Frequent travel for work, then holiday vacation, and the Pacific Northwest winter weather all conspired to keep me away from my motorcycle shed in the last few months. I like traveling and I like flying, so I will not complain about that part of my absence from here. When you fly frequently enough you get a few passenger perks here and there and I’m still smiling from what was the ultimate, for me, flying perk which I got last week. A complete surprise, an awesome service. Also important to note, you might say, during this time away from posting I acquired a new (to me) motorcycle. Lastly, I did create a logo for this site.
VIP for 15 minutes
Flying out of Eugene you have to stop somewhere to change planes if your destination is anywhere outside a 2-hour flight distance from here. Last week I was on a flight to Washington DC, which included a layover and change of planes in Denver. I bought the ticket from United and did not pay much attention to it. My bottom line was that it has a reasonable price with the earliest possible arrival in DC (flights going east typically leave Eugene at around 6am Pacific Standard Time to arrive on the east cost at about 4pm Eastern Standard Time with at least one connecting stop in between).
When the plane landed in Denver I checked my United app and realized I would only have about 18 minutes to walk between my arrival gate and the departure gate of my next flight, Denver to Baltimore’s BWI airport. A hint here: when flying to DC, and you want to get good deals on tickets, select airport code WAS and it will search flights to the three main airports serving DC (DCA – National (yes, I still call it National), IAD – Dulles, and BWI – Baltimore.
Of course, WAS will only work if you have the time and the disposition to take public transportation, as a cab or Uber ride from BWI, for example, might eat your lower price advantage quickly. In my case, my final destination was Alexandria, Virginia, and between AMTRAK and Metro, it cost me $11.80 and about 1 hour and 1o minutes to go from BWI to my hotel at Kings St. in Alexandria, VA.
I have this tendency of going on detours when telling a story… so going back to my lay over in Denver, as soon as I landed in Denver I realized my connecting flight would start boarding in less than 20 minutes from my plane’s arrival at the gate. I was arriving at gate 88 and my flight to BWI departed from Gate 20, on the same United terminal but at opposite ends of Concourse B. If you know the Denver airport, this means a good distance, maybe half a mile. However, once you climb the stairs from the commuter planes area (where gate 88 is located), it is a straight shot on the wide terminal to the low numbers on the other side of Concourse B. I was actually looking forward to the long walk, thinking about how much a power walk between these two gates would contribute to meeting my daily walk/jog/run goal on my Fitbit. Thanks to left over upgrade points which were expiring at the end of January, so I had to use or I would lose them, I was flying first class, which meant I was one of the first passengers to exit the plane, which would help on getting to the other end of the terminal in time for my next flight. It was all good and I was on a happy place, looking forward to the walk.
As I walked out of the plane and entered the jet bridge I immediately saw a well dressed lady, still wearing United uniform, but it did look a lot more upscale than the uniform of gate staff or flight attendants. She was displaying to exiting passengers an I-pad and it had my name on it in big letters. My first thought was that I had probably done something wrong considering I’m typically pushing boundaries on everything I do, so I’m usually on the look out f0r a possible contrary reaction. Why in this world would my name be called out in the middle of my flight, right? I approached her and sheepishly, and probably showing a puzzled look on my face, I said “that’s me”. She mentioned she was offering me a service United usually offers to top frequent flyers (I fly a lot but I’m not at that level), however, when they have idle time, she explained, they look for other frequent flyer passengers in need for these services. And because I had a very tight connection between my flights, she continued, they were going to drive me to my connecting flight.
She asked me if I had all my bags with me and then asked me to follow her downstairs, from the jet bridge to the tarmac where a Mercedes GL was waiting for me, lift gate open for my bag. A driver greets me, extends his hand for a hand shake, offers assistance with my bags and opens the rear passenger door for me.
They drove me to my connecting flight via the tarmac. We had a quick chit chat on the way, they were very nice and very polite people. They thanked me for my loyalty to United, I thanked them for this awesome service – it was a nice exchange of pleasantries. I try to keep my loyalty to United since United offers the most options from Eugene and to the regions I fly the most to the Pacific Islands between Hawaii and Asia. Having said that, I always select the least expensive tickets which offers the convenience I need to attend work meetings. On this trip last week, for example, my return flight was on Alaska Airlines, as I had to fly via Seattle for a meeting in Olympia, WA on my way back home, and Alaska was the only airline offering a flight the way I needed to cover the tight timeline between meetings in opposite sides of the country.
