Winter Travels Phase I: Eastern Caribbean Getaway

Saturday, 22 November 2014 
Miami, Florida 
Temps: Hi 81F (27C) / LO 73F (23C)

If I can, I will post while we are on the cruise.  In the meantime …

The sun is out; no rain at the moment.  But the weather lady says that it’s not going to stay that way for much longer.  Keeping fingers crossed she’s wrong ;-)

A few chores to complete, and then we’re heading to the port to embark Celebrity Reflection.

From Rainy Houston … to Rainy Miami

Friday, 21 November 2014 
Cambria Suites Miami Airport Blue Lagoon — Miami, Florida 
Temps: Hi 73F (23C) / LO 72F (22C)

Travel days that are uneventful don’t make for exciting reading.  However, since this is a journal of our travels — albeit a public one, I am going to write about our day anyway ;-)

I was up at 6:00a.  By then, Mui had been up for two hours!  A peek out the window showed wet pavement from overnight rains and a low, gloomy cloud deck, but it was no longer raining … at least not yet.

The 8:30a shuttle to the airport dropped us off at the United Airlines (UA) bag-check counter on the ground floor of the parking garage — very convenient!  It took all of five minutes to get our bags tagged for Miami and we were on our way.

You might recall that in September we made a daytrip to San Antonio, Texas for our Global Entry interview.  The program allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers — that would be us — upon arrival in the United States.  A nice side benefit to having a “trusted traveler” number is eligibility for TSA Pre TM — a program that provides low-risk travelers expedited security screening at participating US airports.  You can apply for the latter, without the former; but as international travelers, it made more sense for us to apply for the former and get the latter as well ;-)

TSA-GOESI’m here to tell you that TSA Pre TM is “da bomb” — although I probably shouldn’t use that combination of words in one sentence ;-)  Suffice to say that we loved the experience of going through an airport security check-point today … it took us all of 2 minutes to get through, if that long.

The TSA PreTM logo on our boarding passes cleared the way to a special lane where we didn’t have to remove our shoes or belts or light jackets … didn’t have to take our laptops out of our carry-on bags … didn’t have to place the infamous 3-1-1 bag of liquids in a tray for screening.

Formalities completed efficiently, we went off to get some breakfast.  Einstein Brothers Bagels served our purpose just fine.  Tummies sated, we headed to Gate C44 for our United Airlines flight to Miami.  It was disheartening to see that rain was falling when we arrived at our gate.  At least there was no sign of the forecasted thunderstorms and boarding was called on time at 10:25a.

TSA PreTM wasn’t the only “first” of our day.  On this travel day, we used mobile boarding passes for the first time as well — the benefit of finally entering the ‘smart age’ ;-)  We had printed out paper boarding passes when we checked in online — just in case — but we didn’t need them.  The scanner read the barcodes on the e-boarding passes on our smartphones and we were heading down the jetway seconds later.

An Airbus A-320, which brought passengers from Fort Lauderdale, is waiting to fly us to Miami.

It seems somehow apt that the first-class start to our day continued with first class seats on UA271.  No, we didn’t win the jackpot in a lottery.  No, we weren’t traveling on award tickets, either.  When we bought our economy tickets months and months ago, the United website popped up a message asking if we wanted to upgrade to first class.  It wasn’t the first time we had gotten the pop-up, but for once the difference in the fare was downright reasonable.

Since the flight was just two hours, however, we were about to click the “no thanks” button when we decided to do some math.  Unlike some travelers, we don’t pack light.  A quick calculation of our expected checked bag fees … and it became apparent that one of the upgrades would cover those fees since first class passengers get two checked bags free.  As for the cost of the other upgrade?  We decided to splurge — after all, it wouldn’t be fair for one of us to fly in economy and the other in first class ;-)

Happy flyer!

It didn’t take us long to get settled in our seats, and the plane pushed back on time at 10:55a; we were in the air 10 minutes later.  As the plane gained altitude, the light outside the porthole brightened.  At first, all I could see was a wall of clouds — then suddenly we broke through and we had blue skies to provide brilliant contrast to the bright white of the clouds.

