A Trip!

By Shamus Posted Sunday Dec 4, 2016

Filed under: Notices 158 comments

As I said on the Diecast last week, I’m going on a trip. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks writing content to hopefully get us through until the end of the year. However, I totally forgot to queue up the next few episodes of World of WarcraftIt actually takes some time to re-post those on this site, because I have to wrangle with the links and formatting tags and give the images captions.. So we don’t get to catch up with Norman and Gabstab today.

So instead, let me tell you about the trip I’m taking later this week…

The Goal

Rachel, my oldest daughter, moved out last spring. She moved all the way to Texas, which is about 1,500 miles (~2,400 kilometers) away. In terms of driving, that’s roughly the same distance as going from London to Moscow. When she moved out, she traveled light. I think she just took one suitcase. Nobody was sure if this move was permanent and so it didn’t make sense to do a big move. But it’s been almost 9 months. She has several jobs and has clearly developed a new life down there.

So now we want to see our daughter, and we want to give her all of the stuff she left behind. Her remaining belongings are too big to fit on a plane and too expensive to ship. She doesn’t have a driver’s license yet, and even if she did I’d be nervous about a new driver making this huge journey all by herself. (Also, she doesn’t have a vehicle yet.)

The only solution is for us to drive to Texas ourselves.

The Problems

It’s a long drive. You can do it in two days, but only if you’ve got a couple of energetic adults who are willing to push themselves.

We don’t have a lot of money at this point in the year. We certainly don’t have enough to pay for hotels all along the way. Heather has many internet-friends between here and there who are willing to put her up for the night, but (sigh) they all have house pets. Which means I can’t go with her. Same goes for my daughter Esther, who has similar health problems.

I suppose Esther and I could just stay home. But Rachel wants to visit with all of us.

The Solution

Everything is bigger in Texas. Except for the hills, which don't exist. This is a picture of Lubbock county, which is somewhere close to where we're going.
Everything is bigger in Texas. Except for the hills, which don't exist. This is a picture of Lubbock county, which is somewhere close to where we're going.

Heather is going to load up the minivan with all of Rachel’s things and set out a couple of days before I do. She’s going to make the drive with my son Issac, with him navigating. Then Esther and I will fly from Pittsburgh to Dallas. Heather will stop by the airport and pick us up, and then take us the last 5 hours to where Rachel is. The family will stay in a hotel for a few days, and then we’ll do the whole thing in reverse. Heather will drop Esther and I off at the airport and then drive home herself, arriving a couple of days after us.

If you’ve read the deep parts of the archives on this site, then you know I hate travel. That is, I like being places, but I hate going places. I like the visit itself, but the trip fills me with anxiety.

I’m not sure why. It’s clearly an irrational fear. The stress I’ve been experiencing for the last week or so is akin to the kind of stress you might feel when suddenly losing a job or having a loved one fall seriously ill. It’s hard for me to think about anything else. Sure, travel is inconvenient, but it’s not that bad, and I have no idea why I’m so neurotic about it.

It doesn’t help that this is a really complicated trip. We have two groups using two different modes of travel with an arranged pick-up at an inflexible time. That’s a lot of moving parts, and so a lot of ways things can go wrong. Which means I’ve had lots of disaster scenarios to ponder for the last week. Implausible but stressful events leap to mind pretty much the moment I stop thinking about anything else.

It is really annoying that you can continue to feel an emotion even after you recognize the emotion is irrational / inappropriate. I strongly feel like we should be equipped with some sort of “ignore” button for situations like this.

I don’t even know what we’ll do when we get there. I still won’t be able to visit Rachel where she’s living now, since she lives with pets now. We could take her out to eat as a means of socializing, but that gets expensive. I can’t go to the rodeo, which I assume is the only form of entertainment in Texas. And simply hanging out in the hotel room doesn’t sound very interesting. We’re hoping some sort of cheap (free) passtime presents itself once we get there.

Now You Know

So that’s why I’ve been an angry, stressed-out bundle of nerves for about a week. It probably won’t get any better until I stagger back into the house a week from now.

In the meantime, THANK YOU to the people supporting me on Patreon. If it wasn’t for your help, there’s no way I’d get to see my daughter this year.

If all goes well, content should proceed uninterrupted. The Tuesday column and current Thursday series are already written. The other contributors have made some podcast / video content, and have plans to make more next weekend while I’m gone. I’ll be keeping up on comments when I get the chance, but I might be a little slower than usual. Try not to burn the place down while I’m gone.



[1] It actually takes some time to re-post those on this site, because I have to wrangle with the links and formatting tags and give the images captions.

From The Archives:

158 thoughts on “A Trip!

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Sure, travel is inconvenient, but it's not that bad

    Youll have to go through the tsa.Twice.To me,that would be that bad.

    Try not to burn the place down while I'm gone.

    In your place,Id be more worried about leaving the keys to the articles to Josh and Rutskarn.Who knows what Josh might post and what Rutskarn might end up deleting forever.

    1. Shamus says:

      These days, the most frustrating part of the TSA isn’t the checkpoint itself, but the people who insist that “it’s not that bad”.

      NO! This is not normal! Don’t get used to this! This is not how a sane society lives! Do not give in to incrementalism! This is sick, idiotic, Orwellian, and dehumanizing.

      Deep sigh.

      Of course, I see this bullshit as “new”, but there’s a whole generation of 20-somethings out there who can’t remember anything else.

      1. Grimwear says:

        As one of those twenty somethings I can’t really remember anything else. Aside from having to remove my jacket and belt, my hometown airport is more akin to standing in a line where I just need to show them my boarding pass at security, get my carry on scanned and step through a metal detector (also they always swab my laptop for bomb residue because the thing is giant).

        I know the United States has a few more disruptive rules like needing to remove your shoes and there has been the rise of full body scanners now (my city has one but I’ve yet to ever see it used). The only time I’ve come close to using it was when I was passing through LAX and my line got chosen to use it. I refused and instead chose a full body pat down. While extremely uncomfortable and I hated every minute of it, I did take some solace from the fact that the officer who had to pat me down and stick his hands down my pants was also uncomfortable doing so. Small victories I guess.

        As an aside Australian domestic flights have an extremely lax security policy where anyone can go through security (I have vague recollections of this being the case everywhere when I was a child?) but you need only show your ticket to get on the flight instead of your ticket and a piece of ID.

        1. Ranneko says:

          I really like that aspect of domestic flights in Australia, because you can actually see someone off on a trip, and as someone who isn’t travelling security can be very quick if you have taken the requirements into account when you made your plans for the day.

          As a traveller my biggest pet peeve are the people who somehow make it to the security queue without reading the signs and then need the staff to explain to them that they cannot take their bottles of water and they do need to take off jackets, etc. before going through the scanner.

        2. krellen says:

          Australian security sounds a lot like US security pre-TSA.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            I would love blimps to be used as a mode of travel, simply to have less requirements for security. Sure, it’d be an overnight trip, or multi-day trip, but:
            – You could easily robotify all blimps, since they move so slowly.
            – Even if you didn’t, the increased weight and space allowances means you could have security guards with guns.
            – Both of the above mean that passengers would only need to go through a metal detector, and have their bags screened. No more of this 30+ minute[1] line-up for TSA bullshit.
            – Passengers could walk around nearly all the time.
            – You could probably fit a small lounge in the blimp.
            – You’d be sleeping in a tiny bunk like on a train, but it’s still better than sitting upright in a cramped chair on an airplane.
            – You could afford to spend the weight on making all the passenger zones into faraday cages, so people could use whatever gadgets they wanted at all times.

            [1] One time, I was in a 15-person-wide line for an hour, before we all broke into 5 single-person lines for another hour. Yes, it was a busy time at a busy airport, but back before all the extra security checks, the busy time just meant 30 minutes in one line, not multiples of hours in multiple lines. That super-wide line blocked most of the hallway that it was located in, further adding to the stress, because I literally could not see where it was going or how long it was. I say hallway, but it was one of those big thoroughfares that look like you’re in a shopping mall, with all of the overhead signage.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              ““ You could easily robotify all blimps, since they move so slowly.

              Most planes already are mostly automated.The pilots are there usually just for take offs and landings(which autopilots already are pretty good at) and emergencies.

