We Haven’t Been Everywhere, But It Is On Our List 

I was inspired by this title, We haven’t been everywhere but it is on our list, by a fellow runner, Ana.  We met her last year on a Marathon Tours adventure in Madagascar.  She had posted on facebook the following quote about going someplace you have not been before once a year.  I commented on the fact we are seeing someplace new about every month.  Every time I think I have been to a lot of places, 70 countries so far in my lifetime, we run into someone that has nearly been everywhere.

Also on that Madagascar trip, we ran into Brent who broke the world record for the number of Marathons run in a different country, with 132.  Little known fact there are 196ish countries that have a marathon.  I wrote about that trip, called, It never gets old.  On this 30 day trip to Europe, we will also run a half marathon in Cyprus and that is someplace we have not been before.

We are presently in Paris and it took us almost two days to get here.  We took this route In order for us to get a first class seat to Europe and only pay for economy.  Catherine and I get 4 regional and 4 global upgrades each year.  You can standby with the highest priority or you can call in and the computer will let you know if the flight you are interested in is available for an immediate upgrade.

Turns out on this trip we had to first go to DTW then on to Paris.  That seemed simple enough but not so fast.  Our plane had a slight mechanical so we started out behind the eight ball for a 1-hour connection.  Since DTW was experiencing a minor snow storm we had to hold and by the time we landed our plane to Paris had already left the gate.  The computer had already found us first class seats to MSP and then to Paris the next day.

After a short 30 minute wait in line, we were on the shuttle to the Sheraton Hotel complete with dinner vouchers.  Trying again the next day with an hour 15 minutes in MSP we thought we had it made in the shade.  Not so fast Kemosahbee, we made it fine but Catherine bag did not.  We arrived a day late and a bag short.

This is the fourth time in 3 years our bags have not made the trip on the same route as us and each time it was Catherine’s.  The last time it was to Hawaii and she got some nice dresses, etc, compliments of Delta.  If you haven’t fallen asleep by now you can read about that adventure called, The trouble is you think you have time.

Their crackpot tracking system showed the bag getting off the plane from DTW to MSP and that is where the trail went cold.   Air France at the Charles Degaul airport insisted that the bag was at the airport but since they have a lot of bags it was going to take them awhile to find it.  I tried to explain on death, French ears, that the tracking system last reported that the bag was still in MSP.

I am not going to go further right here on the details but we are now on our way to Tel Aviv one bag short.  Not to worry since this is not the first rodeo we are replacing items one by one at 50 bucks a day.  The Air Chance agent, pet name Europeans have for my least favorite Airline, Air France, advised us since the tickets were bought on my American Express to basically go hog wild with my replacement plan.

This trip is shaping up to be a real doozy.  We were all lined up for the flight to TEL when we were informed that our plane had technical issues, ie working a mechanical, and ended up being over an hour late.  That was after getting the most extensive body and bag check ever since our tickets said, Israel.

We were here February 2016 for the Tele Aviv half marathon, which you can read all about on my blog called, Why would anyone go to Tele Aviv to run a half marathon.  This time the race is in Jerusalem with two of our favorite Marathon Tour coordinators, Karen and Jacqui.  We have been on numerous trips with them before, the most memorable being the Amazing Maasi.  Once again you can read about that mind-blowing adventure called, We are not on vacation, this is our lifestyle.

This is the inaugural trip for Marathon Tours so they had me at hello.  We arrive a day before everyone else and our stay at one my favorite Marriott properties, Renaissance Tel Aviv, for the first two days.  The hotel is located right on the Mediterranean Sea with a paved running and biking path right out the back door.

I have been somewhat distracted by trying to find Catherine’s suitcase.   Several phone calls a day plus shopping for some must need items.  Delta now thinks that the tag came off the bag when it came off the plane from DTW and went to a holding area in MSP.  The only problem with proving that theory is that MSP won’t answer the phone from Delta’s delayed bag department or return any of their messages to them.

