Another attempt

Tag Archives: travel

Wasteland Highlights

Two trips to the hometown in one year!  Wow!  I mean, wow.  I actually mean, meh.  No really, blah.  So, to summarize the best/worst highs/lows of the trip, here we go.

Before I even left for the airport, six hours before my flight, my flight was delayed.  The flight was already a late one at 7:00pm, now it was 7:30.  When I got to the airport, they announced, “your plane will not be arriving until 8:00.”  A very odd way to announce a delay, but that’s what they did.

The TSA experience on the way out wasn’t too bad (oh, just you wait for this one…).  A couple new regulations (aren’t there always?) to deal with.  Everything electronic larger than a cell phone must be taken out and all liquids must be out as well.  Ok, no big deal, a couple of Kindles and shampoo.  I went on with my life.

nerdcat-t-shirt-tn-258x258[1]At my destination, I went to pick up my rental car at the ungodly hour of 11:30.  When I went up to the counter, the agent just stared at me with a big smile on his face.  I said, “Hi, I have a reservation” which seemed to break his trace and he said, “that… is awesome.”  And I understood.  It was my shirt – “Quattro Gato”.  Basically, this image here on the right, colorized and duplicated four times over. The agent asked me if I liked cats, had a cat, what type of cat, etc.  Naturally, cat people are awesome.  And awesome cat people get… Mustangs!  Or at least that’s what he believed.  Me paying for the cheapest rental car, and wearing a cat shirt, means I get upgraded to the sports car category.  I guess I’m ok with that.

WP_20171015_13_42_02_ProI got my car in the lot.  There are SO many goddamn buttons on the console and steering wheel.  What the fuck.  I don’t touch anything.  I try to get GPS directions out of the airport to a familiar highway (I always take the wrong route), but my phone has no signal.  Finally, I get a weak signal and a route.  I leave the airport and immediately get in the wrong lane and miss the proper exit.  GPS simply changes the route, without even scolding me with “ROUTE RECALCULATION!”.  Not sure exactly how much time I lost in that, but I made it to the motel and fell into bed at 1:30am.

I thought I had everything planned out well for this trip, which meant little to no personal time for me.  In the end, I had way too much personal time because my brother kept bailing on our plans.  So I saw and did everything I could think of.  That’s a very short list in a very small town.  And I ended up sitting in my upgraded rental, parked downtown for extended periods of time.

Everything’s closed in the wasteland.  The mall lost Sears and JCPenney anchor stores, leaving only The Bon Ton.  I asked a couple people I visited, “where do you buy clothing?”  The only options were KMart, WalMart, and the Bon Ton.  One said Amazon, the other said the outlets (a 45 min drive).  How can you live like that?

After only two days, I was ready to get back home.  My outbound flight was at 3:30, a time where you either get to the airport super-early, or risk being late.  I chose the former, since there was nothing else to do.  I got to the airport, returned the car, and chilled in the airport lobby for an extended time, reading.

When I got up to get some lunch, I found out all the food was behind security, so I guess I’m going through security now.  I was ready.  I remembered the changed regulations, even though none of the agents were making announcements about it.  Ha!  I was ahead of the game.  I put my laptop and kindle and shampoo in a tray and confirmed with the agent that was right.  He said the laptop had to go in a tray by itself.  Fine.  Anything else?  Shoes.  Oh crap.  How did I forget that?  Shoes on the conveyor.  Then over to the scanner.

I got chided last time about doing a body-building pose when they told me to lift my arms, so I kept it simple.  I got out and the guard stepped in front of me.  “Anything in your pockets?”  I patted my pockets.  Oh fuck.  My phone.  I usually put my watch and phone in my carryon while I’m in line.  I forgot.  I pulled out my phone and handed it to him.

“Anything else?”  I patted again.  I had my handkerchief, which I didn’t think was any big deal, my passport, which I sometimes have in my hand when I get scanned, and oh crap, coin change.  I pull the change out sheepishly and hand it to him.  “Anything else?”  Ok, I’m stressing now.  My passport?  He takes that too.  “Anything else.”  Uh, a handkerchief?  He has everything now.  He calls for a bowl from the other agents and sends everything off to get scanned.

“So, you want me to go through again?” I ask.  The agent replies in a very annoyed tone, “No.  Since you had so many things in your pockets, you’re going to have to be patted down.”  Ohhhh FUCK.  The agent then goes into a very long and detailed description of all the different ways he’s going to feel me up.  I’m somewhat in shock, so I don’t hear much of it.  He asks if I want a private room or just do it here.  I said here is fine, as if I give any sort of a shit right now.

