Again reminded of how blessed I am to travel

After 22+ years of being a frequent traveler I never forget how blessed I am to live this life. I know I visit this topic often, but it is genuine. Today I am in Vacaville, California, a beautiful town, and near to wineries which theWinsketcher loves. Saturday I head to Dubai, I am so looking forward to that, and then after 2 days Genoa, Italy. I get tired while traveling at times, but rarely ever tire of travel. I am blessed.

Steuben and Traminette, these are grapes?

Steuben and Traminette? These are grapes, not as familiar as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, etc. They are hybrids of French and American vines designed to withstand the climate of the Midwest and the Northeast parts of the United States. Traminette is the State grape of Indiana.  I visited Wildcat Creek winery in Lafayette, Indiana, curious to try some wines that were different from the West Coast, French, or Italian wines that I am familiar with. The tasting room is in an old Hoosier home, Rick is the winemaker. He came into the wine world less than 10 years ago, yet his wines have won numerous awards in the Indiana wine competitions. 

Even the dry wines they offered me, red or white, would most likely be classified as off-dry on the west coast. Since most of these grapes are also used as table grapes the sugar content is quite high. The feel is more thin, and most of the taste stays in the front of the mouth, very little finish to speak of. Compared with the Washington Chardonnays and Syrahs, or an Oregon Pinot Noir they would be described as undeveloped.
I resist the temptation to compare because they are a different grape, and for a different taste. It is more like saying do you like tea or coffee, both can be good, both are different.

  It was 85F and the Steuben reminded me a lot of slightly sweet rosé, it was served chilled. I sat on the deck and sketched an ancient tree, all in all a pleasant afternoon.

Hike to Heather Lake

This was a great hike, yet best described as “roots and rocks.” It was pretty steep, but much of the trail was climbing and scrabbling over rough terrain. Yet it was worth it, the lake was a gem in the Alpine Lakes area.

The deceptive beginning, it would soon get rugged.
The deceptive beginning, it would soon get rugged.
Alpine meadow at the end of Heather Lake
Alpine meadow at the end of Heather Lake

 

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Heather Lake, looking North

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Travel, its the little things that make it work

It’s the little things! Salt and herbs transform a palatable dish into a special meal. Accessories make the outfit. Frequent flier perks, attitude, and the little things make travel a whole lot better.

Travel, especially air travel, is one of those things that it is fashionable to complain about. It is interesting that those who complain the most are quite often those who fly the least. It does make sense though, when you are not as familiar with how the whole process works it can be frustrating, and when you are in an environment that is unfamiliar it is hard to know what to expect.

I offer the infrequent flier just two tips to enhance the experience

  1. Allow yourself more time at the airport.
  2. Go with the flow, don’t fight the system; you do get a lot more by being nice than by complaining. The reality is that sometimes it will not go smoothly, sometimes maybe not even be fair, that is just the way it is.

Now for those of us who have decided to make frequent travel part of our life, a few thoughts:

Never complain.

I have travelled for over 20 years and stayed positive about it, how? I refuse to complain. As I write this I am on a morning flight, not the travel I had planned, I missed a connection and spent the night in Denver, one of my least favorite airports. Yet I refuse to complain. It is like the Dark Side of the Force, once you start down the road of complaining you end up negative and frustrated, I have seen it over and over again.

We frequent fliers are doing this because we chose to do it, we knew it was part of the job when we signed on; it is part of our life. If the travel is that overwhelming or uncomfortable then it is time to dust off the resume and start looking for a change.

Loyalty has its perks

If travel is to be part of your life then be loyal to one airline, or group. I am a huge Alaska Air fan, when it comes to USA carriers I think they are the best. Their frequent flier program connects you to Delta, American, Quantas, and a number of others. By combining all your miles in one account they accumulate faster and you reach premier status sooner.

