Saturday, April 12, 2014

I'm Here! (Day -1)

As I write this entry, I am sitting in a rocking chair on the balcony outside my room at the Malaga Inn in Mobile. This is my view:

(There is a wedding reception, complete with band, in this courtyard tonight; I suppose that could be entertaining.)

Fountain! Greenery! Flowers! It is 75 degrees F, breezy, cloudless, and I'm wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. (I haven't been this close to naked in the out-of-doors since last September.) I have showered and munched since my flights, so I'm feeling fine.   :::contented sigh:::   But I should back up...

It was a bit of a panic fest getting out of my house fully packed yesterday. I kept muttering about how could it be possible that I had so much time to prepare and still ended up scrambling right up until the end. (Dale says I had too much time to prepare.) There was the matter of my car unexpectedly spending two full days in the shop (it sprang a significant leak that I felt I should fix before leaving town), stranding me without an errand-mobile, and costing me $420 the day before I left! But I think the bigger issue was nervousness. I had spent so much time preparing and fine-tuning my packing lists that, as I packed, I kept thinking, "Did I really put that in the bag? Or have I just thought about it so much that I just think I put that in the bag?" It is completely like me to start an excursion with an exhaustive list but still end up without some of the key items (that were on the list all along). I didn't want to make that mistake this time. 

Dale was the hero in the end. I emptied my bags and Dale patiently announced each of the items on my lists and checked them off as I repacked everything. (I have posted my Gear List separately as a link in the right column of this blog.) I ended up leaving behind my spare tire (if this was a self-contained trip, I would not have felt I could do this, but this trip is van-supported, and that tire took up too much space in my bag!) and the seat pad I had so carefully made. I could not fit the gluten-free food in either of my gear bags, so I packed a third small bag of just food. 

All of this re-packing led to me missing the 3:30 bus to Boston and just barely making the 5:00 bus. My bus-ride impressions:

  • Before the bus took off, I turned to the young woman seated next to me and said brightly, "Last time I rode a bus (2002), they didn't have seat belts!" She smiled indulgently and muttered something about how no one actually uses them. I used mine.
  • My daydreams were interrupted when I became fully aware that the woman next to me was sniffling incessantly and that several people around me were coughing, sneezing, and wheezing. I began to wonder if I'd caught the bus for consumptives. 
  • I spent a good part of the ride pondering how I'd had these moments this last week when I'd think, "I should call Mum and tell her this!" immediately followed by that jolt of recognition that this was impossible. (She died last September.) It's interesting how so much healing occurs...and then grief just cycles its way back around again. 
My brother saved my arrival in Boston by picking me up at South Station and driving me to my sister's in East Boston. Seeing everything completely packed made me realize that negotiating multiple subway changes with all that gear, while surrounded by throngs of people, was more challenge than I wanted to take on. 

My niece Frida thought it would be nice to drive me to the airport in the morning--even if the reality of getting up at 3:30am falls a bit short of the fantasy. Thank you, Paula and Frida, for the early ride. It turns out that I needlessly panicked about needing to check a third bag. A very nice bag-checker guy patiently showed me that I would be allowed to carry on everything besides my two checked bags because it all fit within the carry-on space/size restrictions. Good thing, too; checking a third bag would have cost me $120!

Outside the airport, in the dark with the sparse traffic, it was obvious that it was way earlier than normal business hours. Inside the airport, with the long lines and people scurrying around, it looked like normal business hours. All that waiting gave me plenty of time to think about our crazy culture--in which all these workers regularly work these insane hours so tons of people can scurry around the planet. 

It's a good thing I got to Logan so early because I almost became a permanent resident in the NSA security-check area. I am accustomed to having to allow extra time for hand screening and a pat down every time I fly because my artificial hip sets off the alarms. This time, however, even though a screener regularly yelled out "Alarm! Woman!", no NSA worker came over to screen me. I watched dozens (hundreds?) of people pass me by. All of the people randomly chosen for extra-special screening were addressed quickly; my "alarm" classification put me in a different category and I was just left waiting. And waiting. After a very long time, I started flapping my arms. Finally, someone decided to check a duty roster and figure out who was supposed to be doing these alarm screenings. Turns out no one was assigned! because too many people had called in sick. The very-nice woman who was eventually pulled off some other assignment to screen me said that it's a common problem on a nice, sunny Saturday--too many people calling out sick. She was frustrated and told me how far behind they were running, and it was ony 5:00!

Random thoughts from my flights to Houston and Mobile today:
  • Taking off from Logan, one gets a great view of the old, tightly-packed, random and curvy neighborhoods. 
  • Flying over Texas, one sees how having all that "big country" encourages huge house lots and amoeba-shaped in-ground pools in every yard. 
  • I was disoriented at first by how nice and square the shapes are in Texas. Grids of roads, fields--it's all neatly laid out. 
  • Mobile is flat. Great place to start cycling!
  • All of my transportation ran smoothly and arrived ahead of schedule. Nice!
  • I found my fellow travelers to be exceptionally patient and pleasant. No one tried to cut lines or shove their way through crowds. Everyone waited until they were told they could do something or that it was their turn. When agents asked for volunteers to check carry-on bags, due to packed flights, people volunteered. Was this because it was the start of school-vacation week and lots of families were traveling? Or has there been an overall improvement in traveling etiquette these last few years--that I've missed by not traveling recently?
I was the only rider in the shuttle from the Mobile Airport to the Malaga Inn downtown--which was a much longer ride than I was expecting. This was expensive but meant that I had the nice, generous driver to myself. She offered all kinds of suggestions for things to do and see downtown. (I've heard great things about Mobile, so I'm eager to go exploring.) This driver even let Ric and Nora (two others doing this trip) know that I was in town when she gave them a ride later, so they came to the inn to introduce themselves. 

Here's the front of the inn as I saw it after unloading my luggage from the shuttle:

Here's a view of the courtyard from the lobby:

Here's my "historic" room. Check out the great floor, antique phone, stained-glass window over the bed...

Okay, the band is warming up and my stomach is rumbling. Off to find food. 

I'll leave you with this photo (taken from an odd angle) of a sizeable bruise on my leg--and I haven't even started cycling yet! I made the mistake of allowing one of my bags to bounce off my leg as I moved through the airports today!

P.S. Don't expect postings this long moving forward. I didn't cycle today, and I have some extra time. 


  1. How exotic! The buildings remind me of New Orleans, which I guess shouldn't be too surprising ;-) I'm so glad it's sunny and warm… You're off to a good start, for sure!

  2. Fancy digs! I'm glad the beginning, or pre-beginning, has gone smoothly. You must be anxious for the true start of your journey. Good luck!