Category Archives: Travel

Honey, Be Still

American Airlines MD-82; N7521A@SLC;09.10.2011...

American Airlines MD-82; N7521A@SLC;09.10.2011/621dx (Photo credit: Aero Icarus)

I settle into my aisle seat, 9D with extra leg space, and watch as my fellow passengers board our flight from Orlando to Dallas/Fort Worth. Flying home on a Tuesday evening usually means I’m sharing my flight mostly with other business travelers. However, that is usually not the case when flying out of Orlando. Passengers boarding our flight include families with young children sporting their Mickey Mouse headgear, young adults heading home after a long weekend getaway, and just a few of us road warriors sporting our casual business attire and our Swiss brand backpacks. All of us want the same thing: to take our seats and enjoy an uneventful flight to our final destination.

“Honey, be still.”

Over the hustle and bustle of the boarding process, those words spoken in a husky voice by a female passenger close by grab my attention. She is seated in 8B, the aisle seat across the way and one row in front of me. Although we are at the gate, her seat is fully reclined as she sits under her blanket, clutching a plastic cup and a small stuffed pony. She is blond, middle-aged, and somewhat heavyset with large glasses. Her eyes are closed. Her husband, a rather small man with dark hair, is seated at the window next to her, looking outside and commenting on the baggage handlers and other tarmac workers busily prepping our plane for takeoff.

“Honey, be still.”

She says it again as he comments on something else he sees as he points outside. Is she nervous? Is she downright afraid to fly? Maybe she’s not feeling well. Whatever it is, she appears to be quite uncomfortable and more than just a little annoyed.

Seated behind the couple in 8A and 8B is an older couple obviously traveling together, both entranced with their iPads. Attired in dark dress slacks and a white business shirt with no tie, he is a distinguished looking gentleman with salt and pepper hair and silver wire frame glasses. She looks more than a tad bit younger than he, dressed in a sophisticated dark pantsuit with her iPad adorned in a white leather case. As the flight attendant walks by he points to “Honey, be still”, reclined so steeply that their eyes would meet if she simply looked up, silently reminding her that all seats are to be in their full and upright position for takeoff. The flight attendant acknowledges his gesture with a smile but says nothing.

Now, fully tuned in to the people around me, I notice the gay couple seated in front of me. How do I know? Men don’t gaze into each other’s eyes and lean into each other unless there are feelings between them far beyond fraternal friendship. These guys aren’t buddies, they are a couple; even I can see that. Although I am not a fan of the gay lifestyle I can’t help but be touched by their obvious affection towards one another; I’m just hoping there is no in-flight PDA.

Seated next to me are two ladies, each traveling alone. Both are donned in professional business attire and sport nicely coiffed blond hair. We exchange friendly greetings as I stand to allow each of them access to their respective seats, but once seated the three of us are all business. Beyond our friendly greetings we focus on our respective in-flight habits. 9F listens to her business motivational book on CD (I haven’t seen a portable CD player in a long time!) as she gazes out the window at the sunset on the horizon. 9E has her hardcover book called [Something] One nestled in her lap as she sleeps. I try to make out the title, but I can’t unless I lean far closer than what would be appropriate or comfortable. It has a large silver question mark on the cover; maybe you’ve read it. And I, in 9D, compose this essay as I observe the people around me.

IMG_2104

Blogging at 36,000 feet.

Well into our flight, “Honey, be still” wakes from her nap. From where I sit I see a smile on her face as she speaks softly to her husband. That’s a good sign. I take a sip of my red wine as I look at the people seated around me, and I can’t help but smile. Tonight we share a flight to Dallas. But I’m reminded that we all share this life we live on planet Earth. Each of us has a story. Each of us has a purpose. We have our burdens, our hopes, and our dreams. We have victories and we have losses. We have each other. I find myself lifting each of these people seated around me in prayer, asking God to guard and protect them as they complete this flight and continue on their journey through life.

As I re-read the draft of this essay, feeling somewhat proud of my perception and intellect, “Honey, be still”’s husband rises from her seat and heads to the back of the plane. That’s right – her seat. He is a she, with short-cropped dark hair, sporting a gray tank top, baggy painter’s jeans and tattoos on both arms. What was once a smile is now a full-tooth grin as I remind myself that things aren’t always what they appear to be. Husband? Daughter? Partner? Caregiver? Close friend? I have no idea. All I know for sure is, as perceptive as I thought I was, I had totally missed the mark.

“Honey, be still.” As I wash down my slice of Humble Pie with the remnant of my airline Cabernet, I’d say that’s some pretty good advice.

