Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

What To See – Atlanta (ATL)


I know in my case, I tend not to spend a huge amount of time just hanging-around airports.  I get there just in time to make my flight, and run-off just as soon as the plane lands.  But there are often times some pretty interesting things to explore at the airport, if you can make some time.  I dropped my wife off at the airport recently, and then took some time to walk around.  Despite ATL being my home airport, there’s a lot I haven’t explored there.

In the South Terminal, between baggage claim and the ticket counters, there are a few cases filled with WWII aviation memorabilia.  Lots of model planes, identification cards, medals, etc.  Good stuff!

WWII Exhibit


This was an interesting pamphlet, designed to help people of all walks of life understand what they could do to help support the war effort.

What Can I Do?


This one seemed a bit odd to me.  If the planes have already made it over US soil and our radar or military warning systems didn’t notice…I don’t see how some kids on a hill top are really going to do much good.

Aircraft Warning Service


While I’ve never flown with a dog, people do it all the time.  I’d never given a moment’s thought to where they’d go potty.  Well ATL put in a small dog park after the recent addition of the rental car train.

dog park


Do you have anything interesting at your home airport?


You Meet The Nicest People


I had the day off on Monday, as did most of you, and wanted to go do something outside.  I had done some research ahead of time, but I left the hotel feeling a bit low.  For a couple weeks I had been thinking I’d hike up Wutong Mountain; it’s the tallest mountain in the Pearl River delta, at over 900m.  I thought it would make for an exhilarating hike, but was having difficulty finding any information on exactly where to start the hike.  I read lots of posts online that talked about how it was a great place to hike, etc. etc., but nothing that said how to find the trail head.  I think I found it via Google Maps, but when I talked to the concierge at the hotel yesterday morning, they thought I was crazy to be hiking up there.  They said it would take an entire day, despite the 5 hour (rt) estimates I’d been reading.  And he was careful to warn me that there are no roads up there, so I would need to remember how I got up there, so I could find my way down.  I’m not worried about my land nav skills, but I was having second thoughts about my plan.

So the other thing I’d been reading about is their botanical garden.  It’s supposed to be “the most beautiful garden in China”.  Not that I’ve been to a lot of Chinese gardens, but that seems pretty high praise considering the size of the country!  Given that I wasn’t sure how to get to Wutong, and the concierge thought it was a really bad idea, I headed off to the botanical garden.

As it turned out, I had a great time!  The map they gave me at the entrance had English in the title, and nowhere else.  And their signs were an absolute joke.  So I wandered around somewhat aimlessly, finding some cool stuff.  Then at one point I stopped to pull out my map and a young family walked by.  One of the guys said, “Come on, we’re going this way!”  I laughed and said “Oh yea?  Where are ‘we’ going”?  They said they were headed for the temple (which does exist there).  They seemed like nice enough people in the 2.4 seconds I’d “known” them, and I figured…what’s the worst that could happen by walking off into the woods with a group of people I don’t know, in a land where I don’t speak the language?  Right?  LOL

I had a great afternoon.  Jimmy and his family let me tag along behind them like a lost dog for about 3 hours.  We visited several sites in the park that I might never have found.  Good times.  Photos to come soon.

New Friends

You Tired Yet?


It’s now 11:00 at home, and I’ve been on this plane for 8 hours already, with another 8 to go.  While you’re sleeping in your own bed, I’ll be going in and out of consciousness in 7D.   Thankfully I’m in a lie-flat business class seat, so I’ll manage just fine.  It’s kind of like sleeping on a very firm couch, which is infinitely better than being propped-up in coach!  :)  Y’all rest well, and I’ll check-in tomorrow morning from the other side of the planet.

PS  Even after doing this many times, it still blows me away that I can get on a plane, watch a few movies, sleep a bit, and wake-up literally on the other side of the world (12 hours ahead).  I’m looking forward to a time when make the trip even faster, but these long-range airliners are truly modern marvels!