I had seen these United Mercedez SUV’s on the tarmac at other airports before and I always wondered who were these very important people people using this service. I thought they were some important dignitaries, actors who can not afford their own jet yet, some very special people. Well, it turns out, some regular folks like me can also make use of this service. I’m still smiling when I think about this service United offered to me last week. I have a feeling this will never happen again, one time makes me happy enough, though. Thank you United, and I will make sure I describe my satisfaction to it on my evaluation of the flight. It certainly overshadows the sketchy treatment I received at the United Club in Honolulu, the week prior, when the United attendant at the Club desk made it very clear to me that she prefers to serve Club Members who pay $650 a year for their Club membership rather than the premier passengers on international flights who also have access to United’s lounges (by the time she mentioned the $650 Club members play I had already spent $5,000 on United flights since the beginning of the year).
A New (to me) Motorcycle
Going to the next subject for this post, I did mention another motorcycle, didn’t I? I will have a full post on this new to me motorcycle I purchased in January (it might take a few weeks as I will be working on it soon). It is a CB500X, practically new with a little over 300 miles on the clock when I bought it. I think it was a good deal for the seller and buyer (those are the best deals, when both perceive it was a good purchase / selling experience, we both got what we needed or wanted). The plan for this bike is to make it into a light adventure motorcycle using the Rally Raid Level 3 Kit which is made for this bike in the United Kingdom by a company, Rally Raid Parts, specialized in making improvements to motorcycles so these bikes perform better as adventure riding machines. I already ordered the kit and should be soon receiving it and installing it on the bike. The previous owner already installed Rally Raid parts on this bike, including the bash plate (includes with motor and oil pan protection), wider foot pegs, rear brake reservoir protection, and adjustable brake and clutch levers. Not bad at all!
I’ve taken this bike on short trips around the house and it is a lot of fun and sounds great with its Yoshimura slip on muffler. The CB500X does not match the Tiger 800 XC in terms of power or long distance touring, of course, but it seems like it will do a good enough job on highways. And with the Rally Raid Level 3 kit I’m sure it will do wonders on the dirt, especially on dirt roads requiring more accurate riding technique where I’ve been reluctant to ride the Tiger. This bike will work perfectly for me when riding solo in the high desert, on back country rides on the neighboring states (something that has been in the works for a while and now this bike will open possibilities), because it is lighter and I’m counting on Honda’s reliability. I will keep the Tiger 800 XC for longer trips. Should I go to Alaska one day, the Tiger would be my choice if I still have it by that who knows when future time.
But there is something else about the CB500X. I have a very good friend who lives in Florida. We went to the same high school, same college, and we pursued similar graduate programs although in separate schools (I went to the Ohio State University he went to University of Georgia Athens). At one point we both had Honda motorcycles (I had my XL250 and he had an XL350 – but if I remember correctly, he did have a 250 at some point). Eventually he moved on to a Honda TransAlp and I bought the BMW Dakar 650. Now he has an NC700X and I have the Tiger 800 XC as my adventure riding motorcycle. Similar trajectories. Just a couple of months ago I got news he is fighting a terrible disease. I’m hoping he is responding to treatment, and I hope he will ride again.
He and I never rode together, I realized, but I think we talked about riding to South America together at one point (or I thought it was a great idea at some point). Therefore I invited him to come ride here with me this coming Spring, Summer, or Fall, whenever he feels good about it. I do think this bike will be awesome for him, it is a lot of fun as much as it is also very easy to ride. If he will be up for a ride, and I wish he will be in a path to recovery soon, this bike will be waiting for him. I sure hope riding in the high desert would bring some much needed endorphins for him and for me as well, as I love riding in eastern Oregon. I hope he will join me for a ride, even if it is a ride to the coast or around town to the local wineries.
A Logo for this Site
Lastly, I did create a logo for this site and printed it on a few T-shirts as an experiment. I’ve been thinking about making video logs, not sure whether I’m up for that task or not. If I do, I already have this draft of a logo.
These are my updates for now. Besides the CB500X post that will be coming in a few weeks (I hope to get the Rally Raid kit in the next few days) I have a few other posts in the making, one of them will require some research. So please stay tuned. Thank you for reading!