Non- Revenue and Space Available

One of the funny things that they say about flight attendants is ” Marry me, fly for free.” Now that was not the carrot that drew me to my lovely wife Janet, but it sure was a great perk while it lasted. 31c039e513832a80dde8f645936e7d8e
I can remember the first flight by myself as a “non-rev” passenger. In those days we had to wear a coat and a tie and Janet told me not to ask for any food unless they had enough to serve. Living in guilt ridden hell like I did, I didn’t move for the 5 hour flight to L.A. I politely refused any service and sat in the seat quietly and read my book for the entire flight. When I got to LAX, I ran to the men’s room and breathed a huge sigh of relief. When relating the story to Janet, she said the flight attendants probably thought I was some kind of weirdo. I got better at flying “non-rev” after that.
I saw a lot of places in those days and the ski areas were the number one target. Who can pass up a free flight to ski out west or in New England? chair 23
I got pretty good at judging what flights were full and where to go. I also got quite adept at changing my clothes on I-70 East in Colorado on the way to DIA. Many times I was stripping down from ski clothes to a rumpled mess of a sportcoat, tie and pants while on the move eastward. As I ran into the airport many times barely making the flights, I prayed that the doors would close and I would not get bumped. I didn’t realize that I still had the zinc oxide on my lips and the suntan lotion slathered all over my face. The baseball hat covered up the greasy helmet hair and all was good headed home. Although my seat mates probably did not appreciate the sweat and the stench for the 4 hour flight. 03jack395.2

Jan and I had a lot of nice weekends together to the west coast when she worked a San Francisco flight or a San Diego flight. We would head out on a Friday night, get to the hotel and go out on the town. The next day we would get up early and sight see and hit every tour and restaurant we could during the day. We would have lunch at George’s on the Cove in La Jolla and see the Jags and the players in their Gucci shoes. I would ask Jan if she had a nice time? She would say “yes” and then I told it was time to get back on the bus with the bag ladies to San Diego. Reality struck hard. Then the plan was to take a quick nap because she would work the “red-eye” and we would be back in the burg early on Sunday morning. Those were whirlwind weekends.

When we would head to the beach, Jan became a weather channel junkie. If there was even a sniff of a tropical disturbance off the west coast of Africa, we were out of there. She always told the horror stories of getting bumped during hurricane season and often our trips were cut short because of a pending hurricane that was still thousands of miles out in the ocean. photo

One time coming back from Jackson Hole for a ski trip, we were stuck in Chicago. We waited two days and there were no “space available” seats. No chance whatsoever with all the cancellations and we rented the last vehicle available at O’Hare and drove through the blizzard back to Pittsburgh. We had my cousin Michael in tow with his buddy and were packed like sardines as we braved the harrowing roads headed east.

Oftentimes, I would be in the airport and would run into a flight attendant friend of Janet’s, who would laugh and say to me, ” are you flying again and your wife is working?” I sheepishly said yes but somebody had to do it! No wonder my neighbors called me the married bachelor.

Janet eventually retired from the airlines when we had our son Jack and we moved to the frequent flyer points from Southwest for a ticket. The good thing about those is that you actually have a seat and are not subject to the potential of getting bumped off the plane in some location that was a connection. We continued to travel together but in a more relaxed mode and my individual, last minute trips eventually came to an end. However, being the flexible curmudgeon that I am, frequent flyers and work trips became a new target for associated fun. But the adventures of the “non-rev” flights will always be in my memory because of the unknowns of weather, full flights, and last minute runs to the gate because I had to get that last ski run at a major resort. Traveling space available with ski bags and bike boxes was a challenge, but it was always worth it when you reached the final destination. photo

Flights today are packed and when Jan speaks to her flight attendant friends that are still working, they say flying “non-rev” is difficult because of the full flights. So, we laugh and say, we got it while the getting was good. Lots of fun times and lots of memories thanks to my wife’s hard work with USAIR. Thanks for reading and don’t bring that zeppelin bag for the overhead. Check it. My wife’s buddies will appreciate your courtesy.

Get to know an Austrian

Trans Can HigwayGoogle Image Result for http--www.flags.net-images-largeflags-AUST0002.GIF (2)photophotophotorodeln01 If you check out my Janury 23rd blog post about my time in Austria called “The Rodelrennen” you will see some funny things that happened along the way there. If you are a skier, at some point you will meet an Austrian. Even if you are not a skier, you will still like the stories of a very passionate and humorous people whose lives revolve around winter sports. As I said in the post, my first experience with the Austrians was on an exchange trip between U.S. and Austrian ski instructors. I was a guest for two weeks in that country and participated in the Rodelrennen(read about it), skied in many areas including the Soelden glacier where the recent World Cup opening races were held, and taught for a week in Kuhtai- a small resort near the Italian border. Witnessing the Hahnnenkamm World Cup Downhill Race, I got to see the passion of the Austrians up close and personal as 100,000+ people line the “Streif” to see their heroes rocket down the slope at nearly 90 MPH into the finish area. This race is like the Super Bowl in Austria and the whole town of Kitzbuhel buzzes with the energy of the world’s greatest ski race.