              ““ Even if you didn't, the increased weight and space allowances means you could have security guards with guns.

              The reason blimps had so much free space was because they were luxury liners.In a luxury plane,you can also fit a bunch of cool stuff.Commercial planes are cramped just so we could fit as much people in there as possible.

              Also,having guns on a blimp is kind of a bad idea,on account of the highly flammable gas being just over your head.

              ““ Both of the above mean that passengers would only need to go through a metal detector, and have their bags screened. No more of this 30+ minute[1] line-up for TSA bullshit.

              The tsa bullshit has nothing to do with how much security you have on a plane,or how much free space there is.Its only due to paranoia and so many people being cramped.For luxury planes,you can skip all that hassle.

              ““ Passengers could walk around nearly all the time.
              ““ You could probably fit a small lounge in the blimp.
              ““ You'd be sleeping in a tiny bunk like on a train, but it's still better than sitting upright in a cramped chair on an airplane.

              You can do that in luxury planes already.In fact,in the first class of some commercial flights,you already can turn your chair into a bed,you have ample walking room,and you have an actual bar with drinks.

              ““ You could afford to spend the weight on making all the passenger zones into faraday cages, so people could use whatever gadgets they wanted at all times.

              Which already is practically a thing in luxury planes and some first class accommodations for commercial flights.

              So yeah,if blimps ever had the chance to turn into a mass transit system instead of a luxury sky yacht,they would have the same problems planes have today,only compounded by their slow move speeds,lack of room compared to planes,more susceptibility to weather conditions,etc.

              In fact,all of the forms of transportation have stark differences between commercial and luxury options.For example,there is a special train in my country that was used by a former president back in the day,and is now a tourist attraction.Its practically a hotel on rails,with wooden panelings,baths,huge chairs and comfy beds,and even today it offers more comfort than regular commercial trains,which are 50+ years younger.But of course,the price for using it is orders of magnitude higher than using a regular train,which is why it was reserved for heads of states back in the day,and for tourists who can pay thousands of euros for a single ride today.

              1. John says:

                All modern blimps use helium as a lifting gas. Helium is flame retardant and is actually used to prevent fires in certain types of industrial welding. You are almost certainly thinking of older airships like the infamous Hindenburg which used cheap, convenient, and extremely flammable hydrogen.

                1. Abnaxis says:

                  Which is something I never understood. I mean, filling a massive dirigible with hydrogen and piling people onto it is just a *stupid* on the face of it. What in the world possessed engineers of the day to think it was a good idea?

                  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Its much cheaper,and the actual risk is not that high.The hindenburg was just a freak accident.

                    1. Abnaxis says:

                      Even today, one of the primary barriers to using hydrogen as a fuel source is figuring out how to transport it safely without the method of transport going up in flames.

                      I think you are seriously underestimating how combustive hydrogen is. The hindenburg wasn’t a freak accident, it was a guaranteed to happen eventually.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      No,safe hydrogen production and transportation are solved problems.The primary barrier to using it as fuel is that its of lower energy density than other fuels and that in order to use it safely you require specialized storage.This means that below certain size,using hydrogen is more expensive and it also yields less power over time.But for rockets,this isnt a problem,because you need a huge tank,and you need to burn it quickly.Also,hydrogen is sometimes used as an industrial coolant,again a place where huge amounts of it are required.And one of the most important property of blimps is that they are massive.

                    3. Abnaxis says:

                      You need specialized storage so you can transport and distribute hydrogen without it blowing up. That’s literally the engineering barrier to using hydrogen I am talking about.

                    4. SKD says:

                      IIRC the standard and preferred dirigible fill gas of the day was Helium. Hydrogen was used in the Hindenburg due to cost and availability

                  2. David W says:

                    Wikipedia has a pretty good explanation, actually: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LZ_129_Hindenburg#Use_of_hydrogen_instead_of_helium

                    Basically, the US had pretty much all the helium available, considered it to be a strategic weapon-related material (remember, airships bombed London in WWI), and refused to export helium to anyone, let alone to Nazi Germany. Despite that, the initial design was helium on the hope that the US would make an exception for civilian use, and only converted to hydrogen when that didn’t happen.

                    So from the engineers’ standpoint, it was pretty much hydrogen or scrap the whole project. Add in a little bit of ‘well, we’ve fixed all the problems we’ve run into so far’ (apparently the Hindenburg’s fire was after its 63rd flight, safer than the Space Shuttle!) and it’s depressingly easy to understand. All it really takes is enough self-confidence to think that the previous problems were because those engineers weren’t as clever as you are.

                    1. Joe Informatico says:

                      The first zeppelins were made and operated during the Weimar era*, but the Treaty of Versailles still prevented Germany from importing helium.

                      *The Nazis, and specifically Hitler, hated airships and preferred airplanes. But the people loved the zeppelins–Ferdinand Von Zeppelin’s successor, Hugo Eckener, paid for the construction of the Graf Zeppelin with public donations, and Eckener was a national hero for his airship successes (he was also publicly and politically opposed to the Nazis, which also didn’t endear airships to the National Socialists). The Hindenberg disaster gave the Third Reich the excuse they needed to kill airships.

                  3. Andy says:

                    It’s actually our (the USA’s) fault. At the time, helium was only available from gas wells in the US, and it was prohibited from export. So it was simply not available to the Grrmans.

                    Hindenburg was actually initially designed for helium, but re-engineered for hydrogen when the US refused to license the helium export.

                  4. In the engineers defense, they KNEW it was a bad idea. Helium was very hard to come by in Germany at that point, and the Hindenburg was full of anti-fire precautions. It took 7? regular trips before it went down in flames, and it’s always been suspected (but never proved) that a crewman deliberately started the fire via timed bomb as a form of sabotage, but since the blimp was in a holding pattern for a number of hours before it landed due to weather, he couldn’t get off in time.

                    1. Abnaxis says:

                      See, now that makes sense. “We knew it was a bad idea, but it was either do that or no blimp” is definitely he sort of rationalization you see people make all the time.

                  5. Incunabulum says:

                    16% increased lifting capacity for the same volume.

                    The Hindenburg was designed to use Helium – it was a shortage of access to it in the roll-up to WW2 (export restrictions by the US against Germany) that lead to it being switched to Hydrogen. And when that switch was made they actually increased the size of the passenger area.

                    As for the Hindenburg ‘disaster’ – 35 fatalities out of 97 people onboard – certainly less safe than modern aviation, not what I would consider to be worth freaking out over though.

                    1. John says:

                      My wife’s grandfather was on the Hindenburg, dude. He had to jump from the burning wreck. His wife and kids, who were there to meet him when he got off, had to watch the thing burn. In the end he escaped with nothing worse than a broken leg, but I think he, his family, the other survivors and spectators–to say nothing of the relatives of the dead–were entitled to their freak-outs, don’t you? The fact that “only” a few dozen people died doesn’t mean it wasn’t a disaster.

                    2. Incunabulum says:

                      Family and survivors – fine. What’s that, a couple hundred people max.

                      People freaking out about an incident that actually wasn’t that damn bad, especially still doing it a generation later – not fine.

                      And, frankly – your *wife’s grandfather*? You’re getting upset over my not being upset about it?

                      A few dozen people dying makes it a disaster for the people directly involved. Not necessarily for anyone else. The Hindenburg is famous not for the scale of the disaster but for how ‘photogenic’ it was – how vividly it could be captured and printed out around the world.

                    3. Abnaxis says:

                      The only reason the people survived is because the Hindenburg went up while it was close enough to the ground for people to jump. It’s like having a malfunctioning plane while it’s taxiing down the runway–inconvenient to be sure, but it shouldn’t be bad enough to kill a third of the passengers.

                2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                  Hydrogen is still cheaper and more convenient.The only reason modern blimps use helium is,again,the fact that they are not a mass transit system.A mass transit system reliant on blimps would most definitely use the cheaper alternative.

                  1. Abnaxis says:

                    I see what you’re getting at–yes, they will cram as many people on a blimp as will fit to get the most money per trip–however, there are limits. Going bankrupt after the envelope turns into an inferno is not cheaper than using helium to build your blimp. And any massive vessel filled to the flaps with one of the most reactive elements on the periodic table *will* go up in an inferno eventually.