O’Malley’s! ~ Hollywood, Florida

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

I bet most frequent travelers have one or two destinations that harbor special memories. Here is the story of one of mine.

In 1989 my cousin and I took a weekend Bahamas cruise aboard Carnival’s M/S Fantasy. Just placed into service, this was her second voyage so everything aboard was squeaky clean and brand-new. The real adventure began, however, after disembarking back in Miami. We were off the ship by 9:00 that morning. Given that our flights home didn’t leave Miami International Airport until 7:00 that evening we had a full day to explore the greater Miami area. With a whole day to kill, we decided to rent a car and explore the boulevard Jimmy Buffett made famous: Florida A1A.

Florida A1A

With the aid of our AVIS rental map, we easily found A1A and headed north towards Fort Lauderdale. We were in search of the idyllic beachside pub to catch some sun, enjoy some people watching, and enjoy a few adult beverages. Around midday, we happened upon O’Malley’s on the beach in Hollywood, Florida.

Ocean Pub 101, fka O'Malley's Ocean Pub - Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Ocean Pub 101, fka O’Malley’s Ocean Pub – Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

For a couple of single guys in their late 20’s, O’Malleys fit the bill. Situated along a busy pedestrian walkway alongside the beach, O’Malley’s offered cheap cold beer, a nice variety of pub fare, great people watching, and friendly patrons. We befriended a group of tourists at the next table and the afternoon flew by quickly. Conscious of our 7:00 departures, I asked our server what time we would have to leave O’Malley’s to get to the airport in time. “Oh, it’s only a 25 minute drive. Leave here by 5:30 and you should be fine!”

Pedestrian walkway outside Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Pedestrian walkway outside Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

A couple of beers later and we were at the brink of 5:30. I asked our server if there was a quicker route to the airport than A1A. She assured me that there was, and began giving directions. Head west on Florida 820, then north on I-95…. “North? Isn’t Miami to the south?” I asked. You’re going to Miami? With traffic it will take you at least an hour to get to Miami airport. I thought you were flying out of Fort Lauderdale. You’d better hit the road!” Thankfully the traffic cooperated and we arrived at Miami International Airport just in time to catch our flights home.

I love this bar, It’s my kind of place.
Just walkin’ through the front door puts a big smile on my face.
It ain’t too far, come as you are.
Hmm, hmm, hmm I love this bar ~ Toby Keith “I Love This Bar”

As simple and ordinary as it was, that afternoon at O’Malley’s remains one of the highlights of my travel career. I have been fortunate enough to return to South Florida on business many times since then. Each time, I make a point to revisit my favorite beachside pub, and each time I have an incredible experience. Last night the pattern continued.

View from my perch at Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

View from my perch at Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Now called Ocean Pub 101, the pub formerly known as O’Malley’s is under new ownership. Upon arrival just before 5:00 I took a corner seat at the bar – the perfect spot from which to see all of the televisions and watch the people come and go. Unbeknownst to be as I sat down, the president of the condo association in the building adjacent to the pub was seated at the corner with me. I told him about how my cousin and I had happened upon O’Malley’s 20-some-odd years ago and how I keep coming back when I’m in the area. He introduced me to another condo resident seated beside him and a couple from Toronto who are time-share owners visiting the area on three-week holiday. We talked about how the area, and O’Malley’s in particular, has changed over the years. Under new ownership the pub has enjoyed a resurgence of sorts, “he hired kitchen help; we hired a chef,” he said. I thoroughly enjoyed my fish & chips dinner. The couple from Toronto said they have never visited Texas, but after regaling them with stories about my favorite Texas city, they said they would seek out a timeshare trade in San Antonio for their next holiday. Before I knew it my watch said 7:30. Time to hit the road.

And now I must confess, I could use some rest. I can’t run at this pace very long.Yes, it’s quite insane, I think it hurts my brain. But it cleans me out and then I can go on. Yes, it cleans me out and then I can go on. 

~ Jimmy Buffett “Trying to Reason with Hurricane Season”

So what is it about O’Malley’s that keeps me coming back? Why is this pub any more special to me than similar venues I have visited all over the country? I ponder these questions after each visit, and I’ve decided it’s the people. There is no pretentiousness here. The staff and patrons are consistently friendly and approachable. They’re in shorts and t-shirts; many are fresh off the beach in bathing suit covers. They lead ordinary lives, and for many of them, O’Malley’s is their social gathering place. They welcome new blood and easily engage in conversation. Succinctly stated, I have always felt welcome here.

