Hope you have enjoyed my trip to McMurdo. It is wonderful to get paid to do something adventurous like that. Here are some final pictures and thoughts on this special trip. If you missed any, here is a link to the beginning.

Located in the central hallways between dorms and the mess hall is a special monitor. It gives the weather forecast and news, but everyone really watches to see if their flight will leave. Really based upon whether the C-17 lands.

And here is one of the best things I saw right next to the monitor.

The flight home was on a C-17. At least on this flight, I had no issues going up to the cockpit and talking to the flight crew who were all Air Force Reserve members from Washington State. As everyone can see, not the most comfortable seats.

Here are some of my better photos, at least the ones I like.

Thanks for reading and glad to share a few of the hundreds of photos I took. I certainly would love to go back someday. Maybe for my retirement job, I can work at McMurdo for a few months. Although I spoke with one of the bus drivers who said he did it just for the kicks and actually made more money as a window washer in Seattle!

‘Merica!

 

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“Cool stuff”, see what I did there? Still writing on this trip of a lifetime.

You can catch up by reading the first, second, third and fourth posts.

Saved all the best stuff for the end. Today I’ll be giving you a tour of CAPT Scott’s original expedition hut, some penguins, and a pier made of ice.

We’ll start at Discovery Hut where the Terra Nova Expedition camped for two years. The structure was an Australian hut and designed to have a double roof to let heat rise in the Outback. Not a good design for Antarctica. To go inside, we needed one of the McMurdo staff who is deputized as a National Park Ranger. For the full story of Discovery Hut, read more here.

Everything inside is untouched for over 100 years. This was originally built in 1902 and abandoned for the last time in 1917. It was buried by snow until the American Navy came to set up McMurdo in 1956. It was excavated of all the snow and they were amazed to find how well preserved everything was.

Just like they were here yesterday. Warning the next photo might be disturbing for some. It shows the remains of seals killed for food and their oil was used for fuel. Still preserved since it only gets above 32 degrees about three days a year. There was a butchered seal on the floor of another room and the oil was still glistening like it was done yesterday.

I have had to live very primitively sometimes in the Army, but I cannot imagine suffering through this for two years!

The next sightseeing activity is George Vince’s Cross. An early explorer who supposedly was wearing new boots which didn’t fit him well. He slipped and fell into the water here and died. It is a very steep drop off.

Here is the hill from Discovery Hut.

The view is spectacular!

From this hill I was able to see a small group of penguins. Note that this shot is from about 100 yards away. You should never get closer to the animals than this in order to safeguard them. I have seen some photos of tourists thinking this is a petting zoo and that is completely wrong.

 

The next cool thing is something engineers like me geek out about. Remember an earlier post where I said the sea ice blows in and out daily? That makes building a concrete and steel pier extremely difficult plus it would require pretty significant disruption to the ocean bottom here. Years ago, an engineer came up with the idea of building a pier out of pure ice! This block of ice is about a football field long, half that in width and about 20 feet thick. It is allowed to bob up and down with the tide and connected to land by cables and a Bailey Bridge. The once a year supply ship comes in about January and offloads everything the base will need for the following year. from fuel to heavy equipment and preservable supplies. Greens and other fresh items come via the C-17s each week. You can see Discovery Hut and the Vince George Cross beyond that.

So why is it covered in dirt? They spread a few inches of dirt over the surface to reduce melting. Since we were here in February, they are using a grader to scoop up all the dirt. Then during the winter, they will spray seawater on top and let it freeze to build back the few feet of ice lost to the summer sun.

That’s it for today, hope you enjoyed. Let me know if you have any questions I can answer.

 

 

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For those of you catching up, my first post on Antarctica is here and second post here.

This is a hard post to write since how do I capture a full week in one post? Here’s my attempt at that, but feel free to ask if there is something that you would like to see more of.

Here is a general overview. The entire site is built on the rocky slope of Mt. Erebus. There is very little soil and no vegetation so you really get the feeling that you are on another planet like Mars. The whole layout is very utilitarian and not designed for beauty. Yet the beauty of Antarctica surrounds you in every direction. Hopefully, you see that in the background of these photos.

That last photo is on one of our bad weather days with a half inch of snow at about 3 degrees F – and this is summer in Antarctica!

Here is a great shot of the entire station taken from the other side of the port. Note the square structure in the foreground is the original hut from the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition led by CAPT Scott. A tour on that tomorrow.

The barracks are the four buildings on the left with the sewage treatment plant on the right with the Crary Science Center just beyond that.

If you followed the road between the pass in the middle you would pass New Zealand’s Scott Base and continue on to the airfield on the ice.

These pictures overlooking the sewage treatment plant show some of the spectacular view of mountains and ice. Notice that we have a little open water this day. The wind will either blow all the sea ice in to clog the port or blow it all the way out and we have clear seas. Changed every day.

Even in Antarctica you need to have coffee! The Coffee House is in an old Quonset hut left over from the Navy days of 1956. Very cool interior with a lot of history and artifacts.

The theater is a “T” off the long Quonset.