The first three years I bought insurance for these major trips and after spending 11K and never filling a claim I decided not to continue that practice and in effect became self-insured.  Seemed like a good idea at the time but have learned that Delta only pays out 50 bucks a day for the first 5 days and if not found $9.07 per pound per the Geneva convention, max $650 per bag internationally and $3500 for domestic flights.

This is the fourth time in 3 years that Catherine’s bag has not arrived with us.  Twice it was a day late and once it was 5 days late in Hawaii.  Ironically there are two dresses that were bought in Hawaii that are in this bag now.  Back then they paid us around 700 bucks for the replacement items since I thought that bag was never going to show up.  I have spent about 1 K so far and if it does not show by the time we get to Amsterdam I will replace all the rest of the items there which should be about another 2K.  I truly think it will turn up but I did learn that for 50 bucks per flight you can get excess insurance at the ticket counter up to 5K.  It would be no big deal to replace my contents so I will just rack this up at the cost of running all over the world.

Here is the rundown of what we did and saw on our second trip to Israel.

Tuesday, March 6 – TEL AVIV

Marathon Tours hosted a fabulous, Welcome Dinner at the Abrage Restaurant in Yaffo.

Wednesday, March 7 – TEL AVIV | JERUSALEM

We started the day with a guided tour of Tel Aviv, which began in Rabin Square and continued to Old Jaffa, one of the oldest port cities in the world where we visited the ancient ruins and walked along the Artist’s Quarter.  The next stop was Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv, built in 1887 and Nahalat Benyamin, the pedestrian mall of the city with a stop at Sheinkin, the lively and colorful street known for its unique shops, café life and youthful ambiance.  After lunch and some free time, we made our way to Jerusalem and check-in at the hotel.


Independence Hall

Thursday, March 8

We toured the Old City and the New City. We drove to the Mount of Olives for a panoramic view of the city, visited the Tomb of King David and the Room of Last Supper on Mt. Zion. Upon entering the walled city, we visited the Roman Cardo and the famous Western Wall. Next, we walked via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Following the tour, we made our way to the EXPO for our bib and race packet. Immediately following will enjoyed a great pasta buffet dinner, which was organized by the race and was served at the expo venue.  At the same time, I had to buy some needed items that were in Catherine’s bag for the race.

Mount of the Olives below

The Wailing Wall

Christ’s Tomb

Where the last supper took place below

Friday, March 9

Race day and it was a bit much.  We did manage to once again finish hand in hand but was a very tough course and Catherine had to drag me across the finish line.  We actually ran into the old city and the course was extremely hilly.  You were either going up or down the entire 13.1 miles.  My right knee was very unhappy with me on the downhill portions.  It was a very organized race and they had 5 different races and since Shabott was that afternoon closing off the roads so traffic was not a problem.

That evening we gathered for a celebration dinner at a local Mediterranean restaurant called the Lavan with amazing views of the Old City and Mount Zion.  Turns out we ran right by this place during the race.

Our route on the half marathon

Saturday, March 10 – JERUSALEM | DEAD SEA

We had a full-day excursion to the ancient ruins of Masada and the Dead Sea.  Catherine and I floated in it last year on our Petra Jordan trip.  We stopped at the world-famous Dead Sea cosmetics company AHAVA where we saw an informative multimedia presentation and received expert advice from one of the many cosmetologists on hand.

The dead sea

Sunday, March 11 – JERUSALEM | TEL AVIV

Today we visited the Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust and continued to the Machne Yehuda Market.  We had time there to explore on your own before we departed Jerusalem and made our way back to Tel Aviv.

