Sunday, September 27, 2020

Flying High!

Today I flew to New York. And stayed for three hours. 

This was my first flight in 222 days. 222! In 2019 I flew on (after a quick count) 34 flights. We are nearly done with 2020 and I have flown twice. I hate Covid. 

It felt great. I felt safe. 

So why did I fly to JFK for three hours? One, because I love flying and would do it daily. Second, because I love airports. I love watching people from all over the world come together in one place. I love thinking that everyone I see is going somewhere. Airports are magical to me. 

And third, I flew to JFK to complete my Global Entry interview (which took 306 days to get approved!). Why not do my interview at the MSP airport? Because there are no interviews for the next 18 months and this flight was only $92 round trip. And I wanted an excuse to get on a flight and dip my toes into travel.

What is Global Entry? For $100 you get to sail through TSA pre-check at an airport and get some global entry benefits as well. I'm taking this opportunity to compare options because I'm passionate about this shit:
  • Global Entry. $100 for FIVE years. Gets you TSA pre-check and some entry benefits as well if you travel internationally. Also REAL ID compliant. 
  • TSA pre-check. $85 for FIVE years. Gets you TSA pre-check. Skip this. Spend $15 more and go straight to Global Entry. 
  • Clear. $180 per YEAR! Biggest waste of money! Don't buy it. It is the dumbest thing in the travel industry and I'm embarrassed by it every time I walk by. Don't do it. Please. Instead get Global Entry. 
  • REAL ID. This isn't really related, but since I'm on a soap box I want to speak to REAL IDs. If you own a passport or Global Entry do NOT spend money on a REAL id to travel. It is a complete waste of money. Just travel with your passport - even domestically. If you don't have a passport or Global Entry, get that instead of a REAL ID as it will serve more than one purpose and is roughly the same cost and application process. If something in your brain tells you traveling with your passport domestically is scary, get that shit out of your brain. Go to therapy if that helps - it will probably be cheaper.
Back to my day...I started the morning sitting at Republic's bar near Concourse D where I enjoyed a (overly-priced) bloody mary. Regardless of my departure gate I often wander to Republic because they have live music. Well, pre-Covid (I hate Covid). The airport was quiet. Almost everything was closed. The only breakfast served in the entire terminal is McDonalds (other than "gas station" food). Weird weird times. But I met a couple wonderful people - which is the best part of travel.

Fabulous (Overpriced) Bloody Mary

Happy Traveler

Empty MSP

I boarded the plane and it felt so good. For those that love travel you will get it when I say it felt like I was returning home. I flew Delta and it felt very safe. The plane only had 16 passengers (for a 160 capacity plane) so it was near empty. I suspect that helped. Everyone wore masks. 

And I have been waiting for it

Empty Delta Flight DL0402

Masked up in my happy place!

The flight was uneventful. I worked a bit, listened to some great music, and took in all that I enjoy about flying. 
Overlooking New York

New York

Upon arriving in New York it hit me the world has changed since my last flight. I was greeted with a "Welcome to New York State Traveler Health Form" I had to complete before entering. It will be used for contact tracing. I exited the plane excited to see JFK and all I saw was an empty terminal. I mean...eerily empty. It was actually sad. Almost all the stores were closed (and I arrived at noon). One of my favorite airport experiences are lounges and the only one open was Air India, where I was the only visitor and was served food in individually wrapped containers. I hate Covid. The arrival and departure monitors were nearly empty!

Contract Tracing Form - New York

Empty JFK

Meal at Air India Lounge

Sign at JFK

Empty Arrival Monitors

After a bite to eat I arrived at the Global Entry Enrollment Center and within ten minutes completed my interview. You don't need to say it...I already know this was crazy. It is just who I am. 

Global Entry

So I made my way back to Terminal B where I bought a Corona and was forced to drink it at the gate since the only seating in the entire airport is at a gate. Weird weird times. 

Corona at the Gate

The flight back was uneventful. I didn't go immediately home though. Instead I went to the MSP lounge, grabbed another free meal and drink, met some lovely people with as much passion for travel as I, and waited as long as I could to suck up all I enjoy about airports. And finally, after making my way through the "Welcome to Minnesota" sign I walked through a completely empty baggage claim and was greeted by my lovely daughter - less than 12 hours since being dropped off.

