Friday, March 9, 2018

Scandi Running Part 1- So This Is How It All Begins

Da Plane...
Get the background: The Scandi Run- Preview

I'm a big proponent of 'firsts.'  I love first tries, first place, first class.  That makes this weekend fit right in.  It's the first of at least three mileage runs that follow more or less the same pattern.  It's good then, that right after firsts with me, comes familiarity.  I'm aiming to have this thing down to a science by October. A kind of science that, sure, will be thrown way out of whack by weather, crew delays, and loose bolts, but there's a science to all that as well when you think about it.

It's a first for the Scandi run, and also a first inasmuch as it's going to be cold.  The potential level of cold really didn't hit home until today when I saw a picture of the ice burgs currently floating past Nyhavn canal.  Until this point, I'd been way to confident in my ability to suck it up for a couple days.  I've lived in Boston before, I survived, it's in the 30's, come on...

After that, I threw in an extra (couple of) coats, stopped at REI to buy better, more waterproof, and less 'I don't remember what snow looks like' gloves (REI in Los Angeles is the most pathetic place to buy winter gloves, FIY.), and pretty well gave up on my romantic and responsible goal of running a 5k through Norreboro the morning after I arrived.

Granted, the 30 degree weather may be considered by the Danes to be a 'heat wave' this time of year, but I'm a cold pansy at this point, and I'm pretty much going to have to come to terms with it.

I love to be invited...
I'm currently sitting at the bar (as one does) at the Qantas First Lounge in LAX awaiting my flight to London.  It's delightful as per always, and not yet overcrowded as I'm several hours before the late night flights to Sydney, Melbourne, and such.  So far, all's well.  As I've realized it's a published EXP benefit, I tried out the LAX Flagship Check in for the first time, and it was all kinds of line cutting fun.

This season, the Qantas lounge is doing lovely things with radicchio...Is a sentence I never thought I'd type...
Compared to CLEAR, it's basically a nicer version with a dedicated ticketing counter, and a concierge who rolls your luggage for you to the front of the pre-check screening.  It definitely saved me a few minutes, but it was more about the experience. With elite benefits being axed left and right, it's still a nice gesture.

With my several hours before boarding, I have to actively hold back and pace myself as I work through the menu.  I'd prefer not to admit that I also had a stop at the Flagship Lounge in T4 on the way here for a bowl of pho, but I will admit it, because mileage run, and that stuff was tasty.  Pro-tip- if you like it spicy, there's siracha on the bar by the bloody mary fixings. 

T-2 hours, and my incoming flight is about to land, the weather in the vicinity of London and Copenhagen airport looks passable, and so far I've only forgotten my power cube (remote power bank), so things are looking good to go.  Plus, I've got a lovely bartender serving me something called the 'Garden Party' which has mint leaves in it.  Granted, I've already expended my first flyer acquaintance, possibly by unnervingly confusing him by trying to explain what, exactly, I was actually seeking to accomplish by flying to Denmark 3 times for now reason, but that's not really a huge concern.  And really, he's here to 'talk about bonds,' so what does he know.  Besides, it happens more often, or possibly exactly as often, as you might think.

BA 747 "Queen of the Skies," in repose in the background.
Come on, let's go....


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Scandi Run: Preview

Photo from my accommodations.  Adorable, yes?
I never mileage run to Europe.  Not kidding.  I have been to Asia, South America, Africa, you name it.... but never Europe.  There's a few reasons for this historically, most having to do with it simply not being far away enough to make sense, and Oneworld not having the most hub cities there. 

This is not to say I don't jump at the chance to go, it just tends to be a destination I get to by using my miles, not on account of earning them, and I try to stay awhile.

But, as they say, we live in interesting times.  As I tried to lay out some time ago, when AA switched the system up and effectively ruined mileage running for long distances on low fares, it was a choice of giving up or getting creative.  Guess which one I (and my friends I've met along the way) went with??

