Sunday, December 31, 2006
I don't know if it was Real Simple, or some other magazine, that convinced me that I needed a pair of red shoes to go with it. And here again, the planets seemed to align. I anticipated a long and intense and annoying search, since I have feet that shoe manufacturers don't apparently believe actually exist - I'm a size 10-1/2 (go look. Shoes come in half sizes up to size 10, and above that, they only make whole sizes). But we were in DSW shortly after buying the dress, and I tried on a pair of red satin spike heels in size 10, just for a laugh (they were on clearance, too), and damned if they didn't fit. They were even fairly comfortable.
From there the nail polish, lipstick, and purse were merely trivial efforts. And so here I am on New Year's Eve, about four inches taller than normal, mincing down the passageways (the ship getting bigger by the minute), and cursing the ease with which those stupid shoes appeared. Maybe the devil wears Prada, but he supplies Rampage for those of us that want the torture without spending quite so much.
I look good, though. As long as I stand very still. Otherwise, the grimacing kind of takes away from the overall impression.
Saturday, December 30, 2006
Cruise-related things my husband worries about:
- One of us mysteriously falling overboard
- One of us being mysteriously kidnapped while in Mexico
Cruise-related things I worry about:
- The Poseidon Adventure - why that particular movie was mentioned in yesterday's USA Today, I don't know, but it deals with a ship turning turtle due to a rogue wave, on New Year's Eve. Coincidence? I sincerely hope so. I'll have to exert substantial energy to think of other things until Monday comes.
I would really like someone to explain to the hotel industry that, when buying sheets, "300 count" and "300 grit" are not the same thing. And that the "StaySmart" sheets at the Holiday Inn Express, with their woven-in pattern of stripes, simply make their guests feel as if they've been sleeping on a BBQ grill.
It's sunny outside here. Hope the snow is letting up.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Friday: "Congratulations! You've just escaped from the second Colorado Blizzard! What are you going to do now?"
Maybe it adds to the thrill of a beachfront house to wake up every morning wondering if the dining room has suddenly descended to the level of the road.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
He was pretty much right, although by the time we hit the state border, it was raining, and although I was kind of hoping that the addition of rain to a dust storm would result in our car being pelted with mud, nothing of the kind happened. It was just your average 5-hour drive with 50 mph crosswinds and a lot of traffic.
And the burgers at In-n-Out are just as good as we remembered, although I really couldn't figure out why the one in Barstow was so crowded at 10:30 in the morning. On the other hand, we were a part of that same crowd.
A few more observations about Las Vegas:
- This time of year appears to be a national holiday of some sort in the Orient - it was very cosmopolitan around the strip.
- It is not a good idea to eat sushi from a casino buffet.
- If you spend more than 12 hours in a hotel that uses a perfumed air freshener to mask the smoke of a thousand gamblers, pretty much everything you eat for the next several meals tastes like shampoo.
- Even at 4:00 am, it is possible to tell the difference between the screams emanating from the New York New York roller coaster and the screams that result from onlookers at a shooting.
- Vegas ATMs dole out $100 bills, which is a bit disconcerting if you're expecting your $200 withdrawal to produce a stack.
Hope the blizzard isn't as bad as they're predicting. The storm survival grocery list, according to our former Birmingham realtor is: Bread, Milk, Toilet Paper, and Beer. Get yours now!
No such luck - the dipstick showed exactly the right amount of oil, on a cold engine and after wiping it off before checking the level. We returned to the room and got on Google. A quick search for the phrase "fluctuating oil pressure gauge Toyota Sequoia" found a lot of entries; it turns out that there's a Technical Service Bulletin all about our oil pressure sensor. So we felt quite a bit safer heading off this morning - all we needed to do was ignore that gauge entirely. Never mind that we were relying on the automotive equivalent of looking up the black spot on one's arm on Web MD and deciding that it was the result of dropping a Sharpie. I did spend a lot of time looking at the engine temperature, though - just in case - and it never budged.
And we made it safely to Las Vegas. We are staying at the Monte Carlo on the strip. They are charging us about twice what we paid for the place in Grand Junction last night, and the hotel end of their business is probably not where they're making their big money. But the place last night had free wifi in the rooms. The Monte Carlo? $17 for 24 hours' access. I'm surprised there isn't a coin slot in the TV. That's why the posting date on this entry is not December 26th.
Vegas is its usual self. We walked down to Paris to have dinner, and got to practice our Spanish a little early - all of the people on the streets handing out pictures of young women appeared to speak only Spanish. The pictures reminded me of baseball cards in a way, although baseball players are nearly all fully clothed, and baseball cards don't include the baseball players' phone numbers.
