Posted by: bkivey | 4 October 2013

On The Road

27 September 2013

airport tour card

Today was a travel day. A long travel day. Of course, the weather was great. After breakfast I headed for the airport, and located a gas station near the rental car agency. I was surprised to see the car drink 13 gallons of gas: I’d driven less than 220 miles. The computer claimed 23 MPG, but my wallet said otherwise. I suspect that the previous user didn’t fill the tank quite all the way.

There was a delay with the shuttle, which caused some nervousness among the passengers. It was now after noon, and my flight was scheduled for 1255. The shuttle finally showed up, and I arrived at the gate with a few minutes to spare.

The itinerary was TPA-RDU-ATL-PDX, and with the exception of an event at RDU, the rest of the day was one long slog of sitting on airplanes and sitting in airports.

I gave up my window seat on the RDU-ATL flight so a family could sit together. This put me in a middle seat, but the flight’s only 40 minutes. I sat next to a runner on the ATL-PDX flight. I knew he was a runner because he told me. He also told me about personal bests, and split times, and half-marathons, and training. All unsolicited, and all in the ‘I don’t really care, dude’ part of my existence. I was only saved because the guy sitting on his left woke up and turned out to be a cyclist. Then they talked to each other. Thank goodness.

We landed at PDX in the middle of a storm (more rain!), and the airplane skidded a few feet to the right immediately after touchdown, then skidded back to the left. This made the pilots get really serious about slowing that puppy down. We pulled up to the gate at a quarter after 10 PM, and after taking the train, then waiting 20 minutes for the last bus of the night, I walked in the door at about half past midnight.

The Unvacation

While it was nice to see family and get away from the day-to-day of work, this didn’t fee like much of a vacation. Missing the first flight and having to shell out a fair amount of money to fix that problem wasn’t a great way to start, but that was completely on me. The incident with the flight out of PDX, and the re-routing out of LAX fall under ‘things that happen while traveling’. The biggest disappointment was that the primary reason for going on vacation, serious beach time in Florida, pretty much didn’t happen. It’s also hard to feel like you’re on vacation when you have to spend time on work every day, but when you’re The Man, you have to do that.

I realized that one week of vacation every year probably isn’t enough. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of days I had completely off this year, and I didn’t get to do anything this summer. My quality of life could use improvement, so I’ll see about taking one week every six months. I hear Spring Training in Arizona is nice.

The Chariots

My car in North Carolina was a Toyota Corolla. A serviceable car, my only complaint was that the steering wheel spoke bisects the bottom of the wheel. I like to put my hand on the bottom of the wheel, so this was a bit of a problem. A minor enough complaint, but on such things are purchase decisions made.

I have a bit more to say about the Chevrolet Malibu I drove in Florida. I hadn’t driven one since 1999, and I really liked it, so I was interested to see what difference 14 years had made.

I’ll start by saying I liked the styling. This is a sharp looking car. I spent a fair amount of time in the car, and the driver’s seat was comfortable enough. Performance is fairly good for a car that size with a four cylinder engine, and the steering was OK. The climate control and radio worked well. The cabin was decently quiet at highway speeds, and the suspension was OK.

But there are some problems. Like the Toyota, the steering wheel discourages holding the bottom. That’s minor. What isn’t minor is the horrible turning radius. A U-turn on a standard two lane road becomes a three-point turn. I’ve driven trucks with better turning ability. The climate control had a bad habit of defaulting to outside air whenever the car was turned off, no matter where the controls were set. I expect controls to stay where I set them, and not to have to reset them every time I start the car. The gas mileage was lower than I expected. The computer claimed nearly 23 MPG in mostly city driving with the A/C on. But city driving in St. Petersburg involves very little stop-and-go. It’s mostly long stretches of driving between lights in light traffic. My much older personal car gets a solid 20 MPG under the same conditions, and the traffic at home isn’t nearly as smooth.

My biggest complaint about the 1999 Malibu was the tire squeal with the slightest provocation. The 2012 edition of the car has the exact same problem. Unfortunately, while this was one of the more annoying quirks with the ’99 model, on the ’12 it’s one of the more minor problems. I would have bought the ’99; I can’t say the same for the ’12.

The Three Stars of the Trip

Not everything about the trip was disappointing. Taking a cue from hockey, here are my Three Stars of the trip.

Samsung Galaxy SIII and Verizon 4G Network

I bought this phone last year because at the time I thought it was the best value available. The phone is box-stock with only three added apps; Google Goggles, Square, and a notepad utility. During the week I used the hell out of this phone, and it worked exactly as I expected. I ran my businesses off this phone for a week, and quite often the 4G network was faster and more available than local Wi-Fi. Navigation worked well, and all of the pictures (except those taken in 1998) in this series of posts were taken with the camera. Battery life was excellent, as it has been since I’ve owned the phone. And I remembered to bring the charger this time.

TSA

Regular readers know that I’m no fan of the Transportation Safety Authority and it’s parent Homeland Security. But fair dues, every security checkpoint I went through was handled quickly and professionally. I’d like to see the whole apparatus dismantled, but on this particular trip the experience was not unpleasant.

Delta gate agents

I think the incident at PDX could have been handled better by the airline, but the gate agents I dealt with were professionals. When I needed something, they got it done. No arguments, no fussing, just performance. I understand that gate agents are often on the receiving end of piles of shit, both from the company and customers, but I never saw one get upset or flustered, even late at night at LAX when a bunch of people had missed their flight. Chapeau!

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