(I'm now going to go on about how this actually works, rather than random facts about airports, and hijinks I stumbled into in random cities.  If you're not interested in this, I suggest jumping down about 3 paragraphs where I'll get back to my thoughts on 36 hours freezing to death in Denmark in March)

The new strategy to still earn plenty of miles is to stalk the deals for cheap fares in premium cabins of other Oneworld airlines.  This usually means business class on Qatar, or premium economy on British Airways, and occasionally Cathay Pacific.  The further bit of intrigue, is that these deals almost never originate in the US.  So to take advantage, one has to first get to the city of departure.  What this further means (if you're still reading this at all) is that it's in your best interest to buy more than one of the deals when you find them at a time so you only have to get one 'positioning flight' per year, or per deal.

Let's put the plan into context, shall we?  This year, there have been some premium economy deals on BA out of most all of the Scandinavian countries to the US, and specifically, to LAX which is clearly convenient for me in particular.  To further sweeten the deal, there have on occasion been some crazy cheap economy deals on AA from LAX to various European cities, including....Scandinavia.  You see where I'm going with this?

The deal has been good from Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, and on occasion Helsinki, which all adds up to it getting coined (yes, by me) the 'Scandi run' since the destinations are interchangeable, more or less, for the same prices and miles earned.

100% Denmark- bikes, bricks & spires.  Nothing's overly tall in Copenhagen, so it's nicknamed the city of spires as they're the defining feature of the skyline, if you can even really call it that.
What it all adds up to for me this year, is flying out to Copenhagen on AA in March, and then 'returning' on that ticket in October, and flying back and forth on BA premium economy tickets on scattered weekends in between all year.  3 weekends, to be exact, though I'm thinking of adding one more at the end, and then flying back on an award ticket.  We'll see.

So.... this all results in my getting to say I GET TO GO TO DENMARK 3 TIMES.  Sure, each time is only for about 2 nights, and I have to brave 12+ hours of slightly more comfortable economy to get there, but after 16+ hours in coach to Hong Kong a few weeks ago, I'm feeling pretty bulletproof.  I'm honestly more worried about how in the heck to pack light on a mileage run for actual winter conditions.  I'm quickly realizing that all my other runs were to hot, and many times insanely hot, climates. 

A particularly famous spire- Christianborg
My outbound flight is on AA (the first half of the 'positioning flight') and so I'm playing the upgrade game to Heathrow.  After a stopover for some food and a shower at the excellent lounges there, I'll make the quick hop to CPH and take the metro into town. 

Copenhagen is extremely easy to get around on public transportation, just about anywhere you want to go.  I had initially thought of staying by the airport in the AC Sky Bella hotel in Orestad, which is a newer, planned area of Copenhagen by the Kastrup airport, but after realizing it is really only a 15 minute train into town, and I could save 50% by booking an Airbnb in the center of the city, my choice was easy.

I'm now staying in Christenshavn, which is a truly adorable part of the city on a series of canals, in a flat with my hosts Magnus and Mikkel.  Awesome.  It's central to many attractions, full of cafes and bars, and you can walk/bike just about anywhere in a few minutes. 

This, however, also brings up the fact that on arrival I'll likely have to answer the age-old question of why I'm in Denmark in the first place, and further, why I'm only there for about 36 hours before turning around and going right back where I came from.  It may surprise you, but many people find this just a tiny bit strange.  Hotels don't ask, but I get the feeling that my host(s) just might.

I've thought from time to time about coming up with a reusable story to explain myself, other than having to dig into the whole logic (or illogic) of mileage running.  But what to say?  Most business travelers don't come into town just for a Sunday, of all things.  They also don't stay up late/get up early to stay on their home timezone, and they definitely don't wander in looking very much like they've just spent 15 hours in economy and somehow still are enjoying their lives.

In any event, it's a work in progress.  I'll let you know.

