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Monday, February 28, 2011

THE BATTLE TO GET HOME



The great escape or my sad return from America, i prefer the latter, was due to begin on Wednesday last at 11.15am from Pullman Airport.  The 76 seat plane would leave Seattle pick me up and return to Seattle via Lewiston for a connection to Minneapolis and onto London.
So off i set driven by my Alaskan born driver,  6" of snow and a blizzard is no worry for Jaq,  and we arrive an hour before take off. Paperwork checked, the counter staff advise that the plane has been delayed by a mechanical fault and not only is it running 30mins late in all probability it will not be able to land due to weather conditions.
The advice being given to all passengers is to travel 30 miles to Lewiston and board the plane. The reason for this is that Lewiston is some 2000`+ lower elevation than Pullman and at the time has no snow.
So this lady (fiancee) has Eskimo nerves of steel and estimates the trip will take 45mins so off we go and in no  
time we are approx. 2000` above Lewiston (right of picture above), the snow has now almost stopped and we descend down highway 195 into the city and onto the Lewiston airport with an hour before the plane is due to 

take off. In the picture above looking back up the 2000` we have descended you can see the snow high up has given way to a clear landscape. So in the queue to check in  it soon becomes apparent something is not right and an enquiry soon reveals the plane has been cancelled due to a mechanical breakdown. After queuing for an hour flights are re-arranged for 6.30 pm to Seattle, New York and onwards to London.
So back at 6pm and the plane is running late as runways are being cleared and planes de-iced at many airports causing not cancellations but minor delays. Sitting waiting i studied my new itinerary and noticed the time between flights at Seattle was diminishing rapidly and knowing the Seattle airport layout i knew i wouldn`t have time to get from one side of the airport to my New York flight. Back at the desk the agent agreed and i decided a flight the following day from a different airport would be better. Now i had Spokane-Seattle- London by British Airways on the Thursday.

So back to Jaq`s and in the picture above can be seen the conditions after climbing the 2000` out of Lewiston. Having to spend another night with Jaq was hard but someones got to do it and we were brave.

The following day we set off on the 80mile drive to Spokane and in the  picture above taken from the passenger seat can be seen, well almost, the road leading to the main highway. The posts at the side of the road are the only
guide to the road`s route with no tree line or hedgerows to give a clue. Getting on the main highway in the picture above was a lot better as snow ploughs were very much evident and we passed several on the journey.


All the way it was evident that life just carries on as normal with traffic moving quite fast even the trucks.In the picture below you can see what is a common site here, an articulated lorry(semi) with an additional trailer added.


The pictures above and below show a body scanner that i had to go through on my inward journey to the States.


Snow is cleared on the aircraft stands at Spokane
Planes de-iced before take off
De-iced the plane taxi`s out with the snow plough still clearing the runway.
One of 9 ploughs keeping flights going at Spokane.
 Safely in Seattle and here is my BA flight that has delivered me safely back in the UK.
                                                                                         


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oooops I`ve deleted lots of comments

Looking at the dashboard of Blooger i had 1000+ comments and thought i would clear them off not realising they were deleting from the posts.
I assume they have gone forever unless anyone knows otherwise.
A real shame as there were some wonderful comments relating to Jaq and I. Sorry everyone, just posting this quick in case anyone feels offended.
I am back in the UK and will post very soon.

Friday, February 25, 2011

An EXTRA DAY whose`s complaining.

SHORT BLOG

Well at this moment in time Thursday 17.14 U S time or 01.14 U K time i am sitting having a coffee in Seattle Airport waitng on my direct British Airways flight into heathrow.
Although the weather has been bad it was not the cause of my 1 day delay.

Full update when i return and get over the jet lag.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

SNOW HERE shall i bring it home?, if i can get home.