Hope you can see the big screen TV at the end.

At the Crary Science Center, they have all sorts of interesting experiments and prep for experiments that take place in the dry valleys or on the ice. I love this drawing that illustrates the dinosaurs found on Antarctica. Not the place that people think dinosaurs are usually found.

What do most of the buildings contain. Interestingly, they are mostly shops and storage for the scientific expeditions that come down in November for a week to a couple of months to conduct experiments in the unique environments of Antarctica. One of the ones that fascinated me was the dry valleys near McMurdo – one of the most extreme deserts on the planet! These places look like the ultimate garage full of wood-working equipment and tents. This sign below is one of the absolute best I have ever seen!

Of course there are places to take the mandatory cool selfie.

Tomorrow cool photos of history and nature.

 

 

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The flight from Christchurch to McMurdo is 4-5 hours. Unfortunately, it is common that the pilots take off with good weather over McMurdo only to have it close in and result in having to fly all the way back for the ultimate trip in vain. I have had to do this a number of times in Alaska and its no fun. However, today would be good weather. Not much to see below until we were about an hour out. The pictures below should speak for themselves for the spectacular views.

These views too me a while to figure out. These are snow drifts on clear. Pretty!

Remember I mentioned that they build the station on the slopes on an active volcano? See Mt. Erebus with a constant plume of smoke.

Then the station drifts into view.

Then a landing on the ice. No different than any concrete runway. Time to deplane.

And then get on a giant bus for the 60 minute ride to McMurdo. Like the name?

Check out the Mad Max ride going along side of the Terra Bus

More on my week at McMurdo tomorrow.

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I know this journey will likely make most of my fellow bloggers jealous – especially my buddy Stefan K. I am always envious of some of the spots he goes, like Iwo Jima, so turnabout is fair play.

You can catch up on the first post for this trip here.

Most people think of getting to Antarctica the way commercial cruises get there. Travel down the coast of South America and then jump over to the Antarctic Peninsula and possible visit the U.S. Palmer Station. However, that is a station of about 12 personnel. The main U.S. site is McMurdo Station on the Ross Ice shelf whose population can swell to 1000 during the Antarctic Summer. Here is a map to orient you.

If you fly due north from the Ross Ice Shelf you conveniently run into New Zealand. So I just had to get from Washington, D.C. to Christchurch, New Zealand. Sounds like a real frequent flyer adventure!

Fortunately, the best way to get there is a combination of United and New Zealand Air. This suited me as a United Million Miler just fine. Not that I got an upgrade, and I flew the whole thing in coach, so I don’t want to hear from you sissy bloggers that say they would never fly that far in anything but business. Suck it up, Buttercup!

The flight down on United was pretty much what you would expect. Got to go to the NZ lounge in Auckland which was nice. Then a short hop NZ flight to Christchurch. I was very impressed with Christchurch, but will leave that for another post.

Now you may ask -Can you get to McMurdo commercially? And the answer is of course not. Once we arrived in Christchurch, we RON and then were supposed to take a C-17 to the Ross Ice Shelf airstrip. How unfortunate that the C-17 was broken down – and how unusual, I always thought they only broke down only in Thailand, Honolulu and Alaska during the fishing season. That left us to take the Royal New Zealand AF 757!

First we were issued all our arctic gear (weird that they don’t call it Antarctic gear) which is a lot of stuff! We had to carry it all onto the flight and suit up prior to landing just in case we crashed on the ice. The rest our personal gear went into two orange duffle bags. It was a ton of stuff to carry on – I hadn’t worn Mickey Mouse boots since I was stationed in Korea. I’m sure I would have valued every piece of gear if we had actually gotten into trouble.

Time to board the plane!

Yes, the seats were very 1990’2, but still a lot better than what we would get on a C-17.

The head covering with the royal symbol was a cool touch.

Tomorrow’s episode: Landing on the ice!

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I have always sought a life of adventure and, for the most part, that is what I have lived. A lot of it comes from just being lucky and in the right place at the right time.  That happened again to me in 2018 when a group was put together to meet the National Science Foundation’s desire to rebuild McMurdo Station – the main U.S. Base in Antarctica.  The base was originally built in 1956 by the U.S. Navy using pretty basic structures like Quonset huts. It was expanded over the years and finally the NSF took over the mission from the Navy in 1968. The site continued to add on buildings to serve different functions and the result was a “shanty-town” type of experience. This is particularly inefficient in an area where people may be confined to a building due to the weather for several days at a time.

Aerial view of McMurdo Station, which sits along the shoreline of Ross Island, a volcanic island in the Ross Sea. Three wind turbines can be seen on the hill in the upper right. These turbines sit between the US McMurdo Station and New Zealand’s Scott Base, providing renewable energy for both stations. The Swedish icebreaker ODEN can be seen in the lower left, at the ice pier in Winter Quarters Bay. 7 February 2010

Photo and caption courtesy of NSF.

The facilities were not something for America to look proudly at, particularly in comparison to some of the space age research stations built by other countries such as India and South Korea. At least our South Pole Station looks cool even though it is moving!

