Another S. America Trip

I am now trying to plan two S. American trips simultaneously. There is the trip next month to Galapagos & Santiago, and now there is a trip in July/August of 2013 to Machu Picchu. For Galapagos I am the one in charge of planning and it is a huge pain. For Machu Picchu, I am going with the Vegas Girls, so while I am providing input, I do not have the plan the entire thing myself. This is a lovely change.

For Machu Picchu I think we are going to be using Llama Path (LP) as our tour company. One of the Girls’ coworkers used this company before and really enjoyed it. Plus LP has an emphasis on sustainable tourism, so even though we will be hiking the Inca trail, our impact on the landscape and ruins should be minimal. Every year there is talk of closing the Inca trail and Machu Picchu because all the tourists are having a negative impact. I want my contribution to the destruction to be as minimal as possible, and LP appears to have that same conservation focus.

We are going to be a huge group. As of now, it appears that 11 people will be going. It is the Vegas Girls and everyones significant others. With such a large group we are thinking of doing the private Imperial Tour that LP offers. The private Imperial Tour isn’t significantly more expensive than the group tours, especially since the group tour adds an additional $70 a day if you want to rent half a porter. Here are the details for the Imperial tour. Nothing has been decided on yet, but I think we will likely go with this tour.

OPTION 2 – PRIVATE SERVICE (Imperial service)
   In this service no one else will be allowed to join you  so there will
be only you and your guide, the cost of this trek is 670 USD  per
person .
 This price already include a half porter per person
Also, it looks like I am going to be going to Tahoe in two weekends with a group of friends. I will post about that trip if we actually go. I love having so many travel plans in the works.
Cheers ya’ll!

Texas & VEGAS!

This is a record of a trip I took back in May, 2012.

I just got back from a family reunion / awesome girly weekend in Vegas. The best part of the whole vacation was that Katy came back to the US for it!!! I miss her so much. It is fun and exciting that she lives in Chile but our family is super close so it is also hard for everyone. We make an effort to try and not go too long without seeing each other, but since she lives on the other end of the world, even our best efforts end up with an average of one visit every 6 months.

I am struggling with how to document my awesome vaycay. I think I will just have to go day by day and document the highlights. It is not the most interesting format but I think it is the most efficient.

Thursday (6/14) – My parents and I spent the day getting our butts from Cali to Texas. Not the most interesting of days but my Dad did get to fly first class and bought his ticket using miles, so for $5 he got to fly in luxury with leg room. Not too shabby. We flew into Austin and from there drove about half a mile outside of town to Round Rock where one of my Dad’s best friends from childhood, Charlie Culpepper, resides. This dude was a total childhood delinquent growing up, he graduated third from the bottom in high school and my grandfather, who used words like crud and bum instead of swearing, nicknamed him Super Crud. Anyways, up until a few years ago the Super Crud was mayor of Round Rock and helped get Dell Computer established in the town and a minor league baseball stadium built.

At the Crud’s we swam in the pool, drank beers and then went to a baseball game. At the start of the game my family (Dad, Mom, Me, Aunt Celia, Uncle Mike, Crazy Uncle Dave, Crazy Dave’s surprisingly normal and kind of awesome girlfriend Marla, Cousin Melanie (Mel) and Mel’s two babies Julia and Colin all gathered at the VIP bar on the premise to get drinks and slightly nicer food before heading to our seats. In reality this was the moment I had been waiting for since February…. Katy surprising my parents by showing up!!!!!

When Katy and I originally started plotting her surprise visit only Katy, myself and Mel were going to be in on it. Logistics and planning got so complicated that by the time she walked into the bar everyone but my parents were in on the secret. Katy walked into the bar wearing sunglasses and a silly black cowboy hat with a lighted up star that flashed blue and red. She walked up behind my Mom and said “Howdy.” Mom turned around, took one look at Katy and grabbed her into a giant bearhug that lasted about 5 minutes.