I expect there may be snow on all of this when I get there.
For more details of things to do in Copenhagen, we're currently writing up our adventures from the Summer over at Baby Flyer Blog.  On these shorter, colder, trips, I'll probably try to get to some favorite places like Honen & Aegget and Den Vandrette in Nyhavn for tradition's sake, but other than that I'm looking forward to playing my one real day in town by ear.  I have no delusions of elaborate castle tours, or getting a table at Noma.  That's not what mileage runs are all about.  Get there, see a thing or two, chat with some locals, and get safely back home again.

My flight out on Monday is plenty early (7am!) which with the time change is about.... 11 at night back home?  You can't think too hard about these things, just get to the plane.  The return flight from London this time around is on BA's, and the world's, largest passenger jet, the a380.  They're smooth and modern, and I was able to preselect a good seat without paying extra on account of the Oneworld Emerald status I'm flying so far to keep up.  I do have the potential option to try for an upgrade by using some Amex points, but I think this time around I'll let it go and see.  It's only 12 hours, anyway.  Easy.

So, that's the Scandi run in a nutshell.  I hope it goes as I think it will in my head, seeing as how I'm doing it at least three times this year.  Wish me luck.


Monday, February 19, 2018

See One Thing: HKG-The Dragon's Back


I made it back alive! 

It was another memorable trip to and from Hong Kong over a weekend.  First off, no, I didn't clear my upgrade for the long...long....outbound flight.  For a brief second on Friday it was looking possible, but then a group of four booked into business class on a prior flight misconnected and had to be re-booked in the last few available seats.  Disappointing, sure, but honestly it went fine.  I had a main cabin extra seat with unlimited leg room, watched some movies, and slept about half the way there. 

Feet up, painful comedy on tap.
I'd seen this coming, so I geared up for the flight.  I had my Briggs & Riley cabin bag with me, so aside from takeoff and landing, I had it in front of me to use as a footrest, which worked great.  I also panicked a few days out, and ordered a Turtl travel scarf, which is basically a neck wrap with a plastic insert that supports your neck.  It honestly worked pretty well, and after a few more flights, I'll  probably do a real review.  I didn't have the usual sore neck when I woke up this time around like I usually would dozing in economy.

8 hours down, 8 to go....
This was my 6th time through Hong Kong, and the more I go, the more I appreciate the city.  It's one of the densest places on earth, and yet because of the surrounding waterways and parkland covered by steep green hills, doesn't feel overwhelming. 

Hong Kong Island from the Sheraton.  No complaints.

As usual, I took the airport express into town when I arrived, checked in at the Kowloon Sheraton.  I'd paid some points to upgrade to the Towers part of the Sheraton, which is a kind of hotel within the hotel on the high floors.  It has a separate check-in, lounge, and elevators, as well as some other fringe benefits. 

Video from the Towers elevator- Hong Kong skyline & Nathan Road

Since the timing worked out, I enjoyed hanging out with some other flyers from the US there for the fare deals as well.  After the Sheraton happy hour, we moved over to Ozone, which is the 'tallest bar in the world' on top of the Ritz Carlton tower.  Always good for one drink, but not much more as you're there for the view, not the prices. 

100+ floors up for a round of cocktails with new friends at Ozone

The next day, after the Towers Breakfast buffet at the hotel, I headed out to try something new.  Instead of my regular walk around The Peak, I got more adventurous and went for the Dragon's Back trail hike at Shek-O Country Park

This park is significantly further away from Kowloon than the peak, but you can still get there via the MTR in less than an hour if the bus connection is fast.  It took me a bit longer on the way out, for reasons I'll shortly explain.

The trail itself starts from a trailhead with signage on Shek-O road.  From there, it's a steep-ish hike up the path, including rocky areas and carved stone steps.  There are several places to stop and take in the view as you climb.  Part way up the initial climb, the trail branches and there's a shelter and benches.  To do the basic dragon's back, continue straight at this point.  As I went I noticed that the path is periodically marked with blue paint on the rocks. 

