Trusted Traveler Blues….

Trusted Traveler is one those US Government programs that tries to make things efficient at airports and border crossings. The idea is that the government will pre-screen US citizen / travelers first and if approved, the traveler is granted a few benefits at these entry points. Two of the notable benefits are Global Entry and TSA PreCheck. Global Entry allows an approved traveler to quickly go through customs after returning from travel abroad. TSA PreCheck allows an approved traveler to go through expedited screening process through the airport security. Generally, this means there’s a dedicated line for the traveler to walk through and also includes a nice benefit of not having to take off shoes.

I recently renewed my application. And wow…. getting an interview is difficult. I couldn’t find any ZOOM based interview time slots (preferred) but even in-person time slots were difficult to come by. Looking through at the various locations that offer in-person interviews, the availability varies from city to city irrespective of the region. The West coast was as busy as the East coast and was as busy as the South. Fortunately, I found a time 9 months later at the local office. I could also travel to another airport for earlier interviews but it didn’t seem to make any sense doing that since I’d have to take time off and spend money on airplane tickets. I could better spend the money on travel to where I want.

Portland

Last weekend, I went on a trip with my friends to Portland, Oregon.  It was a pretty short 4 day trip filled with local attractions, food, donuts, hiking, wine tasting, coffee and lots of Boss Monster.  Portland is a pretty green place.  There’s a lot of trees everywhere.  It’s also very walkable too with light rails running all over the place.  One thing I noticed that there are very few tall buildings.  I think most of the buildings were no more than 10 stories high.  Looking at the map, there’s quite a lot of green spaces/parks in Portland. Reading about things to do, outdoor activities like hiking were at the top of the list on many websites.

We went to the Japanese Garden, the Rose GardenWillamette Valley for wine tasting, and Latourell Falls hike.  Regarding the falls hike, I wanted to go to Multnomah Falls hike but in mid 2017, the Eagle Creek Fire wiped out pretty much all the popular trails along the Oregon side of the Columbia River.  Latourell was the only falls hike that wasn’t destroyed.  I love waterfall hikes so these other hiking trails will have to be hiked at a later date.  We also didn’t make it out to the Oregon coast or Tillamook Cheese/Ice Cream tour.

Aside from the hikes, I wanted to go to Portland for their coffee.  It’s one of the centers of what is known as the third wave of coffee mainly because of Stumptown Roasters.  According to this history of coffee waves article, Stumptown is one of the three roasters that managed to grow and become nationally recognized.  They’ve expanded to have coffee sit down stores in select cities. Intelligentsia and Counter Culture are the other two roasters.  I’ve had select Intelligentsia roasted beans but have not yet had seen Counter Culture beans to buy ever since I subscribed to Angel’s Cup.  What did I drink?  Across the 4 days, I went to Courier Coffee, World Cup Coffee, Sisters Coffee, and of course Stumptown Coffee.  There’s so many more roasters to try!

Next time!  Waterfall Hiking! Coffee! Oregon Coast!

Maker:0x4c,Date:2017-9-21,Ver:4,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar01,E-Y

Morocco

There’s been an dearth of posts recently because I went to Morocco with some friends for a short vacation.  I saw the Medina of Fez (a UNESCO site),  Medina of Marrekesh (also a UNESCO site), the super large public square of Jemaa el-Fna also in Marrakesh, the Sahara Desert, the Dades and Todra/Todgha Gorges, the Ouzud Waterfalls and the Hassan II Mosque.  It should be noted that many of the mosques restrict non-Muslims from entering.

Overall despite getting food poisoning in the latter half of the trip, it was interesting.  Ten days is too much time for what we did.  Although we did go at a somewhat leisure place, we probably could have planned better and also gone up the coast to Tangiers/Rabat as well.  It’s amazing to see the change in scenery from lush green vegetation to barren dessert while driving with pockets of green along the rivers.  The towns that pop up depend on that water.  As one Airbnb host put it:  “no water, no life.”

This is my favorite picture from the trip…

Silhouette of Camels