Hi all, sorry for dropping off the face of the earth for a while. Actually, it wasn't that I dropped off - more like I went to a different part of it. Last week was my spring conference meeting in Arizona, and Rick and I decided to make a vacation out of it. It was a great idea. Arizona is amazing! We had a fantastic trip and I know we'll cherish the memories of it forever - in fact, I hope we make it back there sometime!
The trip started out with flying out last Tuesday. We flew from Columbia to Charlotte to Phoenix without any trouble (except I did get a bit of motion sickness). Then we picked up our rental car and drove 3 hours to Williams, Arizona to The Grand Canyon Railway
. It was a long day of traveling, but the hotel there was very nice and we got a good night's sleep before taking "The Train" to the southern rim of The Grand Canyon on Wednesday. The entire day was unbelievable. The train ride was fun. We had a great hostess, and there was a Navaho guitar player and a really good banjo player to entertain us on the ride. Once at The Grand Canyon, you have a few hours to explore the area as you wish. We got the 1 day package, so we decided we'd rather hike the trail along the rim to really take in the sites. It was an easy hike and the view was spectacular. We took a lot of pictures but honestly, pictures don't do The Grand Canyon justice. It's also impossible to have enough time there. There's so much to see and do. But our time was limited, so we made the most of the hike and shopping around the village and took The Train back to Williams. The Train arrived in Williams at 5:45 and it was time to drive back to Phoenix to turn in the car. We weren't really hungry because the hotel had a huge breakfast, and we ate lunch at the village and had snacks on the train. So we drove straight back to Williams. Sunset over the mountains in Arizona is beautiful! I wish there had been places for us to pull off and take pictures but as it is, there was only 1 spot and we passed it after dark both days. Oh well.
We got to Phoenix around 9:00 and turned our car in. We thought about keeping it but frankly, the rental had unlimited miles and was so expensive that we said heck with it - we heard you could walk in Scottsdale and that they had a free trolley. We got a cab from the airport to Hotel Valley Ho and checked in there around 10. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that's the nicest place we've ever stayed in. They have a mid-20th century theme, but don't let that fool you - the place is magnificant! My meetings were on Thursday from 1-5 (but I did get out early that day, around 4), on Friday from 8-3, and on Saturday there were meetings from 10-1, but I had to leave at the 10:45 break because we had a 1:15 flight back home. It's a good thing I got the earlier flight too - more on that in a minute.
After the meetings each day, we walked around the historic district of Scottsdale. Thursday night was Art Walk night and that was great. It was amazing to see the artist displaying their work and letting us see them painting current projects! There were also street musicians and tons of great art around the city, and more resturants than you could enjoy in 10 lifetimes. That was a lot of fun and, of course, there was souviner shopping along our walk. On Friday, we walked to the 5th Avenue Shops and the mall. More great stuff (and great art) to see there, including the canal running off The Salt Lake. We came by the canal around sunset and that was beautiful.
Saturday was time to come home. It was tough, because the weather was beautiful in Scottsdale - it was in the 70's, sunny and clear the whole time we were there. But we were homesick and ready for our birds, our home, and our own bed and bathroom. We took a limo from the hotel to the airport (which, ironically, was cheaper than a cab) and the flight from Phoenix to Charlotte went like clockwork. It was when we got to Charlotte that we found there had been problems there. There were flight delays in the morning due to weather, and that threw off flights all day - every flight was running behind. Our flight was delayed for three and a half hours (and the gate was moved twice - that I know of). It was a bit frustrating because we were supposed to land in Columbia at 9:15, but as it turns out, we didn't leave Charlotte until 11:10 and we were close to midnight arriving in Columbia. My poor parents were so patient with us. They didn't complain the first time about the excessive delays, or for being put out to pick up us much later than expected. And they really enjoyed keeping Zack, Chloe and Ollie too. It sounds like they had a lot of fun.
Despite the delayed final flight, it was a great trip. Arizona is so nice! It has to be the cleanest place on earth - I don't believe we saw as much as a crumpled up napkin anywhere the entire time we were there. The people were friendly too. If you even look like you need anything there, any number of people are willing to help. All you have to do is ask and they'll do whatever it takes to help you.
And yes, I did do some work while I was there. The conference went well and it was good to see the other executives and board members from the other states there. That's a great group of people and I always enjoy being around them. We learn a lot from one another.
On a scale of 1-10, this trip is a 20. It was amazing! Best business trip ever, no doubt. If you're interested in seeing my pictures from the trip, I have them posted on Flickr. Feel free to check them out, and to share them with others.
So it was a great trip - but it's also good to be home. It's exciting to see new places and different people, but it also makes you appreciate the comforts of home. And who knows? We might make our way back there someday.
That's all today.
If you live in the south, then you know that sinus and allergy problems are quite common. In fact, one character in every one of my books always gets a sinus infection - it's just a common health problem we face in the hot, humid south. One thing I've noticed, though, is that lots of people tend to get them at the same time.
