Salt Lake City, 2015

This was absolutely for sure going to be the last trip to Salt Lake City for the winter project week that we do, and I was a bit bummed since I was still injured from my hiking injury. I'd done a couple of months of PT for my knee but I definitely wasn't feeling stable enough to ski on it yet. This simplified my packing, and the logistics, since I didn't need to bring my skis and I'd only be staying until Friday. No family members were going to join me either, I was there with just co-workers for my 11th trip.

Sunday January 4, 2015

My land lady was going to take advantage of my being gone for a week to have some doors replaced, so I made sure to double check that I'd removed all my over the door hooks and stuff I'd hung on door knobs and on permanent hooks. I also set the programmable thermostat to hold at 60F while I was away. It turned out that Boston got a deep freeze on the same day that my landlady and her handyperson were in working on the doors, so she was able to open up the cupboard doors where pipes were running in colder areas to try and keep them from freezing up (she'd sent out an email to all of her tenants and I was in a minor state of worry since I was still going to be away for a few days).

I got a quick response when I called for a taxi at just before 8:30am, though the cabbie sighed in a put upon manner when I asked if he would take a credit card. Sorry dude, business expense reports are much easier to do if I have credit card receipts. My flights were a bit mixed up between American and US Airways because of the merger and I was a bit delayed, spending the time reading at my gate, almost guiltily looking around to see if any co-workers were there and working on laptops. :-) I don't get to bill my travel time, so I tend to treat travel days as non work time. I had made the mistake of taking a flight that routed through Chicago, I try really really hard to avoid O'Hare in the winter, and my trepidation was justified on this trip, it was a mess there. My outbound flight moved gates, there was no crew for the plane, we kept getting delayed without any updates being announced (I was watching my text message notifications and google's flight search reloaded info), and it was finally cancelled. The rebooking gate was far from the original gate, but luckily my corporate Expedia account kicked in and rebooked me automatically, though going via Dallas instead of direct to Salt Lake. During the delay time I found a place that was selling cream of Earl Grey tea and enjoyed a cup of that, as well as some salad, some more chai, and when it started getting late enough to think about grabbing supper so I wouldn't starve on the plane, I tried to get Mexican take out. They were warning of a ten minute delay, so I went to the food court instead, not sure if that saved me any time, but it saved my stress levels.

Took an American Airlines flight south to Dallas Fort Worth after being delayed for over two hours, and ended up with a dog in a carrier in front of me. I was able to dig out an allergy pill and wasn't too miserable. Then I got delayed another 2 hours getting out of Dallas, with two more gate changes. I hit up TGI Fridays for a Tanquery and Tonic and a peach sangria to try and while away the delay with alcohol. The first location I found was busy, so I ended up taking the Skylink to another location, might as well take advantage of the delay. The flight to Salt Lake finally took off, with me surrounded by two families: a whiny kid crying behind me, but the girls in front were quiet at least.

Finally at SLC, I met up with Adam, Csaba and Matt in the taxi line, and compared stories of travel delays - I didn't get to bed until after 2am mountain time after leaving home at 8:30 eastern. I think I got my own taxi, my cabbie missed the turn for the Mariott. I had no toiletries in my room and the toilet was dirty. :-( I called down to the front desk and they sent up housekeeping with supplies (I rely on the hotel supplied lotion to not dry up and blow away in the dry winter air) and after that I finally got to take a long awaited shower.

Monday January 5, 2015

I went down for the buffet breakfast this morning at around 8am, deciding to see if I could save a few bucks since I would always get extra drinks with my a la carte order and they'd come included in the buffet. I ended up with an annoying hovering waitress swooping down on my table as soon as I'd finish with a dish or a cup. Speaking of cups, the tea cups were tiny, and it was hard to get enough caffeine to face the day. I had half an inedible pancake, there wasn't any plain yoghurt, the home fries were tasteless, and the scrambled eggs with veggies needed pepper - so not worth it. I went back to my room to clean up a bit and then grabbed my laptop and just headed to the conference rooms as they were usually open in the morning before the official project week activities would start at noon.