Eventually, the trail reaches the ridgeline of Shek-O, and proceeds through several rolling hills towards the peak, the "Dragon's Back" if you will.  At this point, panoramic views of the entire back side of Hong Kong island are constant, with the blue water all around.  Below, you can see the Shek-O golf course and Shek-O beach, and eventually Big Wave Bay. 

It's about 30 minutes, if you're moving along, to Shek-O peak.  There's a significant incline, and uneven terrain, so 30 minutes is enough to get some exercise in.  From there, you can continue on to either the trail down to Big Wave Bay, or go to the next trail intersection, and take a circle path that will eventually bring you back to the original trail, where you can get back to the road. 

There were plenty of people also doing the hike, but it was by no means crowded, especially since it was mid day on a Monday, and the weather was unseasonably cold and windy, even for winter in Hong Kong.

The view from Shek-O peak-

I seriously considered going on since it really was beautiful, but I knew at some point the jetlag was going to hit me hard, and it was threatening to rain.  I started back down the way I came, and stopped for a bit longer at a clearing to relax and take in the view by myself for a few. 

So, how to get there...

From Kowloon, take either the MTR to Admiralty, or if you're in the market for a little more walking and a trip on the water, take the Star Ferry and then walk to Central or Admiralty.  From there, take the blue 'Island Line' MTR toward Chai Wan.  Get off at the Kei Wan, and take the number 9 bus to the trailhead.  It's the most popular stop on the bus, so likely you can just follow along with everyone

You have to take the Star Ferry at least once per visit.  That's the rule.

MTR to Chai Wan
I, however, misread the directions, and took the MTR all the way to Chai Wan.  Realizing what I'd done, I just went outside and got a cab to the trailhead.  It was faster, but probably cost an extra US $6 or so.  On the way back, I took the bus to the MTR as planned, transferred at Admiralty, and took the red line back to Tim Sha Tsui outside the Sheraton.

The Dragon's Back trailhead on Shek-O road.
It was definitely getting to be time for a nap, but by this point my adventuring made me hungry, so I wandered around Kowloon to see what looked good.  This part of Hong Kong is bustling, and the streets are lined with all kinds of stores and restaurants.  There's so many options, it's hard to pick.  I was making my way past Kowloon park when I saw a sign that looked familiar from my googling prior to the trip- for "Haiphong Road Temporary Market."

In and around Kowloon

I vaguely remembered something about the best....beef something... in Hong Kong for like $4, so I ducked inside.

The temporary market isn't so much temporary, as having been there for a long time, and isn't about to go away.  It's a mix of stalls selling all manner of vegetables, meats, and just about anything else, and on the lower level, a haphazardly laid out food court area serving mostly locals around crowded plastic tables and chairs.

The food court at the 'temporary market.'
This is not a place for the faint-hearted, as it requires passing by food hawker stalls actively butchering pork and chicken (not so much actual live animals...just recently live animals) to get to the food court on the lower level.  Once there, I was immediately accosted by an overly friendly vendor who would eventually convince me to get his special beef noodle dish, and then sit with me while I ate.  He practiced his English, I had some delicious noodles and learned a riddle about whether to choose to face down a murderer, a fire, or a hungry lion.  Spoiler alert- go for the lion...for some reason...he was still working on that English, and my Cantonese is limited to one word, and I'm not sure I'm even saying that right.

I got back to the hotel in time for a quick cup of tea at the lounge, and then took my customary daytime nap to try and somewhat stay on schedule before my body would 'wake up' for the night.  All in all it was a full and satisfying day in the city.  I'd fully recommend the Dragon's Back hike, and will be keeping it in mind to do again.

From noodles at the temporary market, to high tea at the Towers Lounge.  Living the mileage dream.
Up next in a few weeks... the 'Scandi run' begins.  Copenhagen, here I come (at least 3 times)!

