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Travel/Trip Report -- Chicago to Bangalore October 10-12, 2007 - RonO's Ramblings

Oct. 12th, 2007 02:30 am Travel/Trip Report -- Chicago to Bangalore October 10-12, 2007

This morning, just after midnight, I safely arrived in Bangalore to start my business trip to conduct training for a couple of our teams here.

I woke up early on Wednesday since Tara had disturbed me to say goodbye and I was anxious to get moving for the trip. Since I couldn't get back to sleep I got up, shut down my alarm clock so it won't disturb Tara, took a shower and started packing. I got about 80% of the packing done around breakfast and getting Derrick up and moving, so I was almost done when I had to take Derrick to daycare.

After dropping Derrick off at daycare, I headed out for a last couple of errands before heading home to pack. Specifically, I wanted to get some more Sudafed, and some other stuff from the drug store. First I stopped at the Jewel-Osco I drive past on the way home from Derrick's day care, and stopped in. Their pharmacy wasn't opened yet, so I left. But as I was leaving, I noticed that I still had a check I was supposed to drop off at the daycare.

I doubled back to the daycare and dropped the check off, but then traffic had become bad enough that I couldn't easily make the left turn onto Sterns. So I decided I could go right instead and double back to where I could get to the 24 hour pharmacy. What I forgot was that the next road that connects Sterns to West Bartlett west of IL59 is the combination of Denham (IIRC) and IL25. By the time I got there, and through the traffic, I'd wasted most of an hour. I then stopped at the Target hoping that their pharmacy would be open since I also could pick up a replacement for the one packing cube I couldn't find. However, their pharmacy didn't open for an hour, and I wasn't able to find the packing cube. I did pick up some pads for my luggage handles (to make them a bit more comfortable to lift and a bit easily to recognize on the carousel.

I then headed to the Walgreens on Irving Park and (North) Bartlett. {Pure aside. It is really confusing that two of the roads that head out of Bartlett are called "Bartlett" and "West Bartlett."} They had the pharmacy open so I was able to get the sudafed. Finally after more than an hour I got home.

I quickly finished my packing and took care of a couple of other things that needed doing, including changing the cat boxes. By then I figured I had time to relax before the driver was due about 10:45. So I fired up the TiVO and started watching Heroes. Of course Murphy intervened and the driver showed up early leaving me with about 15 minutes of the show to go.

The trip to the airport wasn't as quick as it should have been. The driver sensibly avoided taking I-290 West (North) to I-90, but didn't realize that the correct route was to take Thorndale and other ground streets. Instead he took I-290 East to I-294, which is also under construction. But we got to the airport with plenty of time.

On the way to the airport, I realized that I forgot a couple of things. First, I hadn't grabbed my Southern India guide book. Second, I hadn't gotten my beard and mustache trimmed. The former may prove annoying, and the latter may prove really irritating since I should be gone over two weeks and already needed a trim.

Check in was easy and almost hassle free -- especially compared to my last trip, the infamous trip to Orlando where every flight was a drama at check in. I did have to wait since apparently United has a category of "Global Preferred" that even trumps First Class for check in priority. I got checked in and stopped briefly in the restroom before heading to security. In the rest room I realized that I still had my coat on, and I had planned on putting the coat into one of the checked bags. So I had to carry or wear my coat throughout the whole flight process.

Security was easy -- except that I forgot to kick off my crocks before going through. I had worn them specifically since they are easy to take off and put on and had even slipped the straps up so I could just kick them off.

After security I confirmed that I'd be leaving out of the C concourse, and headed over there. I then headed first to the Red Carpet Club, where I was given directions to the First Class Lounge. In some ways I probably would have been better in the Red Carpet Club since I would have probably had to pay for lunch. Instead, I noshed at the free food. The free food consisted of finger sandwiches, fruit skewers, cheese and crackers, cheesecake and cookies. I had too much of the stuff that wasn't good for me and not enough fruit since it seamed rude to take all of what was laid out of any item.

