Winter Park Florida, No You Didn’t!

I came to Winter Park to find a Trader Joe’s and you had one! Also nearby is an Irish Pub and a Shake Shack?! I Love Shakes! I must go in. One chocolate shake please, no crap on top. What, double chocolate? Um Yeah!!! Dee-lish! This is the perfect town! And, it’s a glorious 78 degrees outside. So if you’re stuck inside for a meeting or it’s cold outside, well, Sucks to be you!

Advertisements

Orlando, Florida! No Snow Here

I highly recommend getting away to Orlando if it’s cold where you are.  It’s a wonderful feeling to wear a t-shirt in January. Points and Miles work Great here!

  1. Fairfield by Marriott 3 nights $853.00 or 30,000 Points ($270.00 in value). Used 30k Points!
  2. Silvercar, Audi for 3 days $126.00 or free with Sapphire Reserve $300.00 Credit. Used Sapphire!
  3. Uber from Airport. Free with AMEX Platinum $15.00 each month Uber Credit.
  4. 2 Allegiant Air r/t tickets. $210.00. Used Ritz-Carlton $300 Credit to pay for carry-on, seats and priority boarding (2018) Bought Tickets In 2017 using Ritz-Carlton 2017 Credit. Total cost $0
  5. Ate on the plane $16.00 or free with Ritz-Carlton Credit. Free

Total out of pocket for 4 days 3 nights in Orlando. $0.00. Even the 30k for Marriott were from a sign up bonus. Probably will cancel Ritz-Carlton next month when renewal comes. Anyway, enjoy the view!

 

Finding the Gate to Hell; Culture shock in a Chinese Bathroom.

This is a cautionary tale of travel. Ok, cautionary but hilarious. I was thumbing through my pictures of our trip to China and oddly, I found this photo. It looks like a bathroom floor but in reality, it’s the entrance to hell; at least that’s what I thought that day…

7A11452C-3740-440C-9948-45B2CD9B014F.jpeg

So how did I end up staring into the abyss? It started in Vietnam. When we travel, we like to wander and we wandered into a “restaurant”, for lack of a better word, for some Pho. The #1 Rule of travel is “don’t drink the water” especially in countries that have signs everywhere that say “don’t drink the water”. The first thing I noticed as we enter, is a lady sitting on the floor pulling cooked chicken off the bones and putting the meat in a bowl. The stack of bones was about two feet tall, so I concluded that she had been at it a while.

We sit down, order Pho and drink some strange packaged beverage while we’re waiting. By the way, Pho is a noodle/vegetable soup kinda thing and I ordered mine with meat (not chicken).

Our meal came, it was good and we left. I spent the next hour trying to identify what kind of mystery meat was in my soup and finally gave up as it was probably better not to know. That night, my stomach was not very happy. Soon we go to Cambodia and things go bad fast. Four days later we’re in China and while I felt okay, my digestive system was having epic problems.

I always believed that I had two things going for me; a garbage gut and a twisted sense of humor. The first was a mess, the second was having a heyday. I couldn’t help but think of all those movies in which so and so slipped a laxative into someone’s drink and the hysterical bathroom scene that followed. I looked around for cameras, thankfully there weren’t any.

While in China, we took a bus tour and ended up near Changping. After forcing myself to eat lunch, the proverbial “sh#t hit the fan” and I was in desperate need of a bathroom. It was a chilly day and I was wearing multiple layers of shirts and a coat. I finally found a bathroom, sort of.  Picture a large room with stalls and no doors. On the floor, a hole. No rails, no hooks and to my horror, no toilet paper. Apparently it was a “bring your own” kinda place.

I stood over the hole, peering into the abyss seeing only darkness with no bottom; I expected flames. People were walking by. I realized that I was now in hell and was running out of options quick.

They say necessity is the father of invention and I was at critical mass. I learned three things that day; The gate to hell is way too small, Pho is an evil soup and that I came in wearing a t-shirt and left in a halter top. Desperate times and all that.

Finding the exit as fast as possible, I stealthily made my way to the bus, waiting for the maintenance crew to run screaming from the building in search of the culprit.

Ultimately, I was able to leave the country without being arrested and forced to clean that building. It took an additional two weeks to clear that nightmare from my system. It never occurred to me that I would ever catch a stomach bug, but I forgot one important thing; Pho is a soup and that soup usually has a broth and that broth is made with water and that water probably came from a faucet that has a sign above it that says “don’t drink the water”. I do also hope the maintenance guy is done with his therapy and back to living a normal life.

Happy Travels

 

 

 

3 Refresher Tips For the Airport; Play Nice!

Rule #1. When at the Airport, Don’t mess with TSA.  Rarely will a confrontation with TSA staff end well. Don’t try and deceive them or cut corners on the rules. Travel can be challenging enough, so just “play nice”.

