Archive for the ‘Automobiles’ Category

Overnight to Hong Kong


2011
06.06

I’m home from my week-long trip to China and Japan, and am excited to share some of the great experiences I had on my trip.

The week started off on Saturday morning with a flight from Atlanta to Detroit, then on to Hong Kong.  I was actually on the same plan for both legs of the flight; one of Delta’s “long range” 777-200LR’s.  These are equipped with these ultra-sweet lie-flat seats.

Delta's Lie-flat Seating

All laid down and ready for a nap.  The nice blanket and pillow are excellent!

reclined for sleeping

This is the last seat in the forward cabin (there are two business class cabins in front of coach).  What’s cool about this seat is that there’s nobody behind me.  That means I got an extra little “table” (see triangular spot by my left elbow, and there’s a coat closet to the side of me which provides some privacy.  The photo was taken by Doug Sonders, a photographer who happened to be sitting in front of me on the DTW-HKG leg.  Nice to meet you, Doug!

this is how I roll

The flight from ATL-DTW was rather uneventful.  Frankly I don’t remember anything interesting to say at all, but I suppose that can be good.  :)

Then I had a short layover in Detroit; about an hour before re-boarding.  I strolled around the terminal a bit to stretch my legs before the long flight, and then had a snack.

our chariot

The dark spots on this window are from the terminal windows in Detroit.  All of the glass is covered in these little polka dots.  From about 10 feet away you don’t even notice them…they act almost like tint to lower the light level inside.  But when you get close, it’s a bit uncomfortable to look through.  In any case, the point of this photo is to show the MASSIVE engines on this 777.  If one engine goes out, the other one has to keep 278 passengers + crew/luggage/supplies in the air for at least three hours.

Delta has the very nice charging stations throughout many of their terminals (these are in Detroit).  You can get both 110V and USB (5V) power.

Charging Stations

The long/straight McNamara Terminal has two trams that run back and forth down the length of the terminal.  They use a single rail, and pass each other using a bypass at the center stop.

DTW Tram

They didn’t serve any food on my 11:00 flight from ATL-DTW.  :(  I was on the plane from 10:30-13:15…yea, who’d want to eat then?  But on the plus side, I had plenty of room to enjoy some yummy snacks in the Sky Club.  :)

SkyClub Snacks

After a last minute update on the wifi and a couple phone calls, I was back on the plane.

These are the seat controls.  Just super.  It’s really an amazing seat.  You can adjust the back-to-knee length and the head rest angle.  There’s a lumbar support that can be raised/lowered and inflated/deflated.  And there’s a “massage” mode where the lumbar automatically moves up/dn/in/out.  A++

Mission Control

Mission Control

As soon as we leveled off on the way to Hong Kong they started meal service with a cocktail, while I enjoyed some light reading.

oh nuts!

No peanut filler here.

Quality

For the appetizer course, we had tomato soup and seared tuna.  Maybe an odd combination, but both were very good.

Appetizer Course

Clear skies above an icy Hudson Bay.

Clear & COLD

Since you’re flying with the sun, it’s daylight the whole flight.  People pretty quickly pull the window shades down to keep glare off the TV screens, but I love to keep looking outside.  After your eyes are acclimated to the dark cabin, opening a window to broad daylight and a snow/ice covered landscape is blinding…but well worth it! :)

Ice

Ice

Dinner was served next, which reminds me of something.  While we were still on the ground, the purser came around taking dinner orders.  She approached me and said “Mr. Garrett, I noticed that you’re a Diamond Medallion member and wanted to thank you for your business!  We want to make sure you get your first choice for dinner tonight.  What would you like?”  While I don’t enjoy being singled-out in front of other passengers, it was a nice gesture and I appreciated it.  She was very busy at the time, and she went out of her way for me…which was nice.  This was in stark contrast to my flight home where the purser came by and without so much as a “hey, how y’all doin’?” simply looked at me and asked “chicken or beef?”  Not “Could I bring you the parmesan chicken or the beef tenderloin?”  Not “What can I bring you gentlemen for dinner?”  I’m not joking when I say that this woman would have been fired from a TGI Friday’s on her first night.  She was just that bad.  But she’s a former Northwest flight attendant, so shot got where he is because of seniority.  Sorry; rant off.

I chose the shrimp scampi, asparagus, and saffron rice.  The shrimp were quite excellent and the asparagus was cooked just right, but the rice was paste.  2 out of 3 still beats the snot out of coach food!  :)

Dinner

For desert I had a little cheese (I turned down the strawberries and bleu cheese), a hot fudge sundae, and a glass of port.  Mmmmm.

Desert

We flew way up north through the Arctic Circle, further north than I’ve ever been before.

Arctic Circle

The mid-flight snack was served about midnight.  We were served cold grilled salmon and roasted chicken, with some brie, bread sticks, salad and a piece of chocolate.  Light enough that you could go right to sleep, but filling enough to tide you over till breakfast.

Midnight Snack

For those of you Risk fans, these are the mountains of Yakutsk.

