"" Writer's Wanderings

Friday, July 25, 2014

That's A Service Animal On My Plane?

Did you know that the TSA actually has guidelines for taking a service monkey through security? A service monkey? Who knew? But yes, there apparently is such a thing. Some monkeys can be trained to do things for the disabled like grasp things and do manual tasks like open doors or fetch items.

That opened the door to my curious little mind. What other animals might be considered service animals? There seems to be quite a list according to some people. I found pigs and miniature horses trained like assistance dogs. A parrot helps a man with his Bipolar Disorder. Ferrets can help detect the onset of seizures.

The one that truly amazed me (and frightened me) was a man who claimed his boa constrictor could detect the onset of a seizure and would alert him to take his medicine. How? By constricting. He wears the snake around his neck.

So I ask, quaking at the thought of sitting next to a man on a plane with a snake wrapped around his neck, are these allowed on a plane too?

While the TSA does have rules about how to take a service animal through its security, it doesn't list what it will allow. The service animal does have to be certified but that largely depends upon the regulations in the state where the animal resides. If you look at the ADA regulation changed in 2010, it states that only dogs can be recognized as service animals leaving the rest to be called "therapy animals." I'm confused. All I know is, I'm happy for the man with the snake but I don't want to be traveling with it loose on a plane.

Isn't there a movie. . .?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Be Careful What You Ask For

This story made the rounds
a year ago probably while we were diving in Grand Cayman. I'm just now catching up to it. The moral of the story is: be careful what you ask for.

Apparently when you book a room online at the Woodlands Resort and Conference Center there is a box that asks if you need any special service. An enterprising young man with a great sense of humor thought it would be fun and would create a few laughs for the staff if he requested something silly. So he asked to have three red M&Ms placed on the bed. Not a whole package just three. One for him. One for his fiance. And one to split later if they got hungry. Then, just because he likes pictures of bacon (or so he said), he wanted a picture of bacon placed on the pillow.

Much to his surprise, there on the bed when he arrived were the three M&Ms and a picture of bacon. Apparently the staff has a good sense of humor as well.

Dustin Wray, the traveler with the sense of humor, was interviewed on ABC News and said that once his post of what happened went viral, the hotel offered him a free stay. The manager was just happy that he hadn't asked to have the M&Ms wrapped in the bacon.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Been There, Done. . .Oh, Oh. . .

There are lists for everything these days. The top five beaches, the top ten World Heritage Sites, the most romantic cities, the list of places to see and the list of places not to see. They are tantalizing barometers for what we might be missing or how much we've checked off the bucket list. So when I saw a list of the 10 must-see places in New Zealand, well, I just had to check. You see we had an extensive visit to New Zealand and went all around both islands. So did we miss anything?

The list, if you'd like to look more closely is at Smart Travel.com  and we visited most of them: Milford Sound, Auckland, Christchurch, Bay of Islands, Queenstown, Rotorua's Geothermal Valley, Franz Josef Glacier and Waitomo Gloworm Caves but apparently a couple slipped by us.

Waiheke Island is one we missed. It is in the Hauraki Gulf and is reached by a 30 minute boat ride from Auckland. It is known for its vineyards and wineries which could be why we passed it up. We say plenty of vineyards and wineries on the main islands that make up NZ.

White Island in the Bay of Plenty in the area near Tauranga and Rotorua is basically a volcano. It's Maori name is Te Puia o Whakaari which means "The Dramatic Volcano" named such because it is very active. The only way to see it is by helicopter (not for me) or scenic flight unless you have the time to take a boat there for scuba diving. Our World Cruise does stop a
t Tauranga and there is an excursion but by helicopter. I guess we'll pass again. There's always hope of seeing it from the ship as we arrive or leave the port.

All in all, there are a lot more than 10 best places to visit on Middle Earth and I think we did a pretty good job of seeing most of them. Still, I wouldn't mind another trip back just to be sure we didn't miss any more.

Monday, July 21, 2014

National Parks Turn 100 Next Year!

