Archive for the “Travel” Category

Just some thoughts from various trips

I flew out East early Tuesday morning. I was working on very little sleep because I was up late for work and then had to pack. My flight left at 7am and I was actually feeling relatively alert considering I had only slept about four hours, which was good because I had a handful of things I wanted to get done on the flight. Generally when I am sitting at the gate in the airport I can spot three or four people that I hope do not end up sitting next to me. It’s usually the person running (literally) late that is all sweaty or the person who likes to retell the same old airport / travel stories that everyone has and knows. Surprisingly, I didn’t see anyone like this at my gate.

1st sign of trouble….
After they boarded the first class passengers and the “gold-super-elite-I-fly-15%-more-than-than-the-average-customer” people they gave the “boarding all rows / all passengers” call. The last 30 of us got in line to board the plane. One normal looking woman about 15 people ahead of me in line made this obnoxious sound and walked over to the garbage can to spit. This was especially unusual because she did not try to hide what she was doing at all.

2nd sign of trouble…
As I board the plane heading to my seat in the second to last row I see that the window seat next to the woman spitting in the garbage can is open.

3rd sign of trouble…
I take my seat next to this woman. She immediately opens “the bag” in the seat pocket in front of her. She spits in it a couple of times as I try to rationalize what’s going on with her. I’m thinking she has something sharp in her mouth that she doesn’t want to swallow….or maybe her kids put dog food in the cereal box and she bit into this morning and now she can’t get the taste out of her mouth. The plane takes off and I’m waiting for the crew to give the “it’s okay to use electronics” announcement. Before they have a chance to make that call….

The woman next to me starts puking. She doesn’t puke once or twice, she pukes consistently for the entire two plus hour flight. I had two thoughts as this lady was puking:
1. Why me? Why did I have to be the one sitting next to her? There were 150 people on the plane and I had to be the one sitting next to her. It is a good story if it happens to someone else, and I’d rather hear the story than tell the story.
2. I felt bad for this poor lady. I have no idea what was wrong with her. I knew I didn’t want to breathe her air. She was stuck. Anymore airlines are not very forgiving if you want to change your flight. She was stuck flying yesterday. It was a completely full flight so they couldn’t move her to first class or somewhere where she would have more space. She was stuck in the middle seat in row 25. And I was stuck in the window seat next to her in row 25.

Needless to say, I didn’t get the work done that I had hoped to complete.

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I am back from our annual guys trip to Las Vegas. We go every year to watch the college basketball tournament. It is a good central place for some friends of mine and I to meet every year. Every year I go to Las Vegas under the assumption that it cannot possibly as fun as the previous year. And every year I come home thinking, it was more fun this year than last. 2008 was no exception.

For the first time in my life I won money that is worth counting. I don’t be enough to really matter one way or the other, so most years I spend a little money and enjoy the games and the time with my friends. This year everything was going the right way. I couldn’t lose in blackjack, the dealer was paying more than I won in Let It Ride and I got 10 of 12 or 11 of 13 basketball bets correctly. That all adds up to good times.

I had played Let It Ride before, but not for very long. I felt like I was buying $50 bottles of Coors Light. This trip was a little different. I set an amount I was willing to lose and stuck it out until that was gone. Except….it never went. I got pretty lucky when I was dealt a full house. As I mentioned, I don’t bet much money, but this bet pays out 11 to 1 and a bonus of $200. It is especially nice when the dealer miscalculated and gave me an extra 33%. That is when you really know things are going your way. A friend of mine warned me that once you start playing Let It Ride and win once or twice, you will dream about it for days. He was not kidding. I have been having “Let It Ride” dreams for the past week. It’s addicting.

In our group of eight guys, I think seven of them flew home winners this year. I’m not foolish enough to think that means I’ll always win in Las Vegas. I know the numbers don’t lie. I have set myself up to lose for the next six trips out there. The good news is I don’t gamble too much so I can never lose too much money. It will always be fun to watch basketball and it will always be fun to hang out with my college friends.

I am not one to wish my life away, but as of today there are 355 more days until Vegas 2009.

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I am currently at the airport in Minneapolis. I personally think airports are great for people watching.

One thing I have noticed recently is that EVERYONE has some kind of “elite” status. What used to be a privledge is now the norm. There used to be a shorter line to get through security for these “elite” travelers….today I found it interesting that the “standard / basic traveler” line was SHORTER than the elite line.

When pre-boarding begins, 80% of all passengers fit in to some kind of elite group that qualifies them to run to the front of the line.

The best part is watching “that guy” try to get to the front claiming he is “super special class elite sky team gold member,” only to find out that everyone else in line is the same. It’s like trying to walk to the front of the line at a club in Las Vegas because someone in the lobby handed you a VIP card.

Me? I just occassionslly fly and don’t fit into any kind of special group. Would it matter anymore? I made it through security quicker than the elite passengers today and boarded the plane with everyone else.

Maybe someday I will carry the gold ALL ACCESS, free coffee, aisle only member card. Until then, there is cheap entertainment at the airport for me watching other people.

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We have returned from Hawaii. Some of you may know Hawaii was not in my Top 10 places to see. I’m not sure why, it just wasn’t. Now that I have been there, I can say I definitely enjoyed myself and Hawaii as a whole has quite a bit to see. Would I go back? Sure, but I’d like to get to some other places first.

We made it to Oahu, Kauai and Kona. We were only in Oahu (Honolulu) for a day and a half. We visited Pearl Harbor and saw Waikiki. The reason for the trip was so we could attend our friend’s (Anna and Tony) wedding. The wedding was in Waimea, which is on the island of Kauai. It was really a nice wedding and we had a great time. We saw Waimea Canyon and also made it up to Princeville while on Kauai. From there we flew to Kona. We saw some green sea turtles, toured the volcano and had some dolphins swim with a boat we were on. It was a great trip.

We found some really cheap flights at the cost of having a layover in Seattle. The flight from Minneapolis to Seattle is about three hours and the flight from Seattle to Honolulu is about five and a half hours. I am not that tall (6’3”), but I will fight and claw and throw elbows to get an emergency exit row seat. On the way there, no luck. I chewed on my knees for a good portion of the almost nine hours of air time. Luckily the person in front of me did not try to recline. On the way home we spent the $20 extra dollars to reserve the exit row seats. I can find many ways to spend $20, but possibly never find a BETTER way to spend it. The added leg room was very much appreciated.

At some point don’t airlines have to add some more leg room at the cost of flying fewer people per plane? I am not that much taller than the average person anymore. I cannot justify the cost of first class. I’ll suck it up for the duration of the flight and deal with the bruised knees upon arrival. It just isn’t worth the drastic increase in price. However, the $20 for the exit row seat just may be worth it. This is especially true on longer flights. I can’t remember when they started offering the $20 exit row seat. This clearly would have been a good call on our way to Vietnam. 21 hours in the air. That is a long time to be flying.

I will definitely be looking to invest the $20 on any flight longer than a couple of hours. It really makes the flight much more tolerable.

Worth mentioning $20 would get about a third of a tank of gas in Hawaii, where it sells for $3.49 / gallon.

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