kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
We had an 8:45 AM flight out of Helsinki this morning, so after much too little sleep we lurched out of bed, completed our packing, checked out of the hotel, and got a train to the airport. We are very grateful to the extremely frequent airport trains, because we missed the first one we planned to catch, but there was another one coming along in just a few minutes, so it did not matter.

We're in Saga class for this trip (hooray for Alaska miles), so we had access to the lounge and therefore didn't have to buy breakfast. OTOH, my unfamiliarity with the airport cost us €5 because we didn't realize where to go to cash in the one tax-rebate purchase we made, and by the time we realized that the refund place was as the other end of the terminal, it was too late because the flight to Reykjavik was already boarding.

The flight itself was routine and comfortable, with complementary noise-canceling headsets (I forgot to bring mine, which was annoying on the trip out) and another breakfast. To save some standing in like at KEF, I pre-bought the FlyBus airport-to-city transfer tickets. By the time we got to baggage claim, our bags were waiting for us, and we walked outside and found the FlyBus. We got the front two seats for the 50 km drive to Reykjavik. At the bus terminal, we had to get out and wait for a mini-bus to collect us and take us to the stop near our hotel.

Easy to Find Landmark )

If you cannot handle stairs, never stay at this hotel. You need to negotiate stairs simply to get into the front lobby from street level, and there are no lifts. Normally for us this wouldn't be a problem, but Lisa's knee has been troubling her during this trip. She can walk on flat ground okay, but stairs give her trouble. And we have a lot of luggage. (Fortunately, our room was only on the second floor (of four), so I only had to carry luggage up one flight of stairs.)

As we expected, we were vastly early, but the hotel staff were nice and let us store our (substantial) luggage behind the counter. Tea/coffee/cocoa are available at all hours in the lobby (and you can take it back to your room), so we sat and had some tea while we repacked our bags and made plans for today. After putting most of our stuff behind the hotel counter, we set off to explore and kill time until 2 PM when our room would be ready.

Tiny Room and High Prices )

This is something of a letdown after the ten nights in an Executive Floor room at the Holiday Inn Convention Centre in Helsinki. I do really wish that IHG had properties here. But we'll make the best of it.

We Have Been Warned )

We'd been warned about the high prices in Iceland, and high they are. We'll be here four nights and most of five days, and we'll need to keep costs down where we can. Tonight we decided to just buy some groceries and eat them in our hotel room. There's no refrigerator, more's the pity, but Lisa had a can of tinned fish left over from Germany, I got some salami, and we made sandwiches. They don't allow outside food in the downstairs breakfast area, and as I said, the rooms are tiny, but we made the best of it, watching a train video that Lisa had on her computer.

Tomorrow we hope to take things relatively easy and not overwhelm ourselves. Aren't vacations supposed to be restful?
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
Today was our final full day in Helsinki. We had no big tourist attractions left to visit. Lisa wanted to do some shopping, and she also was looking for us to track down a transportation oddity that she wanted to see.

Riding the Paternoster )

After our Adventure in Elevators, we had a "target of opportunity," in the form of a train hobby shop just a couple of doors down from the first stop. Lisa had a look through the store but did not find anything that caught her fancy.

Next was a search for an electronics store to which she had been referred in search of a particular kind of power outlet that the hardware store didn't know about. That turned out to be fruitless as well, but it was interesting to walk around and see new places.

As we were riding the #7 toward that electronics store, Lisa spotted a small appliance store and we rode back up the line to continue her search for an electric kettle not Made in China. This time, we succeeded!

Fine Czech Manufacture )

There are still a handful of Worldcon attendees staying in the Holiday Inn, and we saw a few of them in the lobby when we headed out this morning. However, now the hotel is mostly full of Chinese tour groups.

Elevator Clog )

We had to go back to the hotel to put away Lisa's newly-acquired kettle, which actually does fit in her luggage. (She says she can make it fit by putting some of her clothing inside the kettle, so the total additional cube doesn't increase that much.) That led to our final meal excursion of the trip, but that's another story.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
Possibly because I had a nap yesterday afternoon, I woke up around 3 AM and dozed fitfully thereafter before giving up around 5 AM, showering, and going up to the deserted lounge where I got a tiny bit of online work done. I'm surprised that Finnlines doesn't open their cafe at 6 AM on the final morning at sea. Lisa and I were among the first in the queue for the "Sea Breakfast" (a somewhat cut-down but still generous buffet) in the main restaurant that opened at 7:30 AM as the ship approached Helsinki.

