The most requested thing for dinner around here? Noodles. With butter.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The beverage cart

If I designed an airplane, the first thing I would NOT include would be the ubiquitous beverage cart.
It's just not needed.
The minute the captain turns off the seat belt sign and you think you are clear to stand, stretch, and maybe use the tiny restroom... WHAM! The beverage cart is in your way.
What does the beverage cart do? It brings you free miniscule amounts of your favorite cola, coffee, juice, or water. It sells you your prefered adult beverage. It is large and it gets in the way. It is just not needed.
No one really NEEDS coffee, juice, colas or beer on a flight. They will live without those drinks. Water is good because flying dries you out, but the rest are superfluous niceties that just are not needed.
On my airline, every seat would have a cupholder and bottles of water would be there waiting for you as you took your seat. No beverage cart needed. Without the beverage cart, there would be room for more seats on the plane. More seats would be a good thing.

My airplane would also not have any "first class" seats. All seats would be the same- and there would be a bit more leg room than the coach class has currently. First class seats are not that much more comfortable than coach, and everyone gets to their destination at the same time. If they had an airplane that was incredibly fast, THAT would be worth paying first class prices. But they don't. Also, the seats in my plane would not recline. It never fails that the person in front of me HAS to have that inch and a half of extra space, thus messing with everything I had on my tray table. You can live without reclining. No reclining.

On my airline, no little bags of peanuts or pretzels. I would have my flight attendant hand out apples. Apples are good. They work for those who are vegan, diabetic, kosher, lactose intolerant, allergic to nuts, and gluten free. They are just good- and they support the economy of my state. No annoying bags of trash when you are finished with an apple- just a biodegradeable core. Green. Very green.

So, who wants to fly with me?

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Denver Airport

Of all the airports I have flown in/out of, the Denver Airport is my least favorite. I much prefer our airport here, or O'Hare, or Reagan, or even Hong Kong to the thing that Denver puts its name to.

One reason I don't like it is that it is far away from Denver. It should be called the Almost-In-Kansas Airport because it is so far east that the terrain and weather are more like Kansas than like Denver. Ok, I exaggerate, but it's in tornado alley. There are tornado shelters in the airport. (Personally, I think that there is no such thing as a tornado shelter unless it is underground. The airport shelters are not underground. They are fooling people.)

When we landed in Almost-In-Kansas, we had 3 hours to wait until our shuttle took us to Keystone. We thought it might be a good idea to take a cab to Denver and see some of the sights. There's an air & space museum called Wings Over the Rockies that looked interesting, a yummy Jewish Deli that I saw on FoodTV that was close to that museum, and Denver has the Molly Brown Museum which tells about the life of Johnny (made his fortune in silver) and Molly (survived the Titanic) Brown. We thought one or more of those choices would be fun so we inquired at the information desk at the airport. The guy there looked at us as if we were crazy. Then he gave us the bad news... we were so far away from Denver that a cab ride would have cost us over $100. And- a bus ride would cost us over two hours. There are no trains to the airport- those are coming in 2014.

Argh. Whose idea was it to move a perfectly good airport (Stapleton) out to the middle of nowhere? I've heard different reasons for the new airport- they were expecting urban sprawl, they didn't like that Stapleton was too close to the mountains and therefore turbulent, yadda, yadda, yadda... I've flown into Stapleton about a dozen times. I don't remember any turbulence. (Maybe the pilots complained about it, but this post isn't about pilots, it's about me.)

Any-hoo, with three hours to kill, Kevin and I started by having lunch. After that, we wandered around and looked in the shops. Same as most other airports. Yawn. We took pictures of silly things and decided that we would make a slide show titled, "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" to present to our colleagues before the start of school in September.
We couldn't get to Denver, so we faked it.

Some people we met.

Airport art.

Kevin's last name is Smith. That's why this picture is funny.

Kid with squid hat.

