ResNet 2009: The Travel

I’m gonna break up my ResNet posts into a couple different ones about various aspects of the symposium. The first will be the travel as it’s the most recent part of the experience for me.

I traveled from Rhode Island’s TF Green Airport in Warwick to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. We were given the option to fly to the St. Cloud Airport, but it wasn’t really worth the extra cost as I would have had a long layover at MSP. So I opted to take the professional shuttle service that runs from MSP to St. Cloud, Executive Express. It’s an hour and a half long drive, but I figured since it was a professional service, it’d be comfortable and I’d get to see some of Minnesota.

My flight to MSP (direct, on Northwest Airlines) was a pretty good flight. My only complaints were that NWA puts their seats really close together and the seats themselves, though the plane was newer, were extremely uncomfortable. My flight left early and arrived really early. I was lucky. I had hoped this would happen so that I could make the shuttle at 8:00pm instead of 10:00pm. Unfortunately, the luggage took forever to come out and I missed the earlier shuttle by only 3 minutes. I had some time to kill in the airport. I found my way to the shuttle, leaving the secure area, and checked in. I needed food and found the only restaurant nearby that served real meals. It was in the process of closing up, but I managed to get an order in. I had a beer and a sandwich and then headed back to wait. The annoying part of this shuttle area was that it had no wifi. I had a computer, and I was more than willing to pay to get online. It wasn’t gonna happen.

I eventually met a couple locals who were also going to St. Cloud and we were on our way. It was a newer van with very comfortable seats. I was dozing off for most of the drive (after all, 10:00pm CDT is 11:00pm EDT and I wasn’t getting to St. Cloud until almost midnight Central Time). I made it and found my way to my room.

The return trip back to RI was the “fun” one. I had schedule the shuttle to pick me up at 8:15 at the university. We waited where the earlier shuttle was picking us up. Of course, it showed up elsewhere. The driver found us and we boarded. We were then informed that we’d be dropped off at a hotel in town and another van would be bringing us to the airport. The driver seemed to be in his 80’s and drove to the hotel with his turn signal on and wipers on (it wasn’t raining). We arrived at the hotel and he transferred our luggage to a trailer behind another van (it’s important to mention these are older 15 passenger vans). He tells us to wait in the hotel, though the driver is already outside. We just hung around outside. The new driver seemed even older. He had the same issue with the turn signal only we were on the highway. There were a few moments I thought we were gonna die, but luckily, he didn’t kill us.

We arrived at the airport safely and he tells us that airlines other than Delta/NWA get off at the first stop. A bunch of us sat in the shuttle expecting to be dropped off elsewhere in the airport. Instead, the driver moves about 4 car lengths and pulls over. We’re all thinking, “thanks, but we could’ve walked the 30 feet rather than staying on this shuttle”.

The worst part about the Executive Express vans are the stickers on the windows that say “driver tips appreciated”. While I appreciate the service, it wasn’t cheap (and I had a discount) and it wasn’t comfortable (ok, the ride to the campus was, but a full 15 passenger van with people sitting with bags is not comfortable for 1.5 hours).

I enjoyed the wifi in the airport ($7.95 for 24 hours) and had some lunch while waiting for my flight (I had a couple hours to kill). I had upgraded my seat to an exit row (yes, NWA charges $20 to do them a favor and sit in the exit row) so I could have extra leg room. Unfortunately, I ended up next to a fat man who didn’t give a crap that he was invading my personal space. I generally do everything I can so my arms aren’t crossing over into the seat next to me, and I have pretty broad shoulders. This guy just didn’t care. He was gonna sit and relax and make everyone around him uncomfortable. I managed to sleep on and off for much of the flight (after all, I was up at 5:30 to someone saying “goodbye” to me who thought I was leaving at 6 and then again at 6:30 when my alarm went off, all this after a night of drinking until 1:30 and then packing until almost 3:00).

So I made it back. I decided that next time I’m going on a trip somewhere 1.5 hours from the airport, I’m renting a car, even if I have to pay for it myself. I also decided I’m gonna try to avoid NWA from now on (they’re added to my list that also includes US Airways). I do still like the Providence airport. It’s so easy.

Oh, and one last cool thing about my trip. NWA gave me the option of a “mobile” boarding pass. They sent a picture message to my phone that I scanned at security and at the gate. I thought that was pretty cool. It’s one green way to make travel a little easier (less paper is always good, especially if I don’t have to carry it). That and the fried cheese curds were the best part of my travel experience.

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