Los Angeles Vacation: The Traveling – Part 1

This past week, I went to Los Angeles to visit my real father and my sister, the latter whom I’ve never met as an adult. I decided to write about my experiences in a series of blog posts in approximately 3 to 5 parts as follows.

  1. The Traveling – I’ll be discussing my experiences in traveling to Los Angeles as well as traveling on the return trip. This will be a two parter.
  2. Uber – My experiences in my first Uber rides ever.
  3. My dad & sister – I’ll discuss meeting them. This post will probably be a two parter.
  4. My hiking – I hiked two difficult trails there. Probably a two parter as well.

Today, let’s talk about my experiences in traveling to Los Angeles and back. 

A few months ago, I was talking to my sister, who lives in California  after we found each other on Facebook. We got to talking. Then I brought up the idea of me going to visit her and my dad, also in California. They both liked the idea of me going to visit them. So I used my Triple A membership to book the flight out of American Airlines. I looked at my options. I only had 5 days of vacation. Which meant I needed to limit my traveling time so I can maximize my vacation time once on the ground, so long layovers were not an option.

The American Airlines flight was booked for July 17 out of Appleton at 5:15am and landing in Chicago O’Hare about an hour later. I then had an hour to get to the other side of the terminal to make my connecting flight to Los Angeles, due to take off at 7:22am CT and set to land in LA at around 10:00am PT.

The return flight was booked on July 20 to leave LAX at 1pm PT and land in Chicago at 7:25pm CT. Then I had an hour to get across the terminal for my 8:30pm flight back to Appleton.

Let’s talk about going to LA. I could have driven the 90 some miles to Appleton from my home in Menominee, MI at around midnight  the day of the flight since I’m a 3rd shift worker and my body is already on a 3rd shift schedule. But I thought to myself – what if something happens on the highway while traveling to the airport? What if my truck breaks down? What if there was an accident that I would get stuck behind? I decided to go to Appleton a day early and just stay in a hotel. I figure if something does happen while driving to Appleton, I still would have a day to deal with it and still make my flight.

Before I continue, I wanted to mention my job is an overnight manager on duty for a grocery store. One of my responsibilities involve receiving trucks that deliver to the store. Grocery, meat, produce, etc.  Because the store is closed overnight, pretty much all the drivers have my cell phone number so they can call or text me when they are on the way or already at the loading dock. I spent the last couple weeks before my vacation notifying the drivers of my vacation and to contact my coworker instead. Now back to the story.

Once at the hotel, I went to bed around 6pm and set my alarm for 1am so I can go to the airport at 2am to check in. Well, at 11pm, I was woken up by a text message via my smart watch that vibrates whenever I get a notification on my phone. Apparently one driver didn’t get the memo that I was gone. He texted to say that he was parked at the loading dock at the store that I worked at. Oh brother. So I texted my coworker to go unload the truck.

I tried to go back to sleep, but couldn’t. So I was like, fuck it, let’s go to the airport early. I took a shower, got dressed, packed my bags, checked out and went to the airport, which is a small airport. I arrived at the airport a little after 1am and went to long term parking, where I parked my truck and made a mental note of its location. No activity at all in the airport. I was hoping the doors were open so I could at least go in inside and rest and they were. But the lights in the terminal were down, No one else were there other than a janitor, who paid me no mind. So I took a seat by the American Airlines counter and fired up my tablet to begin reading a book. I also used the opportunity to check out the American Airlines app on my phone for updates and make sure everything is on time. So far, so good. I also studied the map of the terminal at O’Hare so I can plan my route to my connecting flight.

Around 2:30am, the lights flickered on and employees began to arrive to the terminal. Other passengers soon arrived as well. At 3am, the counter was open to take check ins. I got my boarding pass and my suitcase was cleared for carry on. I didn’t have to check it. I was happy about that.

I went over to the security checkpoint, which was not quite open yet. I sat with the other passengers and waited.  Once security was ready to go, I let other passengers go first so I can observe what to do when going through the checkpoint since I’ve never flown under the new TSA rules. I made it clear to the agents that I’m deaf and needed to read lips and they were more than happy to oblige, showing me what I needed to do in order to pass inspection, which I did with no problem.

Once inside the terminal, I still had an hour or so to kill before boarding. The gate agent soon appeared about a half hour before boarding. I told the agent I was deaf and wouldn’t be able to hear my group number when called to board. She said, no problem. She would let me preboard. Which I did at boarding time.