Approaching Our Destination )

We arrived about fifteen minutes early, and around 9:15, walk-on (i.e. without vehicles) passengers like us were allowed to disembark. Courtesy vans shuttled us to the terminal. Cheryl Morgan was there to meet us, with her friend Otto, who had kindly agreed to collect us and drive us to the hotel, saving us having to negotiate bus-metro-train connections with eight pieces of luggage. Cheryl also had helpfully obtained for me a SIM card for the mobile phone I had in 2014 at Loncon.

At the hotel, we were very early, but the front desk was very helpful and told us that the previous occupant had checked out and that housekeeping would do our room next. We waited in the lobby and Cheryl helped me activate my mobile phone. I now have a Finnish (+358) telephone number usable for the duration of our stay here. (Write to me directly if you need the number for some reason.) We bade Cheryl and Otto goodbye, and shortly thereafter, our room was ready for us.

Settling In )

We are pleased with the hotel room. I am very pleased with the internet connection. Not only do I get upgraded premium wi-fi, but there is a wired connection in the hotel room (and I brought a cable). The speed is 12-15 mbps both download and upload, which bodes well for us getting the official Business Meeting recordings online relatively quickly.

Today is not only move-in day, but also a "maintenance" day. Our plans called for us to get some laundry done. In addition, Lisa was looking for a hardware store because along the way, a screw had worked itself out of one of her pieces of luggage and she hoped to repair it. It turns out that we could get several errands done simultaneously.

While we were moving in, so was rain, and it was raining heavily by the time we had our laundry bagged up and ready to go. The hotel, however, helpfully provided us with loaner umbrellas! The #9 tram stops directly across from the hotel, and because it's a terminal loop, you don't have to worry about direction: all trams are going toward downtown. We bought a pair of day passes (€9 each) and rode the tram to Fleminginkatu. That put us at the S-Market (grocery store) which has a 24 Pasula coin laundry inside.

One Stop Shop: Laundry, Shopping, Hardware )

After completing our errands, we returned to the hotel, where Lisa attacked her luggage and power cords to affect repairs and alterations, while I painted my fingernails. I had vowed that this would be the first Worldcon in about ten where I didn't crack a fingernail, so I used the kit I'd packed in the hold luggage (lest I be tempted to try hijacking the airplane with a nail file), trimmed my nails, and coated them with clear nail-hardening solution.

So we're mostly settled in for the long haul through Worldcon and beyond. Tonight Lisa and I will be taking her friend Chris out to dinner for his birthday. Tomorrow Chris and Lisa head off to the Nuclear Power Plant tour, while I see what can be done on day -1 of Worldcon.
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
Today was the longest day. We got up about 7:30 AM on Thursday, August 3 in Millbrae and I'm going to bed in Hamburg around 7:30 PM on Friday, August 4 (about 10:30 AM Pacific Time) with no intervening sleep. But while there were negatives (like not getting any sleep), it was otherwise a pretty good trip, and we're now safely in Hamburg for our "flying visit."

SFO Security Theatre )

The Alaska flight up to PDX was no fun at all. Fully loaded, and I was in the middle seat. But it was less than two hours, and the flight was on time. As we came in, the flight attendant made an announcement for those of us going on the Reykjavik on IcelandAir, noting that there were 17 of us on the plane. As it happens, I only recognized two others besides me who were going to Worldcon: Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz, who we spoke to briefly in the departure lounge at PDX before the flight boarded.

Upgrade Jackpot )

We landed in Iceland, where we found that the airport is under significant construction, but fortunately, it wasn't raining.