In my teaching experience over there at Kuhtai, I was reminded that the origin of ski instruction was in St. Anton, Austria. The technique of the Austrians was never questioned and the introduction of the wider stance by the PSIA American Technique was seen with a wary eye by the patrons of the Kuhtai resort. I was trying to teach them the wider, more athletic stance that the racers were using, but the ladies and gentlemen who were taking the mandatory lesson at the time would hear none of that. They wanted me to guide them basically around the resort and not try to teach them anything new especially the current teachings of the PSIA. I drank their plum schnapps and reveled with them as they all enjoyed their time in Kuhtai, but make no mistake, we were in the land of skiing- Austria. Anyone else who thought differently was a usurper to the ultimate degree.

Personally, I have met many Austrians in my skiing adventures and as much as they are a proud people who take their winter sports very seriously, they are a fun lot. Take my friend Max Katzenberger. Max was a pilot for USAirways and was proud of the fact that he was a captain and worked his way up through the Austrian military. He always walked in front of his crew and remarked to me one time that whenever he was in a holding pattern and wanted to land, he just thickened up his accent a bit and they got him down in a hurry. Another time, some guys were ignoring the flight attendants on the plane and their instructions. Max called the security at the gate and had them removed from the plane. He remarked,” I tell you guys to behave, you don’t behave, now you go to the Klink!!!” You don’t mess with an Austrian. Max was fun to ski with and was a very enjoyable host on my honeymoon with Janet. We met Max and his wife Barb in Austria and toured the country with them. They showed us his home town of Moedling and we spent some time in the Austrian wine country in the foothills of the Alps in a town named Gumpleskirchen. Max had that joyous love of life. He passed away a few years ago and he is sorely missed among the local ski community.

Josef Cabe was the ski school director at Hidden Valley Resort here in Pa. for many years. Josef and I would travel to PSIA update clinics and it was so funny to hear his big hearty laugh and his very thick accent. He constantly criticized the clinic leaders and insisted on showing them the right way to ski. He was strong as a bull and could ski most people into the ground, including the clinic leaders. In the evenings, he led the group in song with Austrian anthems and everybody loved Josef on the slope and off the slopes.

Another Austrian that I spent some fun time with was Rolf Sigmund who owned a ski shop in town at the time. Rolf was a solid skier in the Austrian mold and we went heli-skiing one time in British Columbia together. He didn’t like the off piste skiing in the trees, and in the wind packed conditions that you get sometimes before you hit the deep powder that is always shown in the movies for heli-skiing. Sometimes it gets pretty rugged and Rolf always remarked to me on that trip that,” thees is pullsheet McClaaaahskey. We should go to Tahoe. The slopes are smooth and the chicks look at you in da lines and it is way more fun than theeees pullllsheet McClaaahhhhskey.” I laughed as he tried to bribe the helicopter pilot into flying us back to the lodge so we could watch the Super Bowl. Rolf was hilarious as he drank his schnapps and abused some loud obnoxious New Yorkers who were along on the trip.

I got my rear end chewed pretty well one time by a rather intimidating Austrian named Rudi Kuersteiner. I was with a group of guys skiing rather fast through a beginner area at Whiteface in the Adirondacks. We were there for a clinic and Rudi saw us and skied up to us at the bottom of the hill and demanded that we all follow him to the side of the slope. There he told us in no uncertain terms how rude we were and how dangerous it was to ski that fast where beginners are learning to ski. He was right!! We were wrong and were told so by an old pro. Again, you don’t mess with an Austrian. Fun loving people but don’t get on their bad side.

The Austrians are passionate people and if you get the chance to ski with them, talk with them, drink beers with them, you will surely have a good time and you will be told how skiing really is and how you must go to Austria to ski where it all began. I always laugh when I think of their universal famous line to me…………” you don’t know sheeeeet McClaaaahhhskey.” They are right. Thanks for reading.

Packing for a Trip is an Art and a Science

Adventure Rolling Duffle, Extra-Large Duffle Bags  Free Shipping at L.L.BeanGoggin_Samson These are the famous words of Steve Elliott who is a co-worker and a very experienced traveler. Steve travels light on business trips but he is also a motorcycle rider and has to be careful of what he takes on trips because he has to support it on the bike. Steve is also an accomplshed photographer and it is amazing what he can fit into his camera bag. His experience traveling the globe has taught him the wisdom of not taking too much when you travel. You only need so much and with experience, you can learn what is important and what is not.

