I'm going to San Antonio for work next month. Anybody have any recommendations for things to do and places to eat? I land around 3:30 on Monday, July 16, and am free until early morning on Tuesday.

$3.75 for a margarita, and I'm totally tipsy.

By the time I got off the (prop) plane, got my car, and got to the hotel, I was tired, hungry, and had a headache. Even figuring out how to go the mile and a half to Crane Alley seemed like too much work, so opted to walk the half block down to Dos Reales, a Mexican restaurant that had also been recommended to me. For $7 I got an absolutely enormous plate of food - 3 steak tacos, beans and rice. I ate about half, and that was still too much.

Now I'm back in my room, waiting for the tipsy to wear off so I can potentially get something done, like entering those receipts or Penguicon registrations. Or maybe I'll just go to bed early.
Garrett's popcorn not nearly so good the next day. Didn't stop me from finishing the bag, though.

I had a quick day trip to Chicago yesterday. Flew in in the morning, took the train downtown, met with coworkers for lunch at the Park Grill, then went to a three hour meeting in the Aon Center, in a conference room with a gorgeous view of Millenium Park below. Got to see the "bean" from above, which was actually really cool, because you can see the skyscrapers reflected in it. Stopped at Garret's for some popcorn on the way back to train, then back to the airport. Asked an airport security guard where to find a Gold Coast in the airport, and had a Char Dog for dinner (mustard, tomato, pickles, celery salt). Flew back to Detroit, then drove home.

Total elapsed time: 15 hours. (Left my home ~7:30, arrived home ~10:30)
So, while I was in Florida last week, I went to visit this really cool place called the Fruit and Spice Park. It's a 35 acre park with 500 varieties of fruits, herbs, spices and nuts from all over the world. They have a tasting counter in the store where you can taste most of what's ripe that day, and if you take a tour, the guide will pick fruits right from the trees for you to try. (If you're on your own, you can eat anything that's fallen to the ground, but you can't pick anything.)

Anyway, it was a lot of fun, and I'm hoping to go back sometime when we're in Florida visiting Eric's dad - what's in season is constantly changing, so if you go back at a different time of year there will be totally new things to try. I've uploaded pictures and descriptions to a web album, if you want to experience the virtual tour. Here's a sneak peek:

I was sure I was going to get pegged for secondary security screening, since my (very full) suitcase contains about 10 lbs of a fruit... and a hard hat. But security didn't bat an eye. We didn't actually get to go into the power plant today, but they had hats and goggles and ear plugs for us just in case, and they let us take them home if we wanted. Will be a very good giftie for Liam!

We did, however, get to play in the control room simulator. They have an exact duplicate of the reactor control room that they use for training and testing, and we got to push buttons and see what happens and try to figure out how to fix it. The usual answer is - do nothing at all. In a catastrophic failure, it's better to let the automatic systems handle things - humans only mess things up. If the operator in Three Mile Island hadn't touched any buttons, we wouldn't even know the name of that plant today.

Another very interesting visit, and a really interesting program. Some good quotes from the students, although nothing quite so heartrending as at the meatpacking house.

This is the last trip I have on my schedule until February, although it's likely that I'll have a visit to either Georgia or Chicago (Joliet, actually) in January for another site visit. It will be nice to have a long stretch of time home! I've had a lot of fun out here on the road, but I'm ready to be done now.

Well, they're boarding my flight now. See you on the otherside!
Well, Florida City, really, not Miami at all.

My afternoon was very fun. I went to the Fruit and Spice Park, got a tour, took lots of pictures and tasted some really weird fruits. Then I went and tasted some wines made from tropical fruit - not very good, and certainly not worth the money they were asking for them. But it was an amusing diversion. Then Robert is Here - a fruit stand I'd read about in a recent copy of the Art of Eating. I picked up a bunch of unusual tropical fruits that I'll be cracking open for a little tasting thing on Thursday - I probably have a few slots left if there are any Ann Arbor locals who'd like to taste some unsual and not so unusual fruits.

