01 September 2005

A Trip to Canada ñ Day One

TUESDAY, 30-AUG, 2005
Pictures to go with this tale are here.

Left the house around 11am -- Heather was still sleeping. I'm quite amazed that (so far as I can tell) I seem to have packed everything I needed. The drive to Tampa was unusually smooth -- again, I appear to have lucked out viz. the horrible construction (and resulting traffic) on I-4. I noticed as I came in that a new, much higher overpass sort of obscures the view of Ybor City one used to have.

Arrived at Mark's apt. about 12:45 or so -- we haven't made that kind of time for a Tampa run in a good number of years -- and after a few minutes settling we went out to a place called Pane Rustica for lunch. I suppose you could call it a sort of more vegetarian-minded Panera Bread ñ they push the greens kind of heavily, but there's still meat around if you want it. I have a burger on Asiago bread (harder than Panera's) with carmelised onions (which I was pleasantly surprised to find worked well) and a garlicky mayo and tomato. Served with a few new-potato slices, it made for a satisfying lunch -- and I was going to need it, since I won't be able to eat a real dinner tonight (I don't think).

We got to the Tampa Airport a bit late ñ my own fault, I was cruising DealMac on Mark's wireless network when I spotted an irresistible deal: the HP 4600 (the see-thru scanner I already own) for $25 from Staples.com -- free shipping if you pad the order to $50! Thinking quickly, I ordered two (for the club's raffle -- I'll get the money back from them) and a package of media mailers for a total of $55 shipped. Go me.

Luckily, security was a breeze (if a bit of a workout -- you're always reminded how dependent we are on metal when going through security!) and I got through it in plenty of time to check-in. The clerk took one look at me and gave me a different seat -- in a row to myself! Gracias!

Apart from some very loud twin infants behind me, the flight went exactly as planned, leaving and arriving on time. I was very comfortable and the iPod worked diligently to drown out the prone-to-crying twins.

Got off the plane in Salt Lake City and during the stroll to my next gate (quite a stroll, it turned out) I passed a bar selling local brews. A thought flitted across my mind to try one, but then I saw one of the brand names -- Polygamous Porter. I shit you not. Remember, I'm in Utah. Har de fucking har har.

Had about 20 minutes to kill, so I went to the nearby CPK to get a bite, but one look at the prices and I changed my mind. I picked up a bag of chips and a coke and a banana instead of the pizza -- $8 for a small "personal" pizza?!

Ate the chips, wondered what I was thinking when I opted to put the battery charger in the carry-on bag, and headed back to the waiting area. I again asked the attendant to place me where I'd be most comfortable. He too reassigned me, but as I was leaving the counter I heard an announcement on the tannoy ñ first-class upgrades (for certain ticketholders) for $75! I asked, but no soap. When I got in line to board, however, I discovered that they opted to upgrade me to first class for free! As Peter Griffin would say, FREAKIN' SWEET!

Rant about first class -- for a larger fellow such as myself, the seats are definitely a godsend -- but as America in general gets more bottom-heavy (so to speak), how long will the airlines be able to keep the coach seats that barely fit a child?

I notice also that the service is considerably more attentive in first class. But to charge an average of $1000 more for such a seat is nothing short of criminal. I'm all for the free market, but how can they get away with this? Delta's policy of offering FC upgrades for $75 to full-fare passengers seems to me to be a very good policy -- they should expand it to say $99 for anyone, it's a great way to get much more money out of otherwise budget-conscious travelers. Instead, they usually fly the damn section half (or more) empty.

The flight was pleasant enough, much more comfortable than coach. After we arrived in Seattle, I made my way to the baggage claim, waited quite a while for the bag (luckily we had arrived about 15 minutes early) and then took the Shuttle Express down into downtown. There was a chatty cathy sitting next to me, but she definitely made the trip more pleasant. Seattle's highways -- I don't think much of em.

Arrived at the Hampton at about 11:30p. The room was fine, no view, wired ethernet so I got to chat with Heather on iChat for a bit (in text mode -- couldn't get the audio to work because the "high speed" was actually pretty slow), did some surfing and email. Watched TV for a short time before going to bed about 12:45a. Room call set for 6am, alarm set for 6:30, that oughta do it.

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