Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June is Testing My Sanity: Anchorage

In a series I started last week, I'm just trying to desperately keep my head above water this month. The biggest curveball thrown at me so far? How about a last minute trip to Alaska for my first solo business trip? Yeah, good times...

So, about two days before I was supposed to leave for Chicago, a problem with a robot in Alaska was brought to my attention. While I really wanted to go to Alaska to fix it, I knew better than to volunteer. Sometimes these trips get postponed for months and end up at the worst time of year. I have a coworker who volunteered to go to Norway in March and didn't end up going until a wintery November. However, after some conference calls, since someone from Tucson was already flying up on Wednesday, June 6th to work on a separate issue, we only needed to send one additional person, but it would have to be in the same window. And being the low man on the totem pole, it fell to me.

In case you aren't following the dates, this meant I would return from Chicago on Monday and then fly up to Alaska on Wednesday. It was going to be a rough week.

I booked my last minute tickets, worried about my first solo business trip basically the whole time I was in Chicago, and sent some emails to the other person being sent up so we could meet at the airport so I wouldn't need to rent my own car. Due to the last minute booking, I couldn't get on any of the same flights, so it made sense just to book similar flights and wait in the airport.

Anyway, the flight up there was very smooth. No delays, a couple of hummus sandwiches in a couple of airports, and no problems finding the other Tucsonan who I had never met before. I was even really excited because on one of my flights, I was actually in Zone 1. I'm never in Zone 1! I'm always the last one to board the plane, it seems. It was a nice change and I was so happy I even took a picture!

Yes, I get excited about the little things
Random fact: if you want to meet some colorful people, take the flight from Portland to Anchorage. I was seated next to a couple in their 40's and a chihuahua who were running away to Alaska from Georgia to be together. Yeah, the chihuahua was the most well-behaved out of the three.

We stayed in the Hilton Anchorage, which is basically the tallest building downtown and overlooks the bay and the rail yard. I took this picture from my room (sorry it's blurry, the window was really dirty for some reason) when I arrived, which was 10:30PM. I don't think it got dark the entire time I was there. It was weird but it worked out pretty well for reasons I'll get to in a minute...

The pretty sunset that seemed to go one all night from my 11th floor window
I don't know why hotels always give me the room by the elevator, but at least because it was during the week and there were only a handful of rooms on each floor, it wasn't so much of a problem this time.

Random fact: Anchorage summer is about the equivalent of Tucson winter. The highs were in the fifties and it was definitely nippy. But it was nice to have an excuse to break out my winter jacket and wear my boots without getting sweaty shins.

After a fairly good night's sleep, we were off to the job site. It was weird being the one in charge. I realized I need to be more organized when I'm the only one who knows what to do. There were a few too many times where mistakes were made just because parts were set in the incorrect places while we were working. In spite of all of that, three hours later, my work was done. This made me incredibly excited because I had plans to take a site-seeing trolley around Anchorage to do a bit of touring before heading out the next day. All I needed to do was wait for the other guy to finish fixing the separate problem he was sent up to fix and I could be on with my day. I'd even have time for some lunch before my tour. I was going to have a great afternoon...

Yeah, seven hours later and they still were not done. I hadn't had lunch, had no way of getting back to the hotel, and had missed any shot at the trolley tour. I was trying to be helpful with fixing the problem, but it wasn't my area at all, so there wasn't much I could do. Eventually, they took pity on and called someone who lived in Anchorage and he drove me back to my hotel.

I still had time to grab some dinner and walk around because luckily, it was still light out at would be for a while, but it was quickly getting chillier and my week was beginning to weigh on my energy levels. I headed to a restaurant I'd read about near the hotel, The Glacier Brewhouse, to be promptly told it would be a hour and forty minute wait for a table. Ugh, with the limited time I already had, it just wasn't worth it. However, I had been smart and gotten some reviews from the locals so I found another restaurant and sat down for a big dinner.

As the Grail Knight says, "You chose...poorly"
Word of advice: do not eat at the Snowgoose Restaurant if you visit Anchorage. The food was ok, at best, and the service was horrible. It's one of those places I would expect to see on a show about restaurant makeovers. Since I hadn't had lunch and had a corporate credit card, I was ready for a great, big dinner, but this place was a poor choice. They were out of the cheese curds I had been drooling on the menu over, the cheesy fries barely had any cheese, the salad looked like it was out of a bag, and my cobbler was obviously just microwaved. It really wasn't worth it.

After "dinner", I walked around downtown, but I sadly didn't get to see much. It's an easy downtown to navigate, but most of the stores had closed up for the night and I didn't want to walk too far from the hotel and start running into the highway. 

A lot of the buildings were really interesting and I learned some facts about Anchorage's history, but it definitely wasn't enough of a visit. It was a whirlwind three days and hopefully I'll get the chance to really see Alaska someday.

That week had to be one of the most intense travel weeks I've ever had. Eight flights, four days of travel, and five hours of timezone difference really took their toll on me. It could have been worse, but I hope I don't have to travel so extremely any time soon.

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