Like we said to the guys (and women, oddly enough) handing them out, "No, gracias".
Monday, December 25, 2006
The morning was a little weird, though. We seemed to be channeling one of the more idiotic sitcom families. First, we were trying to find a non-flammable container to hold the candle we always bring along for winter travel. After trying it in several containers, the most likely candidate appeared to be a quart-sized canning jar. It should have fit - it looked from several angles like it would fit easily, but it wasn't sliding easily through the mouth. The following conversation ensued:
"Bother, this doesn't work either!"
"Here, let me try."
"No, don't, you'll break it."
"Don't be silly, it just needs a firmer push."
As expected, the next sound was that of breaking glass. Injuries were minor (only one bandaid required), and the kitchen floor is now very clean.
If that were the only incident, I would have dismissed it. But about an hour later, we gathered up the two dogs to take them to my parents' house for the duration. Anneke, who is about 3-1/2 years old and is fairly well-behaved when it suits her mood, got right into the car without issue - she likes car rides so well that she has been known to try to get in the car with the carpet cleaner or plumber. Our other dog, Roscoe, is 2 years old. For most dogs, this would be an adult age. However, for Roscoe, this appears to be the equivalent of a kindergartner. When the car is in the garage, we can generally trust him to get in on command. Apparently, though, the car needs to be in the garage - and this time, it was in the driveway. Instead of getting into the back seat with Anneke, he took off across the front yard, all three of us floundering after him through the drifts that haven't melted anywhere near enough. He took a fairly leisurely tour of the neighborhood (You try running through foot-deep, half-melted snow some time. Trust me, any dog can outrun you.) before we could catch him.
Maybe the cats told him that we needed more exercise.
The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. We had Christmas dinner with the extended family, exchanged gifts, and then headed west. We made it through the tunnel and over Vail pass without incident, and even Glenwood Canyon by not much moonlight was a decent drive. We were on the home stretch for Grand Junction - maybe 40 miles out, near Parachute, when my husband happened to look at the gauges on the dash.
"We don't have any oil pressure," he said, rather abruptly. I suggested that it might be a good idea to pull over and investigate.
"No," he said, "I think we're okay. The engine isn't heating up."
We compromised by pulling off at the next exit, about 2 miles down the road. All the while, I was having visions straight from a Quaker State commercial - seeing the pistons turn red from friction just before seizing up entirely.
As we pulled to a stop, the oil pressure seemed to return, and when we looked at the dipstick, there was very definitely oil in the system, so we went on. And we made it to our hotel in Grand Junction without incident, although the oil pressure gauge was definitely registering every possible value as we drove.
I told my husband once we got to the hotel that if going on a cruise meant demolishing a car each time, I thought we'd really have to give up cruising in the future.
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Anyway, as we were sorting through all the things that cruisecritic.com thought we ought to bring, we went through nearly an entire box of gallon ziploc bags, and I got to thinking. How on earth did the British Empire ever expand without ziploc bags? Anything that contained liquid went in a ziploc bag. Anything that consisted of a set of small parts went in a ziploc bag. Laundry detergent? Ziploc. First-aid supplies? Ziploc. Sewing kit. Ginger teabags. Nail polish. Spare rechargeable batteries. Vitamins. We packed a few empty ones too, in case we pick up anything spillable on the trip.
The winter stuff (for the drive west) turned out to be less of a hassle than I'd thought. Although at the moment, since it's snowing outside again, I'm starting to rethink the beach crocs as driving shoes - maybe I'll pack them and wear my hiking boots after all. The crocs have better traction in snow, but they also have an awful lot of holes in the tops, and that can get a little chilly.
Or I could wrap my feet in ziplocs, I guess.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
Our cats were very helpful with the exercise thing this morning. For this trip, they will be enjoying the hospitality of the local cattery, rather than hanging out on their own at home with a cat sitter. Two weeks is a long time, and I just don't trust them that much - they'd probably sell the place, or something. So they left on their "vacation" this morning, since we're leaving on Christmas Day and the cattery owners seemed to have other plans that day.
We don't have particularly stupid cats, more's the pity. The idea was to put them in travel crates to get them into the car and to the cattery. They have been in the crates before, almost never to travel somewhere they want to go. So, when the crates come in the house, the cats vanish. Even knowing this, I thought we needed to bring the crates into the house this morning so that they could warm up a bit. And the cats reacted accordingly - they disappeared.
We checked their usual hiding places - no cats. I even looked in the entertainment center cabinet behind the TV - no cats. We finally found one of them under the guest bed, right in the center, just beyond arms reach from all possible vantage points.
My daughter and I came up with a strategy fairly quickly. First, we shut the guest room door. Next, she armed herself with a stick of some sort, and I played catcher. I should probably mention that my sports of choice nearly never involve catching anything - or poking at anything with a stick, for that matter.