I have my own protocol which I will share with you, but first I would like to entertain you with the major mistakes that I have made in my life and the lessons that I have learned. For instance, in my early skiing and camping days at Tuckerman Ravine, I thought it would be a good idea to pack my food in my pack in Pittsburgh before I left on my 12 hour drive. I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of a loaf of bread and put them back in the bread bag. As they bounced in my pack on the way up, and on the hike up, and against the wall of the lean to as I slept, by midweek I had peanut butter and jelly doughballs to eat. Freeze dried foods were the answer. I bought a hockey goalie bag one time because I thought it would be the perfect bag for all equipment and clothing on a trip. The problem was that the space made me greedy and I packed way too much and the bag weighed a ton. I now find that several bags like the duffles from Bean are perfect and have rollers. With the hockey bag on one shoulder and the ski or bike bag on the other shoulder, I was lucky I did not throw my back out of whack. Way too much weight in one bag.

I just finished reading a book by Paul Stutzman called “Hiking Through”. It is his story of his journey all along the Appalachian Trail. It was interesting to read how he sent winter clothing home at the post office and picked up a shipment of lighter clothing from his friends. Obviously there is a lot of planning in arranging food and clothing drops but the mantra of the trail is the lighter the better. When you hike 2000+ miles, you need your pack to only contain the essentials and not extra clothes and food that you do not need. Ramp this up a bit and the packing rules for climbing Everest can be so strict that climbers break toothbrushes in half to conserve weight. When you get to those altitudes, you need your pack to be as light as possible because the effort is really difficult and one thing you don’t need is to be heavy in the pack.

So, bringing it back to my level again, these are my protocols for my different activities:

Skiing- I start from the feet up. Skis, boots, poles obviously. I then pack my socks, longjohns, ski outfit, a couple of t-necks, a sweater, a fleece vest, wool hat, gloves and a baseball cap with a pair of jeans. Most of this can fit in my green duffle and the ski bag and if you overflow, you can use the ski bag for extra clothes. But I try to make sure I have cold weather gear because I can always strip down. But I find that if I go from the feet up, I don’t usually forget anything.

Cycling trips- again, I go from the feet up and make sure that I have cycling shoes,socks, extra cycling kits, including arm warmers, and knee warmers, some rain jackets that can be packed in the back of a cycling jersey. T shirts, underwear, and shorts with a fleece vest are usually the only other thing you need. One time we went for a two day down and back road bike ride on the Skyline Drive in Virginia. We made arrangements to stay at a hotel on the southern end. All we had was a pair of running shorts and a t-shirt stuffed in the back pockets of our cycling jersey along with our wallets. We rode 100+ miles on the Skyline Drive, checked into the hotel, showered, ordered a pizza and sat around in the t-shirt and shorts and went to sleep. The next day, we put the cycling stuff back on again after we had washed it in the sink, and stuffed the clothes in the back of the jersey again. Two 100+ days on the bike with minimum baggage. We had to carry everything so the lighter we were, the better we were.

Hiking like the other two activites is dictated by the length of the trip and the weather expected. But as we have said, the lighter the better. Like the Skyline Drive ride, all of our needs are on our back so it good to save the back and keep it light. Foul weather gear is important but you must look at the weather and if it is warranted, make sure you take it. Hypothermia is no joke so be light but be prepared.

One final word is packing for your daily exercise. I utilize our local county park for running trails and mountain biking. I have made a practice of packing my clothes the night before, and taking my running shoes or bike with me to work. I have found that if I would stop home before I go to the park,I could get delayed with some chores that I can finish after my workout. Also, it is too easy to come home, sit on the couch and put the tube on and be a slug. If you pack your stuff and take it with you to work, you can change in the car like me or go to the mens or ladies room at the park. I have been known to utilize red lights on the highway to make some quick changes in the car. Not recommended unless you have some skill from years of experience like the 58 year old kid. Sometimes you get burned like when I was stripping out of my ski clothes and into a suit for a funeral when a police car pulled me over. As I scrambled to get a shirt and pants on, the officer politely came to the car and told me to be on my way because he was pulling over the guy behind me. Whew. Close call on the road.

In any event, no matter what trip you take, or what activity you do, give some thought on how to pack and how to pack lightly. There are always washing machines and dryers everywhere. At the very least there are sinks and drying racks. So why load up with anything more than the essentials like foul weather gear. Take a tip from Steve. He has traveled everywhere and never had an issue packing light. Thanks for reading.