Saturday, February 20, 2010

Blonde Voyage!

The adventure continues and it only gets better. Fortunately, all the worst is behind us. As the plane landed in Charlotte about 5:20 AM this morning we were in no hurry to get off the plane. I greeted the captain with a "10" as we finally got off the plane and that put a smile on his tired face that was still there when Shirley came by him.

It didn't seem like either of us slept much on the plane... but we can do that tonight. It seemed a little early for breakfast, so we went to sit down. Soon Shirley had her soft carryon bag on the bench and was curled up in a horizontal position with her head on it. There was enough room for me to lay on the same bench with my head on the calves of her legs, wrapping my arms around her legs to keep them on the bench. It felt so good to be horizontal for a while, but neither of us slept. After about 20 minutes there Shirley was restless and wanted to go scrounging for some breakfast.

She came back with a couple options, of which we ended up at the Great American Bagel. it seemed to be the popular choice... the line was pretty long. Their Asiago Omelette Bagel was a fabulous choice... and we shared a big apple, Navel orange and a mixed fruit yogurt with granola crumbs.

The sun was coming up as we finished breakfast and people were already lining up to board the plane to Ft. Lauderdale. It looked pretty cold outside... they said it was 36 F. when we landed. But I could see frost on the ground. When we got on the plane we both really wanted to sleep, but just as we were dozing off, along came the drink cart. I think we caught a few more winks. I was really suffering from TSA... “Tired Sore Ass.” What would it be like to fly to Australia and have to sit for 18 hours? Shirley said she felt like she had been “drug thru a knot hole backwards,” to quote a saying our mother’s used to say.

Once on the ground in Ft. Lauderdale, there was only one more piece to put into the puzzle, and that was to pick up our baggage. As we came down the escalator, the special handling baggage office was in plain sight... and there were two red suitcases that look distinctly like ours.

Equilibrium has been restored to this part of the planet again!

This airport is used to seeing cruise ship passengers and as we walked away with our baggage, there were ladies holding cards with all the cruise ships... and there was Princess. The lady said they leave at 11:30 with the first shuttle to the ship. And you can rest assured we will be on that shuttle.

I tried to post this from the airport in Ft. Lauderdale this morning, but the internet was too slow and it timed out... so I thought it would work better once we got onto the ship.

But even on the ship the internet has proven to be a major dissappointment. Not only does it cost an arm and a leg... like 30 cents a minute... but it is via sattelite, which is extremely slow. So my blogging and posting of photos may be pretty brief.

But at least we are here, and wanted to you know that life is going to be great!

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Terminal

Today is a travel day... but it feels mostly like a sit around the terminal waiting kind of day. Our plane this morning had a mechanical problem, so they backed it away from the loading area in Tucson and brought in another one to fly us to Phoenix. Unfortunately when we finally got to Phoenix, our connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale had left without us... and when we picked up our new boarding passes, they had us leaving 8 hours later! Urrrrgghh!

That is the Bad News. Now for the Good News. Phoenix is a friendly airport that gives everyone free WiFi internet connection... totally awesome. I had no idea that we were about to have a Tom Hanks airport experience. 8 hours is a lot less traumatic than 8 months or whatever it was for him. Howbeit, we did get to be passively connected to airport life here a little.

A young man with a bouquet of red roses came and sat down next to me. He was going to see his girlfriend this weekend, and hoped to reverse a failing relationship. Meanwhile, a lady about our age was frantically trying to find her husband before the plane left without him. First she had him paged on the local area intercom. No show. Then she had him paged on the entire airport intercom. This covers all the concourses... of which I counted at least eight. Still no show. Meanwhile another lady who had curled up and fallen asleep next to where Shirley was sitting and was about to miss her plane. Fortunately she woke up just in the nick of time and made it thru the gate. It made me wonder how often that people fall asleep and miss their plane?

