main cabin on a shuttle flight makes flying fun again. Huzzah!
I had no difficulty finding positive news stories about airlines this month. As a traveler who is often disgruntled with the airlines and known to express said disgruntlement to the powers that be, I was surprised.
I don’t tend to think of air travel in a favorable light.
But the above links suggest that maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for an industry that is known more for annoying passengers than pleasing them.
At least that’s the idea I’m going to dwell on here in this particular post.
As we remembered from being in Savannah years ago, the people who we met were helpful + polite, the nearby beach on Tybee Island was clean + beautiful, and the vibe, everywhere, was mellow. I loved it all.
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After Savannah, we drove north to Charleston, SC, stopping on Hilton Head Island, SC, for lunch. Hilton Head has a smooth, upscale, planned feel to it. Fun to visit, we’ve been there before, but it never calls to me like it does to so many people who live around me here in Ohio, who adore it there in South Carolina.
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In Charleston, SC, we stayed in a hotel in the downtown historic district. If you like to walk then this is a convenient way to be close to hundreds of restaurants + bars + shops. My impression of this part of Charleston was that it was almost perfectly Disney-esque, but with panhandlers and uneven walking surfaces. Looked gorgeous, but watch your step.
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While we were in the Charleston area we went to a fort, a museum, an island, a park. We ate seafood, drank iced tea, and looked at architecture– everywhere. The weather was sunny and the people were, as reported, friendly.
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After Charleston we drove back to Atlanta, GA, for a day. Because the weather had turned cold and wet, we wanted to be inside so we went to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum. It was fascinating, informative, well-organized, and pleasant to wander through.
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And on that note, we left Atlanta the next day returning home on an easy mid-morning flight that was a little over an hour long.
A flight on which we both were pre-approved by the TSA, meaning that, for once in my life, there was no fuss + no problems involved with air travel.
Zen-Den travels for work, flying all over the place, using luggage that he’s had for over a decade.
Said luggage, an example of which you see in the photo below, is now held together, much to my amazement, with some lovely medium green patterned duct tape that coordinates with the darker green luggage fabric.
I’ll give it to him, the boy has style. He did this himself.
I’ve mentioned to him, as has his assistant, that it’s time to get some new luggage, with snazzy little twirly wheels and lots of outside pockets, but he’ll have nothing to do with that crazy idea.
He prefers, instead, to ignore the fact that time has marched on.
I can’t figure if this is an example of him being practical. Or of him being ornery. It could be either.
Or both, I suppose.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but last week 3,000 bags were stranded in the Phoenix Airport after there was a TSA computer glitch. [Story here.]
Now as fate would have it Zen-Den was in Phoenix, where the piece of luggage featured in the above photos was going through the system. But did the TSA and/or United Airlines manage to lose his ratty old bag?
Zen-Den’s bag made it through the system without a problem.
Which only adds credence to his stubborn belief that there’s nothing wrong with his dilapidated, scuffed-up luggage– that according to him, clearly has good travel karma.
As evidenced by the fact that his bag, when the opportunity presented itself, didn’t get lost in the system.
While on vacation last weekend, I spent one leg of my travels on a flight from hell, trapped inside a MRI with wings. This would be a plane that is known to aviators as a Bombardier CRJ 200.
This airplane, while not the smallest one I’ve ever flown on, was the worst flying MRI I’ve experienced because– and I hope that I’m not going to get too technical here— THERE WAS NO AIR CONDITIONING AS WE WAITED AT THE GATE AND THEN ON THE TARMAC FOR TAKEOFF… ON A HOT SUMMER DAY… AT MIDDAY.
I’d love to tell you what airline I was on, but I’m not sure. It was some pokey little airline, doing business under some obscure name, for some larger, formerly independent, airline recently acquired by some huge US airline.
In other words, the usual inane flying experience that I’ve come to know, pay exorbitant amounts of money for and loathe.
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As fate would have it two things occurred simultaneously while I was on this flight from hell trapped inside a MRI with wings.
First of all, I had a hot flash.
To be clear, that would be my body spontaneously increasing its core temperature while I was sitting in the middle of the airplane, Seat 7C, where the ambient room temperature was close to 100ºF.
Trapped, I was.
And so far beyond toasty that I could barely keep conscious. I could see my vision begin to tunnel– and I knew that I would faint, unless I thought of something fast.
So I shut my eyes, let my head droop and begin to remember how cold and bleak it was on our screened-in porch in February, when I’d step out there for a bit of fresh air, mid-afternoon, with my mug of hot tea.
Oddly enough this mental distraction kept me from passing out and it gave me an opportunity to decide that, if I lived to tell the story, I’d call out the airline on this unconscionable, unhealthy, inhumane, ridiculous, shameful, cheap-ass behavior.
Didn’t their mothers teach these airline PTB to not treat other human beings as chattel? Hmmm?
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This would be the end of the story if it weren’t for the man next to me on the flying MRI with wings from hell who was an employee of one of the airlines that was part of the afore-mentioned cluster.
And he was taking notes. Lots of them.
And he was telling me EVERYTHING that this flight crew was doing that was wrong, that was illegal according to FAA standards, and that was just plain stupid.
So despite being the most physically and emotionally uncomfortable I’ve been on an airplane in decades, I had the pleasure of knowing that this flight crew, a bunch of yahoos who really should be ashamed of themselves, were going to get in trouble.
AS IN FAILING TO PASS INSPECTION. JOBS ON THE LINE. HELLO REVIEW BOARD [I CAN ONLY HOPE].
It is because of this note-taking man that I can look back on this flight as a learning experience for the crew as well as for me. To wit, I will never, ever in a hundred years set foot inside a Bombardier CRJ 200 again.
And if you know what’s good for you, you won’t either.