The train to nowhere

Monday, March 12 – TEL AVIV

Biblical Highlights of the North Tour

We Departed Tel Aviv via the coastal road and the landscape of the lower Galilee to Nazareth, the town where Jesus spent his childhood.  We visited the Basilica of Annunciation and the Church of St. Joseph.  We continued, via Kana, to Tiberias, the lively resort town on the Sea of Galilee.  We drove along the Kineret Lake to Capernaum and view the ruins of the ancient synagogue where Jesus taught; Continued to Tabgha and visited the Church of Multiplication of the Fish and Loaves with the beautiful mosaic floor.  Proceeded to Yardenit, the famous baptismal site located where the Jordan River flows out from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.

Church of the Annunciation

Tuesday, March 13

Pearls of Western Galilee Tour

We drove along the coastal road to Caesarea, the ancient Roman capital and port; enjoyed a walking tour of the theatre and the archaeological ruins and excavations.  Proceeded to Rosh Hanikra; descended by cable car into the underwater grottoes and admired the spectacular natural formation.  Onto Acre, the Old City recognized by UNESCO as world heritage site; Walked through the market, the mosque and the old port; Visited the remarkable underground Crusader City and crypt and learned about their fascinating history and culture.  We then Continued to Haifa for a scenic view of the City, the Port and the magnificent Bahai Gardens and Shrine on our way back to Tele Aviv for the last night of our tour here.


Underwater Grottoes

Pictures of Akko below

The city of Haifa and their splendid gardens below

As this title suggests we haven’t been everywhere but I think we can say we have seen it all in Israel and no need for us to return.  They just tried to kill the Palestine Prime Minister while he was visiting a water treatment plant on the Gaza Strip.  Needless to say, there is a lot of rich history here but we are ready for some R and R in Cyprus starting tomorrow.

We do have another half marathon to run while there on Sunday but besides that, I plan on enjoying the sun and sand along the Mediterranean.  That will be our 28th country that we have run a least 1/2 marathon and our 27th half on this venture to run all over the world.

Quick bag update.  During my twice daily call to Delta, the automated system said that they have located the bag and it is being forwarded.  Since we are once again on the move I stayed on the line to give them our new address.  The agent said that she did not understand why the system would tell me that since her system showed that they still don’t know where the bag is also MSP and DTW still have not returned their request for information.

We are enjoying the sun and food here in Cyprus.  The organization of this was a bit different than what I am used to.  It is sort of like being on a Marathon Tours trip without the organizer with you.  When you go online to sign up for the race you get to pick what hotel, transportation to and from the airport etc.

Waiting for you in your room is the race packet and only need to go to the race site for the pasta dinner and the start.  The hotel we are staying at, The Mediterranean Beach Hotel has plenty of great places to eat in the nearby area.  It is off season here with a lot of construction going on at the same time some places closed.

Kind of irks me that you have to pay for water, even at the fitness center, and for ice.  Can’t really complain since the price per night was only about 80 bucks.  They have a nice walk path along the water with a nearby archeological site nearby.  The internet at the hotel was one of those that kicks you off each time you put your phone down and you have to put the password back in to get back online.

I bought a device for about 200 bucks awhile back called Skyroam.  For 9 bucks it provides high-speed internet for 24 hours.  I used it some while cruising the Caribbean and it worked well and a few times during this trip when away from the hotel and airport.  Most airports in Europe have pretty good internet service.

The race itself was flat as a pancake, out and back for the half and 5 other races running that day.  The main road was closed all day but they did have a bus do several sweeps of the hotels to the race start so that was easy enough for us to get there.  Getting back to the hotel was a different story but after about a 2-mile walk we were able to find a taxi stand for the ride back to the hotel.

There were some elite runners for both the half and marathon but the total size of those races were only a couple thousand.  Quite a contrast to the over 20K we had in Jerusalem.  Not many folks to cheer you on also but there was plenty of water, etc along the route.  Just like Jerusalem, they were handing out regular size bottles of water which seemed like such a waste since most people on take a few sips and throw the bottle on the ground.  The poor volunteers had to first empty them before they could throw them away.