The one bright spot in the airport was an art installation titled, "America, Why I Love Her" by Gary Sweeney. Here's a few shots of Kevin and I enjoying the work:

Other than that, the airport is rather dull. The roof is sort of interesting except that it appears to be made of some sort of industrial canvas which doesn't inspire much confidence in the building process (or the tornado "shelters"). Maybe they ran out of money to build a real roof. Maybe the fabric is stretched so taut that a plane would not crash into it, but merely bounce off of it. Hard to say.
From the outside, it looks like a cow's udder. Maybe Almost-Kansans have a thing about cows.

So, if you have to fly through the "Denver" airport, pray that your lay-over is not long. If you have to actually travel to Denver, bring lots of money to get anywhere from the airport. (Unless you are going to Kansas...)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Rocky Mountain Higher

In the summer in Keystone, Friday afternoon gondola rides to the summit of Mt Dercum (elevation 11,640 ft.) are free.
It took a little over 10 minutes to get to the top- along the way we could see mountain bikers heading down the trails.

The snowball I was pretending to throw was really more of an ice ball- and full of dirt and twigs.

There was live music at the top- and also some pretty good BBQ to go with the incredible views.

Mount Guyot (13,370 ft.) on the left, and I think that is Bald Mountain (13,684 ft.) on the right.

Dillon Reservoir is in the foreground, Buffalo Mountain (12,777 ft.) is on the far left.

At home, Mount Hood is 11,240 feet in elevation, but it seems so much taller because it stands by itself beside the Columbia Gorge. In the Rockies, we were standing higher than summit of Mount Hood, but we were surrounded by mountains that were bigger and higher than we were.
I guess it's all about perspective!

After all the picture taking, we decided to have dinner at the summit.
I had Bison Sausage with grilled onions. Yum.

Back down at the River Run Village, my teaching partner, Kevin, and I got a little touristy...

When we first arrived at Keystone, it felt a little like a ghost town... drab, dusty, lots of hotels, but very few people. I guess the place is booming in the winter, but in the off season it felt a little sad. Knowing what I know now, I would say this would be a fun place for a family trip in the summer. The rates are better in the summer, and there are still quite a few things to do- hiking, river rafting, abandoned mine tours, mountain biking, snow tubing, gondola riding, horseback riding, photography, etc.
Getting here from the Denver airport is expensive any time of year, but if you can figure that part out, it is a nice place to spend a few days.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rocky Mountain High, part deux

The last time I was in Colorado was over 30 years ago. In 1976, our church youth group from Dallas, TX spent 2 weeks at a "stress camp" similar to Outward Bound. We worked, we hiked, we learned about all aspects of backpacking and rock climbing, but more importantly, we grew together and learned about teamwork and cooperation.
One thing we did together was memorize Psalm 121, and I think of it every time I am in the mountains.

Psalm 121
A song of ascents.

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

On this Independence Day, I am thankful for our nation and our freedoms.
Let us never forget the Source of all that we have.

I hope your day is safe and festive!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

I just got back from 4 days of workshops for school. The instructor was good, the facilities were wonderful, the food was excellent, and the location was breathtaking.
(No really, it literally took my breath away. You see, at over 9,000 ft above sea level, the air is very, very thin. Almost non-existant. I didn't experience Acute Mountain Sickness, but I felt light-headed and was aware of every single breath. Every time someone asked me where I was from, I simply said, "sea-level" between breaths, and left it at that. The teachers from outside Colorado nodded sympathetically while those from the Rocky Mountain State did their best to not look superior. We drank plenty of fluids, and did a bit of moderate walking about town, so by Saturday we felt almost human again.)

My teaching partner and I flew into Denver and then got a shuttle service to take us to Keystone. We crossed the Continental Divide in the rain and snow- did you know there are very few guardrails on those mountain roads?

The view from my room at The Inn at Keystone. Beyond the swampy area (there were some beaver dams) was the Snake River. It was running high due to the greater than average snowpack this year.

The view from the Keystone Conference Center. We ate breakfast and lunch outside almost every day. We also got to experience a severe thunderstorm one evening- complete with high winds, epic lightning, and 25 minutes of hail and rain. It. Was. Awesome.

Purple Columbine. We also saw it in yellow, orange, and white. I like 'em all.

We only heard John Denver music once, and that was while shopping for little things to bring back to our families. I must say, Rocky Mountain High as a marketing tool was very effective...

More later!