Friday, August 29, 2008

Disgruntled Athletic Trainer

I've got some beef with the NATA and their marketing peeps. I joined this organization way back in undergrad because.... well, it's the only professional organization for ATCs (and that's what I wanted to be). The idea behind a professional organization is that they represent the interests of those in the profession. We've got issues with the APTA, the NATA stands up for us. We've got issues with people not having a clue who we are or what we do, the NATA runs a campaign to try and change that. For the most part I've been happy with what has happened on the NATA side of things. Parts where I'm unhappy include: the changes to our education requirements, certification testing procedures, and now the "new" logo.
The "old" NATA logo was pretty glorious as far as I could tell. You didn't have to read all about ATCs to figure out that we were medical professionals. Instead, you could just take a quick look at our logo and figure it out (or at least that's how it came off to me). That logo is classy and classic. It doesn't look like we're stuck in 1972 with a porn star moustache. It looks as though we're an established profession with a long, respectable history. Does the AMA have to revamp it's logo to show that they're "moving in to the new millennium"? Hell no! They're the effing AMA - they're old and established and respected. If people can't figure out that they're not stuck in 1972, well then they should get a clue. This is pretty much the way I view it on the NATA side as well.
Over the past several years we've made great strides as a profession to get the recognition we deserve. ATCs have been recognized as health care professionals on numerous fronts and in turn have started working as health care professionals on numerous fronts. No more will you only find your ATCs at a college or high school. Now you find them caring for factory workers, the military, physical rehabilitation clinics and every place in between.
So, this begs the question - "why do we need a new logo to bring us in to the new millennium?" I really don't know... The "old" logo was fine, and respectable. Why have we now been reduced to cartoonish drawings and big bold fonts that jump and down and scream "look at me, look at me, I'm an obnoxious idiot moving in to the new millennium"?
The saddest part of this entire issue is that we, as a membership, voted on this new logo. The massive downside to this "democratic process" is that all of the options we were given all screamed the same ridiculous line. None of them were classy, nor were they classic. In 20 years this logo is going to look as 1972 as a porn star moustache.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gear up for fall

It seems that "summer" has come to a virtual end, and "fall" will be here in about a week. Alot happens for me, and the fam, in the fall so some preparation is necessary.
First: Josh will be starting back to school. Second grade this year, and I just can't believe it. What the hell happened? How did he get so big?
Second: The fall soccer season starts. Yet another season where I've had to go out and buy the kid new cleats. Again, what the hell happened? How did he get so big? Thankfully I've managed to skirt the task of also buying a new ball and new shin guards (the ball I bought for the spring season still looks new and the shin guards still fit). I did have to shell out $12 for some new Umbros as well - a former pair now sport a nice hip high slit up the side.
Third: Let the travel season begin. I discovered last year that the fall is a crazy busy time for my job with a bazillion conventions going on in October and November. My proposed trip count through the end of the year stands at 7 (which isn't too bad). I've got a few other things going on, but some are within close driving distance, and our big leadership meeting in December will be here in my office instead of Dallas. I've tried to broaden my scope, but I still am heavy on the eastern side of the continent. I'll be seeing both northern and southern Texas, Massachusetts, Indiana, New Jersey, Georgia and New York among other places not really worth mentioning.
Forth: The incessant wedding attending. How many weddings can one family attend and/or participate in over a 12 month period? I think we're putting this one to the test, but there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel. Forgoing the recap of the past 12 months, we're looking forward to attending Nick & Amy's wedding (Brad's cousin and soon to be wife) in Wheeling, WV in just a couple of weeks. Thankfully we're not participating in any portion of this, so we'll be free to come and go as we please and I'm particularly looking forward to getting together with Jason (my good friend from college) and his fam who live just up in Pittsburgh. Fast forward from there to December when Katie and Bekir will be having their wedding up in Warren, NJ. Clearly I'm pretty involved in this one, as are Brad and Josh. This will be the first (and hopefully the last) wedding where we're ALL in it. I'm having a good time helping Katie with planning and such, and am looking forward to all of the festivities and cultural experiences that will come with the event.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Check please!