I have to take off my belt (which should have come off earlier, I guess), and hold it.  Not much to say.  I got groped plenty around my balls and swiped and rubbed.  That might be bad, but hey, they gotta do their job.  But here’s the stupid thing.  They wiped my hands with some sort of device that probably was checking for explosive residue or similar.  Now, if I was a “t-word”, would I have been so stupid to leave my pockets full going through the scanner?  Bad guys are smarter than that.  I’m just an idiot, and you’re checking me for residue?

I pass with flying colors, gather my shit and get the fuck out of there.  The experience ruined my day completely.  I tried to eat lunch but ate very little.  I wasn’t upset or scarred or anything.  Just mad at myself that I was so focused on the details I totally forgot the basics.

The flight back was much less fun than the flight up.  Much more turbulence and many more passengers.  Two very large women in my row.  Idiot children in front of me, and a baby across the aisle.

But I did make it home safe and my cat was thrilled to see me.  That’s enough travel for a while, I think.


Driver Formula

I think I’ve come up with a formula to determine the assholosity of any driver on a highway.  The formula is simply:


Where x is the number of lane changes per mile, y is the average speed of the driver, and z is the average speed of the rest of traffic.  Spoken, the formula is: the number of lane changes per mile multiplied by the deviation in speed from the flow of traffic equals the level of asshole on the road.

This formula is a great step forward in the field of Asshology, of which I consider myself an expert.

I Never Really Believed in Curses Until…

…I started travelling.  There’s some pretty bad mojo brewing up whenever I want to go back to my home state.  Last time, I was delayed a day and it was because I took the last flight out and because of previous delays, it was impossible to make my connection.  This time I scheduled the first flight out, meaning I got up at 2:45 in the morning to get ready.  Despite the plan that I could be bumped to later flights and do to people what they did to me the first time, the flight was still a no-go.  Thank you, blizzard.

And I thought I did everything I was supposed to.  I checked the flight status before I went to bed and when I woke up – all good.  When I checked in, I asked “any news?” – no, the flight is still active.  I got to the gate and within 10 minutes I hear my name paged.  Damn it, I know what this is about.

Similar to last time, I could make my first leg, but the second leg was cancelled.  I had the option of going to the first airport and trying to get on the next flight at 5:30.  That’s a 10-hour layover with a great chance of the flight either being overbooked or cancelled.  No thanks.  So after rescheduling for tomorrow,  back home I went.

I call the car rental company and modify my reservation.  Apparently, when you take one day off your reservation, you’re not in the “special rate” anymore and it suddenly costs you over $100 more.  So a brief check on Yahoo and I’m now renting from another company.  However, I’m still out $5 for my brief time of parking at the airport.  And gas, and time.  Luckily, no hotel reservations to change like last time, where they knocked me for $90.  I swear, companies make the most money when their customers are miserable.

Trip Log 11/22/09

Today was a beach trip.  To a different beach, on a different route.  That meant (oh boy) Interstate travel: 60 minutes at 70+ mph in chaotic conditions with a good wind.  I could see that there were storms to the north and south, but I seemed pretty safe in my path.

An uneventful trip to the beach and a fairly empty parking lot.  I had just gotten off the bike and gotten to the walkway when the parking authority vehicle pulled in.  I walk back to his truck and asked if he could break a $20 for the meters.  He told me not to worry and kept right on going.  Slow day, I guess.

So I got my pictures and took a leisurely ride up and down the local roads.  Not much traffic and what was there was casual.  Stopped at a local place to have a lunch.  The sandwich was not as I would have expected.  What is the deal with sticking a huge pile of meat between slices of bread?  You can’t get your mouth around it and all you taste is meat.  There’s a balance when making a sandwich: the meat-to-bread ratio (or meat-to-bun as I originally termed it for fast food).  You don’t want the flavor of the meat to be lost in the bread, nor do you want excess in the other direction.  Some places just don’t get it.

I did bring along the Zune HD, but I didn’t get to do any Internet surfing.  All the available networks were secured, insulting, or both.

So, I guess I won’t be going back there.  I should have had the burger.

Trip Log 7/23/09

This actually isn’t a motorcycle trip.  It was a business trip.  As such, a lot of the details are hush-hush, but the trip itself – travelling – is something I don’t do as much of as I used to.