Here is a view of the new main building which is part of the program. This program will consolidate over 100 builds into just six mega-buildings. A lot easier to get from where you live to where you work safely. This view of the main building is meant to evoke images of an iceberg. OZ Architects did a good job with this concept.

Photo from Discover Magazine of an OZ Architects rendering.

Just to leave you with something ultra-cool. Here is the aerial view of McMurdo. It is on the slope of the only active volcano (Mt. Erebus) in Antarctica and is an island surrounded by sea ice. This island also contains the New Zealand Scott Base. Planes land out on the sea ice beyond where the words “McMurdo Sound” are shown.

Next episode – how to get there!

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Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

 

NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to Cardiff, Wales occurred in June 2016. This was in conjunction with a broader tour of southern Britain to include Stonehenge, Bath, Salisbury, Bournemouth, and Portsmouth, which were all great stops full of history, great tea shops, and Nando’s! This was the only trip to this part of the United Kingdom during our six years stationed in Germany (2013-2019).

 

 

BLUF: During late-June 2016, we began our Fourth of July week-long trip to the UK in Cardiff, Wales. With its medieval castle, its ties to the Doctor Who universe, and those amazing Welsh accents, we really enjoyed our tour of the city. While Wales is not often thought of as a destination within the UK, I highly recommend a visit to the land of The Red Dragon of Cadwaladr, King of Gwynedd.

 

Today’s AAR takes us through my trip to Cardiff, Wales.

 

Wales—”Cymru” in Welsh—has always held a fascination with me. Whether it is the extra-long vowels keeping sentences going (or “go-o-en”) for hours or being the all-to-often-forgotten fourth constituent country in the United Kingdom (English, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are the other three), I have always wanted to visit Wales. Luckily, while stationed in Germany, getting to and from the UK was pretty easy. Rather than flying into the small international airport in Cardiff, we landed at LHR and drove to Cardiff to start our long Fourth of July 2016 tour of western and southern Britain.

 

 

Cardiff is a city with many brick buildings, pedestrian walkways, and a large waterfront and harbor area. At the center of the city is the Cardiff Castle, an 11th century Norman-built walled fortress. Through the centuries, the castle grounds have been expanded and reworked, and today, you can tour the grounds and make your way to the top of the central keep for good views of the city center. With most of its fortress walls still intact, we really enjoyed this tour of Welsh history.

 

Next, we made our way to Roald Dahl Plass, the public square dedicated to the Cardiff-born author Roald Dahl. Dahl is known for writing many classics of children’s literature: James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox (check out the excellent 2009 film), and others. Roald Dahl Plass also includes the Senedd (Welsh parliament building) and the Wales Millennium Centre for performing arts with its dual Welsh-English inscription from Welsh poet Gwyneth Lewis, “in these stones horizons sing.”

 

For any Doctor Who fan, Cardiff is full of amazing tour spots. First, underneath Roald Dahl Plass is Torchwood, home to Captain Jack Harkness and his crew of alien and general weirdness hunters. Specifically, the Torchwood 3 headquarters harnesses the energy of the spatial-temporal rift, which runs directly through the Plass, and helps the team monitor alien activity. The rift also recharges the Doctor’s TARDIS. We had a great time wandering around the Plass remembering great scenes from both shows and building up our excited for the main event, a trip to the BBC’s Doctor Who Experience.

 

Housed in a 3000 sq/m building, the Doctor Who Experience featured costumes, sets, alien prosthetics, and classic models of Daleks, Cybermen, and the TARDIS. After a small interactive movie adventure hosted by the Twelfth Doctor (Peter Capaldi), we made our way into the large exhibit halls to view all the amazing items. Joe and I really enjoyed seeing all the sets and props. We posed for lots of pictures with some classic Doctor Who villains and took away some great souvenirs.

 

 

Sadly, the Experience closed in September 2017. Hopefully, the BBC will re-open it at some point whether in Cardiff or another location. Still, visiting the Experience was the highlight of our trip.

 

In sum, the land of the Red Dragon proved to be a very satisfying stop for us. Not only did we see a great medieval castle, but we also enjoyed some great Doctor Who and Torchwood locations and memorabilia. When next in the UK and looking for an off-the-beaten-path destination, I highly recommended Cardiff.

 

Happy Travels!

 

Vr,

Albert

 

Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.

“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”

 

Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

 

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Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to
remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to New York City occurred in
September 2018. This was in conjunction with a solo work trip to Washington, DC
during my six years stationed in Germany (2013-2019).

BLUF: During a late-September 2018 work trip to Washington, DC, I took a long
weekend in New York City to wander around the city and enjoy some of the tourist sites
I had missed over the years. It was a great trip—NYC always is—and it was also the
first time I stayed in New Jersey vice Manhattan.

Today’s AAR takes us through my trip to New York City.
My first ever visit to New York City was during the summer before my junior year at the
U.S. Air Force Academy in 1991. I stay at the Soldiers’, Sailors’, Marines’, Coast
Guard, and Airmens’ Club: a dorm-style budget hotel with basic amenities and shared
bath and shower rooms. It was great for someone on a cadet’s budget, and I would
stay here two more times over the next few years.