Upgrade Part Two )

While on this last leg of the flight I could have possibly slept, I decided that it would be a bad idea to do so if I wanted to get onto the correct time zone, so I drank coffee to stay awake into Hamburg. We landed at Hamburg and spent a while trying to find a working DB ATM (because they are partners with Bank of America and thus I wouldn't be hit with an extra fee). We got it eventually and unlike the Barcelona trip, the ATM processed the request with no incident. That is good, because as we found, cash is still king here in Germany. Also, my credit card is US-style and doesn't have a PIN, which makes it impossible to use on automated terminals like at the train stations. I was worried that we'd dawdled on our errands, but as it happens, luggage was just starting to roll out when we got to baggage claim. We picked up our bags and cleared customs (a single bored-looking guard), then found our way to the train station.

Training into Hamburg )

When we checked in to the Holiday Inn Express Hamburg, we had a surprise.

That New Hotel Smell )

After getting moved in, doing some unpacking, and confirming that I could raise the wi-fi on my phone and computer, we set out to find some dinner. We knew that we needed to stay awake until early evening in order to have a chance to stave off jet-lag. We headed off a different way than we came, and almost got caught in a rain shower, but fortunately Lisa spotted a model train store, where we popped in until the rain cleared. Unlike Tokyo and Osaka in 2007, where we had to buy an extra piece of luggage to carry all of the gear she bought at the Kato Model Trains factory outlet stores, Lisa restrained herself to a single car: I nice N scale fire truck.

Something Fishy This Way Comes )

It was after 7 PM local time when we got back to the hotel. Lisa got ready for bed as soon as she could. Once I get this posted (which hasn't been proofread well, so I may end up having to make a lot of edits later), I'm going to bed as well. Tomorrow, the included breakfast runs until 11 AM, which is a great thing because it means we don't have to be up early to get fed. We have one day of looking around more of Hamburg before we head for Lübeck and Travemünde.

I'm very tired, but happy to be here.

Casting Off

Aug. 3rd, 2017 08:57 am
kevin_standlee: (FinnCon)
The shuttle to the airport (which picks up right outside of our room) leaves in about an hour. We're about to pack the stuff we don't need on the trip into the back of the minivan and leave the keys with the hotel, which will park the vehicle off-site and bring it back for when we return.

In response to someone who pointed out less expensive parking options: Yes, if we were just parking, we can do better. But we have a 300 mi/500 km drive on both ends of the trip, and knew we needed a hotel night on each end of the trip. Therefore, what we're doing makes more sense to us, because it's not likely we could have had a less-expensive total package (hotel+parking) otherwise. Twenty years ago we might have been up to getting up at midnight, driving 500 km to SFO, then flying 15 hours to Europe, but we're older now (and frankly, better off financially).

If you say, "Why aren't you flying out of Reno," the answer is "We couldn't put together a routing that worked with IcelandAir and using frequent-flyer points to fly home in first class." So we add some inconvenience and expense in some places in return for a nicer flight experience.

I do not expect to be online much until we get to Hamburg sometime tomorrow, and maybe not much even then. After all, we're supposed to be enjoying ourselves on the one day we have in Germany while also trying to adjust to a new time zone, not huddling over a computer.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
Things at Day Jobbe went well this morning (and I did extra stuff on Monday and Tuesday), so I was able to log out at Noon today, and because we'd been doing packing and planning for days, and because we've developed a checklist for securing the house, we managed to get away before 1 PM. We stopped to grab some burgers at Sparks and headed west. That's Lisa's last solid meal until we are air-side tomorrow, because chewing exacerbates her tinnitus and she has to spend time without her white-noise blocker thanks to our oh-so-wonderful TSA and Security Theater. So she's on smoothies until then, and so we stopped at Jamba Juice in Rocklin. Normally I would stop to see my sister, but I did send her a card for her birthday (which is Friday) telling her we'd stop by on our way home, and I really wanted to get down to Millbrae. We made pretty good time, getting to the hotel before 8 PM. Compared to the 40°C weather in Fernley and the hotter-and-stickier temps in the Central Valley, Millbrae was lovely and cool. Lisa and I luxuriated in the comfortable weather.

I nipped out and got Lisa another smoothie for her dinner, then got myself something more solid while she took a bath. By the time I was back, she was already asleep.

The hotel we're staying in is on a "park and fly" deal. Because we're staying here on the night we get back to SFO, parking for the entire time we're gone is included. In effect, we're paying $20/day for long-term parking with two hotel nights included.