Delta Adds “Economy Comfort” Class Seating


Delta has announced a new Economy Comfort Class of seating for international routs.  The seats have  “up to” four inches extra leg room, and let you recline 50% further.   I’ll be curious to see how this works out.

Economy Comfort Seating

4″ is only about the width of your hand, but at least this means someone 6′ tall won’t be hitting their knees on the seat in front of them. The extra recline sounds nice, and will probably be very helpful when trying to sleep on international flights. The seat also comes with free spirits, in addition to the beer/wine that are already complimentary on international flights. This, too, will help with sleeping.  :)

They’re going to let you board early, which doesn’t seem beneficial on a long flight. For domestic flights, overhead space is at a premium, and you need to grab it early. But I’ve never had problems with overheads on international flights. There’s already more space up there,  and people tend to check their bags for such a long trip.

I’m planning a trip to Asia soon, and hope to be able to find upgraded seats on my trans-Pacific flights…but if not, these Economy Comfort seats should a step-up from cattle class.

Surefire Flashlight Awesomeness!!!


Last month some goon at the Newark airport stole my flashlight…but I’m okay with that now, because Delta reimbursed me for the cost and the replacement arrived today, and it ROCKS!!!!  My old light isn’t made anymore, so I decided on the Surefire 6PX Pro.  It’s a dual-output LED flashlight, with a 15 lumen low output and 200 lumen high output setting.  Trust me when I say that 200 lumens is blinding.  In a normally lit room, looking at it shining on the palm of my hand hurts my eyes.  If someone were to have it shine directly in their eyes, they’d be seeing spots for a while.

I think the Surefire marketing team has missed the mark, because the most amazing feature of this light isn’t even mentioned in their literature or videos.  Get this…when you first press on the tail cap, you get the low beam every time.  This is great, because the vast majority of times that you’ll use the light, you only want the low output.  And if you don’t want the high output, you don’t have to cycle the switch past the high setting every time.  To get the high output, you release the button and press it again within two seconds.   You can even do this without fully “clicking” on the light.  So you can almost instantly get the high beam by tap-tapping the button.  Then if you want the high beam to stay on,  just push till it clicks.  Or click it on to the low, then if you need to you can click it off and press again quickly to get to high beam.

The 15 lumen low beam will run for 45 hours on a pair of batteries, or you can run it at 200 lumens for 2.5 hours.  Given the very long life at low setting, I’m sure I’ll use this light a whole lot more than I used my old light.  The 123A batteries aren’t cheap, but 45 hour of run time will last me a LONG time.

So what does this have to do with travel?  It’s a safety thing.  There are lots of times that you may need additional light:  searching your bag in a poorly lit area, checking-out a rental car at night,visibility during a power outage, etc.  A good/bright flashlight can also be a very effective defensive weapon.  When traveling by air these days, you can’t carry any kind of weapons at all.  But a flashlight is still legal.  If an attacker can’t see you, they can’t effectively continue to attack you.  A super bright light will temporarily blind someone, giving you precious time to strike back, or relocate.  I carried my other light with me wherever I traveled, and it usually lived in my brief case.  The only down side of the new light is that there’s no clip on it, so I’ll have to be careful not to lose it.

The 6PX Pro is made of anodized aluminum and retails for $79.  The G2X Pro is a polymer bodied version of the same light, and costs only $65.

Surefire 6PX Pro

Torino Next Week


I’m heading off to Italy today.  There’s a trade show in Torino next week, so leaving today puts me over there on Sunday morning.  Hopefully I’ll have some time Sunday afternoon to play tourist.  My last (and only) trip to Italy was so short that the only “meal” was a sandwich at a highway rest stop.  Granted, it was the best rest stop sandwich I’ve ever had in my life…but this time I’ll be there for four full days and plan to eat well.  I’m going to do my best to eat my body weight in pizza, pasta, Italian cheese, and sausage!

