escape artists

Local climber to attempt K2 Mike Farris, a biology professor at Hamline University in St. Paul, was attempting to climb K2 with six others when an avalanche roared down the mountain in the Pakistani Himalayas last Friday, resulting in the deaths of at least 11 climbers. He reports in his blog ( that he helped in the rescue attempts and was back at base camp as of last Sunday. While the rest of his six-climber team heads home, Farris, 52, has decided to stay behind, hoping to ascend K2 when conditions are favorable. The accomplished climber wrote "Rock Climbing in Minnesota and Wisconsin" for Falcon Guides. On Sept. 2 his new book comes out, "The Altitude Experience: Successful Trekking and Climbing above 8,000 Feet." As for the series of accidents that led to the 11 deaths, Farris said it's too soon to know what happened. "I know as much about the details of what happened as anyone does, and believe me, NOBODY knows just what happened yet." Check for updates on Farris at



Plastic preferred onboard More airlines are moving toward credit and debit card transactions for onboard purchases, having found that passengers tend to spend more when they use plastic. Because most airlines charge for food, alcoholic beverages and entertainment, and some charge for nonalcoholic beverages, know the payment policy before you board. Airlines that accept only credit cards include AirTran, Frontier, JetBlue, Midwest and Virgin America. Northwest, Southwest and United are cash-only airlines. American and Delta accept cash or plastic.



A rare chance to fly for free A travel photo contest sponsored by Northwest Airlines' in-flight magazine, WorldTraveler, offers great prizes. Grand prize in two categories -- amateur and professional -- will be two business-class tickets to accompany Rudy Maxa to an upcoming location for his globe-trotting public television show, "Rudy Maxa's World" (seen on Minnesota Public Television on Saturdays at 2 p.m.). First runners-up will receive a $1,200 NWA WorldVacations trip certificate. Second runners-up get two coach tickets to any domestic NWA destination. Photos must be travel-related. Deadline for submission is Oct. 1. For submission guidelines, go to www.digitalnwaworld



Paper ticket - really Susan Stacy of Montclair, Va., headed to the airport with her husband for their flight to the Bahamas in April. She recalled that when she bought the flights, through Expedia, the need for paper tickets was mentioned, but they never came and Stacy figured she'd sort it out at the airport. At the US Airways counter, the agent printed out boarding passes for the flights that would connect with Bahamasair but then said, "Wait. I can't give these to you." Without the paper tickets in hand, the couple were given a choice: Stay home or pay more than double the price for last-minute tickets. Expedia, which had paid United Airlines for the tickets, offered to try to help. Turns out the Stacys had bought a "code share" flight. In other words, United sold the tickets even though the flights were on other airlines. That's a common practice, but this time with a wrinkle: Bahamasair isn't electronically connected with other airlines, thus the need for a paper ticket, which US Airways and Bahamasair would then submit to United for payment. No paper, no payment. The couple headed home. Bottom line: If you're told you need a paper ticket, you really do.



On-the-go postcard option Don't like your postcard options when you travel? Make and send your own online at Sure, there are other travel sites that make e-cards out of your travel photos, but Zoom and Go makes print postcards and sends them for you: $1.99 (U.S. and Canada) or $2.99 (international). Not only is this a fun and personal service, but 20 cents of every postcard sale is donated to charity.