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Making Tracks Across the USA October 26, 2009

Posted by PAS in survivorship, travel.
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Amtrak California locomotive train.

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When I was diagnosed in 2004 with Stage IV rectal cancer, I was immediately referred to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Lucky for me that one of the top three cancer centers in the US is only 5 hours away by car. Even luckier, trains leave my hometown Syracuse for NYC four times every day – so I can leave the driving to Amtrak on my 5 hour commutes to the city.

Like the airlines – but better! – Amtrak Rewards gives regular travelers points for each dollar spent on train travel, redeemable for many things including seat class upgrades and tickets. At diagnosis, nobody would have guessed that I’d live long enough to see my Rewards points balance top 10,000 points, or even 5,000 points. But here I am, looking at my October points balance – and after more than five years of treatments and surgeries, I’ve earned over 13,000 non-expiring Amtrak Rewards points.

That’s not just a seat upgrade from coach to business class.

That’s not just a free ticket to New York City.

That’s a cross-country ticket, Business Class, from New York state to any destination(s) in Amtrak’s Western Region (all cities roughly west of Albuquerque NM or Denver CO.)

It’s my dream trip. I’ve planned it a couple dozen times as I daydreamed in an infusion chair, as I watched TravelChannel hosts explore America while couch-bound after surgeries. Outbound from New York west to Chicago, then north through the Canadian Rockies. Angling down through the Pacific Northwest, along the California coast. Then a sharp angle back east through Tucson, a side jaunt up to the Grand Canyon, and then back home through Chicago. I never thought I’d live to take it – but here I am, rumors of my death apparently exaggerated.

I’m facing a job change at the end of 2010 (by then I’ll have even more points racked up.) So in my spare minutes, I’m planning – but the trip is more than a daydream these days. I want a month, at least. Train rides, broken up by jaunts in rental cars, visits with friends I’ve made on the other coast and with family in Michigan, Colorado, California and Arizona. Lots of time to think, and relax, and write and just enjoy the world around me – a world I never really thought I’d be able to explore first hand. I don’t really want to kennel Madison that long, but I’ll figure something out. Right now, the big picture of the trip needs to be roughed out in broad strokes; I’ll account for M. after I’ve had some time to relish the wealth of free time and my 13,856 travel points.

Meanwhile, @JeffreyJKingman is making tracks across the USA in the opposite direction, traveling from the west coast to the east coast. He’s tweeting about his adventures, and I’m not too proud to admit that I’m green with traveler’s envy. As Kingman described the seals he saw, the fall colors and the mountains on the horizon of the first leg of his travels, I found myself opening my travel notes, the place where I plan my own trip of a lifetime. Kingman is moving across country faster than I’d planned, but he’s still moving through part of the same route I want to take.

I’m not ready to by a ticket yet, but my wanderlust is brewing on high right now. Tweet on, Jeffrey. I’ll be filing those tweets in my notes – and through you, that trip is mine.

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Traveling light – Flying with dogs July 8, 2009

Posted by PAS in dogs, travel.
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I like to travel light…and when I fly, it’s a 20″ rolling carry-on that really IS 20″h x 13″w x 9″d, including the wheels, and a small (15x10x6″) backpack from eBags. My carryon fits in most overhead bins, even on small jets, and my backpack fits easily under the seat. In fact, on some planes, even my carry-on fits under the seat in front of me.

But I don’t have the same issues traveling light that hair stylist Sally Hershberger faces, and recounted today to a NYTimes interviewer. her “carry-on” is a dog-carrier for her Miniature Pinscher Cherry Ann, and Cherry Ann is an escape artist.
Sally Hershberger & her traveling Min-Pin

I’ve considered taking Madison aboard with me–she’s small enough to fit into one of the new soft pet carriers that fits under an airline seat, even though she’s an English Cocker. She can curl up into an amazingly small space, and fits nicely into a #100 Varikennel; an airline pet-carrier would be no problem.

But she CAN howl. It’s excruciating to hear. And once started, I can’t make her stop; she has to howl it out.
Maybe I should rethink it before I ever make M. a carry-on dog.
Meanwhile, I hope Hershberger’s new pet carry-on is a little more Cherry Ann-proof.
Happy travels!

A month without blogging June 26, 2009

Posted by PAS in camping, family, travel.
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photo by Dave McGrath

photo by Dave McGrath

June was a full month.
Oh, I knew it was going to be busy–but I had no idea how busy it would be.
I had no idea that I’d end up here in the last days of the month with the worst cold I’ve had since cancer, slamming down Tropicana50 (the new reduced sugar OJ) and trying not to sneeze and cough at the same time!

At any rate, there were up-sides to this busy June.
Catered a lunch for four judges and assorted obedience trial staff–and got two requests for recipes.
Finally managed to make it to my very first Tear-Up the Adirondacks teardrop and tiny travel trailer rally–and really enjoyed camping in the Sunspot with two dogs and a cat…in the pouring rain. I can’t wait to go out again!
I put my little SunSpot right in between the two trees that create the entrance to site #228, so that I could see the water and the boats cruising past.
Traveled to Williamsburg VA for my uncle’s memorial service, and reconnected with my aunt, cousins and their kids–some I’d never met and cousins I hadn’t seen in 30 years.

And now I’m here nursing a cold and wondering if I’ll be better in time for a wedding tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

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