With premier status you earn the little things that make it better. Early boarding so there is room in the overhead, upgrades to first-class, on Alaska a free beverage in coach, free checked baggage, premier seating, and when things do go wrong they do give preference to the frequent fliers who have and will be back next week on another trip.

Join the club. My Alaska Boardroom membership is the best money I spend each year. Food, drink, wifi, quiet. And reciprocal arrangements with Delta Crown Rooms means I get to use their rooms when traveling on Delta, or when in an airport that does not have an Alaska room.

Accessories that matter

Each traveler will have his or her own list of what makes life on the road more comfortable; here is my list:

  • Headphones that either block or cancel noise; they don’t have to be Bose to be good. Many nights after a long day I sit back on the plane, put headphones on, click on a Spotify playlist and relax. How often at home do you get the luxury of listening to whatever music you want, uninterrupted for an hour or two? (A mini-speaker for your computer makes the hotel room a lot better as well.)
  • My mini-iPad. How did I get along without it? Reader, documents, games, videos, music, Netflix, soccer and rugby. Enough said.
  • Glassware. I carry a real glass cup for tea, and an acrylic wine glass. Tea out of a glass cup is so much better than paper, and if I am in a place for a few days I buy a bottle of wine for the room, and have a real glass to drink it out of.
  • Good tea. I never rely on what is in the room. Great tea out of a familiar cup is a great way to start the day
  • Sketchpad and watercolors. Life is too short to work all day and then work all night in a hotel room. So even a quick sketch now and then breaks it all up and reminds me of what is important.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” The Christopherson corollary to that is, “Most people enjoy travel about as much as they make up their minds to enjoy travel.”

Rainy days, gardens, tea, and old books

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Rainy days hold pleasant surprises when you travel, yet you probably won’t see them on the Travel Channel. Another of my travel maxims is, “Don’t let the weather decide how much fun you have.”

Rainy days make a cup of tea taste the best. The Bath Bun tea shop in Bath, England is a wonderful place anytime, but on a cold rainy day tea upstairs in this building that is a couple hundred years old is amazing. A “Bath Bun” is a round roll, sweetened with sugar on top and bottom with currants or other dried fruits inside. We had tea, a pot of chamomile and a pot of English Breakfast. With rain outside, tea to warm the inside, and some good conversation it just does not get any better. Without the rain we might not have stopped to rest as we should, thank you rain.

The owner of a small used book shop gave us tickets to a book fair that was to be held at the Bath Assembly Rooms, part of the local government. The first benefit was free admission to the building, but the real treat was a book fair on a rainy cold day. Booksellers from around England we’re there with an amazing offering of old books. Bibliophiles such as us could spend hours and many Pounds with ease.

It was there that I was introduced to the Victorian Journal, two were offered and worth every penny of the £300 he was asking, unfortunately that amount did not sit well with my budget at the time so I resignedly passed them by. During the Victorian era one would have a blank journal, and when spending time with a friend they would exchange their journal and each would make an entry. Some entries were watercolor paintings, a poem, maybe a drawing, or a political comment. These two journals were a wonder, filled with memories of another time; a reminder that things did not always move so fast and that people took time to connect. Without the rainy day diversion we may have missed this wonder.

On the rainy morning of our last day in Bath we took a walk through the Royal Botanical Gardens. If you want to avoid crowds visit a garden on a rainy day, you will have it mostly to yourself, yet you will find a beauty in nature that the fair-weathered folks miss. Rain drops falling of trees, grasses with glistening drops, even a flower sparkling from the rain.

We met a friend, from behind a shrub a small white cat almost ran up to say hello, as if waiting for some company. He rubbed up against our legs and followed for a bit, then led the way through part of our walk.

A cup of tea, some old books and journals, a cat to guide us through a beautiful park – all on rainy days. Three of the most memorable moments of our time in Bath were in the rain. Some would complain bout the weather, I think the weather added to the day. On a rainy day a bit of imagination and a jacket are all you need to find memories to cherish.