As Mom held Katy in a strangling death grip, she managed to choke out “Howdy” several more times, none of which my dad, who has horrible hearing, registered. Finally Kate yelled out “Dad!” to which my father finally turned around. At first he just stood there kind of confused, which he later admitted was because he did not recognize her and he was just seeing my mom choking the life out of someone who did look kind of familiar but he didn’t know the person. After a moment of confusion it sunk in what was going on and one of the funniest things I have ever seen occurred. Dad was rendered totally speechless. He stood there, staring at Katy and opening and closing his mouth like he was trying to say something but no sound came out. He look like a giant gulping fish. You could tell he wanted a hug, wanted to tell Katy how happy he was to see her and how much he loves her, but instead he just stood there opening and closing his mouth while my sister tried to break free from my mom’s arms. Katy finally freed herself, there was lots and lots of hugging and kissing and then it was time for beer drinking, baseball, and to save me from the mind dulling boredom that is baseball, catching up with Katy!!

Friday (6/15) – Happy 2012 Q2 estimated tax payments due date! I woke up to tasty donuts supplied by Super Crud’s lovely wife Bird (yes, people in the South go by strange nicknames). Apparently Round Rock is home to the world famous Round Rock Donuts. I thought the donuts were tasty but not worth the hype everyone made about them. Then again, I am not a donut connoisseur. After donuts we went to visit Walter. Walter is my great uncle but not the one who wrote The Sexual History of Abraham Lincoln. Walter is straight and more like your standard old person. He is a classic Texas republican and believes every one of the horrible lies ever told about Obama. The man is also pushing 90 and has lost a third of his body weight in 6 months, so I did not want to upset him and just sat quietly when he started ignorant rantings about Obama. Poor crazy old people.

Friday afternoon was spent drinking beer and swimming in Super Crud’s pool. In the evening a neighbor’s son took Katy and I out into down town Austin. Austin has a reputation for awesomeness and Katy and I wanted to experience a little of said awesomeness, so Bird arranged for Rich B. to take us out and about.

Austin is considered the live music capital of the world and it totally lived up to its reputation. We went to 6th street (the classic music and bar area in down town A), 4th street (the new chill bar and music area) and West 6th (where the late 20’s early 30’s hipsters hang). We passed on going to second street because it is more high end and that is not our scene. For dinner Rich B. took us to the Hula Hut on Lake Austin. It was lovely to sit outside in the warm evening, drink and watch the sun set behind the hills surrounding the lake. My favorite bar was one called The Terrace where a cover band was playing pretty good renditions of Black Eyed Peas and OutKast, though the place was kind of ruined when the lanky white plow hand looking dude started to rap.

Katy and I both really loved Austin and now want to take our group of girls to Austin next, instead of Vegas. It will be strange not partying it up in Vegas, but I think a change of pace would be fun. I wonder if we can squeeze 8 girls into one room at the W in down town A? The Driscal might be a lot harder because it is an old hotel and even nice old hotels generally have small rooms.

Saturday (6/16) – A major portion of Saturday was spent traveling from Austin to Port Aransas (a small Texas town on the Gulf of Mexico commonly referred to as Port A). Driving was dull and took quite a while. By the time we got to Port A it was time to go to dinner. However, as this was a family reunion and we had 17 in our group finding a place to eat on a Saturday night was impossible. We ended up at a rather lousy all you can eat pizza shack.

While driving from Austin to Port A, Bird called me and told me that Pat Greene and some other country band was having a concert in a park along the beach that night and admission was only $15 a person. Not wanting to waste time hanging around the house and listening to our parents and their siblings and cousins reminisce about the old days, Katy and I recruited a few of our cousins to attend the concert with us. The music was decent and it was outside in a park on a warm summer night. The music could have been horrible and I think I would have had fun because I love being outside on warm nights so much. Plus I got to dance around so it was extra good.

Sunday (6/17) – Sunday was spent at the beach and in the swimming pool at the beach house. The gulf is warm so it is so much more fun to swim in than the oceans in Cali. Also, Texas is as hot as hell, so that improves the swimming experience as well. I was wearing SPF 110 and managed to not get sunburned. I think I might have developed a vitamin D deficiency and possibly Rickets, but no sunburn.

Sunday night the big family group, plus a few additional cousins of my Dad’s, went out for my Aunt Susie’s 65th birthday. Susie, whose real name is Robbie I think(again with the nicknames), is my Dad’s Irish twin. The whole family reunion at the gulf was planned by Susie and her family as an excuse to get together and celebrate her birthday. We went to a restaurant in The Roosevelt Hotel, named because the ex-Pres once stayed there. While Texas are good at coming up with crazy-ass nicknames, they are not so creative when it comes to naming restaurants. Though there used to be a bar in Austin called Armadillo World Headquarters, which I think is a pretty great name.