Dennis is being a real sweetie and driving down to Florida City to meet me for dinner, instead of me driving up to Miami. I think we're going for seafood, at a place that used to be called Key's Seafood House, and is now apparently called "Captain's." Either that or El Toro Taco in Homestead, which people have said good things about. We'll see what we feel like when he arrives.


Dec. 5th, 2006 02:03 pm
Got into Miami and got my rental car just fine, but then things got wonky. The car is HUGE, which I don't like at all. I got lost getting to the highway. Once I got on the highway, the map I was using and the names of the roads on the road signs did not jive at all, so I ended up missing the exit that would have gotten me to the Fruit and Spice Park in time for the 1:30 tour. So I proceeded on to Florida City, and arrived at my hotel. Where my room is a smoking room. (No, nothing else available - I should have realized this when my travel agent told me they only had one room left.) Grrr. It's not too bad, thankfully. I've figured out where I'm going, and have lots of time to get there for the 3 pm tour. And I called Robert is Here, and they're open til 7, so I'll have time to go there after the tour. I'm supposed to drive back up to Miami tonight to meet Dennis Tabaczewski for dinner in Coral Gables. But I got so freaked out on the highway driving here, that I really don't want to go back tonight. I'm really not excited about that drive in the dark. I'll have to see how I feel later - maybe there's someplace in the middle we can meet...

It's warm here. In fact, it's kind of unpleasantly warm - humid and overcast. Better than snow, but only a ltitle bit.


Dec. 1st, 2006 12:26 am
I'm home, safe and sound and on time. I don't know if my flight to Denver was a little late getting in our if it was just THAT tight of a connection, but I had to really haul ass to make my transfer. I landed at gate 71 and left out of gate 17, with about 25 minutes to make the trip. Except they close the doors 10 minutes before flight time, so it was really 15 minutes. Oh, and then one of the sections of moving sidewalk was not working, so that added a few minutes. Maybe it was ill advised to stop for a pee and a sandwich while I was running across the terminal, but I really needed to get food - there wasn't going to be anything but pretzels on the flight, and nothing open on the other end either. Driving home with completely crashed blood sugar would not have been a pretty thing. It was bad enough being tired and driving in the rain. And I made the flight, so all's well that ends well.

I'm getting good at doing this little half doze kinda restful thing on the plane. I can't call it sleep, because it isn't really, but it's better than awake. Now I'm going to get some of the good stuff.
Well, done with the meeting parts, anyway. I'm sitting in the airport, waiting for my plane to take off. Hoping weather won't delay us getting into Detroit - Denver looks okay.

It was an interesting visit. Quite different from the others that I've been too, so hard to figure out how it fits into what we're trying to do. But definitely some interesting things coming out of it, and maybe even some future sales opportunities to explore.

But, man, long long days. Spent with someone who really loves the sound of his own voice. Now, he's interesting and passionate and has a lot of great stories to tell, but two days of it did get a bit rough. But he was willing to go looking for the car wash that's supposed to serve the best chile relleno in El Paso with me, so you've got to give him credit for that![1] In turn, I had to go check out his church and the math and science magnet school he's built there.

And of course, always having to be "on." No more senior colleague to hide behind - all me, all the time. Stressful, but always a good reminder that I know more than I think I do and am capable of more than I think I am.

[1]I hadn't ever had chile relleno before, so I can't tell you if they were the best, but they were really good. As were the corn tortillas - they weren't even handmade, but they were still the best I've ever had. Tasted like good fresh sweet corn.
I got up at 5:30-ish, and left my house at about 6:15. I finally got to my hotel last night at 10 pm local time, which was midnight body time. Ugh.

In between, I flew to Denver, where it was 14 degrees and snowing. My flight into El Paso was delayed so they could de-ice the little plane we were flying on, and I landed about an hour later than scheduled. Then I spent they day meeting with people and facilitating group discussions, trying to both listen and take notes. My last meeting finished up around 7:30, and then I went out for dinner with my contact at the community college. Got lost getting to my hotel, but did finally make it. For some reason, they ended up putting me into a suite (maybe all they had left given my late arrival?) but there was no net access in my room. Probably for the best, as I could just fall into bed and not get sucked into the Internet. Sadly, thanks to my internal body clock, I was awake by 5. :-(

When I arrived in El Paso yesterday, it was sunny and about 60 degrees, and very windy. But I'd looked ahead on the weather report and knew there was a cold front coming through, so I packed accordingly. I could probably make good money today if I were willing to sell my winter coat - I've already had a couple of people make envious comments and offer to take care of it for me...