Yakutsk

I stayed up till after 2:00 am Eastern time, then laid down and crashed.  I slept right through breakfast; never had the first clue they were serving.  I woke-up as we had begun our descent.  The excellent crew brought me some orange juice in-lieu of breakfast, and the pilot made a memorably smooth landing.  Well done, Delta!  This was a great flight!!!

I had no reason to stay in Hong Kong this trip, so I took an airport “limousine” service (a 6 passenger mini-van).  The service I use is called SkyLimo on the Hong Kong side and Trans-Island Limousine Service on the mainland side (with a W logo?).  It costs $170 HK  (about $22 US), which is more expensive than the train or big bus…but it’s a VERY convenient service.  They take you through HK immigration without even getting out of the car.  Then they drive you across the border and drop you off at mainland immigration/customs.  You fill out your form, run through the line, and they have another van waiting for you on the other side and take you right to your hotel.   After such a long trip, it’s well worth the extra few bucks.

The Panglin Hotel in Shenzhen is quite comfortable, so long as you enjoy sleeping on a pile of bricks.  I could sleep on a Chinese sidewalk at rush hour, so this is no problem for me.  :)  Seriously, though, it’s very simple, but clean and comfortable, with free wired internet service.  That reminds me that I need to post about my Lenovo laptop’s “MyWifi” feature, which allows me to create my own wifi hotspot from a wired connection.  This is perfect for keeping my iPhone connected when I don’t otherwise have wifi.  More later.

My Room

They even have a little sitting area.  Too bad I don’t have anybody on these trips to sit and chat with.

Sitting Area

Well, that about covers the trip over.  The following day I visited the local botanical gardens, but that’s another post.  Good night all!

Travel Tip – Car Rental


2010
03.11

Car rentals can be expensive, but I’ve discovered an easy way to help cut your costs.  Join the company’s frequent renter club.  They all have a free membership that will almost certainly save you time and money.

So here’s the deal, and it couldn’t be easier.  If you need a car for 3-4 days, reserve the car for a week and just return it early.  The weekly rate is always cheaper per day than the daily rate.  Dollar’s fee is $15 for early return, but the fee is waived if you’re an Express member.  They prorate the weekly rate, so you end-up with a much lower rate.  I frequently make 4-day trips, so I book the car for 5 and save 40-50%.

You’ll save time, too.  Some companies have a special line at the counter, where they will have your rental agreement already printed.  Others have their members go straight to the car.  In either case, you’ll bypass the line of tourists who didn’t take the extra couple minutes to prepare.

Travel Tip – Use Official Taxis


2010
01.24

Apparently my red beard is screaming “I’m a foreigner, please rip me off” louder than usual today.

I crossed the border from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, and managed to come out a different door than I usually do.  I think they may have re-arranged a bit since my last visit.  So anyway, I’m looking for the taxi stand an don’t see any signs.  There’s a cop standing a few feet away, so I asked him where it was.  He asked where I was going, and when I told him he said “wait right here”.  My antenna immediately went up, but hey…it’s a cop, right?  So this guy comes running over and says “this way” and reaches for my bag.

I follow him around the corner, then into a parking garage to some shuttle buses.  I figure maybe the guy drives a bigger shuttle but doesn’t have a client.   Nope, we walk out the other side of the garage onto a nearly empty side street.  At this point I pull out my trusty translator and said “wait, how much?”  He asks where I’m going and types into his cell phone 250 RMB.  I hit the stratosphere.  I literally shouted at him “WHAT?!?”  I knew I was less than a mile from the hotel, and that was an outrageous number.  He was obviously shocked that I was so outraged, and asked me how much I wanted to pay.  I just took my bag back and walked away.  He ended-up following me back to the station and pointing me towards the taxi stand.  I’m not sure if he felt remorse, or was afraid I might turn him in to somebody.  In any case, I waited in line for a “real” taxi, and made it safely to my hotel for 13 RMB.  Yea, this punk (in cahoots with the cop) was trying to take me for 19x the proper rate.  What a scam.

I should never have gone with the guy in the first place, but I’m very glad I confronted him about the price before we got to his “taxi”.  Unless you really know what you’re doing, stick with government approved taxis, and be sure they use the meter.  That’s true whether you’re around the corner from your house, or around the world.

PS  On my way to the taxi stand, I stop to buy a Coke at the 7/11.  The guy rings it up at 4 RMB, just like the shelf said.  I hand him 4 RMB, he kinda rolls the change back in his hand and gestures with his other hand that I owe him more money.  I looked at him very confused, pointed to the 4 RMB on the register, pointed to his hand which he opened and I spread out the four 1 RMB coins.  Sheesh.

To The Airport, Jeeves!


2010
01.13

I’m going to do something highly unusual for me this trip; have a car pick me up and take me to the airport. I’ll be gone so long that it’s actually less expensive to have somebody drive me than is to drive myself and pay for parking. I’ve been in lots of taxis, but I’m a bit excited about having a car come pick me up at home, and waiting for me when I arrive. Plus I get the added pleasure of knowing I’m saving the company money. And I don’t have to leave my car in the parking lot to get dinged for two weeks. Win-WIn-WIN!