Since then, I’ve graduated (ha!) to more upscale hotels exclusively in Manhattan.
Regardless of price, rooms in Manhattan hotels though can be small. Fine for one
person, but with two people or even a family, those room can put a damper on your trip.
A friend recommended either Brooklyn or New Jersey as a place to stay. While I really
enjoyed some side-trips to Brooklyn, I ended up in New Jersey due to the fact the PATH
train had just completed its new World Trade Center station. I wanted to check it out as
I entered and exited Manhattan.

I chose the Westin Jersey City Newport which is close to the Newport PATH station and
the Hoboken ferry terminal to Manhattan. It was also close to EWR which would be my
entry and exit airport. The Westin was a great hotel: great views, big rooms, a great
breakfast-to-go amenity for Marriott Bonvoy Titaniums (all you can carry!), and you can
never go wrong with the Westin Heavenly Bed and white tea fragrance products.

As for touring Manhattan, I narrowed down my tourist “must visit” spots to two places:
the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and the High Line Park. The Intrepid is a former
active USN aircraft carrier which houses aviation, naval, and space exhibits. The
Intrepid is home to the Enterprise, the first U.S. space shuttle as well as a British
Airways Concorde. The USN strategic missile submarine Growler (diesel-powered!) is
also on display. As a former USAF Minuteman III Missile Launch Officer, touring the
Growler was a particular treat.

Your ticket (free from active duty military, veterans, and retirees) allows access to all the
exhibits on Intrepid’s decks, its interior, and the Enterprise shuttle enclosure (where the
amazing gift shop is). Intrepid’s placement on the banks of the Hudson River at
midtown Manhattan gives great views of New Jersey (!?!) and the Pier 84 at Hudson
River Park, a nice walking park with great views of the Intrepid. I reached the Intrepid
via the ferry from the Hoboken terminal to West 39th Street Terminal.

Some online reviews depict the Intrepid Museum as a spot meant only for grade school
field trips and unimaginative tourists, but I had a great time. Perhaps my military
background gave it special meaning—I did have a nice chat with one of the docents at
the Growler about missile launch procedures—and the free ticket price was nice too. All
and all, I’m very happy I made the Intrepid visit.

Another day of touring took me on the PATH train to the new World Trade Center
station, completely redone post-9/11 and part of the larger Oculus Mall (the Venus
flytrap-looking building) with lots of shops and restaurant. The station is all white and
looks very futuristic. The new PATH station allows easy access to the NYC subway,
and I easily headed up to the West Village and the Whitney Museum of American Art.

[picture 16]
[picture 17]

I had already visited the Whitney on a past trip, but just outside the museum is the south
entrance to the High Line Park. This elevated park is a refurbished train track covering
over twenty block along western Manhattan. Gardens, benches, and observation decks

are peppered throughout the park. With great views of side-walk cafes and New
Yorkers on their daily hustle, the High Line Park makes for a great afternoon.

While I hadn’t planned on walking the entire length of the park (convenient exits are
available throughout the line), the crowds weren’t too bad, and the weather was sunny
but cool. I walked the entire line and exited at the Javitz Center and 7 Line of the
subway. I took my time, and it was approx. an hour to make my way end-to-end. I did
sit and enjoy the people-watching, but at a brisk pace, the walk can be done in probably
30 minutes or so.

Still, I would encourage you, if the weather is nice, to go against the New Yorker sense
of always-be-hustling and take your time. A nice, slow walk will help build up your
appetite for a good bagel!

In sum, New York City is a city of tourist destinations. From Times Square and
Broadway to the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, a visit to the city is a must.
While the Intrepid and the High Line Park aren’t necessarily high on “must-visit” lists, I
was very happy to have made time for them. Check them out!

Happy Travels!

Vr,

Albert

Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

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Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

 

NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to San Sebastián and the Basque region of Spain occurred in February 2019. This would be our third of four trips to Spain during our six years stationed in Germany (2013-2019).

 

 

BLUF: Over the 2019 Presidents’ Day weekend, we headed to northern Spain to explore the Basque region and spend two nights in the ritzy, resort town of San Sebastián. Known for its sandy beaches and luxury hotels and as an exclusive European getaway during the warmer months, San Sebastián is also famous for its food, namely its pintxo—small bites (similar to tapas) occasionally served with skewers or toothpicks. Some of the best food we had in Europe was in San Sebastián. It was an amazing trip made even better by visiting during the affordable off-season.

 

 

Today’s AAR takes us through my trip to San Sebastián, Spain.

 

In spring 2018, after I was extended in Germany for one additional year, we began building our “must visit” list for Europe. Knowing we could take advantage of weekends, low-cost carriers (Stuttgart is a Eurowings hub), and our want to eat/drink more of Europe, northern Spain was placed on the list.

 

 

We had heard about San Sebastián as a summer resort destination, when the beaches are packed and the hotel rates skyrocket. Being a savvy traveler means sometimes forgoing the obvious choice and doing off-season trips. By visiting in February, the amazing Hotel Maria Cristina (from Marriott’s Luxury Collection) was bookable at the reasonable rate of $300/night.