Dinner was a pre-fixed menu and everything was very tasty. Since we were at a beach town most of the choices were seafood based, but the most delicious thing was actually the steak. It was in some kind of butter sauce. Yum. After dinner the family took a crap load of pictures together and then went back to the beach house to watch the NBA finals and digest.

Monday (6/18) – Monday, Monday, Monday, What happened Monday? Oh yeah, we rented a little electric cart thingy and drove along the beach and around Port A. We also went to a seafood pot restaurant where they take giant pots of boiled shrimp and dump the whole thing on a table covered with butcher paper. No one uses plates or silverware; you just eat with your hands and toss the shrimp heads and exoskeletons into a dish. It is all served with tons of butter and lemon and extras like beans and okra. I find the whole experience fun and delicious but Katy gets really grossed out by it. Watching her watch everyone else just makes it more fun.

I stopped writing here. I have now started up again and it is a month and a half later. I do not remember so much.

I do not remember what I did for dinner on the 18th. I do remember that Katy, Julia and I did a dance party to silly children’s songs. We are nerds.

Tuesday (6/19) – This was our last day in Port A. It was a low key day hanging out at the house and swimming. The definite highlight of the day was dinner. We went to this random Mexican restaurant where the food was super cheap and we happened to show up for $1.50 beer & margarita night. We had a group of 15 people and after tax the bill was $102! Our receipt was about a foot and a half long. The first 4 inches was all the food and the rest was just listing $1.50 after $1.50 of drinks. Even Melanie and Susie, who normally do not drink, were taking advantage of the $1.50 margaritas. It was great.

Wednesday (6/20) – Wednesday kind of sucked. We were supposed to go to Schlitterbaun. I have only been to Schlitterbaun once before, when I was about 16, and it ranks as one of the top 10 greatest days of my life. Schlitterbaun is a GIANT waterpark about an hour outside of Austin, and since Texas is hotter than hell, it makes for extra refreshing fun. We left Port A early in the morning to make it to Schlitterbaun, but right as we arrived in New Brunsfield a storm hit. There was thunder & lightening and it was pouring buckets. Since electrocution kind of ruins a vacation, we passed on Schlitterbaun and decided to go to the outlet stores in New Brunsfield instead. I was very disappointed by this. Boo.

We did not stay at the outlet stores long but Katy did manage to buy some work clothes. From there, we continued onto Austin. We stayed at some crap hotel but it was right in down town Austin, so that was nice. For dinner my family went to the Hula Hut, where Rich B. took Katy and I, and then after dinner we went to a true honky-tonk bar called the Wagon Wheel. The Wagon Wheel is renowned as the last legit honkey-tonk in Texas and it is AWESOME! There is a live band and everyone is up and two-stepping or line dancing. We ended up at The Wagon Wheel because as we were driving home from The Hula Hut, my dad mentioned that there was a country bar he used to go to called The Wagon Wheel, but he was sure it was out of business by now. I looked up the bar on my phone and it was shown as still in business, so we went to check it out. It totally did not disappoint. I danced with some old fellows and a hottie who went to UT. It was a great night.

Thursday (6/21) – Thursday was our only full day in Austin. In the morning we walked around the UT campus and in the afternoon we went over to try and swim at a pool/creek called Barton Springs. UT has a beautiful campus. If I got to redo college I might choose UT. It is a great school, the town is awesome and it would have made my dad proud if one of us had gone there.

Unfortunately our afternoon plan of Barton Springs was a bust because they were cleaning the pool. Barton Springs is an awesome pool in the middle of a river, so the water is clean and the bottom is not covered in plants/crap, but it is also refreshing because it is spring water running through it. Because the pool area was closed for cleaning, everyone just gathered in the stream below the pool. It was fun and I got to see turtles, but it was not very deep. Because we could not spend the day at the pool we went to another bar my dad used to hang out at while he lived in Austin. This bar was more of a pub. We sat around, drank and watched some of the Eurocup. Spain won, so that was fun.