Tomorrow is likely to be the worst day of the trip, because it's flights SFO-PDX (Alaska), then PDX-KEF-HAM (IcelandAir), for roughly 15 hours of travel, and I think it will be about 0300 on our body clocks when we get to Germany. I hope we get some sleep on the flights.

Inevitably, we forget something on these trips. Around Sacramento, I recalled that I'd forgotten to pack my Bose noise-canceling headphones, which is a pity because they make these long airplane flights much easier. However, if that's the most significant thing we forgot, I will count ourselves lucky.
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)
Although our hotel room is on the opposite side of I-15 from Las Vegas Blvd, it has a good view of "The Strip"

Balcony Views, Night and Day )

Yesterday, we decided to take advantage of the free hourly shuttle from the Staybridge to New York New York.

An Hour Was Enough )

We had a look at the restaurants, in particular the deli, and while things made an effort to look like a cartoon version of New York, and for all we know the deli food was good, we decided that we'll stick to the Manhattan Deli at the Atlantis in Reno. We caught the next shuttle back to our hotel and drove to the Black Bear Diner (#25 in our passport) instead.

Tomorrow morning we leave Las Vegas. Having nearly driven off the road the last time we tried to go all the way home from Vegas in one day, we are heading for Tonopah tomorrow.
kevin_standlee: (Atomic Vegas)
As I mentioned in passing last night, our first hotel was very unsuitable. The Candlewood Suites room was comparable to an Extended StayAmerica low-end room, but the way it was laid out would have made it very difficult for me to get any work done, and Lisa said she might have to take some blankets and towels and sleep in the closet. So we asked the hotel to let us balk (which, thank goodness, they did), and we reviewed our options.

Checking the IHG app on my phone, I found a Staybridge Suites over on the other side of I-15, with a Holiday Inn Express next door. Rather than booking, we just drove over there, and the manager very nicely took us upstairs to show us a room.

The Kind of Room I'd Love to Have at a Worldcon )

On top of all of the space and amenities, this room cost less than the Candlewood. We said, "We'll take it," and checked in for three nights. We then tossed our hand luggage into the room and had dinner — on Monday-Wednesday nights, they have a "social hour" with food, in this case hot dogs, hamburgers, and chili. They have a cooked breakfast every morning, although unfortunately you can't take it back to your room, which is what we'd really rather do. Still, that's a minor quibble.

Kuma Bear Takes Charge )

After we got moved in, I got my computers working (no wired internet, but the wireless connection worked okay and didn't suffer from the flakiness that plagued me in Tempe) and then we drove over to get some groceries from Whole Foods Market.

Of course you're unlikely to ever find a hotel like this within easy walking distance of a Worldcon-class convention facility, and if you did, it wouldn't come for the relative bargain price ($109/night before tax but including breakfast). But it's a really nice place. It's not as over-the-top luxurious as the Bellagio-Pallazo, but it also comes with a lot more services that we actually use, like the kitchen and the in-room laundry. We had lunch this afternoon from the groceries we had (and those we'd brought with us from Fernley — we were prepared for having to eat many meals in the hotel room there, although in fact we did not do so), and Lisa did a couple of loads of laundry. (Soap is $3/box, good for two loads, from the shop in the lobby.)

We generally don't come to Vegas for long periods of time, but if we did, this would be high on our list of likely places to stay. As Lisa put it, if you're coming to Vegas for one or two nights and want a high-end experience, stay at a place like the Bellagio. If you want a place that you can use as a very comfortable home base for a few days or a few weeks, the Staybridge Suites is for you.
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: 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: (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: (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: (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: (FinnCon)
The initial hotel announcement from Worldcon 75 in Helsinki went out yesterday, and as is usual with such things, has triggered Outrage and Horror, particularly from people who are unaware that most European cities do not build convention centers with mega hotels with thousands of rooms adjacent to them. We're facing next year roughly the same thing as we had at the Worldcons in London and Glasgow (and other European sites before that): a bunch of hotels, spread out all over the place, and some or even most of them requiring a ride on transit. One good thing about Helsinki is that apparently Worldcon members will get transit passes; however, the details of where you get them and for how long they are good haven't come out yet. For instance, we don't seem to know whether you'll have to pay a transit fare to go to a place where you collect the credentials that include the transit pass, or whether it's good for any of the "shoulder" days before and after the convention. I assume that these details will be forthcoming.