Travel safely & enjoy the journey,


Bonus feature- a very jetlagged vlog clip from the top of Shek-O:

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Flagship We've All Been Waiting For

You see this view??  This used to be my view each and every stop through LAX.  Now, NOT SO MUCH!
You know what?  I'm mad.  Do you want to know why I'm mad?  I know you don't really, but this is my blog and so I'm going to tell you anyway.  Prepare to be humble bragged within an inch of your life!

Yes, you're seeing this.  There's bacon.

The new Flagship Lounge at LAX's Terminal 4 is too nice.  Yes, dammit, you heard me. There is good food, and not just in the exclusive 'flagship dining' area, but on offer to everyone else as well.  There's an impressive self serve bar with Grey Goose, Hangar 1, Black Label, Woodford, Bombay, and all manner of fun options, as well as a bloody mary station, and non-alcoholic beverages including cold brew and an espresso maker.  Plus this week- custom, made to order Pho.  In case anyone was wondering- they had me at NOODLES.

Décor like JFK, food much better.

It's quite a bit better than the location at JFK, and that's saying something because JFK isn't at all shabby.

Frikkin' pho station.  For serious.


....And more food.
And here's why that makes me mad.  I'm mad because I've been carefully cultivating my disgruntlement with the new renovations to the terminal 4 Admiral's club for months.  MONTHS, I tell you.  Despite opening a new location in terminal 5, the loss of square footage in terminal 4 has been severely detrimental to the customer experience, and that's putting it lightly.  It's overcrowded, overrun, and not relaxing at all. 

You could go down to terminal 5, sure, but that's a decent hike, and even that has been crowded of late.  Instead, I've been taking the new connector over to TBIT and hitting up the KAL lounge on my priority pass.  This is no hardship, as I'm addicted to the (free) $1.99 spicy noodles there.  However, access there isn't open until 12pm, and Mrs. CruisingAltitude isn't a fan of the food offerings. 

This is all to say that now I'm left in a frustrating, angry-ifying quandary- the new lounge is legitimately wonderful, not quite beating out the Qantas lounge, but definitely trying to.  However, I'm only allowed in a few times a year, when I'm flying internationally since I'm perpetually buying double-deep-discount tickets to everywhere.

Livid, I am.  So.... I angry-scarfed down my custom made pho, maliciously drank (a couple) glasses of Bollinger champagne, and finally belligerently swiped a few bottled beverages from the self serve fridge, and eventually wandered out to face up to the Qantas lounge dragons at TBIT.

My diamond shoes are definitely a little tight, and I fully admit this is all ridiculous, but so is flying to Hong Kong for 48 hours, so what do you want from me?

More on all of that soon....


Friday, January 26, 2018

Then Go East....Far East....

Welcome to 2018, we're glad you're here! Before we get in the air, we'd like to go over some important features of 2017.**

It was a year full of new adventures, and not just a few miles flown.  As per usual, I went considerably out of my way to get my American/Oneworld status done, racking up those 100,000 miles.  It was a year for circling the world (quite literally), exploring foreign countries that are not so far off, plenty that actually are, and sharing travel experiences with family. 
If you're interested, you can check out some of the adventures here:

Whenever I'm questioning my plans, or debating which itineraries I might actually sort out, I put in the 'pro' column if I'll get to add a country to my 'visited' map I keep in my head.  Since I'm usually at the mercy of the major Oneworld deals and routes, I tend to wind up in the same places repeatedly- Hong Kong, Doha, Tokyo, etc.  So it can be exciting when there's someplace brand new.  

