Category Archives: Family

The Important Things in Life

Last summer our leadership team went through Strengthsfinder 2.0.  I am a sucker for these types of things and get into analyzing myself.  One thing that I was able to verbalized after this is that I’m the type of person that needs to do something work-wise so that I can feel productive every single day. That can make vacation difficult; I have to force myself to not check email. 

Today was a beautiful day with my husband, daughter, and grandson. I was reminded how important it is to soak in these times and not allow my focus to be elsewhere. I’m thankful that today, I was able to immerse and be present as my grandson had his first aquarium experience at the Florida Aquarium. His excitement, wonder, and smiles made my day. #ilovebeingagigi 


Review of PNC Park, Citizens Bank Park, & Camden Yards

Objective: See 3 baseball games in 3 ballparks in 5 days.

Tools Needed: MegaBus, adaptability, willingness to cheer for teams you know little to nothing about, love for the game

Standards Met: None as this isn’t a math lesson

Ballpark #1 – PNC Park, Pittsburgh, PA, home of the Pirates

Overall Impression:  Wow.  Pretty sure that is the first thing I said when I saw the park as we came into town on the MegaBus.  It’s location is probably the best I’ve been to.  Newer park, open view of downtown Pittsburgh and Robert Clemente bridge.  Very picturesque.  Fans were very friendly and into the game.  It was a big game against the Cardinals (Pirates won) and there was a large turnout for a Monday evening game.

Food:  My normal routine is to get a hotdog the first time I visit a ballpark.  I have to say, theirs looked dreadful and instead I got a bbq pork sandwich from behind the outfield.  Sandwich was definitely a good pick.

Seats:  We sat in nosebleed by 3rd base.  And when I say nosebleed, I mean row S and it went up to row Z.  When we got to our section, the usher sprayed our seats and wiped them off for us! Talk about service for the cheap seats! I’ve never even had that for premium seats.   I have a feeling this is a park with no or few bad seats.  The steepness means you still feel up close to the action.  We also went early for batting practice and sat in the right outfield.  Excellent seats because the warning track is so shallow.  The seats are RIGHTTHEREINTHEACTION.   Oh, one bummer, 3rd deck doesn’t have cup holders.

Ballpark #2 – Citizens Bank Park, Philadelphia, PA, home of the Phillies

Overall Impression:  Disappointed.  We had heard great things about this park and the fans.  When I heard it was in the sports stadium area of Philly (Football, Basketball, and Hockey are also across the street), I was anticipating that they had turned into a cool sports themed area.  That expectation was not met.  The outside of the park itself is just not impressive walking up.  The ambiance felt wrong.  The fans seemed more interested in everything BUT the game and it was a close game with the Phillies ahead. Music played between innings was too boring and slow most of the time.  And, I expected more from the Phillie Phanatic.  One of the new parks, pretty, yada, yada, but definitely not high on my list as there are plenty of prettier parks with better fans.  Too commercial.  When a player was up to bat, a big ad was right next to his face instead of having his stats right with him.  Lame.  We left at the 7th inning stretch and couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  Neither hubby nor I have any desire to return.

Food:  Again broke hotdog routine here because I figured I’d get my first ever Philly cheesesteak.  We asked some guys who worked in the park where to eat and they said John Luke’s.  Eh.  It was barely passable.  I didn’t even eat half of it – which it’s huge and definitely enough for two people.

Seats:  We were again in nosebleed, but first row this time.   Plenty of legroom and cup holders drilled into the cement wall in front of us.  We were on the 3rd base side, but more outfield.  The view from our seats were not as good as Pittsburgh.  We couldn’t see where a homerun went out below us.  Otherwise, not bad seats and you do feel close again because of the steepness.

Ballpark #3 Orioles Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, home of the Orioles

Overall Impression:  We stepped off the MARC train from DC and just stared agape at the big brick wall.  It was impressive.  As we walked closer, there was an excitement about what we might find around that wall!  The entrance area around the corner was filled with statues of players, the music was pumping, and I couldn’t wait to get into the park.  It exuded energy and came across as a place where one would have a great time.  After entering the gates, we walked down Utah street where there are shops and restaurants.  I got over the fact that I would be cheering for a team in orange and black which was weird since I hate, hate, hate the vile Giants.  This stadium instantly became my favorite, replacing the St. Louis Cardinals park as #1.  They played great music before the game and between innings.  Excellent fans.  Everyone around us was into the game and clearly were big fans of the O’s.  Loved during the Star Spangled Banner when everyone yelled “Oh!”  Very friendly people.  Got to see Roberto Alomar inducted into Orioles hall of fame.  The game was excellent, saw a grand slam AND an instant replay call.  First time at a game where instant replay was used.  Would love to come back to this park and is a must see for baseball fans.