It`s mid morning over here with a lot of snow having fallen overnight with more forecast. As i am due to leave here Tuesday i`ve been checking flight departures at the 2 Airports i`ll be using well the 2 main ones, Seattle(SEA) and Minneapolis(MPS). Even the small Airport here in Pullman that i will use to make the 50minute flight to Seattle is running as usual with just a few early morning delays of up to 30 mins for the snow plough to clear the runway for each departure.
So no Heathrow dramas here and it looks like my flights will be more or less on time for my Wednesday departure and Thursday arrival at H`row. Just keeping my fingers crossed the snow fall forecast tonight is not exceptional otherwise i might have to stay here longer......think i can hear Jaq praying for more snow.
We have booked Jaq`s flights for her 2 week stay in May and have also managed to wade our way through the UK Border Agency website for the necessary visa`s etc that she will need to enter the UK and settle later in the year. Our UK government wants  £750 to process this application plus other fees for a right to remain as my wife stamp in her passport. Expensive business this love affair maybe i should........Oooops Jaq is going to read this........just say what`s a few English pounds when you`re in love.
Personally i think they should pay my Alaskan born, 5` 1'', highly educated (BA), incredible cook(my waistline needs a few locks to get back in shape), lovely personality etc. to enter the UK but that`s my  prejudiced view.
The bin man (yes singular) was just 30 mins late. The one man operator pulls alongside the bin and operates a grab that lifts and empties the bin and places it back in position outside Jaq`s home.

                          Yes Jaq just sit there looking pretty while we talk about you.

                       Just a few inches of snow, studded tyres will get us out and about.

        The small snowplough clears the way from Jaq`s cul de sac home to the main road.

                                         Another `So this is Love` blog in the making.

                                             A piece of Jaq`s Pencil & Pastel art.

                                                             Homemade bread

                                                Mim with 7 week old Connor

So as you can see life, apart from our being defeated by an inch of snow in the UK, is much the same here. It`s been a great visit and leaving here is going to be hard tomorrow leaving Jaq behind but she will be over on the 23rd May to sample the English canals.
Just checked the airports again and delay times have slightly gone up but flights are still arriving and departing. Oh well what will be will be, at least i don`t have to be back at work on my return.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

SPOKANE

 Jaqueline belongs to a group called the `Wednesday Women` who for many years have taken turns to host a dinner party once a month for the strictly all women group. My stay coincided with a dinner hosted in Spokane and the golden rule of women only was broken in my honour.
Spokane is 80+ miles from Jaqueline's home in Pullman and the American way here in rural Washington State thinks nothing of driving 160 miles round trip for a dinner party. On this occasion however Jaqueline decided we would stay overnight at a hotel so that she could show me around Spokane before the dinner and the following day as well.
The first class hotel overlooked the Spokane River that flows 111 miles from Lake Coeur d`alene Idaho to Lake Roosevelt the Columbia River`s reservoir.

Spokane was originally the home of the Spokane Indians, Spokane translates to `children of the sun`, who were spread over 3 million acres, today they occupy just 154,000acres. They relied on the river for Salmon and the surrounding land for hunting Deer, Antelope and Elk.
View from hotel balcony.
Before the introduction of the white man's religions the Indians held the belief that there were three worlds, one on top of  another, with the middle world being earth. They believed a Superior Being ruled the upper world while the lower world was ruled by an evil person. The ruler of the above gave them rain and made food plentiful. The evil ruler was blamed for poor hunting, fishing, and crops.Sounds like Heaven, Earth and Hell.


In 1974 Spokane hosted a World Fair on the site of old railroad tracks. In the picture below can be seen the clock tower of the old Gt. Northern Railroad depot. It stands 155` and was built in 1902, the clock is wound by hand once a week, the 4 clock faces are each 9` in diameter
Behind the clock can be seen the U S pavilion from the World fair, it has a central steel column with 4 miles of steel cable forming the dome. Today it`s an outdoor Ice skating rink.



Art in Spokane riverside park.
After flowing through Riverside Park the Spokane River, having given pleasure to the City`s walkers and a haven for the Ducks and Geese gobbling up the bread fed to them by the children, has one last job before it leaves the City limits. Two dams, from a total of 7 along it`s length, will be negotiated to provide Hydro electricity.

The one pictured above is the lower falls built in 1890 and it produces 14.8 Megawatts of electricity enough for 11,000 homes.

The lower falls flow beneath the Monroe St. bridge, cable cars can be seen under the arch resting after a summer of carrying visitors over the falls from Riverside Park. I spy with my little eye something beginning with `J`.


The upper falls power plant below was built in 1922 and generates 10Megawatts. Water enters through an 18` diameter pipe and drives

a vertical generator. Jaq this is my blog, stop posing.

vertical Francis generator in the upper falls powerhouse



Now this is something not to often seen in the States, a roundabout. Just a quick google,  remember when we had to visit the library for

all our facts & figures, and it seems there are 2,500 in the USA-1st Nevada in 1990- 30.000 in France and 25,000 in the UK. I assume the UK figure doesn`t include those white painted blobs of tarmac that seem to be at every other junction on minor roads. The 1st in the UK was it seems in Letchworth Hertfordshire.


