Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lost Luggage

Julie, at Traveling Through, had a blog tonight that got me reminiscing. Just a short reminiscence. I don't want to stay up too late.

Choosing a college was rough. Do I stick around in California to go to the university where the guy I pined after was going, or do I travel two-thirds of the way across the country to a college in Ohio whose curriculum rocked my socks? I was inclining toward staying in California when one morning I sat straight up in bed with the sudden conviction that I wanted to head for Ohio. I think it was early June. The application was a 10-page essay. I never wrote so fast in my life. I got my acceptance within 10 days. For many reasons, it's a good thing I didn't follow the guy.

Off to college

My family primarily vacationed by tent camping as I grew up. We traveled over much California and might have traveled as far east as New Mexico. Ohio was "back east," so getting there involved my first airplane trip. (Many of my east coast classmates had traveled "out west" for college.) Recollection has faded, but I think it was at this point in life that I acquired a blue travel trunk, in which sheets and blankets and towels and all earthly belongings for college were shipped.

When I took typing in junior high, my parents got me a typewriter to use at home, similar to this beauty:

Just like at school, only newer,
and the letters on the keyboard weren't concealed.

But for college, I received the pride and joy of my life, the Smith-Corona Skyriter, touted as the first typewriter for air travelers (fits under the seat), as a gift from my parents or grandparents. However, I think we packed it in a box and checked it with my suitcase.

The most compact little typewriter I'd ever seen.
 My parents and Sister and Grandma all took me to the Burbank airport to see me off. I was terribly blasé about my first plane trip -- no big deal -- but holding back tears because Grandma's health was fragile and there was the possibility I'd never see her again. She was the only baby sitter I'd had my entire life and took me to the Saturday morning Westerns every week and generally did all the grandma-spoil things with me.

I think it was a DC-6 that we flew off in to Chicago. I don't recall anything about it being cramped or crowded -- no sardine class then.

Something like this.

We switched at Midway in Chicago to a smaller plane to get into the smaller airport in Ohio.

I think it was a DC-3.
It seemed an awfully long trip and the three hour time shift jet-lagged me terribly. It wasn't until I began these frequent overseas flights to France (nine hours difference) that I began to think "pffft" about a three-hour shift. I was met by a college greeter and driver. Surprise! It was the guy I'd first learned about the college from, and from whom I developed my enthusiasm. He'd offered to pick me up at the airport, but my parents insisted I follow regular protocol and procedures. Turns out he was the regular procedure.

It was nice to see a familiar face. What was not nice was that the box with my typewriter was lost. I was such a neophyte traveler that I don't know whether I even reported the loss to the airline, and I tried to maintain a stony-face to conceal my complete devastation and keep from crying. I'm sure I reported it to my greeter friend; to someone at the college; to the clerk at the bookstore that sold me some snacks to tide me over until a regular mealtime; I told anyone I met in my new dormitory. College was ruined. I did not call my parents, because long distance just wasn't done. I doubt I knew how to place a call. It wasn't something you could dial. Telegrams were sent to convey bad news, but even in my distraught state, I knew this didn't rank up there with death, the only truly bad news.

I don't know whether it was my arrival day, or the next day when I walked into my room and sitting on my desk area was this:

Not even in the packing box.
Did you ever want to kiss your typewriter hello?

First flight, first lost luggage. So this must have been the genesis of my motto that a journey that goes exactly according to plan makes for a dull story.

I had my Grandma for another four years, just long enough to let her know I was newly pregnant with my first child. My Grandpa lived another 2½ years after that, long enough to know his new grandson shared his middle name.

The Skyriter lasted many more years, and I wouldn't be shocked to discover it in one of those big travel trunks stashed in my basement.

See you soon.

(All photos from Googled Images)


Friday, January 20, 2012

Rain at Last and Other Stuff

It's Friday morning and I look out the window to watch the rainfall. Raindrops had been bouncing off the tarp that covers a big bench and the one over the patio table to shelter the feral cats when I put out their last bowl of food last night. This morning the driveway is wet, but not under the trees. The deck is wet but there are no puddles. There is no water running in ditches at roadside. But maybe that's for the best, that a gentle rain initiate the opening up of the earth. "... it droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven." That quote popped into my head from high school, from The Merchant of Venice. I couldn't resist Googling to refresh my memory of the context:

The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Act 4, scene 1.

It must have been two weeks ago that they first started saying there was rain in the forecast for Wednesday this week. There'd be a break of a day, then a series of storms would move in. We Californians like our good weather, but we are parched. Fields which had greened up after a nice little soaker in early October got a boost from a teaser in early November and a passing glance from mere sprinkles mid-December. Then it all stopped. As I drove down the hill to the little city for medical appointments on Wednesday, the golden fields had dulled to buff, leafless oaks were gray and craggy, and evergreens were coated with dust. Fire danger is high.