Now why, pray tell, is that? Infections are bacterial based, meaning they shouldn't be contageous. And yet, I was diagnosed with one Wednesday and today Rick went to the doctor and was diagnosed with the same thing. Not only that, but 2 of my colleagues have had sinus infections recently as well.
llness does spread, and it can spread quickly and unexpectedly. All it takes is one person sneezing over the copy machine, or one person going to the movies with the sniffles, or one person touching that door handle and the germs are off. You can also carry those contageons days or sometimes weeks before you have symptoms - a scary fact, considering that I flew to San Francisco and back just 3 weeks ago and my return flights were full (and don't even get me started on the madness and pandemonium on that layover in Salt Lake City!). Not to mention all those people that were at the conference from 37 states. Well, ouch. I might have just set a new record for potentially spreading a contageon! I didn't feel sick 3 weeks ago but if this had a viral base then I could have been carrying it - and look how far.
Sneaky germs! It's not fair. I'm the lifeform with the higher brain function and yet, it seems they won this round. That's probably why viruses and bacteria have survived so well and for so long. They're incidious little creatures that have survival down to an art. Hitchhike on higher lifeforms while you multiply and spread, and then strike when the numbers are high enough. No thought. No planning. Just action. Hrmph. Not a bad plan to survive, but still not nice. I mean really, what have we ever done to you? Well, besides kill you with doses of antibiotics that, ironically, have side effects that are almost as bad as what you cause.
Outsmarted by bacteria. Hrmph.
Well folks, if you do happen to get the sinus crud followed by an infection, I am truly sorry. I went through four airports in four days to a well attended conference with absolutely no idea that I could potentially be carrying
something. Truth is, we all do it, though. We just have to not bear grudges, realizing that we're being used by evil symbiotes, and move on. And as I said, antibiotics work well.
I hope you have a great weekend. Take care.
If you've been following me on Twitter or Facebook, you know that I was in San Francisco on business the past few days. As usual, it was some updates, some silliness, and some pondering on the meaning of it all (but not too much of that). It was suggested that I post a rundown of the trip through social media, but I thought it would be easier to just do a blog and send the link around. And so, here you are.
All in all, it was a good trip. I see why so many people wanted to go, and said I was lucky to be sent there. San Francisco is a beautiful place. I was fortunate that it was sunny the whole time I was there. They said they were having great weather. The temperatures were in the 50's day and night, which was a bit of a shock to me, coming from 90 degree weather and high humidity - but I have to admit that it was a refreshing break from summer. I took a bus tour after my meetings ended Friday and saw more of the city. It's beautiful and the people are very friendly. I definitely wouldn't object to going back. In fact, I'd love to take Rick there sometime. I think he'd really like it, and I'd like a chance to see more of the city myself.
The conference was great as well. We had representatives from 37 states there and I got to meet a lot of great people. Sorry I can't outright mention my board - you know, conflict of interest stuff with me working for state government and all forces me to keep it general - but I can say that it was a great group and I really enjoyed having a chance to get to know my own board members and members and counterparts from other states as well. In a way, it's a shame that the department will only send 1 employee to the meetings. There's something about going to these that widens your perspective and makes you have a deeper appreciation of "the meaning of it all" that you just can't get across in a 5 minute report at a meeting back home. I do wish more of my colleagues could experience what I did over the past few days. And I enjoy meeting and talking to people too. It's interesting to hear about their experiences and their stories. We learn so much from one another, and it's fun too. I see now why the interaction is so important. I think some of this harkens back to my previous entry about relationships. The professional ones are important too. You can talk on the telephone and email, but there's no substitute for being able to know them, and to put a face to a name or a voice. I kind of felt I had lost that "connection" to the people I serve when they no longer allowed me to give the registration exam (and now it's fully computerized, so that's gone bye bye for good), but I think I've gained that element back in a new way by attending these meetings.
It was also good to get out of the office. Sometimes it's refreshing to leave the office and do your work with a different group of people.
And for those that remember my report from Miami I have to tell you - yes, the food in San Francisco is MUCH better than the food in Miami.
I have relatively few gripes about this trip, but of course, life is life and nothing is perfect. Most of them were counterbalanced by other things, and I'll be honest enough to share them. First, of course, is that I missed Rick terribly. A 30-45 minute telephone conversation each day wasn't much in the way of staying connected, and the 3 hour time difference made it challenging to coordinate so I could make sure that I called when he was off work and I was out of conferences. I'm glad my parents could go with me, though. I wasn't alone and I haven't spent that kind of time with them since we got married, and I'm glad I was able to have this time with them. They really enjoyed the trip. But I missed Rick badly. I think this trip could have been a bang up great time if he had been able to come but alas, his work was not generous enough to allow him a few days off.