 

 

While not an insignificant amount of money for a two-night stay, this was a bargain especially considering high-season rates can reach $700-$900/night. As a Marriott Titanium, I used two Suite Night Awards and was confirmed into a giant one-bedroom suite with complementary daily in-room tea service. The Hotel Maria Cristina remains one of our favorite hotel stays in Europe.

 

 

The hotel was well-placed near the pedestrian parts of the city. From here, you could walk to Spanish plazas, gelato stands, and some great cafés. However, its location just outside the old town was key to our pintxos food touring. Old town is comprised of cobblestone streets, trendy store fronts, and many, many bars.

 

 

We used Devour Tours for our walking food tour. They were awesome. (We used Devour in Madrid and in Seville; each tour was fantastic.) Our guide was native Basque, and after her final semester at the city university, she was heading to MIT to study food science as it applies to space travel. Pretty cool!

 

 

Our small group tour mapped out seven pintxo bars to sample various Basque eating options. As it turned out, as this was an off-season trip, Joe and I were the only people on the tour. We sampled seafood, cured ham, baked pastries, and lots of great wine from the La Rioja region. Each bar stacks their pintxo on the counters, and patrons pick them up one by one. Payment is done afterwards by the honor system.

 

 

Our guide told us rarely do Basque people take pintxos from the bar (that’s for tourist). Locals—and clever tourists who hire good guides—order from the menus located behind the bar. Here is where bars list their specialties. At one stop, we sampled some amazing sardine pintxos topped with cream sauce, and one topped with berry jam. It was surprisingly good. The saltiness of the sardine was nicely cut with the sweet, coolness of the jam.

 

As many locals do, we bar hopped, since staying at one pintxos bar denies you the opportunity to sample more and socialize with different people. Eating pintxos is as much a pub crawl as it is a dining experience: it’s finger food and a multi-location happy hour.

 

 

We concluded the evening sitting on the steps outside a 17th century church eating some amazing fried dough and drinking more great red wine. Even though pintxos are bite-size, our private tour meant all the treats were for us, so we were quite full.

 

 

The following day, we walked off the pintxos and wine by making our way along the beach boardwalk towards the Funicular Monte Igueldo to get aerial views of the San Sebastián bay. In February, the days are cool and the nights chilly. While neither the hotels, streets, bars, or beaches were crowded, the city was still bustling with other budget-conscious travelers. I’d estimate most places were at 50% capacity.

 

 

In sum, our visit to Basque country was a foodie’s dream. Visiting during the off-season was definitely the way to go as crowds were thin and the luxury accommodations were much more affordable. San Sebastián and the hospitality of the Basque people offer a unique destination within Spain. Put in on your “must visit” list.

 

Happy Travels!

 

Vr,

Albert

 

Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.

“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”

 

Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

 

Posted by glenn | No Comments

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

 

NOTE: With no travel over the next few months, I’m digging into my archives to remember some travels from the past few years. This trip to Kuala Lumpur, our first, occurred in July 2018 combined with a second trip to Singapore.

 

 

BLUF: Over the 4th of July weekend, Joe and I headed to Malaysia for the first time. We spent four days exploring Kuala Lumpur. Our days in KL, as the locals call it, expanded our knowledge and love of all these Malaysia. Since then, we’ve returned to explore other parts of the country and expect to return many more times.

 

Today’s AAR takes us through my first trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

 

 

In December 2017, while staying at the JW Marriott Hanoi, Cathay Pacific released news it would bring its Airbus A350-900 to the Brussels to Hong Kong route. CX is known for its excellent reverse herringbone, all-aisle access business class seats and its great catering. Plus, being the flag carrier of Hong Kong, transiting through HKG allows eligible passengers to visit some of the best lounges of any airline. CX lounges offer made-to-order noodle bars, dim sum, and great spots to rest during transit.

 

 

So, while Joe was off at a Vietnamese cooking class, I researched a summer 2018 Asia trip. After reading an online review of the amazing club lounge at Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur, I chose KL as the destination. I had also wanted to return to Singapore, so KL was a perfect companion stop.

 

My initial plans were to fly into KUL and out of SIN on CX. Sadly, the CX saver fare business class tickets were not available for this route, so I booked round-trip tickets for BRU-HKG-SIN. I opted for inexpensive AirAsia flights between SIN-KUL. As AirAsia also operates from Singapore’s new Changi Airport Terminal 4, the unprotected connection from Cathay to AirAsia would be easy. Southeast Asia is very well-connected by low-cost carriers, so plentiful and cheap flight options are easy.

 

 

As predicted, the connection at Changi Airport Terminal 4 was smooth. The approx. 45 mins AirAsia flight to KUL was uneventful and dropped us off at KLIA2 (the second terminal at KUL, used almost exclusively by low-cost carriers). After a short wait at immigration, we headed for the KLIA Ekspres train. This 30-min dedicated train line connects both KUL terminals to the KL Sentral station, a major hub for KL public transit.