The sun was shining.

California rainfall is measured from July 1 to June 30 of the next year, so I reset the accumulation totals to 0.00" after June 30. The rain gauge my late husband had installed at the top of a very tall pole measured rainfall of 45.94" for 2010-2011, a large amount for us. It took the two small early storms for me to notice that this year, rain was not registering. It remains at 0.00". Since that happened, since the rain gauge failed me, all sense of weather was suspended, as if weather hasn't happened since that day. I only know that we had those smatterings of rain because I looked up information online. I remember cold but glorious days in two winter trips to Yosemite, when normally we would have expected rain and snow at least part of the time. Tioga Pass at 10,000 feet, which usually remains open until the first snows in October, just closed this past Tuesday in anticipation of Wednesday's snows.

Costco had a nice wireless weather station when I'd been there after Christmas, but I waffled. Then after thinking about it, I asked Daughter to pick one up for me if they were still available. With Brother-in-Law due back in town Tuesday and willing to wield a screwdriver to attach components to the deck somehow, I took the components out of the fancy packaging. But once I read the installation instructions, I realized this wasn't just going to take a couple of hours with the screwdriver, so I put all the parts in a big box. We'd miss this storm's totals.

Weather Station parts

Wednesday lunchtime, after the mammogram mash, a lovely lab blood draw, and a chase after past test reports, I stopped for a hamburger for lunch. Did I see hints in the sky? Prospects of rain in those wisps?

By the time I got up the hill to my little town, we had this.

Ho ho ho. Little precursors to rain?

The unease of waiting was keeping me discombobulated. I needed to work but I didn't. I caught a little nap with the cats, then got a phone call that woke me in time for sunset.

Oh, oh. Red skies at night, sailor's delight. Red skies in the morning, sailor take warning. Guess there's no rain coming tonight.

After dinner I swung into the not-so-comfy office chair at my computer, intending to do a little work, leaned back, half-missed the chair back, and over the chair and I flew with a crash. My lower back was the point of impact and it took a few moments of dramatics for me to decide I hadn't crumbled my pelvis and that the shaft of the chair was severely in need of dusting. But it kinda ruined the thought of sitting at the computer for the rest of the evening.

Thursday was an unphotogenic gray day. The ladies at NeedleCrafts were hard at work, however, knitting caps for soldiers. These and more to come will be given to a group in town that's handling the delivery to the soldiers.

I had a great surprise when I got home. No. No rain yet. Granddaughter had posted 118 photos of First Day in Ghana. Now we're sure she's really there. Here is a sampling of what appears to be a bus tour around Accra. There is no narrative, no captions except for a few names, so provide your own narrative, as I have done for myself.

Rooster with a purpose

And this final photo of Granddaughter appeared today, taken by one of the other young women.

As the day progressed today, reports appeared on Facebook about intensifying rain in the north part of the county. It was raining steadily but still not hard when I went to town for the mail, harder when I went out to fetch the paper after dark. When Boots and Black Kitty came out for late dinner, they quickly darted back under the tarp and bench as a heavy rain pelted them. I should be happy -- in fact I am happy -- but with that old rain gauge stuck on zero, it doesn't quite feel "real."

Maybe tomorrow I'll get organized.

See you soon.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Delayed . . .

Me. Not Granddaughter. Oh, the plane arrived, 6 minutes late, in Accra, Ghana, 9:11 p.m. their time on Monday, 1:11 p.m. our time. Provided she was on the plane. That hardly counts. But I had things to do before I posted that.

My kittens in irresistible cuddly poses.
You can't put anything over on Jean-Luc.
He usually catches me out with a camera.
This was the day before January 17, a day relevant for those of us who "get" to pay estimated taxes. I wasn't taking any chances about missing the deadline, so I took the skinny, valuable envelopes into the closed post office on Monday.

It was another bright sunny day, but noticeably colder than it has been. At 4:35 in the afternoon the outside temperature was 35°. I wore vest and jacket, then wrapped a scarf around my head.

Then I continued work on the Soroptimist newsletter, until ... a cat, I think the Henley cat, flashed along the table beside my computer, blasting toward me at about 100 mph, hurling my glass of ice water across the keyboard, the mouse, my handwritten Soroptimist draft, my lap, my chair, my UPS (uninterruptable power supply), the carpet. ICE water. You don't want me to repeat what I said next.