After eating I fired up my laptop and paid to get access to the wireless in the lounge. I then fired up the program for the sling box for the first time outside of my home network and finished watching Heroes. The result wasn't spectacular, and the control lag was a problem a couple of times (the worst being when I tried to pause the TiVO when the feed had also lagged. But as long as I don't have too bad a bandwidth problem from the hotel I think that this will help me not have hours and hours of TV to catch up on when I get back.

I also had enough time in the lounge to decided that I would not have wanted to be the producer of CNN that afternoon. I counted a total of 5 or 6 stories which could have been top news if it hadn't been for the others.

Finally about 1:30 I headed over to the gate for my plane and waited there for a few minutes before they started boarding. I got on board and settled into my cocoon nicely. Since I had a first class seat, I had extra storage, so I pulled the laptop from the backpack and put it and the accessories I expected to need (external hard drive, track ball and power supply) into the storage bin on the side of my seat.

After taking off, I played a bit with setting up the computer and tried to watch my next class. Unfortunately, United uses a built in system for noise reduction so their headphones wouldn't work on my laptop, and my headphones had a dead battery and couldn't compensate for the noise without the power. So I gave up on my class. By then they were starting to serve the meal, which had a full 5 courses. I didn't do too horribly until desert where I got more cheese and ice cream, but I figure that travel days will always be bad and I'll be OK the rest of the time if I watch my portions.

During my meal I watched most of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Having recently finished reading (err listening to) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I couldn't help but being effected knowing the fates of some of the characters.

After the meal I laid the seat completely flat and slept for an hour or less. I then gave up on sleeping, dug my laptop back out and played Civilization for much of the rest of the flight. I shut down the game when they started serving breakfast -- although I was one of the last served since it took a while to get the laptop safely off the table.

Shortly after breakfast we landed in Frankfurt and I found my way to the Red Carpet club. There I was able to take advantage of their showers and had a nice long hot shower and changed into some clean clothes. For once I wore a t-shirt under my dress shirt so that I could comfortably wear it for two days. I then went into the lounge and tried to kill the time until my flight.

About a week before leaving, I modified my flights so that I had a 5 hour layover in Frankfurt, instead of the 90 minute layover originally scheduled. I'm glad I did so even though I was very bored for much of the time in Frankfurt. I spent a couple of hours total in the Red Carpet club, and had too many packages of Walkers shortbread rounds as well as a few rolls with jelly. Some of this was to help choke down the huge bottle of water I grabbed. The only water they had in the lounge was in 1.5L bottles. This wouldn't have been bad, but it was a slightly sparkling water, and not very cold. Finally, I ended up getting a glass and filling it with lemon juice and ice so I could finish.

For a while I wondered out of the club and explored the shopping area in the B concourse of terminal 1. I couldn't find anything I needed or wanted to spend money on. I also checked out the information guide and determined that I would have to clear customs in order to find a barber at the airport for a beard trim.

Finally, I decided that I needed a change of scenery. I took the shuttle train over to the upper level gates for the A concourse (the Red Carpet club is at the beginning of the C concourse) and wondered there for a few minutes before settling into the much more crowded Lufthansa business class lounge.

About 10 minutes before I figured my plane to Bangalore boarded, I headed over to the gate and entered the gate area. Like Heathrow, at Frankfurt they check your boarding pass before you enter the gate area. However, they didn't really have enough room for a 747 at this gate area, and by the time I got there it was, literally, standing room only. I stood and waited and watched the time slip until after the scheduled departure before they started loading. Finally, I got on board and found my way to my seat.

The flight to Bangalore was also nice. The food was really good (Lufthansa's business class was nearly as good as United's first class). During the meal I watched The Simpsons: The Film -- which, like the Harry Potter film, I'd seen this summer in the theater.

I had been nearly falling asleep while waiting, and while waiting to take off, so I figured I should be able to sleep fairly well on this flight. So after eating I adjusted the seat flat (but at an angle) and slept. Again I only slept for an hour or so, and couldn't get back to sleep.

