Sunday, August 16, 2015

Hold My Hand - Let's Jump!

Reflections on Risk

I am risk averse.

Always have been. 

As a kid playing hide and seek I was the annoying one waiting patiently for "It" to give up and call "olly olly oxen free". Running to base was a risk.

Luckily my life has been filled with people who have been willing to give me a nudge now and then. Usually accompanied by "what the hell are you waiting for?". Frequently others could better see my potential than I could. Luckily they've provoked me into the best things that ever happened in my life.  These people came at the right time and simply said "hold my hand - lets jump!"

Looking back some of the risks were pretty big. Squeezing my cat into my already stressed little green Mazda GLC and bouncing my way to Alaska at the age of 25.

Next came the leapfrogging past seasoned architects to assume the top leadership spot in my firm about 10 years earlier than I had mentally planned for it - seemed risky.

Then, chucking the safety of that firm to move to a new state and start my own architectural practice (at the height of a recession) - also scary.

But, in all of my biggest decisions, there was someone encouraging me to look within. Frequently, there was someone willing to join me in my journey.

Through it all I learned that I can do most that I set out to do. And, that every journey goes better when someone takes your hand and says "Let's Jump!"

Now as I find myself huffing and puffing at activities that used to be so easy, and waiting a bit longer for minor injuries to heal and learning about compatriots that are passing away, I just realize there is so much stuff I still want to do and so many places I still want to see.

I realize there is simply no time in this life to waste.

So Roadboy's advice is simple. Stay restless and don't sit around wishing for the things to happen. Go ahead and jump!

Roadboy's Travels © 2015    

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Another US Airways / American Airlines Customer Service Fail

5 Minutes

Recently I learned one more way the new US Airways / American Airlines tortures their most loyal customers.

After booking a recent business flight my client's needs changed. In fact, they changed twice....which resulted in having to change my flight dates and times. All those change fees and increases in fares resulted in an alarmingly expensive, yet short distance trip.

On the day I was to return home circumstances changed again. This change would afford me the chance to stand by for an earlier flight. So I checked online and saw there were lots of open seats on the earlier flight. Catching an earlier flight would mean a lot to me. I'd get some time in the office, miss rush hour in Phoenix and be able to pick up my aged dog from the kennel a day earlier.

So I went to the airport knowing that standing by for same-day flights has always been a perk for  ultra elite travelers. A reward for our years of loyalty.

At the counter I was firmly informed that, despite being a decade long Chairman, a 2-Million Miler and now officially Lifetime Platinum (whatever that is worth), I could not stand-by for the earlier flight. I'd have to pay a fee (that was more than the original ticket price) or cool my heals the next 6 hours and 5 minutes at the airport.

Why you ask?

5 minutes. 

The 6 hours and 5 minutes gap between my standby flight and my original flight meant standing by was "impossible".

News to me. She advised I call the Elite desk.

The sympathetic customer service rep at the US Airways Elite desk clearly tried to negotiate a waiver with her supervisor, but when she finally came back she on confirmed this policy was "written in stone".

She then offered me the opportunity to spend another $200 to return home on the earlier flight (that would very soon depart with lots of empty, unsold, seats).

With the exception of Alaska, most domestic airlines continue to amaze me. I work in a service industry and I know how to my keep clients happy.

Our big domestic airlines work hard to remind their customers that they do not.

Mr. Parker, I now join many of your most "valued" customers in openly welcoming Emirates (and pretty much any airline - foreign or domestic - that truly demonstrates they value customer loyalty).

PS: I've had 6 hours and 5 minutes to send notes off to my congressional representatives stating that protectionism of lousy domestic airlines should never stand in the way of open access to America's airports.



Roadboy's Travels © 2015

A Summer Walk in Aspen

Rocky Mountain Treasures

I got up early this morning for a breakfast meeting. The balance of the appointments I had planned for the day cancelled, so I was rewarded with an unexpected day off.

I realized I could spend a day in Aspen staring at my laptop answering e-mails....or take a walk.

I started to walk kind of aimlessly around Aspen. It was nice just to take in the summer blooms and the fresh air. It was also nice seeing Aspen's worldwide visitors out walking, window shopping, hiking, riding bikes and even paragliding.

In fact, Aspen is all about its mountain, so that is the direction I began my walk. And I was quickly rewarded with a sight of morning paragliders lifting off the mountain top and then soaring above the valley with the moon setting behind them.

I Totally Envied the Paraglider's

I then came upon the remnants of Aspen's venerable Chair 1. Here I had to stop and take it in. 

Aspen's Chair 1

Although the US held the 1932 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, it was not until 1936 when the world's first chairlift opened in Sun Valley, Idaho. 

When Chair 1 began operations in Aspen a decade later in 1946 it became the worlds longest chair lift. And Chair 1 changed everything.

This relic of a chairlift helped Colorado become a global ski destination. And skiing's sudden popularity in the US resulted in a rush to develop ways of moving skiers faster and faster. Soon trams and gondola's joined high speed double, triple and quad chairlifts at ski areas from coast to coast.

And, just 25 years after it started running, in 1971, now obsolete, Chair 1 stopped running forever and began to rust.