I didn't have much beef with the "service" on the boat. Generally people were nice and helpful (minus the one purser) and considering this wasn't a cruise line, the "service" was great. I mention this solely because when it comes to getting a check with which to pay the bill the service was seriously lacking. I've never worked as a waitress, or in a restaurant at all really (no, Dairy Queen does not count), so far be it for me to outline what is and is not acceptable in the way of giving the check. I would; however, think that it would be important to actually give the check in order to have it paid.

Night 1 - Dinner with Mary and Lauree: We waited and waited and waited and waited, and finally they brought the check (20 minutes after we'd been long finished).

Day 2 - Lunch with Nikki and Rene: There was no check to pay. They'd mentioned to me that we needed to pay before 1:30 cause the cashier would close - still, no check. So finally I head up to the guy and tell him what we had so that I can pay him before he leaves. Mission accomplished.

Day 3 - Lunch with Workshop Attendees (all 6 of them): Again, they bring me no check. I even noted to the guy "I'm picking up the tab for these folks, so bring me the check." No check. We have our meeting - 1:30 comes and goes, and I ask again about the check. They tell me I can't pay it now cause the register is closed and won't open again until 6pm - and still they give me no check. I say, "ok, I'm coming back at 6pm to pay the bill."

I'm sorry, these people are entirely too nonchalant about the check. The ferry system should count it's lucky stars that I'm a good person cause most folks would just walk away with 9 free lunches at this point (including the 3 from the previous day that I made a point to pay).

Day 3 - Dinner time: We had an all convention dinner, but I got up and walked up to the register to pay the guy for the lunches from earlier. I explained the situation and how I needed to pay and he looks a bit perplexed, but then says "you know what, don't worry about it." I said, "no, I'm worried about it. That's 6 lunches. I'd like to pay for it so I don't feel like a crook." He sits down and says, "well you're a good person," adds up the bill and I pay... finally.

Wine party in Stacy's room!

I've known for years and years that Athletic Trainers are a party crowd. In undergrad I'd look forward to our basketball conference tournament where all the ATC from the WVIAC would get together and we'd party it up. Once I moved on to professional life and started going to the NATA convention I continued that trend, only with ATCs from across the country. Knowing what I know about ATCs in general, I've often wondered if other professions share our love of partying. Well before boarding the boat, I learned right away, that the folks in NWD are all about the party. I will say that they're a little more high class though because instead of toting six packs or bottles of Jack on board, these folks had coolers full of wine.
Hauling your own booze on board is allowed, but consumption of said booze is a bit more difficult. To start, you may only bring aboard your own booze if you have a stateroom, and you can only drink said booze in your stateroom. Without a room, you must leave any alcoholic beverages with the purser and they will hold it for you. Thankfully, in our group there plenty of folks with rooms, so those without simply passed their stash off to those of us with accommodations. My group boarded with a moderately sized cooler full of chilled wine - ready to go at a moments notice. Unfortunately this cooler didn't belong to us, but we certainly had our share.
Shortly after departing Bellingham I was wandering the halls, when I happened by a room with the door wide open and folks having a pretty good time inside. I walked right by and then thought I knew the folks, so I back tracked. Sure enough, there sat a room packed full of folks with my convention - including Stacy, who I'd met just a bit earlier. They'd popped the cork on a couple of different bottles and were sipping away. I joined them for a bit and then went off to find some dinner (see Grouch Tent Guy Saga posting). Later that night I happened by again and there was the group, sipping away. This was becoming a trend, and I'll say that I definitely couldn't complain.
The next night folks got bored in the bar and Nikki decided to invite everyone over to our room. Unfortunately this wasn't to be as Rene had conked right out, so company in our "suite" was out of the question.
Where should we go?
What should we do?
Oh right, there's Stacy's room!
We tracked Stacy down, got her key, grabbed our wine, and headed for our party.
This cycle continued until the evening of the last day when we ran out of wine, and inevitably out of time to party. We were bonded by the trip as a whole, but none more than those of us who attended the wine parties in Stacy's room.

Rene, Jump Rope Goddess of the World

The whole purpose of me going on this Alaska boat trip was to put on a Jump and Hoops workshop for State Coordinators within the Northwest District. Clearly there were additional reasons why I wanted to go to this particular convention, and the perks were numerous, but I tried to stay focused on the "work" that needed to be done.

