Starting the Getaway

The second day of the trip started on a beautiful sunny day. Everyone was talking about how cold it was from a cold front and it was still shorts weather for me. I woke up at 7 and went down stairs for coffee in the lobby and a Guava Cheese Danish that was to die for. I returned to my room and watched the best of Sunday morning TV. It was one of the cooking shows where I learned that the Agave syrup I like in my tea at David’s Tea is the same plant that is used to make Tequila.

I had booked the early embarking at 10AM online in the check-in to the cruise-ship. However, when I got to the hotel 12 noon was the only shuttle time left. Since the shuttle was the cheapest option, I reserved it. The hotel also had a noon checkout time, so I took a long shower and relaxed until 11:30 when I went downstairs and got on the shuttle.

Miami looked not much different from San Juan, and I was not wowed to want to spend more time there. When we arrived at the port, I dropped of my bag to the longshoremen who stated adamantly and more forcefully then San Juan or Charleston the “A tip is expected for this!” Therefore, I gave him $1.

I waked to the door to the terminal and after about a 4 minute queue I entered the main hall. I was asked if I needed a wheelchair but I declined and limped into the hall. I filled out the health form and then went to the handicap line where you can sit down and wait. It took about 15 minutes to get checked in and I got my ship key card proceeded up the escalator and had my photo taken (that wasn’t available at the photo shop on the ship.)

Then I boarded the ship, after my first encounter with the NCL “Washy Washy” team. I was hungry and the rooms were not ready yet so I went to the buffet and sampled a bit of as much as possible. I sat on the side watching Miami Beach and had a great view while joining another couple for lunch.

As I finished lunch the room was ready so I went down to settle in and get off my feet for about an hour. Then it was time for the safety drill. My spot was A5 in the main theatre, since it was down steps the crew said I could sit with the A11 people at the top. It was hilarious all the people being told they couldn’t bring their drinks into the safety demonstration. It went by in less than half the time as Carnival’s demonstrations.

After the safety drill I did some exploring of the ship and then made it to the Mojito bar where it just happened the Single/Solo cruiser group was meeting. After talking to some people, a group of 6 of us ditched the Solo group and went to dinner at Taste. The service that night was the slowest of the entire cruise we arrived at 6:30pm-ish and finished the third course after 9pm.

After the dinner I went to the Welcome Aboard show which was really good. Especially the comedian Dean Edwards, he was incredibly funny stereotyping the type of people on cruises.

After the show I called it a night and had an amazing sleep.

A Return To My Happy Place

For those of you that love my travel stories this is the beginning of a new series of them.

Once again I visited a new travel agent and had no idea where I was headed. The only criteria was the most affordable cruise to where I can add the most new countries to my list. This resulted in the Norwegian Getaway going to Rotan, Honduras, Harvest Cay, Belize, Costa Maya México, and Cozumel México.

Checking in for the flight was different this time and in the end a lot easier. Online you need the address of the Hotel you are staying at, in the past this was only asked at the airport. The hotel I decided on was the Holiday Inn near the airport. I picked that based on price, that they had an airport shuttle, and they arrange shuttles to the port. Miami is very well organized as a home port town.

On Saturday (Dec 9th), I woke up really early and had to do laundry and pack. I had ment to do that on Thursday night but for no good reason that just didn’t happen. My wonderful sister drove me to the airport, dropped me off, and took off to enjoy her vacation from me.

I used the mobile kiosk to print my boarding pass. I always prefer a paper pass over a mobile version as it is convenient for going through security and is a great place to stick your baggage tag stub. I then checked in my checked bag. I brought my medium sized one. Getting through security took about 90 seconds, the Saint John Airport is great for that. The airport is having renovations and now has a shop inside of security that offers duty-free on international flights.

Getting on the flight there was a cheap woman with her maximum allowed bag trying to fit it in the overhead bin. The plane was a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 that has smaller upper bins. Let’s face it however you try to angle it, it is never going to fit. The maximum allowed size is for placing under the seat in front of you. Which is where she shoved the bag and grumbled all pissed off that she has none of the very little leg room left for the next just over two hours.

The flight was mainly uneventful, I took the orange juice on this flight. I was sat next to a young group of women off to Toronto for some “holiday retail therapy”.

