Grounded in Iași

So I’m staying, reluctantly, overnight in Iași. I’m in Little Texas (www.littletexas.org), which is kind of ironic, given that my VPN’d proxy usually reports my IP as being in San Antonio.

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I’m staying here an extra night because of an undisclosed technical problem with the Austrian Arrows plane that arrived late from Vienna this afternoon, intending to scoop up passengers and return with them to Vienna.

After it arrived in Iași late, we boarded and then proceeded to sit. And sit and sit. Then, from my choice seat under the wing, just across from the engine cowl and landing gear on our Dash-8 turboprop plane, I saw some ground crew pointing and gesturing at a growing puddle on the ground and drips coming out of some kind of exhaust port on the plane. Eventually the pilot left the cockpit and came out to check it himself and touched the fluid, sniffed his finger, and returned to the cockpit.

Not too long after that, we deplaned and started making plans for the night, since that was the last flight of the day in a direction useful to me. Austrian Arrows tried to convince me to get on a bus to Bucharest (5 hour ride to catch at least two more planes? No thanks!) so that I could take a plane from there. I said “What else you got?” When he tried to offer me a stay overnight and some more Austrian flights out of Iași in the morning, I said “I’d rather fly Carpatair tomorrow at 07:30. Can you make that happen?” He swallowed and reluctantly made me a reservation for flights home to Munich and an overnight stay and dinner at Little Texas on Austrian’s Groschen.

I have never had anything but pleasant prompt service from Carpatair. I have always had complicated, delayed, stressful travel with Austrian Arrows — including sprints through the lousy Vienna Schwechat airport and luggage arriving days later than I did, which is why I didn’t bring a suitcase on this trip. I’m thinking this was Austrian’s last piece of business from me.

A Hop, Skip & Jump through NAFTA*

I’ve been collecting frequent flyer miles. I just got back today from my very first business trip back to the continent of my birth. I didn’t visit Canada at all on this trip, but since Detroit is north of Canada (check it on the map!), I consider it covered.

Guadalajara

First destination was Guadalajara, Mexico (where I picked up some swell mustaches in anticipation of Mexican Independence Day festivities). I’ve been to Puerto Vallarta many times (as faithful readers know), but this was my first trip to the capital of the state of Jalisco. I stayed at the Hotel Presidente Intercontinental, which was very nice. My company’s corporate rate there seemed very reasonable, considering the amenities, generous room, location, friendly staff, and the outstanding breakfast buffet. I can’t say “¡no!” to chilaquiles rojos o verdes and frijoles fritos for breakfast. Ever. I found my colleagues in Guadalajara to be charmingly energetic, engaging, and — above all — alarmingly young. My host took me out on my last night for dinner, and I requested a restaurante típico of the city. We tried a place he recommended for pozole, but they were closed. So, we scooted over to Las Vías for a couple of tortas cubanas y aguas frescas — my jamaica was excellent. I’m hard-pressed to find a website for Las Vías, but I’d like to throw more business their way. Our sandwiches and drinks were cheap and delicious.

Chicago

Next stop was Chicago, where Yelli graciously picked me up from the airport and showed me how Chicagolanders eat not once, but twice while I was there for two days. (It’s really good to have friends spread around the world.) I am so pleased to have caught up with her (and to have been the excuse she needed to drop her kids with their grandparents), but I would have liked to have seen them and her husband, too (particularly to see the mustache effect on their elder son). On the first night, she took me to Portillo’s to get a true Chicago diner experience. After a long second day at the office, she picked me up again and I sampled Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Note to Detroiters: it was like Pizza Papalis, but better, in terms of crust and cheese.

Detroit/Michigan

After a full work week, I landed in Detroit, where my sister scooped me up at the airport. We rendezvous’d with my parents, ate dinner with my grandparents, and headed up to the house on the lake for the remainder of the weekend. It was nice to get sort of a spontaneous visit with my family, but I really wish I’d had Sarah with me. It generally feels weird traveling without her, but even more so in places where we’ve lived or at least visited together. I got the chance to meet up with some old work colleagues, dear old Michigan friends, and recent transplants from Regensburg to the Detroit area outside of my work commitments.

Writing it up in restrospect, after arriving today (according to my Michigan-based bodily clock, but that was actually yesterday according to local time), it doesn’t seem quite so intense. Visiting three offices over a span of 10 days doesn’t sound like much now, but I can assure you — it took a lot out of me. Still, I’m so pleased everything worked out as well as it did.

P.S. — My thanks go to joolsstone over at trainsonthebrain.com for the inspiration to use tripline.net for this nifty animated mapping thing. The Indiana Jones theme plays through my head when I watch this.

* — NAFTA stands for “North American Free Trade Agreement.” It’s shorthand, for my company, for our U.S./Canadian/Mexican locations. Does anyone else call it that? I wonder if German companies are more likely to use a term like that, since they can compress all that meaning down to just two syllables this way.

It takes all kinds at the Regensburg Dult

What I love most about the Dult, our twice-per-year carnival in Regensburg, is the people watching. Sure, there are some other perks — fair food, scary rides (owing to their ricketiness, if you ask me), ponies (who doesn’t love ponies!?). Some who’ve visited with me have noted my peculiar attraction to the housewares stands (see those giant wooden spoons below?).

But the Dult brings everyone out, kind of like Cedar Point in the Midwest USA, if that means anything to you. And I get to take inventory.