Fruit Flies, and Monkeys, and Lonely Woman, oh my! Some Traveling Tips.

“This sucks, y’all.”

My recent trip to Texas, a 2000 mile round-trip, has me thinking about space travel. Researching the various this’s and that’s of it, I found the image to the left. That monkey looks as if he knows he ain’t coming back.

Just as a reference: Space officially begins at about 62 miles above our Earth’s surface, called the Karman Line.

The first living creatures to be launched into space were fruit flies—they were sent up with some corn so they’d not be hungry—way back in 1947, aboard a V2 rocket. They went 106 miles, and the capsule was actually recovered and the fruit flies weren’t any worse for wear.

A year later came the first monkey, named Albert. But, alas poor Albert; I knew him well (not). Um.  Ugh. Yeah. They think he may have suffocated before he even left the ground. Dang. The rocket only made it up 39 miles.

Albert II, who fortunate for him had NOOOO idea what happened to the preceding Albert, was sent up in a V2 rocket, soaring to 83 miles. Though Albert was the first monkey to be successfully launched into space without meeting his fate before leaving the ground, there was a problem with his parachute on the recovery capsule as it hurtled to earth and—well, you can guess the rest if you like. RIP Albert II. RIP.

After that, other Alberts (III, IV, V) boarded their rockets, and none survived—either they died on impact or during the flight.

Apparently, it is said that all of the monkeys were anesthetized for the flight. Hmmm.

The infamous Miss Baker. “I’m claustrophobic, y’all! ungh!ungh!”

But at last! Two monkeys in 1959—Able and Miss Baker—flew to 360 miles, tucked in aboard a Jupiter rocket. Their recovery capsule landed about 1700 miles off range of where they were supposed to land at Cape Canaveral, but they were found and recovered, and perhaps became celebrities, maybe as spokesmonkeys for various products and services.

My recent travel was not so dire and dangerous, though perhaps it is in its own way—traffic, crazy drivers, high winds, bad storms, exhaustion, a hotel from hell—lawd!

There is vulnerability (at least for this lonely woman) to traveling alone. So I have some general tidbits for you, should you also travel alone, or will one day do so.

1). If you are traveling with a pet, and will be stopping for the night, you would be better off checking out hotel pet policy ahead of time. Many chains do not allow pets. Some allow them but with restrictions, or a non-refundable fee (one hotel charges $100 nonrefundable fee!). Some chains do allow pets for free—like LaQuinta. LaQuinta hotels are a crapshoot, honestly. Some of them are seriously outdated. Do your research and it’ll save you from being road-weary and searching.

Read reviews. There are always the 1-star “I HAAAAAATED IT!” reviews and the 5-Star “I LOOOOOOOVED IT!” reviews, but I like reading those 3 and 4 star reviews.

Also, maybe I’m just paranoid and weird, but the first two things I do when I stay at a hotel, any hotel, no matter how much it costs or where it is, is to check the mattress for signs of bed bugs (UGH!)—I have never had a room with those, but I check it every time (pull up the sheets and look at the mattress, particularly along the seams, for cleanliness—you can google this if you dare). Then I take Clorox wipes and wipe down the remote, the light switches, the toilet, and a few other surfaces—what? Better safe than sorry! All hotels, no matter how nice or what the cost per night, get this treatment. It’s the only way I can relax. I will also admit that in the middle of the night, I shine my phone under the covers just to make sure nothing is there. Yeah. My head is a scary place.

I seeeee youuuuu!

Also, if you have “trouble” at any hotel, report it. I stayed at a hotel with a weird wonky door that I didn’t discover until the next morning that you could see a little bit into my room! EEEEK! I was NOT HAPPY! While the staff was amazing, and the hotel clean, that hotel needed serious updating and renovating. It was unacceptable. They refunded my money. I won’t be staying there again. Research, y’all! Ahead of time!

2). Welcome Centers are becoming better and better about cleanliness, safety, and, well, welcoming! I always stop at a Welcome Center when entering a new state. There’s places to walk about, and if you have a pet, they have designated areas for the pets. There’s usually coffee, and nice greeters (during business hours mostly). Vending machines if you are interested in that. And the bathroom facilities are usually clean and safe.

3). Rest areas are a mixed bag. Some of them do a great job of keeping the area and facilities clean and safe. But, I have a rule: if I pull up to a rest area and don’t feel safe, or have one of my “wonky” feelings, I’m out of there. Always best to listen to your gut. As with Welcome Centers, rest areas are much better than they used to be, but some are still a little “shady.”

4). Have water handy for you and for your pet. I used to limit my water intake so I’d not have to stop so often, but now I realize that part of the joy of the trip is stopping and stretching my legs, taking in some scenery. And keeping yourself hydrated and your body stretched out will keep you awake and aware and feeling better.

5). Don’t consume sugary snacks and drinks! Same goes for high “bad” carbohydrate foods, like a lot of fast foods. Eating sugary/high carb foods will make you feel sluggish and sleepy. Higher protein snacks/food is a better choice.

And, concerning No’s 4 & 5 – if you are traveling alone, you MUST be alert! There is no one to switch off so you can rest/nap, unless you pull over to nap, and I will never do this. So consider what you take with you and where you stop to eat as an important part of your travel. Continue reading

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