 

Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur is connected to the KL Sentral station, so after a couple of days of travel, hotel arrival and check-in was fast and convenient. As reviewed, the Club Lounge was fantastic. They had all-day snacks and non-alcoholic drinks. Their evening hors d’oeuvres were very extensive, with chefs preparing noodles, multiple locally-inspired hot dishes, fresh fruit, desserts, and wine/beer/spirits. After touring the hot, humid city during the day, for all but one night, we had filling dinners at the Club Lounge. Access was granted due to my Marriott Platinum status.

 

 

Joe and I are big fans of observation desks, and KL is home to the famous Petronas Twin Towers. After a quick metro ride to the KLCC stop, we enjoyed the air conditioned Suria KLCC mall for some mid-morning coffee and then made our way to the twin towers. Standing over 1400 feet tall with 88 floors, the Petronas Twin Towers are the world’s tallest twin structure.

 

 

Our tour included the glass Sky Bridge which connects the two towers at floors 41 and 42. The observation deck is on floor 86. From here, you can see much of KL and the vast KLCC Park, with its dancing fountains, banyan trees, and many footpaths. Also in the vicinity of the Petronas Twin Towers is the Aquaria KLCC. We wandered through the facility seeing sharks, piranha, and sea life native to the waters around Malaysia.

 

The greater KLCC area is one of the most popular tourist spots in the city, and we enjoyed our time here with our fellow tourists. During our walking through the Suria KLCC mall, we spotted a Hokkaido Baked Cheese Tart store. We last had those during a 2017 trip to Melbourne. We grabbed a half-dozen for afternoon tea at the Club Lounge. They were as good as we remembered.

 

 

On our final night, we ventured into the city for a Malaysian dinner at Bijan located in central KL. We took the KL Monorail from KL Sentral station. Bijan was a great stop for dinner, and it placed us close to the Jalan Alor Night Market. The night market is full of Malay, Chinese, Thai, and other fusion food booths as well as freshly squeeze tropical juices. While night markets can be overwhelming with crowds and noise (this one was very busy), we still enjoyed our time wandering around.

 

 

Cost-wise, Malaysia, and more specifically KL, is not as affordable as Thailand, but it is still a bargain when compared to most western European destinations. For our hotel, Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur cost $140/night which included an upgrade to a corner room, access to the Club Lounge, and the full restaurant buffet breakfast, which was excellent!

 

 

In sum, Kuala Lumpur was high on our must-visit list. Thanks to a good airline route, an awesome hotel, some cool tourist sites, and (relative) affordability, KL remains one of our favorite destinations.

 

Happy Travels!

 

Vr,

Albert

 

Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.

“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”

 

Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

Posted by glenn | No Comments

So what makes this an informed analysis? Most of me fellow Boarding Area bloggers know my military level, but let’s just say I am a senior leader. What many do not know is that I am a senior leader at the Army Corps of Engineers. That coupled with the fact that my daughter is a resident doctor working in New Orleans, makes me pretty informed about the Covid crisis. I still go to work each day on the deserted streets of D.C. because the Corps of Engineers is a key part of our national response. I am learning more about pandemics than I could ever have predicted.

Disclaimer: None of what is written below constitutes the official view of the U.S. Government or military. These are strictly my personal views and opinions.

Quite a few of the blogs I read try to put the perspective of this pandemic in terms of 9/11 which I think falls quite a bit short. A better analogy is that this is Pearl Harbor. We have just been attacked by a vicious enemy which we knew of, but didn’t prepare enough against. We know there are going to be years of sacrifice and toil, but we vow to beat it in the end. American and other nations will turn their industrial might towards beating the enemy regardless of cost. This is a fight for survival and cost is not something to weigh the fight against. THIS IS WAR. We will fight and many will fall in the battle, but we need resolve to see this through. This is a long fight and we will win some battles, but lose others, and the people need to have confidence that in the end we will prevail.

I see a lot of misinformation out there, even amongst my fellow bloggers and other media; I want to put that to rest. Let’s start with some basics.

What is a global pandemic?

Pandemics have been a part of all human history. People are all educated on the Black Plague which killed 25% of the population in Europe. These used to ravage populations up until the period just before most of you were born. As a personal example, my father was rendered a paraplegic by the polio epidemic of 1952 due to his volunteering to help in a polio ward prior to going to medical school. The 1952 epidemic killed over 3,000 and paralyzed over 20,000. We have grown complacent to such occurrences due to the advances in medicine creating vaccines to most of the epidemic killers.

Vaccines to prevent the common cold and flu have proven elusive. The common cold because it actually is a group of over 200 different viruses which cause similar symptoms during the fall and winter (that’s why we call it a cold) and for some reason the human body does not develop a long term immunity. Note that about 15% of the colds you catch are caused by one of the four coronavirus strains other than SARS, MERS and  COVID-19, so coronavirus is not new to you.  The flu (influenza) is a problem because it continually mutates and therefore immunologists have to guess what strain will be present in a given year and make a vaccine (flu shot) that hopefully is against the common strain for that year. That’s why you will hear a percentage value on how effective the flu shot was for a given year. Development of a vaccine depends on Covid-19 not mutating and our having a sustained immunity.

