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TravelYear 2014

The year 2014 was my busiest travel season ever. Time away from home resulted in some nice status-levels with my rewards program accounts.

rewards

Here is a summary of how the year turned out. More blog posts about each place will be coming soon.

Cruising for work

Dates: 1/9 to 1/12 = 5 days

The year opened with a cruise. A “working cruise”.

My company had chartered a ship for a conference for it’s sales partners and I was one of the staff working behind the scenes to make the magic happen. It marked my first visit to Florida, as the boat set off from Tampa Bay, and my first visit to Cozumel.

My enduring memory of this Mayan Riviera destination will be my first stick-shift drive in almost 14 years. My department took some well deserved, but brief, R&R on the island in the form of a “Jeep tour”. We rented a bunch of jeeps for a guided perusal of tourist traps around the island and took turns driving. I pity the clutch on our vehicle.

I’m glad I went, but I’m not itching to go back. At least not with that itinerary.

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 End of a floating working day Stick shift

Trips to the “Polar Vortex”

The weather channel catch-phrase for the winter of 2013-2014 was the “Polar Vortex” a weather system that brought arctic temperatures to much of North America and resulting in an unusually long winter. I caught the opening act of this drama when I was deployed to Lincolnshire, IL, and had my very first taste of winter driving. It was there in an empty parking lot not far from the National rental office near the O’Hare airport that I learned the value of the Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS), and why you really can accelerate or decelerate too rapidly on ice.

I knew it was a half-hour’s worth of practice driving well spent, but I didn’t realize how much, till a few weeks after. At the time I figured “surely they’re not sending the tropical guy to snow-bound engagements”. I was wrong.

Edmonton, Alberta: 1/29 to 1/31 = 4 days
Cleveland, OH: 2/10 to 2/14 = 5 days
Toronto, ON: 3/10 to 3/14 = 6 days
Ottawa, ON: 3/24 to 3/28 = 6 days

From a visual perspective, two of these places stood out.

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 Edmonton Parliament Hill from the Quebec

This batch of trips provided material for a whole bunch of still in-process blog posts. Among them:

Parking-lot fun

cleveland toronto

Gloves and mits

My wife and close friends won’t let this story go. Might as well put it in writing . . . soon.

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Orange County

Santa Ana, CA: 5/20 to 5/22 = 4

Folks familiar with the take-off profile out of the airport in Metro Manila will be familiar with the John Wayne Airport.

NC barbecue

Durham, NC - 6/9 to 6/13 = 6

A trip to Durham introduced me to North Carolinian barbecue. With vinegar rather than salt or sugar as the star of the flavor profile. Pretty fascinating experience if your not expecting it. Not quite ready to call it a favorite at this point.

The humidity of the region was another surprise. Most of my past trips to the south east were either in Winter or Fall. Had never been there during the Spring – Summer transition. The place is warm.

On the tail end of the trip, I experienced my first thunderstorm in a looong time. Happily no twisters.

Downtown Durham had a number of nice public events on my one free day. The more lively one was at the old Lucky Strike Factory. My impression of the place is that it isn’t really a place you’d schedule a vacation to visit, but is a pleasant place to be if your path does take you there.

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Seattle is not WA

Dates: Wenatchee, WA: 7/7 to 7/11 = 6

I had already been to the state of Washington three times before this visit: twice to Seattle, and once to Olympia. But this was the first time I traveled east beyond the Cascadian Mountains, and past the micro-climate that was stereotypical of the state and into the more arid central portion: Wenatchee, WA.

The surprises that this small town offered all deserve their own future blog posts.

Atlanta’s 2-inch-of-snow apocalypse: Their side of the story

Alpharetta, GA - 8/4 to 8/8 = 6

I was in Alberta when Atlanta’s snow shutdown the top story. There it had been snowing there since October, with snow measured in feet, and they had just come off a week that was in -40Cs. The Canadian reaction was understandably similar to that of this Daily Show skit

Seven months later, I got to see the other side of the story. Given my own difficulties during my snow-bound trips earlier in the year, I could relate. Details about that, and how runway-go-arounds in ATL are common, in future blog posts.

NASA by the mall

Dates: 10/27 to 10/31 = 6

When I was sent on assignment to Houston, TX, there was one place I would never forgive myself for not even trying to visit.

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Didn’t expect it to be opposite a strip mall

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 View from Talon Park

Key lesson-learned on this trip: Can’t cancel lowest-fare flights. More on that soon.

Japan

Although insanely brief, the trip to Japan had enough material for multiple blog posts. So I will reserve most of thoughts for those articles. But here are a few highlights.Japan

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 Mt. Fuji as seen from Tokyo Tower

I had the great fortune of being taken around by my co-workers who took me to restaurants that foreigners, on a brief visit, would be hard pressed to find on their own. End result was an amazing food trip. I WILL come back to this place.

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 Tonkotsu ramen

Thanksgiving in Santa Barbara

If location for employment were not an issue . . . I wouldn’t mind moving here.

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Ending the year in NYC

This was the only flight that didn’t involve work. My wife and son visited my brother’s family in New Jersey. Most of the stay was spent catching up. But we did find time to visit the tree at Rockefeller Center. My son’s reaction to all the lights all over the place made the challenge of the crowds all worthwhile.

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In retrospect, 56 days away from home — 56 missed opportunities to watch my son add to his repertoire of mischief — is measly in comparison to other road warriors. I’ve met folks with jobs that were 100% travel. I keep that in mind on the days when Facetime and/or Skype just aren’t enough.

The 2015 TravelYear has already started, and this early blog worthy experiences have already come up. Stay tuned.

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