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Posts Tagged ‘travel agency’

This post will be pretty brief and to the point. With the cancer thing dragging me down, my immune system thought a UTI would be nice. But not just any UTI, one that turned into Sepsis. I got very sick the same day we got 24 inches of snow. Great. Wendy dragged me to the ER Wednesday morning. They checked things out and sent me home. I made it home and Wendy called 911. Fever of 104 was enough for her. And I’m still in the hospital but hopefully on the mend. Fever is down and the morphine is controlling the pain. So I came in at 😡 and currently at 😠. Wednesday night I made MY decision to be put on Hospice. By Thursday night Wendy decided that I had decided wrong. So…I’m still here. Yay me! For any further updates please annoy, I mean call Wendy.

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cokeIf you take a bottle of soda, shake it up, and then take the cap off, I’m sure that all of you know the end result…a mess. That is how my thoughts are about the recent trip that I took to Utah. I was only gone for five days, but so much happened in that short time span that it is hard to sort out my thoughts.

Breaking things down into topical format will be the easiest way for me to get my thoughts organized. I guess I will start with the traveling aspect. But bare with me, the more exciting piece of this adventure, bobsledding, will eventually hit the paper.

I was injured 14 years ago and this was the first time that I got on a plane and traveled alone. I travel quite a bit by myself with my van, but this trip was really a good test of my mettle. Beyond any shadow of a doubt, Wendy spoils me rotten. As a minimalist with a slight case of OCD, traveling alone in a wheelchair really took me outside of my box.

The very start of my trip threw me into a tailspin that took me quite a while to recover from. Since we have flown quite a bit, I know all of the TSA rules about what not to pack. So before leaving home, I went through all of my luggage, back pack, wheelchair pouch, etc., to make sure that I was legal. The last thing I needed was to be tossed off a flight because I was hiding a pair or fingernail clippers. I arrive at the Greenville airport a little after 5:00 AM which was nice to avoid most crowds. Things are going smoothly and the TSA agents are great at helping me get things situated to be scanned and x-rayed. I then go to my little spot to be frisked which is never a big deal. I’m watching my things as they are being looked through when I see one of the TSA personnel motion for the others to come over. There are now about five of them looking into my wheelchair pouch on a table in front of me. They are all looking rather serious, so I casually ask if I forgot to take something out that did not pass. The head security agent takes something in his hand and casually walks over to me and opens hisStupid hand in front of me. I must have turned about 50 shades of white as I was staring at five .38 shells in his hand. My mouth just opened and closed with nothing coming out as I was trying to remember why I even had them on me, and why someone had taken my straight jacket off. Wendy is standing on the outside of a glassed in area watching and wondering what is going on. I won’t bore you with details here or the groveling that I did in the dirt trying to explain why I had them. After several serious chats from the chief TSA agent, he took the shells and brought them outside to Wendy. She turned about as white as I did. Let me just say that the TSA agents handled everything very professionally and with common sense. I was finally allowed to pass on and get to my gate in time to catch my flight. If you look up the word imbecile in the dictionary, you will find my picture along with the description.

From Greenville I flew to Newark, then to Chicago, then to Salt Lake City. Thankfully my ride was waiting for me at the airport who became my first of many new friends, and brought me to my hotel. The mountains and scenery were absolutely amazing, but that will be for another day.

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For some reason this will not embed!! I guess it may be the size of the file.  So please excuse all of the ugly coding, but if you click on it you should be able to see the pics.  I can’t wait for all of the “lovely” comments I am going to get on this post!  Sorry!

 

<div style=”margin-bottom:5px”> <strong> <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/Militaryxusaf/ariels-graduation-day-2013-20863925” title=”Ariel’s graduation day 2013″ target=”_blank”>Ariel’s graduation day 2013</a> </strong> from <strong><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/Militaryxusaf” target=”_blank”>Militaryxusaf</a></strong> </div>

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My beautiful family

My beautiful family

All good things must come to an end. When we left Crete, we were going to spend the last day of our cruise on open waters as we sailed back to Italy. The last day and half on the sea was a chance to wind down from the rapid pace tour we had just finished through five countries. I personally was ready for some down time.

