This chapter will cover my travels from 41 years of age to my current age.
In our first few years in Las Vegas we did some limited traveling, seeing the local attractions like Red Rock Canyon, Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, Mt Charleston and Valley of Fire. They are all within 30 miles of our home. These required no special preparation and took as little or as much time to explore as we allotted. This is mainly due to what you want from your visitations. They all have scenic overlooks and they all have extensive trail systems which allow a more in-depth exploration of the park. We were content at this time to just visiting these sights as we were fixing up our house. I wanted to have all the work done on our house by the time I hit 45 years of age.
My mother, stepfather and sister came to visit us after we had been there a few years. We mapped out a rather aggressive trip plan for them. Unfortunately, due to a slower pace of travel we were only able to see half of the things on my list. So my father never got to see the Hoover Dam. We did, however, go to Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire and Bryce Canyon and we spent a couple of days exploring the Las Vegas strip. One thing, my father required a wheelchair and Bryce Canyon is not exactly wheelchair friendly. So if you have a family member that requires a wheelchair, find one that can handle the trails. It was a bitch pushing a 280 pound man up and down the trails in a wheelchair. He also had emphysema, so when we were traveling the high elevation roads to Bryce Canyon he was having problems breathing. I had purchased a power converter that would handle his oxygen condenser, so he had plenty of oxygen for those roads. But this is another thing you have to be cognizant of. If you live on the eastern side of the US, you seldom drive on roads much over 4,000 feet, with some reaching close to the 5,000 mark. Out west those elevations are just run of the mill. You can drive on roads well over 8,000 feet and higher. Colorado has the highest roads with elevations up to 12,000. Mt Evans Scenic Byway and Pikes Peak are over 14,000 feet. So if you or your family has respiratory issues, either avoid these roads or bring supplemental oxygen.
The problem arose on our road trip is that we were traveling with two elderly individuals and five people total who could just not synchronize their pee schedules. It seems silly but this killed our estimated driving times. The frequent stopping for rest stops added markedly to our driving times. This is something I had not figured on nor had I allotted for. But you know what, we had a great time. The thing my stepfather appreciated the most was that not only did we spend time together, I made sure that he was not left out and that he got to see everything that was possible for him to see. After they left to go home I realized that he would have been happy just visiting us at our house.
My father never made it back to visit us. His health just would not permit it. My mother and sister made three more trips out west, one before he passed away and two more afterwards.
I will not discuss the second visit here because it did not involve any traveling. The third time my mother and sister came to visit us, my stepfather had already passed away and I was no longer married to my first wife Tammy. I was now married to my second wife Julie. For their visit, we decided to take them to visit Monterey, California. Our trip there was just a simple road trip with no major stops. I, through conversations with my sister found out that my mother had never seen whales in nature. So we went there to go out on whale viewing tour in the bay. Humpback whales were migrating through at that time. My mother was amazed at the size of the whales and she had a great time. We spent four days going there and back. A little side note, make sure you either have a map or a GPS when you visit Monterey, it can be confusing if you’re visiting it for the first time. Make sure you take the 17-mile drive in Carmel-by-the-Sea. As part of their entertainment package, we would take them to see a different show each time they are here. So this time we took her to see Wayne Newton perform at the Flamingo Resort. We had spent a little extra for our tickets so that we would get her as close as possible to the stage, so she could see him better. Little did we know what he was going to do. When Wayne Newton kissed my mother, you should have seen her get all flustered, it was so cute.
After my divorce was finally finalized, Julie and I decided to get certified to go scuba diving. I frankly needed something to get my mind off the alimony payments I was making. For the next six years most of our trips revolved around scuba diving. I will discuss those trips in Chapters 19 and 20.
After I divorced my second wife and married my current wife Dory, our travel no longer revolved around diving, though I did do a few dives on a couple of the trips.