Again the lady asked to have her husband paged. Time was running out. The check-in lady made her final boarding call. The desperate lady inquired at check-in about when the next flight to Cabo would leave, if they missed this one. She wasn't happy with the answer. She went back to the concourse and looked hopefully for her husband one last time... and with excitement exclaimed, "He's coming!" When we got to see her husband we surmised that he was likely whiling away some time in the Jackaroo Watering Hole, or the Fox Sports Bar, oblivious of the flight that he was about to miss.

About 3:00 PM I took my turn to go for a walk around and Shirley stayed with the computers and bags. This is one beautiful airport. It took me 45 minutes to walk every concourse... and what a lot of damage one could do in here with a credit card. There are opportunities to buy just about anything here. It felt more like a shopping center than an airport!

And if you like Starbucks, this place is like heaven. It seems like the rule here is that you can have another Starbucks franchise as soon as you cannot see the last one you were just at. I didn’t make an exact count, but there is more than 10 in the concourse area. And who knows how many are in the public side of the airport.

When I got back Shirley went for a nice long walk. I fanaticised about going to the California Pizza Factory for a romantic dinner.

But when she came back we had to hurry... we did not want to miss our plane to Ft Lauderdale! And since the CPF was too far away, we copped out and went next door to the Pizza Hut and bought a salad and a Margarita Pizza.

The rolling walkways here are truly awesome. Shirley took this great photo, so I just had to include it in this blog post. I didn’t get a shot of the huge round concrete columns that look like they will support a monorail to speed passengers around the airport and get them to their connecting flights faster. What a novel idea!

When we went to check in before boarding we both suspected a problem. There was nobody at the gate we were to leave from. So Shirley went to look at the TV monitors and maybe talk to someone at Customer Service. Very quickly she discovered that we would not be leaving at 6 PM tonight. We were to be routed thru Charlotte and the boarding pass we had in hand was to catch the plane in Charlotte to go to Ft. Lauderdale. They never gave us the complete routing in the first place. Now things were just beginning to get fun!

Shirley went into customer service to see what could be done to get things straightened up... and while she was standing there waiting her turn she overheard a couple of other people with screw ups and saw customers in tears. So, when it was her turn the stage was already set for disaster.

I was not there at first with Shirley and when she did not come back right away I called her on the cel phone to find out what had happened. On my own I had talked to the agent at the boarding desk where I thought we would be boarding, and he let me in on a little secret... that there was no plane leaving from here to Ft. Lauderdale tonight at all.

So, we were in a bind to get some kind of connections to get to Ft. Lauderdale before the cruise ship leaves tomorrow afternoon. The lady in customer service got into problem solving mode and within five or ten minutes had worked out a new routing. We leave Phoenix at midnight tonight, and get into Charlotte around 5:30 AM EST... a true red eye special. Then about 8:00 we leave for Ft. Lauderdale arriving about 10 AM.

Then there is that nice Marriott hotel reservation that we had for tonight. Shirley called and to cancel our hotel... but they said, “Sorry! Too late. You must cancel by noon on the day of arrival.” They had no time to hear her story of our problems. At lunch time today we still expected we would be there sometime tonight.

So we feel like real winners tonight.

Then I got to wondering what had happened to our luggage? Where was it now? With such a small window of time between when we arrive in Ft. Lauderdale and when we get onto the cruise ship, if the luggage was lost somewhere, I could see us boarding the ship with nothing but the clothes on our backs... and no way for us to get the suitcases once we leave for the open sea. What a wonderful thought.

So I asked Shirley to go and see what she could discover regarding the whereabouts of our luggage. When she told the luggage people our plight they were very gracious and nice to her. So they checked in their computer and told her that the luggage was already in Ft. Lauderdale waiting there for us.

That was interesting. Our luggage made it to the connecting flight but we were told that the flight had already left. Fact was we likely could have made it to the plane except we were told when we inquired what gate to go to that the plane had already left. The luggage guys said that their computer said we had arrived ten minutes before our connecting flight left. So, we likely could have made it if we had any encouragement to try.