This year I added Cuba, Jordan (airport, it was quick), Finland, Estonia (check these out on Baby Flyer Blog), and Sri Lanka.  Not bad at all.
Sometimes, however, it's nice to play the hits.  That's why when I saw an impressive deal back to one of my favorites, and on the last weekend before last year's upgrades expired, I jumped on it.  36 hours in Hong Kong, here I come.  I'm even really taking this one 'old school,' and back-tracking to Dallas to catch the longest flight in American's network direct to HKG. 
I'm currently sitting in the lovely Qantas 1st class lounge in LAX before my flight, enjoying some Hamachi crudo and minute steak.  Life could be worse.  As an aside, I stopped by the NEW LAX Flagship Lounge as well.  Review of this soon!
As per usual, I'm playing the upgrade waitlist game for the outbound, but for a nice treat I was able to book the return via Tokyo Narita right into business class on my SWU upgrade!  So no matter what, I'll arrive back home in good shape.
So, what's a girl to do with two nights and a day in this fine city?  A few options come to mind...
I'm staying (again) at the Sheraton Kowloon, which has a top floor restaurant bar and lounge with a great view.  For what it's worth, people are always looking down on the Sheraton because in a strict sense it's outclassed by some of the other major chain offerings in Hong Kong- the Ritz, the JW Marriott, Conrad, and so on.  However, it keeps being my go-to for a few night's stay for a few reasons.  First- it's right on the Metro at Tim Sha Tsui, and has a shuttle from the Airport Express station at Kowloon.  Second- Even though it's sold as two hotels (the towers and regular rooms) you can usually use points to cheaply upgrade into a Towers room that comes with a high floor lounge with a very nice evening reception.  Third- There is a rooftop pool and spas that are great even in the rain.  Lastly- it's generally CHEAPER than the competition.  That alone puts it right up there. 
My suite at the Sheraton last time around.
This is all to say that setting up shop in Kowloon gives me some easy options before even going outside.  However, I fully intend to go outside.  I usually try to get out and take a hike or jog thought one of the parks each time I'm here.  In the past, I've done a morning jog around The Peak.  This time I may branch out....who knows. 
 And then there's the food...oh, the food....  This time, I'm in the market for some dim sum (of course), and want to find some traditional congee as well.  I think I've located a place that's near the hotel, and open until 2am.  This seems like a strange criteria, but here's the thing- flying to Hong Kong from the US essentially makes you nocturnal on arrival.  Your internal clock 'wakes up' around midnight, and if you're not looking to adjust, places open until 2 am are key.  Plus, Hong Kong is one of those "never sleeps" places.
So.... the bars are open until 2 or 3, congee until 2, and I think I found a dim sum place that opens for the day at 4.  Done and done.  A bit of day sleeping, some time in the pool, and it'll be time to head on out.
Thank various deities for international Uber.
As it turns out, I'm also not the only frequent flyer to think that this weekend is a great time to be in Hong Kong, so I'm looking forward to some meetups with other travelers and acquaintances.  All in all, it promises to be a good time....once I survive the 17 hour flight, of course.  Fingers crossed for the upgrade!!
Travel well,
**Kudos to you if you get this reference.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Adventures in Canyonlands Part 2: The Dinos Don't Have a B Plan...

Life's a winding road

......But I do.

By the last evening of this fateful trip I found myself sliding into a chair at the bar of the airport hotel next to the airport hotel I was staying at 3 minutes before closing and ordering a pepperoni pizza, after a 4 hour drive over the mountains, in the dark, with two complete strangers. 

How was your day?

Maybe I should.... go 48 hours earlier when I was flying down the road at midnight looking for the Green River Holiday Inn Express.  And I do mean flying- this part of I 70 has a speed limit of 80, and by midnight even the truckers have pulled over for the night.  I did the 30 miles in no time.

The hotel itself was nothing special, but I wasn't expecting all that much, so it was fine.  I slept a few hours, and then got up in time to battle my way to a continental breakfast through what I can only imagine was no less than 3 busloads of Chinese tourists trying to figure out exactly what 'biscuits and gravy' are, and how one might go about eating them.  I got a waffle, some tang colored orange juice, and retreated to my room.

The actual reason for my being there was to take depositions of some locals, and we needed an internet connection.  As it turns out, one of the only places for rent with such services is the local "River Museum" next to the Holiday Inn Express....which is how I ended up dressed in a suit, taking a deposition, all the while being stared at by an angry looking stegosaurus skeleton in the basement of a natural history museum.  Can't make this up.