Today's schedule is shaping up to be nearly as miserable. We are ending up only visiting one employer this morning, so theoretically I could be done by around 11 or noon. My flight isn't scheduled to leave until 4 pm, and as far as I can tell there's not another one I can take to get home any earlier (although I am about to call my travel agent and see if she has any magic for me). I'm scheduled to land in Detroit at 11:35 pm, but with changing planes in Denver again and cold weather sweeping across the nation, I'm worried about delays.
The colleague who was supposed to be coming with me on my El Paso trip has spent the last 18 hours or so vomiting, so won't be joining me on the trip. Which will definitely make it a) less fun and b) more difficult. It's hard to both facilitate a discussion and take the notes. I'm going to email my contact in El Paso and hope that he can find someone to take supplemental notes, and otherwise I'll just play it by ear.

I'm at the airport in Detroit, waiting to board my plane.
Just checked out the weather report for El Paso, TX. It's going to be warmer in Michigan the next two days than it is in that part of Texas. That's just seems wrong. But it does make packing easier.
I have an afternoon and evening to kill in Miami in December. I had been thinking I'd go to my hotel and work in the afternoon and just go out for dinner, but my hotel is about 45 minutes south in Homestead and I'm guessing there's no (good) food there. Plus I need to try to coordinate travel plans with another person flying in for the site visit. So it seems like taking the afternoon off and touristing would be easiest.

So, LJ group mind - what should I do? I'm leaning towards Miami Beach. Walk around and check out the Art Deco architecture, visit the Wolfsonian. I'm hoping to find some eGullet people to meet up with for dinner. But I'm totally open to other ideas.
The flight was long, but not too painfully so. [livejournal.com profile] hazelchaz and [livejournal.com profile] library_lynn quickly scooped me up on my landing and took me of to Cozymel's for dinner. I was starving and thus ate WAAAAY too many chips and salsa, so was quite full by the time my really tasty roasted pork entree arrived. I ate what I could and brought the rest back to the room. No fridge here, though, so I guess I should rig up some sort of ice thing to keep them cold so that I can eat them for breakfast. If I'm hungry by then.

After dinner they dropped me off at my hotel in Norwalk (although not without threatening to stop at a grocery store to pick up Moon Pies, inspired by my request for ideas for the Consuite at Moonbase ConFusion). I signed up for a Boingo wireless subscription in lieu of the in-room wireless - this way I'll be able to get online at LAX tomorrow and all the other airports I pass through in the next month, for only twice the cost of what one ngiht of room wireless would cost me. I expect I can even expense it, if I want to bother.

My coworker Mary will be arriving later tonight and picking up a car at the airport for tomorrow's excursions to the community college and out to Palmdale.

Given that it's 11:30 body time, I will be falling over real soon now.


Nov. 16th, 2006 05:03 pm
It's very good to be home. I was able to get an earlier flight this morning, which meant I had time to drop by the office briefly before going to get a long overdue haircut. I decided to pick Liam up from daycare early rather than go back into the office - I head out again on Sunday, and he deserves some extra mom time. Of course, the first thing he wanted to do when we got home was watch a show, so I'm letting him do that and we'll get some play time in when he's done.

The last day of facilitation went pretty well. The group continued to have a really hard time focusing, but we did make progress, and they left with some goals, outcomes and strategies. Now they have to attach the who, what, where and why to all those things. We'll see how *that* goes.

After we (finally!) finished debriefing from all the meetings, I went off to the Mall of America with Sarah from the NGA. She had to stay over because of a different meeting the next day. We've worked together at a couple meetings right now, and we had an absolute BLAST at the Mall. As previously reported, we rode a rollercoaster. And we bought shoes and looked (unsuccessfully) for purses. It was a fun afternoon of girly bonding.