MSP PGA Lounge

Welcome to Minnesota!

Empty MSP Baggage Claim

I want to speak about traveling during Covid as I know some of you are "travel shaming" me. And I get it. We all have a different tolerance of risk. I decided months ago, in order to be happy, I would simply follow CDC guidelines as I transverse through life. I followed all of them during this trip and I felt safe. I will now get tested in five (5) days and go on living in a world with Covid.

I am so happy! It felt great to get back in the air. As I said, I am just beginning to "dip my toes back into travel" so we shall see you again. Not as quickly as I wish, but I will be back. 

Safe travels my friends. - Rae Ann

  • Days: One (1)
  • Countries: One (1)
  • States. Two (2)
  • Miles: 2,600
  • Flights: Two (2)
  • Views in blog: 161,974
  • Cost: $92 flight and $25 for an overly priced bloody mary
  • Happiness level from flying: 10/10

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Denver 2020: I did it!

I've been back from my Denver Road Trip for a week and I'm just coming up for air. Why is it when you take three days off work you end up working an additional five? 

The trip felt GREAT! Sheldon and I had such a good time. First, we didn't get through our entire Topic List, even though we had five (5) full hours together. I'm not kidding when I say my throat was sore at the end of day one...but I persevered and came back strong day two.

We took 1.5 days to drive to and from Denver (from Minneapolis). It is a total of 891 miles, estimated at 12.5 hours, and we didn't have a need to push through in one day. We made North Platte, Nebraska our overnight stop both ways. So many friends have mentioned North Platte for similar road trips that I couldn't resist. We stayed at Husker Inn, due to the high reviews and cheap rate ($44.99/night), and it was perfect. Nothing special, but it did the job and included free cold breakfast and fabulous service. Pro-tip: They don't have a website so call ahead to book a room instead of going through (I hate We had breakfast at Penny's diner, where the waitress scared me she was so coarse, but it was a fun experience in a renovated rail car.

Gas Station stop with Mr. Cowboy
Husker inn
Old School Check In

We landed in Denver day two and went straight to Denver Botanic Gardens. It was a great way to get our legs moving, acclimate to the altitude, and see some cool things. 

From there we went downtown Denver where I met my nephew at Denver Central Market for some dinner and a couple drinks while Sheldon went for a massage. The weather was great during the day, but I ended up freezing my ass off while outside (note I was wearing my winter jacket and jean jacket). I imagine it was due to being a bit tired, the altitude adjustment and possibly the liquor. 

Nephew Josh and I

We settled in for the night at Carolanne's Airbnb in Boulder. The place met our needs but Carolanne was a bit uptight (all her notes made me feel like I was a child). The next day we went to Chautauqua Trailhead and did some hiking. I say we did more standing than hiking as it was a strenuous hike for the two of us but it was beautiful. It doubled as a photo shoot for Sheldon as we were trying to get him photos for his dating apps. I just posed next to a snowman as I'm not as motivated as him with the whole dating thing (please send men my way that travel, stand more than hike, are bald and sarcastic). 

Our bodies wanted to nap but our minds said "you only have 48 hours in this town get going" so we cleaned up and went to the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. We walked, stopped at a dispensary (which isn't as fun now since the "shopping experience is hampered by Covid") and ate at Oak on Fourteenth per the recommendation of Josh. It was a fabulous evening - exactly as we had hoped. 

Pearl Street Mall is famous for artists. There were very few, I imagine due to Covid, but we came across @DreamPoetForHire. Twenty (20) of the 24 topics on our Topic List were about relationships and love, so when he asked for a topic I picked "partners". I thought his poem was perfect. 


A Dating Profile Keeper

The next morning we had breakfast in our car (literally), which included yummy bloody marys, because we couldn't find a seat at a restaurant. Covid sucks. We drove back to Denver and stopped at the Red Rocks Amphitheater. We actually ended up spending a couple hours just observing the space, having a drink and dreaming about going to a live show again some day. As soon as Red Rock opens I'm flying out - I don't care who the artist is I just want to experience this view. 

