Sunday, November 11, 2007

Amateur Jet-setting

I know some business people travel all the time, but I thought I'd write about my week all the same.

My travels took me from Portland to Denver (stopover) to Boston to Trenton to Philly to Chicago (stopover) and back to Portland. I spent two days training on a new product at a logistics company in Boston, then headed back to my own corporate HQ in Philly for meetings and general work. The work stuff is boring and also not something I want to mix in to the Snabulus Experience (that's right; we have to spin our image even here). They say that getting there is half the fun and Being There is a Peter Sellers movie and that those kinds of things are game for this blog.

I won't say much about security since the government values their secrecy no matter how vulnerable it leaves us and I respect that. I will say that it is much less of a bother than it once was and that the people working it aren't as uptight as they once were. Kudos on those things. I also realized that a palm-top computer that is as powerful as a laptop is still not a laptop, so I quit taking it out separately and nobody seems to care. Kudos again! My Darth Vader anti-snoring machine (the CPAP) still requires special attention.

The carrier for most of this trip was United Airlines. They love to fly and it shows...loving the customer? Not so much. We already had an experience earlier where we showed up first, got sent to a gate that changed being told our seat would be assigned there, then they tried to bump us from the flight even though we checked in at the beginning.

My luck was much better this time around as all seats were assigned in advance. However, the leg room for anyone over 6 feet tall is marginal to say the least. When people lean back, I usually need to move my knees to each side of the seat. This trip was no exception and I almost always sit behind a "recliner." The good news is that I have no complaints about airline food because, even on a 4.5 hour flight in the middle of a meal time, they don't give you any. Luckily, I knew that in advance.

The weather was generally cooperative for the whole trip with some rain here and there. There was nothing exceptional about my time in Boston geographically as we travelled mainly on Interstates and Turnpikes into a suburban business park that looked nearly identical to those in every other major city in America.

My only constant criticism of the East Coast is their idiotic toll road system. With a couple very minor exceptions, we budget for our highways ahead of time in the West with fewer people and more miles to pave. There is no damned excuse for this system which burns extra gasoline by making people stop and go, and turns taxation into a convoluted, high-overhead mess. More Spirit of 1776 and less Spirit of Union 76 please. Sigh.

I was able to hook up with Ladybug's sister and meet some relatives nearby. They have a nice place with good kids, good critters, and they served up some nice steaks with butternut squash, taters, salad, and some red wine. The company was exquisite as well (I hope they are blushing with a bit of pride if they read this).

The trip from Boston to Trenton set a record for me. The Beechcraft 1900B is officially the smallest commercial plane I've passenged (is that a word?). It appeared to have 18 seats, my 6 feet 2.5 inch frame crouched walking down the fuselage and every seat is both an aisle and a window seat (1 on each side per row). Being a small craft, the cockpit was open and the actions of the pilots were in plain (no pun intended) view. No flight attendants or potty room on this flight, but we only flew for about 70 minutes air time, so no big deal.

Normally on a passenger jet, turbulence manifests itself as vibrations and bumps shaking the plane. On the little Beechcraft, the whole plane would squirrel around. While we only had a couple minutes of turbulence, it was enough to alarm the lady behind me. She calmed down soon enough though. The other fun part of the trip was watching the approach and landing through the front cockpit window. In addition to seeing the runway (if you are tall enough to crane the head as I was), you can also hear an automated voice giving adjustment advice for the landing. A computerized female voice said, "Right. Right. Right." as we were about to land. You could feel the pilot make a very gentle shift in trajectory to the right. It might be old hat to Pandabonium, but this non-pilot was quite entertained by the whole flight.

I've been to the Philly suburbs several times, so there is little new to tell. If you like crab, clams, oysters, and mussels and don't mind a loud crowd, Chickie and Pete's is a nice destination. I've had my cheesesteak and my advice to Philadelphians is to keep your civic pride in the Benjamin Franklin, Constitutional Congress area because your "cuisine" is easily replicable and most places have better fare. Yo, just sayin'. No big whoop, youse.

The nicest part of my travels is seeing my home state from the air. Seeing the arid lands of Eastern Oregon transition into forests and finally to look upon the snowy flanks of our stratovolcanoes says, "Welcome Home!" in the loudest, yet most comforting voice I can describe. Disembarking onto the jetway brings a scent of ocean and wet moss that my olfactory organs have not experienced elsewhere (I've not flown into Seattle or Vancouver BC yet). Travel weariness gives way to a gladness that home and family are but a short ride or drive away.

Ladybug and Minibean surprised me by cleaning the house up and making me feel as if all was in order. I brought them some tourist booty from my travels in return. Now, I must climb back into my normal routine and start the propellers of my life at home. Contact!

13 comments:

ladybug said...

Welcome Back, Snabby! We barely survived w/out ya!

Dave said...

I don't mind state side travel that much, but going overseas is a bit stressful. Mostly culture shock. I got as close to Moody as I could in the asian pacific when I went to Singapore. It was an adventure. But I wouldn't want to repeat it.

