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The Trip Report for the Trip That Never Was - USA Work & Play April 2020

DaleS

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Aug 5, 2011
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When it became apparent that I would not be making my trip to the USA in April 2020 I kind of resigned myself to the fact that it wouldn't happen, worked on cancelling bookings and getting refunds where possible and knuckled down to work, dealing with all the Covid-19 processes and being here when I wasn't planning to be.
However when yesterday came around and I realised that I wasn't going to be getting on a plane and then spending 3 weeks doing what I'd been planning over the past few months, it hit home. I felt sad that I wouldn't be catching up with friends and work colleagues and disappointed that I was now going to miss out on all the things that we travellers love about travelling - airports, lounges, planes, seats, food, transits, hotels and every other thing we experience on our trips.
Sadly it is also highly unlikely that the travel experiences we have all become used to will be available to us for quite some time as the world comes to grips with all the changes and restrictions applied to travel in all countries of the world. One major thing will be whether half the Airlines we're used to travelling with will still be in existence. I'm staying positive and hopeful that I'll be able to take this trip in 2021 but I also have to be realistic in wondering if I'll get the chance again or if I do, how different will it be.

So... I'm going to create a Trip Report for this "Trip That Never Was". This report will consist of all the things I was planning to do. Following that, some things will be based on previous experiences and the rest will be totally made up. It will be fun to think up what I might have done and I encourge comments, suggestions of what I should do, places I should go and anything else that the greater Frequent Flyer community would like to contribute.
 

DaleS

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Aug 5, 2011
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USA Work & Play April 2020
This is a trip that I planned quite a while ago to take advantage of the 2 short weeks at Easter and will consist of a week of skiing in Vail Co. and then work and meetings in NYC and Las Vegas.

I left work at midday after finalising any last minute things and headed home. The last few days of packing and triple checking everything was over and it was now time to get ready to head to Coolangatta to get my flight so Sydney. A few hours later my lovely better half gave me a hug and a kiss at the VA departures drop off at OOL knowing that she has 3 weeks of quiet bliss with the house all to herself.
VA532 OOL-SYD
16.05-18.35 Seat 3A
I didn't waste any points or credits upgrading on this 1 hour leg as the rest of the trip is in J. Checkin was quick - they always ask me if I know where the lounge is which I know is good service but as I've been doing this for many years I do actually know where it is. I scored the security lane with the scanner so that's a first and then up to the lounge for a cup of tea and some of those tiny cookies. I may or may not have grabbed a selection of the various teas on display but I do need to be prepared as I'm going to a country full of tea philistines.
Easy flight and arrived on time, grabbed my bags and headed to the Rydges shuttle pickup. My flight to LAX is tomorrow on ANA via HND and as it leaves at 12:55 I didn't want to have to get up really early to fly down to SYD. A comfortable night right at the International Terminal sounded better. I booked a King Deluxe with tarmac views and it was a good room and did indeed have tarmac views. I popped up to the Cloud Nine Bar for a beer and to check the view and then went back down to the Ascot where I had a reasonable scotch fillet with fries which did the trick. Back to the room to watch a few more planes and the end of Friday night football and then I was ready to sleep and prepare for my first experience of ANA J.
 

DaleS

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Had a good sleep and woke up early as usual but also excited. Best thing was opening the curtains to see a tarmac full of planes. I'm in no rush so I check emails and news and footy scores then go down to Smithy's for breakfast but no too hungry so it's just a bowl of cereal with fruit and grab a coffee. Did minor repacking to add a change of clothes for the 2nd leg of the flight, checked out and headed into the terminal to check in. I was early and it's not too busy at this time on a Saturday so all done quickly and soon through immigration then up to the Air NZ lounge. Soon enough it's time to board and I'm really looking forward to this flight.
NH 890 SYD-HND 787-9
12.55-20:30 4K
Always a pleasure to turn left at the door. I have a window seat which in the Dreamliner means I'm cocooned in my own private space. This is the new daytime ANA flight so I'm totally looking forward to being pampered and chilling out for 9 or so hours. My amenity pack is delivered along with a hot towel and I just grab a sparkling water as I'm looking forward to sake later and I might have a few. Soon we're up and away and while I browse the in flight selection it's almost time for lunch. Of course I have chosen the Japanese selection and it doesn't disappoint as all the small plates are delicious. I'm assisted with choosing the sake which turns out to be an excellent one and refils are offered.
The rest of the flight consisted of listening to my tunes, watching a few Parks and Recreation episodes that I haven't seen and laying back and relaxing in my comfortable space. I may have nodded off a few times as I was pretty chilled and just enjoying the experience. Around 2 and a bit hours out it's dinner which once again is just fantastic and then I asked for a cheese plate and a glass of Suntory Hibiki whiskey to finish up with.
The seat belt sign came on too soon to end this fantastic 1st leg. Once we landed I said goodby to the amazing crew who bowed us off the plane and as usual at the end of the first leg of a flight I went as quickly as I could to the lounge aiming to get one of the shower stalls booked before the rest of the plane or anyone else can. All worked out fine as I only had to wait a few minutes and once I was clean and refreshed it was only and hour and a bit until we were due to board the LAX bound leg.
 