Our first major trip together was to the Philippines and Hong Kong. We had a layover in Hong Kong, so we decided to stay there for three days and two nights. What an amazing place and so full of life. The public transportation system is simply amazing. We stayed at an Airbnb while we were there. While it is not my cup of tea, we did save a lot of money by doing it this way. Once we learned how to ride the public transit system, we zipped around the city and countryside like professionals. We only had one minor hiccough, and that was when we got separated. It was quite scary, since our cell phones did not work there and we did not know the city that well. But we finally found each other. So now it was time to fly to the Philippines. There are a couple of things you need to know about this country. While the Philippine people are nice and hospitable they live for today, with no thought given to the repercussions of their actions. So, basically they will screw you today without trying to retain you as a future customer. Don’t turn your back on them or leave anything unattended. Also give twice as much time as you think necessary to accomplish anything and then double it besides, and maybe you will have enough time to do what you want to do. To travel 35 miles in the Philippines you need to allot about 5 hours of travel time. You need at least four hours or more between connecting flights because the flights are never on time. Give up the thought of driving yourself anywhere in the islands, just don’t do it, put the thought out of your mind. They have no concept of lanes or which direction the road is going. The only reason that they don’t have thousands of accidents a day is that they are going so damn slow, that they can stop on a dime. Safe following distances are measured in mere inches. There are no limits to how many people you can fit on a motor cycle. I have seen seven people riding on a motorcycle built for two. Manila is a very dirty city, as a matter of fact, most of the islands are not taken care of very well. There is no reason for this, the islands are a virtual paradise, and they should be treated like a treasure. I guess because the islands are so poor, few people give this a thought. They are simply trying to survive.
So my wife’s brother picked us up at the Manila airport and promptly got lost driving to his house. We spent the next two hours circling the airport. This is a person who lives in these islands, can you imagine a total stranger trying to navigate the roads? We stayed at a nice resort that was basically empty because we were there off season. The resort was also very close to my wife’s brother. Forget about staying at their houses, they are just too small. We spent a couple of days there in Manilla, then we took an all day taxi cab drive to go the said 35 miles to our dive resort in Batangas, where we were the only ones staying at the resort. I tried to get bumped up to a nicer room, but they refused. Again thinking about today, and not tomorrow. We were given a charge card that had to be handed in after every meal so they could tabulate our expenses. Because they were overwhelmed by their one client. The dive boat even charged for drinks. I have never seen this before. At least there was no charge for Dory, my wife to come along with me. Since I was the only diver on the boat there was plenty of room. We wasted another day driving back the same route, because the driver refused to take the toll roads. These are tolls that were factored in on the rates we had paid for already. He just wanted to pocket the fees. I estimated that out of the three weeks we were in the Philippines, one was lost due to inner island transportation issues. There are few direct flights… you have to keep on going back to Manila so you can fly to the next city. So if you are in Island B and you want to go to Island C you have to fly back to Island A and then you can fly from Island A to Island C. That is one of the reasons travel takes so long. To visit Dory’s mother we had to fly to Davao City then take a taxi all the way to her town. Our final destination was Puerto Princesa in Palawan then back to Manila and home. Of all the islands we visited, Palawan was the best maintained, and if I had to live there, that would be the place I would chose to live at. Unfortunately while we there, my body started to work against me, and I got diarrhea. Poor Dory had to go to a 24 hour RX in the middle of the night to get me some Imodium so that our next days events would not be ruined. We stayed there for 4 days and nights. Our room cost less than $100 for the four nights. That price included breakfast and the slowest Wi-Fi in the world. Download times were measured with a sundial.
We took a trip to visit my family and to introduce my new wife to my family and we also brought along my roommate with us. Everything went along pretty well. He spent most of the time at my mother’s house because his funds were limited. I do know that I have learned my lesson, and that is not to take friends along with you on a trip. My family fell in love with Dory. So that part of the trip went well. Since the trip was pretty uneventful, I will move on to another trip that did not go quite so well.
This trip started out as a back up plan for a cancelled trip. This trip was flight and road trip combo. We flew to Denver and then rented a minivan and drove a large loop taking us through Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming and eventually back to Denver for our flight back home. Original plan was to have a hybrid trip, with most of our lodging revolving around camping. I figured that we would rent an SUV, so we bought an air mattress designed to fit in a SUV and a tent covering the back of it. It was meant for a simple and quick single night camping. We also brought a tent for multi-night camping at Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. I had never heard of FOX Rent-a-Car but the prices seemed good, so I rented an SUV for the two weeks we had allotted for our travels. That is where things fell apart, the whole company is nothing but a scam, the price quadrupled. So I politely told them to F off, and went back to the airport where I went with Enterprise. The price was about the same for a mini van as our SUV was supposed to be. I was willing to pay a little more for an SUV, but there simply were none available at such short notice. So now we had two items with us that we no longer needed.