Most galling to most people is that all of the rooms in the only hotel that's connected to the convention center have been held back by the convention for people with access/disability issues. The Holiday Inn at the conference center is apparently not that large. Even this far out, and even for someone like me with a Spire membership in their program (that's the highest level there is), can get no rooms there during the core of the convention. (I looked outside of the hotel block; no room at the Inn.)

Another complaint is that the rooms are more expensive than what was originally promised. Well, yes; as the committee have said, these are only the initial rooms for which they have blocks reserved. They're negotiating for more. And don't make the mistake of assuming that the hotels listed there are the only hotels in all of Helsinki; far from it. For example, I'm seeing availability at the Holiday Inn City Center (adjacent to the main train station) as low as €116/night (includes tax, but not breakfast; some discounted rates are advance purchase/non-refundable). That puts you two stops (about 5 minutes on the train) from the Convention Center with very frequent train service (Sometimes the headways appears to be less than what I've had to endure for an elevator at some conventions.) It's not ideal (and I certainly hope that the convention arranges for a check room so people can store stuff they'd normally haul back to their hotel rooms on site), but it's not the apocalypse that some people seem to be making it out to be.

Me? I've booked the run-of-con at the Holiday Inn City Center (at a somewhat higher and refundable rate that includes breakfast) and will move to something better if possible.

Cheryl Morgan has written today about her previous site visit to Helsinki, which I hope some of you will find helpful. Just don't expect things to be like a standard American Big City.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Once we decided to go home via the faster route via Wendover rather than via Ely, the more direct route would have been via US-6, roughly paralleling the D&RGW (now Union Pacific) Railroad. However, we've driven that way before, and things we read yesterday about Interstate 70 in its final run to its western terminus in Utah led Lisa to suggest that we follow I-70 west to explore the San Rafael Swell, so we did. As Lisa did all of the driving, I had time to take lots of pictures.

Leaving Green River )

Devoid of services west of Green River I-70 may be, but not devoid of scenery, especially if you like impressive mesas.

Silly Hobbits to Climb Into Those Mountains )

I took a whole lot of photos of the passage through the Swell, which I have posted to their own album on Flickr.

At Salina, we left I-70, which runs a few miles farther to the southwest where it terminates at I-15 near Richfield.

Through Utah, Bound for Northern Nevada )

The Red Garter is a bit of a disappointment after all of the Holiday Inn Express properties, even somewhat lackluster ones like the one in Green River UT. There is no fridge, the rooms are small, and there is no elevator, so we had to lump our bags up to the second floor. But there is a bed and a bathroom, and we don't need a whole lot more tonight.

Tomorrow, we go home. I think it's about time, too.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
Today's travel mostly repeated an equivalent day on our 2008 trip to Denver for Worldcon, although we didn't have the unwanted auto repair adventure in Wells. (We hope the difficulty with the blower motor earlier this week was sufficient sacrifice to the minivan.)

Last night, while unpacking at the Rainbow Hotel in Wendover, I realized that I'd left my electric razor back home in Fernley. This is particularly galling because I specifically remember getting the razor (a second one that I'd bought so I'd have one in the Rolling Stone all the time) packed and ready to go. Apparently, I set the bag aside and forgot to actually put it in my luggage. I made do with my backup blade razor, but this was not going to be a viable long-term solution because I have really sensitive skin. Still, there was nothing to be done about it immediately, so we got breakfast, packed the van, and set out east. Lisa continued to drive us, leaving me free to take photos from time to time.

There are many photos behind the cuts here. There are even more on my Flickr account; click through any photo to go see the others if you are interested.

Across the Salt Flats to SLC )

In Salt Lake City, we stopped at a Target store to look for an electric razor for me. I feared that I was going to have to buy a model that had more bells and whistles than I wanted just to get the features that I did want. Fortunately, we found a model that was almost perfect, other than not being the same as my current two razors (so the parts can't be shared between them). On the other hand, this one might become my new preferred model for road trips, because it doesn't require a drop-in charger; the charger just plugs directly into the base of the razor. In any event, Worldcon is spared my "fashionable stubble" look this year.