For dinner we went out to a mediocre tex-mex restaurant with my parent’s friends Sarah Todd, Donavan and Donavan’s wife whose name I do not remember. Sarah Todd and Donavan are great, but I did not like Donavan’s wife. I am also not the biggest fan of tex-mex, so overall I thought this dinner sucked.

Friday (6/22) – Friday morning my family went to a sporting goods store. Katy and I each got new running shoes and then we went to the airport to go to VEGAS!! Woo VEGAS!!!

The flight to Vegas was uneventful but unfortunately Southwest lost Katy’s luggage. This really sucked because she had purchased a lot of souvenirs for people in Chile, new clothes at the outlet stores and had both of our new running shoes in her bag. Plus her digital camera and several sentimental outfits were in the bag. The bag was never recovered and Southwest paid out $3,000, but that doesn’t really make up for some of the things Katy lost. Plus the Southwest people at the Vegas airport were SUPER unhelpful about trying to locate her bag. They tried to claim that bags never got stolen so they did not need any kind of security in place to prevent such, and that the bag would eventually turn up. Morons.

When we finally got out to the airport it was time to party. This trip we stayed at the Cosmopolitan and it was all the usual Vegas suspects except for Jenny and Erin. Katy and I slept in one bed, Maura and Diana shared the other bed, Narissa slept on the floor, Lauren slept on a cot that we managed to steal from another room and Vanessa is so tiny she was able to sleep on a footstool thing.

Our first night in Vegas we did not do much. It had been so long since we had seen one another that we spent the whole night up in the room drinking and talking. At one point we did go out for food, but we just grabbed something quick because we wanted to get back and catch up some more. We are getting so old. It used to be we would get to Vegas, throw on something trashy and go flirt for free drinks. Now we would rather hang in the room and chat than go get our slut on.

Saturday (6/23) – Saturday we got a slow start. We chilled in the room in the morning, eating beagles and being lazy. Eventually we all got ready and went down to the club pool at our hotel. Day clubs at the pool are the new trend and the Cosmo has one of the best, Marquee. Marquee had this thing going where the DJS were all twins. The first was a set of twin girls who were pretty good and then the main “act” was a set of identical twin dudes who were great. Everyone was up and shaking their booties. I actually prefer day clubs to the night ones because you are outside and can go swimming. Swimming in the general pool is really gross because you know drunk people pee in it, but the cabanas each have their own privet little pools, so we just flirt our way into someone’s private area and drink their booze/use their pool. Good times.

After the club we went back to the room, showered, got dressed up and went out to dinner and clubbing. For dinner we went to Pink Taco. The food was not good, but it is more of a place to be seen rather than enjoy the food. Katy, Vanessa and I all agreed that we would rather go someplace to eat tasty food then to celebrity watch, but the other girls wanted this. After dinner we went to some new club at Bellagio called Hyde. This club is one of the worst I have been to in Vegas. The layout is lousy and the go-go dancers are all wearing cat masks and holding knives pretending to cut things/each other. It is really creepy. We suffered through Hyde for about 45 minutes and then threw in the towel. Being together in our room and drinking was just way more fun than that club would ever be, so we went back, changed into jammies and chilled.

Sunday (6/24) – Katy’s flight was really early Sunday morning. I was so sad to see her go. After she left I was in a major funk for the rest of the day. Our room had a balcony from which you could actually see the runways of the airport. After Katy left I went up onto the balcony and watched the airplanes take off. Based off of text messaging each other, I am pretty sure I knew exactly which plane was hers.

My flight home did not leave until late that night, so I spent the day chilling at the hotel pool (real pool not club pool). I did not want to go swimming, but I liked watching the drunk fools in the pool. Nothing super exciting happened during the day but in the evening I went out to dinner with Narissa and her sister & sister’s family. Narissa’s niece is a super cutie. We got sushi, which was OK but overpriced.

My flight home was nice and uneventful. I took Virgin which I really like even though you have to pay to check bags. My favorite part about Virgin is the safety video at the start of the flight. It is a cartoon done by some guy who I think works for The New Yorker. Blum was nice and picked me up from the airport. He is a good dude.

That sums up my vacation. It was a great trip and I hope to return to Austin soonish. Hopefully the Vegas crew will do Austin. Yeehaw!

 

Flights Booked!