Arrived at Pearson and very efficiently found the security for transfers to USA flights which is a very long string of people checking boarding passes and ID. After going through the scanners and kiosks it took me about and hour from arrival to passing security and US Immigration. The guard asked where I was going and scoffed that seeing Rotan is not real Honduras.

I had dinner at an Italian place until it was time for the flight. People at the airport do not care/respect the Zone boarding system as soon as there was an anonymement that they were starting pre-boarding soon it was almost all 240 people in a line. My Zone was Zone 4 so I just sat until most of the line was gone.

The were checking bags and people were being forced to check and bag that had the “fat zipper” unzipped. I got through no problem and was seated next to a teenage anime artist traveling with his family to Miami. The Miami airport was very easy to find the baggage pickup. For the first time in 3 trips to the USA my bag arrived with me. I was trilled even if I was a nervous mess over it being one of the last bags to arrive.

Finding where the hotel shuttle was you get led by the way finders out the second level door to a curb. There is no marking where each hotels shuttle stops and you see them all go buy and then you flag down your hotels vehicle. After and hour I was basically tired and went screw this, went downstairs to the taxi stand and for only $13 got a blue taxi. This was the best decision ever. You can pay with card on the tablet screen on the back of the passenger seat.

When I arrived, I checked in and the gentleman was the friendliest person I have ever met and really seemed to enjoy his job. I found my room “507” and settled in for the night. The room was spacious and well laid out and clean.

I fell asleep and that concludes this part of the story.

“Full Out” Review

To say that I would never watch a gymnastics movie, while that. Is simply not true. I loved the movie “Stick It” and must have seen that movie dozens of times. The movie I just seen was “Full Out”. This is based off the true story of Ariana Berlin. Early on in the movie she gets into a car accident with her mother. After a period in a coma and sever injuries she is faced with not initially walking and is in the hospital dealing with physiotherapy.

Having her whole dreams taken away and her meaning in life. She initially struggles to find meaning is life and where her new life will take her. This road leads to hip-hop dancing and eventually back to gymnastics with a warm and fuzzy ending.

Given what I have been through I can really relate to her struggles. Even before this I never really had big goals, and was waiting for inspiration. Now I feel like I need to do something and want to find that something but many possibilities a beyond large rolling Austrian Alps, but a big rocky Swiss Alps now.

This movie is available on Netflix and worth a watch.

Mobile Ordering

Today I visited the local coffee shop in the mall. The line was very long and the people started to appear frustrated or tired, but there was the pot of gold at the end of the line to make it all worthwhile. Correction, it was coffee, not gold but in the eyes of the patrons waiting it was more valuable than gold.

Meanwhile, I enter and walk past the line and pick up my coffee there waiting for me and leave to sit in the mall and watch the people and write this. The people watching began before I could even leave the restaurant. The scowl of disgust on their faces as I did not lime them join in the ancient, or present-day British, the tradition of fair queuing.

I participated in the modern “there’s an app for that” method of placing my order using my phone and picking it up. Although I used an app this is nothing really new. For all my life you could call up and arrange for pick-up of take-out restaurants.

Today’s purchase was at Tim Horton’s using their app. When it comes to ordering their app is pretty good. It is very straightforward and adding modifications is simple. The payment process and choosing a restaurant is also very intuitive. The downside of the app is that the speciality muffins are not in the app and some instructions like double toasting bagels are not there.

However, they are making lots of improvements and when I first used the app you could not have 1/2 sugar. There is a promotion now where you can get a free coffee (Regular, Dark, or Decaf) after 3 orders by the end of the year.

Another app I use regularly is the Cineplex app. This app is good for purchasing tickets, but the amount of options to buy a ticket can be daunting. The perk, however, is not waiting in line for the kiosks and 50 bonus Scene points (1/20th of a movie).

The McDonald’s Canada app is of similar quality to Tim’s and is really straightforward to make a complex or simple order.

The final shopping app review has to be the Esso Speedpass+ app. This is really convenient as you do not have to stand outside and swipe your fuel savings card, then your points card, then choose a car wash option, then the on-screen payment. It is simply done on the app with very little effort.

