kevin_standlee: (Kreegah Bundalo)
We're trying to take this week as easy as we can, recovering from the Westercon trip. We haven't even finished unpacking the minivan, because it has been so hot that you can burn your hand on the van's door handles.

I'd go to bed even earlier than usual, but it's too warm. Not as hot as Las Vegas, but the swamp cooler can do only so much to take the edge off of the 36°C days. Nights are pretty good, but until the sun hits the horizon, I can't open the bedroom window to let the relatively cool breezes in.

Summer is my least favorite time of year around here. Winter we can manage with heating. Spring and Autumn are generally quite nice. But Summer I could do without. I'm looking forward to spending three weeks of it in places where I'll need a pullover. I bought a new one just for this trip: it appears to be warm enough, but also lightweight on account of luggage space being at a premium.
kevin_standlee: (Confusion Ahead)
We set no alarms last night and I got almost a full eight hours of sleep. After a nice breakfast in the Tonopah Station Hotel restaurant, we set off for home about 10:45 AM. With only 200 miles to go, we knew we didn't have to rush. We congratulated ourselves for not making the mistake we made on the trip back from San Antonio, where an attempt to drive Las Vegas-Fernley in one day at the end of the trip nearly killed us.

Avoiding the 8 Ball )

About 3:45, we arrived home. The house was in one piece. The various wildfires (and a fire at the asphalt plant across the tracks from us) did not affect our home, thank goodness.

After nearly 1,700 miles driving over the past nine days, we were happy to be home. We unpacked some of the stuff from the minivan, restarted the house (I remembered to turn the water heater on this time) and got the swamp cooler and air conditioning systems running, and tried to relax. I do have to run out and get a few groceries for tonight and for tomorrow morning, which is an ordinary work day for me, but otherwise we're going to try and wind down.

While I'm sorry we couldn't also attend NASFiC this year, I can see that such a trip would have wiped us out. With nearly three weeks planned for the Worldcon trip (for which we set out in just under three weeks), we need some time to recover and prepare for Helsinki. We won't have the luxury of traveling with a minivan-load full of our gear, so we need to think carefully about how to pack.
kevin_standlee: (Confusion Ahead)
I did not get the rest of my Goldfield and Tonopah photos uploaded until this morning, so here's some more about both.

Tonopah Hotel and Musuem )

I also have a couple of more Goldfield photos from yesterday.

Auto Graveyard and Striking Scenery )

I would describe Goldfield as "quirky." It has to be a challenging place to live, with nearly all services (such as the nearest gas station) 30 miles away in Tonopah, but it does seem to have some attractions, and there are still people who care about it, like those trying to restore the Goldfield Hotel to make it more of a tourist destination.
kevin_standlee: (To Trains (T&P))
This morning we slept in a bit (which for me means 7 AM instead of 5 AM), had breakfast in the lounge, and packed out of the hotel room. The last took longer than expected because lots of other people were moving out at the same time and all of the luggage carts were in use. But we eventually got everything out of the room. Lodgecombing takes a lot longer for a one-bedroom apartment than for a typical hotel room. We said goodbye to one of the best hotel rooms we've ever had and turned north on US-95 heading for Tonopah.

The driving was a balancing act. If we drove at full speed, we couldn't run the air conditioning, but if we drove too slowly, it also caused overheating. So Lisa kept our speeds down (but not too far down) and balanced that against running the AC. Even on full Max AC, it was hard to hold out the 45°C temperatures with which Las Vegas and Beatty were cursed. Beatty was our last fuel stop before we get home. I did not buy more sugar-free chocolate raisins, but I did get some very nice (but also very expensive) wild boar jerky.

Today's trip was only about 200 miles, but on occasions, both Lisa and I got really tired and had to swap drivers to try and keep us fresh. One of the stops was the Area 51 Travel Center, where Kuma Bear had an Alien Experience.

Our inability to do long stretches (particularly on a hot desert highway like US-95 in Nevada) at the end of a long road trip is one of the reasons we planned to stop at Tonopah tonight. The other reason was so we could stop in Goldfield.

Museum Day )

Heading north from Goldfield, it started to cloud up, which was wonderful. The van's air conditioning started working better, and we only had to turn it off for the last heavy climb into Tonopah, and during that climb we even started getting bits of rain. Although it was still in the mid-30s C, it was still 10°C cooler than Las Vegas, which was really very nice.