It will be interesting to see how US Airways responds when we send them our formal complaint. Shirley went to customer service again after we found we could not get any refund for the hotel tonight. I thought that it might be hard to get any cash compensation, but they certainly could give us a complimentary flight for the screwup. The lady, Shaleeyah, gave us an address where we could submit a formal complaint, and we would have to await their response.

I already have the name for the book, "Dear US Airways." And hopefully I can sell the movie rights to Tom Hanks or some producer in Hollywood.

Needless to say, when we finally get to the cruise ship... or if we finally get to the cruise ship, I doubt anyone will more happy to be there. How many days will we sleep once we get onto the ship?

Hopefully we will be on board tomorrow and we will have good wireless internet on the ship... and I can send a brief message to say that equilibrium has been restored to this part of the planet and all is well. So tune in tomorrow, same time, as the saga unfolds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Pima Air Museum

As we entered the Air Museum we were greeted by Orville and Wilbur Wright's 1903 plane that made the historic first engine powered plane flight at Kitty Hawk. I'm sure it was a knock-off... it looked too new! The wood looked too new, the fabric covering was flawless. Regardless, this was without a doubt the "best of show" and I lingered around this plane for several minutes.

This Bede Microjet was the smallest jet plane ever... wingspan 17 feet... length 12 feet.

This Starr Bumblebee held the Guinness World record for the smallest bi-plane, flown in January 1984. The plane has a wingspan of 6 ft. 6 inches... and is 9 ft. 4 inches long, weighing 725 pounds.

We loved this Lear Jet Model 23... what a sleek design and no doubt a very fast way to fly. Looking inside it appeared like it would seat six plus the pilot.

Isn't this Lear Jet an absolutely beautiful, design? Look at all the people who flock around to check it out?

No plane flies faster or higher than this Blackbird SR-71! The bar is set pretty high for those who can even qualify to take this plane out for a spin. It can reach 80,000 feet elevation and cruise up to 2100 mph... Mach 3! That would keep you pretty tight in your seat.

Outside the building is 80 acres more of planes to see. So we took a walk around. This is one of the larger planes with 8 engines and the wingspan almost as long as a football field.

Some of these planes don't look like they would even fly, let alone carry heavy cargo. This Super Guppy was used by NASA to transport Saturn 5 rocket boosters around. Scary payload.

After we had walked almost halfway around the 80 acres, we saw this tram full of lazy tourists getting a snow job by the driver.

Speaking of snow, and the lack of it at Whistler, here is Snowball One. Was it called this because of its white paint job... or was it because there was more chance of a snowball surviving in hell than you being able to catch this plane?

Here is a little more history... this is one of Howard Hughes TWA planes. Can you remember when TWA was a viable airline company?

Here is a Sikorsky Sky Crane helicopter. This can carry heavy loads or handle any serious rescue missions. It has crane winch centered under the main rotors. It is equiped with 2-4000-horse power Pratt & Whitney turbo shaft engines, which turn the 6-blade rotors.

It was hard to believe how many different kinds of airplanes or helicopters have been designed and built. Everyone thought that they had a better idea of how to do it... and somehow they found the money to build it.

The name on this plane sums up my feelings precisely! It's 1:00 AM and I am one "tired dude." Even though I have another hundred planes I could bore you with, let me save a little surprise for you when you come to Tucson to see this museum for yourself.

Smile a Little

Q: What's the purpose of the propeller?
A: To keep the pilot cool. If you don't think so, just stop it and watch him sweat!

Pilot - "Folks, we have reached our cruising altitude now, so I am going to switch the seat belt sign off. Feel free to move about as you wish, but please stay inside the plane till we land... it's a bit cold outside, and if you walk on the wings it affects the flight pattern."

And, after landing: "Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

Monday, February 15, 2010

DeGrazia Adobe Gallery -Part II

Shirley really was drawn to this large stone mosaic piece. It is about 12 feet long and 8 feet high.