Red Rock Amphitheater

Not Sure if Dating Profile Worthy - But Cute

That afternoon we got on the road for North Platte and simply reversed the course that brought us to Colorado. Sheldon got his donuts and I got my diet Mountain Dew along the way and we tried hard to knock items off our Topic List.

Go Vote!!

I want to point out both of us felt safe along the journey. It doesn't need to be said that masking is political, so adherence to the CDC recommendation depends on the state you enter, but we both felt safe keeping our distance from those that weren't wearing them and road tripping allows you to keep your distance, if you so wish. 

This trip met all our desires of getting away, spending time with one another, seeing some mountains and dipping our toes into the world beyond the Twin Cities. I'm thankful to my travel buddy Sheldon for making this happen.

Thanks for following along my friends. I'm not sure why my views jumped from 70,000 eight months ago to 160,392 today, but I'm thinking it may have to do with people "travelling through blogs" due to shitty Covid. If you are new, welcome! My goal is to motivate you to get out and explore this great world we live in - of course safely. Travel truly does give you perspective to different cultures and forces you to look at the world differently. 

If you are from America...please vote November 3 and if you need info please hit me up (I'm an poll worker - aka Election Judge)!

As I mentioned in my previous post I am re-starting my travel life post-Covid so watch for updates soon. Damn I miss traveling. 

  • Days: Five (5)
  • Countries: One (1)
  • States: Four (4)
  • Miles: 2,142
  • Views on blog: 160,392...from 71,161 in December 2019 (What?!!)
  • Hours of Talking: Ninety-five (95)
  • Total expenses: $1,071,55 (tracking via Cost Split app...LOVE that thing!)
  • Cost of Lodging: $242.11
  • Cost of gas (estimated at $2.25/gallon - cheap): $174.54

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Covid Road Trip to the Mile High City!

I hate Covid-19. I'm sure no one loves Covid but I want it on the record...I hate Covid. To avoid sounding pretentious I want to acknowledge I sympathize with everyone impacted negatively by Covid. I'm sorry. But this is a travel blog so I'm using this post to document my travel impacts during this unprecedented time in history. 

I cancelled five (5) trips for that damn virus. Five. A week in Phoenix, a week in Orlando, a weekend in Vegas to celebrate my daughter's 21st birthday, a week in Cuba and two weeks camping in the middle of the desert experiencing Burning Man (for those concerned, I had a camper rented so it wasn't really camping). This doesn't begin to mention the trips I had planned but not yet booked. 

I clearly remember cancelling my first trip on March 19, which was a solo trip to Phoenix. I did so only because I thought I would be travel-shamed. I was simply going to hang by the pool drawing out the last days of winter so I figured I would take one for the team. things changed rapidly. It is important to note on March 18, just a day prior to cancelling that trip, I bought a ticket to Burning Man which is held Labor Day weekend. I said "If Burning Man gets cancelled, which isn't until Labor Day, we are all f*cked". It was cancelled. 

I am now six (6) months from that first cancellation and I must admit my new normal feels...normal. I had a fantastic summer hanging at the pool, walking in newly discovered parks with friends, and having more phone conversations than I have had over the past six years. There are some good things that have come out of this pandemic no doubt. 

Today I am re-starting my travel life post-Covid. I am hitting the road with my friend Sheldon for a road trip to Denver. Why? No reason other than to get away, dip our toes into the world beyond the Twin Cities, view some mountains and most likely stop at a dispensary. 

You may remember Sheldon from a previous post when we went to Cancun. Ahhhh...Cancun. Remember the beaches, sun and all those frosty drinks? Wake up Rae Ann!!! Oh yes, I digress. For curious minds Sheldon and I's relationship has changed. Our friendship has grown stronger and I agree with our mutual friend when she says "you two are besties". I'll cut through the bullshit - we are no longer lovers. But I am grateful we navigated through the challenges of figuring out how we are best for one another and I am beyond excited he continues as my travel buddy. 

So here we are driving 12 hours to a city where flying would cost much less. It is a weird weird world we are living in. But I am excited to get back into travel, revisit some beautiful parts of this country, and get some "good old fashion behind-the-wheel" time with my bestie. We started a "Topic List" and I'm worried 24 hours will not be enough time