From solid cloud cover …

… to small breaks

… to total clearing

… to popcorn clouds

Lunch was preceded by warm mixed nuts and our choice of beverages — Prosecco for me; Malbec for Mui.  The meal service consisted of a cream of mushroom soup with a choice of Caprese sandwich or mixed greens topped with grilled chicken.  The soup was very, very good; the sandwich OK; the salad good.  The pièce de résistance was the warm white chocolate and cranberry cookie that was served as dessert.

We toast to the success of the adventures that lie ahead …

… and then enjoy the lunch service.

When the pilot came on the P/A to tell the passengers that we were descending to land in Miami, he said the temperature was 72F (22C) — we smiled.  Then he went on to say that it was raining — boo!  We were on the ground at 2:05p — 10 minutes ahead of schedule; but it took us that long to make our way to the terminal, so we broke even.

Another advantage of the upgrade to first class was the priority handling our bags received.  They were amongst the first to come off the baggage carousel.  Then, Mui left me curbside at arrivals while he went to pick up the rental car.  It wasn’t long before he was back and we were heading to the Cambria Suites Miami Airport Blue Lagoon for our overnight stay.

We booked this property by bidding on Priceline as well.  I was taken to task in a comment on yesterday’s post for not mentioning the bid we made on the Sheraton in Houston ;-)  Well, I’m not going to mention the bid on this one either — sorry, Kevin.  I don’t get into what we paid for what in my blog, unless it’s public information … such as admission fees to attractions and such.  We all have our own travel budgets and spend accordingly, so what we bid is a moot point.

I will say a bit about the bidding process we follow, however.  If you’re not interested, just skip the next paragraph.

When we make travel plans, transportation, hotels, car rentals are all booked fairly soon after our dates are set.  Before bidding for a hotel, we search various booking sites to get a sense of what properties are available in the area we’re looking and what the rates are.  We also check some bidding help sites – such as The Bidding Traveler.  Next step is to place our bid on Priceline.  We usually start at 50% of the going rate — sometimes less — and go from there.  Sometimes we’re lucky, and our first bid gets accepted.  Other times, we have to try several times over a period of days.  You can re-bid the same day, but in that instance, you can’t just change your bid amount, you have to also add additional star ratings or areas/neighborhoods … which may or may not work for us.  Priceline’s own Express Deals are also helpful in gauging what a winning bid might be.  In fact, if we see a price we like in the Express Deals, sometimes we’ll go with one of those.  Regardless, we’ve been booking most of our hotels this way for years now, and have yet to be disappointed.

By the way, on occasion, we also bid for car rentals on Priceline.

And we weren’t disappointed with what our bid got us this time either.  The Cambria Suites impressed us from the moment we entered the lobby — clean, bright, modern décor, helpful front desk personnel.  It’s several miles from downtown, so it wouldn’t be a good option for a long-term stay, but we specifically bid this area since we didn’t want to pay the “beach” and “city” prices for an overnight stay.

Good first impression!

We once again asked for a quiet room and were given 404.  In keeping with the theme of the lobby — clean, bright, modern décor.  The only criticism I might have of the room is that instead of a full wall, there is a partitioned divider that separates the living room from the bedroom.  It looks lovely, but if one half of a couple is an early bird — that would be Mui — then there’s nothing solid to block the light and sounds from the living room.

Pano shot of 404 from the bedroom …

… and from the living room.

More from around Room 404.

Our view of the Blue Lagoon from the room — too bad it’s not a blue sky day.

Since it was still raining, we decided to have a quiet afternoon at the hotel  We took advantage of the free wi-fi included in the room rate to check messages and such, and then I processed the photos I took today.  Not much work was needed since I took them all with my iPhone — meaning they are jpeg and not RAW … the jury is still out on the quality of the iPhotos … especially those taken in low-light conditions; they may end up being too grainy for my liking.

We went down to Reflect, the bistro in the lobby, for dinner.  We were looking for a quick, simple meal.  We got much more.  The food was excellent; the service was efficient without being hurried — if that makes sense.  Mui beat me to ordering the salmon, so I ordered the linguine with shrimp (asked for the no-jalapeno sauce) and we shared.  We abstained from dessert since we’ll have plenty of them on the ship ;-)

Lemon Seared Atlantic Salmon
with Green Chili Grits

Linguine & Shrimp with
Roasted Jalapeno Tomato Cream Sauce

Returning to the room after dinner, we enjoyed a quiet evening.  Mui was fast asleep shortly after 9:00p — par for the course ;-)  But he may have to stay up a little later the next six or seven nights.  You see, the Caribbean cruise we are embarking tomorrow is a reunion of sorts with a couple of his former Air Force buddies — methinks there might be some late bedtimes in his immediate future … LOL!