Electric cars seem to be big in the USA with California having over 450 roadside charging points in the San Francisco bay area and funding for the installation of 2700 home charge units  The one below in Spokane is one of 3 installed as an experiment, it`s a start, don`t laugh. The charging is paid for by the city council with the motorist paying for the parking space.

Try these links Tango   Nissan Leaf   Chevrolet Volt or if you want to build your own click here.


Jaqueline`s latest blog HERE. 
 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Price of a Gallon

Following on from my last blog about the price of fuel in the States Maffi a fellow blogger has commented the figure of 3.78541178litres to an American gallon.


Taking our gallon of diesel to be £1.34litre X 3.78541178 = £5.0724516 per gall.
 UK £5   US £2.50. Hope the figures i`ve stated are correct or near enough, if not blame me as Maffi only supplied the 3.78541178.




Snow arrived here once again last night and this is the view across open country from Jaqueline`s back deck this morning with more expected.  I`ve been here 2weeks and this is the first snowfall for me but it had been very deep just before i arrived. Snow ploughs are soon out and life just carries on.......just like at home!!!!!!!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

AMERICAN LIVING


This Englishman abroad has fallen in love not with the way of life, although given time perhaps i might adapt, but with one of it`s citizens. Fallen in love? Tell me more, i hear you say, patience read the blog through, no scrolling down................I said no scrolling.
Back home before i left the biggest talking point seemed to be fuel prices so let`s have a look at what
could be if our wonderful government didn`t  take the cut, currently circa 80p, they do in tax from a litre of road fuel. As can be seen in the picture above, remember these are gallons, we`ll take the diesel fuel as we are boaters and round it up to $3.80. At an exchange rate of £1 = $1.52 that American gallon is £2.50. In the UK my rough calculation shows a gallon to be £6.18 (£1.34lit) and also it seems a US gallon is greater than a UK one.
So just to sum up £2.50 against £6.18. Anyone with time on their hands and a mathematical brain can do the figures accurately and i will post it on the next blog.

The sheer size of this country means views from the passenger seat below are the norm in Washington State. This is State Highway 195 running from Lewiston to Spokane a distance of 106miles. What you
see is what you get with just the town of Colfax to pass through the route passes a few farms in a landscape of Wheat, Lentils and Chick Peas. The trees in the picture were a treat just to remind me of home, the right hand side of the picture is the norm here stretching as far as the eye can see.
A typical rest area on State highways some provide free coffee
What do we Brits miss most when abroad? Well one thing might be a bacon sarnie or at least the bacon, yes they do have bread here, that is the making of a good sandwich. Now as i am in the care of
my lovely Jaqueline i do not have to put up with what the Americans call bacon (left in picture) because she has sourced some British bacon (right in picture) from the food Co-Op in nearby (9 miles) Moscow. Here in Pullman i am in Washington State but just the short distance to Moscow takes you into Idaho State. Why i mention this is that in the UK we have a 20% vat to pay on most things nationwide but here sales tax as it`s called varies between states.
Nearby or at least adjoining states differ;
Idaho 6%    Utah 4.7% (food 2.75%)   Washington 6.5%   Montana 0%. Check out this from Washington States tax laws.
Since Jan. 1, 2004, purchases of certain foods and food ingredients have been exempt from sales tax. However, prepared foods, dietary supplements and soft drinks remain taxable. And when doughnuts are sold with eating utensils, the food product is taxable. Eating utensils include plates, forks, napkins, etc., but do not include containers or packaging used to transport the item.

Now as most of you are aware this trip is not as a tourist but to stay with Jaqueline and sort out our future together so the pictures and text are an Englishman living an American life. Now our Asda is under the American arm of Walmart so a trip around the aisles was of interest.
In the picture above is what looks like our check out in the UK, you load the goods on and a belt takes it towards the cashier. So far like for like but this is where it changes. Notice the plastic bags at the end, these are on a revolving stand and as the goods are scanned the cashier packs the goods instead of firing them down to you in an attempt to pile them up quicker than you can pack them, i`m sure some of our cashiers do it to relieve the boredom. The store itself was pretty much as we are used to
with a few different products but the Gun section was a shock. Jaqueline said IF she wanted a gun all that was needed was to produce some ID and fill out a form; wait 5 days for checks to be made and collect the gun.

