Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Interbike - Arrival (For Us)

(Note: I said that it's our arrival, but in reality Interbike 2008 has been on for two days - but two days outside. We are here to cover the indoor stuff so we scheduled our arrival so we'd be good for Wednesday, the first indoor day of Interbike 2008.)

After a late night packing stuff up for the trip here, the missus and I (she waited up for me) got a brief few hours of sleep before the alarm clock beckoned once again. She mumbled happy birthday to me as I got ready. Yeah, I'm older. Again.

We rushed off in the early mist, too early even for mosquitoes since none dive bombed me while we packed the car, and got to Bradley Airport in good time.

I don't think I've flown Delta in the recent past, and if I were flying from anywhere but Bradley I'd consider flying them again. The check in woman was extremely unpleasant, pretty much angry with me for asking questions of any kind. It didn't help that she'd interrupt me with a demand, so I wouldn't hear what she'd asked from me. Then she'd repeat her demand with an extra snap.

Really unpleasant.

Anyway, I'd spent some time figuring out if I could make my own frame box and thereby bypass the $150 (each way!) fee for oversized luggage. After some rough calculations and a brief frame measuring session I realized that it wouldn't work, so I packed the bike in the bike bag. Luckily the bag is less than 50 pounds complete (40 or so pounds) so I wouldn't have to pay the overweight fee too. When the check in woman told me it would be $175, I asked her to break it down. I figured, well, $150 for the oversize, so what's the $25 for?

She just glared at me.

"It's $175," she snapped.

Now, normally, if someone treats me impolitely, it's because, well, I wasn't very polite to them first, whether accidentally or on purpose. Since I wasn't trying to be impolite, I looked at the missus. She looked unusually perturbed, and not at me.

I decided that I wouldn't fly Delta if people were like this everywhere.

Ends up that flying with a bike on Delta is $175, period. The check in lady never said that though. It would have been so clear if she looked at me and said, "There is a fixed fee for a bike, it's $175 unless it's overweight. So I'll need to charge you $175. Would you like to charge your card?"

But, no, she skipped everything that didn't have numbers. "$175". I mention all this but I wouldn't test their fee schedule by having a bike bag over 50 pounds - Delta's site specifically says that a bag can be hit with multiple charges.

When we were about to leave the counter (I paid for the bike already) she asked for our boarding passes back. For once she hadn't interrupted us so we actually heard her on the first try. She took the passes, scribbled all over the first leg ones (we had a layover in NYC and she left the second leg ones alone), and handed them back to us with a glare.

After we walked away the missus joked that this was for a "cavity search" because we pissed her off. Not the tooth kind of cavity either, just to set things straight.

Lo and behold, when we went through the initial security check, the polite TSA people told us that the scribble marks meant we had been randomly selected for increased scrutiny. We thought, no, that can't be.

Then the kicker. One of the TSA guards looked at us with a bit of surprise on his face, then looked at all the people with orange painted security bins (you have to use marked bins if you've been selected for increased scrutiny).

"What's with all these people they're selecting? We're getting swamped here."

We told them to maybe check out the Delta check in lady on the far right, because she seemed to be on a roll with her red marker.

Anyway, the increased scrutiny meant that the TSA folks (all of them nice, and I'm not just saying that) made us do two extra steps. I'll subtract half a step because they also made sure no one jammed our security bins through the x-ray machine, with one TSA guard pushing back a tray belonging to a guy trying to cut us in line. (Cut us? With these guards hanging all over us and asking him to wait before he tried to cut us? Unbelievable.)

First they made you step into a box like metal detector with glass saloon doors on the other end. Someone asked me if I'd ever been in one of these things, and, not knowing exactly what it was, I told them yes. I took a step forward, stepped in the box, and started to listen intently for what had to be a super duper x-ray machine.

Suddenly machine gun like puffs of air blew in all around me, scaring the bejesus out of me (kind of like those websites that challenge you to find the blahbidity blah, and after 20 seconds of complete silence, the website turns into a guy screaming at you). I jumped, of course, because I do that, and looked back sheepishly at the missus. She, of course, was chatting and smiling with the guard and grinned at my little shock-simulation.

She got better treatment. She asked what the gizmo did, and he told her he'd tell her when she walked out. After the air blasts and about twenty or so seconds she walked out.

"Now you're in Atlanta", he quipped.

I wish travel worked that way.

Anyway, I guess it blows dust off of you and then analyzes it for stuff like explosives. Then the guards rummaged through our stuff, wiped stuff down, and analyzed what ended up on their wipes. The people were friendly and the whole thing was pretty entertaining. I actually welcomed it because it gave me time to put my shoes on without feeling pressured to either hop away to an open chair or to try and hurry up because there are people behind me trying to push me out of the way. After a nice leisurely regathering, we went to the gate.

We made the stop over, and it was a bit close - maybe 25 minutes between gate time and flight time, and we hadn't eaten breakfast yet. I grabbed a bunch of random snack things at a magazine place and we boarded our NYC to LV plane. When we were seated I saw a familiar face - Sal, who raced Bethel pretty consistently for many years. He looked very studious in his glasses, reading the paper, completely opposite from the image I have of him driving along a break in the freezing cold at Bethel.

Later, walking to the baggage claim, we saw him again. I called out his name, but he wouldn't respond. So I tapped him on his shoulder, called him Sal. The guy looked at me with a blank look on his face. A face, I should point out, that looks exactly like Sal's.

"Are you Sal?"
"Oh. Sorry."

I get folks confused but this was a doozy. I mean I would have sworn that that was Sal, and I've been racing with him for probably ten years. Whatever...

The missus got us hooked up with a shuttle to the hotel, and our driver, I swear, looked like Nick Nolte. Now, after my Sal mistake, you'd think, no, the driver probably looked like Tommy Lee Jones, but I wasn't the one that came up with the name, the missus was.

"The driver, he looks like someone famous."
"I don't remember his name. Like Gary Busey but different."
"Nick Nolte?"
"Yeah, Nick Nolte!"
"No, he doesn't look like Nick Nolte."
"But you said Nick Nolte, you came up with the name."

He was a great driver, very friendly, very energetic. At one traffic light everyone was silent, and he turned around and said, "You know, Las Vegas doesn't have a Silent Hour". Everyone burst out laughing. In one hotel's driveway he went in the Out lane because, as he pointed out, there were fewer speed bumps.

And he really did look like Nick Nolte.

So now it's in the afternoon and we're finally in our room. I have to put my bike together, see how it fared during its flight, and take it for a little spin. I also have some homework to do, errands to run, and then we'll settle in, prepare ourselves for tomorrow:

Interbike 2008, Day One

(Time published is local time, i.e. LV time)

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