Today’s post comes from Kosmo. It doesn’t look like it, but I’m working on a lot of things behind the scenes. (Most of them releated to digging through the mountain of email.) I’ve got about a half dozen articles partially written, but 70% cooked pork is as useful as 0% cooked pork. (I just made that up, sorry if it’s terrible. I have pig on my mind for reasons I’ll get into next week.)
Before I hand you over to Kosmo’s article, I wanted to pass one rare deal along: Amazon Prime is $20 off today. It’s almost never at a discount and I expect Amazon to raise rates within the next year.
I am an employee for a large financial services company. Although my role is based out of corporate headquarters, I have the good fortune to work from my home. Because of this, I typically travel a few times a year to headquarters, mostly for “face time” with management.
The trips are typically very predictable. I lived in that city for about five years, so I still do have many friends there. After work, I typically meet with a different group of friends every day. Naturally, I always find time to eat at my favorite pizza place in the world (shout out to Monical’s Pizza!) Then I’d jump into my trusty Hyundai Elantra and go back to my family.
This time was different. The company was creating a large presence in a few areas. My group was placing some people in Phoenix and hiring other to supplement the team. At the same time, I was moving into a new role that required a broader focus. I would be taking a trip to meeting the team and learn from them. But this trip was not going to be all work – it was Phoenix in November, and I was going to take advantage of that.
The result was some low-cost entertainment in the midst of a busy workweek. Twenty meetings in four days, with an insane amount to learn – but a fair amount of free time after work.
Sunday – Flew out of Cedar Rapids and into Mesa. It hard to beat these two airports for efficiency. Although I’m a cautious traveler and always heed the “two hours before departure” advice, I was at my gate with 90+ minutes to spare. I breezed through security in two minutes. The guy next to me switches seats so that he can get an aisle seat, so I have both seats to myself for the three hour flight. I grab my tablet and watch Ex Machina and half of Jaws. It was a relaxing flight.[Editor’s Note: Hit me up on how Ex Machina was. It has been on my “to watch” list for some time.]
Thirty minutes after landing in Mesa, I was out of the airport. Mesa is a smaller airport; Phoenix Sky Harbor is the main airport in the metro area. Yes, in thirty minutes I had deplaned, grabbed my luggage, picked up my rental car, and walked the few hundred feet to the car. I had a plan and was immediately headed toward South Mountain Park – the hotel could wait. After some time in the mountains, I headed back to the hotel. After checking in, I headed out in search of our office building, so that I’d be able to find it on Monday. With my recon complete, I capped off the day with a trip to Waffle House – the first time I had ever been to one. Small restaurant, with maybe ten tables. The employees were having a good time, which helped keep me in a good mood.
Leisure: Trip to the mountains. Cost: free.
Monday – Monday started bright and early. There were a couple of reasons for this. One reason was to keep my body on a somewhat regular schedule. I had actually gained two hours on Sunday – one hour turning back the clocks and one hour flying west. I gave back one of the hours on Monday by starting the day at 6:15 instead of 7:30. The second reason was that I could leave earlier than usually. Shortly after 3:00, I was on the road.
I planned visit the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, but it was closed. I had some time to kill, so I wandered around Scottsdale for a while. I popped into a coin shop and bought a couple of non-descript New Zealand coins (it’s a long story, but I’m a fan of New Zealand cricket, despite being born in rural America).
Then it was time to head to the game. Arizona is home to the Arizona Fall League. This has been described as a “finishing school” for top prospects. These are guys who are very close to making it to the major and just need to refine their tools a bit. Also, this year, there was a raw prospect who didn’t really belong at this stage of his career – Tim Tebow.
I was one of the few people in line who didn’t have a backpack full of stuff to be autographed. With so many elite prospects, the AFL is a draw for autograph hounds. I don’t mind an occasional autograph, but I was here for the experience. I planned to meet an acquaintance at the game, but he had to cancel – but the show must go on.