We got to the Tonopah Station Hotel at about 5:45, roughly seven hours and 225 miles after we left Las Vegas. After checking in (they gave us the same room as the last time we stayed here) and getting me some milk from Scolari's grocery next door, we had dinner in the restaurant. The restaurant had a nice rib-eye steak special that we both ordered for dinner, and we remarked as how much nicer we find these smaller places than the over-pressured places in Vegas. Reno/Sparks is the "big city" for us. Vegas is too frenetic and loud.

After dinner, Lisa and I had a pleasant evening walk — something we couldn't do in Tempe or Vegas because of the heat &mdahs; and we went back to the hotel. Tomorrow we have the last 200 miles to go before we get home, regroup, and begin planning for the Worldcon trip.
kevin_standlee: (Atomic Vegas)
Despite IHG Spire members supposedly having 2 PM checkout, the hotel asked us to vacate by 1 PM, which we did manage, but it means I have Day Jobbe work backed up badly.

Because Kingman to Las Vegas is only a bit over 100 miles, we elected to divert over to Laughlin to pick up something at a shop we saw on the way down. To our dismay, when we got there, we found that they were closed July 5-6. It wasn't a total loss because we were able to pick up the Black Bear Diner Bullhead City (#25 in our passport book) that we missed on the trip south.

Heading out of Laughlin, where the thermometer read 46°C, even with the air conditioning turned off, the minivan overheated. Not disastrously so, but enough to where we needed to pull over (at the south entrance to the byway to Christmas Tree Pass, a road suitable only for 4WD vehicles) and let the engine cool down. After it had cooled, we started back up the main highway, using the miserable auxiliary cooling method of during the van's heater on full blast to try and shed more heat. To try and give that heat somewhere to go, we rolled down the windows. The driver's side window got stuck 2/3 down and would not roll back up. We pulled over again and Lisa worked on it. She was able to eventually get it rolled back up again, but we must not roll the window down more than about 10 cm until she can affect permanent repairs.

Passing Interstate 11 )

Our initial hotel in LV was something of a disaster and we balked. Fortunately, it was not yet 6 PM and we were able to get out of the hotel without having to pay for it. It wasn't the staff's fault; it's just that the room was very unsuitable for us. I actually considered paying for three nights at the Bellagio, which would have been quite expensive; however, thanks to a very obliging hotel manager, we ended up at the Staybridge Suites, in a nice room about which I will write more tomorrow after I've dug out from the Day Jobbe backlog and had more rest.

We got in some groceries -- this room has a full kitchen -- and settled in for the first of the three nights we will be in Vegas. Our room has a nice view of the Strip, but for now I just need to get some sleep so I can work a full-plus day tomorrow.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
I'm not counting the days spent in Tempe at Westercon toward the count of days on the road trip, so this was Day 4 on the road. We're on our way home, but it will take longer than on the way out because I need to be work at the Day Jobbe for the next three days in order to save vacation needed for other trips.

Our goal was to be out of the hotel and on the road by Noon today. It took a few minutes longer than that, and we had our first stop only a short distance away, where we had lunch at Waffle House. I indulged myself considerably, primarily because I know it will be a long time before I get another chance.

Our planned line of march was along US-60 to Wickenburg, then north on US-93 to Kingman. Somehow, shortly after we got off I-17 onto US-60, we missed a turn and ended up way off course, although we got back on the beam at AZ-101. We should have taken that right turn at Peoria, I guess.

It was very hot. The minvan's air conditioning, when we could use it (that is, when the engine temperature didn't go too high) could blunt the edge of the heat but could not keep it totally at bay. On the other hand, as we went higher and further north, things got slightly better.

Nowhere Van )

We checked into the hotel and got the latest checkout I could get with my Spire class membership (1 PM), which I hope will be sufficient. I did a bit of work earlier in the week while I was nominally on vacation, which I hope I can offset sufficiently so I can work from the room tomorrow until 1 PM, after which we will drive to Las Vegas. That should be a relatively easy trip as it's only about 100 miles.

I'm pleased to find that this HIX has wired internet access, and glad I brought my small router. After a bit of fuss to get it connected, I tested speeds. While nowhere near the 999 mbps we once got at the Pallazo (one of the only good reasons I could think of for staying there, actually), it was still twice the speed of their wireless connection.