Let’s look at the last pandemic of flu that caused enormous deaths, the Spanish Flu of 1918. This flu strain is thought to have originated in Kansas and spread overseas due to Soldiers being sent to fight in World War. It was called the Spanish Flu somewhat unfairly as Spanish government was neutral during the war and thus reporters could publish reports on it, where they could not in most of Europe due to wartime censorship. The important lesson you need to understand in shown in the graphs of deaths over the three years of the pandemic – yes, three years – remember that.

These three waves are typical of pandemics. Each of the lull periods occurred during the spring/ summer. Respiratory diseases have much harder time spreading when the air is humid and droplets cannot travel as far and the sun is out to kill the germs. One of our key hopes is that Covid-19 operates similarly and dies down during the coming warm weather to give us space to raise the bar and increase our capability for handling a resurgence during the fall/winter.

Note that the Spanish Flu never did really go away. It is an H1N1 virus which last was a deadly pandemic in 2009.

So you’re in a global pandemic, what should you do?

Let’s start with what everyone has heard – you need to flatten the curve! What are we really talking about here?

The below chart is from the school of medicine at U of Michigan.

The blue curve is the exponential spread and decline if we simply let nature take its course. However, that would mean overwhelming the current health care system capacity, shown by the bar across the middle which results in many more deaths due to a lack of beds, doctors, equipment and supplies. You can do your part by practicing social distance and other sanitary practices. Note that the area under the curve is the same (bring back memories of Calculus?) we just need to spread out the rate of infection in order not to overwhelm our medical capability.

The local, state, and federal governments are simultaneously working to raise that bar by providing greater capacity to respond by addressing three factors: sites, supplies and staff. Sites means setting up Alternative Care Facilities (ACF) meaning additional beds that can handle non-Covid patients to relieve the hospital normal burden or handle the actual Covid patients themselves. Supplies means getting more equipment and medicines, and staff means pushing military medical personnel into the fight along with retired medical personnel. We can create more sites, industry will respond and create more supplies, but staffing is hard. It takes enormous time and effort to create doctors and nurses!

Masks vs. Respirators

Here is a basic lesson – masks provide a fabric barrier to catch your own sputum, i.e. droplets, respirators filter the air. N95 is a designation meaning that the respirator filters 95% of particles. How you tell the difference? A respirator is a form-fitting design to try and provide a tight seal against your face and filter the air reaching your mouth and nose. Masks are simply a direct barrier to exhaling particles. Here is the key takeaway – YOU DO NOT NEED A RESPIRATOR! Save those for the nurses, doctors and first responders, like my daughter, that have to face 50 infected patients a day. You are wasting a precious resource by wearing them as you do not need that level of protection. Masks are primarily to PREVENT YOUR OWN GERMS FROM INFECTING OTHERS. You are very unlikely to catch Covid-19 from breathing in the air around you. This is NOT an airborne disease, it spreads through being in liquids that an infected person excretes, primarily in droplets through sneezing, coughing, or even just talking. We have all noticed occasionally when talking a drop of saliva launches out of your mouth, imagine that that is happening all the time on a microscopic scale that you don’t see. These droplets are affected by gravity and fall to the ground or other surfaces where they last for a variable length of time depending on the surface material. Your most likely vector to catch this disease is touching an infected surface and then touching your face.

My first tour of duty was in Korea in 1986 and I saw people wearing surgical masks occasionally. I learned that northern Asians routinely do this when they are sick to prevent spread in the tightly spaced population groups they have over there. We are finally learning that this is a good practice with this current pandemic. Northern Asian countries credit this practice with their effective containment efforts so far. As you may know, that guidance has officially been given recently. Even the military will start wearing masks whenever they are outside starting next week. Again -masks, not respirators. My daughter says they only avoided running out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Tulane due to a timely donation from the Cajun Navy. PLEASE HELP WITH THIS PROBLEM. I still see lots of people walking around with respirators! Use an airline sleeping mask before resorting to a respirator. If you let our doctors and nurses go down, who is going to save you when you get sick?

Peaks and Valleys (Warning – Involves Math)

I think everyone is tracking that this will get worse before it gets better. Most things in nature involve a parabolic curve. Never mind what parabolic means – think of throwing a ball in the air. If you throw the ball almost straight up, it goes high, but not far. If you throw the ball at a low angle it goes far. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is measuring the various aspects of Covid-19 in order to predict whether we are going to go high (high numbers of infections at once) or low (low number of patients at a given time). Here is a recent chart on predicted deaths for all the U..S.:

You may say, “I get the line, but what is the shaded area?” Think of hurricane tracks. You know the path up to a certain point. After that each day it can go a little left or right. The most likely case is that the moves left or right cancel out and the median line is the likeliest path. However, the lefts or rights could all add in one direction or another which is what the shaded area represents. It is the area of possible outcomes. According to the chart shown, we should peak in mid-April at a little over 2,500 deaths in a single day. However, it could go to almost 4,500 deaths or less than a thousand. This is the projection for the entire U.S., but what is more important is the projection for your state. You can find that here and clicking on the green bar. This should give you information on when to spend the most time staying indoors and avoiding others while also telling you when it should die down. Very importantly, keep your preventative measures going until that line is almost down to zero or people will precipitate a second wave early.