DaleS

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So why did I choose to fly the long way with ANA to LA? Silly question to anyone who loves flying but mainly because even thought I love flying across the Pacific in VA Business I'm not paying $10K + to do it. No idea why the VA fares were so expensive when I was looking to book. So I decided to try something different at a totally affordable fare. Anyway ..
I had now been up for quite some time so this leg would be about sleeping.
NH 806 HND-LAX 777
22:55-17:00 5A
I managed to snag a window seat in the small J cabin behind F and in front of the Galley. Turned out great as it was nice and private. Once we were in the air I told the wonderful crew I wouldn't be eating, asked for a Suntory - purely to assist in getting to sleep of course - and then to have my bed made up. With the matress topper and a decent pillow I managed around 5 hours of pretty comfortable sleep. Once awake there were about 4 hours to go so I watched some docos until the meal service. I chose the Japanese menu again and it was fresh and tasty with a great assortment of small plates for entree and then a main course and dessert. Didn't need any more alcohol at this stage so just had some green tea. Soon it was time to prepare for landing at LAX and we came in from the east so my window seat was excellent. I just love seeing LA all spread out below, watching the traffic and everything else going on and trying to work out where we are before we touch down. I've never landed in LA in the late afternoon on an international flight and while the madness of LAX immigration is never a pleasure it didn't take too long and soon I was walking out into the sunset looking for the Crown Plaza shuttle. Back in LA again. I actually love LA and while this time i'm only here overnight it just has that So Cal feel to it.
After the short ride to the hotel I checked in to my King Excecutive room - ING had a special offer so I took it and will give me some more points to add to my collection. After 10+ hours in a plane I looked down at the pool and decided a quick swim would help. Only one other person was there so I did a couple of laps then back up for a shower. By now I was feeling a bit peckish and in need of exercise so I headed over to S Sepulveda and walked north as planes landed over my head. There's the obvious choice of In-N-Out but having been there enough times and not being particularly impressed I decided to continue the Japanese theme by going to Kanpai Sushi. It's usually pretty hard to get in without a reservation at dinner time but as it was just me I got a seat at the small bar near the chefs and proceeded to enjoy some more great food but this time at ground level rather than 36,000 ft. 2 beers later I was full and ready to head back and hit the sack. Tomorrow's flight to Denver was mid morning so I want to get there in plenty of time in case of crowds.
 