Rewind back to June of 2007 where I made the decision to hold the workshop on the boat. The decision was two-fold - a) we'd have a nice captive audience, and b) who wouldn't want to come to this convention? I looked up the District Coordinator for NWD and it was a gal by the name of Rene Bibaud. I needed this person to be the primary planner of this workshop. Being relatively new to the job I didn't know Rene, nor had I ever heard of her. Turns out, she's a bit of a celebrity. My assistant, Sharon, noted, "you don't know RENE?!?!," to which I replied, "nope, should I know her?" Well, yes, clearly I should seeing as how she's the Jump Rope Goddess of the World. Upon checking out her website, and doing a little reading it became apparent to me that I should know, and would know, Rene.

Thankfully Rene was all about having the workshop on the boat, and even though there were numerous planning snafus along the way, she did a good job of putting it together. To kick off our workshop session, Rene put on a little show for our session attendees.... and anyone else who happened to be on the boat at the time. If these folks didn't know about her before, well, they knew about her now. She jumped and twirled and skipped and hopped and threw random strangers in to tandem jumps and had a little Japanese girl doing double dutch on a whim as well as one 61 year old fellow who was celebrating his birthday.

I'd venture our session had an audience of about 50+ folks out on the aft deck of the ship, and all were quite entertained and amazed.

Brian Hagbo's Pain Camp

I guess I should probably talk a bit about the sessions we had aboard the boat as that's one of the primary reasons we all go to conferences and conventions in the first place. The first session of the convention was the one that had the most impact on me - both physically and mentally. I've heard alot about heart rate monitors since I've been working here at AAHPERD, but I'd never had the opportunity to really find out what they're all about. I do know they're a VERY hot item for P.E. teachers nowadays, and they're perhaps one of the most coveted on the high end equipment list. Thankfully, Brian Hagbo was on board to tell us all about them and give us the opportunity to try them out.
I'd met Brian up at Mary and Lauree's camp on day one of the trip, and he told me he'd be doing a session for Polar (the company that makes the heart rate monitors everyone wants so much), and so I made a point to get out of bed and show up for this one. After a short presentation on the monitors and what they do, we all picked one up, put it on and got started. Brian ran us through a series of exercises to get our heart rates revved up, selected a few individuals and downloaded their monitors' information to show us how the software works. All in all this was a fun and productive workshop, and I left a happy camper. I was a happy camper all through that day.... in fact, I was happy right up until I got up the next morning.
Mind you, I was on the top bunk in my little cabin, and so my leg muscles needed to be in good use quite early in the morning. I got up somewhat early the next day so that we could hop off in Ketchican and have a look around. I realized, upon stepping down on the ladder that my VMOs were extremely unhappy about the previous day's activities. I clutched the ladder tightly and made my way down.... very, very slowly. I pulled myself together and we went out to wait in line with the rest of the schlubs trying to get off the boat at 7am. Everything was fine and dandy until it came time to walk down the stairs and off the boat. This was a task that I was quite unprepared for, but I clutched the railing and lowered myself as easily as possible down the ridiculously long flight of stairs. On my way down someone behind me says, "is that from my session?" Clearly this was Brian, laughing at me, and I said, "yes, damn you, this is from your session." I proceeded to hobble around the rest of the day, and inevitably the rest of the trip. Even on Wednesday morning, long after the boat, and Juneau, and the day on the plane - I still had TONS of medial knee pain.
I've since recovered, but would like to thank Brian Hagbo and his pain camp, for teaching me the finer points of how not to exercise early in the morning.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Grouchy Tent Guy Saga

I've been holding off on this story for a bit because I've been trying to figure out the best way to present it. The actual experience was aggravating and then satisfyingly hilarious. Had it been a singular incident, there would be no story here, but it's the continuance that makes it so blog-worthy. I hope it comes out remotely as entertaining as it was for those of us who were there.

