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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Travel Musings and Ramblings

We're stuck at the Denver airport now on a long layover, so I have a little bit of time to myself to muse about cross-country travel. This post may be long and annoying, so I suggest that nobody reads it. I'm going to itemize some of the stops on our trip.

Baltimore Washington Airport (BWI) It's a two hour drive from Dana's house (about the same from mine since it's a less direct route), but the fares were cheaper then if we had booked directly out of PHL. We got there very early because we over-estimated the length of the drive, and we gave two hours for passing through security. However at 6AM, the security checkpoint is a breeze. Parking also was very fast and efficient, so the time we estimated to waste on that was overkill. During the security check, I got patted down by one of the guards, and I distinctly remember him saying "you don't need to get all zombified about it, this is routine". I don't feel like I was acting particularly "zombified" at the time. I wonder how many other travelers have heard that same exact line? With everything moving much faster then we anticipated, we got to the gate over 2 hours before the plane departed. This was annoying.

Minneapolis Airport. I didn't get the call letters for the airport, but we had a short layover in Minneapolis. All the shops in Minneapolis Airport were "rugged". What I mean by that is that all the stainless-steel-and-flourescent-light shop fronts were covered in well-lacquered white pine veneer. It was this commercial bastardization of the romantic image that most people see when they think of Minneapolis. The pilot in our plane into Minneapolis kept giving us the ground temperature in Fahrenheit and "the Canadian system". This amused me, but it didn't appear to amuse anybody else. The airport bathrooms, at least the few that I saw in our short layover, were very very small. The men's room had only two urinals, and there was a line. Read this again: there was a line for the men's room. This is unheard of, and I can only imagine the kind of shitstorm that the woman's bathroom must have been. The flight to Portland was long, but otherwise not memorable.

Portland International Airport (PDX). PDX was a nice-looking airport, and we were able to get through it pretty quickly. Tired and desperate for food and rest, we decided to hail a cab instead of waiting for a shuttle or trying to find the "MAX Light Rail" or whatever. Cab: 34$, Shuttle: 28$, Rail: 4$, Limousine: 50$. I mention the price of the limo because, for a small additional charge, we could have been riding in style. We didn't, and instead were stuck in the back of a grungy dirty Taxi cab.

Hilton Portland & The Executive Towers. This was our hotel, and for the most part it was a nice one. The rooms for the conference were all very nice, and I can see why they chose to hold the conference there. The rooms, however, were small and a little disappointing. Now, I don't intend this blog to be some kind of vigilante consumer-reports kind of resource, but I feel that there are a few things that I can say about the hotel room here. The room itself was nice. The bed was large and comfortable. There was wired internet access available, although it was a little touchy at first. There was a large TV, although the TV was so large that the walkway between the bed and the TV was relatively small. The real problem that I had with the room was that the bathroom was lousy. The toilet was small, and the seat was phenominaly uncomfortable. I mean, I can't even really describe how uncomfortable the seat was. The shower was nice looking, but it echoed uncontrollably, it leaked water out onto the bathroom floor, and the nozzle had a very thin spray. The water temperature was very difficult to control as well, although I find this to be a problem with most faucets in most showers. Leaving the hotel was painless, and instead of waiting for the shuttle or hailing a cab, we opted to take a town car to the airport. We paid a little bit more then we would have for the taxi (I think it was about 5$ more), but the car was clean, the driver was skilled (and very friendly), and the ride was significantly more pleasant. That is 5$ that I don't regret spending at all.

PDX, Again. We got to the airport a little earlier then we had intended, because the town car was much quicker then the shuttle was supposed to be. Again, we had left ourselves two hours for security, and this time it wasn't as big of an over-estimation. When we got to the airport, we found out that Continental had overbooked our flight, so we opted to change to a flight by Frontier Airlines to Denver, instead of the Continental flight to Houston. The benefits: Shorter total time in the air, 200$ each in coupons for flights (which will be good for the honeymoon), and vouchers for a free lunch at Denver. The downside: A long layover in Denver airport, and a later arrival time in BWI. Denver is a nice airport, it has free WiFi access, and there are little areas where there is free wired internet access as well. Dana and I grabbed a cubical, put down our bags, plugged in our computers, and started surfing the web (this is where I am right now). We have a little bit more time here before our flight is set to leave, but Dana is getting restless. She can't just sit on the computer and surf the internet for long periods like I can, apparently. So, in a few minutes we're going to pick all our stuff up again and meander through the airport.

I obviously can't write anything about the next flight, our second visit to BWI or the long commute home. I'll probably post about these things tomorrow, if they are worth posting about.

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