Buying My First Car

As it was becoming clear that I needed to get motivated to go to work. It was also clear that getting up to catch a bus was not really physically possible given my state. I was going to need a car. I had set in my mind from two years earlier that I wanted a Mazda 3. That was going to be my car, but I wanted to test drive others first. Since I was not convinced of my abilities I wanted to take the first round to sit in the cars and then shortlist a few to test drive.

The car buying experience if not the most friendly for those that don’t know exactly what you want. The experience typically goes like this. You enter the dealership, you get greeted by the fastest moving sales guy. Then you blow at least a half hour as he gets your information, then starts suggesting features, and financing options before you even look at a car. Then you only get to look at what the sales guy wants you to look at. Then you realize the car is missing some of your must-haves, then the blow off that the must-have is not that important doesn’t work well anyway or, promises it can be added after-market when it really can’t. Then you find one you kind of like and they never end up telling you what it costs, only payment amounts that leave out a few key things that get added when you close the deal.

My main feature need was I didn’t want leather seats. I also needed an auto-dimming rearview mirror and automatic transmission for physical reasons.

The first stop was Saint John Hyundai, the sales rep was new and made it known that he was not on commission yet and was going to look out for me. He then showed me a Sonata, it was nice. However this is where I learned I had another physical limitation, I couldn’t have a pedal emergency brake.

Then I wanted to look at the Accent but the sales rep insisted on the Elantra first. The Elantra would have worked, but the lip by the door was too deep for my leg brace and I would have to go high-end to get the mirror I wanted. I did get to try the Accent that was more comfortable and my size but he in post talks kept pretending I didn’t and insisted the auto-dimming mirror could be added aftermarket after the company he called said it couldn’t.

The next stop was Port City Kia. This place was more friendly because I was familiar with the staff. I sat in the Forte and it was a great fit and mostly met my needs. I was thinking of a Rio when I did my research but never did sit in one. While they were figuring out numbers I sat in a few of the other ones but they were more car than I needed.

The third stop was Saint John Nissan. The staff was friendly, and the Sentra fit well, but I needed the sports model to get a colour I needed. The Micra was also nice but the saleswoman has no interest in selling it.

Stop four was Dobson Dodge Chrysler. I went in thinking maybe a Dodge Dart. However, they were having a promotion that a Chrysler representative was in town and I only got to see a Chrysler 300 that was, “the only car worth considering”. It didn’t have what I needed and was way outside my budget with other options I had seen.

Stop five was Saint John Toyota. I spent a good amount of time here as I was being shown cars. As the sales guy was distracted, I fell in love with the Toyota Corolla iM, it was blue which I really wanted. It was only missing the mirror and the sales guy insisted it could be put in once again after-market, but he could throw it in. They also started insisting that a lease was a better option as it makes it easier to replace every few years, and are taxed better.

The next day I went and visited more places.

The next stop was Fundy Honda, in this case, I tried the Civic and the Fit but none of them wouldn’t work out.

The Seventh place was Brett’s Buick GMC. None of the cars met my needs or budget and the sales guy I got had to constantly leave to work on other sales, and then got the service guy to come out that shot him down that an auto-dimming mirror couldn’t be added.

Stop eight was Downey Ford, who insisted that I would only like a car if it was white, black, or grey. They also couldn’t get anything in that was blue, even if I wanted to wait.

The ninth and last stop was King Mazda. I basically learned that my dream car didn’t meet my needs as the only one that did was the top end Mazda 3 and that was outside my budget considering my other options.

After the round of viewings, my short list was the Hyundai Elantra, Kia Forte and the Toyota Corolla iM.

At this point, I went back to all three with my friend Tony to re-sit in all 3 of the finalists and it was really then that I decided the Elantra was just not the best fit.

Later that week I went to test drive the cars, starting with the Kia Forte. They had a red one there, and I was very comfortable in it, and was comfortable with the feel of the controls. After the test drive, I was confident I had found the car. However, I wanted blue, and I wanted the mid-year update with Apple CarPlay. It took a few weeks for the car to arrive and was not the easiest process to find out for sure when I was arriving but they appeared to do their best at the dealer level.

On the day the car arrived, I went to the dealership to complete the sale. It was at this point that so learned how all the fees work, and all the service and warranty add-ons and what is actually covered and what is not.