                    It’s worse than making a commercial jetliner out of recycled aluminum today–there’s cheap, and then there’s *stupid*.

                    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Yes,eventually.But that eventually may be on the next flight,or it may be 100 flights from now.The fact is,chances of a disaster and the damages being paid after a disaster are a thing that does go into a calculation of how viable something is,and also into the price of it.Heck,the reason maintenance is being skirted by many aircraft companies is because their cost is over the predicted cost of paying the damages if something does go wrong.Its also the reason why there are so many inspections and harsh fines for anything that could affect the health of the people.

                    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      As for recycled aluminum,whats wrong with that?I mean,you dont use all of the metal that goes in for the same purpose.But as long as the product of recycling has the same percentage of pure aluminum as the mined one,its still as good.Its not like you use the whole ore without refining it anyway,so why is refining scrap any worse than refining rock?

                    3. Abnaxis says:

                      Yes, risk analysis is a thing engineers do when they make any product, and loss of life is a part of that risk assessment in design. Yes, companies do slap a dollar amount they’re willing to tolerate without spending more on more expensive construction. I have done these analyses myself professionally, I know how it works.

                      What my point is, is that filling a balloon with hydrogen and slapping a passenger car on it SO FAR OUT THERE on the risk/cost curve, that no engineer in their right mind should have signed off on it unless they had no other choice. Which is, apparently, what the actual situation was as lined out above.

                      As far as recycled aluminum goes, I’ve never worked as someone producing said aluminum, but as an engineer who has priced and written specifications for what aluminum has to be used in a product, I know that if you want to use recycled aluminum you will only save money if you aren’t too concerned with the exact ratios of elements in the alloy you get. At my company, we actually had to start 100% lot-testing the aluminum we got from one supplier because they kept trying to sneak in recycled aluminum alongside the actual aluminum we needed for our product, because it’s cheaper. Don’t ask me why this is true, it’s just true that it’s harder to get recycled aluminum in the exact alloy you want it in unless you want to pay much more for it.

                      Which means you definitely shouldn’t be using it in commercial aircraft bodies to save on material cost.

                    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

                      Thats because there are several grades of aluminum you can get from recycling,depending on what you recycled it from and the process used to do it.But you can get pure aluminum by recycling,though definitely not in the 1:1 ratio.I think the problem is that some recyclers lump all of it together as the same product.

                    5. Joe Informatico says:

                      There was a decade of almost perfect safe travel with commercial passenger airships before the Hindenberg disaster, a far better record than airplane traffic over the same time period. It’s only after the Nazis, who never liked airships and despised Hugo Eckener, the head of the Zeppelin company and a political opponent, came to power that they sidelined Eckener and his commitment to safety, let standards slip, and used the opportunity of the disaster to ground airships forever.

              2. djw says:

                The gas is only flammable if they use hydrogen… Helium is completely inert.

                1. Matt Downie says:

                  Points gun upwards: “Nobody move, or I’ll make all your voices go squeaky!”

                  1. Incunabulum says:

                    Helium is lighter than air Ahmed.

                    1. SKD says:

                      True, but the pressure will drive it out of the envelope using any available route, namely the entry and exit holes of the bullet assuming the envelope is nothing more than a simple balloon with nothing else to absorb the energy of the bullet. Actual dirigibles tend to have all kinds of cross bracing, multiple self-sealing air chambers, and would quite possibly have kevlar sheathing on at least parts of the envelope.

            2. King Marth says:

              I continue to be morbidly fascinated by people who truly, sincerely believe that adding guns to a situation can somehow make it more safe.

              Honestly, which is more likely – someone already insane enough to smuggle a gun through multiple layers of security onto a massively crowded means of transportation will be deterred by the presence of opposing guns (which, if used, would likely end up hitting other passengers anyway and furthering whatever sick and twisted agenda drove the “bad” person to bring a gun anyway), or there is any sort of accidental incident (misfire, theft, psychological breakdown, these armed guards being poorly paid and overworked like everyone else connected to airline travel, etc.) from having multiple highly-dangerous weapons on all routine flights?

              Apologies in advance if this skirts too close to politics.

              1. Incunabulum says:

                Then you are for taking guns away from the police? No Air Marshals on planes (I’m cool with that).

                1. Viktor says:

                  There’s already no Air Marshals on planes(1 per every 200 flights is the best estimate). So yeah, the lack of people getting shot on planes is probably due to there not being any guns on planes.

                  As for cops, how many unarmed people have been shot so far this year with no punishment for the officers involved?

                  1. Incunabulum says:

                    I think this is straying too far into politics for this site. So I fully expect that we’ll be shut down and deleted as soon as Shamus gets wifi access again.

                    BUT . . . (Gods I can’t help myself).

                    1. By the TSA’s own measures they are 95% effective . . . at missing bombs and firearms being smuggled through security WHEN THEY KNOW AN EXERCISE IS BEING CONDUCTED.

                    If there are no guns its far more because no one who actually makes it through with one has any intention of using it except in self-defense.

                    2. Not many cops this year are facing scrutiny (let alone discipline) for shootings – but more than last year so we’re getting somewhere. In any case, I’m for cops having the same legal access to the same firearms that the populations they serve do. No more, no less – they *are* civilians after all.

                    3. I’m not keen on surrendering all my (reasonable) self-defense capability to a third party who takes on no liability for my safety. The incentives to do the job properly are not there. Principle-Agent Problem.

                    1. Shamus says:

                      Okay. That’s enough of this. I’ve seen this argument before. I already know how it ends.

                      Let’s just move on.

              2. King Marth says:

                Apologies a posteriori for the inciting comment. Just enough foresight to see it, not enough to avoid it.

            3. Zak McKracken says:

              Blimps or not: If you’re flying, you can lift a certain mass. You can either make as much as possible of it payload (cargo or paying passengers), or you could use some of that for comfort, but then the costs of the flight have to be split between fewer passengers. If you wanted afordable tickets, you’d have to make the passenger space as small and light as possible, and even then it’d be more expensive than airplanes, since you’d need more bathrooms, sleeping opportunities, food and drink… Seeing as how even cargo blimbs are not really a thing these days (i.e. even if your payload needs no bed, it’s cheaper to put on a plane), I don’t think it would work as you imagine.

              Also, being in a closed space for several days with peolpe who have guns and are authorized to boss me around is not how I imagine a pleasant journey.

              1. The Unforgiven says:

                I have no idea where to actually stick this comment in this long chain so I’m going to stick it here, and I skipped a few above this one so I may be repeating someone else. If so, I am sorry. I just wanted to point out that a bunch of people keep using the word blimp when they should be using the word zeppelin, the two words are not interchangeable. It’s like mixing the word car and truck. While both are land vehicles, they are quite different.

                A Zeppelin, like the Hindenburg, has a rigid airframe within the inflatable portion of the aircraft. A blimp has no such structure and is essentially just a big ballon.

                Seeing all the people misusing the term was starting to erk me. Sorry.

            4. Abnaxis says:

              I do actually kind of wonder, though, if security would have gotten so strict if it was harder to weaponize commercial aircraft.

              Say what you want about dirigibles–it’s a lot less threatening imagining one wafting it’s way at a building than it is imaging a jetliner hurtling it’s way toward the same building. Since fear of the latter (rational or not) is what started the whole TSA-craze in the first place, maybe we wouldn’t have so much security in the terminal…

            5. John the Savage says:

              Sadly, until we can figure out sustainable nuclear fusion, blimps of all kinds (travel or parade) are going to be too expensive to be feasible for much longer. The fact is, the planet is running out of helium, and as fun as big balloons are, we actually REALLY REALLY need it as coolant for really important electronics like satellites, MRI’s and the LHC.

          2. krellen says:

            What the hell did I start?

        3. Da Mage says:

          Flying domestic in Australia is great. Line up, put your bags through the scanner and metal stuff in the tray, then occasionally get picked out for bomb trace scanning. Never takes more than a few minutes to get through security, just depends how many people are waiting to go through.