To start the whole trip on a great note, I don’t even make it to the airport garage without incident.  There are new traffic patterns I was unfamiliar with and when one sign says “Economy parking/post office next left” and a later temporary construction sign simply says “Post office”, I did not make the turn for economy parking.  So one loop around the terminal so I can be logged into NSA’s database as suspicious, then back to economy parking from the other direction, which had no construction.

Step 1 complete; I’m parked.  The shuttle bus is waiting and I hop on.  The bus will stop at the Blue side first, then the Red side.  Fine, I’m red.  We arrive at the red side and I get off the bus.  I’m the last one off because I’m not really in a hurry.  The lone luggage bag left in front of the bus is not my bag.  Suddenly, I feel I bit more in a hurry.  I grab the bag and walk back onto the bus to explain what has happened.  The driver was kind enough to drive back to the other side to see if there were some people freaking out that they had the wrong bag.  There were no people like that there.  I gave the driver my cell number and he said he would take the bag and my number to Lost and Found.  Meanwhile, I had to get my boarding pass, with or without luggage.

The trip I was taking for business was at a resort literally in the middle of nowhere.  1.5 hour drive from any metro area.  I was wondering if I could wear the same jeans for three days and maybe buy some souvenir shirts to wear the other days.  I guess I could have shopped at the airport, too, but that thought wasn’t coming to me then.  I walked down to baggage claim looking for Lost and Found.  I found instead a security guard, who told me I needed to be back upstairs and across the road.  Then he did something extra: he said he’d walk me there.  That’s pretty important to my trip because the purpose of the business meeting was to extol the virtues of service, which the security guard had just demonstrated.

So we got to L&F and I fill out the contact form.  The lady at the counter, again – pleasant, said that they already received the other person’s bag from the shuttle driver, they had contacted the owner, and that they would handle the exchange.  Simple enough, as long as these people – who didn’t recognize their bag had a handle wrap on it and mine didn’t – show up before I have to run to my gate.  As it turned out, it was only about 15 minutes that I had to wait and the crisis was averted.

The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful, but the business portion was very good.  The accommodations were impressive.

Being a remote resort area, it had a lot of walking paths and lots of greenery.  It would be a botanist’s dream.

The only critique I could make, and I regret thinking of it now because I should have filled out a comment card, is that the whole place needed more garbage cans.  You walk around a lot and typically you’re drinking something, but then you have to carry your trash around looking for a place to throw it away.  I remember only one public garbage can.

So early in the morning we all headed back to the airport.  I made the wise decision to walk from the entrance to the terminal instead of talking the tram.  It didn’t seem too bad, the map even said 1000 ft to next terminal.  Something wasn’t quite right though, because it seemed like I walked through an extra terminal or two.  All told (thanks to Bing’s unit conversion), it was well over a mile I walked.  Before breakfast.  I’m a bastard when I’m tired or hungry, so I had both going on when I got to the gate.  Unsurprisingly, a kiosk was very willing to take 8 dollars from me in exchange for a bag of chips, a bottle of Coke, and a bag of candy.

Boarding time.  Looks like we’re early.  And the staff was giving out coupons for free Internet on the plane.  I didn’t feel like Internetting, so I passed.  All settled in and ready to go.  And we’re not going.  Still not.  Half an hour later, I’ve worked through 75% of my bag of candy and getting restless.  More waiting.  Finally, the answer comes out.  They were trying to fix the computers for the Internet, they couldn’t, and so we’re an hour late and the coupons can’t be used on that flight (save them for another flight).

We’re back now.  I got the same shuttle driver and I’m the only one on the shuttle.  Will I lose my bag again?  We chatted about the luggage experience and service and other minor topics.  I tipped him at the garage.  It’s really something I don’t normally do, and really not sure he deserved it, but I intended it to be a nice gesture that showed I was satisfied with the service of everyone at the airport: him, the Lost and Found department, and the security guard that escorted me.

Thank god. I can head home and eat.  Oh wait, there’s new traffic patterns at the airport.  This new road is nice.  There’s my exit up ahead…. but this road doesn’t connect to that exit.  Now I’m going off the opposite direction.  Damn it.  Another 20 minutes of time lost.  Finally, the drama ends and I’m in familiar territory and here I am recounting it to the best person in the world.

Trip Log 7/5/2009

Today I decided to do a follow-up trip to the beach.  I had discovered another park with beach access that came highly recommended, so I headed out to that one.  This time, I was a little more prepared: I took my GPS and an atlas.

