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Monday, October 03, 2011

Way Out West

Technically, this wasn't an “Escape from FAR Manor” — my employer has an office in Beaverton OR, and they wanted me to attend the Author-it training the writers out there were getting. Fortunately, we have something set up with a travel agency, and they took care of making the derangements (including changing my name on the plane tickets to match what’s on my driver’s license). It’s been like six years since I had to get on a plane, and several things have changed since then — like fees for just about everything including checked baggage. Since you’re allowed two carry-on bags (one luggage and one “personal item” such as a computer bag), I put my clothes in a soft-sided bag and loaded up the laptop bag with other things.

So Monday morning, I bolted out the door a little later than planned since I was trying to take care of a panic-mode glitch in one of Mrs. Fetched’s video projects — leaving behind the credit card I’d planned to use for incidentals such as the hotel room and rental car. Fortunately, I’d stopped for lunch just a little ways down the road and was able to call someone to bring it to me.

It’s difficult to find a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Portland, and nearly impossible to find one that fits the corporate travel budget, so I had an hour and a half layover in Chicago. O’Hare is undergoing a lot of reconstruction right now, so things are a little strange. For the first time in my experience, they rolled stairs up to the plane and we got off outside. Cool! Getting to the next gate took about a third of my layover time. It was going to be a long leg to Portland — around five hours — so I asked the guy at the United desk whether the inflight meal was worth paying for. “The food itself is okay,” he said, “but you don’t get very much.” He proceeded to suggest a place just down the hall that made great hot sandwiches, and I took his advice. It was an early supper, but it was going to be a long evening (made even longer by shifting three time zones west).

On the plane, I suddenly realized I’d left my crappy feature phone in the terminal. A flight attendant told me there was time for me to go grab it, but another one brought it in and asked if anyone had lost a phone. I was of two minds: 1) Whew! 2) Can’t get rid of it, it followed me onto the plane! I suspect if I’d left an iPhone behind, I’d have never seen it again. We left without further incident, and I spent the flight reading and listening to my iPod.

In Portland, the nice young woman at the Hertz rental counter gave me directions to the hotel — or rather, directions to the exit I needed to take. The hotel turned out to be a few blocks off the road, and I stumbled across our office while looking for it. I finally stopped and called the front desk and got directions. The room was labeled “kid-friendly” — it had a little table for kids to sit and draw or play board games, there were cute decorations all over… Mason would have loved it, but I had it all to myself.

Mason and Dutch
Mason and Dutch
For me, the high point of the trip was meeting Janet, a regular on Andi’s blog, and her husband Wayne. They lived just a few miles away, so we managed to get together the last evening I was there at a local Thai restaurant. They plied me with gifts for Mason (really cool folks!) and sent me back with most of the leftovers. I didn’t do much exploring other than that, just spent a lot of uninterrupted evening time writing. I pretty much stayed jet-lagged the entire week, waking up at 4am every morning.

The second-to-high point was the first leg of the trip home. The TSA people in Portland actually smile and talk to you; I asked one if there was a problem bringing my lunch through security. “No,” he said with a grin, “but you might have to share!” I didn’t have to, but there was plenty. The first leg of this trip was to Seattle, on Horizon/Alaska Air. Not only did they roll the staircases out like in Chicago, it was a twin turbo-prop! I hadn’t flown on a prop plane since college, in the days of North Central/Republic Airlines. More cool! They used two staircases, which made boarding a lot less congested than usual. We got in the air, and they brought beverages around. Including… free beer! I LOVE THIS AIRLINE! I did ask them if they planned to serve Atlanta any time soon (doesn’t sound like it, drat).

Finally, the long flight to Atlanta on Delta. And here was a surprise: every leg, both ways, was on a different plane. The Boeing 757 was easily the most cramped from a passenger standpoint, while still being the largest. Even the Bombardier prop-job was more comfortable. I read a lot, catnapped, and generally endured until we landed. Delta’s gone downhill in a lot of ways in the last 20 years.

With the unresolved jet-lag, at least I didn’t have to readjust when I got home.


  1. That has to be the first time I've ever read anyone proclaiming love for an airline. And all it took was beer?

  2. Not just beer, John, FREE beer! I'm easy that way. ;-)


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