        4. Peter H Coffin says:

          I’m old enough to remember airports before there were even metal detectors. There was a row desks where you’d buy tickets and drop off bags for flights. Then you could walk to the gates. That was it. Sometimes people would go to the airport and hang around the gates just to watch planes take off and land. Open, airy designs were common. You still see relics of that design in airports today, but there’s glass walls cutting through, funneling people around. Even when the metal detectors showed up in 1973, they were just “walk through this thing; if it doesn’t beep, you’re fine”. And you could still go through them without a ticket to meet a friend or relative at the gate, or to use a closer bathroom, or to patronize a restaurant.

          1. Yeah, Pittsburgh airport used to have an amazing play space where you could go and run off steam AND watch planes take off. It was awesome. The whole airport used to be this awesome mall type place you could go, hang out, buy Christmas gifts, watch planes…. sigh. Now it is almost all behind a huge security barrier and even the play area is gone. :(

          2. Zak McKracken says:

            Yep, and these days those restaurants behind the security check are twice as expensive and the money-changing business (at least in the UK) is all in one company’s hands*, and boy does everyone make use of the fact you can’t just up and leave, or even bring a water bottle.

            * Important hint: do not change money at any UK airport, ever! Not even at the machines which claim they did not have fees: they simply adjust the exchange rate to about 10% below the referencerate, but you won’t know unless you check independently.

        5. John the Savage says:

          Hm, I’ll have to pay more attention next time I’m in Aus. My sister lives in Sydney and my brother in Perth; flew out to see them both a couple years ago. I remember security being more relaxed on the domestic flights, but not THAT relaxed. Then again, I don’t remember much from those flights: my dad was so intent on sleeping through them that he booked them past midnight and HEAVILY medicated himself (to the tune of an Ambien, a Dramamine, and two in-flight bottles of wine), so I was basically babysitting him the whole way.

      2. exsiccation says:

        As a Canadian, the worst part about air travel for me is when going to the US, you go through CBP. Even though there’s realistically nothing to worry about, most of the time the agents aren’t very friendly and treat you like a two-year-old. I’ve had one or two good experiences, but there have definitely been times where they tried to pick on every possible point and then seemed angry and upset when they couldn’t figure out any reason to turn me away.

        I understand border security is important, that those people are doing their jobs, and so on, but it’s intimidating and awkward to have everything you say looked upon with obvious suspicion, if not outright hostility. Combine that with general anxiety issues and it’s definitely the most nerve-wracking part of any international flight.

        After that, standing in a body scanner or getting a pat-down is a cakewalk.

      3. The benefit of TSA is that I have to walk in my socks across germ infested pathways, then stand in a stupid pose inside a scanner like I’m a car maintanence jack.

        Apparently, in all my hundreds of flights across the country (divorce… shit…) it’s still unsafe.

    2. ? says:

      Who knows what Josh might post

      Something like Shogun playthrough?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        That would be a dissaster of biblical proportions.

        1. Caninicus says:

          Total War: The Bible!

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Now I wish we had a real biblical epic video game,of the scope of ten commandments and spartacus.

  2. MichaelGC says:

    some sort of ‘ignore’ button

    Aye right. Also a ‘delete’ option. Although…

    >Delete badmemory.mne

    Are you sure? This operation cannot be reversed.


    badmemory.mne contains not-fully-absorbed life lessons that’ll stand you in good stead, so they will. Would you like to learn from these and perhaps try to do a bit better in future?


    Deleting badmemory.mne … 87%

    Error. Cannot delete badmemory.mne. Some elements must be manually deleted. Please contact your nearest bar for further assistance.

    Anyway, have fun & safe travels!

    1. Droid says:

      Hilarious! Thanks for this comment!

  3. Duoae says:

    Good luck, Shamus! I, too, suffer from that ‘likes being places but hates travelling’ sort of thing. I don’t appear to be as bad as you as I don’t worry about things going wrong, for me it’s more of a control issue – there are too many things out of my control and I know people are stupid…

    Even simple stuff like getting on a plane appears to be complicated for everyone else. We all have assigned seats (well, if the company overbooked the plane then you didn’t get to the stage of being ready to board in the first place so that’s a different issue) and the plane will not leave without us and yet, for some unknown reason, everyone piles into the queue to get onto the plane itself. Seriously, even when the attendants call out the rows that should be boarding, those not in the called-for seats will get up and push in the queue – not to mention that everybody wants to push to the front, because….. well, I have no idea!

    And that’s just one small part of the whole process. Forget the hotel, not understanding a different language or public transport system (seriously, it seems that every system in every city is different and we have no standardised way of paying for things or interacting with things. Switching between mobile phone manufacturers is easier!!

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I seriously don’t understand the people who rush to the front of the line for airplanes. I mean, we’re all stuck on the same tin-can for several hours. Nobody can make the plane go faster by rushing to their seat, and every passenger who’s on time with a valid ticket will be allowed to board. So I just calmly proceed when I’m called (usually last, since the cheap tickets are at the back), or even wait until everyone else is done if it’s especially crowded. Maybe the people who rush are all the jerks who somehow got allowed to take two huge bags as carry-on, when the rules clearly state you only get one small bag, and one purse. Friggin’ people with their extra bags – now there’s no room for my backpack!

      1. Peter H Coffin says:

        They’re rushing because they have maximum-size carry on wheelie-bag, a “laptop bag” that’s the size of a small ottoman, and a purse big enough to carry a Labrador Retriever. And they’re gonna put that in an entire overhead bin FORWARD of their seat so they don’t have to wait for the exit rush to settle enough that they can go upstream back to their luggage.

        People trying to dodge checked bags fees are one of the bigger annoyances of contemporary travel.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        I frequently fly without checked bags, and this is how it goes (in Europe, at least):

        1: Most airlines (not all) allow one carry-on bag of certain size and weight, plus a “laptop bag” or similar. That’s usually enough for a weekend, in many cases for a full week. And it makes everything faster if you don’t have to check in your baggage and then retrieve it later. Not just faster, but also a lot less risky for your baggage: if you don’t check it in, your suitcase cannot be lost or damaged, and damage by being checked-in luggage is the biggest limiter the life of any suitcase I’ve owned so far. There are only upsides to avoiding checked luggage, especially since baggage fees can easily be 20% to 40% of what you’d pay otherwise.

        2: When boarding, the only thing to avoid is to be somewhere in the middle of the cue. The first ones to get in have free space, the last ones have it also relatively easy but the in-betweens need to squeeze through an aisle full of people storing their luggage, to find their seat, then find a place for their luggage, while others try to squeeze past them…
        My strategy: If I have a window seat, I try to be early in the queue, so I can put my bag away (small bag under the seat because that’s polite, and it has the stuff I might want to use during the flight), sit down and not have to get up for anyone or be in anyone’s way.
        If I have an aisle seat, it’s better to be at the end, because otherwise you’ll have to get up for 2 to 3 other people who have the seats between yours and the window, and that leads to big gongestions.

        Somebody researched the quickest way to board a plane, and ideally the airline should let people board window seats first, back to front (assuming you’re boarding from the front door only), then the intermediate ones, then the aisle seats. That way people don’t get in each others’ way half as much. Of course, that would ruin the business class’ privilege of boarding first and getting to obstruct everyone else, so that’s why we can’t have that…
        I know there’s a good video on that but I only found this one:
        …explains it reasonably well, too.

        1. Duoae says:

          Some good tactics but they only work for some types of planes. The routes I fly tend to be smaller planes (e.g. 737-800s) so you don’t tend to find space in the overhead lockers if you’re on last. But, hey, no pushing past people who are travelling together and who want to talk to each other despite not sitting next to each other! :D

      3. John the Savage says:

        Well, it makes some kind of sense for airlines like Southwest, which doesn’t have pre-assigned seats, but a place in line for picking them. One curious thing I’ve discovered, though, is whenever I fly Southwest, I’ve been able to get a seat in the front row (despite being in the middle of the line), because people seem reluctant to take them despite the great legroom. Granted, without a seat in front of you, you need to stow everything in the overhead, but that’s never been a problem for me (grabbing my laptop from the overhead is not significantly harder than grabbing it from the seat compartment).

    2. Lachlan the Mad says:

      I live in Australia. Being anxious about travel is perfectly normal. It takes me a good five to six hours on bus and train to visit my parents, and they’re only two cities away. Flying internationally is hell.