There are thousands of tiny pieces of rock cut to less than 1/2 inch by one inch and set in cement to tell the story. Very beautiful work.

This close up shot shows the variety of size and colors the artist used to create this beautiful piece.

Ted DeGrazia was a versatile artist, capable of producing works in a variety of mediums. He did several stained glass pieces.

I love the colours and the action of this simple stained glass work.

You can feel the movement of these wild horses as they run free.

The roundup... you can feel the dust and the sweat as the cowboys bring in the cattle.

Picking a horse and making a deal.

Can you feel the action at this cock fight? The feathers are flying!

There were two rooms dedicated to the "Stations of the Cross." Both were done in different styles... but I really liked the colors and the mood that were captured in this one of Jesus carrying the cross.

In several places flowers made from pop cans decorate archways both inside and out.

DeGrazia loved children and he taught them this simple craft project. There is no end of possible designs and color combinations.

Here at the front entrance of the gallery pop can flowers add cheer and invite you into this creative environment.

These heavy metal doors combine colorful glass marbles that fit into the design, so when you come out from the gallery on a sunny day, colorful "stars" are shining brightly in this door. Unfortunately we could not get a photo of this detail, but the creativity here never stops.

It took a lot of work to cut cactus into blocks and set them in concrete to create this design in the main walkway to the rooms that had the stations of the cross.

Everywhere you look one can see where Ted DeGrazia left his creative touch. Even in this counter where we stopped to pay for the few items we purchased, he made an interesting design on the front.

A Little Chuckle
Artist Pablo Picasso surprised a burglar at work in his new chateau. The intruder got away, but Picasso told the police he could do a rough sketch of what he looked like. On the basis of his drawing, the police arrested a mother superior, the minister of finance, a washing machine, and the Eiffel tower.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

DeGrazia Adobe Gallery -Part I

We spent a very enjoyable three hours at the "DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun"... a ten acre estate of the artist Ted DeGrazia. During his 68 years on this planet he built all the adobe buildings on this property and did a ton of art... paintings, sculptures, ceramics and mosaics.

We were attracted to this place because of the old original adobe buildings built by an artist. From this modest entrance to the gallery you would have no idea that inside you could wander from room to room... likely more than 5-6,000 sq. ft. of perpetual added-on rooms with hundreds of paintings displayed.

The mostly horizontal buttress along the front is similar to the famous adobe church in Taos. It was as a result of seeing the old adobe buildings in Santa Fe and Taos that we added the corner buttresses to the orphanage in Mexico.

The artist was obviously a good Catholic and built this small chapel on the property. Note the little holes (windows) in the wall.

These similar size holes on a nearby small gallery building have coloured glass without any frame at all They are just put directly into the wall and stuccoed in place.

Another angle of the chapel with its modest bell tower... again note the tiny windows that have coloured glass.

Inside the chapel this central skylight was open to the sky... very necessary to bring in enough light to be able to enjoy all the paintings done directly on the wall.

This painting filled the entire wall on one side of the chapel.

The simplicity of his paintings reminded me of another of my favourite artists, Marc Chagall.

Although DeGrazia never achieved the fame like Chagall, the longer we spent in the Gallery of the Sun the more I came to enjoy his style.

He often said that his paintings we completed, but never finished. He left the finishing to be done by the viewer... to put in the missing parts like the eyes, nose and mouth, etc.

I don't think most people appreciate the beauty of adobe as much as Shirley and I. We spent a lot of time building the orphanage in Mexico with adobe and we like the design of this chapel.

Ted DeGrazia (1914-1982)
What could be better than to be buried next to the chapel on the property where you have worked a major part of your life?

Beside the grave is this six foot stone cone. Shirley thinks that it may be like a shrine in honour of the dead artist.

Maybe the coins that are placed here are to ward away the evil spirits. If you have any insights on this please share... since we don't know anything... we are only guessing.