Friday, April 24, 2015

Simplifying Flying

Earlier this month, I found myself airside at Japan's Fukuoka Airport. 13 minutes earlier I was boarding the subway downtown.

In those 13 minutes I rode the train two stations to the airport, walked up two levels to Departures, and cleared Security. I had almost an hour before boarding the plane, plenty time for a relaxed breakfast.

Security was efficient. Travelers ahead of me had their phones out for the boarding pass scanner, and they placed their bags on the belt without fuss. With domestic flights in Japan there's no need to unpack liquids, or remove shoes or jackets.

This rapid process contrasted with the snaking Border Control line later that day at Chicago's O'Hare.

When I got home I took steps to replicate the Fukuoka Airport Security experience here in the USA. As a bonus, I no longer need to stand in USA Border Control lines.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Travel Gear: Buying the Wrong GPS

Whether it's investments or stuff, I'm a buy-and-hold kind of person.

I'd had my handheld GPS (a Garmin, function-key-driven GPSMAP 6OCSx) 8 years when I lost it on a trip in January 2015. I was not ready to replace it because it still performed well relative to current units.

But now I had no GPS. I decided to stick with Garmin because I have sets of Garmin maps, and am impressed how rugged my GPS had been. It has survived immersion in water and many falls onto hard surfaces.

I looked at Garmin devices positioned for hiking and narrowed my choice to two units:
A touch-screen unit: Oregon 600
A function-key-driven (non-touch-screen) unit: GPSMAP 64S.
I decided to try something new and settled on the touch-screen unit, the Oregon 600.

Over the course of a two-month trip, February through April 2015, I decided my chosen GPS is unfit for serious hiking.

So, where did I go wrong?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Behind the Steel Door

Hakata (Fukuoka), Monday through Saturday:
08:53 People start to assemble outside the steel roller shutter door.
08:55 Voices behind the shutter make a declaration in unison.
08:59 An electric motor whirs as the shutter slowly rises. 

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hita Station

I can add Hita train station, northern Kyushu, Japan, to my "delighted" list.

By any standards, it's a small station. A single train track enters town, and a single track leaves town. At Hita station, the track fans out into multiple tracks, more than enough to handle the three platforms and the boarding of an average of three country trains an hour.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Animatronic Hell

Painting of Buddhist hell, Daihonzan Naritasan Temple, Kurume, Japan. 
The things you learn when you travel.

I had no idea there was a Buddhist hell. I first caught a whiff of it this week in Unzenonsen, Kyushu, Japan. Hydrogen sulphide, boiling water bubbling out the ground, steam.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Channeling Eva Gabor in Kirishima

As the floor plan shows, the lower levels of big Japanese resort hotels have something for everyone.

Last week, in Kirishima, Kyushu, Japan, I walked through the hotel's amusement area dressed in a yukata, clutching a towel, heading for the stairs to the outdoors hot springs.