    3. Rodyle says:

      What I hate most about travel by airplane (and also train, bus and other modes of mass transport) is that I’m not in control. I can’t have a quick break at a service station or stuff like that. No, I’m bound to the capricious schedules of a line of busses, boats and trains, with no idea of where I need to go to make it in time for the next one.

      Furthermore, I would really like some control on who I sit next to. No thanks, I would rather not sit next to the white-trash aching for a cigarette while their baby is crying for eight hours, thank you very much.

  4. Baron Tanks says:

    Good luck! I understand the anxiety. I’ve seen people get in all kinds of states when travelling. Myself, I do a shrug and undergo it, as an insignificant cog getting crushed in a machine bigger than me. A reluctant acceptance.

    And thanks for mentioning the Patreon, I know how you feel about mentioning it and don’t want to beg, but I’ve been supporting (not with much, but with some) since half a year ish and next to devouring all the content, reading that it allows you to see your family is more fulfilling than anything else. Yeah call me a sob, it’s just how it is.

    Try to enjoy as much as you can, I bet it’ll be one of those things that aren’t as bad once you’re there and you’ll look back on being thankful you did it.

  5. MichaelG says:

    Hey, it could be worse — you could be in a wheelchair like me!

    To get people in chairs on a plane, they have these narrow little metal chairs that fit through the aisle. I have to transfer into that thing and be strapped up with about 5 straps, then dragged into the cheap seats at the back of the plane, where I have to get into the regular seats. Except that I don’t have my wheelchair cushion, so they are uncomfortable. And the armrest gets in the way of transferring into the seat.

    To avoid jamming up the aisles while people are boarding, they put me on 30 minutes before anyone else, and take me off only after the entire plane has emptied out. So the flight is over an hour longer for me. I can’t get up and use the bathroom, so better not drink anything that morning. And I’m counting on them not to lose or damage my wheelchair (both have happened.)

    The TSA patdown also has extra problems for me, since I wear medical equipment, and they never seem to know what to do. I have to explain it all while waiting in line. While they are scanning (hopefully not losing) my carry-on and laptop.

    Then the hotel room bathroom is frequently inaccessible, even when they say it is, and the beds are too high for me to transfer in and out of easily. For some reason, that’s gotten worse over the years. Some of it is comical — a bathroom with lots of grab bars and a shower chair, except they put the chair at the opposite end of the tub from the controls. So you can’t actually sit in the chair and turn on the water…

    Lots of fun! So I sympathize. Have a good trip!

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I can understand stuff like old buildings that were built without ramps, grab-bars, etc, but putting the equipment in the wrong spot just sounds crazy. I understand construction projects can be a huge game of Telephone, but I’m pretty sure this information could be written down. Wait, I’m definitely certain it could be specified in the contract, to follow building codes X, Y and Z, to ensure proper allowances for people in wheelchairs. Diagrams with specified angles, lengths, etc, are not a technology foreign to humanity! :S

      1. Viktor says:

        Those building codes and designs are usually written by able-bodied people, who don’t have the practical experience needed to understand what’s actually needed. Good intentions, but the results can be more of a hindrance than a help.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          From my experience actually working with these things, I more expect that it’s because there are a lot of people besides the code designers who all need to follow the code to the letter, who are also able-bodied people. People read drawings wrong, or a building engineer makes a mistake on a drawing, or an installer forgets to put in the bench and has to add it last minute, or the commissioner fails to notice where a contractor cheaped out and didn’t install the correct railings, or nobody noted that there’s piping behind where the railing is supposed to go until the last minute., or…

          Construction is a big hairy beast, made bigger and harrier by the fact that low-bid contractors can an will get away with any cut corners they can get away with. I’m sure the original standards and codes are up to par, but the systemic problems inherent in construction mean that they’re almost never fully implemented.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Its probably due to the thing being designed by people who arent disable themselves thinking that they know whats required so they dont ask for any input from people who do need such things.Basically they go “Yeah,I can reach it just fine,so thats how theyll want it”.

        1. MichaelG says:

          Part of the problem is conflicting requirements. People in wheelchairs want the bed the same height as a chair seat. Older people want high beds so they don’t have to bend down to get into bed, or straighten up to get out of it. Since lots of older people request handicapped rooms, it makes them worse for people in chairs. Same with those ridiculous toilets with 6-inch thick seats!

          The shower layout is just a mistake — no one tries these handicapped layouts before they put them in the plans. And that’s a shame, because a big hotel chain will make every room the same in every one of their buildings!

    2. Having worked with a lot of wheel chair bound people (both special needs young people and my current elderly lady) I feel your pain. When we would take out our special needs kids we never even bothered with “handicapped accessible bathrooms” what a crock. Put them in the back where you can’t even fit through the door to get to them? Yeah, not helpful.

      Handicapped laws are pretty useless, making useless spaces that don’t benefit people who actually need them AND costing the people who had to build them extra cash. My favorite are handicapped ramps that go up to narrow walkways around the bend from a door- yeah, can’t do it. Or handicapped parking spots in locations where you can’t actually navigate safely TO the ramp, and THEN can’t get to the door, which barely fits a wheelchair anyway. Why bother.

  6. 4th Dimension says:

    Wow. That kind of complicated logistics sets off warning klaxons in my mind. It will only take minor things to disrupt it, like plane being late or roadworks and such.
    On the other hand Heather should hopefully be there before you if you give her enough of a lead, and since she is not as picky about accommodation she should be able to absorb any time mismatching.

    Curiosly while I am a worrying anxious type of person, I do not have much of an issue with travelling. But then again the travelling I have done in the past 6 years has all been with my work colleagues during our regular trips that include relaxation and visiting other schools in the region, so I did not have to worry about transport or accommodation too much.

    Anyway good luck and have fun.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Also,you live in a country where a 2400km trip would take you all the way around it 3 times.

      To me,the longest round trip I had was about 1800km,and that meant me going through 4 different countries.And the most time wasted was on the border checks.So yeah,we live on a continent where distances are fairly small,so we dont even have time to be anxious about a trip before it finishes.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        That is true. And we don’t have the kind of cash to travel outside of ex-Yu so distances are lower (and there are no problems in communicating with someone who doens’t speak your language), BUT while the distances are lower the roadnetwork is not the best and it can take an inordinate amount of time to get anywhere if you are traveling as part of a gorup in a bus. That means crawling along at 40-60kph with REGULAR coffee and smoke stops (which is the part that annoys me the most). So for “short” trip 800km long, it takes take two days to get to the destination.

        But yeah nothing nowhere near as long as in US.

    2. Good news is we will already be in town overnight and don’t have to pick up till afternoon. PLENTY of time for mishaps/issues. And will be 15 minutes from airport.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        That is what I suspected since the main thing is that Shamus should not have to wait at the airport.

    3. Syal says:

      It’s not that bad if it’s disrupted; the car folks can wait in a parking lot and the airplane folks can wait in the airport, it doesn’t have to line up perfectly.

  7. ehlijen says:

    Best of luck on your journeys and may everything be as smooth and easy as possible!

  8. silver Harloe says:

    I don’t understand how you can fly places. You’re going to be in a confined space with a bunch of people who have a good number of pets between them, and thus are covered in dander now matter how fastidiously they shower and wash their clothes, and most hotel rooms have probably had animals in them in the last couple years. I assume you have some kind of pills for travel that just aren’t strong enough for a room where a pet lives right now?

    1. Shamus says:

      The worst of the dander is probably blown off of their clothes when they go outside. So the only stuff left is the stuff embedded in their clothes. As long as I don’t hug people, I’m usually fine.

      The hotel thing is a bigger problem, and it’s more of a crap shoot. They vacuum and launder the bedding between every visitor, which is where most dander hides. I’ve had hotel rooms that were as comfortable as my own bedroom, and I’ve had ones where I always had a mild, low-level wheeze going. This is Texas, so the temp is going to be “autumn” and not “winter”, which means if things get bad we could open a window. And if things get REALLY bad, I suppose I could sleep in the car.

      Fingers crossed.

      1. silver Harloe says:

        Aye, good luck to you.

