My Life as a Traveler

Arizona Nov 2010

Travel + Friends = Perfection

PreNote to the PreNote: In Aruba and can’t get this post to paragraph for some Caribbean reason. Sorry it’s all jammed together!! Also, un-captioned pic is me and Shawna Bowen, my fellow author-speaker.

PreNote: Hey folks: the blog is still in Phoenix, but right now I’m in the Caribbean on our (almost) yearly vacation cruise. I’m going to keep the blog linear, which means I’ll continue with my travels in Phoenix, then San Diego, then Los Angeles, then to the cruise. I will post when I can and promise to keep up at least once a week, although some days you’ll see spurts of posting. Hope that’s ok. I’d really be curious to know what type of schedule you prefer for blog posts. If you get a chance, let me know, ok?
Back to Phoenix, where I’ve been training in Combat Hapkido and having a rather complicated hotel stay. But you know, beyond the rashes, the bruises, and the confrontations with hotel employees, it’s really all about the people I have had the pleasure and privilege to meet and hang out with. Besides my Mom and my fellow author/speaker Shawna, let me tell you about some of the other people who have really made it all worthwhile.
• Mark Roane – OK, Mark, (if you’re reading this, my new Facebook friend!), I was a little nervous seeing you at the training on Day One. Before you moved to Texas, you were my hapkido teacher. I remember you for so many things, but the most memorable was that you didn’t promote me for A WHOLE YEAR! I thought for sure you hated me – but I realized that with I wasn’t the most precise student, either. I’m really happy to get to know you better on this trip and I appreciate your friendliness and help with some photos for my website and brochure. Thanks, mate!
• Trina Pellegrini – I guess you can’t get into too much trouble if you’re lying on the floor chatting instead of doing ground defense with Grandmaster’s wife! Trina, I loved your story and it was really nice to meet you. Thanks for the link to my book on the ICHF website, too! I hope we can stay connected.
• All the other guys and gal from all over the country who also attended the training. It was pleasure to meet and train with you. I apologize for any inadvertent groin kicks and bruises where I was almost, but not quite, at the pressure point. See you in Colorado in April!
• Lisa! My PLU college roommate (circa 1977-78) has a little house here in Phoenix close to where her Mom moved from rainy Washington. Fortunately, it turned out that she was in Phoenix this weekend. You know you have a good friend when you can pick right up from where you last left off, no matter how many years it’s been. We found a great Thai restaurant, I introduced her to papaya salad (my new Thai fave food) and laughed as we caught up. I love Lisa’s upbeat attitude and love of life – it’s contagious!
In the end, it’s not the confrontations, the body aches, or even the adventures that make or break a trip. It’s the people. Who have you connected with on your last trip?

Hotel Woes, Part II

Saturday a.m., took Mom to the airport, went back to the hotel and gave myself a manicure, and headed out to Mesa for day two of training.

Today was much more intense than the day before. We practiced scenarios like what you do if someone punches you, how you get someone to move without leaving a bruise, and how you get out of a situation where people are trying to stomp your head after you fell to the ground. At one point, I was thrown to the ground and banged skulls with another guy thrown to the same spot. Owww.  Hope this doesn’t translate into a concussion or an aneurism or something.

After the seminar, I had big plans to treat myself to a nice restaurant for dinner, but by the time I got back to my (finally cleaned!) room, I was whupped.  I plopped down onto the bed and turned on the tv, too lazy to even get up to take a shower.  The Gift, a movie I hadn’t seen before, was on, so I decided to order room service. Chili-seared tuna and a French dip came in 20 minutes and I was starving.

About half an hour after my feast, I had a headache (concussion???), a stomach ache, and felt itchy all over. When I ran to the bathroom (had to run, if you know what I mean), I noticed that the complete upper half of my body was covered with a bright red rash. Yikes! Is this the first sign of aneurism or food poisoning? Would I be able to make it to the last day of seminar tomorrow? Would they let me on the plane to go home in two days? Do I need to go to the doctor? Do I call room service to complain? I crawled back into bed and drank a gallon of water.  After the movie was over, I crept back to the bathroom, afraid of what I would see. Fortunately, the rash was fading. Maybe I will survive.

What’s the weirdest health thing that has ever happened to you while traveling?


Hotel Woes, Part 1

Most of the traveling I do is to accompany George on his business trips. I am the vice-president of George Greene Consulting, after all! We are Platinum members of the Starwood Hotel Chain, which means we check into a Sheraton, Westin, or Aloft Hotel at least 25 times a year.