Unfortunately, many of the people who I'd try to line up arrangements to see when I was in town dropped out as the week wore on, so dinner was a low-key affair with just [livejournal.com profile] davidschroth and [livejournal.com profile] lsanderson in attendance. Larry was kind enough to loan me a bed for the night, and drop me off at the airport this morning.

And now I'm home, for a couple of days anyway. I leave Sunday afternoon for LAX, where I'll be meeting up with [livejournal.com profile] library_lynn and [livejournal.com profile] hazelchaz for dinner.
I'm sitting in my hotel in Minneapolis, which - happily - has free Internet access. I would have paid for it if I had to, but it's always nice not to need to.

My blog post about my experience at the meatpacking house is up on my blog. Even if you don't normally read my food related posts, you might find this one interesting, especially if you are a meat eater.

I don't expect to have anything nearly so interesting to write about this current trip, as I will just be attending and facilitating meetings all day long for three days.
My flight to Denver is delayed by about an hour. The plane has finally left Baltimore to come to Detroit, so I'm going to leave for the airport now.

Oh, and I decided not to take my computer with me, so if I have anything that I feel I have to share with LJ right away, I'll have to do it in less than 125 characters and post it via Text-to-LJ...

See you on Saturday!
My friend had to leave early on Friday, so we grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel (I actually managed to be hungry on Friday, unlike after my 24 courses at Alinea, where I wasn't hungry until noon!) then parted ways.

I headed off to Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood to visit the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum. Unfortunately, I'd managed to get the wrong address for the museum and ended up at their *former* location. Fortunately, there was a Chicago Public Library branch right across the street, and I was able to get directions to the new location, about 6 or 8 blocks away. Not a bad walk - fortunately the weather was nice.

The museum was great. And free. I highly recommend it for anyone in Chicago. They have a Day of the Dead exhibit this time of year, and that was very cool, and then a few other galleries. Some really interesting pieces inspired by AIDS with lots of imagery of condoms that you don't necessarily realize are condoms right away and juxtapositions of typical Day of the Dead symbology with AIDS symbols. Interesting. My favorite had to be the Mexicandiad exhibit, which had a couple of pieces I found just stunning.

click to see some pics )

I left the museum and went looking for lunch. First I stopped into Cafe Uruapadan, which was highly spoken of on LTHForum. But with no menu (English or Spanish) and mystery meat in the window, I decided to opt for something a little safer and went to Nuevo Leon instead. I got their right before the lunch rush and had a nice quick meal. While I was waiting for a taxi I stopped into BomBon bakery across the street and got a bunch of cookies.

Then it was off for an afternoon at the Field Museum. I paid the extra $7 for one of the timed entry exhibits (not Tut - it was sold out), but Underground Adventure was a disappointment - although I bet Liam will love it when he's about 8. That was more than made up for, however, by the Evolving Planet exhibit. Fossils and dinosaurs and hominds, oh my! Very fun. Here's one dinosaur pic, you can see some others at my Fotki album.

I left the Field and went back to the hotel, where I'd stored my luggage for the day. I went into the bathroom and changed for dinner, then hung out in the lobby for a couple hours, finishing up the last 10 pages of Wicked and then surfing the web. Finally it was late enough that I could grab a Taxi over to Wicker Park/Bucktown for dinner at Hot Chocolate with 10 eGullet people. We all had a blast, despite overly loud music, abysmal service and badly seasoned entrees (my skate was like a salt lick). The appetizers were good, the wine was tasty, the company was great, and the desserts were fabulous. Hot Chocolate is the restaurant of one of my favorite pastry chefs, and we asked her to take care of us for dessert. She basically sent out one of every dessert on the menu, and we passed them around in a frenzy of spoons and forks. It was a blast! I've always wanted to have one spoonful of every dessert on the menu, and I finally had the chance! (Pictures will show up on the blog eventually, of course.)

