LAX – Los Angeles Airport

Wow. I mean just W.O.W… so we had been in San Diego & Los Angeles for about 6 days & were heading home. We were to leave from LAX. A pretty big, busy place, right? First of all, the bus driver nearly drove past our terminal. She caught herself just in time & off we leapt with our luggage. We got inside departures, the check in went well & the polite staff member said to us “Just head back to your left to Gate G. Have a safe flight” He even pointed in that direction. We about face-d, walked back toward where he gestured to & came upon… a wall. We looked around. Nowhere to go but outdoors. Literally everything else was blocked off. I discovered a small sign that kinnnnnnnd of points in the direction of where we had just been dropped off… do we actually go outside? Sure enough, as we ventured out, we saw a sidewalk & more construction barricades so we cautiously walked that way… behind us were other travellers doing the same thing. There really was only two choices: we go back to where we checked in and say “Ummm where do we go again?” or we continue on. We continued on. Sure enough, a ways down the sidewalk, we spotted some more somewhat useful signage that pointed to the gates.

That’s when we could not believe our eyes. Now, don’t get us wrong, we understand that as more people travel & airports etc are being used way more often by tons more people – improvements must be made, renovations have to be done & there will be a little confusion. We’ve been in airports during renos before. (London, Heathrow… the long, painful night of the ongoing clanging security alarms & jack hammers…) There really is no good time to do construction in such a busy place. The thing is: signage would clear up the majority of issues. As would strategically placed staff. We found ourselves being herded like confused cattle into what can only be described as a holding pen. There were about 80 chairs & eleventy-billion people. Ok so not quite that many, but you get the point. We decided to eat something, since we had arrived three hours ahead of our flight (as you’re supposed to do) & you’re never sure if there’s food served on board or not. We hauled ourselves into the Starbucks lineup. That was about 45 minutes. Now they were hustling & getting orders in but with only two machines – you can only make what you can make… Having ranted about that I will also say that I was thrilled to see more healthy food options & also some for dairy free, gluten free, vegan diners. There was a Shake Shack nearby as well, but not as healthy and just as packed full. We managed to score two seats as someone left to line up to board their flight. I needed to wash my hands & go to the loo so spent an hour in that lineup too. We thought we’d wander about & see some shops. There were kiosks. With bug spray, ear plugs, Tylenol & water. That’s. It. No windows or stores to peruse. Not even one. I swear I saw a fist fight brewing over an outlet with a USB port since quite a few that were in the seats weren’t working.

It would have been good to have some signs or staff to let you know, once you’re through security – There. Is. NOTHING. Nothing to see. Nothing to do. Nowhere to sit. Travellers can then make the choice to spend maybe just one more hour wandering & looking around prior to checking in. Upon reflection, there seemed to be a shortage of staff in general… garbage containers were overflowing everywhere, there was no one to ask for directions or advice. There was one very determined woman who worked in the loo, making sure everything was clean & kept in order, so kudos to her.

We’ve learned that you have to expect just about anything when travelling. You have to roll with it. (Speaking of roll with it: For the love of God, get a good suitcase with decent spinner wheels… just spend the money, get the warranty & for a few years – travel much easier.) Always, always have something to read with you. Also, enjoying who you are travelling with is a major plus 😉

Alcatraz: Escape Attempts

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Since 1859, when Alcatraz was a military prison to when it became a federal super max penitentiary from 1934 to 1963, attempts were made to escape The Rock. After walking through the cellhouse & hearing the audio tour, you can sincerely feel the isolation of the cold prison cells. You can begin to understand the motivation behind these desperate escape attempts… In the words of former inmate Jim Quillen, prisoner #AZ586, ”Nothing could blot out the knowledge of what and where you were, or the certainty that this was all that life held for you in the future. Man was never intended to live as a caged animal; I often speculated as to whether life was worth living under these conditions.”