Rewind this trip back to day one where we board a boat in Bellingham. Up on the upper aft deck, my friends Mary and Lauree are setting up a tent where they'll be sleeping for the next few nights. Their tent is surrounded by numerous other tents, and all of these "campers" are securing their tents with duct tape so that they don't blow away. As the evening progresses, the tent city becomes quite dense, and there are tents all around Mary and Lauree's little plot, but that's what makes this so much fun.

Two "doors" down from Mary and Lauree's little plot, a guy and his teenage kid pitch a tent, but fail to secure it with duct tape, or anything else for that matter. After getting all settled in, these two toss all of their belongings in to the tent and take off to look about the ship (or so I'm guessing). About this time we finally push off and head out on our journey. One of the first things everyone notices is how the sole unsecured tent is bouncing all about and trying very hard to fly right off the boat. We were not the only folks who noticed this, but we were the only ones who really decided to take action. Approaching the tent, we caught it in flight and decided we needed to take some drastic measures to ensure this guy's stuff didn't end up in the water. While Scott, the guy in the tent between Mary & Lauree and this genius, went off to try and find the guy, Nikki and I used the ropes normally used to secure the tent to the ground to tie it to the tent behind it (we'd seen them come in and set up together, so we assumed they were buddies) and to the railing. Once the tent was relatively secure, Scott comes back with the guy and we proceed to explain the problem. Instead of being thankful, he was right out rude. In his words "that tent's not going anywhere!" Nikki explained to him that we caught the tent in the air and at that point decided to take action to ensure it didn't completely fly away. He was rude again to her and so we all just left (personally I was just cold and didn't care much about what may or may not happen after this). While this gave us a story to tell, I certainly didn't think there'd be any more to this saga, but oh was I wrong.

A couple of hours later I went down to the restaurant to get some dinner. Mary and Lauree joined me, and we got a nice table right in front of the windows looking over the middle aft deck. This deck also had room for tents, and numerous people set up there as well. I perused the menu and ordered up some grilled chicken pasta and chatted with Mary and Lauree. Round about the time they brought out the bread and butter, Mary noticed that Grouchy Tent Guy had packed up his stuff and set up camp down on the lower deck. Once again, nothing securing said tent to the deck so it's flappin' in the wind. He set up in the corner, but then picked up his tent and plopped it right in the middle of the deck and walked off. As it did before, the tent was bopping all around, trying to take flight and bouncing off of other people's tents. The other folks around the area were apparently getting pretty annoyed. We, of course, were laughing hysterically as were the couple at the table next to us. People are grabbing the tent and plopping it strategically away from their tents, and when it would bob back over, they'd do it again. Mary, amid her fits of laughter, decides to go down to the deck and tell them about Grouchy Tent Guy and our experiences with him on the upper deck. Round about this time, before Mary can even get down there, the group decides to take the poles down, to stop the tent from bouncing around and ensure that it won't fly away.

As Lauree, the couple at the next table, and I look on - Mary trots right down on deck and proceeds to let the entire group know about our earlier experiences with Grouchy Tent Guy. She points us out, and we all wave, and she continues to chat with them and make friends. After a bit she comes back up to dinner. We notice that this experience is bonding the lower deck folks and they've brought their chairs in a circle to chat.
Our dinner came and it started to get dark outside. It seemed that Grouchy Tent Guy got a heads up that his tent had once again been tampered with, and he came storming on deck, beer in hand (his kid had one as well). He proceeded to inspect the tent, look over at the circle of other campers (who were blatantly ignoring him), and started to take the tent apart. He piled everything in the middle and flung the entire load up over his back like Santa Claus, grabbing his beer on the way out. By this point we were rolling. I wish it would've been light out because the picture of this would've come out much better and I could've posted it.
One lady in our group also recounted a story of Grouchy Tent Guy at the pursers desk trying to get a room to stay in. The purser had to inform him they were all booked up and he was quite unhappy about this as she recalled. Oh well, serves him right for being such a jackass to folks who were simply trying to help him out.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Trying to visit the bridge