This Preferred status gets us some nice benefits:

  • Access to the Club Lounge, which usually offers breakfast in the morning and snacks in the evening – free.
  • Free internet
  • 4pm checkout – really nice if George is still meeting on the day of departure
  • Upgrade to the Preferred floor (yes, there is such a place) which has slightly bigger rooms and free bottled water. Sometimes we get upgraded to a suite – not often.
  • Bonus points to add to our collection to use for free rooms when we have personal travel.

The beauty of using points for rooms at the Sheraton is that they give you the same benefits as if we were paying full price. So, when I decided to book my hotel in Phoenix, I used a combination of points and payment, and I had certain expectations.

Here are some of the things that did not meet my expectations in Phoenix:

  • No maid service for the first 2 nights of our stay – had to call the front desk.
  • While I was at the Hapkido training and my Mom was chillin in the room, a strange woman used the key that the front desk gave her to open the door!! They somehow thought we weren’t there. This is very freaky – what if it was some guy who might hurt my Mom? What if someone had a key and they wanted to come back and steal our stuff? OK, Mom’s bad for not using that extra lock on the door (the one you can only use from inside that stops the door from opening all the way), but still, this is not good.

When I addressed these issues with the people at the front desk, they offered to move us to a different room. We had been living there for 2 days and were not interested. They offered to wipe out our old key info and re-key the room. We did take them up on that.

The young man at the counter offered us 1000 points for our trouble (value: around $10). Huh. After a stern lecture of how this really affected our safety, I asked for 4000. The young man said that he would check with his manager. It’s been a few weeks now, and no credit. Looks like I need to write a letter to the manager. I know it’s just a mistake, but it really freaked my mom out, and when she went down to the desk to tell them about it, they kind of blew her off.

I’ll let you know how it goes…

Chin Strikes, Chilis, and Chocolate

Today is the first day of my 3 day IPDTI seminar. I’m renewing my license to teach law enforcement officers how to use empty-hand tactics to control and disarm offenders without causing them undue harm. That is, unless the situation ramps up to life-threatening. In that case, all bets are off.  Fun stuff. On the agenda today is learning the legalities and liabilities for police defensive action. We practice kicks, strikes, and some ground defense. I have short sleeves on and my elbows get some mat burn. Ow. No biggie, though, we’re out at 3pm and I’m on my way back to the hotel to meet my mom for her last night in Phoenix.

When I get there, we decide to go to the Desert Botanical Gardens, where they are having the Chilis and Chocolate Festival.  Gorgeous plants and great food – what a combo! I go crazy in the chili department, buying whole chilis, mole spice, chili dip mix, and a beautiful bunch of red chilis to hang in my kitchen. We have tacos with fresh cabbage and salsa for dinner outside. There’s a dj with music and we cactus surrounds us. We cruise the chocolate section and pick up samples for dessert.

By now, the sun is starting to go down and we still haven’t seen the rest of the gardens. There are cacti forests and wildflower walking trails. As the sun goes down, the lights come up. This is a gorgeous place even when it is dark. The cacti are lit from the ground up, looking like surreal alien forms. If we wanted to stay another hour, we could sit outside and enjoy a concert on the grounds. But my Mom is not feeling 100%, so we head back to the room.

On our way out, we pause to admire a Dale Chihuly glass sculpture of a huge yucca (Joshua Tree). All evening, I’ve been taking pictures of these gorgeous plants, even checking to see if they were good using the flash. I didn’t realize until a couple of days later that somehow, they were lost! I am flabbergasted as to where they went. I didn’t take the SD card out and the battery was fine – I was using flash all evening. Hmmmm…. No pics on the camera’s internal memory either. I don’t have a clue what happened. I have pictures from the rest of the Phoenix trip, but somehow the plants of the botanical garden never took. I’m still trying to figure out what happened. Any guesses?

Anyway, Mom goes home tomorrow morning and I have more seminar. You’re just going to have to imagine the desert sunset, the saguaro, and the moon coming over the hills. More tomorrow!

Sedona Energy

I love the desert! It’s so different from the terrain of Tidewater Virginia. I am enthralled with the flat valley surrounded by mountains shaped like camels and mushrooms. Different shapes of cactus line the streets. The sky is the clearest blue and there is no humidity. The sun feels warm on my skin. There’s a different kind of energy here than there is at my home on the water. It feels almost prickly, like the cactus.

When I invited my Mom to Phoenix to play with me a day before my defensive tactics training, I asked her what she wanted to do. “Sedona,” she said. I call my friend and fellow author/speaker Shawna Bowen, who lives near there. She’s working for the famous Pink Jeep Tours there and sets us up on the Broken Arrow (named after the John Wayne movie made there) tour. We make plans for lunch afterward.