Side note: the park is now #1, but the fans in St. Louis are still #1.  O’s fans were impressive, but none have beat Cardinals fans for me.

Side note #2:  If you are coming from D.C., getting back after a night game is a pain in the rear end.  I say take the light rail to Penn Station in Baltimore and then get on the Amtrak.  Bummer is we had to leave the game a little early and then, of course, Amtrak was an hour late.

Food:  I went back to my traditional hot dog here.  I got the jumbo dog.  It was pretty good.  Hubby had heard about the dog with mac & cheese and crab.  However, the stand had not one person in line, which didn’t send us a good message.  Instead he got a bbq sandwich at Boog’s – loved it and said it was the place to go for food at an Orioles game.

Seats:  3rd deck again.  2nd row, 3rd base.  Excellent view of the game.  Pretty sure this is also a park that has no bad views. Feels very intimate, like Pittsburgh.  No cupholders in the nosebleed.  Dude cleaned our seats here too.

Even with Philly being a disappointment, we still loved the experience and are eager to plan our next baseball trip.  I think next up will be Boston and maybe the two New York teams.

megabus journey part deux

The original blog was already too long, so I’m going to recap journeys 3 & 4 in this post.

Day #3: Pittsburgh, PA – Philadelphia, PA
Our hotel was just over a mile from the MegaBus stop. BTW, in Pittsburgh, the MegaBus stop is on 10th street under the Convention Center. It’s a really central location and covered from the elements. So, we were just over a mile away. When we arrived in PIttsburgh, we just walked the 1.2 miles with our luggage because we had been on buses since Durham, NC. The exercise sounded good and it was.

Bus from Pittsburgh to Philly was 6:10am, before the hotel shuttle started. I called down at 5am to get a taxi at 5:20am. We got down at exactly 5:20 and the taxi driver came and left. What?! Hotel person calls them again and requests another taxi. At 5:40, no taxi. She calls again and they can’t give an estimate. At 5:45am we walked 1.2 miles with all of our luggage as fast as we could move. We got to the bus stop at 6:03 and they were in the middle of loading. We were truly the last people on. Whew – that was scary!  Very stressful start to the day.

Bus isn’t packed which makes it more quiet and roomier. We were able to sit at a table on the lower deck which is nice since I needed to do some work while we enjoy the Pennsylvania countryside. Unfortunately, wi-fi wouldn’t connect again. This will limit the work I can do as I need Google Docs (spreadsheet) and the internet. I can get the internet on my iPad and iPhone but not google docs properly. If I’m missing a good app that lets those work, help a girl out! iPad has the lowest data plan, so need to be careful on its usage.

I do like the bus for seeing parts of the country I’ve never visited. Plus we get the added bonus of no hassle of driving and parking. As I said before, I think I would use MegaBus again for journeys like today – no connection. I just need to be prepared to not have wifi. It’s those unmet expectations that will get you every time

Edited 8/4 to add: Day #4 – Philadelphia, PA to Washington, D.C.

The Philly MegaBus stop is near the 30th street station.  Convenient location, but out in the elements.  Not a stop I’d want to be at in the rain or snow.

We were one of the first in line, got on with no hassles, and grabbed one of the downstairs tables.  Love the tables! We both could work, have open laptops, iPads, etc, plus have room to stretch out.  And, we finally got a bus again with working wi-fi! Bus was clean. Bathroom was truly a porta-potty this time, but clean and lots of deodorized smelling air being pushed in, so no smell other than the deodorizer.  Easy, simple trip.

Final Thoughts:  

  • No frills transportation
  • Your experience is heavily dependent on your driver
  • MB needs to clarify their policies on their website better (I still can’t find 2 policies that drivers told me and I’ve searched the website)
  • MB should either time their schedule in such a way that someone can’t have less than a 2 hour window for connections (if that truly is their policy), or get rid of that policy and actually help their customers when they, MegaBus cause the delay for mechanical issues.
  • Leaving people in the rain with no more information should never be ok, especially when they caused the delay due to mechanical problems.  I know it’s lower cost than an airline, but this just isn’t an acceptable way to treat paying customers.  (And yes, we paid more than $1 for all of our trips.)
  • I wish they would up their fee by $1 per trip to pay for better wifi.  Don’t make wi-fi a main point of your advertising only to put in the small print that it doesn’t work well.
  • MB can be an inexpensive, easy way to get to places without taking your car & having the hassle of paying parking or driving in a big city.  Plus, you can sleep and/or work on the bus while seeing the countryside.
  • The temperature should be able to be controlled by the driver.  (Drivers said they can’t change it.)  It was REALLY cold, even with our blankets, on some of the buses.
  • I would take MegaBus again as long as it didn’t include a connection.
  • The tables on the bottom are the best seats if you want to do any work.