A couple of postings back I mentioned how I met a guy who drives the boat in the gift shop at the boat depot in Bellingham. I thought it might be cool to go up and say "hi" and see what they do up there on the bridge. A boyscout troop also on board apparently managed to get an escort up there, so I figured perhaps a few from our group could finagle this too. While wandering the halls one evening with a couple bottles of wine (there's a blog about this to come shortly) we got to talking to the ship's security manager and asked him about possibly visiting the bridge. He said it shouldn't be an issue, but that he would make a note of it and we should ask the purser in the morning. When I thought about it that next day, Nikki and I walked over to the purser and asked the person sitting behind the desk about visiting the bridge. The purser is not a single person, but rather a group of folks who work in the office and you're pretty much stuck with whomever is sitting there at the time. I've had really great experiences with this person, and in this instance, not so great experiences.
So Nikki and I approach the counter and tell the lady we are interested in visiting the bridge. She immediately shakes her head no and starts in to this lengthy explanation of how they don't generally allow this and it would be difficult to do and there's this process and so on and so forth, all the while shaking her head no. I was a bit confused cause this was opposite of the information I received earlier from the security guy. I mention to her that the security guy said it shouldn't be problem and she all but snaps at me, "you've heard our policies and procedures, so that's what you need to do." "Okaaaaaaay...," was all we had to say and we walked away. She was clearly disgruntled, and even though she did outline a process in which we would have to gather our group, have each of them produce their boarding pass, picture ID and a written statement noting their reasons for wanting to visit the bridge before we would even be considered, she shook her head in a "no" manner the entire time. Nikki and I relayed this info to the other folks who were interested, and decided perhaps we'd try for it a bit later in the day.
Later in the day I was in the hall reading a bulletin board about the Alaska Gold Rush when the guy from the gift shop happened by. I say "hi," and he stopped to chat for a moment. I mentioned that we wanted to come up and see him, but that the lady downstairs was less than friendly about it. He said, "oh, that must be Mary," and noted that she's often unfriendly and less than helpful. We discussed possible times to visit, but it wasn't looking good as the afternoon and evening held some tricky maneuvers. We decided it probably wouldn't happen, but it was much better coming from him in a reasonable manner instead of the stupid lady who just didn't want to let us through. We probably would've been able to go up, had she not been so contrary in the morning.
Anyway, that was by far the most disgruntling experience of the entire trip, so I can't really complain. There's always next time :)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The ferry boat Columbia

During the trip to Alaska we spent alot of time on the boat. There weren't alot of stops, and the stops we did have were extremely shortlived. This fact made it necessary to employ all of the boat's "amenities" in order to keep oneself entertained. Let's keep in mind that this is a ferry boat, not a cruise ship, or party pontoon with a live steel-drum band (I took one of those once in the Bahamas, so why not list it here). Ferry boats are a mode of transportation, not a method of entertainment, but they do their best to try and accomodate folks who have to be on board for days at a time (i.e. - folks travelling with kids and our convention goers).

As previously mentioned, I purchased a room for my travels, which I shared with 3 other gals. Our room wasn't huge, but it was a place to go and relax in peace and quiet, and you could sit and work at the table if need be. Not everyone opts for this "luxury," and so many folks slept in chairs in the recliner lounge or in booths in one of the forward lounges. The alternative to this arrangement was to bring your camping gear on board and pitch a tent on one of the aft decks or sleep in a lounge chair in the solarium (which did have handy dandy heaters that came on at night and, from what I hear, made it quite cozy). My committee member, Mary, and her adventurous friend Lauree decided to take the "camping" route. Many other convention goers decided to take the recliner route. From what I understand, nobody from our group nested in a booth in the forward lounge.
Aside from odd and assorted sleeping arrangements, the Columbia also boasted a small arcade for the kiddies, twice daily movies (somewhat recent releases) shown in the recliner lounge, a cafeteria style cafe, a more formal restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, a bar, a gift shop, and odd and assorted sitting lounges. Once or twice a day a park ranger would give talks on wildlife or forestry that we would see during our passage. From there you are pretty much on your own for entertainment, but the scenery generally does a good job of holding your attention.
I spent the majority of my time either in the bar (cause that's where we held most of our sessions), the restaurant (cause that's where the food was and we held our workshop there), or on deck (cause that's where the entertainment was as far as I could tell). I perused the gift shop once or twice, but didn't see anything I couldn't live without (except this nice antique map of Alaska, but I theorized I could get it elsewhere - note: I could not get it elsewhere). I did pop in the bar several times a day (aside from our sessions), but only had a few beers in there over the course of the 3 day trek.