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

Hollywood Beach, outside of Ocean Pub 101, Hollywood, FL ~ July 24, 2013

As I write this, my mind recalls many of the faces I’ve met here over the years. Many are blurred by the passage of time and names completely escape me. I have a smile on my face as I remember these good times and great people. We humans are meant to be relational; we’re intended to engage one another as we walk through this life together. I’m thankful for O’Malley’s, the people I’ve met there, and the good times I’ve had over the years. Oh, I know. It’s not O’Malley’s any longer; it’s Ocean Pub 101. They can call it what they like. I’ll be back.

Route 66: Fading Away

If you ever plan to motor west,
Travel my way, take the highway that is best.
Get your kicks on route sixty-six.
~ Nat King Cole; Lyrics by Bobby Troup

IMG_2258As we approached hour 12 in the minivan, my daughter and I debated whether we should continue another 90 minutes to Amarillo or stop for the night along historic Route 66 in Tucumcari, NM. Stopping in Amarillo would make for shorter day tomorrow; stopping in Tucumcari would allow us an earlier dinner and a chance for me to show my 17-year old daughter a bit of Americana.

Mural on the side of Motel Safari, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

Mural on the side of Motel Safari, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

The Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

The Blue Swallow Motel, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

Flying eastbound down Interstate 40 at a cruise-controlled 78 miles per hour, I began to regale my 17-year old daughter with memories from my childhood travels. In the days before the Interstate system crisscrossed the country, the American road trip was an event in and of itself. Towns like Tucumcari thrived on the tourists passing through, and many of those towns developed strips of activity – a main road lit up at night with the neon signs of so many motels and restaurants, each trying to woo the weary traveler with a comfortable bed, a refreshing swimming pool, and the classic restaurant/lounge.

As we approached Tucumcari, we saw a sign that directed us to take the first of 5 exits to follow historical Route 66 through town. My daughter and I agreed that we would select a place to stay based on curb appeal, attached restaurant, and general Americana coolness. It didn’t take long for us to figure out that an era has passed.

The Royal Inn, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

The Royal Inn, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

“Why aren’t we flying? Because getting there is half the fun. You know that.”
~ Clark W. Griswold

The pool at the Royal Inn, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

The pool at the Royal Inn, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

I should have known. Travel has changed. When I was young, my parents took us kids on a vacation road trip every summer. Pulling up to the night’s motel was a daily highlight on the earlier trips. It was fun to check out the room, and we couldn’t wait to change into our swimsuits and jump into the motel pool. Today, they’re all the same. Hampton, Holiday Inn Express, Comfort Inn – name a chain. On the plus side, they are generally consistent and reliable. On the down side, there is nothing unique to see here.

After dinner tonight I took a drive through Tucumcari and included a few of my pictures in this blog. Times change, and my travel habits have changed with it. Perhaps that’s why I was so disappointed that our eagerly anticipated trip to Americana didn’t quite pan out. At least I have the memories; sadly, my kids will never know that wonderful era in American road tripping.

Only the sign remains at the site of the Lasso Motel, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

Only the sign remains at the site of the Lasso Motel, Tucumcari, NM, July 6, 2013

Small Town Independence Day Eve

I had my eyes opened tonight.

La Plaza Inn, Walsenburg, CO. July 3, 2013

La Plaza Inn, Walsenburg, CO. July 3, 2013

After logging 606 relatively easy highway miles in our 2005 Toyota Sienna minivan, my daughter and I finally arrived at our stop for the night: an historic and quaint inn located in downtown Walsenburg, Colorado.

Before settling in for the evening, we walked around downtown Walsenburg. We noticed several shops offering antiques, clothing, gifts, and even an H&R Block. Sadly, we were past closing time so we were not able to venture inside. We also noticed several vacant storefronts. We enjoyed our walk around town and I was pleased that my daughter found the town as intriguing as I did. After our walk, she wanted to relax in the room and I wanted a glass of wine. We both had the same objective, just in different forms!

After safely settling my daughter into our room*, I headed downstairs and took a seat at the small and nicely stocked bar in the lobby. At first I was alone, but soon a few others entered and took seats at the bar. One gentleman mentioned the meeting tonight, to which the manager responded, “tomorrow is a holiday and you have a meeting?”

“Yes. We need it.”

I learned that each of them owns a small business in this quaint little downtown. Their discussion quickly turned to a building prominently located on Main Street. As they described it’s teal trim and salmon color I remembered walking by it just a short hour ago. The building’s owner had recently ordered one tenant to relocate; now they had heard that the antique store occupying the majority of retail space in that building had also been ordered to relocate. Once the antique store leaves, there will be two prime retail locations on Main Street completely vacant.

