Time to spare, go by air -Death Valley


Dry gulch, Zabriskie Point_lr
Dry Gulch, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley USA

Day 2, Sunday: No communication from Air Canada.The AC rep had informed Mom that FedEx didn’t work on Sunday, but promised to request permission for same day service with an alternate delivery service for Sunday or same day service FedEx service on Monday. Mom emphasized that she’d only be at Death Valley for four days, so if I couldn’t be delivered on Sunday or Monday it would be better to keep me at their office where she would retrieve me when she and Dad returned their rental car.


Golden Canyon DV_lr
Golden Canyon, site of R2D2’s capture

Day 3, Monday: Mom and Dad hiked Golden Canyon, passing under the shadow of Manly Beacon at Zabriskie Point. In spite of wearing the same clothes she’d been wearing since Saturday morning she was thrilled to traverse territory walked upon by R2-D2 and C3PO forty years earlier. Over lunch at Furnace Creek Ranch, she received an email advising that FedEx would pick me up that day between 0800 and 1400 hours. She was ecstatic – I’d arrive by late afternoon.

Manly Beacon, Zabriskie Point DV_lr
Manly Beacon aka the stone version of Lauren Harris’ Iceberg Paintings

By 16:30 I had not arrived. Was I in Vegas? Was I enroute? Would I arrive any minute? What would happen if I didn’t arrive before they flew to Mexico?  Would they send me home to Canada?  Would I be permanently lost? Anxiety and frustration skyrocketed.

Badwater 17 lr
The Old Lodge

Three days wearing almost the same clothes hadn’t been much fun although she attempted to focus on the bright side: the time-consuming chore of wondering what to wear had been eliminated.  Mom always wears layers, preparing for different weather conditions. For this trip, she had chosen a black silk T-shirt, long-sleeve cargo shirt, vest, hooded windbreaker, hat, and beige skirt to camouflage dirt and dust and her standard hiking boots.

“Honey, what do you think I should wear today?” quickly lost its appeal.

Dad had zero success tracking my route using the web link provided on Air Canada’s Lost Baggage Claim Receipt received from the Vegas rep however Google “Air Canada Lost Baggage” hit the jackpot. The AC Reference Number led him to a FedEx tracking number that provided surprising information: McCarran/Vegas Lost Baggage Office does have a contact number for travelers. And he learned the devastating news that FedEx had scheduled my delivery after they would depart Death Valley. If this couldn’t be stopped, I would arrive in Death Valley – as they were arriving at Vegas.

Day 4, Tuesday: During the next 24 hours, she communicated often with the AC Vegas and FedEx agents. She learned that contrary to the assertions of the first AC outsourced rep who had “helped” her on the day of arrival, the Lost Baggage Office is staffed daily from 06:30 to 23:00. Owners of lost luggage may not be able to speak with their airline’s rep, any agent on duty would be able to answer general questions:“when will my agent be working?” “is my bag sitting in front of you?”

With FedEx, she stressed these difficulties weren’t their fault, implored them to keep me in North Vegas for her, and thanked them for understanding.

With the AC rep, she advised she intended to pick me up at the FedEx office but, if FedEx was obliged to return their shipment to them rather than allow the owner (her) to claim the shipment, she begged AC to tag me “Hold for pickup by owner.”

Annoyed with my continued mismanagement and beginning to tire of the same outfit (hand-washed each night), on two consecutive nights she spoke with Air Canada’s Lost Baggage telephone reps, pleasant men living in India, nicknamed “Brad” and “Matthew” for the convenience of English ears.

The conversation with “Brad” was difficult. The connection was poor, his microphone volume was almost inaudible, and he and English were not old friends. Trying to make the strangled dialogue manageable, Mom used the phonetic alphabet: “If you must return my luggage to Canada, the office postal code is Kilo Zero November Five Zulu Nine.” “Brad” mangled this to “Kilo Seven November, Nine Sierra November.”