Now I need to start winding myself back onto my Central Time-based Day Jobbe schedule.
kevin_standlee: (Confusion Ahead)
Today turned out to be longer driving both in time and distance than planned, but it worked out in the end. We'd initially planned to grab some breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks and get on the road, but all of the stores the Starbucks app showed near us in either Laughlin or across the river in Bullhead City were kiosks in casinos or grocery stores and didn't have the full selection of stuff. With no 'fridge in our room, we couldn't stock our own supplies, so we had breakfast at the Claim Jumper in the Golden Nugget. This was nice enough (the waterfall next to the restaurant was nice), but cost us time. In retrospect, we should have checked: there was a Black Bear Diner in Bullhead City, and we probably would have had a better breakfast there, besides being able to collect a new passport stamp.

After breakfast, we set off across the river and through Bullhead City and what did we find? A standalone Starbucks! We stopped there anyway because it was adjacent to Lowe's and Lisa wanted a couple of things from there. We went into the Starbucks for me to get a coffee for the road. It turns out that the full store (the only one in the area) had only opened yesterday.

Next, on a whim we took a side road that took us partway up the hills onto the Oatman Highway, an early segment of old US-66 and one of the first ones ever cut off when they started cleaning up the road. We didn't go all the way up to Oatman, but even the part we drove seemed a bit hairy to me, with lots of twists and turns. Eventually we ended up down on I-40 for a short segment before we ducked off onto the road for Lake Havasu City.

Welcome to London (Bridge) )

There was a custom t-shirt shop in the English Village from which Lisa commissioned a shirt. The guy said it would take him about an hour, so we drove up to have fish and chips — at the Lake Havasu City Black Bear diner, filling #23 in our passport book.

Bear Has All He Can Eat in the Heat )

After lunch, I dropped a London Bridge postcard into the mail for Kelli at the nearby post office and we headed back to the bridge. Originally we were going to walk across the bridge, but the heat was too much for us, so we simply drove across to the island and back, just to say that we'd done so. We then returned to the Village, collected Lisa's shirt, and left for Tempe.

The heat was sufficiently intense and the minivan old enough that we couldn't run the air conditioning at full (or sometimes at all) when climbing hills or when otherwise working the engine hard. Lisa was driving and kept an eye on the temperature, letting me know when to turn the AC on or off.

Any Shade is Welcome )

At Quartsite we joined eastbound I-10. Lisa kept our speed down in order to spare enough power to run the air conditioning. She drove most of the day, except for a short period when she needed a break and had me drive. We made a final driver change at a familiar-sounding place.

Driving in Circles )

Lisa drove us into Phoenix. By now, it was around 7:30 PM. Arizona doesn't observe daylight savings time, and that's a good thing as far as we are concerned. The worst of the Getaway Day rush hour was gone, and we faced no slowdowns across Phoenix, arriving at the Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe around 8 PM or so. Arriving this early meant we were able to obtain one of the relatively few hotel self-parking spaces. We don't plan to move the van again until we leave on Tuesday. We also could move our things into the hotel in the dark. It was 37°C this evening, warmer than the high temperatures back in Fernley, but again, tolerable out of the direct sun. After getting our personal bags into the hotel, we walked to the CVS store a few blocks away and got some yogurt, milk, and cereal, as this hotel room has a mini-fridge. Finally, we borrowed a bell cart and moved a large load of stuff from the van into the hotel room. There's still more stuff out there, but we won't need it until we do Match Game SF on Monday night.

Fortunately, we have no early commitments to Westercon on Saturday, the first day of the convention. We picked up our membership badges this evening, but could find nothing else going on when we came back from CVS. Tomorrow I have nothing before 1 PM. I think I will not set an alarm for Saturday morning.
kevin_standlee: (Atomic Vegas)
Today was the longest driving leg of the trip planned: about 300 miles, although the actual mileage was closer to 350 in the end.

Where we Ended up )

We got away from Tonopah in good time, leaving around 8 AM. Being able to get yogurts from Scolari's grocery store next door and store them in the room 'fridge to have for breakfast made for a relatively quick start.