Towels. Removal of batteries. Shaking of keyboard and mouse. Hair dryer. Fortunate discovery of how to shut down the computer using the touchscreen. An overnight rest.

This morning the keyboard was working okay, but not the mouse. It was intermittent. The list of emails in Outlook kept skittering up and down. I found another mouse, a wireless USB one (the regular one and keyboard are Bluetooth) which took some while for drivers to install and software to download from the Internet. (It's really old, so drivers and software must have been dredged up from the antiques library.)

A message box announced that the mouse was installed and operative, except that the cursor wasn't moving. Some fiddling with batteries followed and once the invisible "+" indicating battery direction was deciphered, the old mouse worked.

By then it was time to go to a midday Soroptimist meeting. Afterward I tried my normal mouse again and it still didn't play nice. As a last ditch effort, I thought I'd turn its battery around. The battery fell out when I opened the mouse, but I reinserted it after verifying the invisible "+" and it worked.

If the battery was in wrong before, why did it work at all?

That is why my confirmation that Granddaughter arrived in Accra okay was delayed. She left a phone message for her mom today. She has uploaded her photos to Facebook, although none of them was taken after she left LAX. We know she's really there.

The adventure has begun.

See you soon.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Flight Tracking . . .

Following Up on Whirlwind Getaway

As I completed last night's blog, I added this update:

UPDATE: Email this evening from Daughter said Granddaughter is back with her and her Sister, as there was some delay of the plane and she got bumped until tomorrow. I'm not sure Daughter answered the question I thought I asked when she said "No, mid-air turned around." I'd wondered whether Granddaughter had boarded, then been cancelled, but on rereading I think the answer means the plane never arrived in LA.

On tenterhooks.
Saturday Flashback

Granddaughter begins a long journey to Accra, Ghana.

The Traveler (on left) relaxes with Mom and Big Sister before the flight.

"Whoa! What was I thinking?"

Mom has reassuring words for the Traveler (although she has been
basically freaked out that her little girl is headed for Africa).

"Bye . . ."

The story becomes a bit unclear at this point. Apparently the flight took off for Detroit, perhaps departing late, with several passengers due to connect there with a flight to Amsterdam. They would not be making the connection. So they returned to LAX.


For today, Granddaughter was scheduled on a nonstop from LAX to Amsterdam.

Mom, Traveler and Big Sister back at LAX

It was a major hassle there, because the re-ticketed traveler couldn't take advantage of any line-shortening options such as online check-in or kiosk check-in. Then there was the matter of her luggage ...

This time it really was "Au revoir."

The flight departed on time.

The flight crossed the border into Canada at about 5:25 PST.
(There used to be a time-delay in reporting aircraft position.
I don't know whether they still do that.)

Passed just north of Lake Superior

It subsequently crossed that southern tip of Hudson Bay, then traveled
more easterly through Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, then over the Atlantic.

It looked like it would not be flying over Greenland and Iceland as summer flights usually do, but tracking did not extend across the Atlantic by this website's resources.

I texted Daughter about the flight's arrival
a little after midnight (now Monday morning).

I know. I'm a little geeky about this stuff. I watched that little airplane icon for hours, until I finally realized it wasn't moving over the ocean. (Oh, wait. I did snooze a little while watching the Golden Globes.)

See you soon. (She'll be taking off for Ghana at 6:15 a.m. my time Monday.)


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Whirlwind Getaway . . .

The stars were aligned . . . or in my more prosaic way of putting it, all our schedules meshed. Granddaughter, university student in NYC, has been on winter break, making her way across the U.S. visiting friends and family on her way to one of her university's satellite campuses in Africa. She'd be stopping off Thursday night to visit her Mom and they'd go by auto Friday afternoon to stay with her older sister overnight in LA, then off to the airport today for the flight overseas.

I could leave after NeedleCrafts and head to Daughter's new residence about 2½ hours from my little town on the hill, stay into the day on Friday until Daughter and Granddaughter headed south to LA, and have a the good visit before Granddaughter jets off for five months.

Gloriously, most things for this overnighter fit in my rolling backpack, computer and all, except for my sleeping bag and pillows to roll myself up in. The trip took the estimated 2½ hours plus a small amount of time to recover from getting lost finding Daughter's new house. "Oh, I see First Street. That goes by you. How do I know whether I'm going the right direction?"  "Drive toward the sun, Mom." "It's dark out. There is no sun." But cross streets were receding from her home, so I did a U-turn.

She'd just been dropped off at home after work shortly before I arrived and we had a few minutes to kick back before heading for the airport.

Daughter and Granddaughter reunion. It's been months and months.

