Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Aaaand ... We’re Back!

Well, Chicago (and our briefest-of-brief stopovers in Seattle) were fun, but it's good to be back home in Victoria.

As with all trips, we learned stuff. Among the lessons this time were:

  • Travel on the midweek (Tues-Thurs) if at all possible. Our ship and flight to Seattle and Chicago respectively were half-full at best. Coming back on a Monday, the phrase "cattle car" was much on our minds.

  • I have no idea why there are any gyms in Seattle. Just walking up and down those hills was more than enough for me.

  • Big cities are really noisy. We were right in the heart of Chicago the entire time we were there and the noise level compared to Victoria was just ridiculous. On the one hand, you really feel like you're in the center of things. On the other hand, it's hard to think with a train rattling the foundations just over your head.

  • Some people just need to get the cell phone surgically attached to their head so they can regain the use of that arm. I'm so glad I'm not one of "those people."

  • While I greatly enjoyed eating Chicago-style pizza in Chicago, I still like thin-crust best. There I said it!

  • Not all Hampton Inns are created equal. Our room was all red and black decor, very modern bathrooms and really "designed."

  • When flying Southwest Air, always be sure to visit the web site and download your boarding pass 24 hours prior to your flight. This way, you will get to be amongst the earliest to board, which is vital for avoiding the middle seat on crowded flights.

  • Related to the above, I did not think it was possible for me to sit perfectly still for four-and-a-half hours without either drugs or internet access, but I managed.

  • If you'll permit me one Andy Rooney moment ... you know what I hate? I hate it when I call to get what I think is a routine service issue resolved and the people on the phone act as if nobody in the entire history of the world has ever wanted what I'm requesting (in this case, it was me wanting my excess US cell phone credit credited back. I'm sure I'm the first person that's ever asked them that).

  • Finally and most important, and I'm so glad I got to learn this by observation rather than direct experience, do not give the Canadian border guards any crap. They may be a lot more polite and laid-back than their US counterparts, but they can still make your life hell and they will still be quite firm about following their rules. If you give them a hard time, you will lose, whereas if you're nice to them you might win, so be nice.

  • We actually got to see a guy get denied entry and bundled back on the boat to the States. Another guy (a scientist from Berkeley) spent most of his time questioning authority (I love stereotypes when they're true!) and generally making his stay longer and more unpleasant; still another man was outside yelling at various border personnel about something or other (we think it had to do with importing a car). Of course, all the time he was shouting at people, nothing was going to get done about the car, and inasmuch as Canada is under no obligation to bring in more cars from the US (indeed, there's considerable disincentive to do so), and time was against him, he was doing himself no favours. When dealing with Customs or Immigration, choose your battles carefully.


    Ron Kane said...

    Are you taking a boat to Portland in July/August?

    chas_m said...

    I don't know of any direct ships from here to there, but most likely we'll take the Clipper to Seattle and a train (or bus) the rest of the way to Portland.

    Looking forward to it!