CANNOT make this up.
We ended up wrapping up the work in a day, but I'd booked the next night in town in case we hadn't, and so my flight was in the afternoon the next day.  This left some time to see a thing or two after hours.  Like I said, Green River doesn't have much in the way of attractions in town, but is situated in the middle of some breathtaking landscape and national parks.

I headed down I 70, thinking I'd take some pictures here and there, and maybe make my way to Goblin Valley, which Siri let me know was about 45 minutes away.  Helpful as always.  Well, I guess I distract easily, because I missed my first turn off, and wandered down the freeway too far.  When I was going to turn around and go back, I saw what looked like an alternate highway on the map which would let me avoid backtracking.  Excellent (she thought).

This is what I refer to as the 'before picture,' as in, 'this is before she ignored Siri's advice.
For some reason though, Siri was saying it would take three times as long as the other route, despite being about the same distance.  Silly Siri, she clearly doesn't know what she's talking about (she said to herself, as if she knows anything, and took the next exit onto a byway.)

Well, the byway got less and less paved, and veered more and more into open country.  Still I went bravely ahead because - adventure.  Less paved became unpaved, and then smooth dirt became rocky, and rocky started dipping in and out of dry and not so dry creek beds and the like.  Siri may have been on to something.

No Dodge Chargers were harmed in the making of this blog post.

Nevertheless, I kept going, mainly because the further I went, the more beautiful it got.  Spending 99% of my time currently in Los Angeles and in other major cities, it's very rare to get the chance to be the only one in sight.  I did occasionally see another car, which was just enough to make me feel like if I got a flat or whatnot I might not die alone out here.

Eventually I just needed to 'hear' the nothing, so I stopped the car and got out for awhile.  It was just me and a heard of cows in the distance wading through a pond, with canyons and sagebrush all around.  Definitely not something that happens on every business trip. 

Breathe.  Listen.  Repeat.

This is the 'after' picture, as in, 'this is after she realized she had taken both the wrong, and perfectly right, turn off of 70.'
I never did make it to Goblin Valley, or any other real 'landmark' that day, and it was more than fine with me.  The last thing I needed was to fight crowds to enjoy nature, when for once it was abundant everywhere else.  Plus, Siri was right, and it did take a lot longer to take the detour.  I headed back to town and checked into my second hotel of the week.


I stayed at the Skyfall Guestrooms, which turned out to be an unexpectedly pleasant experience.  This independent motel consists of 4 rooms under the 'Tamarisk' restaurant, which fronts on the river.  Each room has modern, unique, décor and comes with plenty of little extras.  There's a free mini bar with soda and snacks, as well as apple TV that lets you sign into your Netflix and Hulu, as well as regular channels.  The big picture windows let you relax and watch the sunset over the river.  No complaints at all.  Plus, it comes with free breakfast upstairs, which includes the full menu.  The experience here put the Holiday Inn to shame, for a lower price.  It's a good stay if you can get it.


The only issue with the stay was the strict check in and check out times.  I had to wait awhile to get moved in, and I had to leave promptly at noon the following day.  I stayed as late as I could working using the free wifi, and then headed out for a few hours before my Boutique Air flight back up to Salt Lake.  I wanted to go to the CNY airport a little early to try to chat with some locals anyway, so it wasn't a hardship.

Delicate Arch from a distance.
I had a couple hours before even that made sense, so I stopped by Arches National Park.  It did have far more people than my mistaken detour the day before, but was still beautiful and made for some great photo ops.  Between the timing and the heat, I didn't have time to do any of the serious hikes, but did the drive and hit some of the high points. 