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Commandant Colonel G. Maury Cralle’s famous response to the rumour of a planned mass escape in 1926 was “Go ahead, swim!’ Many a desperate man reconsidered escape when thinking of the frigid 58 degree waters & strong 6 to 8 mph currents of San Francisco Bay.

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In the movie Escape from Alcatraz, one famous line “If you disobey the rules of society, they send you to prison. If you disobey the rules of prison, they send you to us.” sums up the role of The Rock. There was one guard for every three inmates & 13 official head counts in each 24 hour period. Another excellent quote regarding the necessity of Alcatraz also came from former prisoner Jim Quillen (in his book Alcatraz From Inside) “The institution was there for the purpose of proving to unruly prisoners that they had reached the ultimate termination of their undisciplined way of life.”

A total of 34 men tried to escape from1934 – 1963, in 14 separate official attempts. Five of those men were never seen or heard from again, and are presumed to have drowned. Two inmates tried to escape twice.

Escape Attempts
• April 27, 1936 Joseph Bowers didn’t get far – he climbed the fence in full view of a guard; he was shot & killed
• December 16, 1937 Ralph Roe & Theodore Cole sawed through a window bar, squeezed through & were never seen again
• May 23, 1938 James Lucas, Thomas Limerick & Rufus Franklin beat Officer Royal Cline to death with a hammer stolen from the furniture shop. A guard in the tower killed Limerick & wounded Franklin. Lucas was captured.
• January 13, 1939 Arthur “Doc” Barker, Dale Stamphill, Rufus McCain, William Martin & Henry Young sawed through window bars in D Block, made it to the water’s edge, but Barker was fatally wounded & the others were captured.
• May 21, 1941 Joseph Cretzer, Sam Shockley, Arnold Kyle & Lloyd Barkdoll overpowered guards but gave up after unsuccessfully trying to saw through the window bars.
• September 15, 1941 John Bayless made a one-man escape attempt when he slipped away before garbage detail but he was spotted in the water & brought back.
• April 14, 1943 Floyd Hamilton, Harold Brest, Fred Hunter & James Boarman jumped guards & broke through a rear window. All four were spotted swimming. Boarman was fatally wounded, Brest & Hunter were picked up by the prison launch & Hamilton was found 2 days later, hiding in a cave.
• August 7, 1943 Ted Walters sneaked out of the laundry & climbed over the fence. He was found entering the bay with 2 large cans tied around his waist for buoyancy.
• July 31, 1945 John Giles had collected an entire Army uniform during eight years of working on the dock. He stripped off the coveralls that concealed the uniform & walked on to the Army launch. A head count taken on the boat revealed the extra man.
• May 2, 1946 This bloody attempt, known as the Battle of Alcatraz, raged for three days when six inmates – Bernard Coy, Joseph Cretzer, Sam Shockley, Marvin Hubbard, Miran Thompson & Clarence Carnes made a break for it. They overpowered several guards, captured weapons, took over the cell house, but were foiled by not being able to get the key to the exterior door. Guards William Miller & Harold Stites, inmates Coy, Cretzer & Hubbard were killed. Shockley & Thompson were executed for their roles in this attempt.

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• July 23, 1956 Floyd Wilson disappeared from the dock crew & hid in a crevice in the rocks, working his way along the sea wall, eluding search parties for 12 hours before being discovered.
• September 29, 1958 After tying a guard to a tree, Clyde Johnson & Aaron Burgett ran from their garbage detail to the shoreline. After 2 hours, Johnson was found clinging to the sea wall. Burgett was missing for 13 days before his body was discovered in the bay.
• June 11, 1962 Frank Morris & brothers Clarence & John Anglin escaped from their cells after enlarging their air vents by digging with spoons. Dummy heads were left in their beds. They climbed to the top of the cellblock & on to the roof along a ventilation shaft. They climbed down a cast iron stovepipe, entered the water with flotation devices made from raincoats & were never seen again.
• December 16, 1962 This marked the last escape attempt & the only known successful swim from The Rock to the mainland. John Paul Scott & Darl Parker sawed through bars in a basement room under the kitchen, inflated gloves then shoved those into their clothes for buoyancy, jumped in the bay & swam. Parker gave up & turned back. Scott was found clinging to rocks near the Golden Gate Bridge, too exhausted to pull himself out of the water.

