Feb 23, 2014

Thundering Into Bricktown!




The North American Trail Ride Conference (NATRC) national convention, “Thundering into Bricktown, was held this year a short four hundred and some miles south in Oklahoma City.  My CTR friend and mentor, Shari Parys, won two national awards and having caught the distance riding bug myself, it I was excited to take a road trip! 




I met Shari, Mary and Sharron bright and early Thursday morning.  We loaded my Durango with luggage and headed out hoping to miss the winter storm which was working its way across Nebraska.  It caught us about 40 miles into our trip and stayed with us until we got to central Kansas.  After that, we watched the outside temperature increase and arrived in Oklahoma City later than afternoon to a beautiful 57 degrees.  And we were thrilled to find we were upgraded to a mini-suite which gave us plenty of room for the weekend.  But heck, compared to trailer living quarters, we could have square danced in this room.  (No, we didn’t.)




At sunset that first evening, we walked at sunset to the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  It wasn’t the first time I had visited this somber sight but it was even more solemn this time of day.  The chairs lit up at dusk; I had forgotten those little chairs memorializing the children lost that day.  The sun appeared to be setting in the reflecting pool as we walked along its edge remembering that day. 




It was hard to believe that almost 20 years have passed.  There are still tokens of remembrance laid along or put in the fence along side of the memorial sight.  Let us not forget those that were lost that awful day.




After a nice Mexican dinner, we meandered down Sheridan were some specialty stores were open for the evening; even offering visitors a glass of wine while we browsed through items I could only afford should my Powerball numbers hit.  Another shop surprised us with cotton candy – it was not a night for dieting. 


There were some great sessions over the two day event.  Writer and keynote speaker, Nancy Loving, DVM provided some good information on colic with managing tips for prevention.  She also gave a talk on first aid and how to tend to your horse without always calling the vet.  She was easy to listen to and a great wealth of knowledge.  Other sessions talked of riding goals, mentoring programs, conditioning for CTR and a fun session on “camping on any budget”. 




The night of the awards, we dressed in our finest.  I mean, really, how often do we get to go all out!  Amazing what you can find on Facebook classifieds.  Definitely fun to dress up but my sweat pants sure felt good at the end of the night. 




There was a nice showing of attendees from Region 6, mostly from Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri.  I was so happy to finally meet my cyber friend, Jonni, from Region 4.  Some might remember her from her blog, Trot on Hank




I was so happy that Shari was honored for nationally placing in both horsemanship and horse.  She just recently started riding her foxtrotter, Mika, and they have only just begun to hit their stride.


This convention got me excited for our upcoming CTR season.  This will not be the year we can go to a lot of rides as Case will be playing his last year of high school football come fall.  But it will give us a better taste of the sport and an opportunity to set some future goals.   If you are interested in distance riding or improving your trail riding skills, visit NATRC online for more information. 


I am so grateful for a safe trip to and from Oklahoma City and being able to spend it with such good friends.   A special thank you to NATRC Region 4 for hosting a fun and informative convention. 


On a side note, a callout of “congrats!” to Funder and Dixie on completing their first 100 mile endurance ride this past weekend.  Way to go!

Feb 7, 2014

Joy of Travel


I usually fly United.  Not that I like them over any of the other – actually, Southwest is becoming my new favorite – but I have a lot of flier miles with United.   So I know United’s process & procedures pretty well.  Usually I don’t check luggage because I am not gone that long and fly light.


Flying has really become a “do it yourself” activity.  From online reservation to online check-ins.  If you’re a survivor, you can do it!  My 19- year-old Marine son, McCain, just went across the country and dealt with delays and cancellations and rerouting that added up to almost 23 hours of travel and he survived (and was a lot more chipper about it than I would be).  I remember the days when your knees did not hit the seat in front of you and hot meals were provided and drinks were free.  But today, flying is no longer a luxury but a necessity.  And as “customers”, we aren’t treated very well.