The next night, Mom hesitated to increase her frustration by calling AC India and re-live last night’s parody of customer support. “Brad” was as nice as the AC Rep in Vegas, but neither were efficient. However, “Matthew” conducted the conversation in excellent English, authorized a second USD50 expenditure, and provided the list of seven documents required by AC to process my claim reimbursement.

As for my conundrum, several possibilities loomed.

If FedEx couldn’t legally hold me, I would be returned to the AC Lost Luggage at McCarran Airport. One FedEx agent tried to reassure Mom that this ‘return to shipper’ would “likely occur by Friday.” This was bad: our flight to Baja California Sur was Friday @ 10:30. Who could predict a decision by employees that had scheduled my arrival to temporary lodgings after the known departure date?

Would they keep me for pick up? Would they send me home to Canada?

Would I trail around North America, missing her by a slim margin at every opportunity?  If we couldn’t be reunited before the cruise, she fretted for my safety and her comfort.

Day 4, Wednesday: At 0905, FedEx granted an “Official Exception ” to the routing. My revised status was “hold for pickup by owner.” Mom’s confidence mushroomed but she would be relieved when she could snuggle me against her body. Her insides churned. Would they would arrive at FedEx Vegas to find that was at Furnace Creek? Would they return to Furnace Creek to find that I had returned to Vegas?

World Famous Crowbar
World Famous Crowbar Cafe & Saloon

Enroute to Vegas, the spectacular Death Valley scenery diverted their conversation from our predicament. They viewed derelict structures in abandoned mining “towns” that had never been more than a ramshackle cluster of a dozen jerry-rigged buildings. They summitted passes through mountains striated like vanilla-and-caramel candy. Dad deliberately sidetracked Mom by betting that they would encounter fewer than ten opposite direction cars. He lost by three.

Half-way to Vegas they pulled up to the Rough Guide recommended “Famous Crowbar Café & Saloon” at Shoshone Junction, a living history museum of offices and homes depicted the harsh life that had existed on the route between Mob machinations in LA and Vegas. A relic gas station with a decaying Chevy, plated California 1937, slumped at decrepit Chevron pumps.  Across the street, the modern Post Office and a functioning Chevron Station mocked the decaying memorabilia. Great food. Don’t miss it.

Peep Show, Garces & LAS Blvd_lr
Peep Show at Garces Avenue, Vegas

In Vegas, Mom presented her ID to a FedEx clerk who fiddled with information on her terminal then contorted her mouth in apparent puzzlement. Mom couldn’t breathe well enough to ask if there was a problem. The clerk disappeared into a storage room. Seconds later she returned, struggling with my bulk.

Dad teased, “Please don’t leap over the counter to hug the clerk.”

Mom discovered the reason for the agent’s hesitation: the AC outsourced rep had recorded her name as LORALEE.

Vegas was great.

Next stop San Juan del Cabo, Mexico.








Time to spare, go by air – Toronto

“Hey mister, over here. Are you blind? Help! Aidez-moi!

Backpack #2 - left side
Vintage Kelty Backpack DOB 1998

Why can’t the security cameras identify me? Mayday-Mayday-Mayday.”

I’ve been spinning around this carousel for hours, loop after loop. I should have been airborne two hours ago. Instead, I’m stuck on the ground at this damn airport. If I get any dizzier I’m gonna’ decorate the conveyor belt with my guts.

Until a few hours ago, everything about this trip was SOS: “Same Old Shit” – routine and uneventful – not “Save Our Souls.”

I’ve been Mom’s trusted traveling companion since 1998. When we’re not on the road, I pass the time dreaming about the next adventure or, spurred by one of the dozens of “cloth tattoo” country badges sewn all over my body, I reminisce about past escapades -riding the roof of a chicken bus in Guatemala, bumping along dirt trails on safari in Tanzania, or jostling on top of a camel crossing the Saharan sand dunes.

Lola on Mrefu Sept 2003 TZ cropped 2
On Mrefu for a five-day safari with Masai, Tanzania

Mom hates sewing so I’m still waiting for the Kalimantan and Chile badges but that doesn’t stop me remembering lunch with the Orangutans and hikes in Torres del Paine Park.