My Perspective on Travel

The scribblings of this travelling housewife & her amazing, oh-so-adventurous husband… you’ll find tips & suggestions of destinations to visit, what to do (or skip!) when you get there, places to eat (or avoid!) & even a few simplifying-your-trip ideas.


I’ve travelled to over 9 countries & 3 of the 7 continents so far… Let’s see — Bangkok to Bath — Athens to Amsterdam to name a few… and I don’t plan on slowing down any time soon! 

And I have over 37,564 readers on tripadvisor! 

If you have any suggestions, comments, or if you’d like to tell me how a post helped you – please don’t hesitate to drop me a line at: myreturnticket@hotmail.com or read my contributions on tripadvisor.ca/members/ChrisFranklin

The Right Suitcase

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A good suitcase should last about 10 years, and should have a guarantee for parts such as zippers, wheels and handles. Remember, you get what you pay for! When luggage is more expensive they should be well designed and have quality components.

It all starts with size… save up… buy the set, you’ll never be sorry. Each trip is different and may require a bigger(or smaller) suitcase than the last… now you’ll have that choice. Be sure to grab the carry on duffle or bag that matches too as you can easily keep everything for the actual flight right under the seat ahead of you and not have to get out of your seat to take down the carry on suitcase from the overhead. On a long trip you’ll easily find your luggage because it all matches. I would definitely suggest buying an expanding suitcase. And a luggage strap. That’s a smart idea too, in case the zipper ever breaks.

I’ve been thinking that my next purchase of luggage will probably include spinning wheels as I have wrist issues so I think this will help me with maneuvering a large, heavy bag. Was it not for that, the stationary wheels on my current cases work just fine.

As far as handles go, just check out the stitching to be sure they look sturdy, and get the telescoping handle type.. that is a lifesaver when you also have a carry on bag. My favourite feature of my carry on is that there is a strap with velcro on the side that slips over the extended handle of the bigger case so I don’t need to worry about it falling off the suitcase while I am racing down the airport… which even the most organized traveller may have to do when your flight is changed at the last minute!

The one item I haven’t settled on yet… soft or hard sided? Mine are soft sided but have been ripped from the first trip they’ve been on. Very frustrating. My husband has a really nice (not so cheap) suitcase by Jeep that had one of the front pockets ripped right open between the time we checked it in and when it arrived at our destination. One note, I hear that hard sided cases can add up to 10 lbs in weight so that would be a problem.

I swear the most popular colour of suitcases is black. There are hundreds of them coming down the carousel at one time and people are scrambling like mad to see if it’s theirs. If you insist on having black luggage then a coloured luggage strap or piece of ribbon tied to the handle will make it easier to identify.

On one of our trips I saw something I am happy to save up for… luggage protectors or covers. There are a couple of kinds that I have seen so far. The first are clear plastic-type ones that zip up or velcro under the wheels once slipped over your case. If you happen to like the style of your suitcase then you can still see it through the cover. Or I found brightly coloured/patterned stretchy, fabric ones that velcro underneath, again, once slipped over your packed suitcase. These are smart because you can get a plain black suitcase and have any style protector you wish. These covers would also eliminate the need for a luggage strap.

The luggage lock is a bit of a debate. Some airlines don’t want you to use them now due to security inspections, and to know which airports allow them or not… well, that’s really just one more thing to have to check before leaving on a holiday. I would go to the dollar store, buy a roll of brightly coloured ribbon, and tie your zippers together. It’s secure enough to hold but easy enough to snip off when you arrive at your destination or at the security check. Don’t forget to tuck a bit of the ribbon in your suitcase to use on the way home.