This property on the South Hill in Spokane is on the market for $350,000 (£234,000). The sales details i picked up from the display box outside states 4 Bedrooms and 1.75 Bathrooms. Before you
ask, one of the bathrooms is not in-complete; what they mean is the .75 is in fact what we call a downstairs loo or to be American, a powder room.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) is a similar service to our Royal Mail, the little truck pictured
would be used around the City to transport the post and delivery man from  section to section and parked up while he walked his route. The big difference here is outside City limits the post will be delivered by a sub contractor using his/her car with Orange flashing lights on the roof. Forget letterboxes UK style, here each property has a mail/post box usually on the edge of the property. In the picture below i have pictured the boxes at the end of Jaqueline`s drive and the Red flags have a role to play. Now back in the UK we would have a local post box to send our letters but here if you have a letter to send you put the Red flag up and the post man will collect it, and even if he is not delivering a stop will be made and he will put the flag down afterwards.
Ok the bit you`ve been waiting for: scroll down now.






















Yes Jaqueline accepted my proposal of Marriage and we decided not on Mega Bucks posh Diamond rings but  their symbolic value. Much planning to be done to not only satisfy Immigration but more important our families both sides of the Pond. The main thing is we will be on board NB Valerie together in the very near future.

Monday, February 07, 2011

TO AMERICA

My flight was to be 6.30 am from H`row Terminal 4 and knowing the extra time required for security checks i`d booked a cab for 3.30 am. This would give me 2 1/2hrs to check in, have breakfast and chill out watching the world walk by. Sounds like a plan but all good plans can go wrong.
The cab arrived bang on time which was more or less a certainty because my daughter in law Bev had booked it with her cab company owning friend & neighbour and no cab driver would risk turning up opposite the boss`s house late.
Terminal 4 picture from the web, posted to compare with the arrival airport at the end of the blog.
Entering the terminal and upon locating the check in desks all i could see were hundreds of people not queuing but milling around the deserted desks. My usual method is to  check in at the computer terminals and hand in my suitcase at one of the usually quiet desks, normally a 10mins task. All this changed with the desks not opening till 5am and although i had checked in and had my boarding cards for the 3 plane trip i still had to join the hundreds of others to hand in my case. So now it`s 5.30am and just time for a coffee & Croissant and a quick call to Jaqueline before boarding.

The first stage of my journey is by KLM to Amsterdam and then a 10hr flight to Seattle followed by a local plane to Pullman in East Washington State.
The arrival in Amsterdam was without incident. With an hour to spare before boarding an Airbus A333 similar to the one pictured below i decided to use one of the airline computer terminals to change my allocated aisle seat to one 
next to the window. Two minutes later i have my seat changed and am strolling around feeling well pleased at how easy it had been. On board the plane in my window seat still feeling smug, the pilot announces the plane will be pulled off the stand in 2 mins time. It then dawns on me the reason why my fantastic re-arranging of Delta`s seating plan had been easy. In the picture below, taken as the doors shut, you can see how empty this flight was. 
Altogether across the 3 class sections there were 130 empty seats. People ended up stretched out across rows of seats to sleep. I was quite happy with 2 seats to use for a doze.

So just a matter of relaxing with a book, in flight movie, sleep or the flight information screen for the next 10hrs. My choice omitted the movie.
The route was back towards the UK across the top of Scotland over the 
Orkney Islands
southern tip of Greenland, over Hudson Bay, across Canada and south into Seattle on the Pacific Northwest coast of the U.S.
Satellite view of the route into Seattle

Now i know they say everything is big stateside but my next
plane was a tad on the small size with no jet engines, i just hope the loo is inside! Just a 50min flight with 70 seat capacity this little bird would drop me just 4 miles from my love`s home.

High desert landscape of Eastern Washington State.
Now you remember the first picture of Terminal 4, well below is the main only building of the Moscow Pullman Regional
Airport. Now i`m not saying this is the norm but i was met by a female cab driver who not only greeted me with un-limited hugs and kisses but insisted i spend my stay in her home. 
Jaqueline and i are having a wonderful time making plans etc. etc. etc.
Goodnight all.
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