      2. Cordance says:

        With this condition I dont see how you can say your emotions to travel are irrational they seem to be based on very sound reasoning. Risk of hospital/death (even when low) normally causes a bit of worry in anyone. Hopefully the stress is unfounded but Im sure from years of travel your body has learnt that it is a crap shoot. Im wondering if an airfilter that can help with this issue while traveling a little. A fan blowing air though a HEPA filter probably isnt going to solve the problem in a day but it might help take some of the edge off a week stay. Although it wont help bedding. If I didnt know about someone like you I wouldnt be constantly reminded how filthy the world is, always nice to be reminded how good most of our immune systems are.

      3. Hotel is animal free- No pets period. Sure people sneak but general policy is no. And bring a wonderful dander spray that works for short term stuff.

        1. silver Harloe says:

          When a hotel says it’s “pet free” does that mean they can deny rooms to people with service and/or guide dogs?

          1. Rick C says:

            Almost certainly not, at least if it’s an actual service dog, as opposed to an emotional support animal.

            1. 4th Dimension says:

              This is an assholish thing to say, but then it’s not a pet free zone, because that dog will still leave his fur all over the place, and I guess the main clientelle of the “no pet” type of hotels are to the people who have allergies, because I don’t see otherwise how would pets pose a problem as long as the room is cleaned afterwards.

              1. Syal says:

                Pet-free is less about accomodating customers and more about not having to pay damages because someone let their dog chew and/or pee on every piece of furniture.

        2. Falcon02 says:

          Even if you do have a problem from someone who snuck a pet in in the past, you should be able to request another room (assuming there’s vacancies), based on Shamus’ issues. And the Hotel’s No-pets policy should still give a reasonable expectation of finding a new room.

          I’ve had to do this a few times when having to travel for work. At one I was placed in a smoking room (I don’t think the reservation specified) and I couldn’t stand it, they found me another room that night. Another time, the A/C system seemed to be on the fritz and after several attempts to get it to work right they just moved me to another room where the A/C was much better.

  9. Hawk says:

    RE: Entertainment.

    Not sure where you’re headed in West Texas to make a recommendation, but for a night of free/cheap entertainment you could always check out a local game store (the table top type, not the video game/GameStop type). Lots of them have board game nights and/or demo games that you can play … kind of like a local library for games (and we’re talking more involving things than Monopoly).

    Also, consider registering for TSA pre-check to make your security processing faster.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      There’s also gun ranges, liquor and…what else do cowboys do? :P

      Board game cafes are a pretty cool idea. Even my small city of 270k people has one! So much better than owning/housing all those games myself. :)

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        what else do cowboys do?


      2. This town is way smaller….

      3. Rodyle says:

        > 270K people
        > small

        America continues to amaze me in size. Like, that’s about as many as the fourth largest city in the Netherlands. Furthermore, the round trip the Youngs (Young Ones?) are going to make is long enough to circle the Netherlands five times.

        1. krellen says:

          The United States is almost the same size as the entirety of Europe, and we’re not even the largest country on the continent. We’re HUUUUUUUGE.

        2. John the Savage says:

          I’m not sure if this is an actual adage or just some knowledge that was shared with me, but it remains true: Europeans don’t understand how far-apart everything in America is, and Americans don’t understand how old everything in Europe is.

        3. CaveTrollWithABeard says:

          As a former long haul trucker, I can confirm that America is breathtaking in it’s vastness. I once drove from a brewery in upstate New York to a distribution center in LA, so I literally went from corner to corner the longest way possible. It took six days, with an average speed of 65mph/105kph.

          What really struck me in my journeys across the country is just how empty it is. People talk about how the American wilderness has been destroyed, and how overcrowded it is, but there are HUGE tracts of utterly empty land in this nation. If you’re not in the coastal states, it is quite easy to drive all day at top speed and only see one, maybe two small towns. And when I say small towns, I mean ACTUALLY small towns. As in less than a thousand people in them. The American Midwest has so much empty space it’s actually frightening at times.

  10. Viktor says:

    Warning, Texas is going through a cold front right now and is pretty chilly(high of 50 most of the week), so pack warm. And our drivers are insane, especially around Dallas. Not sure what route she’s taking, but expect to hit construction at least once, most of the roads in the DFW area are under constant expansion. And good luck, I hope nothing goes wrong.

    1. Will be south coming up through thanks to friends who live south of. Already know about the weather, though way warmer than here. Will feel like autumn to us. Used to driving in Boston and DC so not overly concerned and roads here are ALWAYS being fixed, except in winter because we get massive potholes. (Western PA is comparable to New England as far as temps, at least where we live. We get lake effect snow/weather so our roads get nasty.)

    2. Rick C says:

      Having lived in Boston and Dallas, it’s my experience that Dallas drivers don’t have much on New England drivers, so Shamus shouldn’t have too many problems. (I have some coworkers who are natives and it always cracks me up to hear them complain about how bad the roads are. No, you’ve never even seen a frost heave, buddy, you have no idea.

      1. CaveTrollWithABeard says:

        ^ This so much. New England’s roads are just godawful. Between the extreme temperatures and the sheer number of people driving on them, they were the worst roads I saw across all 48 lower states.

  11. Paul Spooner says:

    If you have time at the airport, I recommend walking around terminal D. They renovated it over a decade ago and it should still be nice. The tram is also fun to ride around and around the circuit.

    As for free activities, there are always public parks you can hang out in. If you want a cheap place to stay, camping is pretty inexpensive. Or, are you so allergic to the outdoors that these aren’t acceptable?

    Places indoors you could hang out: The mall, Walmart, public library (they have internet!), museums?

    1. CAMPING!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHHAH Herm. Snort. Sorry. :P

      1. Really the problem is the tiny town they are in is an hour from anything. Everything is tiny. Even their walmart was tiny (size of our dollar generals) till they closed down. So yeah, TINY.

        1. krellen says:

          West Texas just seems pointless. There’s like nothing between El Paso and Lubbock (and I include the parts of New Mexico in that area as well.)

  12. Abnaxis says:

    So I am not a well-traveled person. My one experience on a plane was when I was 16, before 9/11, flying by myself two-way from Indianapolis to Miami. So I have very little personal experience to talk from. However, my wife (same ages as me ~30) flew for the first time last year for work-related travel (teaching at a conference on the other side of the country).

    The lead up to the trip was terrible. Panic, stress, and fear stemming from all the Orwelian doomsaying you hear about flying online about all the ways the TSA will personally violate you, all the lines for security that stretch into the horizon, all the horrid, grouchy passengers that you’re forced to share space with…

    Then, after weeks of trepidation, the trip itself…actually wasn’t that bad. No body scanners, no cavity searches, no endless lines, nobody even bothered to check the bag I spent hours scouring the city for (because “OUR CARRY-ON BAG IS 0.5in TOO BIG IF YOU INCLUDE THE HANDLE”). None of the horror stories–which are pretty much all you see about flying–bore out. Just an hour-and-a-half wait in the terminal because my wife arrived WAY too early to account for all the terrible, terrible contingencies that might happen (the plane was on-time)

    I mean, maybe it’s different if you’re not flying from Port Columbus. Maybe in principle having all these violating security practices that might be used on you when they’re ineffective is a bad thing. But the actual act, of flying from one location to another, really wasn’t that bad. And it’s really annoying as a newcomer trying to figure out how to navigate when there’s nothing but endless complaining about how bad it is for guidance.

    1. Syal says:

      I’m flying out of small airports, but it’s not all that bad around here. They’ve got a full body scanner that’s basically a glorified metal detector, and I had to get a patdown once because apparently my pants folded in a way that made it look like I had something in them. Also I’ve lost a few knives and because I forgot they were in my pockets when I got to the airport. But they found a bullet in my bag once and the only response was confiscating the bullet and telling me not to bring them, they’re not out looking for an excuse to hassle people.

      It’s definitely more restrictive than it used to be though. Never had to take jackets or shoes off before, and the folks could sit in the terminal and watch the plane leave, or greet people as they stepped off the plane. Now you’ve gotta do it from baggage claim.

      (I got to fly from Ethiopia to the US once, and watch the security measures increase at each stop. From a metal detector, to two metal detectors, to ‘remove your jacket’, to ‘remove your jacket and shoes’.)

