11/23/2004

Random Travel Musings

This last weekend my wife and I went back to Philadelphia for the weekend. We lived there from 1985 to 1990 and have some great friends who we haven't seen in their natural habitat since we left (they have visited us in Seattle.)

Anyway, even ten years ago the notion of taking a four day weekend trip to visit friends 2500 miles away was unlikely - insanely costly even, but now, there we were. I guess the older we get money means less and friendship means more. Disposable income is a wonderful thing...

Our flight out was delayed by three hours. Oh, not all at once, of course. First it was ninety minutes, then two and a half hours. Then we were late boarding, so it all added up to three hours. Why, you ask? Well, the contractors hired to change the engine oil the night before put THE WRONG KIND IN! So they figured this out somehow, and the wrong oil must be really, really bad, because it wasn't a "we''ll fix it later" kind of deal. No, they (US Airways) had to fly a special tech team up from Los Angeles to drain, flush and refill the engines with the right kind.

Regular readers will remember that I am an airplane guy (more design than maintenance, but you get the idea). I'm not freaked out easily, but you could have knocked me over with a feather when the pilot volunteered this story of gross incompetence. Well, technically you would have had to pry me from my jammed in seat next to the window first, then you could have knocked me over with a feather. You can bet I was paying close attention to engine noises on take off all the way up to cruising altitude. I can't imagine how badly freaked out the flyingophobic passengers were. On top of this US Ariways (trying to stave off bankruptcy) has given up providing meals (even on a five hour flight) but they will sell you a meal for $7. Oh, except they ran out halfway through the cabin. How do you do that when you had THREE EXTRA HOURS? Really...

When we got to Philly it was remarkable how 14 years can change a place. There's a new highway that makes it a snap to get to our friends house. What used to be a 40 minute wind through suburban stripmall hell is now a ten minute blast up the Blue Route. And that's now the only highway not under construction apparently.

For a rental car we ended up with a Chevy Impala, an old school full size behemoth, with typical spongy Chevy handling, underpowered gutless engine and squishy seats. Bleah. Made me long for my little Subaru WRX at home.

We didn't really do much out there - just sit and talk with our friends like we used to when we lived there. And why not? There may have been a small temptation to cram more stuff in, but why? We went there to see our friends and that's what we did. Their kids are 14 years older, and New Kids On The Block are no longer all the rage (thank you God for small mercies) but there are new challenges, like the first grandchild due in January.

Flying back wasn't a lot of fun, cramped into too little space for over six hours, but at least they didn't screw up a simple oil change this time.

All I have now is two quiet days at work then the four day Thanksgiving weekend. Yay.

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