 

Going From A to B. The Second Half of 2017; By the Numbers.

 

Our return from St. Louis marked the end of our 2017 Travels.  It’s been an amazing year and I am looking forward to 2018.  Our next trip is to Florida in January. In an article dated July 31st, 2017, I broke the numbers down for the first half of our year.  I’ll list the numbers for the second half of the year and then I’ll do a grand total for 2017. We started the second half with a trip to Santa Fe, NM and ended the year in St. Louis, MO.

  1. 12 trips, ranging from 1-7 days
  2. Stayed in 12 different hotel Brands
  3. Stayed in 1 VRBO
  4. Stayed in 1 AirBnB
  5. Flew ~11,000 Air Miles
  6. Drove ~8,740 Miles
  7. Rented 6 Vehicles
  8. Used 3 Ubers
  9. Endured 9 different Airports
  10. Held Lilly’s hand for 24 airplane take-offs and landings
  11. Visited 12 US States

Clearly the second half of the year was a bit more sedate than the first half.

Here are the combined numbers for Travelinggump.com’s 2017 Travels:

  1. 28 Trips, ranging from 1-17 days.
  2. Stayed a total of 119 nights in various Hotels
  3. Stayed in 2 VRBO’s
  4. Stayed in 1 AirBnB
  5. Flew ~60,000 Air Miles
  6. Drove ~15,440 Miles
  7. Rented 13 vehicles
  8. Endured 31 Airports ( A few more than once).
  9. Held Lilly’s hand for 86 take-offs and landings
  10. Visited 19 US States
  11. Visited 5 different Countries
  12. Took 7 buses
  13. Took 4 Taxi’s
  14. Used Uber 9 times
  15. Used Lyft once
  16. Used one Roller Coaster to get to and from the Great Wall of China
  17. Used 3 Tuk-Tuks
  18. Added well over 1.5 Million Points/Miles to my travel portfolio
  19. Reached Diamond status with Hilton, Platinum with Marriott/Ritz and Starwood, Spire Elite with IHG (Intercontinental and Holiday Inn) and Discoverist with Hyatt (Ho-Hum).
  20. Loved Every Single Minute Of It All! (except maybe the tummy bug I caught in Vietnam, not so much).

Wishing you Happy Travels and a Wonderful 2018!

Michael

The Last Trip of 2017; St Louis, Mo

As the year draws to a close, I realized we had no travel plans for New Years. The year can’t end this way! 2017 has been an amazing travel year that came in like a lion.  A quick check of Hotels and a trip to St Louis was added for the 30th-31st.  I’m doing the Marriott Platinum Challenge and St. Louis will make #8 of the needed 9 stays.  The St. Louis Marriott Grand and a nice dinner at Mizu Sushi Bar made for a great end to a wonderful year. It’s hard to believe that this time last year, we were in New York on Times Square.  I wish everyone the best and blessed 2018 possible and as always, Happy Travels!

Pull Back The Curtain; New Orleans, Louisiana

If New Orleans were a vegetable, it would be a sweet onion.  It’s all about the layers. This amazing city offers to you what you seek. Want a light historical stroll? Fine, no problem. Want to experience more, keep digging and this City will open it’s Soul. But beware, the more layers you peel back, the “deeper” you go and it can be overwhelming.  I’m good for about 5 layers of 10. The voodoo and spirits freak me out, yet I just can’t stay away. (Maybe it’s the food). This is definitely a bucket list City!

The Traveler’s End

O’ weary traveler, aged and too weak, lies resting in the grass and soon falls asleep. He dreams of past travels, his path lies ahead, but is blocked by an Angel, who’s voice speaks of dread.  He opens his eyes, his journey complete, for he has seen his fate and soon starts to weep.

Resting nearby, She’s saddened to see, that the traveler has learned, what is now to be. His adventures have ended and time will not wait, for St. Peter is standing, holding open the gate.

Heaven hath decreed and called out his name, She learns that Death’s been sent, to take him away.

Though the hourglass has spoken as no sand remains, the soul of the traveler, owns her heart just the same. She cries out to heaven, for here he must stay, but the Angels refused, crossed their arms and looked away.

As Death drew near, aware of her plight, he cautions her gently, not to resist Heavens might. Softly she spoke, as that is her way and begged Death to leave, without much delay.

Death paused for moment, unsure what to say, then bows to her warmly and leaves, on his way. But Heaven was watching and reminded him his task and also that pleasing Mother Nature, is not what was asked.

Now the traveler was at peace and all that remained, was for Death to guide him back, to that Heavenly domain. Impatience was growing, within the Celestial reign and Death was reminded, to look once again.