Of course with skiing came the rich and all of the services they demand. Streets were paved in 1963 and the airport witnessed constant upgrading to accommodate the influx of commercial and private jets. Hotels and residences just kept getting tonier. And Aspen's streets are now lined with the world's most expensive luxury clothing, apparel and jewelry.

Aspen now treads the delicate balance of providing for the demands of the entitled rich, while trying not to completely lose its soul.

Walking down the hill I found myself amazed taking dozens of photos of the brilliant blooms gracing seemingly every building in Aspen.

Flowers are Blooming Everywhere

I found the Only Bargain Real Estate in Aspen

My walk then took me past Apsen's new Art Museum with its picnic basket weave facade. It was here I found this disturbing "road sign".

Guess Everyone Discovers Their Own "It"

As I walked down the hill I made my way to the Pitkin County Courthouse.

The courthouse is an architectural gem. It was built in 1891 when the population of this silver town was a bustling 10,000. For the next 50 years the courthouse quietly served an ever dwindling number of residents.  Then Aspen's fortunes turned and, for the past 50 years, the courthouse became the backdrop for a lot more history. 

The Pitkin County Courthouse

First came resident Hunter S. Thompson's ill fated 1970 run to become the Pitkin County Sheriff. His platform included installing stocks on in front of the courthouse to punish "dishonest" drug dealers.

In 1977 came the murder trial of the French singer Claudine Longet for the death of her Olympian boyfriend "Spider" Sabich.

Her friend Jack Nicholson joined her first husband Andy Williams in treks to the courthouse every day of the trial. She was eventually convicted of a misdemeanor and elected to serve her jail time on weekends. Between her jail time she vacationed with her (then married) attorney (whom she later married).

Later in the same year the courthouse was the venue for the trial of mass murderer Ted Bundy. While serving as his own legal counsel he was able to escape with a crash through the window of the second story law library.

In 1990 Hunter S. Thompson returned to the courthouse after drugs and explosives were found in his home. His charges were dismissed.

And, most recently it is where Charlie Sheen's stood accused of threatening his new wife with a knife on Christmas Day. Pleading guilty he received 30 days probation and had to attend an anger management class.

 Lady Justice 

Locals wryly note that while the nomrally blindfolded Lady Justice still holds the scales of justice, in Aspen, she is never blind.

Normally gold, in Aspen she is also adorned in silver, a requirement of the silver miner's who paid for her.

From the courthouse I ventured past some remnants of miner's cabins and on to the river and John Denver's memorial garden.

Some Miner's Cabins Remain in Arrested Decay

 John Denver's Song Garden

At that point it was time to begin my drive back to Grand Junction from where I'd soon be flying home. Along the way I stopped in Glenwood Springs for lunch. I had wanted to stop and see its giant hot springs swimming pool and walk through the Hotel Colorado.
Beside's being the host city to Doc Holliday's death, Glenwood Spring's fortune has historically been linked to its hot springs and strategic location along the transcontinental railroad. Passenger trains still stop here but nowadays few visitors use the separate spur built for wealthy visitors that needed a place to park their private Pullman cars while residing at the Hotel Colorado. The hotel hosted everyone from presidents to Al Capone (whose allegedly left an enterprising bellman a "tip" so large it put him through college). 

Off in the Distance the Amtrak Train Can Be Seen Departing for Denver

 The Hotel Colorado Today

I then drove to Grand Junction where I made only one stop. It was to Enstrom's candy shop for a couple of boxes of its superb almond toffee. Yes, it is that good.


As I wrote my post today I kept thinking about a Mary Oliver quote etched in one of the rocks in Aspen.  
"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

Damned good question.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Matrimonial Travel Encounters

Stumbling Into Something Special

OK first things first. I am not a wedding crasher. 

But when I travel now and then I find myself sort of a wedding voyeur.

And last weeks blog post in Seattle made me think about how many times I've just found myself stopping in my tracks to enjoy (from a courteous distance of course) a little piece of some couple's very special day.

 Bride At Swan Lake 
Singapore Botanical Gardens

I mean thinking about it, it makes perfect sense that visiting the world's most wonderful places naturally intersects with the same places people choose for their weddings.

There were three elaborate and elegant weddings in Tokyo's magnificent Yoyogi Park on one very hot and steamy day in June.


I Admit Having to Catch my Breath 
at the Beauty of this Brides Wedding Kimono 
Or a nearly four hour Hindu wedding filled with symbolism in North Carolina.

There was a lovely wedding where the bride and groom sat on a beach facing the ocean in Costs Rica.

Their was the chance sighting of perhaps the most beautiful wedding gown I have ever seen in a little campo in Venice.

Pure Venetian Elegance

And, there was also watching a wedding party as they await the bride and groom to emerge from City Hall in Siena's Piazza del Campo.

And, yes, in Tuscany they still throw rice!

 And, of course, those delightful staged wedding photo's in London and Seattle.

All perfectly juxtuposed with Las Vegas' "World Famous" antidote for beauty.

The more I travel, the more I realize that much of the magic of travel is simply taking the time to enjoy all those things that we never set out to see.

Roadboy's Travels © 2015