The plane took off on time and in the blink of an eye, I was already on the ground in Chicago and it didn’t take long to disembark the plane since it was only a small regional jet with a few dozen passengers. Once off the plane, I still had 50 minutes to make my next connection. I walked briskly to the other end of the terminal. The walk took about 20 minutes and when I got to my gate, the monitor said it was still only 20 minutes to boarding time. Plenty of time for me to hit the head, which I did.

I returned to the gate and informed the agent that I was deaf and would not be able to hear my group number when called. This agent also agreed to let me preboard. I was thankful, but was peeved that American Airlines would not have the “Group Number Now Boarding” flashing on the monitor at the terminal like Delta Airlines does with theirs. But as long as I still got to preboard, I was ok with that.

I got on the plane. It took a while for the other passengers to load up as the plane was big enough to hold about 200 some passengers. But the plane still took off on time. It made good time across the country and landed in LA at 9:30am, a half hour early than scheduled.  I was out of the plane and outside the terminal by 10am, waiting for my dad, who got stuck in traffic on the LA freeway. 

While waiting outside the terminal, I saw a slick black Cadillac pull up. A driver got out, and went around to the right rear passenger side and opened the door., He then popped the trunk to get a suitcase. An older looking man got out wearing what appeared to be a two thousand dollar suit. The man looked to be in his late 60’s and looked very important. My first impression of the man was “mobster” – LOL. The driver told the man where to go check in, shook hands with the man, and the man walked away without saying thanks to the driver. I’m like,oookay.

A few minutes after that, my dad pulled up. I got in the car and we took off and he showed me a bit of Los Angeles, which I will write about in a future post.

I thought to myself, not bad for my first ever solo trip on an airplane. Everything went as planned other than be woken up early at the hotel in Appleton. But little did I know that the trip back home nearly wouldn’t go as planned. I’ll write about that in my next post.

Stay tuned 😉

New Bike Purchase & May 11 ride

On Wednesday, I went over to the Marinette Cycle Center to look at some road bikes and found one that I liked, but they didn’t have that model in my favorite color, which is black, so it’s on order It’s a Trek flat handlebar road bike. I’m not one to ride bent over on the curved handlebars. My back can’t handle that for a long distance. So I went with the flat handlebar road bike, which should not be too much different from riding my mountain bike, which also has a flat handlebar. I’ll receive the bike on Monday and am looking forward to taking it out.

As for my workout this week, I missed Tuesday’s ride because I had a loose wheel on the bike and didn’t feel like repairing it at the time nor did I feel like going to Planet Fitness for a workout. So I skipped Tuesday’s scheduled workout.

I made up for missing Tuesday’s workout with a harder ride today. I fixed the loose wheel on the bike, then rode 8.5 miles in 39:56 for an average speed of 12.9 mph. I rode from my house near Henes Park to all the way to Red Arrow Park. I stopped at Red Arrow Park for a quick water break. I currently don’t have a water bottle that I can open, drink and close with one hand while in motion. So I took a quick 5 minute break at Red Arrow, then rode home.

And I rode hard too to maintain the 12.9 average speed. If I can do that on a mountain bike, imagine what I can do on a road bike. I’m so looking forward to getting my road bike.

Pictured below is what my Pebble smart watch looks like when paired with the Strava app. Once I started the ride on the app, I didn’t have to touch my phone once and controlled the app from my watch. It was great.

If the weather cooperates on Saturday, I hope to go for a longer, but more leisurely ride. I’m hoping to do 12 miles. Stay tuned. 

May 6 Workout

I have not ridden since Tuesday because Wednesday and Friday were my rest days and I wasn’t motivated to ride on Thursday even though the weather was nice. Motivation is still my biggest issue when it comes to my training for the Menominee River Century. 

Even today, I still felt like ass mashing on the couch, but then I thought, “Fuck it, let’s get out there and ride.”

So I hopped on the bike and started riding. There was a nice north wind of about 16 mph, which would make for both an easy ride with the wind and a tough ride against it.

Initially, I decided to just ride a few loops around the 1.25 mile Henes Park trail. But there was just too many mayflies out there and I was getting a nice diet of them. I had to cover my mouth for much of the ride around Henes Park. I was like, fuck it, let’s ride on the road away from the mayflies at Henes Park.

The problem with the Marinette – Menominee area is that there is no bike trails at all. Sure there is Red Arrow and Henes Park, but both bike trails are like a mile or so.

So I just stuck to the bike route on M-35 and US-41. I had a nice wind assisted ride, going from Henes Park to all the way near Veterans Memorial Park in Menominee. I wanted to keep going to Fat Ladies Beach, which was another mile from that point, but I knew I would have a very difficult headwind on the way back, so I turned around before reaching Veteran’s Memorial Park.