There were a couple of other early birds and we worked quietly as others arrived over the next couple of hours. The project introductions were interesting and I noted some to check in on over the course of the week. I got a good start on my project over the afternoon, and knocked off at 5 to hit up the gym. I did the longer of the hotel gym workouts that I had saved in my phone, then took to the streets to do a run - SLC is so flat, it was easy to go 1.5 miles, though the dryness and altitude made it a tiny bit challenging. :-) It felt almost luxurious to have all the time for my workout, no rushing to do anything else but eat (and that was delayed enough due to how much they fed us throughout the day at the meeting.

I cleaned up and decided to do the close and easy option, walking a half block over to Himalayan Kitchen for 8pm (also giving in to some nostalgia for the food I had in northern India). I had my favourite drink (mango lassi) and the chicken dal. I took it medium spicy and that was perfect, my nose wasn't so dry after I finished it. :-) Back at the hotel, I noted that the hot tub was still open, so I changed into my swim suit and headed down to the pool area. Still not a fan of the huge windows all the way around, but I was soon slipping into the hot water, joining a small family. I had a good soak and was out and up to my room by 10pm, ready to get into bed.

Tuesday January 6, 2015

We were in the official all food all the time section of the week, so I got up and ready to head down for the 7:30am breakfast start, okay, maybe arriving closer to 8am for the 8:30 start. They also had a shortage of plain yoghurt, I'd often have to ask the staff after digging through the ice bucket on the table, but at least the granola was allergy-nut free for me. We worked through the day, eating snacks and lunch there. I took part in a breakout about a redesign of a core part of the software, sounded like the group doing it had a pretty good handle on it.

For supper, I ended up joining in on a large group dinner at Bistro 222 just around the corner from the hotel. I walked over with Csaba, Adam, Matt, Christian B, Hans and 6 more. Andrey, Alireza with wife and baby, a colleague of Hans' and Brad were also there, plus maybe a few more. Luckily the restaurant was mostly empty and they were able to be very accommodating. My halibut was a bit dry, but the salad was good. I talked a bit about obstacle course races since I was trying to keep a good baseline over the winter for a June event (okay, trying to get to a good baseline after my knee injury was my main goal). I stuck with water to drink since the meal was pretty expensive on it's own and the bill splitting was going to be complicated enough without asking for alcohol on separate ones to avoid calls from finance. As usual with big groups, dinner took a while to get through. A smaller group of us split off as the others were heading back to the hotel. I hit up the Beerhive with Adam, Andrey, Csaba, Christian and Matt, getting a Tanqueray and tonic while the others sampled the beer menu. Andrey had to take off first, and I left a bit afterward, getting back to the hotel at just before 10pm.

Wednesday January 7, 2015

This ended up being a busy day, I was able to get the conference breakfast, but we broke out to talk about data formats and the meeting went long so that I missed the coffee break food. I definitely caught lunch though. :-) I hit up the gym again for a good workout, though skipped the run to give my knee a break. I got cleaned up and then went out to procure supper. I had spotted a neat store called Iconoclad and noted that it was open late, so I stopped in to browse. Oh, man, the leggings on offer were great, I ended up grabbing some fuzzy ones for winter warmth (white velvet with black Victorian-esque print outside, faux black fur inside), some slick black ones with zippers for clubbing, and a satin and velvet skirt ditto. I spotted a perfect goth top for a friend of mine at a ridiculously cheap price and grabbed it for her. After that I went back to an offshoot of my current favourite Salt Lake City restaurant, Copper Common. I sat at the bar and had a delicious lobster spaghetti dish for my main course, then a flourless chocolate torte for dessert which was drowning in caramel and had a very runny batter. I took ruthless advantage of the bartenders and first tried the Market (a NY sour variation with egg white) then had them mix me a cocktail with Zirbenz stone pine liqueur in it, and write down the recipe so I could make it at home with my underutilised bottle. The social magic of the bar happened a bit and a business woman from Colorado talked with me while her local friend was in the restroom. Back to my room around 10 again and off to bed for my early wake up time.

Thursday January 8, 2015

Last full day of the project week, so more meetings to touch base and organise the remaining work. I tried to be sensible with the food that they had on offer at least.