The frigid pool water felt great on my knees after the race and we settled in on relaxing by it each day until we left.  We don’t normally do this but there was one restaurant, Nama, that we liked so much we ate there twice.  The food each night was simply amazing and not a so-so meal the whole week.

We did get some long walks in and was able to take a tour of the nearby archeological site called, Amathous.  The first occupation of this site dates back to 11th century BC.  After changing hands numerous times the city was destroyed by Arab raids and abandoned in the 7th century AD.

We are now on our way back to Amsterdam for a few days with an overnight stop in Paris on the way there.  Good thing since we had another mechanical on Air Chance out of Tele Aviv for 90 minutes and many on board were sweating missing their connections.  We transition to the rail system out of the airport terminal with a brief stop in Brussels along the way.

It is a toss-up as to if we will come back to Cyprus.  The weather, food and the people were great but there are still so many other places, everywhere,  to visit in our lifetime.  Maybe put it on our short list when we slow down 10 or so years down the road when we will probably stay someplace for a month or so.

I am going to take a moment to go off script to tell you a bit about where I started my flight career.  The reason I am bringing it up now is that while we were on this trip I saw a post from a fellow pilot, Walter, that flew with me back in the day at Wheeler Airlines.

He posted a picture next to a 15 passenger Beechcraft 99 type aircraft that we flew back then.  He now flies for FedEx and we actually ran into in Bangkok right after Catherine and I started running all over the world.  He had found that picture and was reminiscing about where his career had started.

I had started a small facebook group called Wheeler Airlines and put his picture on that site.  I was then looking around for other pictures on Facebook and ran into another group called Airolina Young Aviators and turns out that Warren Wheeler, at the age of 74, is still trying his best to encourage youth to learn how to fly.  He has a very interesting background and his Father and my Grandfather started one of the first black-owned banks and it is still in existence called Mechanics and Farmers Bank in Durham NC.

My wings and hat emblem

Warren Wheeler and Bernice Rawls, her husband Frank worked at Wheeler with me

This is where the seeds of me wanting to go everywhere were sowed.  I have so many fond memories of those days.  I started as Copilot of the Beech 99 to a single pilot, twin-engine, night flights, carrying canceled checks for the Federal Reserve System, to Captain on the Beech 99 and then moved into management with the airline before I left as Vice President, Director of Operations in 1988 for my 27 year career at UPS.  My career at Wheeler Airlines/WRA, lasted over 8 years.

Not many pilots can say they have only had 2 airline jobs and even fewer, like me, being in management, did not miss many big family events along the way.  I always say I am a blessed man and don’t take anything for granted but plan on trying to go everywhere as long as I can.

I still remember my leather ish garment bag that held an extra pilot uniform, pair of jeans, t-shirt, sneakers and four pockets on the outside.  Three each had rolled up white T-shirt, underwear, and socks and the fourth had my toiletries kit.  All I needed for a week or weeks out on the road.  Now my suitcase has a bit more but the concept is the same.

I love to set goals for myself both close in and far out and now I have my sites running at least a half marathon in 50 different countries and to visit 100 countries.  I might have to change that to at least a 10 K since I also plan on dropping down to that distance when I turn 70.  Down the road, I will probably drop down to 5K at 80 until I die.  You never know with me since my running versus speed walking half marathon times is less than 5 minutes apart.  The stress on my body is much less when I speed walk them.

This is probably the last bag update since when I called in they pretty much said that they might find the bag one day but for now plan on not seeing it again.  They figure the bag tag came off and it has gone to the warehouse for those type bags in either MSP of CDG.  The lady said it might show up in a couple of months since both warehouses are huge.

So the plan now is for us to do some serious shopping in Amsterdam.  I have made a complete list of what is needed and can visualize all the stores that will have those items there.  I am kind of looking forward to shopping for Catherine and updating her wardrobe.  We are going on a river cruise on AMA Waterways to tiptoe through the tulips so some nice blouses and dresses will be needed.