The headwind was very brutal. I barely could crack a speed of 10 mph on the return trip. It took me a while to get back to my house, which is near Henes Park. 

At one point in the ride, I had to stop to tie my shoes and paused the Strava Riding app on my phone using my watch. But I forgot to restart the app once I got going again and didn’t realize it until I went about 3/4 of a mile.

Officially, my stats for today’s ride  was 8.3 miles in 43:45. I figure I would add about another 3 minutes for that 3/4 of a mile that I didn’t record. 

Not a bad workout for my longest ride of the season. 

Hopefully the wind will not be too bad the next time I go riding, but even it is, I’ll go out anyways. There is no guarantee that it won’t be windy on the day of the Menominee River Century.

For my next ride, I’m thinking of throwing my bike in my truck and take it to a bike trail somewhere. Hopefully the weather is good on Tuesday.

Getting there.

Cycling recap & Strava quick review

On June 25th, the Menominee River Century takes place. It’s an annual ride that goes through scenic routes in the Marinette and Menominee area. More info is in the link that I just provided. 

I have not ridden in this ride in years, mainly because of work. This year, I still have to work on the day of the ride, but I decided to do it anyways. I’m just doing the 25 mile route though so I can work then do the ride.

I started training on April 25th and posted my progress on my Facebook. I decided to do a quick recap of my training from my Facebook posts in this post as follows:

April 25th – Day 1 of training for the Menominee River Century: Rode 4.65 miles in 22:58. Doesn’t seem like much, but it’s my first ride of the spring. I’m planning on riding the 25 mile route at the MRC, which is on June 25, exactly 2 months from today.

Just have to keep the motivation to keep riding. Next ride is Thursday. Tomorrow is rest day.

April 27th – Today was supposed to be day 2 of my training for the Menominee River Century. But because of the rain, I went to Planet Fitness, signed up, and rode a stationary bike for 35 minutes (set by my training schedule). According to the computer, I rode 7.1 miles in those 35 minutes. And nothing like a little AC/DC on my iPod to motivate me to keep going until the 35 minutes were up

April 29th –  Day 3 of my training for the Menominee River Century. Went to Planet Fitness again. 5 miles in 23 minutes. Shorter ride than the other day, but a harder workout with an increased level on the stationary bike.

I would rather ride outside, but not at 35 degrees. 

Getting there.

May 2nd –  Day 4 of my training. Shitty weather again. Been raining off and on all week. Still only 40 degrees. Went to Planet Fitness again. Good workout. 35 minutes (7 miles) on the stationary bike and 5 minutes (.25 mile) on the treadmill. 

Getting there. Baby steps.

That recaps the week of training. Now I want to write about an app called Strava. While I have not fully had a chance to really use it, I do like what I’ve seen so far. I needed a riding app for my phone that would sync with my Pebble smart watch. MapMyRide, which was my previous cycling app, was not compatible with my Pebble smart watch. So I looked at apps that would work with Pebble. Strava was one of them.

Even though today (May 3rd) was supposed to be rest day, I decided to give Strava a try for the first time. I mounted my phone on my bike’s handlebar, started Strava on my phone and off I went. As soon as I started Strava on my phone, the display popped up on my Pebble smart watch automatically. I loved that because about a minute into the ride, the phone screen went to sleep because it wasn’t being used, but the app kept running in the background. My Pebble smart watch still displayed the data on it. The speed, mileage, and time of the ride. All there. I loved that. No longer do I have to keep tapping the phone screen to keep it awake. I could set my phone screen to stay on for good, but that poses a security issue. If the phone gets lost or stolen, anyone could get into it because there would be no lock screen to get into.

In addition to that, if I wanted to pause the ride for a break, I can do it right from my watch. A quick click of the button on my watch and the app on the phone is paused 🙂 No more wasting time to enter the lock code on my phone just to pause the ride.

It’s just a matter of determining accuracy on the app. During the test ride on the app, I rode 7/10 of a mile for 4 minutes, which is an average speed of 11.8 mph. I wasn’t trying hard either. I just wanted to do a light ride to test the app. 

Once I get Strava fully figured out, I’ll post a full review on it in the near future. For now, I love the app. 

Stay tuned for future updates as I continue my training for the Menominee River Century 🙂

PlayStation Vue Review Followup

Yesterday I commented that I would check if I could use my PlayStation Vue account as a TV provider to log into TV network sites such as NBC and Fox to watch their programming, Well, I was able to find out that I indeed can do that.

