Friday, February 25, 2011

Tightwad Travel Tip – Prevent Leaking Pens

I'm persnickety about pens. While ballpoints may have their advantages, no one could ever tear me away from my gel cartridge pens. I love the way the ink flows over the paper, and, when I use them, I swear my words flow more easily too.

The only problem with gel pens is that they don't always travel well. The cartridges are sensitive to the changes in cabin pressure and seem to “explode” after a flight. There's nothing worse than uncapping a beloved pen when you're ready to sign a hotel register and having it leak all over your hand.

The Pilot pen people have a solution. The package for their “real fountain pen” (and it does perform just like a fountain pen!) provides this helpful hint:

     “When using most liquid ink pens on an airplane, be sure to remove the cap with the point upward to avoid problems that could occur due to cabin pressure.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

Ammonites and trilobites and stalactites, oh my!

For four days, David and I wandered through conference halls agog at fossils we'd previously seen only in museums; traipsed from room to room down hotel corridors bedazzled by Madagascar minerals; and visited Africa, on the outskirts of town, where tent after tent overflowed with weaving, basketry, and jeweled artistry.

The Tucson show, the biggest in the world, is a potpourri of sights and sounds from around the world. A man from Alaska, displaying native crafts and belt buckles he'd hand-crafted, explained how he'd been dropped off in the wilds, a mile or so from Denali Park, with no car, no job, and no means of support seventeen years ago. He was like Chris McCandless in Krakauer's novel, Into the Wild, but this guy had lived. And he'd written a book about his adventures, available for only $16.95.

In a hotel room, several Brits had a late-afternoon beer as a man with a brilliantly-colored parrot on his shoulder told them about his deep-sea diving adventures looking for treasure. Out in the parking lot, another Brit, who'd rigged up a generator to combat the freezing temperatures, told David how to examine a trilobite's eyes for detail to ensure fossil authenticity.
At one of the tents, intrigued by jewelry that entranced and stopped me in mid-stride, I spent a long time talking to the Afghanistan man who explained that most of my favorite stone, lapis lazuli, came from his country. When I finally decided on a piece that the man insisted was $20 and not a penny lower, he took my $20 bill and handed me back $5 with a wink and a smile.

On our last day, at a hotel courtyard brimming with tables of Moroccan and Indian gems and stones, where the scent of jasmine incense wafted on the air, Prakash explained that what appeared to be colored cylinders were subtly-hued Shiva Lingam stones, prized for their mystical qualities. Indiana Jones in the Temple of Doom movie was looking for just such a stone to help the desperate villagers. Today, these stones, found only by certain families who have passed on their secrets for tending them from generation to generation, are harvested from the Narmada River in the Mandhata Mountains of India during only one month of the year in springtime.
At top, landscape jasper becomes wearable art.  Shiva Lingam stones are in the middle.  The massage wand (with phosphorescence !) is on the bottom.
Now, I was able to walk away from the book peddled by the Alaskan who could have been Chris McCandless's double, but there was no way I could pass up some of these stones, not with a story like that. Besides, Prakash promised the stones would bring balance and harmony to my life. And after four days of ogling treasures from all over the world and finding myself buying things I didn't even believe in (Check the green and pink wand that's supposed to be used for massage. I could care less about massage, but the ruby-red stone in the wand is phosphorescent!), I'd need both balance and harmony to find satisfaction in my boring old, gem and fossil-less life back in San Diego. I bought five.

Practicalities -

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is held every year from the last week in January until mid-February. Information about exact dates can be found on-line.

Many people assume they must be dealers to gain admittance to the shows, but that is not true. Most shows are open to the public and most dealers do not mind selling you one or two items instead of 100.

There are anywhere from 40-50 venues scattered throughout the city so you will find entire motels devoted to one particular item or country. Search the Internet, newspaper, or pick up a brochure to help you find what you're interested in. Parking is either free at most places or modestly priced-- $3-5 for the day.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Tucson Safeway Memorial

David and I spent a week in Tucson seeing as much of the Gem and Mineral Show as possible, but first we had to pay our respects.
When I moved to this beautiful desert city in 2004, this Safeway was right around the corner from my apartment.  Now, the place where I used to buy my weekly groceries has become a memorial.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Tightwad Travel Tip - Park and Fly

Does your morning flight mean you must leave the house at the crack of dawn or spend an extra two hours in rush hour traffic?  If so, consider staying at a Park and Drive motel the night before your flight. 

These packages can be helpful for that early morning departure or late night arrival flight.  Most require you to pay for one night's lodging (either coming or going) for your car to remain, free of charge, in the motel's guarded parking lot for one to two weeks.

David and I used a Park and Fly motel this winter and paid only a little more than we would have paid for an airport parking garage and less than we would have spent on taxi fares.