I had taken the many pictures off my camera card and uploaded them to my laptop. It was fun going through them as each one brought back a different memory: The majestic sights of ancient civilizations, unfamiliar languages being spoken all around us, and delightful smells of the new and enticing foods we got to sample every day. Even the Mediterranean Sea wanted to leave us with a memory. There were storms that night, and in the darkness we could see flashes of lightening with distant rumbles of thunder. The water was a bit rough and it could be felt aboard the ship. It was nothing drastic, but there was a definite gentle rocking of the floating city that we were on. That next morning as I brushed my teeth, I would start out at the sink in my wheelchair and then slowly roll across the bathroom stopped only by the opposite wall. I kept brushing as the ship slowly rocked back the other way rolling me back to the sink. It was like the cartoons I remember as a kid of people trying to eat on a ship and the food would slide across the table each time they reached for it. Wendy and I found it quite amusing and fortunately neither of us are prone to sea sickness. Some in our group were not so lucky.

Our group had two final get-togethers nicely wrapping up the past 15 days. Wendy and I wandered around the ship enjoying the afforded pleasures one last time. That night was also our last formal night for dining. One of the couples sitting at our table was celebrating their 55th wedding anniversary and of course I had to put the dining crew on high alert. At the end of the meal they were serenaded by the staff from our section in English and Italian. They also got a special cake with a large candle to blow out. All of it made for great fun and a great memory.

When we docked in Italy, I had my private van waiting for me with the same driver that I had at the start of the cruise. It was nice to recognize someone. He drove us to the airport and made sure that all of our luggage and us were being assisted by an agent before he said goodbye. The agents at the airport were great and personally ushered us through customs so that we would not have any holdups. Our group started to disperse at this point since we were flying back to different destinations. I think there were about 10 from our group that was on the same plane.

We had a night flight back to the USA and I dozed off and on. I never sleep very well on planes but being very tired helped. After one layover in Philadelphia, we were bound for Greenville, SC. Kara and Ariel were there waiting for us with big smiles and hugs.

Without a doubt, this particular trip was one of the best that I have ever been on. But as we all learned from the Wizard Of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

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IMG_0615IMG_0614We left the port of Piraeus and set sail for the port of Chania in Crete. Wendy and I didn’t have any set agenda while on Crete since there were no planned tours for our group. We were actually looking forward to a quiet and relaxing day.

A couple of friends and us decided to get off the ship and just leisurely stroll around the port village, check out a few shops and then head back to the ship for lunch and a lazy afternoon. But of course what would be my life without at least one amusing thing to pass along.

Some of you reading this have known me for years, so it will come as no surprise when I tell you that I live my life “as a man with a mission” attitude. Everyone has their own word to describe a person like that. My wife is polite in just calling me stubborn, but I assure you that others are not always so polite.

Anyway…when we left the ship, one place that Wendy and I wanted to see if we could find was a pharmacy. We had picked up a cold along the way and needed some cough drops. The ship did have some but had actually sold out. I guess we were not the only ones with a cough. Unlike America, there was no Walgreens or CVS on every street corner. We have no understanding of the Greek language and had no idea what a pharmacy would look like even if we found one. We enjoyed the numerous shops and cafes in our travels, while I kept a watchful eye for my pharmacy. Success! We found a very obvious and modern pharmacy. The inside was very much like being in a nice small town “drug store” back in the States. I found some small bags of cough drops by the register and thought “this was easy.” So I waited in line listening to the people speaking in Greek around me and figured I would have no problem making myself understood to the cashier what I needed. When it was my turn, with the cashier understanding a little English and me pointing and mimicking a cough, it was easy to have her take two bags of my desired item to pay for. “Euros? You only take Euros? Can’t I use my credit card?” (As I showed it to her) She continued to say no and sorry. She was doing her best to be helpful as she pointed up the street and said “bank.” Wendy by this time was ready to give up and let us live with a cough. The cough drops cost 8 Euros which is very expensive. But if I find myself stubborn, I found my friend even more so. He was now a “man with a mission” like me, so his wife and Wendy gave up and said they would wait for us to return with the Euros.

IMG_0620So Craig and I headed down the street for about a block and found the bank. Outside of the bank we found an ATM and thought everything would be fine. So I took my card, inserted it into the ATM, while Craig was looking at the screen since it was too high for me to see. Uh-oh, no English at all. Only Greek. But do we quit? Never! So pressing a button with a red X on it (hoping to get my card back),  into the bank we must go.