We will be there for 5 nights so that will be plenty of time to get the required shopping done.  I am interested to see how Delta handles this claim since we are going to be well over what they are required to pay us.  We have been Double Diamond Medallion members over the last three years and have spent an average of 50K with them a year so 2-3K to replace Catherine’s items is a drop in the bucket for them.

Corporate America has a different way of looking at things so time shall tell.  However, they decide to handle this will not sway our airline of choice since they have fairly reliable service to most of the places we go.  It is sad that a bag tag can come off a bag and it has to go to the land of misfit toys for the rest of its life.  I did see an episode of baggage wars where people bid on bags that have not be returned to their owners.  The thought of Catherine items being auctioned off somewhat creeps me out.

I had mentioned Ana earlier about her desire to go someplace she had never gone once a year but she takes that idea to an extreme.  She has been to the Polar Circle for a run and now is posting from, Tärnaby Sweden, dog sledding.  She has been there for a week so far and she takes going everywhere very seriously.

Well, all the shopping is done here in Amsterdam and all ready for the river cruise in two days.  Low and behold when I download the last of the 34 receipts totaling 2K I see that Catherine’s bag was put on a plane from ATL to AMS this morning.  No call, no nothing from Delta and we shall see if it is delivered tomorrow at the hotel.  Not holding my breath.

I now have three bags to deal with and a bunch of clothes until when we get back to ATL in a week.  Not sure where Catherine’s bag has been but has at least 6 different bag tags on it.  Also, no way of knowing when and how it got to ATL prior to the flight here.  Not a laughing matter but if you go online right now it will show that it is on bag claim number 15 at the Amsterdam airport.

The 7 days on the AMAKristina was all that we had expected and more.  During the cruise, I thought a lot about going everywhere since we went to a number of places I have never even heard of before.  We are not actually much of adventures and typically go places everyone has heard of.  The ship itself was barely a year old and this was its first cruise of the season.

It was a bit colder than we had expected but since Catherine now has twice the number of clothes we usually carry keeping warm was not that hard to do.  I have decided not to go into great detail on the cruise itself but more of an overview and urge everyone to partake in this particular cruise.  Since it has been a bit colder than usual the last few weeks the flowers were not in full bloom.  But were gorgeous, just the same.
Since we have been on a number of different cruise lines I really like the way AmaWaterways does their cruises.  All of our guided tours and excursions are included and all you have to do is give a small tip to the very knowledgeable guides and experienced drivers.  That includes bike tours they have each day.  Beer and wine are also included during lunch and dinner and they have started a sip and sail an hour prior to dinner where they will offer a drink of the day.  It was a great way to bring everyone to the lounge to socialize and be there for the daily port talk.
Their crew tipping system was a bit different with a suggested amount you can either put in an envelope or have charged to your credit card as opposed to the mandatory amount that is charged to your card.  I usually give a bit extra to the steward, waiter and bar staff in cash with a handshake of thanks.  Last but not least they have free internet and your TV is also a computer where you can go online to pull up YouTube videos etc.
I could go and on about the small details that I noticed and have to smile thinking about Kristina, the Executive VP, herself making sure it was just the way she wanted it to be.  We watched her during the Vietnam cruise while she made notes and talked to all of the crew-members about how well they were doing their jobs.
The Tulip arrangement in each cabin was a nice touch and the blue light that would come on only at night in the bathroom when you opened the door was a feature I really liked.  Nothing worst than a bright light in the middle of the night when you just want to go and then go back to sleep.

Could not find any info on this sculpture at the nearby Westerpark

The cruise started in Amsterdam where we stayed there overnight before we made our way to Hoorn and Middelburg.  From there we continued on Antwerp.

Cathedral of Our Lady, Antwerpen

The best chocolate shop in the world

Before we left Antwerp we walked by way of the underwater tunnel to Linkeroever and back.  It was about a 1/2 mile walk each way and can go down and up from the tunnel by elevator or wooden escalator.

