Saturday, October 5, 2013

My first true mileage & mattress run

Note: The pics are inserted in an almost haphazard way and mainly reflect the 24 hrs in Seattle

Thursday, 6:25 a.m.: I've just been dropped off at the Lubbock airport. With nothing but my small Patagonia backpack (holding a change of clothes, my rain jacket as well as my down pullover, plus reading materials, my Nook, camera, laptop, and assorted electronics)  I go to the AA counter, where I am greeted by Darlene with "How are you this morning, Mr. Heise?" Always nice to be recognized.

The view from the front
6:35 a.m.: I chat with the TSA supervisor (who used to be stationed in Germany) while my DL is checked and the TSA officer staffing the carry-on scanner greets me by name, big smile on his face.

6:55 a.m.: Boarding time is here, but nothing is happening. As it turns out, there is a problem with the fueling panel and the captain has to show the local crew how to gas up our MD-80.

7:25 .a.m.: We're supposed to be in the air, but instead I sit in my seat in 5E and watch the Kettles filing by. Our bird doesn't have an empty seat. Good for AA, and thus good for me.

7:45 a.m.: Take-off.

8:40 a.m.: We have arrived at D20 only 5 minutes behind schedule. I start my relaxed walk over to C27, with 30 minutes before boarding time.
Killing time in an Admiral's Club
9:20 a.m.: I am boarding flight AA1484 bound for Austin; this time my seat is 6E. All my upgrade requests cleared two days ago, making it 8 for 8.

10:05 a.m.: We're starting our bumpy descent in to Austin. This must be one of the shortest flights in a full-sized jets on the schedule.
Riding the Light Rail from SEATAC to downtown
11:30 a.m.: I am connected to the internet and enjoy a decent cup of coffee in the Admiral's Club. I have two drink chits for premium beverages in my chest pocket, thanks to my entering the AC as a Qantas Club member—a little known advantage over regular AC membership.

3:25 p.m.: I have just found out that my 4:45 p.m. flight to Chicago is going to be delayed by at least 15 minutes. ORD has been experiencing bad weather all day, so that's not surprising.
Chinatown and downtown
3:30 p.m.: The AAngel at the front desk looks at my itinerary and the connection times (1:20 hrs in ORD) and concerned enough to protect me with a more direct AUS-DFW-SEA flight, confirmed in First, just in case the delays start to increase. After all, tonight I am supposed to stay in the Doubletree at SEATAC as part of my mileage/mattress run.

3:50 p.m.: After a failed attempt to call the Executive Platinum Desk and AA's Customer Service via Skype because of a poor internet connection I have used my by-the-minute dumbphone to talk to somebody about ORC. That's the acronym for "original routing credit." In other words: If I end up flying the shorter route via Dallas instead of via Chicago, I will still receive the same mileage as if I had flown the detour. Better to make sure of these things beforehand and get it all written down in the record than later on having to start pleading. Did I mention that this trip has been hatched so that at the end of the year I will end up with 100,533 flown miles for 2013? That leaves little margin for error.

4:10 p.m.: I'm relaxing with a (free) Shiner Bock and enjoying Jane Monheit via iPod and Bose headphones. Let's see how the rest of the evening develops.
Looks a bit New Yorkish,doesn't it? Harry, that street's about to blow her top....

4:30 p.m.: The incoming plane has arrived, the passengers have disgorged, and maintenance is cleaning up.

5:10 p.m.: Flight AA2408, AUS-ORD, pushes back from the gate and we’re airborne a few minutes later.
Totem pole in Pioneer Park—Sabine carved one of the eyes when she was in Seattle as a Fullbrighter
5:30 p.m.: Flight attendant Diane has just finished up taking everybody’s dinner orders. My seat neighbor fidgets around in his seat while working on a PowerPoint presentation. He doesn’t want any food—just drinks.

5:50 p.m.: A hot towel appears, shortly followed by warm nuts and my G&T. Remember to wipe your hands with a hot towel before handling your nuts! (This was my favorite tagline in a FlyerTalk post a few years ago.)
That's where it starts ...
... and that's where it's sold
7:45 p.m.: A few G&Ts and adult-sized Cabs have passed, and we arrived in Chicago’s O’Hare. I haven’t been here in quite a while. It’s always bustling with life—people coming, people going, from all sides. I head straight for the Admiral’s Club, a 3-minute walk.