I downloaded the Fox Sports Go app to my phone. then used my Vue account as a TV provider to watch all sporting events on all the regional Fox Sports networks. This includes Fox Sports Wisconsin, FS1, FS2, and the local Fox Station. While I can watch Packers games anytime they are on Fox, The NFL has a restriction on watching NFL games on a phone. I believe only Direct TV subscribers can do that with their Sunday Ticket account.

However, I can still watch Packers games with my Vue account log in using a a tablet – which I currently do not have. My Nook is way outdated and is not compatible with the Fox Sports Go app. But I was planning on getting a new tablet anyways, perhaps something along the Samsung Galaxy line. Once I get the tablet, I’ll finally be able to watch Packers games at home too anytime they are on Fox. I’ll use the NBC Sports app for the Sunday night prime time games. Vue already has ESPN so I’ll use that for the Monday night games. I still have to check if I can watch games live on the CBS app  yet, but that’s a possibility. The Packers only have two games on CBS this year, so no biggie.

How am I watching my sporting events on a phone, you ask? By using Google Chromecast. I’ll get into more details on Chromecast in a future article, but basically, it is a device hooked up to my TV that allows me to “cast” TV shows and videos from my phone to my TV over my W-Fi network. 

Back on subject, I then downloaded the NBC app and was able to verify my Vue log in to watch NBC TV shows on it. I just watched the Season 2 premiere of “Blind Spot” on the NBC app with Google Chromecast. The quality was excellent and I was sold. 

There is no doubt in my mind now that PlayStation Vue can be used as a TV provider when using a streaming app like Fox Sports Go, NBC, ESPN, etc. With this in mind, I canceled my Hulu account and will be watching all my TV shows using the various network TV apps and my Vue log in credentials. 

Why I didn’t get Vue earlier, I don’t know. But I’m so glad I got it now and will be looking forward to seeing what I can get out of it. 

Sometime this week, I’ll post a more in-depth review of Google Chromecast. Stay tuned.

Playstation Vue Review

Welcome to my new blog where I may post anything on my mind that is usually geek related.

First, a bit about me. I’m a cord cutter with no cable TV service, though I do have internet. I watch my TV shows on Netflix and Hulu.

The problem for cord cutters is the inability to watch live sporting events on TV. I’ve been going to local bars here in Marinette and Menominee to watch my events. But there are two problems with this:

1) It gets expensive , eating bar food and drinking $3 longnecks.

And….

2) There is no guarantee that the bar will show the game that I want to watch. Living in Green Bay Packers country, I’m practically guaranteed to catch the Packers on TV at any bar in the area, but if I want to watch a game not involving the Packers, there is no guarantee that I’ll be able to see this particular game.

At the same time, I had no desire to pay Crime Warner more than 50 bucks a month, not including the set top rental fee, to get TV service at home.

This is where the PlayStation Vue comes in.  It’s a live streaming service for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 users. They offer 3 levels of service: Elite ($45), Core ($35), and Access ($30).

I choose the Core package as it offers all my favorite sports channels such as ESPN, the Big Ten Network, the NFL Network and Fox Sports.  I didn’t need the additional channels on the Elite package.

I used Vue for the first time yesterday on my Playstation 3 to watch the Wisconsin Badgers play Michigan State on the Big Ten Network. My god, the quality was excellent. It was like watching it on a cable TV service with no lag whatsoever despite just having a standard internet account (15 Mbps download). I was very impressed.

I watched other shows on it and was impressed with Vue overall. My only gripe is navigating the viewing guide. It’s a bit cumbersome, but that is no big deal.

The only other bad thing about Vue right now is – in my market, local channels are not offered. I’ll have to get a TV antenna if I want to watch the local stations, but since I watch my TV shows on Hulu and Netflix, I don’t bother with an antenna. The one downside of not having live local service is not seeing the Packers live. But that’s all right. I go to the bar for that anyways as it is more fun to watch a Packers game with other Packers fans than it is at home.

But for other sporting events such as the Badgers, the Bucks, the Brewers, or out-of-area- games, I’ll definitely be making good use of the PlayStation Vue rather than go to the bars.

To sum it up, if you have a PlayStation 3 or 4, check out Vue for live streaming services. It even offers a 7 day trial so you can try it out. And while I cannot confirm this, I believe you can even use your Vue account as a TV provider to log onto apps such as Watch ESPN, BTN2Go, etc. I still need to confirm this and when I do, I’ll post another blog.

For now, give Vue a try. You won’t be disappointed. I know I’m not disappointed 🙂