A Few Firsts.... But Little First Class

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Shano

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AA4345 ORD-PIT (Operated by American Eagle)
ER4
Seat 12C

This Beagle flight is the final flight for the day and it can’t come quickly enough. By now I am feeling very tired and can’t wait to get to PIT to have a shower and go to bed.

It is only a relatively short flight to PIT, 1.5 hours, but I am on the least comfortable of the 5 different aircraft types I have flown on today. I have also only had a few hours sleep since I got out of bed 4:45 this morning, this now being some 30 hours later. It will also be another 2.5 hours until I reach my motel so am starting to feel a little impatient.

I use the luggage valet service for my roll-aboard as I am boarding the ER4, which means handing the ground crew my bag as I am boarding and then waiting in the jetbridge on arrival to collect it again. This is a great service as it means you do not have to check anything larger than a wallet when flying on an ER4…..

I doze on and off during this short flight. The times I am awake I look out of the window and am amazed at how densely populated this area of the US is. Every time I look there seems to be an endless array of lights from towns and cities as far as the eye can see. This is in stark contrast from flying say MEL-BNE at night, where for the majority of the flight it is completely dark.

We land on time at PIT at the very end of D concourse, so it is a reasonable walk to the central hub to catch the train back to the main terminal. Fortunately the wait for the train is only a couple of minutes. With no checked luggage I am soon heading out of the terminal towards the taxi rank. It is 10:40pm at this stage and I wasn’t sure how long I would need to wait, but fortunately there are a couple of taxi’s waiting and no-one else queuing for one.

There was a taxi attendant there who asked me where I was going. When I gave him the address of the Comfort Inn where I would be staying, which is only a 10 minute ride from the airport, he proceeded to say “Oh… there is an additional $12 charge for drops to Oakdale”. I was a bit peeved as the fare itself should have only been $15, but now I would have to fork out for another $10 (and a tip). It seems that this is a surcharge to ensure the drivers get a reasonable fare. It would be a bit like me getting a cab from SYD and asking to be dropped off at Brighton Le Sands – would not make for a very happy camper. To cap things off the meter stops just as we are leaving the airport, so the driver has to continually power it off and back on again to get it to reset.

As we pull into the motel the meter is quickly reset and I am told “That will be $29”. I hand him a $50 note and when he asks how much change I want back I say $20 (and was tempted to say keep the $1 for getting off your cough and putting my bag in the back….but didn’t). As you can see my mood has somewhat darkened from lack of sleep and minor annoyances such as this. So, driver does not get a tip other than $1 for handling my bag, but did get a decent mile fine (or should this be time fine) because I asked to be dropped off so close to the airport.

[I should add here before everyone thinks that I really am a tight cough that I do usually tip appropriately when in the LOTFAP, but sometimes the lack of a tip is the best way to say you were not impressed with the service….. YMMV]

I get my room key, wander upstairs (again thankful that I do not have a large suitcase as there is no lift) and find my room. I quickly grab everything out of my bag and hang it up on the clothes rails (no built-ins in this room) and decide that everything is sufficiently uncrushed so that I will not need to iron anything for tomorrow. Following a very welcome shower I am then in bed, feeling pretty exhausted from the events of the previous 34 hours since my alarm went off in MEL. Hopefully I will sleep like a baby…..
 

Shano

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Well, despite the fatigue of the previous day’s travels, I had a restless night’s sleep. Part of this was the result of the lightweight construction of many commercial buildings in the US, which unfortunately includes the Oakdale Comfort Inn.

These buildings are effectively constructed with plywood walls, covered with stucco. Needless to say this type of construction does not have the sound insulating properties of either concrete or brick, so just about everything the person in room 245 did, I heard it. Not a pleasant experience really…….. This includes mundane things like walking around in the room, walking along the hallway, running the shower, to other activities that do not warrant description on a public forum such as this……. Why anyone needs to be making those sorts of noises at such an un-godly hour also remains a mystery to me…..
 
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Shano

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The battle of the bulge......

At 6:30 I am finally up and head downstairs for the complimentary breakfast. This consists of waffles, sausage, plasticised scrambled eggs, donuts, pastries and thankfully some cereal, fruit salad and toast. Every time I travel to the US I seem to put on a few pounds from over eating (pretty hard not to with the serving sizes) and eating the wrong types of food. Every time I am determined not to do the same thing next time. Every time I fail.

To highlight the eating challenges one faces in the US, at lunchtime we went to Joe’s Crab Shack, famous for, you guessed it, fried chicken…..….OK crabs. As I had eaten a hamburger the previous day I thought I owed it to my digestive system (and my rapidly hardening arteries) to try something a little more rich in fibre and a little less saturated with fat. I thought salad, of which there were two types on the menu – chicken and shrimp. Chicken sounded a little more appealing so I asked our charming waitress Natasha how the chicken is cooked….. “Breaded and Fried”…… Try again. And how about the shrimp? You guessed it, “Breaded and Fried”. I ordered a turkey wrap.

