Archive for the ‘Southwest’ Category

So, Supportive Partner Woman and I just returned from a new travel spot (for us).

See… we do travel to places other than Orlando.

We headed to the Pacific Northwest Mouse Meet… primarily on the recommendation of our friend Beci, but also because of the lure of 1) never having been there, 2) Disney Legends Marty Sklar and Bob Gurr, and 3) My inner aviation geek was going to see the Boeing factory at all costs.

To make a long story short, well, mission accomplished. It looked a little dicey for awhile, though.

Let’s turn the hands of time back to last Friday. We had a mid-morning flight out of Baltimore. If you’ve never used that airport, it’s actually pretty nice. The layout is readily understood and it’s clean. It doesn’t have that peculiar airport odor that you find at Philadelphia… you know, that odd combination smell of desperation and urine. The parking is reasonable and plentiful, and there are lots of flights. Before we could leave, though, we had to get out of the house. This was made more difficult when we discovered a small ant infestation in SPW’s backpack. We finally got that cleaned up and I sprayed the hell out of the living room. The culprit was apparently a lone forgotten caramel creme that had attracted the little buggers.


Mount Rainier

Our flight to SeaTac was in two legs. First one was BWI to Denver (aka HQ of the New World Order). I actually like the Denver airport, bizarre sculpture of the demon horse aside. Sadly, we didn’t have a lot of time at DEN. We made it to the departure gate only to find they were a little behind schedule. Turns out some weather on the east coast had impacted Southwest’s flight schedule and the flight attendants scheduled for our flight to Seattle weren’t going to make it. Southwest loaded some crew on a plane from Las Vegas and they kind of got off the plane and got on ours. There was also a special needs person that took awhile to get seated. No worries, it happens. Found the only pair of two seats on a Southwest aircraft, and even got to see some beautiful scenery, namely Mount Rainier. It’s a beautiful sight to see poking up above the clouds as you whiz by at 500 mph and 32,000 feet.

For being our first time at SeaTac and not being familiar with their car rental system, I think we did OK. They have a consolidated off-terminal system, so we grabbed the shuttle, picked a car, and off we went. We knew things were tight, time-wise, but Siri said we’d just make it to Everett in time for the Boeing tour. What a liar Siri turned out to be. See, what I didn’t know was that after 2:00 PM, the I-5 around Seattle turns into a large parking lot.

I was, of course, freaking out… I mean, my aviation geek fantasy was evaporating in a cloud of slow-moving vehicles.

Thankfully, SPW (mistress of the telephone!) was along. She called the Boeing tour center, talked to some fine folks there and was able to get our tour rescheduled.

Crisis averted.

Got to our hotel in Lynnwood, which was an Embassy Suites currently under construction. No matter… they still have a yummy breakfast included. Met up with some friends, met some new friends. Observed the opening night Disney trivia contest, only to find that this is a primarily Disneyland meet. No matter… an Imagineer is still an Imagineer, no matter the coast. Also met Don, the meet organizer. Went for a late-night forage, and off to bed, as the time change caught up with us.

Saturday was the meet day. We hopped in the rental car and headed to the nearby Lynnwood Convention Center. It’s a nice little venue, next to a strip mall… go figure, but nice regardless. There was the usual round of get-to-know-you bingo and some welcome remarks by Don, who introduced Stacia Martin, a Disney artist and historian. Ms. Martin gave an interesting presentation of her work and her role in the company. Afterward there was some time to look at the various exhibitors and see what they had to offer. I might add that before the speakers started, both SPW (possessor of the Magic Geek Vest!) and I managed to get autographs from Messrs. Gurr and Sklar, as well as Ms. Martin.