Except for the weather, our eclectic trip is off to a good start.  The weather forecast isn’t looking good for our embarkation day, but we’ll just go with the flow, make the most of our day anyway, and keep our fingers crossed for some fun in the sun when we reach the islands.

Our Trip Starts With an Overnight in Houston

Thursday, 20 November 2014
Sheraton North Houston — Houston, Texas
Temps: Hi 70F (21C) / LO 63F (17C)

This is the first official day of our winter travels.  It wasn’t a very exciting one, I’m afraid.  The first half of the day was a busy one … consumed with taking care of all the chores that come with storing our “condo on wheels” so that we can gallivant around the world for four months.

The taxi service we booked a few days ago picked us up shortly after 1:00p.  Destination: the Sheraton North Houston.  This is our third time at this property this year.  In each case, we booked it by bidding on Priceline for considerable savings.

Contrary to the picture above, which I took when we stayed at the Sheraton in May, it wasn’t a blue-sky day when we arrived at the hotel around 2:00p.  But there was no sign of the rain that was in the forecast for today either … so no complaints.

The young lady at the front desk honored my request for a non-connecting, quiet room away from elevators and vending machines.  That usually means a long walk to a room at the end of a hallway.  Room 323 is not quite at the very, very end … but close enough.  Don’t mind the extra steps — it’s worth it to us.

# 323 is a quiet room in the right wing of the hotel, and comes with …

… all the amenities we could need for an overnight stay.

We decided to have a quiet afternoon at the hotel — considering the very full itinerary we have ahead of us, I don’t think anyone will begrudge us a little downtime ;-)

Mui makes himself comfortable while he surfs the TV channels for a movie to watch.

Not going out to dinner tonight.  But don’t worry, we won’t go hungry.  We cleared out the fridge before putting the Phaeton in storage, so we have plenty to snack on ;-)

We’re off to Miami tomorrow morning.  The forecast is for scattered thunderstorms about the time our flight is scheduled to depart!  Keeping fingers crossed for a clear window to take off without too much of a delay.

And So We Begin … Again

Wednesday, 19 November 2014
En Route to Houston, Texas
Temps: Hi 70F (21C) / Lo 53F (12C)

Four months.  That’s how long it’s been since we completed our summer overseas travels.  As regular readers of this blog, you might find it hard to believe that we’ve been home that long — after all, until a few weeks ago, you were still reading the catch-up posts for that trip!  And here I am starting to write about a new adventure — one that will last four months, give or take a few days!

Our summer travels kept us in the northern hemisphere.  We started at a fairly low latitude with our annual trip to Turkey (family visit); then moved a bit higher to Helsinki, Finland; and capped things off at the North Pole — about as far north as you can go without leaving this planet ;-).

(If you haven’t read those stories, and would like to do so, check out the May-July 2014 archives in the sidebar.)

Our winter travel adventures will be taking us in the opposite direction — to the southern hemisphere.  It will be summer down there.  But that doesn’t mean we will have summer-like temperatures for the duration of our trip.  No sirreeeee!  Some of the places we will be visiting are so far south that we expect to break out our polar gear again to stay warm ;-)

Enough teasing … here’s the big reveal of our plans … in picture form.

Tomorrow is officially the first day of our trip … see you then!

(As many of you know, exploring takes priority over blogging in my book.  I will post teasers here, and on G+ and Facebook, too — as internet permits.  And hopefully there will be some ‘story posts’ as well — if time permits.)

Back in the US of A … Three Days of Travel Rolled Up Into One Blog Post

Friday, 18 July 2014
Advanced RV Resort — Houston, Texas
Temps: Hi 86F (30C) / Lo 78F (26C)

Home these days is our ‘condo on wheels’ — our motorhome.  Yesterday, we freed it from the storage facility where it was incarcerated while we were off gallivanting around the world ;-)

At the moment, we’re parked at the RV resort we stay at when we’re in Houston.  Mui’s off shopping — replenishing the larder before we head south to the Texas Coastal Bend where we will be chilling for a while.  Of course, when it comes to Texas summers, ‘chilling’ is not quite the right word to use.  I’ve been told that today’s high of 86F (30C) is cool compared to the three-digit temps expected in August.  Oh well — I have plenty of writing to do, so staying indoors should not be too great of a burden.