Dinner that evening was at an Italian restaurant, where the food was actually very nice. Apart form the servings being of sufficient quantity to feed an African family for a week, the only other mishap involved the tomato based sauce and my chinos…….
 

littl_flier

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You have a great writing style Shano! I love the way you can wrap some comedy into the facts and sucker us all in. :D

Thanks!!!
 

Shano

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littl_flier said:
You have a great writing style Shano! I love the way you can wrap some comedy into the facts and sucker us all in. :D

Thanks!!!
Thanks littl_flier, that engineering degree obviously paid off ;)
 

PPW

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Great TR thus far Shano - a very worthy distraction from all the things I should have been doing. Looking forward to more. :D
 

Shano

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PPW said:
Great TR thus far Shano - a very worthy distraction from all the things I should have been doing. Looking forward to more. :D
As is writing up and posting this report..... perhaps not worthy, but still a distraction.
 

Shano

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The main purpose of this trip was to attend a conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. The conference also has a hospitality program where vendors have booths advertising/promoting their products. We would have one of these booths. Due to the material that needed to be taken, the trip from Pittsburgh to Greensboro would be by car, or more accurately, SUV. We also give away a widescreen plasma TV via a free raffle, which at least ensures that every attendee visits our booth at least twice during the conference – once to drop in their entry and then again when it is drawn (winning is conditional on being present at time of drawing). Said plasma TV was also one of the items crammed into the back of the SUV – definitely would not get away with carry-on only with this baby!

We set off on Saturday morning for “The South”. I have done this trip once before by car and must admit that the prospect of an 8 hour journey did not overly excite me. The drive south to North Carolina took us along the Appalachian Mountains. When I last did this trip it was a little later in the year, when fall had started to take a grip on the vegetation. The leaves had started turning brilliant shades of red, amber and gold, making the rather arduous trip a very scenic one. I should have taken some photos (but didn’t) so have copied the following from the web to illustrate just how picturesque this area is at this time of the year.

Unfortunately, with the conference being held a little earlier this year, the drive was nowhere near as scenic.

We stopped for lunch at an Applebees somewhere in West Virginia, where my attempts to locate the healthy menu options again proved fruitless. I settled on a chicken sandwich (effectively a chicken burger for those not familiar with the septics interpretation of a sandwich) that was dripping in about a quart of mayonnaise.

We finally arrived in Greensboro about 5pm. The conference was being held at the Greensboro Sheraton, so we had rooms booked there as well. This was my first stay at a Sheraton hotel, but being in a smallish regional area I was not that optimistic that I would be experiencing anything too luxurious. Considering my previous accommodation was at the Comfort “Place of Ill Repute” Inn, then this should be a step up in class.

And so it turned out to be.

For some reason we ended up with rooms on the SPG floor, which meant a reasonable sized room with king bed, plasma TV, desk, sofa and balcony looking over the pool area. Broadband internet access was also free. Not a bad room for US$120 per night rate.
 

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sr81

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Well done with the TR and thanks for the DFW - ORD leg. I am doing that in Nov as part of my DONE4.

Healthy eating in the USA is a trial but try skipping the chains restaurants. The Carolina's have some top little eateries dotted in little po-dunk towns off the interstate that are great for green beans and southern cooking. Just don't eat grits, they are just plain weird.

You could try drinking 'lite' beer to keep the calorie intake down but the question is then posed. Tasteless weak beer or rubbish food........
 

Shano

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sr81 said:
Well done with the TR and thanks for the DFW - ORD leg. I am doing that in Nov as part of my DONE4.

Healthy eating in the USA is a trial but try skipping the chains restaurants. The Carolina's have some top little eateries dotted in little po-dunk towns off the interstate that are great for green beans and southern cooking. Just don't eat grits, they are just plain weird.

You could try drinking 'lite' beer to keep the calorie intake down but the question is then posed. Tasteless weak beer or rubbish food........
Don't mind the grits for something different.

Valid comment re the beer. The only beer I found that I liked is brewed in PA - Yeungling.

I ate at a Cracker Barrel one night on the drive back to Pittsburgh. The menu had a healthy section which consisted of low carb meals, but still came accompanied with 2 pounds of french fries and a pint of mayonnaise. People, how about a low fat menu.........
 

Shano

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Having a Hoot(er) of a Time

My colleague had a prior commitment for dinner on the Saturday night, so I was left to fend for myself. I did a round of the hotel to survey what gastronomical delights this establishment had to offer. Not feeling overly impressed with what I saw I decided to go for a walk outside. The Sheraton is on the edge of town, so walking in to downtown Greensboro would have been a bit of a hike (I didn’t have access to a car at this point). Fortunately there were a number of restaurants within walking distance.