Friday, August 8, 2008

The sitting and the waiting and the shopping

Once we were all ticketed, we proceeded to take our bags upstairs, park them in the middle of the floor (which was sort of in a boarding line) and look around wondering what to do next. I really wanted to go wander around Bellingham, but I didn't want to saddle anyone with being the bag babysitter, so I opted out of that idea. Instead I went downstairs to see what the gift shop had to offer.

The gift shop had goodies, and lots of them. All kinds of cool tribal art emblazoned items, soap, post cards, clothing, cook books (one all about crab cakes - took alot for me to pass it up). So I shopped a bit, picked up some handmade soaps in a variety of flavors, a nifty tote bag, a stainless water bottle with a some cool tribal art, and probably something else I can't think of. While I was in there I heard some guys talking to the lady behind the counter and I was standing there so I inevitably joined in the chat.

It was apparent that they worked for the ferry system, so I asked what they did. The big guy says "I drive the boat." Of course I didn't believe him, but he assured me that was his job. The smaller guy said he was learning to drive the boat. The big guy started to tell me two stories. One about a guy who jumped ship in the Wrangell Narrows, and another about a dog rescue they took part in (no clue where they dog came from that was in the water). As he started to tell the story about the guy jumping he looked past me out the window and said "oh crap, they're loading cars, I've gotta go," and so I never heard the story (which was bothersome). I paid for my stuff and headed out to grab a bite to eat.

There's a little cafe in the depot and I hadn't had anything to eat since 9am when Rene and I had french toast at a cool place in South Seattle. It was about 4pm and I was pretty starved, so I ordered up a mushroom, chicken and cheese crepe. This also came with a salad and the crepe was the size of the plate (a big plate). I ate about half of it before I was stuffed and headed back up to where everyone was camped out to see what the status of us actually boarding the boat was. The status had not changed - everyone was standing around. Rene and I decided this would be a good time for us to put our workshop binders together, so we spread it out all over the floor and commenced to assembling them. Just before we finished they decided now would be a good time to rally the troops and start boarding. We finished up our project, packed it all up and got in line.

Perhaps you remember my earlier blog where I said we had an absurd amount of luggage? This made boarding a bit of a challenge, but we managed to get it on the boat, only leaving our poster board on deck (which we promptly forgot about but someone else kindly picked up and held on to for us).

Beds for sale in Bellingham

I think that here is where the trip started to get interesting. We walk in the door and there's a ton of people, many of whom we know, and know well. So we have a little meet and greet and go to get our tickets. The line for this was moderately long, but I took my place at the end only to hear people up at the window calling for me. So, I head up there to find out what the ruckus is for. I didn't know these folks at all. Turns out, it's the other ladies who are with my workshop and they're trying to get their tickets (but they can't cause they're listed as being with my "party"). So I inevitably skipped the line to handle the situation. A little back story to the back story here - my budget funded the trip for 5 people who were attending the workshop (ferry fare and accommodations).

I'd been afraid (for a few weeks at this point), that the ferry system was screwing up my room requests. When I made the reservations way back in January I requested 1 room with 4 beds, and 1 room with 2 beds - they put me on a waiting list and said they'd let me know if they came available. Shortly thereafter I spoke with the convention director who told me she had reserved 2 rooms for me with 4 beds each. I went ahead and took them and paid for them fearing that might be the only way we'd have a place to sleep. I called the ferry back and said I'd just like to reserve 1 room with 2 beds so that I could trade it for one of the ones with 4 beds (which I already had secured and paid for) when and if it became available. Are you lost yet? Apparently the ferry people were lost.

Over the winter and early spring I had numerous conversations with a girl named Fini up in Alaska who tried to sort out my room situation, but to no avail. She would call me at home and leave a message or talk to Brad and give me the status of the "room situation." By the time I was on the plane to Seattle I was 100% positive that I was now the proud owner of 4 rooms (a total of 14 beds) when I only needed 2 rooms (a total of 6 beds).