Checking Out the Goldfield Subway Station )

After Goldfield, we made for Beatty, where we stopped at Eddieworld, an oasis in the Nevada desert where one must resist the urge to spend too much money on candy, nuts, fruit, and jerky. We managed to escape with only minor damage. I also got a postcard for Kelli, and immediately dispatched it to her. She's stuck in that nursing home, and I try to send her cards from along the way on our trips.

Alien Travel Center )

I mentioned yesterday that we had errands to run in Las Vegas "to boot." That actually was to be taken literally. Lisa left her moccasin-boots that go with one of her outfits behind, and she's been meaning to get another pair anyway, so we went looking for them. The first place we tried in Las Vegas at which Google pointed us no longer carries boots, but pointed us in the right direction (which turned out to be a shop on Fremont Street). But we were on the south end of the Las Vegas Strip, and it was well past time for lunch. So where do we go when we want to have lunch in Las Vegas? Well, the Black Bear Diner, of course! We collected our 23rd BBD in their "passport" promotion, and we were really happy to get out of the heat. The AC in the minivan doesn't work well in city driving, you see, and it was around 40°C in Las Vegas today. After lunch, we refueled the minivan and worked our way downtown, which took quite a while due to heavy traffic.

This Errand Was Not Bootless )

After about four hours in Vegas, we were happy to get moving again, particularly when traffic cleared sufficiently that we could get moving fast enough to turn the air conditioning back on as we headed south on I-515/US-95/US-93.

After crossing Railroad Pass, we turned south on US-95. We made a brief stop to have a closer look at at solar thermal power plant (Nevada Solar One, if my Google-fu isn't failing me). But as we pulled back out on the road, we were troubled by a clattering sound that had been annoying us on the whole trip. We stopped again and finally figured out what had been causing this. Some of the rubber trim along the roof line had come loose and was flapping in the slipstream. Lisa started to get the trim back into place, and I had an idea.

"Would a rubber mallet help?" I asked.

Lisa said, "Yes!"

Well, I happened to have one. Some years ago, I bought a rubber mallet to assemble IKEA furniture. I've taken to packing it in the "Business Meeting box" in case the Gavel of Westercon gets lot. We dug the mallet out the box, and Lisa used it to help hammer the trim back into place.

Laughlin at Last )

After getting a minimal setup established, we had dinner at the buffet. Note for next trip: don't eat at the buffet. We're spoiled by places like the Peppermill. We agreed that we would have had a better meal at the Fatburger franchise located inside the casino.

Tomorrow we drive to Lake Havasu City. After having been over London Bridge in London, we decided we should visit the original one in Arizona. Tomorrow night we should be at Tempe.
kevin_standlee: Kevin in kakhi shirt, Jacaru hat, and sunglasses (Sheriff Kevin)
After what seemed like innumerable delays, we managed to get away from Fernley about 2:30 PM and set out for Tonopah. This is the shortest of the three legs of the trip, being merely 200 miles; however, if we didn't stop in Tonopah, our next realistic stop would be in Beatty, another 100 miles south of here. That seems unwise, given that we didn't know how soon I could get off work today; besides, we've stayed at the Tonopah Station Hotel before, and because it was the headquarters hotel of our Tonopah Westercon bid, we have a soft spot for it.

Bear Approves of Our Hotel Choice )

The hotel will win no luxury awards, and unfortunately nearly all of the rooms require negotiating stairs, but it's affordable, and there's a grocery store next door. Since our room has a refrigerator, we got some yogurt to have for breakfast tomorrow. After dinner in the restaurant, we walked around the hotel grounds and surrounding areas. In contrast to the heat of Fernley and the even more heat we'll be suffering in Las Vegas and Tempe, it was quite temperate and comfortable. Had we really won that bid, the small number of people who actually might have made the trek to Tonopah would have, I think, enjoyed the mild summer evenings.

My computer connected to the hotel wi-fi eventually, although it's not especially fast, and I'm glad that I don't have to get any real work done here. Still, when we check out tomorrow morning, we'll probably make a reservation for stopping here a week from Saturday on the way home.