It’s about a 2 hour drive from Phoenix. We leave early, driving through the desert wilderness. It’s a landscape of rusty brown, ruddy green and tarnished silver. We wind up a mountain pass and find ourselves on top of a new, flat world. After we turn off the freeway at the Sedona exit, we turn a corner and find out why everybody is crazy over Sedona. We have just driven into the largest modern art installation that I’ve ever seen.

Ahead of us, there are red rock sculptures and spires, courtesy of Mother Nature. As we drive closer to the town of Sedona, we can’t help being drawn in by the beauty. There’s an energy here that’s compelling us come closer. It must be the Vortexes

And yes, it’s vortexes, not vortices. You are probably familiar with a vortex in air or water; the swirls you see after your hand travels through the still water in a pool are also found after an aircraft as it travels through the air. Well, in Sedona (and also in many other parts of the world, so they say) the vortex of interest is not of swirling air or water molecules; this vortex is made of swirling energy.

Some people believe that the proximity to these vortexes improves your chi, the flow of energy throughout your body. Some physicist “measured” this in the last century and people have come here ever since to be “renewed.” I don’t know much about the physics of these vortexes. All I know is that, for me, it feels very good to be here.

We find Shawna and the Pink Jeeps in uptown Sedona. Since Shawna’s with us and she knows the driver, when we all request a more adventurous ride, he complies with pleasure. We bounce around on the rocks and through the sage in the jeep, laughing every time our butts lift off of the seat. Mom’s in the front seat with the driver (the least bounciest place) and having fun, too.

After the ride, we head to the cantina for lunch. Prickly pear margaritas and fajitas just taste better after you’ve been jeeped. Shawna gives me some great ideas for the brochure I need to create for my upcoming speaking tour. It’s really great to connect with her and I wish her the best, best, best. Her speaking tour is called From Rockstar to Therapist and combines her original music with motivational and inspirational insights. Bring her to your organization!

After a bit of shopping uptown, it’s time to go. We choose to leave though the Oak River canyon, described as spectacular scenery, but really, after the wide vistas and the rock sculptures, it’s a little disappointing. The sun sets just over the next mountain as we head south, back to Phoenix.

I don’t know if it was the vortexes or the rocks or the great company, but I do feel great!

The Quiet Room

Where do you go to get some peace and quiet? I’m a firm believer of taking some time each day for silence. Some days, the only time it happens is just when I wake up. I don’t use an alarm, but still get up when the sun does, especially this time of year. I can hear the cats moving about in different parts of the house, but otherwise, it’s quiet. I can just sink into my body and breathe; that’s all I have to do at that moment. It’s a great way to get my head together for the day.

One of the reasons I love traveling is that there are often opportunities to be in a place where it is relatively quiet and just be silent. Many times, but not always, depending on your seatmate, riding on the airplane is a nice quiet spot. When I travel with Morgan and George, they don’t usually talk to me, so I’m set. Sometimes the hotel room can be quiet, if Morgan is not watching tv and just has his headphones on.

Today I’m traveling to Phoenix for some hapkido training this weekend. I’m by myself, which is unusual, but nice. I’m enjoying the pure liberty of not being responsible for anyone else. I nap on the plane from Newport News to Charlotte, then make my way to the USAirways Club Lounge, where I will cool my heels for a couple of hours until my flight to Phoenix is ready to go.

We always stop in the lounge even if we only have 5 minutes between flights just to use the nice bathrooms and have a quick snack. But today, I have lots of time. It’s crowded and kind of noisy, this being a busy business travel day. CNN is blaring on the tv in every room and I know way too much about the business of the people talking on their cell phones.

But, as I walk past the bar, I notice a sign on the door. QUIET AREA. Wait, this used to be the smoker’s area. I walk in. Nobody’s here. It does not smell like smoke. Holy cow, I have found the Quiet Room, and I am one happy camper. I worry that I am disturbing the peace with my apple crunching, but even the one guy that came in has left. The quiet room is empty. I call Morgan, and then my mom, breaking the silence of the Quiet Room that has just become my personal office. I’ve got a glass of wine and internet. Life is good.

The flight from Charlotte to Phoenix is quiet as well. I write some self-defense articles for my doctor friend’s e-zine. In first class they bring you little wet warm towels followed by lunch. Life is really good.

By the time I get to Phoenix, I am relaxed, rested, and my mind is clear. The car rental guy tries to upsell me to a bigger car, insurance, and prepaid gas, but, instead of getting irritated, I just smile and say no. NASCAR is in town and some people are paying $200/day for their rental – I’m just paying $50/day with taxes and fees. Good thing I reserved ahead. I find the hotel, check in, unpack in my Quiet Room, then go get Mom.

Quiet time is over for now, but I am truly energized by the time I spent there. Where is your Quiet Room?