I now have my 2017 Kia Forte EX and absolutely love it and am confident that I made the right choice.

My Messed Up Canada Day Roadtrip

I was off the Friday before Canada Day and had Physio and a call for the pre-op to fix my pinky finger. I came up with a plan to take a spontaneous road trip to Ottawa. My surgery is concerning for the possible side effects. I was pretty devastated after the call with my anxiety.
Since I was less than 500km from my oil change mileage I went to Kia and booked the appoint for this past week.
I went home and cleared out everything from my car I didn’t need, grabbed my passport and wad of US cash and took off down the Hwy 1 towards the border. At the border I got through pretty quickly and had no issues. Having all the signs in a weird foreign system of measurement increased my anxiety. In Calais, I fueled up and headed down Route 9 to Bangor.
I stopped for dinner at Dysart’s. It was a pretty good meatloaf. I then proceeded down Route 2 to Skowhagen where I needed to pee bad so I stopped at a gas station and it was there my fate turned. My GPS lost my route and I was lost. I kind of remember Route 201 so I turned on it and kept questioning that I was not on the right road,
It turned out I wasn’t, I really wanted 201A in the next town. Around midnight I ended up at the border on the highway headed towards Quebec City. By this point it started to rain really hard. I was not able to even drive the speed limit it was that hard. I made it to an Esso in Ascot Corner in Quebec and refuelled again at 1am. I then kept driving but got too tired and stopped at a mall and slept for an hour.
My sleep was interrupted by the lights of a cop that woke me to see if I was alright. He started talking in French and I was trying to translate it and I didn’t recognize enough words. He then spoke English and I responded I was okay and he moved on.
I then determined I needed to move on. I then crossed the bridge to Montreal as the break of day was happening. I was having such bad anxiety Siri was giving instructions that made no sense and there were so many construction signs that made no sense either. I stopped on a side street for a while and decided I wasn’t making it to Ottawa and it was time for starting a return back to see fireworks.
After a few hours back on the Highway, I needed so sleep so I pulled into a gas station and slept for an hour in the back corner of a Petro Canada parking lot in my car. I continued on the journey down the highway. As I was passing the town of Levis I seen the sign to cross the bridge to Quebec City. Since I had never been there before, I made the decision I needed to see it.
I took a drive through the packed old town and it was very reminiscent of the old parts of Paris. (Montreal is more reminiscent of the rest of Paris.) After leaving Quebec, the next stop was a gas and Tim’s break in Rivière de Loup. (a place Siri can’t pronounce close to right.) When ordering I asked if she spoke English and it was a fast nope. So I tried to order a coffee and a Dutchie and I was certain that I can pronounce Hollandaise properly but she had no clue.
Armed with my coffee and gas it was off to New Brunswick and lots more highway with spots of rain along the way. The next stop was Florencevile and I grabbed a donair sub that was really good. The interesting part was a guy in line ahead of me was Amish and had his horses and carriage waiting outside.
As I passed through Fredericton, the rain had stopped and was starting to clear. The people from home were messaging on Facebook that the weather in Saint John was bad and there was no fireworks to hurry back for. So I headed home anyways.
The next day I slept in until noon and then wasted most of the day away. I had seen that Hampton was having fireworks and decided to go see them, but then heard that Cambridge-Narrows was having some so I went there instead. They were pretty impressive and amazing.

Please Don’t End Me

Today, I was Googling myself to see what others were writing about me and one of the first things I read was the following tweet.

When I first read it I was a little afraid that my country had enough of me and were all out to get me. Then I read a little more on the issue. It was really shocking to me to learn that my initials are also the acronym for Child, Early and Forced Marriage. According to the Government of Canada the following stats are true:

  • Every year, it is estimated that 15 million girls—some as young as five years old—are forced into marriage.
  • Over 700 million women alive today were married as children.
  • One in every three girls in the developing world is married by the age of 18. One in nine marries before the age of 15.
  • Complications in childbirth are the leading cause of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 in the developing world.

I really agree with the 10,000 tweets on the issue that this is something that everyone should know about and work towards putting an immediate end to. If you want to read more on the issue there are good links on the bottom of the government’s webpage on the issue (