Tomorrow is the longest leg of the trip (300 miles to Laughlin), and we have errands to run in Las Vegas to boot.
kevin_standlee: (Pointless Arrow)
The drive through the Sacramento Valley and into the Sierra Nevada was not fun at all. The air conditioning in the minivan couldn't keep up with the nearly 40°C temperatures, and trying to do so also overheated the engine, so we had to turn off the AC whenever the needle went into the yellow zone. At Nyack we stopped and put additional water in the tank, which was not low, but not especially full, either. By Donner Summit it finally got comfortable, at we decided to stop in Truckee for dinner, because it would probably be much hotter in Reno or at home. Further making our minds up for us were warning signs that a brush fire at the Nevada border was causing delays.

Train Held for Fire )

While we had dinner, the warnings of delays from Nevada DOT had cleared, but the smoke and some fire was still there.

Smoke Over Gold Ranch )

We made no further stops and went home. Perhaps an hour after we got home, Amtrak went by (they were still at Truckee when we left). We assume that they had to get the all-clear not just from the fire department, but from Union Pacific. Lisa and I were on a trip coming up from Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight where for hours we thought we were doing to be put on buses at Paso Robles to take us to Sacramento due to a brush fire, but at the last minute the word came that the bridges were safe and we weren't going to have to ride any buses, which pleased up mightily. I hope the train patrons were similarly pleased. And on the bright side, their unexpected stopover was at one of the more comfortable places they could have been stopped between Emeryville and the Nevada desert.

I'm still on a backup computer, and nothing to restore the work machine has worked; not even the backup image from two weeks ago. Tech Support is dispatching a re-imaging DVD-ROM, which I am to use to re-image the computer back to bare metal. I sure hope it works, and that it arrives tomorrow. There's a lot of my job that I simply can't do on backup equipment.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Yesterday's travels went at least as well as could be expected. Even the fact that the California Zephyr was late into Reno was not that big a deal, for while it meant I couldn't get breakfast on the train (service ends 9 AM; the train basically needs to be right on time if you're going to get boarded and your ticket checked with enough time to get to the dining car), it did mean I had time to walk to the Wigwam, have my usual, and win it back on a free-play coupon.

Lisa drove me into Reno and deposited me at the Amtrak station, then headed home. (She'd not slept well and said she was going back to bed.) Amtrak made up some of the time we lost, and soon enough the California Zephyr arrived and I was on my way to the Bay. The train trip was as nice as I could want. Train was not overly crowded. Scenery was very nice, and I took lots of photos this time, but I haven't posted most of them. (Once you get clear of Truckee, you spend a lot of time out of mobile phone/internet range, so there's a backlog.)

At Sacramento, there was a small chance that the dispatcher might release us ahead of the Capitol Corridor service, on account of our train had fewer stops. But doing so would have delayed the Capitol, so we followed it down to Emeryville. Due to the CZ's schedule padding, we actually arrived early at EMY, but not early enough to allow me to make the "negative time" connection to the Capitol train. No matter, however, as there was another one 90 minutes later and I went over to the Emeryville Public Market for dinner before catching the train to Fremont.

The Capitol train had problems. The doors in the leading car wouldn't open, so you had to go down to car 2. The air conditioning in car 2 wasn't working, and today was quite warm. However, the train was lightly loaded, so going back to car 1 wasn't a big deal. You had to reverse that to get out at Fremont due to the non-working doors, but I could manage that. A short walk to my mechanic's shop and behold: my well-used minivan.

Reclaiming the Astro )

After collecting the minivan, I stopped by Suju's Coffee (across from where I used to live in Fremont) to buy a pound of coffee beans from them, then headed out Niles Canyon and the Altamont Pass. The combination of location, price, and IHG loyalty led me to the Holiday Inn Express Tracy last night. I could have pressed on a bit longer, but I did not see the need, and it would have cost me more at other IHG hotels farther up the road. This is not the best IHG property in which I've ever stayed, but the hot tub worked (and I remembered my rarely-used swim trunks), so I got a long soak. This made the tendonitis in my elbow feel better, not to mention my right leg, which woke me up yesterday morning with a bang when the muscled seized up.