Second is that San Francisco is expensive. If you go, take plenty of money because you'll need it. And don't depend on your credit card either. Most places take it, but you get hit with the "cash only" thing at the weirdest intervals, so be sure you have it.
Public transit there is also a bit of a trick. Contrary to popular belief, they only have 3 trolleys running in San Francisco, and that's more of a tourism thing. If you want to get from Point A to Point B, a taxi is your best bet. Shuttles and buses are slow and I never found the BART thing they said they had (I believe it's some sort of tram system). Traffic is bad and parking is scarce and expensive where it exist, so a taxi is your best bet, and you know how expensive they can get. But the good news is that it isn't difficult to get a taxi, and they seem to want to help. As I said, the folks there are nice.
And last - Miami International has been beat as a nightmare airport by Salt Lake City. OMG. I didn't realize that was the major hub in the midwest. That place was like Walmart on Christmas Eve. Or maybe the grocery store the day before Thanksgiving. You couldn't get anywhere without pushing over 5 people. It was so crowded that I even had to wait in line to get a paper towel to dry my hands in the bathroom. Thank God our layover there was short. If I head back out that way, I'm going to try to connect through Minneapolis like I did on the way out. That worked out good. And Miami, you have officially been reclassified as reasonable.
So that's a rundown of the trip. Good, productive, I met and reconnected with a lot of good people, but it's always good to be home. And I think traveling gives you a greater appreciation of home too. Somehow, laundry, grocery shopping and car repairs don't seem quite as annoying today as they did a week ago.
Well, this entry is long enough so I'm signing off. I hope you have a great week.
Hi everybody; I'm sorry I disappeared for a while. I was doing final edits on Anywhere But Here early last week and travelling on business to Coral Gables, FL late last week - needless to say, I fell a wee bit behind on some things!
Actually, this was my first experience on travelling for work. Until last Wednesday I had never flown or worked outside my home office. The flying seems to be the #1 question I'm asked and yes, I liked it fine. It was ok. Besides the fact that the landings seemed kind of rough and there was some turbulence, it was ok. I wouldn't hesitate to fly again, if need be. And it would have to be "if need be" due to the high cost of airplane tickets!
As for the rest of the experience, I'd rate it as a solid neutral. I rate it as such because frankly, I found an equal amount of pros and cons to the situation. For example:
Pro - I got to meet a lot of people that work in my field and it was good to share experiences, insights and knowledge.
Con - I was still working, the same as I do at home. The difference is that here I can go home after work. There, I went back to a hotel room, and every night I was checking e-mail for the office online to make sure I didn't get railroaded by an emergency or swamped with simple questions that I could answer "on the fly."
Pro - I didn't have to cook, as meals were either covered or will be reimbursed.
Con - The food in Miami is awful. Sorry folks, and I mean no offence, but they even managed to mess up mashed potatos with funky spices. Everything is either 5 alarm spicy (which is suicide with my acid reflux) or so bland you might as well chew on cardboard. I know now why the girls in south Florida are so skinny - the food isn't edible!
Pro - The weather was great! It was in the 80's and felt like April/May around here. That definitely agreed with me, especially when I found out that it rained here all day Friday while it was sunny and warm there (although I didn't get to enjoy it until 4:30 p.m. when my meetings broke for the day).
Con - The traffic was awful. Add to that the fact that President Obama was at the University of Miami Thursday (which happened to be my first day of meetings), which pretty much put things in gridlock during the late afternoon.
Pro - Lots of things within walking distance.
Con - Because you don't park for free in Coral Gables or Miami. I see why downtown is so opulant! It's $2 just to part for a few minutes, and an average of $10-$20 if you need to park for any length of time. They do not waste time, money or public resources on parking lots. It's meters everywhere. McDonalds and the hotel we stayed at were the only places that had free parking.
Pro - Flying really is the fastest way to get anywhere. Our trip home Saturday, including layovers, was roughly 4 hours. That's a fraction of the time it would have taken to drive.
Con - Miami International Airport must be about 20 miles long, and I walked every bit of it. I (unwisely) wore boots with a slight heel on the way in Wednesday, and had huge blisters. I wised up Saturday and wore socks and well padded shoes for the return trip Saturday.
Given all of this, I rate travelling on business as a "church camp experience." What does this mean? Well, when I went to church camp as a kid, I came home and told my parents "I had fun, but it's the kind of fun I only want to have once." I never asked to go back and never did. It was a perfect "once in a lifetime experience."
And that being said, it brings up a point that may be awkward for some - overall, travelling on business is the same as church camp. I'm glad I had the experience, but really don't care to see it again. And if this is going to be a requirement of my job from now on, well, I'm not aiming to become a high-power, globe trotting career woman. It might be time to pursue a mid-life career change. But that's a whole other issue to be discussed at another time.
So that's my impression and analysis on travelling on business. It's opened my eyes - some in good ways, some in bad ways, and some in ways yet to be determined, as I'm still processing a lot.
Take care all. More later.