  13. David W says:

    I don’t know if it helps an irrational worry, but regarding ‘arranged pick up at an inflexible time’ – airports aren’t the worst place in the world to hang out for a few hours: climate controlled, plenty of seating and bathrooms and water fountains, often free Wifi. Just pack a few snacks. It’s generally easy to get a hotel room, either walkable or taking a shuttle bus, if the delay gets too long. On the other side, if your flight is delayed, at least Heather’s got transportation and many of the same options.

    Possible entertainment option: drive around and look at Christmas lights (or other scenery). There are probably some neighborhoods and businesses with an especially good reputation. Sitting together in a car, with a thermos of hot cocoa and some cookies can be remarkably social, and the lights give you a distraction if the conversation flags.

    I don’t know whether your asthma is only pet-related, or if the outdoors is a problem too. If it’s only pet-related, December is a great time of year to spend outside in Texas during the day, neither too hot nor too cold to be comfortable. Parks, picnics, historical things.

    Another thought: nine months is long enough that Rachel won’t be getting lost anymore, but it’s definitely not long enough for her to have explored her new home in detail. Exploration can be a lot of fun; maybe there’s a grocery store with better selection and prices than her current go-to, or a hobby store, or a community center or church, that she’d love to visit and doesn’t know about yet. Some of those might have public spaces available for hanging out for either free or a nominal fee. Some undirected wandering could be fun and productive at the same time!

    1. Rosseloh says:

      I concur. I was at my parent’s place in Austin last year for Christmas. Since I live in South Dakota currently, I can say it was a new experience to go on a Christmas Day Hike, rather than just sitting indoors in front of a nice fire or heater.

    2. HA! 1 grocery store in town. They have 2 types of cheese.

      1. Shamus says:

        2 types of cheese? What sort of primitive savagery is this? Is this town small, or located in the bronze age? I would seriously bet that the scientists working in Antarctica have a better selection.

        Maybe this shouldn’t be a visit, but a rescue. We could bring her to some other part of the world where they have already invented FOOD.

        I’m glad we’re bringing our own.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Theres your opportunity to reenact the cheese sketch.

        2. Incunabulum says:

          Look, we have American and Velveeta. How many more types of cheese could there be? I mean, maybe we could run down and get some Cheez-Wiz.

        3. Rosseloh says:

          No joke, that’s one of the reasons (apart from finances, which are the big one) that I hesitate when I get the random urge to move to somewhere in East Asia, despite being interested in Japan/Korea. I hear Japan has very little in the way of good cheese.

          1. tmtvl says:

            Japan doesn’t need good cheese, because it actually has good food.

            And that’s from a Belgian, so you know it’s true.

          2. I love cheese, and yet I managed to live in Japan for a year and didn’t miss the stuff. (Marmite, on the other hand…)

            Bizarrely, however, I pined for decent cheese when I lived in Germany. Germany does, generally, not do good cheese ime. :s

        4. Joe Informatico says:

          Do Texans not keep any cow alive and ungrilled long enough to milk it?

        5. ThaneofFife says:

          If you can, Shamus, you all should go to a Central Market while you’re in Texas. While they carry similar products to Wegmans or Whole Foods, Central Market is set up to be more of a food amusement park than a grocery store. The aisles are set up as a maze, and they have cooking demonstrations next to the registers. My wife & I got our wedding cakes from their bakery (<$80 for enough cake for 40 people), and they were amazing. There are a couple of locations in the DFW area.

          If you want DFW restaurant recommendations, I'd be happy to offer some too. For example, if you all like Tex-Mex at all, you should *definitely* try La Familia in Fort Worth before you go home. It's amazing, and very reasonably-priced.

          1. Cybron says:

            While Central Market is nice, it’s not particularly cheap and certainly not going to be in a town as small as what’s been described.

            I guess he could maybe stop at one on the way out of Dallas.

        6. John the Savage says:

          Living in Wisconsin, my family has to make routine supply-drops to my cheese-starved sister in San Diego.

      2. 4th Dimension says:

        That . . That does not sound like a town. That is a village with delusions of grandeur?!?!

  14. Nick Pitino says:

    Every time I see mention of it I can’t help but think that I really hope someday medicine finds a way to fix your cranky-ass ill tempered immune system. Even if you wouldn’t necessarily become St. Francis of Assisi and friend to all living things if it wasn’t a problem it would still have to be amazing to be able to just *go* somewhere and not have to treat animal dander like radioactive ebola dust.

    As far as what to do while you are out there perhaps there are some museums to check out? Don’t know if that’s your thing or not…

    Good luck and godspeed on your journey at any rate.

  15. Rosseloh says:

    Ah, Lubbock. A place I haven’t been (apart from driving through it once on the way from Dallas to Colorado).

    I used to live in Dallas and my parents currently live in Austin, so I could recommend a few things around there…but not so much with the west side of the state. As far as my experience is concerned, it’s a whole lot of nothing over there.

    And Texas is very big indeed. The hills you mention are all in the (go figure) Texas Hill Country, which is near where my parents live.

    1. Cybron says:

      Seconding that Texas does indeed have hills (my grandfather lived there), just not where you’re going. It also probably doesn’t have rodeos where you’re going. As far as I know it’s actually pretty difficult to find a rodeo outside of the Stockyards in DFW.

      The Lubbock area is indeed a whole lot of nothing. I’ve been over there once (brother was considering going to Tech). It’s empty even by Texas standards, which is saying something. I would have advised bringing some family activities with you (board games and the like) but it may be a bit late for that now.

      1. Jakale says:

        We’ve even got the remains of a long dead volcano in the form of Pilot Knob, plus all the old magma chambers getting their tops revealed like Enchanted Rock.

    2. Joshua says:

      My reaction when reading this (having lived in Fort Worth over over 10 years)- What do you mean, there are PLENTY of things to do in the DFW area that aren’t rodeo. We just entertained my family from the Michigan & Pittsburgh areas over Thanksgiving and gave them plenty of things to do to entertain themselves, as there’s a whole LOT of city in this area.

      Oh, you’re arriving in Dallas and THEN driving 5 hours? Not landing in Austin/San Antonio/Houston, that means you’re heading west. For 5 hours.

      Yeah, not much to do out that direction.

      1. Rosseloh says:

        I remember when my family and I took a Greyhound bus from the Dallas terminal to my aunt’s house in Phoenix. An entire day of bus ride later, we were in El Paso. (Which for those of you not from the area, is still Texas.)

        Also I don’t know how much of that “stuff to do” is free/cheap, which is what Shamus is looking for here. But I don’t know, as my particular vices are: hiking (which is sometimes free depending on the park), museums (again, sometimes free, sometimes not), and eating at interesting restaurants (never free). That’s about it; everything else I can take or leave and be perfectly satisfied.

        1. Joshua says:

          Well, we went to a museum here in Ft. Worth on Black Friday. The museum itself is free, but the current exhibit was not. A whole demonstration of Claude Monet’s early work for the not so cheap price of $18 a person. Very fascinating, but not cheap.

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      And Texas is very big indeed. The hills you mention are all in the (go figure) Texas Hill Country, which is near where my parents live.

      The hill country is the place with actual hills?What kind of lunacy is that?As a european,I find that naming convention unintuitive.

    4. Groboclown says:

      Yeah, Lubbock and environs. Having lived there for several years, I can say that it, indeed, has no hills. Well, there’s that one, but it’s man-made.

      If you’re going to be near Amarillo, there’s the famous Cadillac Ranch, which is out on the old Route 66. It appears to have been moved since I was last there, but it’s in roughly the same place.

      As for the suggestions of doing things in Austin, Dallas, or any other real city, you’ll be about 6 hours driving away from any of those.

      Another friendly reminder: if you have to travel through Post, Texas, please, please don’t speed. It’s famous for being a speed trap.

      EDIT: I just remembered that, near Lubbock, is the Ransom Canyon, that has all kinds of crazy architecture houses, including the famous Steel House.

    5. Attercap says:

      I was in Lubbock earlier this year for my little brother’s wedding. Lubbock does have the Buddy Holly Museum, The McPherson Cellars winery, Main Event (like a Dave & Busters, with glow minigolf and bowling), and Mad Hatter’s House of Games (if you’re looking to help fill Rachel’s shelves with any RPGs or board games).

      Texas is big. I used to live in Houston and have driven through most of the state. Rachel not having a driver’s license is almost baffling to me. Does she have a good group of friends who drive?