So we flew to Chicago on American Airlines.  Five days of travel, snow expected, temperature of training room unknown... I didn’t pack as light as I usually do and had to check my bag.  Are you kidding me?  $25 on top of an already expensive flight?  But whatever.  I tried to check in online the night before and their website said I couldn’t so I checked in at the kiosk (a job that used to be done by people) and then took my bag to the counter to be tagged & shipped for $25.  It was an uneventful check-in; 5 days later, I couldn’t tell you if it was a man or a woman who checked me in.  I was obviously in travel-robot mode at the time.




So fast forward to my return trip.  Again, I had tried to check-in online and was once again denied.  So we arrive at O’Hare and pass all the empty counters of “priority” check –in (fully manned but with no customers, I noted) to get to the “business class” check-in – or what I refer to as “steerage”.   I got to the kiosk and swipe my card, swiftly clicking thru the check-in process and once again, paying the $25 fare for my bag to get home.  This time it prints out the baggage tag.  So not only do I have to pay to send it home, I have to tag it myself, too.  (No doubt next time I’ll have to go out on the tarmac and hand toss it in the belly of the plane!)




Granted, I was tired.  I just sat through a 4-hour test and have been away from home for 5 days and the wind is blowing and its –14 below zero.  And of course I had hot flashes in the cab ride to the airport.  I was carrying my winter coat, an oversized purse, and I didn’t have my reading glasses on.  But it was very clearly printed on the baggage sticker to “peel here” and in the same sentence, telling me to save as my baggage claim.  I found no perforated edges to tear off that claim ticket from what needed to go on my bag.  What the hell?  I put the long end of the sticky tape around the handle of my bag and left the “peel off” part intact.  I got up to the counter and told the (customer service?) rep that I really can’t figure out where to tear this as I really don’t want to have a sticky-sided baggage claim tag.  The dude behind the counter went on to tell me that I had attached the wrong end to my bag. 




Now I may be blonde, but when they say, “Peel off and save” I assume they are talking about the part that the “peel off and save” is attached to.  I am not stupid!  And I expressed my frustration as he peeled it off my bag to re-do. 


And do you know what he said? 

“Did you watch the video?”

I said, “Video?”

He said, “Yes, about checking baggage.”

At that moment, I could have kicked him right between the ...... ears.


Instead I said I did not watch a video and that I have been flying for 40 years (slight exaggeration) and up to this point in my life, I have not needed a video on how to check a bag and for $25, I don’t think I should have to!


Now I realize at this point, my bag may end up in Traverse City, Michigan instead of Omaha, Nebraska because I got lippy.  And really, I don’t normally get lippy with service people – especially airlines where I am at their mercy.  But this was turning into a quite ridiculous conversation.  Just rehashing it, I still feel like kicking him… somewhere.




On a happier note, I have always enjoyed traveling to Chicago.  I am a country girl at heart, but I do like the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago.  The people are just like a bunch of Nebraska folk only dropped into a bigger city.  I never feel outclassed in Chicago like I do when I travel to places like Philadelphia or Los Angeles. 



Our company is very generous with our hotel accommodations.  We most often stay at a Marriott and this week we stayed at the JW Marriott in downtown Chicago. 




I love when the old buildings are made grand again.  This one was –catch-your-breath gorgeous. 




Beside being beautiful, it was nice being treated like a customer.  When checking in the gal at the registration desk told me she had a “lovely room” for me with a “wonderful soaking tub.”   And it was.




And while bottled water is normally not worth mentioning, it was provided in the room along with a bottle of wine and some treats at a (not-so-small) cost.  Interestingly enough, however,  on the second day, next to my bed, was 2 small bottles of Vasa brand bottled water.  Now I have seen Vasa water before – most often at airports but had never been provided with bottled water at bedtime.  When asked, my business associates said they were not given any extra water and none of the other bottles were Vasa brand.  So I’d like to think it was just a special touch to give their guests with the same name the Vasa water. 




I am happy to report that my bag did arrive successfully in Omaha, despite my smart mouth.  And after a careful Google search, I did find a video referencing American Airline baggage check. 


It’s good to be home.