View from Linkeroever

After Antwerp, we were on to Ghent noted for the Cathedral of St. Bavon and Bruges noted for the Gruuthusemuseum.

The plan is to ring that bell 250K times for each person living in Ghent

Next stop Rotterdam for the famous Delft Tour and the Kinderdijk Windmills

The Archimedes screw in action

Back in Amsterdam, we spent the day at Keukenhof gardens that are only open to the public 8 weeks a year.  It was Easter Sunday and the place was packed.  They had 4 indoor display areas and plenty of outdoor space to see Mother Nature in full display.

I got the next four pictures from Julie, who was there a day after us

The folks in Amsterdam love their bikes and they are everywhere.
Catherine has decided that from now on she is going to carry most of her clothes on board.  That will require some changes to both what we carry and how we pack.  We will still check my bag and another one with all our replaceable products.
It turns out that Delta has a third way to calculate replacement of a lost bag.  It is called Special Drawing Rights, (SDR).  It is actually a currency XDR and their rate of reimbursement for international flights is 1131 SDR which is 1644.10 USD.
That is a bit short of the 1900 bucks I spent on replacement items but Delta came thru with 250 bucks each in credits for future flights which is like cash for us.  No complaints here on the compensation but did write them a long comment on the survey they sent us on how they can improve their delayed/lost bag procedures.
The trip back was a bit stressful.  Since we used Global upgrades we had to go from AMS to CDG then on to ATL with the first flight leaving at 645 am.  Since I am getting too old for multiple flights we stayed at a very nice Marriott near the airport.  We were unable to check in for the flight and in the past, that meant one of us was going to get extra security screening at the gate.  I tried calling to alleviate the problem but was told to simply go to the airport prior to the flight.  That also did not work at the kiosk but figured I still had plenty of time take care of the matter with the agent.
No such luck.  She had to call Air France since we were flying on KLM out of AMS, don’t figure.  The person she talked to could not resolve the problem so I was asked to wait for her to get a callback.  I, in turn, called Delta and 30 minutes later we were on our way to security with only the boarding pass for the first leg.
Turns out we should not have had Business Class on the flight out of AMS so I had to agree to the downgrade and 200 bucks each in credit vouchers.  Not a problem for a 45-minute flight and an exit row seat.  Not sure why they could not just be given us our assigned seats since we were upgraded on all the flights coming this way.  That change was going to raise its ugly head again.
I went to the lounge for breakfast and tried to get them to print our boarding passes to ATL but no joy and was told they were unable to check us in and to have it taken care of at the transfer desk in CDG.  Knowing that it took 30 minutes last time and only had 75 minutes to connect I was not going to fall for that old I can’t fix it so go see someone else so I called Delta once again.
Turns out that when they downgraded us they reissued the ticket and made a mistake that only the Air France help desk could fix.  The Delta agent stayed with us and we got our boarding passes emailed to us as we were boarding the flight out of AMS.  BTW we did not see a transfer desk in Paris and we had to have boarding passes to get thru immigration.
We are now nice and comfy on our flatbed, 9-hour day flight to ATL but can only wonder if our bags will be there in ATL to meet us, only time will tell.  I must admit it was a nice touch to be given a handwritten personalized card thanking us for our business as we settled into our seats.  No luck on the bags so we are now in ATL this time 3 bags short and of course Delta has no idea where they are.
Their tracking system shows that 2 got on the plane with us in Paris and then the third is missing in action.  We are off to Bloomington on Friday and back to Europe for another month on Tuesday of next week.  Maybe we will just pick them up there when we get back to AMS.


Horray, our bags showed up at the hotel 12 hours before we had to leave for our trip to Bloomington.  That did not give us much time to rearrange our bags and drop off all the extra clothes at our storage unit, but I got it done.  I can’t wait for the next Delta survey so I can give them a piece of my mind.  They are still our favorite airline but they have got to fix their baggage tracking system.

 As they take us everywhere and most times with our bags

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