Lastly, always keep a second luggage tag inside your checked suitcase, in case the one you’ve placed outside on the handle gets ripped off. Have your flight details and destination on there as well. It’s quite easy to make extra cards to switch out for each trip. Then if lost, it can be identified by airport staff or you can replace it once you’ve retrieved your baggage.

Packing it in…

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I am not being overly dramatic when I say: Packing is critical. If you pack too much, you end up disorganized, lugging around heavy bags, and paying top dollar fees for over-weight baggage and if you pack too little, you’ll be on the hunt down for extra clothing when you’d rather be on an actual adventure.

These are some essential things to keep in mind when it’s time to pack.

1. Get your packing process started at least a week ahead of when you’re leaving… at the very least… make a list! This way you’ll have time to purchase any additional items you might need. Then once you’ve got the perfect list type it out check-list style and print one every time you are going on holiday… you’ll be less likely to forget things. Sometimes we forget the most obvious things… those will be the items you can’t do without! I’ll place my checklist at the end of this post (to save paper you could place this in a plastic sleeve & use a dry erase pen to mark it).

2. Go online and find out about what you can take as luggage, while most airlines allow travellers to check at least one bag at no extra charge on international flights, the majority of U.S. carriers charge big bucks for bags checked on domestic flights.

3. Along with your one piece of carry on luggage, you are usually able to bring one other personal item. It is subject to specific size requirements but something like a purse, laptop bag, or backpack is generally acceptable. I would suggest taking one, you’ll want to have at least one change of clothes in here in case your main luggage gets lost. The personal item you bring can contain your e-reader, itinerary, magazines, travel toothbrush & paste.. you get the idea. My husband and I each take a small tote style bag to place under the seat ahead of us and that way we don’t need to get up again once seated to get our books etc. Our carry on suitcases go in the overhead storage until we arrive at our destination.

4. Rolling is much better than folding.; tightly rolled clothes take up way less space than folded ones. And they are less wrinkled when you arrive at your destination, believe it or not. Also once rolled, smaller items can go inside your shoes for more space.

5. Any type of liquids should really be in plastic resealable bags. They WILL leak… it happens. Why even worry? Just pack them that way to begin with and save yourself the headache of hair gel soaked clothing, or shaving creamed shoes… My all-time favourite packing tip: you know how you get those little shower caps in hotel rooms or dollar stores? They make really good shoe covers for keeping the soles of your shoes from getting your clothes dirty! And all sizes of food storage bags (also from the dollar store) can hold all of your other like items together – hair products in one bag, lingerie in another, etc. They’re reusable & don’t take up any extra space. I even keep some in my carry on for mints, identification, earphones & medications.

6. If you’re travelling for longer than a week, you may want to wash some clothes in the hotel’s bathroom sink and hang them to dry. I always make sure to pack a travel-size packet of laundry detergent to clean my clothes on the road… there’s a method to this madness… I’ll pack less BUT have room for any new purchases I buy on our travels! I also take a small drawstring bag to use for soiled laundry, to keep it separate from the clean stuff.

7. See if you can find pants that turn into shorts or a jacket that turns into a vest, that’s another space-saving technique right there!

8. My best advise: Wear layers. Your actual travel outfit should be in plenty of layers, which will help you travel multiple climates in style and comfort. Also it gives you many more options of what to wear during your entire trip.

9. It’s really important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked baggage. Your passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you… which leads me to >>>

10. Print triplicates of your travel info – you’ll be so glad to have done this… I make 3 copies of our itinerary (including hotels, flights etc); my husband gets one to keep with him, I get one to keep with me and I leave the last one with my mom. You never know what can happen. It’s a good plan to have another person, that’s not travelling with you, know where you’ll be and the times you’ll be gone/home.

 

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