So I spent the rest of the flight trying to keep myself occupied. I should have probably gotten my book or laptop down. I could have watched my class since I had bought new batteries in Frankfurt (paying way too much for 1 AAA battery, although I have 3 to spare now). But I didn't want to bother the person in the next seat more than I had to just going to the lavatory.

While on final approach into Frankfurt that morning, I had gone through a high level architecture of how I'd redesign an airplane entertainment system. My idea was to replace the limited streams of videos and music with a server that could serve up both on demand to more intelligent systems at each seat. On Lufthansa, at least in First and Business, they have just about the system I described. And I know more about it than I expected to. One of the programs I pulled up was a collection of European news stories -- I had hopped that it was what was played to the "overhead channel" when I was otherwise occupied that had shown some vaulting, but it wasn't. While this was playing the video froze but the audio continued. After the video froze, the controls also froze. I finally let it finish playing (and dozed listening to the stories without pictures) and started messing with it after it ended. Suddenly, it crashed and rebooted. I watched the boot screens and determined that the unit at my seat ran Windows CE and an application that it downloaded over a network connection using TFTP. Actually, the system crashed one more time shortly afterwards, but then ran OK for the rest of the flight.

We arrived in Bangalore about as late as we departed Frankfurt, shortly after midnight. Getting through Immigration in Bangalore was very easy since there was only one flight and plenty of officers to handle it. It may have gotten busier later since I was fairly quick to get off the plane.

In the year since I had last flown into India, I had forgotten about one of the major problems at all Indian airports -- or at least in Delhi and Bangalore. At these airports the luggage carousel will quickly be surrounded by trolleys pushed right up against it long before the luggage arrives. It can be very difficult to get a position where you can actually even see the luggage, and you have to push your way in to pull it off when it arrives. I was lucky to find a place behind a pillar which prevented people from parking a trolley, but I still got fenced out because I tried to stay back far enough to let other people in. I did manage to retrieve both of my bags and headed out. I had to double back in since the customs officer wasn't obvious until I had left, and then had to assure him I really had just come in on the flight from Frankfurt. I quickly found my driver and he took me to the Palm Meadows.

On the way I observed that Airport Road was deserted at that time of the night, since it is a traffic jam nearly all day and well into the evening. As we got close to the Palm Meadows I began to suspect that my driver hadn't been there before. After we got in, I knew I was right when I had to correct him when he turned too soon for the club house where I needed to check in.

I got checked in and started unpacking and setting up what I needed before I could go to bed. However, I discovered something unexpected that did not make for a good night. Last year both times I went to India, every place I stayed, including an identical room at the Palm Meadows, had UK style 3 prong plugs. Last year I was able to plug in my CPAP and leave it plugged in without any problem, and still had the plug by the desk that I could use for my laptop or various chargers. However, when I got into the room, all of the outlets, including the one for the computer desk, had a round plug. I'm hoping that the hotel has some adapters I can borrow. If not, I'll have to figure out where to get them here.

One other minor annoyance with the hotel is that they seem to have dropped BBC world from their TV line up. The only non-Indian channel I could find (not counting the Indian versions of several US channels) was the Australia channel which is basically ABC's Asian service. This will be fine for morning news, but won't be as much use for evening updates.

I finally turned in and got an OK, if sort, nights sleep. I woke up too late to call Tara (although I tried before I turned in, but she wasn't home so I left a message). I got up and got into the shower realizing that I had only left myself about an hour and 20 minutes before my driver was scheduled at 10:00. As I was rushing to get to breakfast, my phone rang to inform me that my driver had arrived. I decided that I wasn't going to rush any more than I had to and still went for breakfast.

There was one other minor piece of drama this morning. My driver apparently thought I needed to go to a different Motorola facility. However, he called his office and I was able to get him to the right place. I think things should be OK with the driver from here out. This driver isn't as outgoing as the one I had last year, but I may still try to get him to take me somewhere on the weekends so I don't end up stewing in the hotel the whole time. I'll just have to try to figure out where without a guide book.

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Date:October 12th, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC)
You have internet access. Who needs a travel guide when you have internet access? Besides, can't you borrow one from a co-worker?