A Travellerspoint blog

USA

Thinking about it

I have done quite a bit of flying in recent years, including work in support of a number of National Science Foundation grants and so I've accumulated a respectable stash of frequent flyer miles on Delta. A couple of years ago while browsing on FlyerTalk I ran across the Sky Team Round The World Planner site.

I tried for about a year to link my planned travel to my grant work in nanotechnology education, thinking about visiting countries with nascent nanotech programs and talking about workforce development and curriculum, but it was an uphill battle - both from a logistical and from a political point of view. The NSF does not support efforts aimed at directly benefiting foreign entities unless there is a reciprocal benefit to US citizens; not unreasonable I suppose but it made it harder to figure out a way to establish lasting connections even if I were able to meet with the right people on a relatively tight schedule. So, I decided to just go as a vacation and if any scholarly opportunities came my way, I'd take advantage of them.

Delta charges 180,000 miles for economy and 280,000 for business/first. (Note - today I tried to find a link to these numbers on the Delta site and was unsuccessful. I called Delta and they said the program was still active. I also called the online help desk who confirmed that the relevant page was now blank - they had 'no idea' why this was the case.)

Yes, it takes a LOT of miles, but I had them and have always enjoyed travel, so, why not? Also, when you work it out it's a pretty good deal compared to international business class fares. Yes, I'm doing the Big Enchilada; RTW in Business/First!

Some of the ground rules are: You are allowed 1 year to use your ticket, you can stop in 6 places (I'm doing 7 by arranging my own travel between two destinations - your trip does not have to be continuous around the world but it does need to be all E to W or W to E; no backtracking. Changes are relatively inexpensive as well. Check the planner link above for more details. You have to call your airline and ask for the "SkyTeam Round the world desk" to actually execute any plan that you create using the world planner. They are specialists who know it will take at least a couple of hours to turn a plan into actual seats, and they are very good at what they do.

Posted by tdeits 19:05 Archived in USA Tagged rtw planning delta skyteam Comments (0)

a few final thoughts

924,601 steps later

Yes, that's how many steps I took on this trip (step counter app)!

What an excellent trip - so many great places and so many really terrific people along the way. Plus the fact that I planned this thing and executed it successfully! I also had only one item in my suitcase I didn't use (sewing kit) and my suitcase only weighed 12 kg. I didn't lose anything of note (one close call, admittedly) and I had no flights delayed/canceled/rerouted.

I had great weather almost everywhere - a cloudy November in Paris counts as great weather, by the way. I got rained on exactly once! I had two extra summers, too!

Most of all, I have to simply say how privileged I am to have this opportunity. So many of us are so fortunate and we really need to occasionally reflect on that fact, life's vicissitudes notwithstanding. I am grateful that my health made this trip possible and I am most grateful for all of my friends and family who were excited and happy for me to do this thing. That is a true friend - one who can be happy for your happiness - and I have so many!

Thanks for joining me on this journey. May we all have many more excellent adventures!

Posted by tdeits 13:04 Archived in USA Comments (0)

Death Valley and Desert Southwest wildflowers

March, 2016

sunny 78 °F

I was in Southern California visiting friends when I found I had a few days to spare, so I took advantage of the opportunity and roamed around the desert Southwest, primarily motivated by the fact that Death Valley was experiencing what is called a 'superbloom' - a combination of rainfall and temperature that promotes exceptional wildflower germination and blooming. Superblooms happen roughly every decade, so it sounded like the right time to go.

I went with a friend to Anza Borrego State Park for my first stop. It's a pleasant drive from San Diego that takes you down quiet highways and offers an opportunity for a damn fine cup of coffee and a slice of pie in Julian. We visited the visitor's center and were encouraged to take a trail nearby where both flowers and bighorn sheep (possibly including some babies) might be seen. Well, we didn't see any babies but we did encounter a quite placid group of male bighorn dining by the side of the trail, happy to be photographic subjects.

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Here are a few flowers found in Anza Borrego - I will try and give common names when I have a decent guess from flower guides.

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This is (probably) Indigo bush and desert sunflower

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Desert paintbrush

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Brittlebush

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Beavertail cactus

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Bighorn sheep stalking a tourist (and ocotillo)

I headed on solo to Death Valley. Whether I was actually there during the official superbloom or perhaps a bit afterwards (as the Park Service website stated), there were still a whole lot of flowers. My best luck in finding interesting blooms was to park by the side of the road and hike maybe a quarter mile up a side canyon, looking for interesting items. The weather was perfect - maybe 70's at the top of the valley and about 90 at the bottom. For starters, here's a picture of the valley floor from Dante's View.

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I was amused by this meandering rivulet on the valley floor

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When I got to the bottom, near Furnace Creek, it's hard to call what I say anything less than a superbloom. The valley floor was covered in blossoms of the Desert Gold plant. Here are pictures from a couple of locations northwest of Furnace Creek, along highway 190.

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And here are pictures from my wanderings in the hills above Death Valley

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Foothill deervetch

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Desert sunflower and wooly daisy

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Orange lichen

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Gold poppy and desert filaree

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Bigelow's monkeyflower

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and something purple....

I wandered on south and dropped into Phoenix to watch the Giants whip the Padres....

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then headed south to Tucson where I visited Kitt Peak Observatory and found some very nice wildflowers growing along the highway

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Desertbells

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Chia and California golden poppies

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Poppies and something pink

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Fairyduster

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Something orange (Jewelweed - thanks, Mary!)

I spent an afternoon in Saguaro National Park as well - very cool place.

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On my way out of the park I took this sunset picture which seems to be a good choice to end this brief entry.

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Posted by tdeits 20:27 Archived in USA Tagged landscapes death_valley wildflowers phoenix tuscon anza_borrego spring_training Comments (0)

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