Security at the bank was very tight and nothing like most banks at home. A security guard inside would press one button and the first of two doors would open. The person going in would then close the door they just went through and they were now in a very small space about the size of a phone booth with a second door in front of them. Then the security guard would press button number two to let you enter the bank. This worked fine for Craig, but certainly was not designed for people in wheelchairs. There was absolutely no way of me getting into the bank that route. So Craig went inside to explain the situation while I sat outside watching him attempt to explain the problem with lots of arm motions while pointing at me and the door. He stood there a moment waiting while the security guard left and returned with a lady that I imagined spoke English. I watched Craig go through all of the motions again explaining to her the situation. She took a key from the security guard and opened the exit only door to allow me inside. She did speak a little English but it didn’t go much beyond hello, ATM, and customer service. So now Craig and I are both looking like we are trying to “lift off” flapping our arms around to explain that I need some Euros. We are finally escorted to the customer service line where we take a number and wait for the six people in front of us. By now we had put on quite a show for everyone so we just stood quietly to the side while people stared at us.

When we finally got up to the front of the line, we started our arm flapping explanations again to the customer service agent, only to have him point to the ATM outside. We tried to explain that it was only in Greek and we needed help using it. He called for the same lady as before to come over and see if she could understand us. I would show her my card, point to the ATM and say “no English.” She got the key again and the three of us were escorted outside by the security guard to the ATM.

Meanwhile, back at the pharmacy, Wendy and Lauri thought we had be abducted or something and decided to head to the bank to find us. About an hour of time had passed by now. When they got to the bank they found the four of us around the ATM trying to figure out what to do. The bank manager put my card into the ATM and the screen came up as they say “all Greek to me.” Craig and I started pointing and trying to explain that we did not understand what buttons to push. She just held up her hand and said “wait.” We just all stared at the screen for about 30 seconds and then it flipped to English! Lots of thanks, smiles, more pointing and very red faces on two impatient Americans.

Wendy was giving me one of her “glares” that most husbands get I’m sure. But I at last had my Euros. We headed back to the pharmacy, I bought my small bag of cough drops for about $12.00, and we headed back to the ship while Craig and I spent the entire time explaining to our wives what had happened. They were laughing, but I think at us, not with us.

Oh well, such is my life.

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When we left Athens, we started the drive along the coast to the ancient city of Corinth. Before we got there, we stopped at a place to eat lunch that was right beside ofIMG_0610 the modern day Corinth Canal. Construction on the canal started in 1881 and was completed in 1893. It is four miles long and about 23 feet wide. Cut through solid stone and built at sea level, there are no locks involved. But because of the canal being so narrow, it serves very little purpose economically today and is mostly used by tourists with small boats. Even so, it is still impressive to see.

If you were to study the geography of Greece, it is easy to see why the ancient city of Corinth was such a strategic place for military and commercial reasons. Located on a narrow isthmus connecting northern and southern Greece, Corinth was the first century hub of Greek civilization. The narrow isthmus virtually provided southern Greece from any land invasion. A very small military regiment would be able to defend the land with little difficulty. And commercially, anyone traveling north, south, east or west would pass through Corinth with money to spend.

IMG_0602At the time of the Apostle Paul, first century AD, Corinth stretched the four mile distance across the isthmus. It would have been thronging with merchants, IMG_0605sailors, travelers and military. The central focus of Corinth, the Agora, was located near the Corinthian Acropolis which was close to 2000 ft. above sea level. This was the main thoroughfare to go from the Mediterranean Sea to the Aegean Sea, and Corinth took full advantage of that. The merchants shouting to the passing crowds to buy their goods, eating places with delightful smells enticing people to spend their coins, places to rest and spend the night, and many temples for the gods making their fortunes from the very old profession of prostitution. It is believed that the temple of Aphrodite had over 1000 temple prostitutes.

Because of an earthquake in 1858 which destroyed the city of Corinth, people rebuilt the present day city of Corinth about three miles away on the coast. This allowed unhindered excavation of ancient Corinth that has been going on since that time. One of the most imposing structures found was the temple of Apollo. Seven of the 35 original IMG_0607columns remain standing. And in the middle of all of this hustle and bustle, the Apostle Paul arrives to preach Christianity to the Corinthians. There was a large Jewish population in Corinth that did not like Paul’s message. They accused him before Gallio of breaking the law. The bema, that Paul would have stood on for his trial, has been found in the center of about 30 shops and businesses. Surrounded by unbelieving gentiles and Jewish people, Paul was prepared to defend himself and his message, but Gallio spoke before Paul could utter a word. He told the people that Paul had broken no laws and that they needed to deal with it themselves. So basically the case against Paul was thrown out of court. For those of you that might be interested, the account of this can be found in the Bible in Acts chapter 18.