Today it's on to Sacramento to visit my sister, then home. Sunday going away from the Bay Area should be a lot lighter traffic than my normal Sunday drive coming toward it to spend a week working down here, something I'm going a lot less often.
kevin_standlee: (Pointless Arrow)
As of this evening, the train that I'll be catching at Reno tomorrow morning around 8:30 AM was through Green River UT on time, so I'll need to be up tomorrow as if it were a usual work day for me. But that's okay. If I get tired, I can sleep on the train. I've confirmed with my mechanic that I'll be able to collect the Astro from him. I haven't picked a hotel yet because it will depend on when I actually get to Fremont. When the Zephyr hits everything right, there's a negative connection at Emeryville (i.e. I can connect to at train that leaves before the Zephyr's scheduled arrival at EMY, because that includes almost an hour of "recovery time."), and if that happens, I can go farther tomorrow night before laying over.
kevin_standlee: (Worldcon 75)
Even the "free" airline tickets (the return from Helsinki in Saga/First class on Alaska Airlines points) aren't free, due to the many fees and taxes associated with the tickets. The net airfare SFO-PDX-KEF-HAM/HEL-KEF-SEA-SFO for the two of us was about $1960. The ferry from Travemunde (Lubeck), Germany to Helsinki was €726 ($760). So now we start working on paying off those transportation expenses. Handy that my tax return will be here soon, although some of the federal return has to be used to pay California non-resident income tax for the days I work in that state.

If you're on my f-list, you can see the full itinerary. It was somewhat challenging. Now I can explain the business a week ago about "wrong day." We had mistakenly assumed that the Finnlines ferry runs daily. It doesn't. It's six days per week. By bad luck, the original outbound booking put us into Hamburg the same day as we would have had to catch the ferry; otherwise, we would have had to stay an extra day in Hamburg and would have arrived in Helsinki on the first morning of Worldcon, and that would not do on multiple counts. Our plan was to give us one day to recover from the flight (and perhaps see a bit of Hamburg), then arrive in Helsinki early enough that we wouldn't be rattled and rushing to get into place on Day 1. There's no WSFS Business Meeting that day, but I do have WSFS responsibilities there, and I really much prefer to be there at least the night before. As it happens, we now have an extra night in Helsinki pre-con on account of having to travel a day earlier in order to make the ferry crossing work.

A minor bonus: the points basis for the hotel in Helsinki appears to have changed since I originally booked it, from 25K to 20K points/night. So when I modified the 3-night stay to a 4-night stay, IHG processed it by first refunding the original stay (75K) and then deducting the new stay (80K), so the marginal cost of that extra night was only 5K points. Well done, IHG! You keep making me happy that I devote my hotel affiliation with you. Now if only you had a property in Reykjavik....
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
I now have every leg of travel and every hotel booked for our trip to Worldcon and back, except for the "bookends." I need to call a hotel near SFO offering a stay-and-fly offer and confirm that if I stay there on both the night before we leave and the night we come back, we get 20 days of included parking. If so, that makes parking less expensive than most of the parking around SFO, with two hotel nights thrown in on top of it.

Eventually, I will write up the whole itinerary and post it here. It's complicated. Not Phineas Fogg Around-the-World-in-80-Days complicated, but still full of connections and interfaces and hope that nothing goes wrong, because a fair number of the connections are no-changes-allowed.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
This evening, I booked more hotel nights for our Worldcon trip. Some were paid (there are no IHG hotels in Iceland), and others on points. At this point, all that's left is booking the one-night layover at Sea-Tac caused by there being no connection between the arrival on the KEF-MSP-SEA leg and SFO. That's probably going to be at the Crowne Plaza across from Sea-Tac (which is so close to the airport that we could walk if we had to do so), but I want to talk to someone at the hotel before committing. The hotels around SeaTac that night are so expensive that it's the best use of my "one night anywhere in the entire IHG" offer that I get for having their credit card.

Also still unbooked are the "bookend" nights in the San Francisco bay area. I'm wrestling with having to park the minivan for three weeks. Most of the hotels with stay-and-park offers don't include that many days. This trip is getting more complicated every time I look at it. But without all of those hotel and frequent-flyer points, it wouldn't be possible at all.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
As I wrote a few days ago, I'm using Alaska Airlines frequent-flyer miles to fly back from Helsinki on IcelandAir (with connecting Alaska Airlines flights) in business class. The outbound trip is also on IcelandAir (in coach), but this I purchased from the IcelandAir web site, again with connecting partner airlines. Yesterday evening, Lisa and I were reviewing the outbound leg in order to start filling in other details when I realized to my horror that I'd booked the wrong day. We were flying one day later than we should be going.