Just because we’re home doesn’t mean our overseas trip is over and done with — at least not as far as this blog is concerned.  I have 7,772 air miles (12,507 km) over three days of travel to write about.

It took 7,772 air miles (12,507 km) to get us from Helsinki to Houston via İstanbul and Washington, DC.

So, let’s get started — with a flashback to our last morning in Helsinki …

Helsinki to İstanbul
Tuesday, 15 July

Even though a 1:00p flight from Helsinki to İstanbul meant we could sleep in, we were up at 6:30a and down to breakfast an hour later.  Nary a familiar face from 50 Let Pobedy was around, so we made short work of our morning meal.  On previous trips from/to the airport we had used the FinnAir City Bus.  Since the public transit stop is less than a 2-minute walk from the Hilton, this time we opted to take HSL bus #615 to the airport.  The travel time was about the same — a little over ½-hour; the €4.50/person (~ $6.10) fare was about €2 less.  The only differences we noticed — the driver did not assist with getting the luggage on and off the bus; and bags were stored in luggage racks inside the bus instead of compartments under the bus.

Bus #615 is another way of getting from the city to the Helsinki Vantaa Airport.

We got off the bus at Terminal 2 and walked over to the Hilton Airport Hotel to pick up the bags we had left there before our departure to Murmansk on 1 July.  With plenty of time to spare, we found a quiet corner in the lobby to re-balance the contents of the bags so that the weight was equally distributed.

Once at the Turkish Airlines (THY) check-in counter, we accomplished the two things that were at the forefront of our minds.  One — got the bags checked all the way through to Washington, DC even though we have an overnight in İstanbul.  Two — reconfirmed with the THY agent that we qualified for a free hotel room and airport/hotel transfer … good news since we had already cancelled the room we had booked on our own.

The Airbus A321-200 that will be whisking us to İstanbul is being readied for boarding.

Formalities completed, we made a quick stop at duty free to pick up some of Fazer’s yummy orange-flavored dark chocolate bars and then walked to Gate 33, where we made ourselves comfortable until boarding for TK1762 was called at 12:25p.  Our exit row seats 8C/D had plenty of legroom, which made the 3-hour flight that much more comfortable.  We were in the air by 1:30p, with lunch service commencing shortly thereafter.  We both asked for the köfte (Turkish beef patties), but I think the chicken satay might have been a better alternative.  After lunch, I had plenty of time to watch Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and a documentary comparing polar bears and grizzlies before we were asked to stow away the personal entertainment system for landing.

Instead of pulling up to a jetway, the aircraft parked on the tarmac — İstanbul’s Atatürk Airport is so busy that it’s not unusual for this to happen more often than not.  We were on the first shuttle to the terminal, where we stopped at a THY counter to find out where to pick up our hotel voucher.  “You came in from Helsinki on the later flight, so you don’t qualify,” wasn’t what we expected to hear … something about needing a certain number of hours between connecting flights to qualify for the complimentary hotel room.  Long story short, Mui explained what we had been told — twice … at the Helsinki Airport and on the phone.  He turned on the charm and got our names on the hotel manifest.

Once we were through immigration and customs, we followed the signs to check-in with the agent at the THY hotel desk.  It took about 15 minutes before our names were called and we were escorted to the transfer bus to the Radisson Blu Conference and Airport Hotel İstanbul in the Küçükçekmece neighborhood.  Of course, it was rush hour and it took a while to get to the hotel, but by 6:30p we were checked into our room.

Nothing fancy — but it will get the job done for an overnight stay.

After he saw me settled in the room, Mui ran off to get his hair cut at a barber nearby.  While he was gone, I used the free wi-fi in the room to check-in with friends and family.  Our plan was to have dinner in the Olivos Restaurant when Mui returned, but that didn’t work out.  You see, as it was Ramazan [Ramadan] the dining hours had been adjusted to coincide with the breaking of the daily fast at sunset.  Since we didn’t want to wait until then, we opted to eat in the Mandarin Bar, which served the same menu as the restaurant.  Service was slow, but the food was quite delicious … no complaints.

Mui fits right in with the very orange Mandarin Bar!