I glanced up and down the street looking for possibilities when in the distance, shining brightly to attract customers like insects to a bug zapper, were those magical 7 letters….. H O O T E R S. So off I went, drawn by its magical spell….. well I certainly wasn’t going for the food!

Believe it or not, this would be my first ever visit to a Hooters bar/restaurant. In all of my previous visits to the US, I either did not have access too, or felt too self conscious to visit, one of these establishments where the prime attraction is nubile teenage girls in short shorts and tight T-shirts. Funnily enough there was a distinct absence of any self consciousness this time round……

I was quite surprised that there were a large number of families at this particular restaurant. I had the impression that it would be full of men leering at the waitresses (that’s why I was there after all). Perhaps it is just the natural friendliness and hospitality of the southern girls but it really was just a very happy and social atmosphere with enough sport being televised on about 20 different TV’s to at least partially distract the male clientele from the somewhat suggestively dressed waitresses. Until the fisticuffs started…….

I made my way to the bar, grabbed a seat and ordered a Newcastle brown ale (you didn’t really think I was going to drink American beer did you?) After a few more brown ales I ordered the quesadillas and chicken wings (and I wonder why the girth is increasing) which were served in less than 10 minutes.

Back to the fight. Midway through the wings the noise in the bar abates and suddenly there is a crowd of people moving to one side of the room. I was too engrossed in the movements behind the bar to really care what was happening elsewhere. Reports back from other waitresses (that had to collect drinks from right beside where I was sitting…. coincidence, honestly) was that two guys started throwing punches at each other over a waitress that they were both deluded enough to think that they had a chance with. Fortunately the fight (perhaps a slap-fest) did not last long and everything returned to normal.

As I was finishing the wings my colleague called to see where I was. As soon as I replied “Hooters”, he said he would be there in a flash. A couple more drinks after he arrived and it was time to leave so that we were in reasonable condition to set up for the conference the next morning.

Oh, and I managed to get through the meal and numerous distractions without spilling anything on my shorts!
 

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Shano said:
Don't mind the grits for something different.
Just needs lots of salt and pepper to give it something resembling flavour.
 

Shano

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NM said:
Shano said:
Don't mind the grits for something different.
Just needs lots of salt and pepper to give it something resembling flavour.
Tobasco helps too....

I was at a restuarant in SC on a previous trip and one of the side dishes was called Hush Puppies. I asked the waitress if she was going to serve me a pair of deep fried shoes.... the humour was lost on her. They turned out to be deep fried (go figure) potato balls, or potato gems as we would call them here.
 

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Shano said:
Tobasco helps too....

I was at a restuarant in SC on a previous trip and one of the side dishes was called Hush Puppies. I asked the waitress if she was going to serve me a pair of deep fried shoes.... the humour was lost on her. They turned out to be deep fried (go figure) potato balls, or potato gems as we would call them here.
Hush Puppies are good - so long as they have been well drained after coming out of the deep fryer. They are not normally made from potato, but from corn meal. Sometimes they are balls, other places roll them into a cylinder shape before frying.
 

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Hmm, I did not know that (obviously).

Very educational forum is this!
 

NM

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Shano said:
Hmm, I did not know that (obviously).

Very educational forum is this!
Eating in the South is always educational! Just look at their idea of BBQ :shock: In the NC/SC area, BBQ consists of slow cooked pork, pulled apart with a fork (also known as pulled pork) and served with a sauce resembling tomato salsa.

Note that the meal is just called "barbeque", while we refer to the outdoor cooking of steaks, snags, prawns etc as "a barbeque".
 

Keith009

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Shano said:
Valid comment re the beer. The only beer I found that I liked is brewed in PA - Yeungling.
One of my faves too. :)
The other is Sam Adams from MA - highly reccomended!
 

sr81

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NM said:
Eating in the South is always educational! Just look at their idea of BBQ :shock: In the NC/SC area, BBQ consists of slow cooked pork, pulled apart with a fork (also known as pulled pork) and served with a sauce resembling tomato salsa.

Note that the meal is just called "barbeque", while we refer to the outdoor cooking of steaks, snags, prawns etc as "a barbeque".

The pig is cooked for almost a day and falls off the bone. It really is slow cooking and the really funny part is that there is eastern and western Carolina barbeque. One uses vinegar as the base for the sauce and the other uses ketchup.

The classic costal Carolina meal for a wedding etc. is a pig pulling and clam bake. Was lucky enough to get an invite to one whilst in Charleston SC last year. Very messy eating and fingers are ok! Best work dinner ever. The fact that they put on 5 kegs of local micro brew also assisted in a very convivial evening.

As you may have noted I have a real fondness for that part of the world but sorry Shano, I found Greensbrough just as boring as you so have no tips.
 
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