Category Archives: Travel

On a trip in 2006. Nope, still don’t know how the plane stays in the air. (That’s Key West below. If I have to crash, I guess it’s as good a place as any, right?)

In my continuing effort to pull out columns that might be worth reprinting in an e-book, let me share another of my favorites. It’s from 2008, just after the airlines started charging passengers to check their luggage. (Who knew I would be right, and that airlines would start charging to check our first piece of luggage? Really, I should play the lottery more often.)

Anyway, for the record, my brother-in-law, who is both a commercial and military pilot, has tried for years to explain to me how a plane stays aloft. I still don’t get it. Not that that should surprise any of my regular readers.

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That’ll Be An Extra $25, Please
by Joanne Brokaw

I need to emphasize right at the start that I’m not an aeronautical expert. I can’t figure out how a plane flies without flapping its wings like a bird, so it will come as no surprise that I don’t understand the new airline policies about luggage.

If you’ve traveled by plane recently you know that most airlines, in an effort to offset rising fuel costs, are now charging passengers anywhere from $25 to $100 to check a second suitcase.

I thought perhaps the airlines were encouraging passengers to pack lighter so the planes would weigh less and therefore use less gas. But on a recent flight, our take-off was delayed so the crew could add ballast to the plane because, as the pilot happily informed us, the passengers “didn’t check enough luggage.”

Excuse me. Did you want me to check a second suitcase or not? Because I had a lot of stuff I could have packed if I knew you needed more weight. I just didn’t want to pay an extra $25 to haul three pair of black boots, two jackets and four pair of jeans through the friendly skies, just in case I changed my mind about what I wanted to wear while I was in Ohio for 48 hours.

I’m not sure what the charge for checking a second suitcase is intended to accomplish, if it’s not to make the planes lighter. Sure, the airlines will generate some additional income – for a while at least, until passengers learn to stuff everything into one suitcase. Then they’ll be forced to start charging us for the basics, like checking our first suitcase, using the lavatory during a flight, and breathing pressurized cabin oxygen.

First, though, the airlines are trying to save a few bucks by flying more slowly. One airline expects to save $42 million this year [at the time of this writing] by extending each flight by two or three minutes.

So let me get this straight. First you make me cram everything I need into one suitcase (and still keep it under 50 pounds) while you turn around and add extra weight to the plane? And now you’re going to fly slower (as if being suspended magically in the atmosphere for hours isn’t nerve-wracking enough already)?

How about a compromise? I’ll agree to pay an extra $25 for a suitcase filled with shoes so that your airline staff doesn’t need to add ballast to the plane, and I’ll be patient and wait three more minutes to get to my destination. In exchange, you’ll have let me collect tips as I undress in the security line. If I have to remove half of my clothing just to get to my gate I might as well get something in return.

Think about it. With a long enough wait going through security, I could make enough money to pay for that extra suitcase.

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Read more columns from the archives

Thankful we left BlogPaws early

Had we stayed for the last day of BlogPaws, this is what we would have driven through from Washington to Rochester.

As Bandit and I headed out of the hotel yesterday morning, I was still on the fence about leaving BlogPaws early. I knew I’d leave on Saturday; that much was clear. But I wasn’t sure if 7 AM was too early. I considered staying for the morning sessions and leaving after lunch.

As I walked through the lobby, I mentioned my dilemma to another attendee, who said, “You need to get out of here as soon as you can so you can stay ahead of the storm.” So we did.

We had a clear, uneventful drive home. A few sprinkles in Maryland, some rain in Pennsylvania (which made me glad we weren’t driving in rain the whole way), very little traffic (not even much traffic as we passed the Little League International World Series). The only problem we encountered was when we got home: I’d forgotten to pay the cable bill for the last two months and it was shut off. Oops. No TV.

As I woke up this morning and checked the weather, I realized that I absolutely made the right decision to leave yesterday. Had I stayed until after lunch, I would have hit increasing rain and wind on the way home. And this morning, the tail end of Hurricane Irene was still blasting my travel path. Just look at the 8 AM map from Weather.com – my path from Washington to Rochester would have followed the western path of the storm the entire way home.

Even if we’d left Saturday afternoon, we would have hit the leading edge of the storm. Of course, we could have just stayed in the hotel for days and had a wild advenure. But I think just driving to Washington and having two days of fun was enough adventure for a first-time Mommy and Bandit road trip team.

BlogPaws, earthquakes and hurricanes – oh my!

BlogPaws or bust!

Tomorrow afternoon – or this afternoon, if you’re reading this on Wednesday – Bandit and I head south to Washington, DC for the annual BlogPaws conference.

So far we’ve had $1200 in repairs to the dogmobile, an earthquake in our destination city, and I hear today that Hurricane Irene is headed for DC on Sunday, the day we’re supposed to leave for home.

Ask for adventure, and you get it, I guess. Continue reading

When the going gets tough … blah, blah, blah, just pour the wine

Why do the things I love always cost so much money?

They say that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In this case, the writer gets writing.

As you know, I’m supposed to be headed off next week for an adventure. Bandit and I are going to BlogPaws, a pet blogging conference in Virginia, outside Washington, DC. We’ll be spending a night with my dad on the way down, and possibly on the way back. Me and Bandit, out on the open road, spending three nights in a hotel. I will return with lots of material for columns, I’m sure of that.

