Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Red Carpet Lounge, Washington Dulles Airport

(Edited from my earlier posting for coherency and pictures.)

Blogging from the road today. My boss's flight was three and a half hours before mine, so I'm stuck at the airport for a while longer, waiting for the plane home. IAD (Dulles International Airport) doesn't have wireless internet access, and I thought my head would explode if I was offline for that long, so I bought my way into the Red Carpet lounge with mileage points. It cost 7000 points, but I haven't managed to use miles as fast as they accumulate, so why not?

I'm enjoying a comfy chair, internet access, and as many complimentary crackers as I can consume. Rah. Where I'd really like to be is home with SwingDaddy and Q, but hopefully I'll be getting home on time late tonight.

It's amazing that crossing thousands of miles by air and road came be almost mundane. Once upon a time, air travel was a much more glamorous business, before the endless baggage inspections and removing-of-shoes. I had a Monday flight to Denver – then shuttle to another terminal - flight to Tampa - shuttle to the main terminal - rental car acquisition - drive to hotel. The Hampton Inn in Tampa made me think back to childhood vacations, where motel doors all faced outdoor corridors and people wandered around in flip-flops and friendly smiles.

My boss ("CelloGal") and I had meetings all day yesterday. She was pleased with the presentations I delivered, and we got to meet a lot of our good contacts face-to-face. We trekked back to the airport, and travel took a wacky turn from there.

Our flight to D.C. last night included a section of turbulence bad enough that I wondered if they plane would go down. Will the last thing I do be corporate email? Ick. After that thought, I shut down my computer, which took a half dozen tries because I couldn't move the mouse steadily through the aircraft thrashing.

We did land safely and found the shuttle for the main terminal. The IAD shuttles are unlike any I've ever seen. Instead of the usual train or monorail, they are sort of like trailers on wheeled stilts. Everyone files down the hallway into the trailer, they shut the door, and it drives off. When we looked out the window, we saw another shuttle going by, and it looked like a mismatched animal from one of those kids’ books where you flip half-pages and end up with a rhinoceros body atop zebra legs. Highly functional, but weird looking.

When we docked at the main terminal, we realized that there are doors and a driver's cabin on each end of the trailer, so that they never have to turn it around. Thank heavens, because it must have a nasty turning radius. I took a photo out the window of the shuttle today on my way back to the gate, so that you can see how this thing looks, but you'll have to wait until I figure out how to send photos from my Treo first. (Ha! I did get the picture sent to my PC. It looks much taller in real life. And what are those smokestack-like things on top?)

CelloGal and I packed ourselves into yet another shuttle, this time bound for the rental car depot. They were short of cars last night. Really short. I found my assigned car number on the directory board, and we searched the parking lot to find that they'd given us a massive pickup truck. It looked perfect for hauling firewood or maybe an I-beam or two, but not so good for taking two petite women into town. Two rounds later with the rental agents, we got into a nice ordinary car, and drove to the hotel in time for a late dinner.

The Hilton was pretty glamorous, with marble bathroom counters and a flat screen TV, but there's one thing I don't get. The little ol' Hampton had complimentary internet access and breakfast. At three times the price for a night's stay, the Hilton charged an additional $9.99 for internet access and more again for breakfast. What's up with that?

The travel imps sprang one more surprise this morning in the form of a fire alarm while I was still in my pajamas. My room was on the first floor, right next to an exit, so after I confirmed there wasn’t immediate danger, I did a super-fast change of clothes, threw my computer, wallet, and Claude* into my briefcase, and rolled out the door. As expected, it was a false alarm (perhaps courtesy of the noisy youngsters who arrived at midnight?), and I had time to go back and pack the rest of my things.

Our business meetings went well again today, and we found our way back to the airport. I've been catching up with work email in the lounge and reading SwingDaddy and Nanny K's accounts of playing with Q yesterday. So geeky - reading about my child on the web! I've eaten about as many crackers as I can stand, and I should go check on the flight. Just one more leg to go - homeward bound!

* Claude is my traveling buddy, a Beanie Baby crab who is very f-l-a-t and therefore fits well into my briefcase.


Anonymous said...

I gotta ask: Does 7000 points buy you one time use of a red carpet lounge in one location or do you get to use them for a year?

My coworker said he always stays at Residence Inns over the glam hotels because there is free internet access. I am always indignant when it's a 5 star hotel with no fridge other than the mini bar.

Fourth Breakfast

Lady M said...

7000 points gets you one-day access in that airport only. You can't even use it at the airport on the other end of your journey. It's 70,000 or $500 to join for a year. Crazy, but it you're on the road every week, it'd be worth it.