8:45 p.m.: Our flight to Seattle is delayed, too, because of weather, so we board about 15 minutes late. The captain emerges from the cockpit while general boarding is continuing. He asks everybody to please hurry up as a thunderstorm with heavy lightning is approaching and we may get stuck at the gate for an hour or two. The Kettles run like cattle. I read Velo and enjoy my iPod.
This gallery featured "local" artist Richard Kehl; works by Degas and Renoir were for sale, too
10:00 p.m.: We finally take off! Seems as if every plane on the ground at O’Hare was trying to get out at the same time, so the line of planes waiting for a slot was long, long, long. Within minutes we’re out of the turbulence, and we settle in for the almost 4-hour flight. I reset my watch to Pacific time. And I switch to Diet Coke and Courvoisier.

Sometime around midnight, in whatever time zone: I am watching the movie Shame, and odd opus that takes some time to digest—just like that sandwich I have been served.
No way to say no to such a bar, the Triangle Pub—especially not since it used to be a brothel
Friday, 12:25 a.m.: we land in Seattle, almost an hour behind schedule. When I double check my hotel reservation I realize that I screwed up royally, and my room in the DoubleTree where I thought I was staying tonight had been booked for yesterday. Holy shit. At least my reservation for tomorrow in the Hilton is still good. So I walk the 10 minutes from the terminal to Hilton, check in, talk to the DoubleTree folks on the phone, and will have to deal with that situation after I get up. Shit. I thought I had been perfect in my planning.

The second time I had salmon sliders (they call them "swimmers" here) in about a week's time. (And did anybody spot Mt. Rainier in the background, just to the right of the pint?)
1:10 a.m.: Lights out, and I am in my big, comfortable $50-plus-12,000-points king-sized Hilton bed. It’s been a long day that has netted 3,699 elite-qualifying miles (and 7,398 miles into my account, after my 100% bonus). The troubles we go through to assure continuing top-tier status....

9:10 a.m.: After a scrumptious breakfast in the Hilton I have walked to the DoubleTree where the front-desk manager, Matthew, takes care of my booking brain-fart. I love this can-do attitude but also realize that it may be reserved for Diamond members only, people like me. But isn't that why I went on this mileage/mattress run in the first place, to be part of that group for another year? Some people are simply a little more equal than others, at least when it involves loyalty programs.
My buddies at Pike Street Market
11:04 a.m.: I am on the Light Rail from SEATAC to downtown Seattle, $5.50 round-trip. Ahead of me is a wonderful day of floating, sightseeing, brew-pubbing, and simply enjoying. I float through art galleries and glass-blowing studios, have lunch in Chinatown, sit on the waterfront watching the ferries come and go, and am just so, so very happy to be able to do all these things. My silly leg complains only mildly about all the walking I do.

6:42 p.m.: Last call for Happy Hour at a little French bistro in Pike Street Market, with the most glorious view upon the bay and the Olympic peninsula. How can you go wrong with $3 Kronenbourg, $6 for a bowl of moules, and $8 for a half dozen super-fresh oysters? I had decide to splurge a little on this trip, and I'll most likely spend the entire $65 that I took along. OK, so you need to be Jürgen to understand Jürgen when it comes to money.
Nice cheese-oriented menu ...
8:25 p.m.: I'm having my penultimate beer of the day, an unmemorable IPA at Rock Bottom Brewing on 5th Ave., and I'm updating this ongoing entry that will go live sometime tomorrow, maybe in Chicago or on DFW, depending on weather delays. I have to say" I love this mileage run! First I thought I'd just fly somewhere, for the miles, and then fly back, but then I decided to have a little bit of fun, and I can't believe that I am futzing around Seattle for a day, just because I CAN!!!!  I'll have to do this more often, and maybe I should build in a few extra days, if possible.
Not bad for tapas

9:30 p.m.: Calling it a day at Rock Bottom. The Light Rail is only a few blocks away, but the ride will take the better part of an hour. I'll have to pick up my backpack from the Hilton and walk over to the DoubleTree, and the alarm will go off at 4:35 a.m for my 5:45 flight back to ORD. G'night, amigos. Seattle is fun!
I LOVE new beer...
Friday, 4:30 a.m.: I wake up, without the alarm clock, five minutes before my target. Switch on prepared coffee maker, quick shower, brush teeth, start coffee routine, pack up the few last items—twelve minutes later I am out of the door and hoofing it over to SEATAC airport.