Here’s a look at the flight map.  On the way over I fly ATL-AMS-TRN, with only a short layover in AMS.  On the way home I fly TRN-AMS-MSP-ATL, with a 5 hour layover in AMS.  I’m planning to leave the airport in Amsterdam and literally run around downtown.  I won’t have much time, but the airport is only a 10 minute train ride from the historic downtown area.  If I get to do nothing more than see the Anne Frank house I’ll be satisfied.  There is a direct flight from AMS-ATL, but Delta’s upgrade policy wouldn’t allow me to nail down an upgrade on the direct flight, so I booked the flight through MSP.   I’m flying direct on the way over because I couldn’t confirm an upgrade in either direction, and the shorter flight would clearly be easier if  sitting wedged in coach.  Thankfully Delta called last night to confirm the upgrade.  Woot!  The AMS-TRN flights are on Lufthansa, so I’ll be in coach, but they’re only an hour long.

Okay, off to finish packing…

to: red & blue (4,909 mi) | from: blue & green (5,580 mi)

Isn’t It Incongruous, Don’t You Think?


They say you shouldn’t drink the water in China, and I think they’re right.  Even the locals don’t drink water from the tap without boiling it.  Maybe this is why tea is so popular.  In any case, I found it rather amusing that the drinking glasses in the hotel bathroom were right next to the sign that says not to drink the water.  So what exactly is the glass for?

Thankfully the hotel provides you with a couple bottles of water every day.  In public places, there are no water fountains.  Instead they have “drinking water stations” that dispense drinkable water.  You can usually get hot water there, too.  It’s odd how many Chinese like to drink plain hot water.   Ick.

PS  Am I the only one that finds it gross for the drinking glasses to be right by the sink?  When you’re washing your hands, dirty water sometimes splashes a bit, and could easily get on the glasses.  Who wants to drink from a glass that 1) was probably only washed-out in the sink anyway, and 2) has been sitting there being indefinitely splashed  by God knows what.  Pass, thanks.  I much prefer the individually wrapped plastic cups in the cheap hotels I usually stay in.

Here's a cup, but don't drink the water.

A Couple Milestones


By the time you read this, I’ll be on my way to China.   This flight will push me over a couple of mileage thresholds.

First, I’ll surpass 400,000 miles flown on Delta, all since joining SkyMiles in 2001 when I took my first job that involved any real travel.  These are “butt in seat” miles, not bonus miles for certain fares, frequent flyer status, or credit card rewards.  I’m still a long way from being a Million Miler, though.

Second, I’ll pass the 75,000 Medallion Qualification Mile mark for the year.  These are miles that earn status on Delta.  While most of my flights earn miles at 1:1, some flights earn 1.5:1.  Including this flight, I will have flown 63,038 miles, but earned 76,678 miles.

It’s probably sad that I care about these things at all, but the reality is that your status with an airline makes a big difference in the treatment you receive.  It’s very nice to be able to call Delta, and have an English speaking person answer the phone almost immediately and say “Hello, Mr. Garrett!  How can I help you today?”

So…Happy Platinum Medallion to me!  :)

Google’s World Domination Continues


Google has acquired ITA Software, the leading search engine for flight info (routes & rates).    When you’re booking a flight, it’s all about the search.  You need to find the right routing, the right time of day, the right airline, the right number of connections, and the right price; not necessarily in that order.  I often check Expedia and Bing to get an idea of what I want to do.  Then I check with the airline directly to make sure there’s not a better option.   I don’t dare book with my primary airline without looking elsewhere, because sometime their price is just nuts.  And I don’t dare book on the 3rd party sites without looking at the carrier directly, because sometimes they don’t show me the routs I’d prefer.

I’ve been fully assimilated by The Borg Google.  In my mind, NOBODY does a better search than Google.  Those folks are AMAZING, so I’m sure they can do a bang-up job with flight searches.  I love Google’s search engine, e-mail, and calendar.  So what could they do?  I’d love to see a search that sorts flights by distance flown, not just travel time.   I have a trip to Asia coming up this week, and there are LOTS of way to get to China.  I’d like to be able to sort flights by total travel time as well as distance.  I mean, if I’m going to be away from home, I’d rather be accruing miles than sitting in a terminal.