I should explain that this was R.H. “Bob” Gurr, the man who pretty much designed every ride vehicle at Disneyland, and Marty Sklar, former head of Walt Disney Imagineering. I was fanboying like nobody’s business. I had brought along my copy of Mr. Sklar’s book to have him sign, and SPW had all three guests sign the Geek Vest. There was some great art available, as well as some authors who have written books on Disney history. One author, David Lesjak, had two books, one on the role of Disney Studios during WWII, and one on Walt Disney’s service in WWI as an ambulance driver. I look forward to reading both. Mr. Lesjak was able to sign both of my books, which is always cool.

Bob Gurr, Don Morin, and Marty Sklar

Bob Gurr, Don Morin, and Marty Sklar

Sunday, there was a Q&A session with Bob Gurr and Marty Sklar. It doesn’t take long to realize the level of mutual respect between these two men, as they joked back and forth and reflected on their long careers working alongside of Walt Disney himself, as well as after Disney’s passing. The time for this session went way too quickly, that’s for sure.

After the session was done, SPW (Most patient wife EVER!) and I headed north to Everett for our tour of the Boeing factory. A few facts about the factory… the assembly building has a footprint of 98 acres. There are six assembly bays. Each bay’s doors measure the length of an American football field (100 yards or 91.4 meters), and the newest additions actually measure 120 yards. It’s hard to get a sense of scale until you are on ground level and realize just how massive the building really is. In this building, Boeing assembles 747s, 767s, 777s, and 787s. The smaller 737 series is built in Renton, south of Seattle. Guinness has certified this as being the largest building in the world by volume, enclosing over 472,000,000 cubic feet (13,385,378 cubic meters). The building itself in around 0.25 to 0.30 miles wide. The tour starts in a theater where a short film on Boeing’s relationship with the community is talked about. You board a bus and are taken across the field to the assembly building. We were very fortunate to have great weather that day and began our tour with a visit to the 747 production area. There were two planes currently being worked on… a 747-8 freighter and a 747-8 Intercontinental passenger liner. Back on the bus to go to the other end of the factory, because that’s the fastest way to get there. This end saw us on a balcony overlooking the 777 and 787 lines. One thing we did notice was that on each assembly bay, there are representations of the tail art of all airlines they have built that particular aircraft for. The 787 that was closest to completion was the first one being built for Uzbekistan Airlines. Very cool.


Boeing factory

Remember earlier when I was talking about size and how it’s hard to get a handle on the actual scale of the aircraft? While we were not allowed to take photos on the tour, we were close to a GE90-115 engine that was going to be attached to a 777. This engine was as tall as the tour bus. The engine itself is as wide as a 737 fuselage. That kind of puts things in perspective.

There’s a lot more to the trip, but I will save that for the very near future.

Continuing with the Disney eating marathon, I had some food porn I was hoping to share and talk about some other high points of our trip.

Our flight to Orlando was scheduled for a 6:15 departure from Baltimore, or, as we call it, the asscrack of dawn. We left the house around 3:15 AM and headed south. Many of you might remember the issues that I had with Southwest Airlines trying to book the flight in the first place. This was that trip. We all queued up in the cattle chute and prepared to board. Supportive Partner Woman and I had coveted “A” boarding slots and we managed to snag two seats about three rows back. SPW (bestest wife ever!) took the middle seat and I had the aisle. It was cramped, but in the good news department, I did not require a seat belt extender. Yay me.

The flight took off on time and I had loaded Killer Elite on the iPad for in-flight entertainment. I spent about an hour watching that and noticed a lot of activity, namely a flight attendant racing down the aisle with the AED, followed by a general call for trained medical personnel. Soon after, the captain came on board to say we were diverting to Charleston for a medical emergency. He must’ve had the 737 firewalled to get us in to Charleston as quickly as he did. The passenger was conscious when he was removed from the plane, and after refueling, we continued to Orlando, arriving around 45 minutes late. Whatever issues I might have had with Southwest, the flight crew really exhibited professionalism and handled the medical crisis like it happened every day.