5:07 a.m.: The stoopid self-check kiosk at the airport tells me to see an agent; six minutes later I get to the front of the First Class line. I’m told that they can’t issue my boarding passes since it is too close to the flight (it’s still 32 minutes from take-off). With a faux pass I start skipping through the Premium TSA line.  Have I screwed up again?
Didn't get the snow but capture the Big River
5:22 a.m.: I am at the gate. No problem. “Here are your boarding passes, Mr. Heise. Have a pleasant flight.” All that wasted sweat ….

6:24 a.m.: I reset the Breitling to CST. I have just lost two hours of my life.

8:45 a.m.: Breakfast arrives: quiche, potato wedges, yummy sausage, biscuit, coffee, fruit platter. I look outside and munch while the snow-dusted Northwest passes below me. Once we’re over Montana and then south Dakota, it looks like a winter wonderland. I regret the fact that my seat neighbor is fully asleep and I cannot take a picture. The view is mesmerizing.

10:45 a.m.: I turn off the Nook, 1:50 hr into Tess, the movie that got old Roman into a bit of trouble with the authorities after his shenanigans with the 15-year-old Nastassja were revealed many years later. What a stunning movie.
The vie toward the front
11:30 a.m.:  I’m back in O’Hare. I spend about an hour in the Admiral’s Club, trying to answer some e-mails, earning a few eMiles with some new surveys, and chatting with a friend on FB. My two premium drink-chits go to a $24 Patron/Gran Marnier margarita. Sometimes quantity beats quality.

12:55 p.m.: Boarding on time, ORD to AUS., AA 2409.

1:15 p.m.: My neighbor in 4F  just showed up—late arrival after an upgrade. A nice fellow from Argentina, math prof at UT, formerly taught at Princeton. He keeps scribbling weird math symbol on a yellow pad…
4:20 to 4:25 p.m.: Land in AUS, behind schedule, FA tells me “two gates to the right,” and next thing I know, seriously, another G&T. 

4:57 p.m.: Ms. Sullivan, the lead on AA 1560, is the worst is the worst I’ve ever heard. I could do better, even without a script. In an emergency, a) we’d be totally screwed, and b) we’d have to rescue Ms. Sullivan.

6:31 p.m.: Thunder, major thunder, in DFW. I have another 30 minutes till boarding before my last flight. I’m going live in a few minutes, after the following  short words.
Seating charts of 757 and, more or less, MD-80. On the return I was in 4E for all but one flight.
6:47 p.m.: All that said, when was the last time an AAngel (Tom) came up to you in the AC, just to say hi and then check on your flight status. With all the lightning, I may be delayed some, but that somebody from AA would recognize my face and seek me out to just say hello, wow, that's really something.

7:02 p.m.: Running off to catch a plane!

So why did I do this mileage run? Simple: to get the miles. While the rain and hail are now coming down, I feel  warm and safe.  The past three days have been new for me: Dude, it was a true mileage run—fly for flying’s sake, to get the miles and re-qualify! For those of you who have read to this point and think, wow, that guy is weird, yes, I may be. Weird in the way that I love to travel, and travel in style. If you have not experienced my way of travel, you won’t understand. If you have, go, baby, go. I still have three more booked flights to re-qualify for ExPLT (Europe, Cancun, Europe), and I am looking forward to it all. And the same goes for the “mattress” run part of it: Being top-tier with Hilton is a big deal. Really is.

With all that said, I hope that the final flight to LBB is going to be without problems (t-storms notwithstanding) and you’ll join me in Prague two weeks from now.


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