Downtown Walsenburg, Colorado. Borrowed from flickr.com

Downtown Walsenburg, Colorado. Borrowed from flickr.com

The antique store quickly became the focus of the conversation. “People from all over come to visit her. Then many of them visit me. Is there a suitable space for her downtown? Where will she go? What if she just gives up and closes her business?” I gathered that the building’s owner is not from here.

As I nurtured my glass of wine, I looked at the people seated around me and I felt empathy with them. This is huge. This development, completely beyond their direct control, could significantly impact their businesses. Their concern was evident; hence, the Independence Day Eve meeting of downtown business owners.

I have always had an appreciation for Small Town, USA. That appreciation was one of the reasons I chose this particular inn for this particular stopover. Tonight I looked the backbone of America in the eye and had my eyes opened. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have a clue about the issues facing small business owners across this great country of ours. And I question seriously whether those in power at the state and federal level have a clue, either. Yes, this is a local issue. But this local issue reaches far beyond the confines of Walsenburg, Colorado. This town depends upon the success of these businesses; so does the state of Colorado and so does the United States of America.

Flag of the United States of America, backlit,...

Flag of the United States of America, backlit, windy day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I finished my wine and paid my tab I found myself wondering how many similar conversations are going on in small towns across the country. As I type this, the meeting is going on downstairs. I can’t stop thinking about these people. What can I – a person who lives in the suburbs of a major metropolitan area and who works for a major corporation – what can I do? Well, I can support small business owners – the backbone of this great country. And so can you.

Tomorrow is Independence Day. On this Independence Day Eve 2013 I pledge to do my part to honor the people I met this evening by supporting the backbone of America – local businesses – at home and on the road. I invite you to do the same.

I wish the people of Walsenburg much success.

*“Room” is not a fair word here. We have what amounts to a suite with separate quarters, each with a queen-sized bed, and a shared bath. Nicely decorated, incredibly comfortable, and priced lower than most major chain motels the inn offers a great value. I highly recommend it.

These Dogs are Barkin’!

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I confess. I am a huge fan of Del Griffith. Del Griffith? You know, the shower curtain ring guy played by John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles!

One of the character traits that impresses me most about Del is his “take it as it comes” approach to life. A widowed traveling salesman with no permanent home (“I haven’t been home in years,” he says), Del experienced tragedy in his life at the loss of his beloved wife. That loss placed the daily inconveniences of life into proper perspective for Del. As a traveling salesman, life’s inconveniences often manifest themselves in the form of travel delays. Diverted from Chicago to Wichita, KS during Thanksgiving week, Del meets cynical marketing executive Neal Page, played by Steve Martin.  Together the two are the epitome of yin and yang; Del’s glass is half full while Neal’s is slightly less than half empty.

I travel on business regularly, and today was one of those Murphy’s Law travel days. And, like Del, “I’m just rolling with the flow, like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream.”

Or am I? For me, today was a travel day in which much went wrong, starting with a thunderstorm perfectly timed to delay my early morning departure from DFW airport and ending with a departure delay of just over an hour headed home from Corpus Christi. How did I handle it? Did I “roll with the flow like a twig on the shoulders of a mighty stream” or did I get frustrated and let my frustration show to those around me? Was I a Del Griffith or was I a Neal Page? Was I a discourager or was I an encourager?

Blogging at 34,000 feet

Blogging at 34,000 feet

To be honest, I was a little of both. Neal Page would be proud of my Facebook posts from this afternoon. Rather than reassure my family and friends that these travel delays were no big deal and all would be fine, I posted items designed to drag people into my pit of travel misery to wallow there with me. After all, why wallow alone? However, as the cynical approach began to weigh me down I decided to change my tactics. I met eyes and exchanged smiles with my fellow passengers. I made a TSA agent laugh as I caught her making fun of the way I dumped my backpack onto the security conveyor – classic Del Griffith.

"These dogs are barkin'!"

“These dogs are barkin’!”

Life is short. It’s far too short to live as a cynic. Cynics are too busy being cynical to enjoy the curveball moments life throws at us every once in awhile. Life threw me some curveballs today. The Neal Page in me whiffed a few, and the Del hit a few solid singles. For now, I’m enjoying the lightening show playing for me outside my airplane window as the twin Rolls Royce engines on this Embraer jet (it’s amazing what you learn from listening to flight attendant Tom’s in-flight announcements) whisk me home to the DFW Metroplex.

“These dogs are barkin’!” They are, indeed, but they’re happy now. Thanks, Del. Maybe I’m on the right track.

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