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A Botched Business Trip

8/19/98 – Colorado Springs, CO. (Avery Business Trip – completed 8/28/98&#41
One of the joys of being in the Marketing department of a Fortune 1000 company is the fact that every once and a while, I get the opportunity to travel to one of the exotic corners of our fair country. Over the last 12 months, I have traveled to Sioux City, IA, Cleveland, OH, Baltimore, MD, Tysons, VA, Atlanta, GA and Houston, TX. As you can plainly see, these are not the tourist meccas of the world. Hell, most of them barely have decent cable in the hotel rooms. Usually, I can come up with something interesting to take my mind off of the travel… and then there are the times that I have to go to Colorado Springs.

8/19/98 – 23 Hours in Colorado Springs

There are some cities that grow on you the more times you visit there. Colorado Springs isn't one of those cities. Actually, this is my fourth time there, and each time it gets progressively worse. This certainly wasn't my worst time there. The worst time was getting stuck in a Radisson Inn for 2 days during this year's freak St. Patrick's Day blizzard with no food. This ranks a close second.

Whenever I travel for business, I try to be there for at least 2 full days, which usually means a 3 day/2 night trip. Anything less usually isn't worth my time. In Colorado Springs, it's easy to do this, as all of the engineers for my product work out of the Springs.

However, this time was different. I didn't have the time to spare for this meeting, let alone 3 whole days, so it was going to be a quick jaunt from San Francisco to Colorado Springs and back the next day. Total trip time: 35 Hours.

Leg One – San Francisco to Colorado Springs via Phoenix.

Because it was much cheaper than flying United (my normal airline&#41, I decided to save my company some money and take America West airlines. America West has found an ingenious way to somehow fit 2 extra rows in an already cramped 737. I am a big guy. I spent the whole two hours with my knees pressed up into the seat in front of me. The cramped quarters didn't annoy me nearly as much as the little baby two seats over who decided that it wanted to see how many people it could annoy as it shrieked "Mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy". At least the flight landed ten minutes early. We pulled up to the gate, and as I walked out, the 95 degree heat that the captain warned us about hit me. Dry heat be damned, it was just too hot.

Janet and I have been to Phoenix twice in our lives. Once, we were there as we traveled from Boston to San Francisco. Since we had a six hour layover, we got to see the outside of the airport… not just the inside. It was midnight and still over 90 degrees. We also went to Phoenix to meet up with my father during one of his Futon trade shows. It was hot and we got caught in a monsoon. I didn't know a monsoon in the desert meant a sandstorm.

Needless to say, I don't have any particular affinity towards Phoenix.

This trip would require me to make a one hour stop in Phoenix. One hour layovers usually work out to be this:

  • 5 minutes for the plane to get up to the gate
  • 10 minutes for everyone in front of me to pile out of the plane.
  • 5 minutes in line for the bathroom
  • 10 minutes to find something to eat
  • 1 minute to wolf down the food
  • 29 minutes of waiting in the plane with no air conditioning because they decided to start pre-boarding early.

Lunch consisted of a Pepsi, 'cause in in the Barry Goldwater Sky Harbor International Airport, they don't serve Coke. Back into another cramped 737, but this time I had an aisle seat.

Ten minutes into the flight, some 16 year old buzz-cut kid sitting next to me starts asking me about my tattoos. I figured the fact that I was reading a book (Future Perfect&#41 and listening to my CD Player (Barenaked Ladies – Rock Spectacle&#41 would be a clear sign that I was not in the mood to talk to him. But he kept on talking until I finally had to take off my headphones and ask him, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" Buzz-cut boy asks if "that's a real tattoo". I answer "Yup". He replies with the ever-so-witty "cool". I ordered a jack and coke from the stewardess, downed it, put on the CD player and went back to my reading. Hey kid, didn't your mother tell you not to talk to strangers?

Leg Two – Colorado Springs

I got off of the plane and ran to the taxi stop, because Colorado Springs only has 4 taxis, and they're usually at the airport. I was lucky. A cab was there and I got in.

Cabbie: "Where ya goin?"
Me: "Antlers Doubletree"
Cabbie: "OK"

The cab was comfortable, and the air conditioning was soothing. I put on my headphones and grabbed the book out of my bag. At that time, the cabbie started to ask me all of those inane cabbie questions:

  • Where ya from?
  • Been here before?
  • Gonna be here long?
  • How's that weather?
  • What airline did you fly?
  • Ever been to the Doubletree before?


The Doubletree was nice. They had a small brewpub in the back and you get these nice free chocolate chip cookies when you check in… which is nice, because I was starving. After dropping off my bags and calling Janet and the office, it was time to get some real food. I made the mistake of going to the Phantom Canyon Brewing Company.

