Prior to arriving in Napa, we planned to bring wine home, but also to purchase a couple bottles to have during the evenings after we had dinner and returned to the hotel. As it turned out, our hotel was uniquely prepared for this purpose. They had a daily wine reception from 5 to 6 p.m., wine glasses that you could borrow and return, and three self-service fire pit areas in the back for relaxing. To our amazement, hardly anyone was using the fire pits, so it was like having our own private patio to enjoy.
We had a lot of fantastic meals in Napa at Zuzu, Carpe Diem Wine Bar, and Napkins Bar & Grill, but the last night we decided to walk to the grocery store and pick up some items for our own “happy hour” at the hotel. It was the perfect way to round out our trip: relaxing at the fire pit as the temperature cooled into the lower 60s, while staying warm with a wonderful Robledo “El Rey” Cabernet. It made the transition away from “vacation” mode even harder when we stepped off the plane in Texas the next day and were greeted with temperatures in the upper 90’s. I think that just means that we will need to make a return trip sometime in the near future, because of the weather, but mostly so we can bring home more fantastic wine.
For those of you unfamiliar with Texas, you may have heard that everything is bigger here. That includes our gas stations. Behold!
These billboards pop up every few miles when you’re driving on any major highway in Texas, up to 200 miles away from the Buc-ee’s location at which you will have to stop, because they have impeccably clean restrooms and creative advertising.
In addition to clean restrooms and gas (those two go together, no?), you can really find everything you never knew you needed in a Buc-ee’s. Beef jerky, brisket, sandwiches, fudge, beaver nuggets (similar to a seemingly endless bag of larger corn pops), and an eclectic array of home products. At the Buc-ee’s in Wharton, Texas, I found a beautiful framed piece of burlap embossed with flowers and a watering can. It was hanging above the toilet, and could have been mine for $10.95. I only regret not purchasing it because when people asked where I found it, I could have seen the look on their faces when I told them it was a gas station bathroom.
I went with the most reasonable thing I could find in this pile of beavers: the key chain.
Only recently has my business travel been almost exclusively via airplane. I still have a few local trips for which I will rent a car and hit the road, but nothing like before when the inverse was true. I once drove all the way from Houston to Amarillo (at some point can we please discuss The Big Texan?) stopping in Wichita Falls and Lubbock along the way. Thankfully, for the return trip I was able to catch a plane from one of of the airports’ seven gates, rather than make the 600 mile trek by car.
I’ve never had a problem with flying, but there was a slight learning curve when I begin to book multi-city flights, skipping across the country like a rock on a pond. Eventually, the rock sinks. Some issues are avoidable, like when you book a connecting flight, make sure you allow enough layover time. I’d rather relax in the airport for an hour than sprint off the plane and bowl people over with my carry on as I run in blind panic.
Some issues are unavoidable, like when your plane has a mechanical delay. It always makes me nervous to fly the day of a work event for this very reason, because too long of a delay could cause me to miss the entire reason for my trip in the first place. I first experienced this particular situation flying from St. Louis to Atlanta via Chicago O’Hare. I booked a 6 a.m. flight out of St. Louis in order to have plenty of time to make my connection to Atlanta, get to my hotel with a couple hours to spare, and make my event at 6 p.m. Sounds good, right?
Except, early flights mean that I barely sleep because I don’t want to oversleep. Funny how that works! I had prepared myself by having an energy drink ready for when I woke up, but I wasn’t not prepared at all for the rest of my day. After maybe three hours of sleep, arriving at the airport and lining up to board, we changed gates twice and left over an hour late. While it is a short flight from St. Louis to Chicago, when I refreshed my United app and asked the flight attendant if I could make it from C11 to F8 in time for my connection, her face said it all.
She told me that I could take the shuttle from C15 to Concourse E and re-book to the next flight. The next flight that put me in Atlanta during rush hour. Meaning I would be extremely late and/or miss my event.
When I exited the plane I made a choice that I was going to make this flight come hell or high water. With my computer bag bouncing on my shoulder and my carry-on trying to keep up, I proceeded to complete the most incredibly awkward walk/run that anyone has ever seen, gracefully tripping on my own shoes twice.
This was my first time in O’Hare since I lived in Chicago, so the nostalgia and the panic combined to fuel my adrenaline. When I ran up to my gate 13 minutes later, the gate attendant, with a look of shock, asked me how I made it so quickly. Between deep breaths, all I could say was, “I hurried.”
When I walked on the plane, every seat except mine was filled. I had the privilege of the airplane walk of shame, when you’re sweating and everyone stares at you while assuming you were just late to the airport to make the flight. What makes this boarding even worse was the business traveler next to me who watched as I attempted to throw my laptop bag under my window seat only for it to catch on the arm rest repeatedly. At this point, it wasn’t even 10 a.m.
I was exhausted, had somehow made it to Atlanta on time, and couldn’t wait to get to my hotel in the galleria area to take a quick nap prior to my evening event. After setting a thirty minute alarm, I laid down to a chorus of jackhammers that were being used to
destroy renovate the floor above me. After not having a nap, I discovered a baseball-sized bruise on the back of my leg from my laptop case slamming into it during my own personal Chicago O’Hare marathon.
Two weeks later, I had to make the same sprint, this time from C11 to E6. I shaved two minutes off my time, and left the laptop at work.