Thursday, July 5, 2012

To Vegas and Jacksonville: Day 2

By wheels-up on Tuesday’s early morning B757 to Dulles, I was ready to don my sleep paraphernalia again and venture back to the world of slumber; all I’d enjoyed that past night was 75 minutes of shut eye at an interstate rest area. But who was I to turn down a bloody mary and United’s current slimmed-down iteration of that ubiquitous airline breakfast: the omelet? And so I decided to delay sleep for a spell, enjoying the morning’s hot-off-the-presses FT for a bit (alas, only in PDF format on my laptop) and then taking a breakfast of diminutive and rubbery omelet, accompaniments of potato and sausage, and sides of yoghurt and a small croissant.

Service was above-average in competence and pleasantness. The lead FA, whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch (an email complimenting his care might nonetheless soon be composed and dispatched to United’s outsourced low-wage henchmen in India), was a senior and very experienced service professional – emphasis on the “service.” A native of Amsterdam and fluent in German as well, “Hans” told me of often flying United’s services to AMS and FRA, including frequent runs on UA 900, the proud flight number that operates SFO-FRA with a B747. His preference now, though, is to work domestic flights from Las Vegas, his hometown. Aside from this FA’s pleasant demeanor and willingness to engage in pleasant chit-chat, a polished attention to detail was evident; for instance, the soap dispenser in the lavatory was wrapped with a starched linen handkerchief, a touch usually seen only in international premium cabins.

After touchdown at Dulles on runway 1C, I was off to the “airport spa” – or so felt my visit to the Lufthansa Senator lounge. (Airline lounges do have a way of carrying haughty names, no?) As I’d been pilot-in-command (PIC) all night, driving to Vegas from Oakland, I was yearning for a hot shower, and so this was my first order of business within the SEN confines. Not only was the shower awfully pleasant, but thanks to the curious wiring of the human brain, the scent of the Lufthansa shampoo, standardized across all worldwide lounges, brought my memory back to many fine trips to family and friends around Germany, Poland, the UK and beyond.

Lufty lounge showerhead

The spa visit continued with a long period of leisurely eating; aside from the lackluster United omelet I’d enjoyed in the earlier few hours (ok, I admit it: I’ll happily eat anything that’s served on that clairvoyant perch above the clouds), I hadn’t ingested any calories since the Bakersfield, CA midnight pit-stop for a McDonalds mayo (and chicken) burger. It was high time for extended grazing! I began with a bowl of vegetable soup and bread-roll at the downstairs “business lounge,” continuing for a second course of mini-sandwich, sausage with Dijon mustard, and fruit salad. Not wanting to appear as a buffet hog, I then strategically migrated to a different (and better stocked!) buffet, this one being upstairs in the “Senator lounge.” In this more hallowed room I feasted on another mini-sandwich, slightly better sausage in tomato sauce, salad dominated by iceberg lettuce, and bean salad. For dessert I enjoyed a small cup of pudding and a café latte.

Lovely, lovely. Walking out of the Lufthansa lounge’s bright yellow doors, I was quite genuinely refreshed. My carryon luggage was also a tad heavier upon leaving the lounge – and not because I absconded with a bath towel or a package of memory-enabler, er, shampoo. Instead, I had the prize of recent copies of the Handelsblatt, Financial Times Deutschland, and Der Spiegel, all excellent German press titles, and all vessels of brilliant German culture and language that I’ll savor over the upcoming days.

Now I was back to dim reality – regional jet flying to a second-tier U.S. airport. Dulles to Jacksonville aboard a Mesa Canadair CRJ-700 are the specifics, although they’re largely irrelevant to understand the experience. Departure was delayed by about an hour due to weather, and the flight itself was tolerable. Moments of greater satisfaction included the spotting of a picturesque coastline tenderly bisecting sea and land.

Atlantic Ocean coastline and the wing of the CR7

And finally – arrival at JAX. I was by now rather exhausted, but a second wind took hold and I motored in my jazzy, bright-red Mazda 2 rental to Bold Bean Coffee Roasters, a coffeehouse with lavish Yelp reviews. It was a fine spot, able to hold its own against national competition from San Francisco’s Mission or Chicago’s Wicker Park, and it facilitated my scratching out of some not altogether dismal writing.

Thereafter I wandered in an unsuccessful search for cheap food: it was after 10pm, and I was hungry and feeling frugal. But the three Yelp spots I investigated were all strictly drinking establishments, and I arrived at the Radisson Jacksonville, my overnight pad, with an empty stomach.

The Mazda 2, posing in the bright morning sunshine

No comments:

Post a Comment