I started looking around to see what I could do. It looked pretty much like I was going to end up paying a $400 change fee. But at Lisa's suggestion, I called IcelandAir. While waiting (it took quite a while to get through), I saw a glimmer of hope: flights booked through their web site from US origins more than 7 days before departure can, according to their conditions, be canceled within 24 hours without penalty. I couldn't figure exactly when I booked the outbound, but the date on the confirmation was one day earlier.

Eventually, I got through to an agent, who looked it up and found that I had made it with less than 20 minutes to spare. If there had been many more people waiting (the queue was ten deep when I first called), I wouldn't have made it.

Rather than cancel the ticket and make us start over, the agent simply changed it to the previous day so that we're actually flying on the days we needed to travel. There was no change fee or penalty. Everything worked out. Whew!

That's now two airlines on which we are traveling who have had excellent customer service agents who worked to make our trip to and from Finland work.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
This evening, after multiple hours of futzing around with web sites and telephone calls, I managed to book Lisa and my flights to and from Worldcon this year. Because too many of my friends appear to have had ideas similar to ours, the dates we initially wanted to travel were not available to use my frequent-flyer miles, so we made the most of a bad situation and bought flights outbound while using the points that initially were intended for round-trips to buy business-class travel on the return.

Because my miles were on Alaska Airlines, I had to contact them to buy the IcelandAir flights we want for the return from Helsinki. We're also going to do a stopover in Reykjavik. Unfortunately, after a great deal of trouble finding a set of flights that included business/first class travel most of the way back, and going all the way through the booking process up to the point of actually paying, the site dumped me out when I tried to pay, saying that the partner carrier (IcelandAir) couldn't confirm the flights. Argh!

At Lisa's suggestion, I called Alaska Airlines. I spoke to a wonderfully patient woman in Seattle who managed to track down the four flights we need (including not only the stopover in Iceland but also an overnight layover at Seattle; the routing is actually HEL-KEF-MSP-SEA-SFO), find the business/first class seats for all legs except the last one back to SFO, and she even waived the usual $15 fee for booking through an agent on account of their web site having dumped me out before I could actually pay the first time.

It's very easy to complain about customer service, and too many companies have gone to offshore phone banks staffed by people who don't speak very good English and don't know how to do anything other than what you could do yourself on the company's web site. Alaska Airlines gets high marks in our book by having people who know how to make the system work for us, and have made our return trip from Helsinki much better because we'll be flying up front in Saga class.

The best airfares for the outbound flights are also on IcelandAir, but in this case we had to go to their web site. (I'll still get Alaska miles for booking it, though.) This only works because unlike [edit: most other] legacy carriers like United, IcelandAir doesn't charge you so much for a one-way ticket that you might as well buy a round trip and throw away the return half.

The trip planning isn't complete yet, because I still need to book intermediate hotels, including where to stay in Iceland and also the overnight stay in Seattle (caused because our arrival is after the last flight of the night to SFO, so we'll spend the night and fly back mid-day the following day), but I have hopes that this won't be quite as much of a hassle as the airline flights were. If only IHG had hotels in Iceland!
kevin_standlee: (Family)
Although I'm not going to the SF Bay Area this coming week, I did have a pressing non-emergency-but-important need to visit my mother in Yuba County before the end of January. Looking at the weather this weekend and next, I decided that this would be the better of the two weekends to attempt it because the weather was clear for Saturday and Sunday. Although initially I thought I'd get up very early and make the down-and-back journey, after discussing it with Lisa we decided to drive down today and back tomorrow, and this also allowed us to go pay a visit with my sister in Sacramento without being rushed.

Fernley to Marysville via Sacramento )

The trip over Donner Summit was thankfully uneventful. Caltrans crews have done a great job clearing the road. As we worked our way up to the summit, a snowblower truck was cutting back the banks, throwing snow in a high arc away from the road. It was not as spectacular as the rotary plows the railroad uses, but it was still a good show.

Between the two storms we had in Fernley (with an intervening rain that melted all of the first storm's snow), we had around 30 cm of snow in Fernley. Up at Donner Summit, it looked like there was more than 300 cm (3 meters, around 10 feet) of snow on the ground. There was a lot of mist at the summit itself, but Lisa could see a lot of people on the ski slopes. This must be the sort of conditions the ski operators were praying for: plenty of snow with four days of good weather centered on the weekend.

