Thursday, April 21, 2011

Hello, my friend (and 281,000 HHonors points will take you)

"Hey, good buddy" the moderately accented attendant proclaims as my feet pass through the gas station's door.

"Hello my friend, how are you this afternoon?" I ask in response.

No. This isn't the a corner gas station in my corner of Cleveland (and I must admit that there are frightfully few gas station/convenience stores of the format I became accustomed to growing up in Southern California in Cleveland), this is the gas station across the parking lot from my hotel in suburban Kansas City -- Olathe to be specific. The same place I was a little over a week ago.

Friends, relatives -- and apparently now random strangers -- know my affinity for Mountain Dew (fountain or bottle please, canned 'dew tastes funky to me) and one of the challenges of staying in hotels is that there's a 50/50 chance the hotel vending machine will stock Pepsi products. There's about a 2% possibility that the same hotel vending machine will accept one of the company credit cards. I don't mind being the guy thumping quarters into the glowing box next to the rattling ice maker, but I've pretty well depleted my change stash that way, and based on being way under my Meals & Entertainment Budget...

So when reasonably convenient, I like to source my caffeine from a place that accepts plastic. In Olathe, I can literally see the fountain of the neighboring gas station from my hotel room window. I was a frequent visitor last time, and the attendant remembered me then. This trip we've exchanged some small talk -- he lived in San Francisco for 14 years before moving to Kansas, and really likes the people here -- and adopted the mutual greeting recounted above.

That, though, is all I've really seen on this trip to Kansas; the project has been a bit bumpy because of a grand opening that's happening next week and a hardware installation that--when I arrived--wasn't near ready for the step that comes before me, let alone me. I think we've overcome those hurdles, and knock on the pressboard hotel desk, tomorrow will be a very quick day on site and I'll be able to do some more exploring in the afternoon.

My flight is scheduled for Saturday Morning (getting me back to Cleveland just in time for a Cleveland Orchestra concert), and while I'm tempted to try moving it up, based on my luck with Continental--and my overwhelming frustration with United--lately, I'm kind of afraid to touch the reservation.

While looking at the hotel reservations what is currently Trip #3 in sequence, I'm slightly disturbed to discover that I have 281,427 Hilton HHonors points sitting in my account-- not including this trip, of course -- with 25,252 of those points earned since January 1st. The pattern of the numbers catches my eyes 25 25 25... but I draw no other special significance from it. But I think it's time I take a vacation. I'm really overdue to use my passport.

I had a dream a few weeks ago in which I inexplicably wound up in a public square in Rome. Yeah. Not sure how I got there, or what I was doing there but I was in Rome. With nothing.

On one hand it didn't strike me as too odd, because my preferred method to travel is to just wind up somewhere and wander around until I trip over something interesting, or my ears or nose pull me in a particular direction.

On the other hand, it's very odd, because although Rome is somewhere on my "places I want to visit some day" list, it's never been high enough to actually get a number*, since I really feel like I should wet my toes with something English speaking first, since my French is pathetic (I don't get much better than "Excusez-moi, je ne parle pas francais, parlez-vous anglais?", though I can understand a fair amount if spoken slowly enough) and I don't even know where to begin with Italian or German.

Meanwhile, the Cleveland Orchestra is doing a residency at Lincoln Center, it seems like a good enough (if slightly narcissistic) excuse to return to New York City this summer, if I can convince myself to hunt for and then part with the cash for concert tickets and airfare -- one thing's for sure -- I wouldn't have to worry about spending money on a hotel room.

I have -almost- enough FQTV Miles with Delta to do a round-the-world ticket, literally flying around the world in one direction, stopping along the way, in Business Class, but Delta and I have a very awkward relationship and I'm not in a huge hurry to give them my business. But if Continental/United continues slipping those clouds may part.

Any votes?

* - The top three, in no particular order are London (England), Sydney (Australia), and Auckland (New Zealand), but I'm also interested in Hong Kong, India, Italy, France, Japan, The Czech Republic, and many other random destinations... it's highly unlikely that I'll wind up in any of them for work, which is how I normally wind up in a new city, but I can keep my fingers crossed.

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