It’s Saturday morning and we’re leaving for Germany for two weeks tomorrow. We have a day to get ready. I am wide awake and it’s 5AM. The first order of business is to finish up on my backlog of work emails–I had nearly 700 I hadn’t replied to yet when I started this task last night. I’m now down to about 8 emails that I couldn’t clear out quickly, but I don’t want to leave knowing that those are still sitting there with the pile rapidly growing since I won’t have access from Germany. I sit at the computer and do the 6 tasks required to clean up all but 2 of the remaining mails. What’s left is a reminder about an online training class I’m required to take by the end of December and a notice about an administrative request that I want to remember to follow up on when I get back. Satisfied that my backlog is as clear as it’s going to get before I go and feeling pretty happy about only having 2 emails in my inbox for the first time since my last vacation, I set up my out-of-office message and shut down my work laptop so it can take a vacation, too.
That done, I make a list of the odds and ends that need to be taken care of before we go. I’m glad that I learned a long time ago to schedule travel so that I have a non-working day before the trip and another after we get home. I would have been up all night trying to wrap up lose ends if we were leaving today. Having done that before, I know it does not lead to a good start to a vacation, especially not one where we’ll lose 6 hours (mostly of sleep) between here and our destination.
Pat interrupts me and asks if I want to take a walk since we need to go to the bank anyway. Thinking about our 2 hour drive to Atlanta tomorrow followed by over 9 hours on a plane, I decide getting a walk in is important.
We head down to the riverfront, walking around the wetland to get there. We spot a Great Blue Heron standing in the water and stop to watch. Two more herons approach from the air, flying straight towards us, their wings casting giant shadows in the morning light. One flaps awkwardly to a landing near the one in the water while the other circles over our heads. The two on the ground commence an argument when the new arrival lunges at the one who was already there. Apparently herons don’t believe in first-come, first-serve. The original heron is displaced with a loud, complaining squawk as it rises into the air. The third heron must have decided the fishing in the wetland isn’t good enough for a fight because it banks away from the wetland and heads towards the wide waters of the river.
I think of an article I read several years ago that herons recovered faster than Bald Eagles when the use of DDT was banned and that the recovery of the eagles would eventually check the rising population of herons. I find myself wondering if there are any Bald Eagles here–I haven’t seen any yet, but there are certainly a lot of herons.
The show over, we continue to the riverfront more slowly than usual. My legs are stiff and sore from my workout on Thursday. I walk awkwardly and Pat teases me that I look like an old lady hobbling along. Each step reminds me that I hadn’t done a good leg workout for a month at least and that I probably should have gone a little easier. Unfortunately, going to Germany for two weeks isn’t going to make the next workout any easier.
We eventually make it to the end of the walkway on the river and head up one short block to walk along the store fronts that face the river park. Many are open for breakfast, but we have groceries to use up before we go, so we resist the temptation to stop. However, the smell of Julie Darling donuts gets to Pat this morning and he decides he wants a glazed donut to go along with his breakfast. We run across the street no where near an intersection, which would be quite dangerous if it weren’t a quiet Saturday morning. We dig out exact change to pay for the donuts, hoping to lighten the jingle for our trip. The woman who waits on us counts the change and rejects a Canadian penny. Pat tries to talk her into taking it on the grounds that the Canadian dollar is actually stronger than the US dollar (or at least it was when I was in Toronto a month and a half ago). She smiles and says, “I just don’t want to take advantage of you,” a quick and witty response that makes me laugh. We find a US penny, take our donuts and move onto the bank, Pat now making an argument to me that he thinks Canadian change is considered legal tender and that stores have to take it. I tell him that may have been true at one time, but I know my Canadian change has been rejected many times at many establishments, so I don’t think it’s true now.
When we get to the bank, our favorite banker, Clayton, is sitting at his usual desk inside the door. His face lights up with a smile that says he is genuinely glad to see us and I, once again, feel the warm glow of belonging. I am still astounded by the warmth of this man–I would never consider going to another bank just because I enjoy seeing Clayton so much. He gets out of his chair and walks around his desk to greet us, asking us how we’ve been.
After exchanging pleasantries, Pat decides to ask Clayton about the Canadian penny. Most people would have just answered to the best of their knowledge given that it’s just a trivia question, but Clayton gets on the phone, gives the person on the other end some special code that identifies him as a bank employee, I guess, and then asks if Canadian change is supposed to be accepted at stores. Now who else would do that? As I suspected, stores are not required to take Canadian change, but the care that Clayton takes to make sure Pat’s question is answered more than makes up for all the Canadian change we have.
We chat a while longer and then go to the teller to take care of our business. She is almost as friendly as Clayton, but without the familiarity of an old friend that Clayton conveys. Our business done, we stop to tell Clayton good bye and he wishes us well on our trip as we head out the door, walking over to shake our hands one more time. I feel like we’re leaving a friend behind.
Returning to our apartment, we take on the other tasks left before departing. I attempt to figure out if I can get data access from Germany, but am quickly reminded of the one disadvantage to having chosen Verizon wireless as my 3G carrier for my iPad–no service outside the US. I’m a little annoyed with Verizon when I get off the phone–they have an entire section of their website dedicated to international travel and how to get service outside the US yet they don’t actually offer any service. I assume someone in marketing thought it would be a good idea to have a competitive website to AT&T’s and threw up a page to fool unsuspecting international travelers. I find it odd that they would make this investment along with a call center for a service they don’t offer, but it’s not the first time I’ve seen companies create a marketing campaign before they actually have product to go along with it. I just wish they hadn’t wasted my time.
By the time our errands and tasks are done, we are both ready for an afternoon nap. I am nodding off as I try to resolve some issues with my various electronic devices and Pat has already given up and gone to lay down in the bedroom. However, the frustration of sorting out getting books and movies downloaded to my new iPad (having broken my old one and gotten it replaced has created some confusion in my accounts in that they don’t recognize this device) wakes me up a bit and I end up spending the time sorting things out instead of sleeping. Pat comes back out a half hour later and says he couldn’t sleep either, but as he starts to fuss with getting ready to go, I nod off and sleep a bit after all. When I wake up again, Pat has decided we should officially kick off our vacation with a margarita from Taco Mamacitos around the corner. I protest that it’s now 5:30PM and we haven’t started packing yet. He argues it will make packing more enjoyable. I get up and go look in the mirror, trying my best to wipe the sleepy look away quickly.
We sit at the bar at Taco Mamacitos and each order our favorite margarita along with chips and salsa. It seems like we are only there for a few minutes, but by the time we get home, it’s 7:15. I go into high gear and start pulling together outfits for hiking in the Black Forest, walking around cities, and one for going out at night (not that we’re likely to be able to stay awake late enough for that).
When I start putting my stuff in my roll aboard and half of the one large suitcase we will take, I discover that I really am a light packer. With plenty of extra space, I throw in an extra sweater and some extra T-shirts and even a long underwear top, just in case. I try to run through the list of things I packed and think of what I’ve forgotten this time (always forgetting at least one thing on every trip), but I can think of nothing else I need. I zip up the suitcases and sit down to relax. It’s now 9:30. It’s hard to believe it takes nearly two hours to put together the necessary items for a two-week trip, but it sure beats how long it takes to pack for a backpacking trip! After working on my blog and relaxing for a couple more hours, I go to bed hoping that the margarita didn’t muddle my brain so badly that I’m going to discover that I didn’t pack some basic necessity, but mostly satisfied that I’m ready for tomorrow.