The travel day's shirt.  Bought in Copenhagen, worn everywhere.
On my drive back, I pulled over to grab a sandwich at a place that, once again, had a decidedly dino theme and checked my flight.  Well, not exactly my flight, but where my plane was.  All morning I'd been stalking it on FlightAware and all was well and on time.  Then, over my chicken ceasar wrap, I saw the dreaded flight status change to 'delayed.'  Go figure.  I had a bit over an hour to change to my AA flight in Salt Lake, which was plenty, but I couldn't handle more than about a 30 minute delay, and FlightAware was calling it 2 hours!  Nooooooooo.......

Of course, , seeing as how I was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by plaster casted raptors and cleverly named lunch entrees, my call to Boutique Air kept dropping, so I jumped back in the car and hauled to the airport 20 minutes away.  The lone employee at the counter didn't even know about the delay when I told him.  He had to call Denver, and found out it was a minor mechanical that they were working on.  I was skeptical.

However, a few minutes later, lo and behold, the plane was on the runway with a new tail light (yes...seriously, tail light) and would be headed to Moab only a few minutes late.  Travelers, rejoice!  I settled in to do a little work, and then went out front at arrival time to watch my plane land and taxi in. 

I hung out with my fellow flyers waiting to board, and watching the ramp workers re-fuel and check the plane.  My next clue that things were going South was when the mechanic re-fueling shut off the hose, and dropped it on the tarmac.  No...don't you....come on!

The flight crew were hanging around, looking concerned, and talking to the airport staff.  Also not good.  Finally I knew it was all over when a mechanic went into the plane for a bit, talked to the pilot, and then walked away from the aircraft yelling to a friend, "That thing's broke!"

Out here in Canyonlands, they don't exactly mince words.

As finally explained by the lone Boutique Air employee, they had a failure of a critical avionics component, and the plane wouldn't be flying until a part got there from Denver.  At this point I had missed my connection, and AA moved me to the morning flight, but I still needed to get to Salt Lake.  As stated earlier, it's a 4 hour drive.  Not ideal, but doable.

Now, there's a few times in life where you just get down to basic human ingenuity and get over yourself.  This was one of those times.  I looked around at the other passengers who I knew were all out of luck and just asked who still needed to be in Salt Lake tonight.  I'd already checked with my friend at Enterprise and she could give me the car for the drive, but there was a $150 'drop fee' to return it in Salt Lake.  So this meant a $200 bill to drive. 

Of the now stranded strangers, one man who flew Boutique enough to know this happens but still needed to catch a flight the next day to Brisbane said he was in right off.  Another passenger- an older woman who didn't have a connecting flight, but tearfully said she had a doctor's appointment she couldn't miss in Salt Lake, clearly also needed a little help.  So, now that $200 wasn't looking so bad.  I went ahead and got the car back, and in the process the Enterprise staff said that 'somehow' the computer 'wouldn't let her' add the drop fee, and so therefore, we wouldn't be charged.  Awesome! 

So, my new compatriots and I piled back into the same trusty Dodge Charger with whom I'd been through so much over the prior 48 hours, and headed out of CNY and off into the sunset bound for Salt Lake the old fashioned way.  We stopped for gas before going over the mountains, each grabbed a soda and a bag of chips, and I booked the Courtyard by Marriott on the fly in all of about 40 seconds, and we were off again.

And all of this just about brings this full circle.  It was at 9:58 when I finally dragged into the restaurant of the Hilton Garden Inn at SLC, which was my only option since the Courtyard doesn't have a restaurant at all.  It took about 4 hours, including dropping off the (no longer crying) crying woman, and returning the rental car to the Airport. Not bad, if I do say so myself.

I was exhausted, but at least I had a flight home and a place to sleep.  I logged onto Expert Flyer once the dust settled on the day to check out the seat map and possible upgrade on my new flight back to LAX.  One seat left, which a few short hours of sleep later I managed to snag!  I boarded bright and early to find the same cabin crew I'd had on the way out.  The Flight Attendant remembered me from my unicorn flight, and asked me how my trip had been.  I just laughed.  She got the picture.

And the moral of the story is- all's well that starts with adventure, and ends with a seat up front.

Fly Safely,