I spent the night on Friday at Ronnie and Julie's house up in the suburbs. 1 cocktail + 1/2 bottle of wine + 1 Benedryl + 1 Trazodone = sleep like a rock. Yay! Saturday morning Ronnie loaded me up with some of his home cured sausage and bacon (sadly, no Waygu pastrami), and then we all went to breakfast at Prairie Grass Cafe. I had a great eggs benedict, then they dropped me off at the Glenview train station to catch the train down to Union Station to transfer to my Amtrak train to Ann Arbor.

It was a great vacation, but it was awesome to be home and to see Eric and Liam again.
Too much food and too much wine the night before gave me a crappy night's sleep. And meant I wasn't at all hungry for breakfast. Midmorning we took a cab up to the Magnificent Mile and spent some time window shopping, and visiting Sarah's Pastries and Candies to pick up gifties for people. (Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] eviljohn, for providing the address!) Then we grabbed a cab out to Hot Doug's. Doug Sohn is a Buddy Holly look-a-like and purveyor of fine encased meats. Sadly, they were out of the foie gras sausage (currently illegal in Chicago), but we did get to admire the citation letter at the counter. Lunch was a kangaroo sausage with gin-juniper mustard and rosemary marinated goat cheese. My friend got the corned beef sausage with horseradish mustard. And we split some fries. Yum.

Had a leisurely afternoon, doing post-processing of Alinea photographs and taking a nap until it was time to head off for our next dinner reservation. Wacky hijinks ensued as we realized just before we needed to leave that we had not yet acquired wine glasses from the hotel - Schwa is a BYOB, and doesn't have real glassware. We had good wines that wanted good glassware, so our plan was to just take glasses from our hotel room. Despite having 3 different bottles of wine in the minibar, the room did not come with wine glasses, so we needed to request them from room service, who took a LONG time delivering them. But we got them, and got to the restaurant early, even. (Balancing out being 20 minutes late for our reservation the night before.)

Dinner at Schwa was great. It's a totally funky little place. Just two chefs, a server and a dishwasher. 26 seats. Loud funky music. Dim lighting, unfortunately - I'm hoping I can rescue the pictures using photoshop, but I'm not overly optimistic. We did the nine course tasting menu, and it was every bit as good as our meal at Alinea the night before. Totally different, mind you, but great. As with the other restaurants I've mentioned, there will be more detail on my blog, eventually. (I think I'm up to lunch on Wednesday so far...)

Slept much better. Today has been a fun and very busy day, but to hear about it you'll have to wait until Chicago, Day 4.
I made it here to Chicago, and am having a fabulous time so far. Eric and Liam took me to the train station (more on that later) and the train was only 10 minutes late. We got into Chicago at about 12:30 I guess, and I easily found the storage lockers to stash my luggage. I walked a few blocks over to Hannah's Bretzel for lunch. Cool place with lots of organic and high quality ingredients. And a wall full of chocolate. I bought a couple interesting bars - one made with sheep's milk, and another flavored with ginger. I pride myself on knowing most brands of chocolate, but there were many that I'd never even heard of on the wall. Cool!

After that I walked up to the Museum of Contemporary Art. It was a longish walk (about 1.5 miles) but I did some shopping along the way, and I had been sitting on a train all morning, so it was nice to move. I enjoyed the Massive Change exhibit, but even after visiting the amazingly cool gift store I still had time to kill. So I sat in a comfy chair until it was time to meet [livejournal.com profile] lcohen outside. She grabbed me in her car and took me to the train station to grab my luggage, then we went off to a Thai restaurant called Sticky Rice for dinner with a whole host of Chicago fen - [livejournal.com profile] magik_sometimes, [livejournal.com profile] beamjockey, Dick Smith, and Leah Zeldes. It was a great dinner, and I'll write it up in more detail with pictures in my blog. The highlights were the banana blossom salad, and the garlic and black pepper quails. Yum.

After a leisurely dinner we headed up to Lisa's neck of the woods and she tucked me (not literally) into her guest bed. I slept surprisingly well, thankfully.

This morning she dropped me off at my hotel for the next two nights of my stay on her way into work. I'll write about today in Chicago, Day 2.



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