Granddaughter's suitcase -- a big suitcase with items sufficient to stay in Africa for five months -- had a problem with extending the handle for pulling. It was pretty clear that it was hung up on one shaft of the handle assembly, and we determined that our effort wasn't going to extend it. A nice man decided he'd help these three generations of ladies and began with a mighty pull, which was no more successful than we'd been. (Let's face it. A handle assembly which has lost its rectangularity really isn't going to slide out of its rectangular housing.) So the helpful man gave it his all in a mighty jerk.

Off flew the handle and springs and rods popped up through the handle sides that stayed exactly where we had left them. The little screws that had secured the handle to the handle sides were akimbo. I sooo wanted to take a picture, but I was afraid the poor guy would think I was collecting evidence for the lawsuit. We tried to reassure him, but he was irreconcilably embarrassed. We had already decided that this suitcase wouldn't survive the upcoming adventure.
Figure 1
We went for dinner at a comfort food restaurant (we'll skip commentary on the cuisine) and talked and talked about Granddaughter's adventures over the past year, her course work, her expectations for her trip to Africa, her future, her relationships, her siblings, her friends, what she'll do next. She's the one who should be writing a blog!

Then we went back to Daughter's house and Granddaughter got her first tour of the new house and we continued the conversations, lounging on the king-sized bed.

Friday morning, Daughter decided that despite its being her day off, she would deliver some papers to a dairy about an hour away. It took us most of the morning for her to pick up the copies and then make the drive through the Central Valley's mile after mile of farm, orchard and dairy land ... to the dairy. While I didn't grow up in the Central Valley, I traveled through it often and studied it as far back as elementary school. So to me, it's familiar and taken for granted. Daughter is in awe of this vast food basket. Maybe it's the contrast with arid Tucson where she moved from.

We found the dairy, and while Daughter went over the papers with the Dairyman, Granddaughter and I visited the cows.

The visit to the dairy

Lunchtime for these gals

Others begin to notice our presence.

This one says "hello."
(pronunciation key: moooOOooo)

When we hear more greetings and shuffling among the cows, we decide maybe we're disturbing them and we don't want to be responsible for their refusing to give milk on their next trip to the milking barn, so we look around at other things.

Old milk transport truck

A big red truck flashes by.

The new milk transport truck, filling up

Then we head east, to see Daughter's friend since 8th grade. The friend had lived in Palm Springs for many years, then for a brief time in the San Diego area. When daughter was on her way to California from Arizona for the job interview, she gave her friend a call to say hello, unaware that the friend had left San Diego. Such a surprise to find her almost in the neighborhood of the prospective job. Daughter's Friend picked her up at the airport, put her up for the night, and provides some companionship from old times as Daughter learns her new neighborhood.

DF lives in the small valley town of Exeter which has put itself on the map by decorating the downtown walls with murals and sprucing up the downtown district with charming shops to be a magnet for the surrounding population and tourists. I thought I took several mural pictures. But I didn't, only these two:

Orange groves

Mural in a corner

Daughter and Granddaughter, waiting for lunch

Granddaughter gets a haircut from her Mom's best-friend-since-the-eighth-grade.

We finally set out for home. After all, Daughter and Granddaughter were heading to LA that night and that's a much longer drive than my 2½ hours home. I'd arrived after dark Thursday evening, knowing that would happen, and intended to take pictures of the house the next morning, since I'd failed to do it on my first trip here. We left in the morning without taking the time, not expecting a problem of sunlight on our return from our day trip. But we were almost in a race to get back while it was still daylight.

Finding the way

Late afternoon sun glows on the terracotta-colored walls of her house.

View from the front

With ten minutes of packing, we all hit the road by 5:10, Granddaughter taking along her Mom's big suitcase to transfer her worldly belongings for the next five months into before the Saturday flight. I headed north, they headed south. I didn't stop for a thing until I got up on my hill, although I'd intended to get a taco at Jack-in-the-Box and gasoline in the cheaper valley zones. Per instructions I reported my safe arrival to my girl. They were up on the Ridge Route when I reached them (the mountain range at the south end of the valley which divides Central California from Southern California).

I bought gasoline on the hill, but no tacos. Once home I have this:

Limited Edition Cheetos. Have I ruined its value as a Collector's Item
by opening the bag and removing some contents?

UPDATE: Email this evening from Daughter said Granddaughter is back with her and her Sister, as there was some delay of the plane and she got bumped until tomorrow. I'm not sure Daughter answered the question I thought I asked when she said "No, mid-air turned around." I'd wondered whether Granddaughter had boarded, then been cancelled, but on rereading I think the answer means the plane never arrived in LA.

On tenterhooks.