About 5 minutes later, we succeeded in nabbing the cat in a corner of the room unprotected by furniture. I grabbed her, and we opened the door to find my husband and both dogs waiting outside the door. The dogs looked kind of disappointed - I think they would have liked to help.
After that, things got a bit simpler. Maybe the first cat let the second one know that resistance was futile; for whatever reason, she went quietly, and we were able to deliver them successfully to their temporary quarters.
I figured that would be it for the day in terms of action - after all, we still have rather a lot of packing to do. But the blizzard struck again. Not that it snowed or anything - today was beautiful, with blue skies and temperatures warm enough to melt a lot of the streets. I was even able to drive to Target in my Mini, without getting high-centered once.
No, my uncle was snowed in - his driveway still had 3-foot drifts in it - and he really wanted to drive to Colorado Springs this afternoon. His first thought was to call his older brother - my dad - to help out. But my mom thought that was not such a good idea - Dad may be in really good shape (far better shape than I'm in), but he is 70 years old, and it's a really long driveway. So my husband and I ended up with the gig.
It probably didn't take us more than a half-hour (we went and borrowed Dad's snow-blower, and that was a lot of help), but it sure feels now like we were at it for several days. I've had three Advil and a glass of wine. I'm still waiting for any of it to kick in.
And all that packing? Guess we'll get to that tomorrow.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Our car, or one near us, did make an odd clunking noise on I-70 on the way home tonight, but as near as I can tell, nothing vital fell off.
Now for a weekend of packing and housecleaning - why did I think that a Mexico cruise in winter would be easier to pack for than an Alaska cruise in summer? It's exactly the same problem - the clothes needed to get to the ship are entirely different from the clothes needed on the ship, so I end up taking everything.
Good thing we have a big car.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
It's supposed to be nicer tomorrow. It's supposed to be mostly sunny tomorrow, actually, and fairly nice for the next 10 days. Hard to imagine at the moment.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
But she got some updated information off the school's website, and her finals are now scheduled for the first 3 days of the new semester - after we get back.
Phew! Dodged that one.
And it wouldn't be, if my daughter weren't in high school. But she was supposed to have day one of her semester finals today. School was canceled, so that's not happening. If she gets to go to school tomorrow, today's finals will happen on Friday and we're still golden. But the blizzard is supposed to continue through noon tomorrow. No school tomorrow, and she has to take tomorrow's finals on Tuesday.
We're supposed to be on the road on Tuesday...
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
At about this point, he looked at me a little quizically, and asked, "Do you guys ever go by the name Griswold?" At first, I protested, but then I got to thinking. He could be right. Here's a synopsis of some recent trips:
Two Christmases ago, we drove to Memphis. We took the Southern route along I-40, and promptly spent parts of 3 separate days trying to cross Arkansas after a blizzard. We slept one night in the car during this process.
On an earlier Christmas trip to Memphis, we opted to take the train. Which showed up in Denver about 9 hours late, causing us to have an unexpected overnight stop in Chicago on Christmas Eve. I have to add, we all enjoyed the stopover immensely.
Then there was the trip to Seattle with my mother-in-law who was on blood thinners, requiring that all hotel rooms (we shared with her) have their temperature set at 90 degrees, give or take. I spent several nights sleeping on the tile floor of the bathroom, just to get cold enough to fall asleep.
Or a three-family trip to the Northwest in which we only made the Victoria-Port Angeles ferry by the skin of our teeth, due to the world's slowest gourmet breakfast at a very nice B&B.
And finally, a trip to Northeast Iowa in late May, where we all misjudged the whole concept of "Spring" and brought shorts and t-shirts, only to find it in the grip of a cold drizzle, so that we had to buy reinforcements. I still swear that the Lands' End outlet in Dodgeville Wisconsin was only an inch away on the map, but it required a 4-hour road trip.
With a history like this, I guess our upcoming cruise has a decent chance of being blog-worthy. Today is Tuesday. We leave next Monday evening to drive to Los Angeles. Currently, Denver is under a winter storm warning, and the long-term forecast seems to indicate that the best roads are likely to take us via Cheyenne. I'm not so worried about the trip to LA, because we don't have to be there until the 30th, which should be plenty of time. But the ship returns to LA on January 6th, and I have to be back at work on the morning of the 8th. I've already predicted that we probably won't be returning via Donner Pass, which will undoubtedly guarantee our return route.
So sit back, and enjoy. If I don't post much, you can figure that everything is going smoothly - or that we're stranded in a snowbank south of Las Vegas somewhere. If I do find things to write about, I may even try to put some pictures up.