Back to the port in Bellingham now... I ask the guy in the window - "I think I have a major rooming issue. Do I talk to you about that, or someone else?" He says it's most likely him and we'll get it straighted out. Once we figured out who the initial 2 rooms with 4 beds were booked under, everything went quite smoothly, but that was a bit of a process (since I wasn't the person who had actually booked the rooms). I was able to relinquish the extra 4 bed room, but still walked away in possession of (and having paid for) 2 rooms with 4 beds and 1 room with 2 beds. I only needed 1 room with 4 beds and 1 room with 2 beds. I approached the convention director to see if anyone might want to "buy" the room from me. It was, after all, the closest thing to a suite that a ferry boat offers. A room with a full bath, 4 beds, and a table and chairs. See as it's the nicest thing available, one might imagine that it's also the most expensive thing available. At $533 for the trip, it wasn't an easy thing to unload.

Thank God for wealthy Asian folks. Is it just me or are there alot of wealthy Asian folks. I feel like I know my fair share of people from Asian countries and all of them are doing VERY well for themselves. I applaud this as it's certainly not a smear on their culture, but rather something to be admired. Yes, I'm digressing. So, we just so happened to have Dr. Suzuki with us on our convention and yes, he was very interested in buying the room from me, but he didn't have $533 cash on him (gosh, what WAS he thinking). No sweat, we can just bill him! So, Dr. Suzuki and family took the room off my hands. The funniest part to this story was when we got on the boat and went to the pursers desk to get our room keys. I put down my boarding pass with the two 4 berth "suites" listed. The purser said "oh my!" and I replied "yes, we're high rollers."

Onward to Bellingham

The second leg of the Alaska trip was from Seattle to Bellingham. The original plan was to take the train up from Seattle, but that plan was somewhat nixed when we discovered that it was an early morning train. The afternoon "train" was actually a bus chartered by Amtrak that you catch at the train station. So, at noon we boarded a bus to Bellingham and were on our way. There were some interesting folks on the bus, several of whom were also heading up to Bellingham to get on the ferry. It was a two hour trip, but it went by quicky with all the great scenery. This was my first trip to Washington, so I was quite content to look out the window at the mountains and such. One lady pointed out some tulip fields, and though they were empty at the time she said they were amazing when in bloom.

Thankfully the train station in Bellingham, where the bus dropped us off, is adjacent to the ferry depot where we needed to catch the boat. We had an absurd number of bags with us, but between the two of us we managed to make it through the parking lot and in to the ferry depot to meet up with our workshop folks and get our tickets squared away for boarding.

Seattle is cool

The first leg of my trip up to Alaska was to fly out to Seattle. I had lots of miles from all my business trips, so I decided to go ahead and upgrade myself to first class as a special treat (for a really long flight). Rene, jump rope goddess of the world and workshop cohort, kindly offered up her place for me to stay the night and we would go together to Bellingham in the a.m. So I flew in around 3pm, took a cab to Rene's and called my cousin Mike to see if he was game for giving me a 25 cent tour of Seattle and possibly grabbing dinner. Rene was at a pre-convention meeting, so Mike came and we went out to see what there was to see.
Having not been to Seattle before, I wanted to see the touristy things as well as the not so touristy things that regular people do around town. We went to Pikes Place Market and I got Brad a mug from Starbucks (cause that's the sole thing he asked for on this trip). We drove around town cause it was raining (shocker) and got out at the Space Needle to take some pics. There are lots of cute shops and older, quaint parts of town that I could spend days wandering around in, but it wasn't going to happen on this trip. We drove down to the Akei (forgive me if I've misspelled this) beach where Mike likes to take his dog for walks and saw cool views of the city. We finished up the tour with dinner at the Pyramid brewery. I got a "taste" of the place in just a couple of hours, and there's certainly incentive to come back and explore further.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Alaska trip blog series forthcoming!

I'm back from the Seattle/Bellingham/Alaska trip, not too jetlagged, and with loads and loads of pictures. In additional to this I've got several stories to share, and so I'll be posting those individually - possibly with pics to help tell the saga. This may go down a la the Venezuela series from last August, cause I think that's a good way to go about relaying the information in a readable manner. Nobody likes a blog entry that encompasses an entire weeks worth of adventure and activity.