Manti (Turkish dumplings)… for me; Acili Adana Kebap (Adana style spicy kebab) for Mui.

After dinner, we went for a walk around the neighborhood.  It was sprinkling a bit, but we didn’t mind as the rain helped to break the heat that had been plaguing us since arriving in İstanbul.  The downtown area was a-buzz with people.  Storekeepers were getting ready to temporarily shutter their shops; restaurants were filled with patrons chatting while they resisted the temptation of the food already set on the tables; pedestrians were hot footing it home — all with a common goal … waiting for the call to prayer that would signal it was time to break the daily fast.  After wandering around for a while, we finally found an ice cream shop that was open and bought ourselves a couple of sweet treats to enjoy on the way back to the hotel.

İstanbul to Washington, DC
Wednesday, 16 July

A good night’s rest — with actual nightfall for the first time since leaving for parts north on 23 June.  We were up at 6:45a feeling quite refreshed.  Our overnight stay included breakfast, also compliments of THY — served in the Olivos Restaurant.  We’ve had many a buffet breakfast in Turkey, but this one offered so much variety that it made it hard to make our selections.  We didn’t leave hungry!

After breakfast, we collected our overnight bags and made ourselves comfortable in the lobby while we waited for the THY transfer back to the airport.  Hearing us speaking Turkish, one of the guards approached and asked us where we learned to speak the language so well.  She was flabbergasted when we told her we grew up in Turkey.  Apparently, their clientele consists mostly of international passengers.  In fact, we were such an anomaly in her experience that she asked if she could take a picture of us to show her parents ;-)  We obliged on the condition that she take a photo with our camera as well.

A “live” art installation serves as a background for our photo op at the Radisson Blu.

As we were waiting for the THY shuttle, the hotel’s airport shuttle pulled up to the door.  Rather than wait around for another 30 minutes, we took advantage of it to go to the airport early.  Fifteen minutes later we were at Ataürk Airport.  Since we already had our boarding passes, we headed directly to immigration.  Surprisingly, there were very few people in line, so we got through the formalities in record time.

An Airbus A330-300 awaits boarding at Gate 214.

Our decision to head directly to our gate turned out to be a good one.  Secondary screening at gates for non-stop flights to the US is not new, so we were prepared for that.  What we weren’t expecting was a tertiary screening that was pretty much a debacle.  Apparently, there were three TSA agents from the US inspecting security procedures, so the Turkish security agents were going overboard checking carry-on luggage.  Every bag was hand-inspected, contents removed, electronics turned on, samples taken and run through the explosive residue detector.  Mass chaos, but we finally got through and took our place in the boarding line.

The display says to “go to the gate” … we’re already there.

To add insult to injury, when we finally boarded TK007, we found that a change in equipment meant we had lost the carefully chosen exit row seats we had been assigned for the long-haul flight.  Darn!  Nothing to do but take it in stride.  At least we were on a THY flight — better legroom in economy than most US carriers, and the seats came with foot rests.

Every little bit that adds comfort is appreciated ...

… including this toiletry kit.

Boarding otherwise went smoothly, with passengers scurrying to their seats without the usual dalliances.  That we were in the air at 2:13p — only a 30-minute delay — was nothing short of a miracle considering the overall pre-boarding chaos at the gate.

Farewell Turkey … until next time.

The first couple of hours of the 10-hour flight, I entertained myself by watching an old Turkish melodrama — the kind we used to go see in movie theaters when I was a little girl.  The credits were rolling when lunch was served.  The menu offered two choices — karnıyarık, a traditional Turkish dish of eggplant stuffed with minced beef; and chicken brochettes.  We both ordered the eggplant and were pleased with what was put in front of us … except that it was over-salted for our palates.

Karnıyarık … and smoked salmon, yogurt and cucumber dip, and vanilla panna cotta.

I watched a selection of movies once the lunch service was cleared away — The Book Thief was easily my favorite.  Whiteout and The Devil Wears Prada … both of which were repeats for me … also helped to pass the time; as did reading, writing draft blog posts, and cloud-dreaming.

When we were about two hours out from DC, the flight attendants came around with the last round of service.  Normally this would be a snack of some sort, but this time it was another full-blown meal — again, a bit over-salted, but otherwise quite tasty.

Penne pasta with an eggplant sauce, and a salad and baked rice pudding …
that’s another full blown meal.