I grabbed a brat, popcorn, and a bottled water from the concession stand. This would all be reimbursed by my employer, since it was a meal during a business trip. This was a stadium built for Spring Training, with a capacity of 10,000+. The AFL is a much smaller draw – due to Tebow’s presence, attendance would crack 1000. I settled into my seat in the third row, dead center behind home plate. My absolute favorite spot to catch a game. I was the only person in the entire section who wasn’t packing a gun. Uh, a radar gun – they were all scouts.
The guy next to me was a former GM (who will remain nameless for the sake of his privacy). He spent most of the game reciting Tebow’s football bio to those around him. He seemed like a nice guy, though – he was very accommodating to someone who requested an autograph.
I shots lots of photos during the game. Naturally, Tim Tebow – who had looked downright dreadful all night – nicked a game winning single off the third base bag to win the game in the bottom of the ninth.
Leisure: Baseball game: $8. Two New Zealand coins: $6.
Tuesday: Another early start to the day and a mind-numbing seven meetings during the day. It was election day, so I spent most of the night in the hotel room, glued to the coverage. I had the TV, a laptop, and tablet, and two iPhones – so I was following along as much as humanly possible, while also plotting various “what if” scenarios. After my wife had gone to sleep (she was an hour ahead) – but with the election still in doubt – I ducked out to Denny’s for dinner. I had the appetizer combo of mozzarella sticks, chicken tenders, and chips and queso. It was probably the highlight of the day.
Wednesday: Never satisfied to stand pat, I topped Tuesday’s count with a total of eight meetings on Wednesday. At the end of the day, my brain was begging for a break. Where to go? To the mountains again.
I headed off the Camelback Mountain. There are two trails to the top, and I pick the Echo Canyon trail. About ten minutes into the hike, I realize that this was going to be a bit of a challenge. I later found out that the trail was rated as “extremely strenuous and difficult”, gaining 1200 feet of elevation over the 1.2 miles of the trail. However, for a 40-something with a desk job, it was just the challenge I needed. When I finished, I got back into the car, went back into the hotel, and rested my aching body. Later, I was back at Denny’s for mozzarella sticks and chicken tenders (I know, very boring – but the location was very convenient).
Leisure: hiking. Cost: free.
Thursday: Another early day in the office. Then a hike up the butte that overlooks Sun Devil stadium. Then I walked back in the office to do a head count. It was about 6:00, and whenever I’m visiting an office I generally swing by in the evening once, just to see who is working late. One of the team members is there. I mention that I’m going to the game, and he decides to buy a ticket at the last minute. He’s from India, so his native sport is cricket – but he’s a fan of football these days and he has been to college football games in the past.
It’s going to be a very long night, so I change into a fresh pair of clothes and head to the game. The stadium is literally across the street from my office’s paring garage – very convenient. My seat is literally five rows from the top of the stadium – more hiking. My colleague from the office joins me during the first quarter. Arizona State takes an early lead over nationally ranked Utah, but Utah’s *22* tackles for loss in the game (11 sacks) causes ASU’s offense to eventually sputter. I need to leave the game early in the 4th quarter – I have a plane to catch.
(That’s one of several fireworks-bedazzled paratroopers at the game.)
I arrive at Sky Harbor Airport around 11:20 PM. The Hertz drop-off location is dead. I take the shuttle to the terminal check my bag, and again clear security within a couple of minutes. It’s obvious that the line is much longer during peak hours, but only a crazy person would take a 1:45 AM flight halfway across the country (not to mention a connecting flight after that).
Leisure: NCAA football game. Cost: $20.
At 10 AM Friday morning, I arrive at home. I fall into bed and sleep until it’s time to pick up the kids. My wife arrives home from work and we shift back into normal family life. It’s been a long week – but I’ve worked hard and played hard.
What’s the lesson? Don’t get stuck in the same old routine when traveling for business. If you find yourself in a new place, try to find some time to enjoy it.