our megabus journey

I’m attending a math conference in DC so hubby and I decided to make it a bit of an extended trip by visiting an uncle, seeing 2 other cities, and going to 3 new to us ballparks.  Because of when I have to be back for pre-planning, we are flying back from DC.  We decided to take the Megabus for everything else.  I have 3 colleagues that have taken it with no problems.  This post will be my review of taking a journey on Megabus.  I’ll update as we go.

Day 1: Atlanta – Charlotte & Charlotte – Durham

The Atlanta Megabus stop is outside of the Civic Center MARTA station.  Don’t be a fool and accidentally get off at Midtown, which what I told my husband we needed to do.  Thankfully I had planned a 30 minute cushion.  We got to the line about 7:20 and we were WAY back in line. Found out at 7:30 that the bus would be delayed about 30 minutes.  This created a bit of panic as we only had a 15 minute layover in Charlotte for our next bus. BTW – there is NO covering to stand under in line here.  You may want to bring an umbrella.

Let me explain why this would be stressful.  Megabus doesn’t let you book straight from ATL to Durham. I had to do 2 different transactions.  My concern was that, unlike an airline where they know your layovers because of booking as one transaction, they would leave without us!

I called the toll-free # while were in line and was told that it was my fault for not leaving 2 hours between each bus trip and that if we missed our connection in Charlotte WE WOULD HAVE TO BUY ANOTHER TICKET FOR THE NEXT BUS! Are you kidding me?? I was not a happy camper and we hadn’t even gotten on the bus! First of all, ATL – Charlotte was supposed to arrive at 11:45am.  Who would seriously buy the 10pm ticket out of Charlotte instead of the 12pm ticket? I know who.  A moron. That’s who. (edited to add, this is what their website says about connections, etc. – nothing about 2 hours)

Bus arrives, we tell driver our dilemma, he thinks we’ll make it.  Once on bus, he makes an announcement as there are apparently a lot of us in the same predicament.  He has called dispatch and they will hold the other bus for us. Yay! I love Megabus again.

I had to sit in a row with a stranger.  He was using the charger for our row – so I found out only 1 charger per row.  I forgot to test the wifi as I used my phone the whole time and it was on 3G.

We get to Charlotte at 12:15pm & the other bus is GONE! Our driver called dispatch again and was told they were trying to reach the other driver to get him to turn back for us.  About 30 of us were left on a street and it started to pour rain.  We ran in to the burger king on the corner and all started calling megabus. We all were told initially that we were out of luck and would have to buy new tickets and wait for the 10pm bus.  Thankfully, they finally decided to have the driver come back and get us. New driver was cranky and made us all stand in the rain while he took his time checking people’s papers and yelling at us while taking our luggage.  I hate megabus again.

We get in the bus and I can’t get on wifi and the charger in my row doesn’t work. GREAT.  I hate megabus more. We arrived to Durham 2 hours late because driver had to take a mandatory 30 minute break (due to not waiting initially and having to turn around and come back).

Thankfully we had a great time with our Uncle which helped to erase some of the travel memories and stress.

Thoughts after day 1: We are calling it megadeath instead of megabus.  We are hoping the rest of our trip isn’t like this and that we have more drivers like the first one and not the second one.  I did feel safe on both buses.

Day 2: Durham – Washington D.C. & Washington D.C. – PIttsburgh, PA

We are on the megabus now on the first part of the journey.  Bus is different, not a double decker and no Megabus on the side.  2 chargers per row and they work! Wi-fi is SUPER slow, couldn’t ever get my iPad connected.   Bus left on time.  Two drivers, both courteous.  I like megabus again. I’m too cautious to “love” them again quite yet – I don’t give my heart away that easily the second time.

We have a 1 hour layover in DC and unless there is some major issue, we should not have a connection problem.  We’ll be doing the “red-eye” bus. Hopefully it isn’t packed and we’ll be able to stretch out for sleeping.