In a way, it’s part of my “Year of Adventure”, since I’ve been wanting to take a road trip with the dog for years. It’s a trip I’ve put off several times. “Just do it!” everyone has been telling me. “Just go! Don’t let anyone stop you!”

That’s easy to say when you have money in your pocket. Not so easy when the moth are  multiplying.

I took the dogmobile (aka the Jeep) into the shop this week for a pre-trip check up and to take care of one or two maintenance items that have needed attention for a while. Transmission cooling line. Universal joint. Spark plugs. Oil change. Turns out the little dogmobile has a more serious rust problem than I thought, and one problem leads to another and another hundred dollars and on and on.

And now the Jeep is another day in the shop, and we’re up to $1200 in repairs. And I just got off the phone with the mechanic; the cooling lines are apparently a bitch to remove (or something like that), and they may need to add a couple of hours more labor to the bill.

Great.  The repairs needed to be done; I just hadn’t expected them right now. At this point, I don’t have enough money to pay the bill and go to the conference. The Jeep will be fixed and I’ll be sitting home.

So I’m sitting here ready to bang my head against the wall in frustration.

Writing requires experience – new experiences, adventures, networking. Hitting the road with Bandit is part of the book idea. But if I can’t afford to go, I can’t write about it. Hence, no new ideas to write about. No new ideas, no new writing opportunities. No writing, no income. No income, no adventures. It’s a vicious cycle, one that has kept me not only lacking in new ideas but in a personal rut. Did I say rut? I meant hole. Deep hole. Cavernous hole. Can you hear the echo?

My mom keeps offering me money, and my sister has offered a ‘gift’, too, so I put up a little ChipIn box in case anyone wants to contribute to the adventure. I call it “reader supported writing”. But there’s a limit to what I feel comfortable taking when I give nothing back in return. If this were a mission trip, or if I was doing something that would benefit mankind, I wouldn’t think twice about asking for contributions. But this is selfish – a writing conference, a weekend away with my dog. I mean, really. There are people starving and jobless and this is what I’m worried about? 

It’s not like I’m lusting for expensive new cars or million dollar homes. I have a used Jeep that I love, that makes hauling dogs around a breeze. I have dogs that cost hundreds (and close to thousands) in vet bills. I don’t want to cost a lot, but I do.

Oh poop. I suppose this is part of the adventure. I told my sister to pray for a book deal and a little advance that will help cover the costs of more adventures to write about. Until then, I’m going to crack open a bottle of wine and have a good cry.

ChipIn to help Bandit go to BlogPaws

Bandit created a ChipIn page to help raise money to pay for our trip to BlogPaws. This isn't a running total; click the image to go to his page to donate or see current totals.

I generally don’t like taking money from people. When I owned my tea shop (Elizabeth’s Tea Emporium) I often gave away more tea than I sold. Which is why I’ll never own another retail business.

So when people have been offering me money to help pay for my upcoming trip with Bandit to BlogPaws, I’ve turned it down. Well, today I got the total for repairs to the dogmobile so we can travel safely, and … er … OK. I’m open to donations.

I can fly and not take the dog, which obviously will cut way down on costs because my wonderful brother-in-law the pilot gave me a buddy pass to fly for free. But I think it’ll be a great experience for both me and Bandit to go on this trip, and I know readers are looking forward to hearing about it. Plus, if this works, I have another trip in mind: Las Vegas in September for the SuperZoo pet expo, maybe?

So … if you were thinking about chipping in $5 for Bandit to go to BlogPaws, he has created a ChipIn page where you can do that. We’ll give you a very public thank you and lots of hugs, love and gratitude!

The 12 Project – 12 adventures in 12 months (with potentially 12 trips to the ER)

I'm preparing for 12 adventures in 12 months, with potentially 12 trips to the emergency room. And you get to help!

As I write this post, it’s 1:00 PM on a Monday afternoon, and I’m lying on the couch watching season 4 of “Psych” on DVD while enjoying a coffee ice cream cone. For me, that’s living on the edge.

Or at least it has been for a while. But, believe it or not, I’m ready for a little adventure. In fact, I’m ready to declare the a whole year of adventure!

I know, I know. I declared 2009 the year of adventure, and then did it again in 2010. And so far this year isn’t looking too adventurous.

But I have a plan, my friends.

Continue reading

10 ways to get your dog ready for your summer vacation

Scout and Bandit love to ride in the car.

More many pet owners, a summer vacation just isn’t complete unless the family dog comes along for the trip. As you plan to head out for some family fun, here are some ways to make sure your pet has a good time, too:

1) Before you leave, check with your vet to make sure that your dog is healthy enough for travel, that vaccinations are up-to-date, and that you’ve packed enough of any medications you might need while you’re away. Some areas of the country deal with different animal diseases, so make sure you’ve prepared your dog for heartworm, fleas and ticks.

2) Make sure that your dog has the proper identification on him. A tag on his collar with your cell phone or the number where you are staying while traveling is helpful, and if possible, have your dog microchipped with your information and your vet’s information. Tags and collars can be lost when a dog strays, so make sure that whoever finds Fido can find you.

Continue reading