Overdroid said...

All I could think of is the electronic pilot voice saying something like "Right. . .Right. . .Way left! . . . NO! Pull UP! PULL UP! Stupid human!"

The Moody Minstrel said...

Right...
Right...
Right...
WRONG...
AAAAAAHHHHHH...

That's still better than what they found in the playback of the cockpit recorder when a China Airlines Airbus wound up crashing here in Japan a number of years ago. Apparently the pilot was trying to do a manual landing thinking the automated system was out of whack when in fact he had inadvertently set it on "automatic go-around mode". In other words, the pilot was trying to land while the computer was trying to take off again. The result was the plane suddenly pulling up with the engines powering down, stalling over the runway, flaming out, and crashing tail first. There were no survivors.

The pilot's last words on the voice recorder were:
"POWER...
POWER...
POWER...
POWER..."

Don Snabulus said...

One bad pilot...thousands of idiots on the road driving.

I will take my chances with the pilots.

Dean Wormer said...

Dude, you are so RIGHT about air travel and the airlines. I have had tons of trouble with Northwest and Alaska lately.

The last time I flew it was delays and bumps and lost luggage. All of it actually a daisy-chain of incompetence and disdain for the customer that left me yelling at the lost-luggage clerk for the first time in my life. I can't believe how much they overbook flights.

Face it- if any other business ran with the same level of service, or lack thereof, of the airlines it'd go out of business damn fast.

Pandabonium said...

I get tired just reading your intinerary!

I never had the luxury of a computerized female voice to tell me how to fly. :^)

"Right, right, right," sounds OK to me (the runways are wide). It's the whoop whoop, "pull up", whoop whoop, "pull up" (ground proximity warning) you gotta worry about (not that as a passenger you can do anything about it but cringe).

I've not been to the new Denver airport. What were your impressions of it? Is it really full of Masonic symbols and weird murals?

There are a couple of largish US airports I actually like - Detroit Metro (wonderful) and Minneapolis-St.Paul (pretty darned comfortable).

Oh, FYI, "we love to fly and it shows" is the Delta jingle IIRC.
United's is (last time I heard) "fly the friendly skies". They're discussing a merger, so it I guess it doesn't matter. Maybe the new slogan will be "we love to fly the friendly skies and it shows" (too long?). What would the name be? Delnited? Unelta? How about "Spam In A Can Airlines"?

Philadelphia certainly has a proud history, but they can keep their "cuisine". :P

Thanks for sharing some of your adventures. Glad you're home safe and sound.

Don Snabulus said...

I've not been to the new Denver airport. What were your impressions of it? Is it really full of Masonic symbols and weird murals?

If it does have masonic symbols, it didn't penetrate my Da Vinci Code awareness. They kept it subtle maybe. It does have a number of modern looking art items here and there. The most striking feature is the series of white cones on one set of the roof designed to simulate the Rocky Mountains. It looks like something that could be used for the Matterhorn ride at Disney (though I've never been there). The amenities and comfort level in the airport are satisfying.

catpsi said...

I understand your point about gas being wasted while going about the business of paying tolls on highways back East (I'm originally from upstate NY), but allow me to play devil's advocate for a moment...

Isn't it a good thing that those who use the roads are those that pay for them? Doesn't this encourage using an alternative that might be more eco-friendly, such as trains, busing, or just car-pooling? I know it seems a little odd at first, but I understand toll roads such as these are quite common in Europe. It also discourages high speed freeway getaway attempts that are common in California (since exits involve toll booths). Anyhow, sorry for the digression but I wanted to respond to that part of your post. Cheers, C

Pandabonium said...

Gotta agree with catpsi's points (but how the hell do you pronounce "catpsi"?).

On the other hand, such encouragement would make a whole lot more sense if there were a public policy in place that actually OFFERED alternative transport choices. ;^)

Don Snabulus said...

I gotta be some other demon's advocate... ;)

I think the key is that you have the alternate infrastructure and mindset in place before the rest will work. The toll system on the East Coast is not designed to get people to take the bus, train, etc. It is specifically designed to collect tolls.

This is a significant difference from London where the tolls are announced as environmental tolls and the fees are high enough to encourage alternate transport. More importantly, the alternate transport is available and there are likely much heavier incentives to make it palatable to use (like cheapness and safety).

The police chase argument is moot because the perps could either use the EZ Pass lane or drive fast through a neighborhood putting more people at risk. Perps aren't going fast because it is convenient for them to do so and their acts at that point aren't rational.

In conclusion, I stand by my original point that East Coast toll roads waste more gas than not having them there; at least in their current form. I am in favor of type of infrastructure that Catpsi and PB promote though. That should be known. I just wanted it to be known that my point of view came from a deeper core than temporary inconvenience.

Also, the rest of the post was worth a talk too (all that airplane stuff).

Pandabonium said...

Have I mentioned lately that I love my bicycle?

Don Snabulus said...

True. On a bike you can thumb your nose at the concept of tolls (for now).