Let’s set something straight first.  This trip, I did not get rained on.  That’s an accomplishment in itself.  But the whole trip wasn’t a success.  I started out like I usually do, getting a bottle of water at the store on the way.  I should plan better for refreshments.  Then I made the run with only a brief stop for gas.  I found a place to eat right near my turn for the beach.

After a much-needed meal, I headed back the road to the park.  It was a very residential area, which seemed odd that a public beach would require travel through such an area.  But while slowly weaving through the roads, I saw signs directing to the beach.  Odd.  Once I got in the actual park, it seemed pretty empty.  I wasn’t sure if that was due to my late-day timing, or because the park wasn’t well-known.  A couple minutes through the park I got my answer.

The roadway to the beach, which is really just a big sandbar, is being renovated.  So I parked the bike and went walking to see how much I could see.  The answer: not much.

There was a nice picnic area and some benches for looking out at the water.  The beach itself was hidden by trees that must line the road heading to it.

So, this trip is rescheduled for the fall.  It seems like a nice place, and if it’s anywhere as uncrowded as it was today, it seems like a very nice place to visit.  Unfortunately, it is a couple of hours away.  I can’t remember the travel time for the usual beach, but maybe it’s comparable.

Trip Log 6/7/09

Today I thought it would be good to see how far away a beach run would be on the bike.  I mapped out a rough route and took off.  This time I was prepared with GPS in pocket.

The ride out was pleasant and rather uneventful.  The crampbuster did an excellent job maintaining my speed on the long stretches.  I didn’t designate any waypoints, so I stopped whenever I felt I needed to get my bearings or take a break.  Stops included, it took about an hour and a half to get to the coast.  Still didn’t see any public beach access though, So I stopped for lunch.

On the way out, I asked where the beach access was, and was directed to a road not far from where I was.  A short drive over and I came to the “beach”.

That’s actually a pretty flattering shot.  That’s about all there is of the beach.  So, with my curiosity satisfied, I headed back.  I figured with less stops, I should get a more accurate time.  Not surprisingly, things went to crap.

That’s actually a pretty flattering shot too.  You can’t tell how dark it really was ahead.  Sure enough, in the last 15 minutes of the ride, down it came.  Fortunately, I think I missed the worst.  I can tell this by arriving in the aftermath.  Lots of debris in the road and a couple flooded road sections I had to avoid.

Now back home and warming up.  The storm should finish passing sometime soon, then I can get out again.

We can rebuild him. Faster. Stronger…wait, no we can’t.

Had a thought today which lead to a very interesting conversation with a friend.  Back in my hometown, the whole area is depressed.  Near dead, I would say.  My early thought was, if I was a billionaire and had the inclination, how would I rebuild the city to become successful?  Why is it not successful now?
Because it’s my business, I thought tech.  The property values are so low from the terrible economy, I could buy huge buildings and turn them into data centers.  I’d just need to strike deals with the telcos to bring in enough bandwidth.  And with data centers comes the higher-paid skilled labor to run them.  Because the area might not be experienced enough to handle technology at that level, some workers would have to be brought in.
Attracting people to the area would be difficult, because there seems to be nothing here.  So as part of the investment, I’d have to buy a bunch of franchises like Chilis, Outback, Olive Garden, maybe a Dave and Busters, Chuck E Cheese, etc.
Some other thoughts started to jump in.  I don’t think the immediate area would like such urban sprawl.  The area markets itself as "Victorian", so technology and chain restaurants just don’t fit.  That’s not to say everything couldn’t be built in adjacent areas, which don’t have a persona.  In fact, the areas that don’t have a defined style are fairly better.  They attracted a new hotel, a Staples, Walmart (not all that good for the local economy as it killed off a lot of local businesses) and Home Depot (killing off a few other local lumber suppliers).
So I brought this idea up to my friend and we discussed it.  As we talked, I formulated stronger reasons why this wouldn’t work.  And I came up with an alternative plan.  The primary reason why the plan wouldn’t work is because our home town area is blue-collar.  Strong blue-collar.  My initial plan was to bring white-collar jobs in to boost the economy.  To keep the white-collar talent, I’d have to provide amenities like the chain restaurants and probably some upscale chain shopping stores.
My friend was confused as to why restaurants would change anything.  I distilled the values of white-collar and blue-collar people into a few statements:
Blue-collar workers are family-oriented. They stay in one place, they take pride in knowing all their neighbors and having a big family and extended friend circle.
White-collar workers are career-oriented.  They move frequently, they are always moving to the next job, so they don’t create large circles of friends and family.  If they need to see friends and family, they travel.  Their higher salaries afford them this luxury.
That’s all.  So what about restaurants and white collar people?  Because white collars move so much and have such hectic lifestyles, chain restaurants and stores provide comfort and familiarity.  If those familiar icons aren’t there, they feel out of place, they have to learn a bunch of new places to eat and shop.  This is different than when they are visiting, because they temporarily give up their comfort for experimentation.  "It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there."
So in summary, the local area would frown on having their Victorian theme butchered, the new white collar workers would feel out of place in a blue collar area, providing the white collars with the expected amenities would be met with resistance (see point one)… it just wouldn’t work.
But, with new clarity, what kind of business would serve a blue collar community and also provide an elevated standard of living?  It’s already pretty well known that this community can be exploited.  Telemarkting, call centers, and assembly-line sweat shops already keep the population firmly rooted in low-pay blue-collar purgatory.  My idea was warehousing.  Land is cheap and pretty plentiful, a major interstate is very close by, a blue-collar workforce is readily available (this is important for companies trying to open a warehouse in a white-collar area).  Wages could be highly competitive and might cause an upswing in other industries.  Compare this to the opening of Walmart when it was a mixed blessing to have a company hire hundreds of people at minimum wage.  Does that really help the local economy?
Phew.  This is probably my biggest posting, but it’s something I thought was interesting.  I may elaborate on this as I spend more time here.