Hangin’ on, infant Orangutan, Camp Leakey, Kalimantan, Island of Borneo

Mom’s peripatetic lust for travel means that I rarely sleep in my cramped closet before she haul’s me into action. Four months was the longest and three days, the shortest. We knows that life at home will be familiar and easier, (and perhaps safer) than the challenges of travel but the seduction of challenge is a temptation she can’t resist.

Today, I’m packed light but tight. To accommodate our diverse itinerary, I’m overstuffed with a variety of goodies: hiking gear for Death Valley, evening wear for Vegas, and casual clothes for our small-boat cruise.  Bursting with these travel goodies plus tripod, swimsuit, sandals, and sarong, we crammed into our car for the 2-hour drive.

Within minutes of arrival at Pearson, I sported a new souvenir bracelet: LAS AC 1871. Mom wrapped me in a protective plastic raincoat and tucked me into a bin for oversize luggage. A supervising attendant assisted, ensuring that my new bracelet projected outside the plastic coat so that security cameras could snap a good picture of me with my new jewelry.

Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile

I was on my way. Or so we thought.

Days later, when at last reunited, I learned that the US Customs agent based at YYZ had advised that her luggage was “pending” and, without hint of explanation or apology, he brusquely refused her admission into America. He curtly dismissed her queries by waving the next passenger forward to his wicket while beckoning another agent to escort Mom to Air Canada’s Customer Service. Here, a determined Lebanese-Canadian employee of AC attempted to locate me, shocked that luggage could be lost within 55 minutes of arrival, especially as this was a first leg – not a transit.

Departure time loomed. Would I make it on the plane?

The kindly agent promised to continue searching so that I would be loaded in time. Long after his shift ended, I continued my circuitous journey. No one rescued me until after midnight, sixteen hours after I bid hasta luego to Mom.

Manly Beacon_lr
Manly Beacon, Zabriskie Point, Death Valley, California USA

Amazed that I could have gone astray, we had reassured ourselves that my unique body – teal green body covered with a riot of intriguing country flags and destination badges – should ensure rapid identification. Independent of each other, we concluded that I’d be on Saturday evening’s flight. (Later I would hear Mom remark that if attendants were there to help travelers use this new scanning system, they should have been trained to advise passengers that it was no longer necessary to enclose backpacks in clear plastic bags because the plastic prevented the security camera from getting good photographs).

That didn’t happen.

The Air Canada Lost Luggage rep at McCarran Airport, Vegas, had informed Mom that FedEx didn’t work on Sunday, but promised to request permission for same day service with an alternate delivery service or same day service on Monday with FedEx. Mom advised that she’d only be at Death Valley for four days: “If you can’t deliver on Sunday or Monday, please keep my backpack. We’ll get it when we return the car.”

Lodge at Furnace Creek
The Lodge at Furnace Creek, Death Valley USA

Though Mom’s room at Furnace Creek Lodge was luxurious compared to my spartan conditions, we both slept fitfully, awakening several times throughout the night. At dawn a search using my locator number indicated that someone had finally noticed me but not soon enough for Saturday’s flight. We were hopeful that I’d arrive on Sunday morning, 24 hours later than her arrival.

Wrong again. Would we ever be united?


Quinte Arts Council Biennial Juried Visual Art Show & Sale 2017

A big crowd filled the two galleries of Belleville’s Parrot Art Gallery hosting the Biennial Juried Arts Show.    64 works of art were selected from an undisclosed number of entries. Various mediums were well represented – oil, acrylic, and watercolor paintings; fibre art; stained glass; and photography.

I was thrilled when these images from my recent Yukon Dog sledding adventure were accepted.

Awards were received by Julianne Eckert for her mixed media submission (Juror’s Choice), Marta Mouka for her fibre creation (2nd Juror’s Choice), and Sue Panko for her acrylic painting (Ontario Craft Council Award).

Expressions 2017 Show & Sale continues until June 01.  The Gallery at the Library is open Monday – Saturday.   613-968-6731  254 Pinnacle Street.