We split up at that point… SPW went to claim the luggage, I went to pick up the car. I had booked a midsize and in Alamo’s midsize row were 14 minivans. And a Dodge Avenger. Sigh. I got in and headed back to the terminal to pick up SPW only to find that she had claimed the bags and thought she could catch up with me. Turns out she went below baggage claim and I had no way to get to her as that’s only open for buses. I sent her back to the baggage claim and I circled the airport again. Turns out the escalator she went up on took her to the ticketing level, which necessitated another trip around the terminal. Quite the comedy of errors.

Earl of Sandwich tomato soup with Earl’s Club and the Original 1762.

Anyway, we headed off to Disney’s BoardWalk Villas for the night. For those who are not familiar with the BoardWalk, it’s a really nice hotel, quite centrally located and within walking distance of Epcot. That alone makes it a favorite. This time, though, we were determined to spend a day outside of a park, so we got ourselves checked in and over to our room where was chilled for a while, then headed to Downtown Disney to grab some lunch. The weather was quite muggy, which made things a little sweaty, but we made our way to the Earl of Sandwich for lunch. This is one of our favorite spots… the food is tasty and reasonably priced and they offer AAA discounts which are actually better than the Disney Cast Member discount. Our normal MO is to buy two different sandwiches and split them… this time, we opted for the original, which consists of finely shaved hot roast beef with cheddar and horseradish and the Earl’s Club, which consists of roast turkey, applewood smoked bacon and swiss cheese, with lettuce and Roma tomato. We each added a drink and a cup of tomato soup and the total bill wound up being under $20. Best value on property. We shopped a bit, then took a pontoon boat out on the lake.

If you are opting to rent a boat, the best bet is to rent it from one of the Magic Kingdom resorts. That way you have over 400 acres of water to explore. It was a beautiful day to be out with a nice breeze and very little lake traffic.

Following that, we went back to the room to change before meeting some friends for dinner at Raglan Road. We haven’t seen these folks in many months, but it was great to catch up and enjoy a lovely meal. I opted for Raglan risotto with grilled chicken. The portion size was very nice and the food was flavorful, but not outstanding.

That concludes the food post today. More tomorrow when we talk about LeCellier!


Good morning!

First of all, an update on the Southwest saga. I spoke with someone in their customer relations department and they were very helpful and listened to what I had to say. There was no talk of compensation, I wasn’t looking for money, just an explanation. The woman I spoke to, Lauren, was very candid and described that they had the entire IT team in trying to nail down the issue and to make sure it didn’t happen again. I’m proud of myself for not letting Captain Furious out… the lady was just doing her job and it wasn’t her fault that things got jacked up. Anyway, to make a potentially long story shorter, I received an email later in the day yesterday apologizing for the screw up and that they would be sending me a travel voucher in hopes that I would consider flying with them again. Voucher arrived today and I’m looking at the return leg from Reunion in December.

So, on to more serious business.

SPW (Wearer of very blue Nikes!) and I went to Hempfield Rec yesterday and I got on the treadmill. Instead of setting a time, I just started walking, figured I would go as long as I felt like it. Not counting the warm up and cool down cycles, I kept the speed between 2.7 and 3.2 mph (a good, brisk walk) and stopped around 42 minutes, just because I knew I had to get home, shower up and go to work. This means I’m over half way to my 70 minute goal. I actually felt pretty good afterward… legs and feet weren’t barking too much and what really has shown up is that my heart rate averaged 114. When I first got started on this program, the heart rate would register well over 130 for ten minutes. I’d say that’s a nice improvement in my cardiovascular health.