Death peered into the darkness, but no traveler was seen, as She had blinded his eyes, by a deft use of rain. He had others to tend and soon he was gone, as many souls still need passage, to the land lying beyond.

She went to the traveler and protected him from sight, as the angels were curious where he had gone to that night. Mother nature is strong and incredibly wise, She keeps what she wants, from all prying eyes.

Though never thought fickle or a thief in the night, Mother Nature surprised Heaven, by cunning and might. The Angels then wisely, after searching all night, chose to not turn this folly, into a Celestial fight.

What virtue has he, to earn such a right, to be hidden from Heaven at this very time?

He was gentle to her, our Mother you see, kind with her home, as true traveler’s should be. He basked in her beauty and never once did stray, always “smelling the roses” as he traveled each day.

In sunlight they wander, though the Angels do stare, Mother Nature and the traveler, walk the earth, hand in hand.

As twilight comes and the sun yields to night, their two souls join as one, turning darkness to light.

He now sleeps within her bosom, eternally at home, resting ‘neath his name, carved in white marbled stone.

Why I Write, Post and What I Want From You. (Tip: It’s not cute pet pictures)

I write two Blogs. Travelinggump.com and Thesunflowermuse.com.  The first, mostly for travel and travel tips/ideas, the second, for opinions, thoughts and articles about our social condition.  I post on Twitter, Instagram, WordPress and Facebook.  Three sites are “blowing up” (Instagram, WordPress and Twitter) with followers.  Facebook is “meh” and I would like that to improve.

What I know:

  1. If I don’t write or post articles or pictures of value and interest, I should expect nothing in return.  Generally, I put an enormous amount of thought into most of the articles that I write, especially on Thesunflowermuse.  I’m trying to get to the core of the issues.
  2. That there is a “process” for getting your posts to the right audience, which I’m working on.
  3. That people are inundated with “stuff” and “like” whatever is easy to see/scan and are generally too busy (understandably) to read in detail. Hence the enormous popularity of pet pictures/videos.  Ugh.
  4. Despite having a large amount of followers, I am not getting the traction I want, especially on my personal facebook page, which supports the theory; “You can’t be a prophet in your own land” and/or you really need to improve your articles. The first I get, the latter I don’t feel the need to change at this point. Going forward, I’m going to try and confine myself to the two sites listed above.

What I want from you:

  1. If my articles are of no interest to you or my opinions are too this or that, leave.
  2. If they are of any interest, entertain you, provoke or evoke a thought or passion, acknowledge it somehow.  On Thesunflowermuse.com, my thoughts and opinions can be challenging and are written to be thought provoking.  Feel free to complain, gripe or even correct my grammar (please!), something! If you don’t agree, say so!
  3. And lastly, on Travelinggump.com, I am fortunate to have excellent advertisers (Amazon, Holiday Inn, Expedia, Orbitz, Trivago etc…).  Please search and book through my page as it costs you nothing extra and helps me to keep them happy.

There is so much “noise” on the internet today and I am trying to rise above the cute animal pictures/videos and provide great Travel Tips and Ideas (https://travelinggump.com) and Thought Provoking Stories and Opinions on The Human Condition and Society (https://thesunflowermuse.com). Please Engage.

Best Wishes, Michael

 

These Precious People are My Life.

912E83B3-ED1A-4ABD-9222-A8B9811E8CD6I’m taking a moment to be thankful for my wonderful family,  Like us, they are all travelers, braving life’s challenges to see the world and to live their dreams.  They are all successful in their chosen fields, driven by an incredible urge to succeed and to make a difference.  Spending time with them is our favorite thing either here or abroad and we are always left with a sense of awe at the way they continue to face the world head on.  They are our greatest success although with the mistakes we made as parents, I  really don’t know how they did it.  They have each conquered the world on their own terms while we have enjoyed a front row seat.  I am truly the luckiest Dad in the world and I have loved every minute of it!

Tired of Traffic Congestion? How ‘Bout the Versatile Scooter!

In most major cities of the world, the scooter is the “family car”.  Not here in America though.  Our love affair with the automobile is well known as are the excuses we offer as to why scooters won’t work for us.  Such as:

We can’t haul our “stuff” for work or pleasure…

 

….and how do we haul our pets?

 

I need my SUV for my kids; what about the family?

But what about the weather?

IMG_0252

 

Ok, but my car defines me, I like some Bling!

IMG_0236

 

Fine! But how can I dazzle my love? What about romance?

IMG_0247

The next time you’re bogged down in traffic, maybe you’ll consider the glorious and versatile benefits of the scooter.

Happy Giggling Travels!