Greetings Travelers,

My South America trip is falling into place. I have the Galapagos cruise booked and paid for (GL finally got the check), and I have my flights to and from S. America set up. I used Fly.com to book the flights, and I came up with a pretty decent price.

I first started looking at prices several weeks ago and the Fly showed the price of tickets from SFO -> Quito, Quito -> Santiago and Santiago -> SFO to be about $1,400. Over the last several weeks the prices for tickets went up to around $1,900, but then stayed at that range.

Last Wednesday I was ready to book the flights for $1,900 a person, but Katy asked me to delay until she had her flight from Santiago -> Quito and back booked. I am not sure why she wanted me to wait, but I agreed to this. Turns out this was a bad idea. The very next day I went to book my flight and the same itinerary had increased in price to $2,550 a person! Initially I started to freak out. I was booking tickets for three people and did not want to be paying an extra $650 a person.

I assumed that it was the initial flights that were the catalyst for the price increase. I re-ran my Fly and Kayak searches over and over, trying different days to depart from SFO and Quito -> Santiago, but the prices always came up in the $2,550 range. Finally I tried switching the return date, and that was when I got my price to drop back around $1,900. I had the misconception that flight prices were generally determinant on the departure date & price, not the return date. This was apparently wrong. By delaying my return date, I got the price to drop.

We will be flying mainly on Lan Airlines. This makes me very happy since I have found that foreign airlines tend to have more leg room and much better service than US airlines. Fly found the best price for Lan coming from Orbitz. I even re-ran the flight search directly from the Lan website, and the Orbitz price was better.

I am almost done with all the booking for the S. America trip. I still need to get a hotel in Quito and to plan day trips/over night trips from Santiago. I hope to have all that figured out by the end of this week. Katy sent me a list of the fun things to do in and around Santiago, so now I just need to pick some. Life is so hard. ;)

Cheers.

Galapagos

Greetings Travelers,

I am currently trying to plan a vacation to the Galapagos. The limiting factor in my vacation planning is dates. Katy is only available starting December 21st, and we are scheduled to be in Valparaiso, Chile Dec 29th. This gives us a very tight window to actually make it out to the Galapagos, and to make matters worse, most Galapagos cruises leave at the start of the month or mid-month.

After about 2 weeks of research and contacting travel sites, I finally found a tour that worked. I booked through www.galapagosislands.com (“GI”). What I like about this site was that I was able to email them describing the kind of tour I wanted and the date limitations, and someone emailed me back within 24 hours with a list of all the cruises they offered that fit within my range. The prices, while not the cheapest, are not totally unreasonable either. For instance, they are significantly less expensive than the National Geographic tours run by Lindblad Expeditions (I am sure the Lindblad trips are amazing, but not within my price range).

The tour company suggested several options that might work, with only one fitting within the exact range I needed. I would have liked to book a slightly higher level cruise, but one option is better than none. We are going to be taking the Monserrat Yacht, itinerary C.

Booking the cruise with GI started off well, but I have now reached a hiccup in paying. GI charges an additional 4% of total sales price when you use a credit card. I am unwilling to pay the extra 4% just to use a credit card, so I mailed in a check return receipt to their location in Miami. It has now been over a week since I mailed the check and the company has not received it. I am considering stopping payment on the check and paying by credit card, but I have a problem paying the 4% service charge. I have emailed the cruise company and offered to pay by credit card if they waive the 4% charge, but no one has gotten back to me.

That is about all I have for now. I will post more when I know about the payments and book our flights.

Cheers!

New Blog – Woohoo!

Greeting Travelers.

I am Tracy Tripp. I am 31 years old and I have done a fairly significant amount of traveling  over those 31 years. I travel with friends, family and on my own. The purpose of this blog, at least as I see it, is for me to document my fun times and allow other people to benefit from my experiences.

I consider traveling not just what you do on a plane or on a road trip, but any adventure you depart on. My “travels” have taken me to exotic distant locals, but also crazy adventures in my own home town (SF Bay Area!).

I intend to write about my current travels, but also past travels which I wish to document. I also have a blog at supersweets.livejournal.com . I have documented many of my travels there as well, but I thought it was time I moved on from the LiveJournal lifestyle and create my own space in this virtual universe.

I am currently trying to book a trip to the Galapagos Islands and Santiago, Chile. I will update again when I have more of the deets for that vaycay.

Cheers!