I'd hoped to get to the Salt Lake Title Nine store to try some active clothes on, but the transit directions were complicated enough that I didn't want to chance getting lost - ironic since the city is a fairly straight forward grid, but for some reason the NSEW set up with the origin in the center messes me up every time. I had managed to connect with a couple of local friends and organise going out for dinner with them this night.

I had time to wrap up work and be waiting in the lobby at just before 7pm for Madelyn and Paul to pick me up for the short drive over to the Blue Iguana for Mexican food. I think they were still in the thick of house renovations so I got caught up on that as well as talking about Burning Man and Convergence. I had chicken with an almond mole sauce and we shared a guacamole for the table. Somehow we all convinced each other that going out for dessert afterward was a good idea and ended up at Gourmandise for sweets. I stuffed myself with their decadent rum ball (and almost got a bit tipsy, they're so good and rich). We sat for a while at a table off to the side of the bakery cases and tried to avoid looking at all the beautiful cakes and just be contented with the sweets in front of us. We didn't stay out too late (plus the bakery closed at 10 anyway), so I was soon back in my room and getting a head start on packing for the trip home the next day.

Friday January 9, 2015

Due to the earlier than normal bed time the night before, I was up and awake early enough to fit in a workout at 6:30am. I was amused to see a guy standing in the Smith rack doing bicep curls, I thought that was just a gym urban legend. :-) I got my weight lifting workout in, cleaned up and everything packed out so that I could check out by 8am and head down to the conference rooms. We had the project summaries first thing, they went quickly and showed good progress.

I had of course checked in online for my trip home and had flight notifications set up to text me updated and noticed that my 2pm flight from SLC (we wrapped up at noon) was getting more and more delayed, to the point where it wasn't going to land in Dallas in time for me to catch my connection to Boston. I called Expedia I think and they were seeing what they could do for me and suddenly said: how fast can you get to the airport? I said I could leave right then and they said go, we'll rebook you if you can get to the American Airlines desk at the airport in time for the 1:40pm flight to Phoenix. Ironically a group of project week attendees had already sauntered out in lots of time to get onto that very same flight, so I was (at the time unknowingly) racing to catch up with them. There was a limo style taxi hanging out in front of the hotel and the price was within a reasonable range that I could expense, so I jumped in after verifying that. I was able to get to the AA desk and they rebooked me on the 1:40pm flight, then I just had to actually make it to the gate in time to board. I jogged to get in front of a group as they were approaching the security line. There was a metal detector but I got picked for special screening (they seem to somehow know when you're running late) and the screening agent was slowing things down too. Luckily I was out of gate A1 and it was close to security and I rushed up only to see Andrey and company already there. I just had time to run to the bathroom (I hadn't had time to go before dashing out of the hotel) and then got onboard my plane. I nabbed water and orange juice from the flight attendant, but with no time to get the box lunch to go at the conference and definitely no time to grab food at the airport, I needed to get lunch in Phoenix. I had an empty middle seat next to me, but had a family with five kids behind me. Thank goodness for noise cancelling headphones, I popped those on and read the in-flight magazine and my book for the short flight.

I had a fairly short layover in Phoenix, just barely time to grab some take out food and scarf it down at the gate before boarding the connecting flight to Boston. The minor bonus of all the rushing around was that I landed in Boston half an hour earlier than I would have on my original itinerary if all had gone well. I grabbed a taxi home, and as we pulled up to the toll both before the tunnel, the toll taker asked my driver to please unfold the bill from around the coins. My driver ignored her and eventually dropped the money or something - I think the toll taker caught the bills, but I heard the coins pinging on the concrete. Not cool. At least she didn't make a fuss when I used the credit card machine, but she did leave my suitcase on the street behind the trunk. I was so happy to be home, but as soon as I walked in I was struck with the lingering scent from having the interior doors re-stained while I was away. The place was also vaguely dirty from boots tromping over it as well as still disordered from having to clear everything off the hooks and away from the doors. No matter, I had a long awaited shower and fell into bed, probably around 1am by that point.


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