On approach to Washington Dulles International Airport …

… and we’re on the ground at 6:20p.

Deplaning through a jetway, we walked a short distance to a mobile lounge that whisked us to immigration and customs.  Surprise, surprise … there were no lines whatsoever at the passport control kiosks.  Those who have arrived at Dulles on international flights know that’s a miracle — certainly it was a first for us in our many years of entering the country though this airport.  By 6:45p, we were through immigration, waiting for our bags to show up on the carousel.

As soon as we were through customs, we called Hyatt Place Chantilly where we were booked for our overnight stay.  We were told the shuttle was on its way and that it would arrive within 20 minutes.  Great — enough time to leisurely make our way to the shuttle stop.  Turns out that the shuttle had actually already left the airport, and since one vehicle was down for maintenance, it actually took 45 minutes and three phone calls before the next shuttle arrived.  It was very frustrating to see shuttle after shuttle for other properties show up while we kept waiting and waiting.  I suppose we could have taken a taxi, but I stubbornly refused to do so since we had picked this property specifically because it had a shuttle.  This was the only glitch with our stay at the Hyatt Place, however, as the suite itself was very nice, and the staff we interacted with were friendly and efficient.

It was 8:30p by the time we were settled in our room.  Our body clocks, however, said it was more like 3:30a.  We knew we had to stay up a couple more hours or risk jetlag.  Staying in the room wasn’t going to cut it, so we walked over to the Applebee’s across the street from the hotel for a light meal — an Oriental salad, cup of soup, and grilled cheese sandwich … all of which we shared.  A half hour of web-surfing when we returned to the room, and we had reached our goal of staying up until 10:30p.

Washington, DC to Houston, TX
Thursday, 17 July

A good night’s rest and we were up at 5:00a.  Shifting our departure from the hotel to the 6:15a shuttle allowed us to scarf down the complimentary breakfast included in our room rate before heading to Dulles for one last flight — this one taking us to Houston … to our home.

Even though we had already checked in online for our United flight, we had to go through it again to get tags for our checked bags — something’s wrong with that process.  Fighting the crowds clogging the way, we left our bags at the TSA drop-off, crossed our fingers that the bags would get on our flight, and headed to security.  The overhead signs showed that the west security checkpoint had only a 1-minute wait to get through the formalities in comparison to the east checkpoint where the wait was 16 minutes.  So we took the longer walk — all of 2 minutes — and were on our way to Gate C8 in record time.  Boarding commenced soon after we arrived — a good omen for an on-time departure; especially important since friends were picking us up from George Bush Intercontinental.

The two hour and 45 minute flight was entirely uneventful.  No meal service —  flying a US carrier on a domestic flight, after all — but Mui had picked up a sandwich and an oatmeal cookie for us to share since we knew we’d be too busy to get a bite to eat after we landed at our destination.

We were wheels down in Houston at 10:25a and were on our way to the luggage carousel when we spied the cheerful face of Mary.  We appreciated the limo service she and Tony provided to the storage facility where the motorhome was resting.  After making sure all was well — the motorhome started on the first crank of the ignition, but the CR-V needed a boost as its batteries were dead — they headed off to run their errands; we headed off to take care of ours.

It felt good to be back in the motorhome, but we didn’t get to drive it far — just as far as the service center where we left it for its annual maintenance check-up.  That done, we drove to the Sheraton North Houston for the last overnight stay of the trip.

We come full circle to the Sheraton North Houston, where we stayed at the end
of May before embarking the flight that was the first step of our summer travels.

We needed to keep the CR-V running for a while to finish charging the batteries, so Mui waited in the car while I checked in at the front desk.  Then we were off on an aimless drive for about an hour.  We kept an eye out for a decent place to have dinner, but it was to no avail.  In the end, satisfied the car’s batteries were now in good shape, we returned to the Sheraton for an early dinner at Drifter’s Bistro.  The pasta dishes we each ordered were good, but the pièce de résistance was the carrot cake we had for dessert.

Travel Back to the US15-17 Jul 2014

Yummy!

And that’s the note on which I am going to end this post … and this trip.  Tomorrow we get the motorhome serviced and move back into it.  Our days will go back to the routine of living life.  Those stories will be in my Phaeton Journeys blog.

Until our next adventure — a mere four months away …