When I went to DC the week before last I took four jackets with me. Not to wear all at once, of course, but for different situations (inside, outside, cold, not so cold, etc.). This Florida/California girl does not handle much more than a mild winter very well so I packed two fleeces, a sweatshirt, and a North Face jacket that I’d just bought. I haven’t needed a heavier coat in years so in order to be prepared for potentially cold temperatures in DC I went in search of one before I left on my trip. The first place I looked was REI, but I was underwhelmed with their selection. My next stop was the North Face store at South Coast Plaza which I figured would be chock full of good options. But strangely I wasn’t crazy about the offerings there either. The warmer jackets that I was interested in were really expensive and I wasn’t willing to spend $200 on something that I would need for a week, tops. In desperation I tried Sport Chalet. Surprisingly I found an acceptable option, a North Face jacket that was also on the sale rack. The only downside was the color. It was a drab light gray that I never would have selected given any other choices. But I bought the jacket anyway because time I didn’t think I’d have time to shop for another one before my trip. When I got home that day I did a quick search and found out that this particular item comes in a seemingly endless array of colors, all of which were more appealing than the light gray. I immediately ordered one in a lovely dark purple from REI online with assurances that it would arrive in time for me to take it to DC. Unfortunately my plan didn’t exactly work out. The jacket from REI didn’t get delivered as promised so the stupid gray jacket made the trip to the East Coast with me. And after all that effort I ended up not needing it at all! In fact, it was too warm in DC that week for just about all of the outerwear I brought with me. So this new jacket that I went through so much trouble to obtain went completely unworn. The good news is that I returned it to Sport Chalet this weekend without any trouble. Now I have to decide whether I want to keep the purple version. I’m not sure there’s any reason to. It’s not exactly useful in Los Angeles, and I don’t anticipate visiting any cold climates soon. What a ridiculously drawn out scenario for a jacket that I might never need!
The search for the perfect DC hotel continues. When I booked this trip a few weeks ago I picked a place to stay based on its access to covered parking and a fitness center with ample treadmills. These two attributes are seemingly unrelated, but both are conducive to avoiding the pitfalls of winter weather. Underground parking means no ice or snow accumulation on my car overnight, and a fitness center with plenty of treadmills will help me maintain my running regimen without relying on the sidewalks and trails being satisfactorily cleared. Sounds perfect, right? However, when I checked in today I discovered that this hotel does not have free internet access in the guest rooms. Seriously? I’ve tried quite a few different hotels in this area over the last nine years and I have yet to find one that has the ideal combination of comfortable rooms, a well appropriated fitness center, decent parking, and a few other desirable amenities. It’s like looking for the Holy Grail of accommodations! The good news is that my room at my current hotel is a lovely suite and the fitness center looks great (I haven’t tried it yet), but the lack of convenient internet access is really annoying. Hopefully I can just go downstairs to the lobby when I’m ready to publish this post, because otherwise I’ll have to find a Starbucks that’s still open this late on a Sunday. I might be eating exclusively at restaurants that have free wifi for the next five days. I know this is pretty much the ultimate first world problem, but I have a lot of work that I want to do online during my downtime while I’m out of town. Like book a hotel room in San Diego for a race next month. But that’s a story for another post. And hopefully that place has free wifi!
I made a mistake this morning. Considering all of the difficulty on the East Coast due to the blizzard last weekend I should have checked my flight status before I left for the airport, but I didn’t. As soon as I parked my car and caught the shuttle to the airport I found an email in my inbox informing me that my flight to DC was delayed – by two and a half hours! I thought I was running late while getting ready to go to the airport this morning, and I was actually a little worried about not being able to grab anything for breakfast before getting on the plane. Little did I know I could have stopped for a leisurely morning meal on the way! As it was, I got to sit down and have a nice egg sandwich after going through security, and then I had enough time leftover to wander around the United terminals for over an hour. It was boring, but luckily I had no reason to get to DC by a certain time today. Before takeoff the pilot explained the delay – the plane that was originally assigned to our flight was coming from Hawaii this morning, but it had to divert for some reason and obviously didn’t make it to Los Angeles on schedule. Weird. Funny enough, after everything the region had to deal with this week, the delay had nothing to do with the weather!
I didn’t get as much sleep as I should have last night because I had too many things to check off my to do list before going on my trip. I left work early yesterday so I’d have more time to prepare. My first order of business when I got home was baking the three batches of cookies that I promised my East and West Coast co-workers. I didn’t want to make them earlier in the week because I was afraid they’d dry out and get stale before anyone got to eat them. The cookies I ended up making were slightly different from what I described in my previous post. The “classic” chocolate chip cookies ended up including browned butter, bacon fat, and molasses. And they were amazing! (I sampled quite a few while slicing up the cookies. This is why I limit my baking these days!) I will share that recipe later this week. Of the other two batches of chocolate chip cookies, one had a full pound of cooked and crumbled bacon mixed into the batter, and the second had some reconstituted dried cherries (but no liquor as I originally planned). After the cookies were done I seriously considered skipping my planned 5-mile run because I still needed to finish packing my suitcase and attempt to get to bed at a decent hour. I figured I could hit the treadmill after arriving in DC instead. But then I remembered how much I hate running on the treadmill so I threw on my shoes and went for a run on the sidewalks of Seal Beach instead. There’s a possibility that it will be warm enough for me to run outside while I’m in DC, but more than likely I’ll be stuck on the treadmill in the hotel fitness center instead. It’s not ideal, but there’s no way I’m going to miss any of my training runs this week. The Surf City Half Marathon is next Sunday and I need to be ready! But I digress. I stayed up too late last night getting ready for my trip, but it was worth it. I will sleep well tonight!