While we were there in the middle of the excavations, looking around me, it was very easy to picture the entire scene of that time. I was asked to share a short devotional here which was very humbling. I say humbling because I had to ask myself “would I have had the courage of Paul, to stand so strongly for my beliefs, facing the opposition that he did?” I doubt it. Like many, I am content to live my faith in a very mediocre version. I certainly left Corinth with much to think about in my own life.

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imagesIMG_0577Welcome to Athens! Named after the goddess Athena in Greek mythology, Athens is a beautiful city with its highest point being the “The IMG_0569Acropolis,” home of the Parthenon. For those of you that may not be familiar with Greek mythology, Athena arrived on the scene springing from the forehead of her father Zeus, being fully grown and clad in armor. Now I have two daughters, and I might even have had one or two headaches over the past 25 years induced from being a father of daughters…but nothing like the headache Zeus must have had! lol

We docked in the Port of Piraeus at 6:00 AM and were eager to get started on a full day of site-seeing. Once again we were on a smaller private bus equipped with a wheelchair lift and our own guide. When we arrived at the Parthenon, the larger tour buses were parked near the bottom of the Acropolis and everyone was faced with a long walk ahead of them. Our bus had permission to drive us to a nice parking area right at the base of Mars Hill and the Acropolis.

When I got off the bus, we started a fairly steep climb to the main park entrance. The path was flat but certainly was not smooth. Remember as a kid when you would jump from rock to rock to get across a stream? Maneuvering my wheelchair here was something akin to that. I would jump/bounce my chair from one flat surface to the next trying to avoid the cracks and holes between the stones. Of course considering the stones had been set in place around 450 BC, it was actually pretty good. Wendy of course was helping me and taking it slow and easy I made it just fine.

IMG_0554IMG_0555Once we got to the main entrance, everyone else geared up for the long walk up the trail and stairs to the Parthenon. We veered left and took a trail that went up around the side of the Acropolis. It was pretty steep but made out of some decent pavement. Our guide was bringing us to an “elevator” that would bring us to the top. I’m still smiling thinking of the look on the face of a friend in our group as he saw the elevator. What it actually was, was a caged box that went up a sheer cliff wall on a single geared monorail type of IMG_0581system. The closer we got, the more nervous he got. I on the other had found it fascinating and looked forward to the ride up. We finally arrived at the bottom of some stairs where I rode a wheelchair lift up to the elevator. The operator, our guide, and Wendy and me piled into the small box, cage doors slid down with a bang behind me, and the entire thing rattled and shook as we started our ascent. Once above the tree tops, the view was breathtaking! There were holes and crevices in the cliff side that birds were sitting on their nest in watching us as we continued up and up. We finally reached the top with a slight jolting stop, the cage door slid open on the opposite side and I rolled out onto a ramp that hung over the top of the Acropolis. And there in front of us was the smaller Temple of Erechtheion and the Parthenon.

IMG_0575IMG_0564The smaller temple was dedicated to the Greek hero Erechtheion. The most fascinating feature to this temple was the “Porch of the Maidens.” Each maiden was uniquely sculpted and served as the columns to hold up the roof. There was a street that curved aroundIMG_0574 and up from here to the Parthenon. This was some very rough going for a wheelchair. However, once again people that I did not know at all came to the rescue. A guy volunteered to pull my wheelchair up the steep and rocky street so that I was able to sit right at the base of the Parthenon. I got to take plenty of pictures of the amazing structures that surrounded me. When I started back down, the same guy appeared and carefully brought me all the way back down to the ramp. I always found some amazingly nice and helpful people wherever I went.

I rolled out to the end of the ramp hanging in space and waited for the lift to come up for me. We got into our clanky little cage and started our descent down. Once at the bottom I “jumped” my wheelchair from stone to stone working my way back to the bus. Any accessible issues were minor indeed. I was just sitting in front of a 2500 year old temple from the past. Now how cool was that?!

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