Visiting my Sister )

Lisa drove for a while after we left the nursing facility and I called my mother to confirm that I'll be coming up to Dobbins in the Yuba County foothills tomorrow. We then changed drivers again at the Fry's in Sacramento and I drove us to Marysville. We used to stay at the Holiday Inn Express in Yuba City, but it's now a Best Western, giving me no incentive to stay there, and it made more sense logistically anyway for us to stay at the Comfort Suites in Marysville. Lisa was grateful for a full-size bathtub, and since the drought is nominally over, she also didn't feel guilty about using that nice tub in the hotel room. Conveniently, there was a Pizza Hut a block down the street, too, making dinner plans easy.

My initial plan had actually been to come down (without the side trip to Sacramento) and stay in Grass Valley, but for some unaccountable reason, it seems like every hotel room in Grass Valley/Nevada City this weekend is booked. I am unsure what's going on up there; however, I'm just as happy to do the circle trip via Sacramento so we could see Kelli. And while I'm capable of doing the down-and-back trips (it's about the same distance and time as the one-way trip to the Bay Area), I'd rather not do so if I don't have to do it.
kevin_standlee: (Rolling Stone)
The flight from Chicago to San Francisco was completely full, but not so full that they could accept my offer to volunteer to be bumped. I would have welcomed it, not just because of the voucher, but because there was Day Jobbe work chasing me this morning. I tried to do some of it on the plane, but it's nearly impossible to get any work done in a modern coach seat. Even Economy Plus would not have been enough, unless I'd had an exit row.

I got back to my RV and after stopping for dinner, went to my office to dive into getting the work that people were clamoring for throughout the day done. And a couple of them were still online at 9 PM waiting for it, so it really was urgent to them. Some of this is just a timing issue because it's the first Monday after the end of the month when certain monthly reports are due.

I'd write more, but I'm very tired and I need to get back to my normal work schedule tomorrow morning. Also, I haven't unpacked yet, and keeping things packed properly in that RV is critical.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF Zone)
When I woke up at 4 AM this morning in Sunnyvale, I had an e-mail from United Airlines asking me to call them because of an overbooking condition on my early-morning flight. I called and they explained that due to an equipment change (sounds like a 777 morphed into a 737), there were a lot of people they were trying to get to take a later flight. In exchange for a flight voucher, I let myself be rebooked onto a 10:45 flight, which meant I did not have to rush this morning. I was already up, however, so I finished my morning and got to the airport, beating most of the traffic, and having plenty of time for breakfast at SFO.

I boarded the 777 for my later flight. Because of the issue with the morning flight, this flight was completely full, but we seemed to have loaded pretty much on time. And then we sat. And sat. And sat some more. Apparently the issue was that SFO ground staff wouldn't come and take the trash off the plane from the inbound flight. After an interminable delay, the on-board crew ended up dragging bags of trash down the aisle and tossing them into the jetway so that we could actually leave, albeit about 90 minutes late.

The flight to Chicago was routine, although crowded. I'm glad I got an aisle seat. (I'd asked on the rebooking if I could get Economy Plus, but the only way I could have an E+ seat would have been to move to a center, so I stuck to my aisle seat.) When we got to Chicago, I joined David W. Clark (he had been seated up in E+) and after we claimed our bags, we made our way to the shuttle center and caught a ride over to the Crowne Plaza Rosemont.

Going on down the street (and sharing hotel space with us) is Midwest FurFest. We SF/F conrunners are so old and boring by comparison.

I registered in the con suite and spent the next few hours hanging around the con suite, what else, smoffing, which is of course the whole point of this event. About 10:30, I realized that I'd not had dinner. As everyone else around had already eaten, I walked over to the hotel restaurant and bought a to-go dinner that I brought back to the con suite (which is a converted former restaurant space in the hotel) so that I didn't have to eat alone.

Friday is lightly programmed, but I do have a 10 AM meeting of the CanSMOF (Montréal Worldcon) board of directors (this and Worldcon are usually the only time we can ever get a quorum), so now I must try to get some sleep. I wish I'd known in advance that my hotel room had a mini-fridge; I would have tried to hunt down a mini-market in the area and get some small supplies.

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