Today I started the process of changing my name on my passport so that I will be prepared for my cruise to the Bahamas in February. (I probably should have sent it in before now, but as usual hindsight is 20/20.) So I pulled my old passport out of a box this evening and flipped through it. I’ve had three passports in my life (check out some of the stamps from my old passports here), and I got the latest one back in 2008 before I went to New Zealand with my ex-husband for Christmas. I’d renewed my passport for our honeymoon in 2007 when my last name was still Gleason, but a year later I needed a new one with my married name on it. It’s a shame this passport was only used to leave the country once. (I’ve used it for several trips within the United States when I accidentally booked plane tickets under my married name…after I reverted back to my maiden name last year. Oops.) Not that New Zealand is anything other than a sensational destination, but I’d like to see more of the world! The good news is that the new passport that I’m applying for now will be used to visit the Bahamas in just over two months. I can’t wait!
I am at Disney World for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon on Saturday, so I might have difficulty updating my webpage everyday while I’m on vacation. But I’m going to do my best for the sake of NaBloPoMo! I started this post on my flight from Austin to Orlando yesterday, but I didn’t finish it before we landed. You’ll see that I was unhappy with the meal I got in the Austin airport!
Schlotzsky’s Deli used to be my favorite place to eat when I was in college. I’d go there every Friday night for a turkey sandwich or a pepperoni pizza and a Cherry Coke to celebrate the impending weekend. It was delicious. So when I went Los Angeles for my first Boeing internship I was happy to discover a Schlotzsky’s not to far from work in Huntington Beach. I didn’t go there nearly as often as when I lived in Gainesville (there were other restaurants to sample instead), but I still liked being able to get a familiar meal from time to time. But then one day I drove over there, anticipating a tasty sandwich for lunch, only to discover that Schlotzsky’s was out of business. How upsetting! So when I arrived at the Austin airport last January on my way to Orlando for the Disney World 10K and half marathon I was so excited to see that there was a Schlotzsky’s in the airport! I was really looking forward to having one of their sandwiches for old time’s sake. The menu was understandably small (no pizzas!) and I can’t remember what I ordered, but it was awful. It was incredibly bland! Not at all what I remember from my college days. What a disappointment. Since then I’ve tried the Austin airport Schlotzsky’s two more times (including yesterday when I was on my way to Orlando) and the quality of the fare hasn’t improved at all. My sandwiches were dry and had very little flavor. How does that even happen? Three strikes and you’re out, Schlotzsky’s. On my way back to Los Angeles next week I will patronize another airport food spot during my stopover. We had a good run, but I’m afraid our love affair is over. Goodbye, Schlotzsky’s!
I’m not sure why I didn’t keep my backpack from college. It was a red Jansport with lots of pockets and a mesh water bottle holder on one side. (If you’ve ever had to walk a college campus in Florida when it’s hot you know how important it is to always have a bottle of water with you.) It was a great backpack, but for some reason it didn’t make the transition to grad school with me. When I went to UCLA I bought a cheap Eastpak backpack from Target (I think.) It was the most utilitarian choice (i.e., extremely boring), but it served its purpose. Since then it’s the only backpack I’ve owned, although it’s been mostly sitting neglected in the back of my closet for the last ten years. But when I went to Hawaii in June and had a little trouble with luggage capacity (you have to be fully prepared when you go on a tropical vacation) I discovered that the ol’ Eastpak was more versatile than I expected. It’s just the right size to hold my laptop, a pair of sneakers, snacks, and all of the other essential carry on items. For years I’d been using a shoulder bag as a carry on when I traveled, but I loved how a backpack freed up my hands for the inevitable (and potentially unnecessary) magazine and soda purchases before hopping a flight. I also used my Eastpak to great effect in Alaska last month. Denali National Park doesn’t have any services past the visitor’s center so we were required to carry all of our food, water, rain gear, etc. on the 8-12 hour bus tours into the park. To my delight my old backpack was much more comfortable than I remember from my grad school days and worked remarkably well carrying a day’s worth of supplies. But after the recent discovery of holes in the bottom of the Eastpak I realized that it was time to retire and replace my trusty thirteen year old backpack. Luckily “back to school” made this really easy. Not only were there bags for sale everywhere I turned, but the prices kept dropping as the summer was drawing to a close. (And by “summer” I just mean the period of time when kids are out of school. The hottest temperatures of the year settled in here a while back and they’re going to stick around for another month or two, much to my chagrin. It was 97 deg in Seal Beach today and I don’t have air conditioning. Aargh.) After doing some research I settled on a North Face backpack from eBags.com with a laptop compartment and water bottle holders. I figure it’ll work well for all sorts of travel situations, from an airplane carry on (like when I go to Orlando for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon at Disney World in November) to hiking (like when I hopefully go back to Alaska next summer). So while I have a lot of respect for the old Eastpak that I am replacing, I look forward to many years of exciting travel with my new North Face backpack!