P.S. Internet kept disconnecting as I was trying to post this.

edited 7/29/13 to finish day 2’s journey. 

So the rest of our trip to DC was uneventful.  It was nice getting to play cribbage and not worry about the driving.  Difficult without a tray table like on an airplane, but we made it work and it kept us awake like we wanted. Something to note: in Durham we were never asked for our reservation number. The driver did a head count and we left. Also, we’ve never been asked for our ID when getting on any bus, including getting back on after a pitstop.

We arrived to DC on time. The megabus stop for DC is actually at Union Station.  This is surprising because the other stops we’ve been at are literally on the side of the road.  They may be near or next to a transit station, but megabus doesn’t pay the fees to use those stations and just does pick-up/drop-off on a street corner.  I’m guessing that’s part of how they stay cheaper more frugal.

We found the line for the Pittsburgh bus and there were only 4 people in line before us – SCORE! Megabus is like Southwest in the old days, no assigned seats and first in line gets on the bus first.  (Side note: I love that Southwest now does the A,B,C thing when you check-in online.) We were excited because we were learning the spots with more legroom were up top in the very front, next to the stairs, and in the very back. My hubby is 6’3″ and struggles to sleep on a plane. We wanted maximum leg room for him to have any possibility of sleeping on our “red eye” bus.  We have an hour to wait so we decide to tag team using the restroom and getting snacks.  Hubby goes first.

When the hubster arrives back, our bus has arrived, but we are still 45 minutes from departure.  I go over to ask driver #1 when bus will start loading, he tells me departure time. I ask again for loading time, again I am given departure time. I explain that I’m asking because I didn’t know if I should wait to use the ladies room if loading would be soon. He again tells me departure time and that I have plenty of time to make it before we depart.  I explain that I want a good seat, that’s why I don’t want to leave my spot in line if loading will be soon. He then tells me that he can’t guarantee me a good seat (which I never asked) and he doesn’t know when loading will be and walks away. Ok. That was weird.

I run downstairs and just as I’m heading back up, hubby calls to see get up here, they won’t let me on because you aren’t with me, EVEN THOUGH MY HUBBY HAD HIS RESERVATION NUMBER. Why? Because there were two people on the reservation and it was against policy to allow one on without the other.  Seriously. Weird because in Durham, no one even asked for our reservation number.  The first question on their FAQ page says all you need is your reservation number, and nothing about the whole party being there to board the bus.  Now all these people in line behind us were boarding the bus first. If it weren’t an overnight trip, I probably wouldn’t have been that annoyed, but man was I annoyed.

This is where I admit something embarrassing.  I became one of those people.  I walked up to driver #2 and told him it was ridiculous that they didn’t let my husband on and required him to wait for me. Yes, I argued with the driver. Ugh. I’m mortified. Meanwhile, driver #1 is still letting others on, even though I’m there.  I ask if we can just get on the bus or do we have to now wait until everyone else is on.  Driver #1 (from my earlier conversation) comes over and tells me that I wanted special treatment and wanted to be let on the bus early and he couldn’t do that. Um, no, I never said that nor did I want that. I solely wanted to know when the bus would load. That’s it. I didn’t want hubby to have to carry both of our luggage without me. And, I think their “policy” to not allow my husband to load until I got their is dumber than dumb. Though I don’t really think its a policy at all.

Reflection moment. I realized that driver #1 answered every question I asked because he assumed my motive.  I’m sure that came from many, many other interactions where people’s motives were special treatment or to board early. He treated me as if that was what I was asking when I wasn’t.  How many times have I wrongly assumed motive from a parent’s questions about their child because it was similar to what someone else had asked? I was not expecting that self-reflection.

Back to the megabus. Horrible ride. Neither of us could sleep though we tried for hours.  It was freezing and we had blankets.  I can’t blame the non-sleep on megabus. Power plug in our row worked. No wifi. I checked since I was awake all night.  Driver #2 was friendly, driver #1 was not.  Side note: driver #2 announced we might be late and not to worry as “of course” they would hold any connection buses. haha. Of course they would. We ended up 45 minutes late.  I have no idea if any buses were held as it was where we were ending our ride.

Final thoughts after day 2: We both would ride megabus again, but for shorter trips.  I would never ride it if we had to do a connection because their customer service about it stinks. We are cheap frugal and know what type of expectations to have now. I wouldn’t do a “red-eye” because I think those just don’t work for us, we are too old for that now. That’s not on megabus, that’s our own issue.  We have 2 more trips, but thankfully without connections!