Tis incident took place on our first night of our journey to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. We were in a campsite in Nebraska. Dory had chosen this spot initially only to change her mind. I, however was in no mood for any nonsense, as I was extremely cranky after the day we already had with the car rental debacle. So I said “No we are staying right here”. It was precisely at that moment when my entire body felt like it was on fire. Apparently, ants have heard of team work. They would all sneak up on your body and due to hormones were able to synchronize their stings. I told my wife that we had to go to get some Calamine lotion and that we would have to stay at a motel. Luckily we were able to get a refund and we beat feet for a local town where we not only got the lotion and some other goodies, and I took a hot shower. What a first day.
Of all the things I wanted to photograph on this trip, Devils Tower was one of the most important to me. I had all kinds of plans to use auxiliary lights to paint it. Well this all turned to shit. Thank God, I had the foresight to take a few pictures before we set up camp. Because that was the last time I was going to even see the damn monolith. Again, where in the hell did the rain come from? It was coming down in buckets the whole night. So in the morning it was no wonder that our tent was under water. Of course, Dory’s cell phone was now under two inches of water. Can anything else go wrong? Well, yes it could and did. But I promised I would stop here.
Prior to the trip, I had made all our camping reservations for Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. When I booked the campsite for the Grand Tetons, I asked the agent if the campsite I was planning to stay at was close to the park entrance. Well, I guess the term close is relative, but I wouldn’t call 30 miles in anybody’s vocabulary close. So by the time I got to the campsite I was just a little miffed. So I pulled up to the campsite and I saw the office to the left of the entrance, and there were several empty parking spots located conveniently in front of me, so I parked there. Well, no sooner than I turned off my van, in comes this elderly man in a golf cart. He proceeds to yell at me and ask me if I could read, and tell me that I had parked in the wrong spot. Well, there was nobody anywhere in the vicinity, so what the hell was wrong with where I had parked? It was paved, and I had not parked on any flowers or grass. So I asked him where I should park, he rather rudely pointed to the left. So I rather loudly shut my truck door and pulled over to the aforementioned spot. Well, no sooner than had I parked and turned off my van and got out, he buzzed over to me again. This time he was even ruder. He said he did not like my attitude. He also went on to say that the benefit of being the owner of this campsite is that he could say who got to stay there. Well, I called him a naughty name and told him where he could stick his campsite and that I wanted a refund. What an absolute arrogant prick.
We ended up finding a very nice campsite in the park itself, that was cheaper and had the wonderful fringe benefits of both elk and moose wandering around the borders of the campsite. I think we made out pretty well. So sometimes planning ahead doesn’t always work out for the best.
The last trip we took was an 18-day road trip to Florida and back. Our original plan was to make a loop with us taking the southern route first going through Texas and the northern route taking us back through Colorado. Due to a storm brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, we had a large amount of rain, at least fifteen inches in one day in Louisiana. So we had to cancel a lot things on the first leg. We, therefore decided to go back on the southern route albeit with a few modifications. So with the exception of a few key destination spots, our trip did not resemble the original plan very closely. We had also planned on doing a lot of camping along the way, but a lot of the campsites ended up being almost as expensive as the economy motels and hotels. So, we only camped a few nights on the trip. We still managed to have a great time even though it was a quite lengthy trip and we did it without fighting, amazing as that may sound. We both agree that the highlight of the trip was one that was totally unplanned. It was an overnight stay at the Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. I also got to ride a paddle boat down the Mississippi. Even though I wanted to eat at Brennan’s Restaurant for breakfast in New Orleans, we did get to eat at the Two Sister’s Restaurant instead. Our meals were absolutely fabulous and we even splurged and had Banana Foster’s for desert.
We have a couple of options for our next major trip, it depends on the condition of the international atmosphere on where our next major trip will be. If it is safe it will be to Egypt and Jordan, if not, it will be to Florida. Only time will tell. Right now, my health and my wife’s health is in question, so my PTO might be a hold up for us.