Salt Lake City to Echo Canyon )

Not far beyond Echo Canyon, I-80 enters Wyoming. I was amused that the Wyoming port of entry (truck inspection station) is so close to the border that the exit is numbered using the Utah sequence.

Western Wyoming )

We had been getting steadily farther behind schedule as the day wore on, but that's okay, as we had lots of time to spare. Passing through Green River, Lisa decided to go look at the railroad there, and that turned out to be a really good decision.

Green River Yard )

We continued on to Rock Springs, where tonight we are staying in the Holiday Inn, where we stayed on August 3, 2008. Today's trip was under far more pleasant circumstances than eight years ago, although we still had to do a room shuffle to find a room with a bathtub (not just a shower stall) in it.

Bus Tag )

We're very happy to have given ourselves time today to stop and sightsee. Tomorrow is similarly planned so that if we find stuff we want to look at, we don't have to skip it due to an iron timetable.
kevin_standlee: (Rolling Stone)
Last night I laid up in the Rolling Stone near my office in Fremont (partially because Lisa knows how to find it easily). I woke up just before 6 AM, which is actually sleeping in for me much of the time I'm in the Bay Area. As I was getting dressed after putting away the bed, Lisa rolled up in the Astro, having left Fernley shortly after Midnight.

We dropped the RV at my mechanic's shop in Fremont, had breakfast at Dino's Restaurant (where I used to eat regularly when I lived within walking distance of it), and headed out of the Bay Area. Of course, a good thing about driving out on a Saturday morning is that traffic is much lighter than on a typical Friday afternoon.

We went to Yuba City, where I had some business to transact with my mother, and we visited with her for about an hour. Then we went back south to Sacramento where I visited my sister at the nursing home where they continue to care for her. She was very happy to see me, Lisa, and [livejournal.com profile] travelswithkuma.

It was a hot day today (temperatures up around 38°C), and this affected us a lot. Besides it simply being uncomfortable to drive around, the Astro's hot-starting problem came to the fore. Anytime the van is too hot and has not had a chance to cool off (difficult in this heat), it becomes very difficult to start. We did manage to get around, however, and moved in to the Rancho Cordova Holiday Inn for the night. We were pleased (and surprised) to find that it had wired internet, a microwave oven, and a mini-fridge. We got some groceries (cold drinks) and ordered a pizza. Lisa took advantage of the nice Jacuzzi-style bathtub to have a nice bath where the sound of the jets overcame her tinnitus and let her relax.

I understood why Lisa was so tired, but puzzled about my own fatigue, especially after getting a longer-than-usual sleep last night. Lisa suggests (and this makes sense) that having spent most of the past two weeks on high alert, when the pressure came off as it did today, I started falling over when I relaxed.

Tomorrow we hope for a relatively easy day as we visit my friend Rick in Placerville, then drive home via South Lake Tahoe.
kevin_standlee: (SMOF License)
I've been sketching out our drive from Fernley to Kansas City. It's personally inconvenient to me that Worldcon runs Wednesday-Sunday this year. It means having to really stretch and drive hard by our standards on the eastbound run, as we'll only have four nights to travel the roughly 1600 miles in order to arrive in KC on Tuesday night, when our hotel reservation starts. Now I know some folks don't consider 400 miles/day much of a stretch, but we'd like to be able to stop and look at things along the way. We have considerably more leeway going back home, inasmuch as I have the entire two weeks off and thus six nights to drive home. If Worldcon were on the increasingly-less-traditional dates, we'd have five days each direction.

An additional constraint is trying to schedule around where there are Holiday Inn Express hotels, inasmuch as I intend on using a lot of hotel points and staying on them as often as possible, and using the amenities. For example, I would expect that we would do laundry on the final road night before heading in to KC and on the first or second night out of KC on the way home. Also, we need to consider how early I can get off work on the Friday at the start of the trip and how far we can make it across Nevada. I-80 is a long, fast (legally so), relatively boring highway with relatively little to stop and see that we haven't already done on previous trips. Ideally we'd get all the way to Wendover if possible, but we'll settle for Elko if we must. What we won't do is stop in Wells again, thanks to a bad experience on a previous trip.

In any event, I have a draft outbound plan in place, and Lisa will need to review it and give me feedback. She has more experience of these long cross-country trips than I do.

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