      1. Vermander says:

        I agree with this, Texas would be a VERY difficult state to live in without a driver’s license. The distances between cities are huge, most smaller towns have the standard “sprawl” thing going on with Targets/Walmarts and grocery stores on the outskirts, and public transportation tends to be almost non-existent outside of major metropolitan areas. People here tend to get used to driving long distances even for weekend excursions.

      2. Groboclown says:

        Hatter’s House of Games is still there? Man, that guy was my roommate (well, nearly so; long story). Last I heard it had changed hands several times.

        1. Attercap says:

          Yep! Well, Hatter’s was there in July of this year and seemed to be doing well, so I don’t think it’s vanished in the last few months. Was a pretty cool gaming shop; they were nice to me even though I didn’t buy anything (because my suitcase was already too full).

  16. King Calamity says:

    Have you ever tried getting allergy shots? I only ask because I had never even heard of them until this year. I’m on them right now, and if they work out it would be great for me, having a ton of allergies that leave me a bit stuffy all the time, so I can imagine with things like this it would be a big deal for you.

    1. JAB says:

      He’s got the level of allergies to pets, that people who are deathly allergic to nuts have. He has reportedly gotten it down to massively uncomfortable from possibly deadly with medicine.

      5 hours N or E of DFW and you’re out of the state, 5 hours S and you’re in the Houston suburbs. 5 hours W? Probably 7-8 more hours and you’ll be in El Paso.

      There will probably be Christmas decorations out, you can go look at those. Unlikely to be any rodeos going on, too cold and wet. But ultimately you’re there to see your daughter, not be a tourist. So, things you can do while still visiting? Card or board games? Puzzles? Driving an hour or two to an actual touristy thing?

      Good luck. Hope it all goes well. Sending you some warm fuzzy thoughts.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      He did mention a few times that he tried some shots.But his problem is not just allergies,but rather a combination of allergy and asthma,and shots dont really help with that.

      But if ever they make medicine that helps him,Im sure that will be the top post on his blog.

  17. Supah Ewok says:

    Sorry Shamus, we don’t have rodeos in winter :P

    They also don’t really have them that far out west. Texas is big, right? Lots of different regions and types of geography. But over 50% of the population lives in the (relatively) small triangle formed by Houston, Dallas-Ft Worth, and San Antonio. So odds are, anything you’ve heard about Texas outside of cowboy movies doesn’t apply to where you guys are heading. Folks that far out in the country have to make their own fun, which usually relates to the outdoors in some fashion cuz that’s all they got. If it’s too late for you to bring games along, you better stop somewhere while in Dallas to pick something up.

  18. baud001 says:

    Bon voyage ! (yeah, I don’t know how to say it in English)
    And good luck with the TSA !

  19. Jonathan says:

    The Panhandle. You can…watch the wind? Hike around, look at the cows, visit Pantex (nuclear weapons disassembly plant), go shooting, or go to the big cities. My goal is to move east from Dallas, not west.

    It sounds like you are flying in to DFW. If you need a backup plan for pickup (something happens that delays Heather), I’m 20 minutes from it. No pets, just 2 small children. My e-mail address is part of the comment; if you want to do so, e-mail me there and I’ll shoot you my cell#.

  20. Mephane says:

    My biggest problem with airplane travel would be that the baggage is handled by the staff and goes into a separate compartment. That is real horror material for me. The very thought of something going missing, or getting damaged – have all the nopes. Even if there is not anything expensive or otherwise valuable to be lost, I am absolutely paranoid about that.

    Luckily I don’t have to travel by plane where I live. On trains I don’t use baggage compartments above the seats, the bag stays with me, if it is small then I keep it on my lap, if it is big I put it on the ground between my feet. I don’t care if that is a bit less comfortable, but if I put it up there I would have to be constantly weary no one steals it, or just accidentally throws it down while retrieving their own bag.

    Even when going out, I don’t hang my jacket in the coat room, I’ll take it with me and hang it on my chair.

  21. Rayen020 says:

    oh coming down to my neck of the woods? If you needs travel advice just ask. I’d offer housing if i hadn’t just adopted a cat. Whatever we have lots of good hotels in DFW. Also if you’re going to be in Dallas avoid Loop I635 and DNT and highway 75. My general rules after living here most of my life.

  22. Vermander says:

    Man, now I’m feeling all defensive about Texas stereotypes. I’ve lived in this state for about ten years now (half that time in San Antonio and half in the DFW area) and visited almost every region. I can personally testify that there are many things to do here not involving live stock, just like there are many things to do in Pennsylvania besides visit the Amish Country.

    I’ll admit that I’ve only driven through the Lubbock area, but it’s a city of over 300,000 people and home to a fairly large university, so I assume they must at least have a movie theater.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      I lived in Texas the first 35 years of my life, and I have to question the idea of non-heteros living outside of Austin, but, yeah, Texas cities are just cities with all the normal stuff. Though apparently Rachel lives in a teeeeeeeny tiny place merely “near” Lubbock, which in Texas can be as much as a 2 hour drive :)

      1. Cybron says:

        There is a sizable LGBT community in/around Dallas.

        1. Vermander says:

          Most major cities in Texas also have a sizeable number of recent transplants from other states or other parts of the world. The major metropolitan areas are much more culturally and politically diverse than people think. I’d guess that about 1/5 or my neighbors are South Asian immigrants. When I lived in San Antonio it felt like every other person I met was from California. I’m guessing that’s why so many West Coast restaurant chains have recently appeared here.

          1. Cybron says:

            Very true. The vast majority of my coworkers are immigrants of kind, and several of my friends are from other states.

        2. JAB says:

          Same for Houston. Including a large gay gamer club, sadly focused mainly on console games.

          Texas in general has more of a “what I do in the privacy of my own home is my business, not yours” thing historically than one would think from popular culture. Individual stories may vary.

  23. Vermander says:

    Oops, I missed that she was “near” Lubbock. You’re right, in West Texas that can be a considerable drive.

    My point was it’s a large, geographically diverse state with many large cities, even if Rachel apparently lives in the most stereotypically “Texas” part.

  24. MaxEd says:

    I’m continuously amazed by American willingness to move so far away from home at young age. I hardly can imagine myself moving to a different part of the city, or to a satellite city a hundred kilometres away! Then again, I was born and live in capital city, so there is no point in moving anywhere, unless I want to miss out on big salaries and choice of jobs for a dubious advantages of “quiet living”. My only wise choice would be to move abroad, and while I love visiting other countries, I don’t want to settle down there.

  25. Zekiel says:

    Good luck Shamus. Hope it all goes well.

  26. RTBones says:

    I wish you well on your journey, there and back again, Shamus.

    It is unfortunate that these days, at least in the US, travel has become what it is. It should NOT be as difficult as it has become. I will say that what I miss from the UK and Europe is the ability to walk down to my local train station and go, well, almost anywhere (replacement bus service not withstanding – bustitution is a pain). No driving. No flying. Just turn up and go.

    1. Vermander says:

      I’d think sheer distance and difference in population density would be a major factor too. This summer we drove the equivalent of the distance between London and Rome, without passing through any major metropolitan areas. A large portion of that trip was through very rural areas (I saw two separate herds of antelope!).

  27. The Mich says:

    I’m sure everything will go smoothly. Don’t overworry Shamus! Have a nice trip :)

  28. Goblin says:

    If you haven’t been before, I would be tempted to drive another 11 hours (bleah) to see the Grand Canyon. It’s quite grand.

    Or Carlsbad Caverns National Park is about 3 hours from Lubbock, it’s pretty neat too.

  29. Friend of Dragons says:

    2-ish years back, post-college, I moved out from MA out to Wisconsin, and once or twice a year I’ll make the drive back (~1000mi) to visit. I’ll also camp at state or national parks for the nights, so I don’t have to pay for hotels (also it’s kinda nice and helps the whole endeavor feel more like an adventure and less like a chore). I wouldn’t want to do it any more often than I do, but it’s doable. It also kinda trivializes and makes me less bothered by what I used to think of as ‘long’ drives, the 2-3 hour ones.

    I might be being a little bit paranoid, but I always make sure I have as much redundancy as I can. A dedicated GPS, Phone GPS, print maps, a battery pack for jump-starting the car, extra food & water, etc…

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