May 23rd, 2016

travel

Quick Weekend Trip - My Last Flights with Captain Denny

Captain Denny Flanagan is a United pilot who has an amazing reputation for customer service and has been, oddly, willing to go and hang out with flyertalk types, including posting his schedule on flyertalk. I've flown with him a few times and run into him at airports (mostly LAX) a few times and had dinner with him (and a bunch of other folks) a few more times. He's retiring in a couple of weeks and I would have liked to be on his retirement flight. But that's the middle of the week and I still have, um, negative 30 something hours of vacation, so it just wasn't workable. But, looking at his schedule, I did see something eminently doable. Namely, he had a flight from LAX to DEN on Saturday afternoon and a flight from DEN to DCA on Sunday morning. There were plans for a dinner get-together in Denver, as well. So, why not?

For various complicated reasons, it made sense for me to fly from IAD to LAS on Friday night and spend the night not really getting any sleep in Vegas. I may have won a couple of hundred bucks on a slot machine somewhere in there. By the way, the flight to LAS was on a 737 and there was some weird DirecTV problem that kept them from charging for it. Which would have been fine, except that the set at my seat was not allowing me to change channels. I had a book and crossword puzzles, so it didn't really matter, but I also now know more about Home and Garden TV (or whatever it's called) than I ever wanted to. Unfortunately, I fell asleep during the part that would have told me which house in Islington the couple who were moving to London chose.

I got upgraded going from LAS to LAX, which isn't really a long enough flight for it to matter. I must have fallen fairly soundly asleep, as I have absolutely no memory of the flight between boarding and deplaning. I had a few hours to kill at LAX, during which I ran into a colleague, who was on his way to London, and we had a nice chat. (He and I worked in the same organization 20 or so years ago and, while he is semi-retired now, we are technically in the same department again.)

On board the LAX-DEN flight, I met up with three other people (a guy from San Francisco, his wife, and her sister) going for Denny's event. Captain Denny took us up to his "sky office" and we all got photos sitting in his seat on the 757 - and wearing his hat. Once we got to Denver, the four of us shared a cab downtown. The others were gung-ho about going to a marijuana dispensary, which is something I have no interest in. I went to my hotel, instead, and zoned out for an hour or so.

I was staying at the Brown Palace, which is historic and classy. (It is also Marriott branded these days, as part of their Autograph Collection.) I like staying at places with character, but let's just say it's a good thing I don't feel the need for large rooms. I also think it's a bit weird that the closet is inside the bathroom. On the plus side, the bed proved to be extraordinarily comfortable. And there was a ceiling fan. (No mosquito net, however. Whenever I am staying somewhere with a ceiling fan and a mozzie net, I feel like I'm in one of those Sydney Greenstreet movies from the 1940's. Though it occurs to me that I can't actually name a Sydney Greenstreet movie that involves ceiling fans and a mozzie net. At any rate, the Brown Palace oozes comfort, not exoticism.)

I wandered over tot he Sheraton for drinks and dinner. The Titan IPA was just OK, the chili was good (and sufficiently spicy). And the conversation was first rate, though I probably should not have replied to the question "Are you Canadian?" with "no, I'm normal." (I was talking to a guy from Edmonton and someone else joined us in the middle. Random people don't normally ask me if I'm Canadian.) As far as I could tell, everyone talked to everyone else, which is the mark of a good party.

I was, however, exhausted, so left fairly early and went to bed by 10. In the morning, I walked up to Union Station (just about a mile, and a very pleasant walk in the cool weather), where I got the new train to the airport. They claim the train takes 37 minutes, but it was actually more like 50. DEN is a good airport in terms of facilities and I enjoyed breakfast at Pour La France, followed by browsing at the store around the corner from the airport branch of the Tattered Cover (which sells all sorts of local arts stuff and offered numerous temptations that I resisted). And, of course, The Tattered Cover itself requires tremendous restraint.

The flight was fine. I stayed at the gate long enough to wish Denny well before going home, where I immediately took a nap. All in all, it was a completely ridiculous trip, but it was fun. And I think it's important to remember people's life's milestones, of which retirement is certainly one.