DaleS

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Slept well but woke up early at 5:15 am. I'm not one to lie around in bed so I got up and checked the footy scores and watched some news. At 6:30 I headed down to the breakfast area but just got some yoghurt and fruit and a coffee as the rest of the selection was not that appealing. My flight is at 10:45 so I decided to aim to get to the Delta lounge about 8:30 and grab the rest of my breakfast there. Did the auto check out and headed for the lobby to wait for the shuttle and soon enough was deposited at T2. As a VA Plat I can use Sky Priority and I was flying in F so check in was very quick with only 2 people ahead of me. Security was the usual scrum once you got up the stairs but Sky Priority came through again as the line moved pretty quickly and soon I was walking up the stairs to the Sky Club. The guy at the door checked I was eligible and the directed me to the front desk where I was greeted by a friendly agent and then I was in. I went straight to the bench overlooking the tarmac and scored a chair so I was happy. As I know that service in my F seat to Denver will consist of being offered a few snacks from a basket I decided to get myself a decent breakfast so I went the full eggs, bacon, sausage with a couple of slices of toast the after that some pastries and coffee. I was now satiated so spent the rest of the time watching the planes come and go and the people in the lounge.
At the gate everyone was standing around as usual but when my section was called I was ready and was soon settled in 2A. You forget how busy these large airports are compared to ours and how many different airlines you see on the taxi but I find it fascinating and love it. The views as we headed east were as great as usual and soon the LA basin gave way to desert and then mountains and finally you reach the edge of the Rockies and the plains for as far as you can see. Landing was smooth and then the long taxi as it always is at DEN. Once we were off you follow the crowds down to the train but as DL uses the A gates it's only 1 stop.
I checked my phone as my old friend Josh was picking me up and he was waiting in the terminal so once I grabbed my bags we hooked up and then headed for the car park. I bribed Josh to pick me up with a ticket to the Nuggets-Jazz game so that's where we were headed. Once out of the airport precinct we took 70 to 25 then turned off to head to the car parks. Funny that the parking areas are obviously sponsored by Toyota and Josh has an old Camry and we ended up parking in the Camry south lot - no discount though. I had some reasonable seats on the 2nd level towards the corner so we had a good view of the court. The Nugs have been riding high in the west conference so I was keen to see them play and the Jazz are right up there so we expected a good contest and it was a full house. Even though the Jazz have a couple of Aussies I have to go for the Colorado team. It was a great game with Jokic and the crew pulling ahead in the last 2 minutes for the win which keeps the Nuggets in 2nd so a good result.
After the usual slow walk in the crowd out of the arena and into the car park we now prepare for the 2 and a bit hour drive to Vail but that means we need a feed first. As Colorado is one of the leaders of craft brewing we headed past Mile High Stadium (Go Broncos!) to Colfax Ave and soon came to Seedstock Brewery which specialises in German/Czech style beers. We sucked down some tasty pilsener but it was pretty crowded so we then crossed the road for Mexican at Los Mesones. Colorado is definitely a great place for Mexican food and we were not disappointed.
I-70 from Denver to Vail is one of the worlds great scenic drives and an amazing road through the Rocky Mountains so it's a shame we have to do it at night but it also means that on a Sunday night there's virtually no traffic. Soon we passed Georgetown and climbed up to 11,000 ft and through the Eisenhower Tunnel tunnel. Once we passed Copper Mountain there's only Vail Pass left to cross before we come down the other side. We passed West Vail where we shared a place for a couple of years and then turned off at Vail to head to Josh's place in East Vail. I'm looking forward to settling in for a week and hitting the slopes.
 

DaleS

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I can see clear blue sky through the crack in the curtain so I get up and go downstairs to make a cup of tea (thanks Virgin OOL lounge as Josh has no tea in the house) and wake up properly. Soon Josh is in the kitchen making his usual cup of brewed filter coffee. He's been doing it as long as I've known him so no change there. Josh and I met as a couple of arrivals to Vail in the early 80's. We found a share condo in the Sandstone area of Vail and then shared various other places in the 5 years I lived there. I came back home and he never left. He is also one of the best skiers you will ever meet and in winter he works tuning skis at Mill Creek Sports which is not your regular ski shop. Owned by the slightly gruff Wayne it has been serving Vail's crusty crew of local hard core skiers for many years. This is where you buy or rent a locker so you can cruise in and out in your own time, get your skis waxed and the edges sharpend while boisterously talking over the top of each other like so many Americans do. This is the place if you're serious about skiing. I'm not particularly serious about it but I definitely benefit from knowing Josh and Wayne's gererosity - a quality set of skis and bindings all setup to use for free. I just need to hire some decent boots.
I'm using today to re-orient myself with Vail, get some shopping done for supplies for the week and generally take it easy. Josh heads off to work and I check the weather and ski report on Channel 5. Sunny and 2 deg getting up to 5 or 6, no new snow but perfect conditions. I put on my Patagonia jacket that never gets worn in Byron and catch the free bus into town and walk down the steps and over (through?) the covered bridge and go down the steps to Loaded Joes for brekky. Vail is lucky to have 3 great cafes (that I know of) where you can actually get a really good coffee and Loaded Joes is my fave as it's a little place under some of Vail's ritzy boutiques where you just order at the counter and sit at a bench if you want to eat. Plus the staff are young, hip dudes and dudetts who I have nothing in common with other than they like to make good healthy food and know how to make a coffee. Usually Rage Against the Machine or Soundgarden or some new Hip Hop artist I've never heard of is playing way too loud but my breakfast burrito is delicious and all is good.
Then I head up to Troys Ski shop to get my boots and then back to Mill Creek to get them fitted to my bindings on my amazing pair of Atomic Vantage skis. Last years model and used as demos but they suit me fine.
Now that I'm all setup I walk through town checking places I remember and new ones and follow the road all the way to Lionshead where I check out the place I used to work at - still looks similar but it has a new name and a different menu now, no more DJ's Crepes & Omelttes. Then from right outside I hop on the bus back home. I take a quick walk down to City Market to get bread, milk and some other brekky supplies and pick up a 6 pack for later.
I'm now all set for the rest of the week.
 

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