The Phantom Canyon Brewing Company has the dubious honor of being voted the best brew pub in Colorado Springs. That's like saying that the best chinese food in Rome is at the Peking Palace. No matter how good it is, it probably doesn't even come close to being passable.

Every time I go to Colorado Springs, I always seem to end up at Phantom Canyon, just because it has the closest thing to a good local beer that I can find there. But, as usual, the beer was only passable. The food, however, was as quite good. The bar fries with bacon, cheese and sour cream were fantastic (and 10,000 calories or so&#41… and the soup looked great (I should have had it, but I just wanted to get back to my room&#41. However, the beer lacked all trace of character. The Scottish Ale was a passable 70 shilling Scottish ale, but it just didn't have that oomph to make it worth ordering again. The IPA had such a lack of hop characteristic that I asked the bartender if he had poured me the right beer. Unfortunately, he had.

The night ended for me at 9:30 PM, and after watching one half of the 10pm news, I was asleep.

The next morning, I woke up, met up with my boss and headed out to the meeting.

Leg Three – Colorado Springs to San Francisco via Phoenix.

Fast forward to 3:25 pm. I'm back in the 12 gate Colorado Springs airport. I really hate being stuck in this airport for any extended length of time, and today, I am stuck in in this airport for an hour and a half. The Colorado Springs airport has one restaurant, two news stands and a coffee shop. That, and a smattering of phones thrown throughout the gates. However, for how small the airport is, they have two people-movers (those things that look like escalators, but don't go anywhere&#41… the thing is that the people mover only moves you 30 feet or so.

The plane boards on time… I'm lucky… I get an aisle seat on an exit row! That means I can actually spread out for the next hour and a half. I get a ginger ale and one of those packets of pretzels.

The Phoenix Airport is a bit better than the Colorado Springs Airport… they have a taqueria and a couple of bars. I decided to get a chicken burrito. What a slick move… refried beans right before I get into an airplane… but at least the flight will only be a quick 2 hour jaunt.

So, I board the plane, put on my seat belt and try to fall asleep. 10 seconds later, the stewardess asks me to move because some idiot with his kid needs my seat so that if there is an emergency, there will be an extra oxygen mask for the little sprog. Fine I mutter as I get up and move to the other side of the plane. The stewardess offers me a free drink of my choice after takeoff. Oh yeah… beans and beer… what an explosive combination.

How long did I say that this flight was going to take? Two hours? Not likely. I should have taken it as a sign when we had to delay our takeoff for 30 minutes due to wind shear. How long does it take to roll over to a new runway? Throw the damn plane into gear and head over to a new runway.

Finally we take off. Net Delay: 30 minutes

We finally get airborne and all seems to be going fine… until about 9pm (we were scheduled to land at 9pm&#41. I looked outside and noticed that the ground seemed to be on a slight angle… that slight angle which shows that we were in a holding pattern. Shit. As everyone in the plane starts getting edgy, the pilot announces that we are in a holding pattern over Oakland.

Ok, bathroom break. I take this as an opportunity to head over to the bathroom. So did everybody else. 10 minutes later, I make it into the stall, pee, wash my hands with those annoying faucets that do either burning hot or freezing cold water and only stay on as you are holding the faucet, making it impossible to rub your hands under the stream of water unless you use your nose. On my way back, I ask the stewardess for a bottle of water. "Oh, I'm sorry, we've already locked up the carts… would you like some coffee?"

We stay in the holding pattern for almost 40 minutes when the pilot comes on the intercom again, "Well folks, we won't have an approach in San Francisco for another 20 minutes, and we don't have enough fuel to wait, so it looks like we'll have to land in Oakland."

Leg 4 – Still stuck in the air

The whole plane just sighed when that announcement was made. Actually, half of the plane signed, the other half sighed. Then the pilot turned on the intercom again, "Since we don't have full privileges at Oakland, we're going to land, refuel, take off again and get back into the holding pattern." The whole plane started muttering… hell, some of us were planning to rush the door when we landed, run across the tarmac and grab a cab. The seatbelt light comes on and the stewardesses tell us to bring our seat backs up and to close the tray-tables as we prepared for landing.

Suddenly, our descent stops and we make a hard left bank turn. The pilot comes on to announce that Air Traffic Control has given us clearance to land in San Francisco.


We landed and taxied to the gate. Since I was in row 4, I was one of the first to get off. A quick 10 minute sprint to the cab stand was rewarded with a cab being there, ready and waiting to go to the Lower Haight.

Posted in Scowls.

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