I will also specifically note the “Swedish Method” of isolating only the vulnerable population and otherwise letting life go on as normal. As you can see from the Johns-Hopkins site, that is not working out for them. They have a death rate of 40 per million population while their neighbors are much less. Even the death rate in the U.S. is only 33 per million which is much less than the 47 per million Sweden currently experiences. Everyone social distancing and wearing masks is the only proven method for lowering infections.

If you want to know how things are going in the U.S. or in your state, here is a great site to show whether social distancing is flattening the curve. These are log curves of infections vs. days past the 20th day of infection. If your are interested, compare the curve for China vs. the curves for most countries.

Thanks for All the Information, but What Does it All Mean?

Here are my predictions, based upon the available data. Planning is what I did for most of my career, so hopefully my analysis is fairly on point. In general, things will look much better by June and most people will think this is over, when if fact, it is the summer lull period. People will start to go back to work, but with the changes discussed below which will limit economic recovery as fewer transactions will take place. The vulnerable population will continue to isolate and teleworking in most fields will be a common practice and workplaces will still feel fairly empty. An antibody test will be developed and people who test positive (some who never knew they had the virus) will start carrying around a certification that they have immunity and use this as an excuse that they don’t have to follow social distancing rules.

Airlines: As the curve flattens, there will be more travel on business travels that all is safe and to get back to flying, at least domestically or to countries where the virus is not an issue, such as Asia. The airlines will entice travels by promising middle seat blocking, possibly including blocking off adjacent seats in First Class.  Cruel airlines will offer Basic Economy three to a row and paid upgrade to the middle seat blocked Premium Economy. Airlines will offer great prices to get the public back on the planes with an idea to eventually raise prices to the point where they cover the additional costs of cleaning. Vulnerable travelers (over 65, immuno-compromised individuals, and others with underlying conditions) will be encouraged by their families or own fear, not to travel, and relate that condition to their employers. Leisure travel will be slower to start up, but will quickly shut down when the fall wave starts. Airlines will emphasize the extra cleaning done for each flight. Airline meals will come with plastic covers like microwave meals. Travel to China will be extremely cheap for years as they will carry the stigma of the place where new diseases are born. Bare feet on armrests and bulkheads will finally be banned. Overall travel will take years to recover to last year’s level and airlines will have to adjust their workforce and plane orders at some point in the near future.

Restaurants and Clubs: Will reopen, but severely limit the people allowed inside at a given time. Food will be ordered rather than being a buffet. Half the seats will be removed to encourage spacing. More emphasis on providing meals in disposable trays or paper rather than plates. Sealed silverware provided similar to airline meals.

Hotels: Going back to individual containers for toiletries (be happy Gary!). A lot of advertising on a heightened level of cleaning. Emphasis on room service so guest do not need to interact with others. Early on may advertise that guests will only occupy every other room or floor. For hotels converted to ACF hospitals, will fight a stigma after being restored to normal use, especially if they housed Covid patients.

Cruises: I don’t see how they make a meaningful comeback for years. When they do they will need to demonstrate extreme steps as to why they will not be areas to spread viruses. They will be extremely cheap if you feel brave enough.

TSA Checkpoints: No change, except for forcing people to space out when standing in line.

Non-Travel Predictions:

Open Office Design: Dead, no one wants to be in a space where germs can spew everywhere. Cubicles will make a big comeback. This also means “hoteling” is dead. People do not want to sit where someone they don’t know sat the day before. Yuck!

Theaters: Will reopen but block off every other seat. This will ultimately fail as people realize they would rather watch first run movies on streaming where they can pause the movie and talk whenever they want. Your grandchildren will not understand that you went to a crowded place to sit quietly and watch a movie.

Public Transit: Will install clear plastic screens to establish the equivalent of “sneeze guards” between sets of seats. Still ridership will be down and more people will choose to drive themselves to work.

Beaches: Life Guards will stroll along and enforce six feet distances between family groups. Some beaches may lay out a checkerboard pattern grid and no group will be allowed to sit adjacent to another.

Facemasks and Gloves: Entrepreneurs will design fashionable lines of reusable facemasks for adults and fun ones for kids – “Johnny do you want to be a puppy today or Thor?” These will be common things when going to a crowded locations and mothers will strictly enforce their wear on playgrounds or school. Younger kids will think they are cool and teenagers will immediately remove them once out of sight of their parents.

OK, I know that is probably the longest post I have ever written, but I wanted to get the right information out there to help others. We’ll see if my predictions come true, but take the current information to heart and monitor the sites I have linked to in order to be informed and make informed decision about your future.

If you have questions, I will do my best to answer them in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by glenn | 8 Comments

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