The downside has been that while it hasn’t been a bad food stretch for me, it’s not been a great one. There’s been some bread being consumed… probably not the best thing for me. I need to refocus on that part of things. See, I had made one of those Pillsbury French loaves for the dinner I had on Saturday, and there were a few leftover pieces. I didn’t want them to go to waste and, well, that stuff is like legal crack, so I eated them.Speaking of mom dinner, both she and my sister enjoyed the food. I got a really lovely piece of sockeye (on sale… boo-yah!) and corn from the Corn Wagon, and threw together a simple, yet healthy dinner that turned out to be really tasty. I even put out shrimp for an appetizer. Of course, there are leftovers, including a giant bowl of salad, so I’m set for dinners this week. Sunday, SPW (Apple tech junkie!) and I went out for dinner. We were in the Downingtown area and found a new location for PJ Whelihan’s Pub. We’ve been to other Whelihan’s locations over the years and I was really in the mood for a burger. I was proud of myself… I ordered the chili as an appetizer and then had a bison burger. Bison is a better choice than standard beef… lower in fat and almost twice the protein. Whatever the nutritional impact, it was pretty dang tasty.

Headed to a rare afternoon session with Ryan today. It’s the only time he had an opening for, so I will have to take some clothes and shower up there in order to make it to work close to on time. I’m going to refocus on kicking my own arse. I let it slide in the food department for a couple of days and it’s not going to slide any more. It can’t.

I’ll keep you posted.

So, when we last spoke, we were talking about me fitting in t-shirts I haven’t worn for a while. That’s old news. Well, it’s still news, but not the newest news. You get the picture.


I decided to take advantage of the Southwest sale on Friday. I could get the flights to/from Orlando for $150 less than what I would’ve had to pay and I even got to add an extra day to the vacation. Apparently everyone had the same thought, because things were FUBAR from the get go. I got a confirmation. Then ANOTHER confirmation. And ANOTHER. Oh, and one more for good measure. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s four confirmations. All with different ticket numbers, for the same flights on the same days. For the same people.

I waited another hour after this.

I called their toll-free number and it was busy. I retried 12 times before it rang. After making my selections, a pleasant recorded voice told me that my call would be answered in the order received and that my estimated hold time would be between 42 minutes and 1 hour and five minutes. I wasn’t thrilled, but I figured I could use the hands free and get some things done while waiting. Now, Southwest does not have hold music. They have a series of amusing vignettes starring real ramp workers and customer service reps talking about the policies and services they offer. I should rephrase. They cease to be amusing and become annoying after about the sixth repetition. I mean, I KNOW you can’t take a #$%^#$ giraffe on a commercial airliner! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that out.

After about two and a half hours, I decided to go to bed… besides, if they would’ve answered, I might have erupted. As it was, I tried again in the morning and was told my wait time would be between 23 and 42 minutes. 90 minutes later, I packed it in.

So, I finally got through to a real live person around 11:30 PM last night. Becky was very helpful and apologetic, had the extra flights cancelled and everything good in around 10 minutes. I was still annoyed, but relieved that things were set. I added an additional night’s DVC lodging and was ready to go. Went to bed, and, well, when I woke up and checked my email, there was ANOTHER email from Southwest stating that my remaining reservation was cancelled. WTF? I went and called, and was told everyone was busy, but they would call me back, which they did. Again, Cindy was helpful, but I couldn’t get a reason as to why this reservation had been cancelled, other than “confusion” and “a glitch”.

Now, maybe I’m old-fashioned, but this isn’t “LUV”. I’m not looking for anything but a specific explanation. It doesn’t help to go off on the phone rep… it’s not their job to listen to that, but I am still not happy. Grand total of over four hours on the phone… they could’ve updated the hold message saying that they had a systems problem and they are working to correct it instead of the stupid “You can’t bring a giraffe on the plane” bit.

Suffice it to say, I miss AirTran. Never had an issue with them and the one time they cancelled a flight on us, well, I called and asked about it and without being prompted, they issued travel certificates for our next trip as a way of apologizing for my inconvenience. I’m going to think long and hard before I decide to travel via Southwest again. I know people love them, and maybe I just got the perfect shitstorm of issues, but it is what it is. I’m an unhappy customer and I’m not finding it easy to contact someone who can give me the answer I’m looking for.

Granted, if they tell me I’m too fat to fly, well, then all bets are off.


Hope you all had a nice weekend. I’ll be back later with the tale of the family dinner.