Sunrise at Haleaka, Maui, Hawaii
When I volunteer at the Polar Express during the holiday season, I read an introduction to the Polar Express story that has to do with the National Park System and why it came to be. In August of 2016, the NPS will be celebrating 100 years of recreation and conservation in protected park lands across our country. President Woodrow Wilson signed the NPS into law in 1916  "to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and wildlife therein, and to provide for the enjoyment … of future generations."

We'll be celebrating a little early with a trip out West to several National Parks this fall. We've already visited quite a few and have a NPS passport book that we are filling up with stamps. Seniors can purchase a great lifetime pass for $10 ($20 if you order it through the mail) that gets you into any National Park for free. There are also lots of other options for visitors like the $80 annual pass that would be valuable if you knew you were making multiple visits.  A pass covers entrance and standard amenity fees for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per vehicle fee areas (or up to four adults at sites that charge per person). Children age 15 or under are admitted free.

Here are just some of the National Parks we've visited so far:
Everglades (Florida)
Denali (Alaska)
Tonto National Forest (Arizona)
Haleakala (Hawaii)
Hawaii Volcanoes (Hawaii)
Acadia (Maine)
Chesapeake Bay (Maryland)
National Mall and Memorial Parks (D.C.)
Lake Mead (Nevada)
Death Valley (Nevada)
Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio)
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial (Ohio)
Gettysburg (Pennsylvania)
Blue Ridge (Virginia)
Olympic (Washington)
San Juan Island (Washington)

Of course some of them we will have to revisit if we want to fill up that passport since we didn't get it until a couple of years ago. Ah, so many places, so little time.

Friday, July 18, 2014

World Cruise - Guest Lecturers

One of the reasons for choosing the Crystal Cruise Line for our 108 days cruise was knowing they would have an excellent lineup of guest lecturers. They have begun to post the names of those on most of the earlier segments of the cruise. (The World Cruise is made up of six segments so some passengers are only there for a segment or two.) So besides being able to take knitting classes, bridge lessons, computer lessons, learn how to make movies on the iPad, art lessons, there are also lecture series to choose from as well. Here's a little peek at what we can expect.

Lectures on World Affairs by Owen Ullmann (senior correspondent at USA Today), Michael Nicholson (a British war correspondent), Robin Oakley (European political editor at CNN)

Historians: Dr. Jay Wolff (a commentator on the History Channel and faculty member at FGCU), Bill Miller (maritime historian-we've heard him before),

Special Interest/Celebrity: Clint Van Zandt (former FBI negotiator who dealt with cult leader David Koresh), Neil Leifer (photographer for LIFE, Time, Sport Illustrated), Dr. Thomas Jones (astronaut and astronomer), Howard Fineman (MSNBC and NBC news), Senator Bob Graham (former senator and governor of Florida).

That's just a taste of what is in store. I haven't listed everyone and the last two segments haven't been published yet. There are several books now after all this research that will go on my to-read list. This is definitely going to be a places-to-go-people-to-see-things-to-do cruise!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Books For The Road - Daisies Are Forever by Liz Tolsma

Daisies Are Forever by Liz Tolsma is a WWII story with an intriguing point of view. The characters include a n escaped British POW, an American of German descent who finds herself caught in the battle to save her family, and several other perspectives of the conflict between the Germans and the Red Army as they advanced into Berlin.

Gisela Cramer must flee the small Prussian town of Heiligenbeil and take with her two young cousins whose mother stays behind with Gisela's  grandfather. Along the way she helps a British POW and collects others, all of whom she is trying to save from the horrors of war. The story intensifies as it moves along culminating in the group finding refuge in the basement of a Berlin apartment building destroyed by the allied bombers.

Tolsma has used the war experiences of two women to tell the story. The escape over a frozen lake with planes shooting the refugees was an actual event in the life of Ruth Sabine Hildegard Lippert when she was seventeen. The second half of her book is based on the stories told by her aunt, Lillian Tolsma. She melds the two women's experiences into one story that is difficult to put down.

This would certainly be a good book to distract you on a long plane flight--especially if you can't sleep on a plane the way my husband can. High on my list of recommended reading.
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