Snow more taxes!

Yup, Hoss’s was good.  That completes the gauntlet of food places I need to experience.  But that success was dampened by something I haven’t seen in years: snow.  And a pretty decent bit of it.  A few inches, I’m guessing.  By the time I hit the road this morning, it will be clear, and it wasn’t sticking on the roads by the time I got back last night.
It dawned on me why there probably aren’t any tolls on that stretch of turnpike I drove the other day.  It is a connector between one of the major interstates and the road to the airport.  It would make sense to not charge airport users a toll to use the most expedient route to the airport.  Wait a minute, no it wouldn’t.  This is America.  You have to pay to get an improved experience.  This state gets more weird every day.
Another weird thing noticed while travelling in a neighbor state (The State of Beautiful Women): there’s no sales tax on fast food.  What kind of incentive is that?  No tolls, no taxes, I don’t get it.  Visitors like me pay these fees because we don’t have much choice.  If these states are making up the lost revenue from these tax breaks through city/county/state taxes, they’re biting the hand that feeds them.  My (albeit small) savings at Wendy’s and on the road is being subsidized by the residents of the states I’m visiting.  Your pain is my gain.  Thank you.  That kind of adds another perspective to "It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there."

Fast food on the "free"way

Ahhh.  It’s good to get what you want.  Tonight I wanted Roy Rogers.  I wanted Roy Rogers a few nights ago, but apparently that location was closed.  Or whatever.  That was an interesting, pointless drive.
So now Roy Rogers might be almost exclusively on the turnpike where I’m at.  That means money.  I’m paying money to go to a place that will feed me fast food at an amazingly high price (over ten bucks), then pay to return.  That’s a good business practice.  Why aren’t there more obsessive junk food lovers like me out there?  I guess they’re either broke or dead.
But returning to turnpikes, tonight was different.  I got on the highway and wondered "where’s my ticket?"  Where I’m at has a ticket-in, pay-to-leave system.  Well, I haven’t been here a while, so maybe they converted it to a pay -as-you-go system.  That would suck.  So I drive about 10 miles and pass an exit.  No toll booth.  Oh hey, there’s Roy’s… on the other side of the road.  Ok, I might have a rest area on my side coming up. … No, another exit.  Next exit, I’m turning around.  The next exit says "Toll Road".  Great.  Now, I have to pay to get off, then pay to turn around.  But how do they know where I got on at?  I take the exit – no toll booth.  That was a free trip.  I turn around and head back.  That’s going to be free too!
So I got to drive 40 miles on toll roads for free tonight.  And although I did spend over ten dollars for fast food – which could of been a better experience (I didn’t go on an empty stomach, so I had to force some of it) – I think the night turned out pretty well.  So I wonder who’s paying for these roads…
I’ve got one more food place to hit while I’m here.  I hope it’s good too.