Baltimore: Day 2

Well, I’m wrapping up my second day in Baltimore (well, my first day really – more on my travels yesterday in a bit).

Registration started this morning at 11:30 with the sessions getting underway at 12:30, so I had some time to kill this morning. Rather than just walk around the hotel, I walked maybe a mile and a half from the hotel to a neighborhood called Federal Hill. The bummer was none of the businesses opened until 11 a.m., by which time I had headed back in the direction of the hotel – it was pretty hot this morning so I wanted to cool off a bit before heading into the conference as a big sweaty mess. So I was only able to visit a 7-11, take a lap through an open market, kill some time in Barnes & Noble and grab a couple of doughnuts on the walk back to the hotel. I found the comic store I want to try and hit up tomorrow, and in total I probably walked around four miles. So, a pretty solid morning.

The wireless Internet in this hotel is a joke. It works great in the lobby. On the 13th floor, where my room is located, my computer can see the existence of the hotspot but assuming the planets are aligned correctly and I can actually connect to it, I have, at most, one bar of signal strength. I currently cannot see it. The conference is being held in an adjacent complex to the hotel (which is actually incredibly beautiful); in there, the wireless works great on the second floor, but is nonexistent on the fourth. Of course, I spent half my day on the fourth floor.

But, I did discover today that I have a hardwired connection available in my room also – I’m using that now, and it seems to work OK.

The conference itself has been a mixed bag; it hasn’t been great, it hasn’t been terrible. I would fairly classify it as just “OK.” There were three panel presentations and a session of roundtable discussions today. The first panel presentation was a mixture of two useful and one useless panelist; both panelists were pretty worthwhile in the second; and the third was a mixture of two useful and one useful for completely non-related reasons. And I had a good time and actually participated a little in the roundtable discussion, so that was fun. A decent first day; I’m looking forward to the second full day tomorrow.

Right now, I’m going out to find something to eat. My diet today has consisted of three doughnuts, three peanut butter cookies, a cup of coffee and two diet Pepsis. Probably not good, but as a bonus, I’m ready for some actual food now, big-time. I may end up trying to get into the Irish pub down by the waterfront. I’m seriously tempted by Fogo de Chao, but I’m not sure I want to drop that kind of scratch on dinner and I’m not sure I’d enjoy it as much without Melissa with me. There are plenty of options down there for dinner; I’m sure I’ll find something.

So, my travel day yesterday… SO not what I had envisioned. My original plan was to get into Baltimore early yesterday afternoon and have mid-afternoon and evening to do what I did this morning – go for a walk, explore some things and maybe do some touristy stuff. But, I screwed that up almost immediately.

I had it in my head that my flight left Bemidji at 6:50 in the morning. It did not. It left at 6:45. And I was being an idiot and trying to cut it right down to the wire so I wouldn’t have to sit around the airport. Stupid, stupid mistake. I missed the cutoff to get my boarding pass for the flight by less than the five minutes I was off on the departure time for my flight. The airport people gave me this number to call to rebook my flight. I called Delta, and the woman on the other end offered to rebook me. For $1,100.

I declined.

I went back into the airport, and this dude just rebooked my flight – no change fee or anything. He just rebooked me. I had a direct flight from Minneapolis to Baltimore orignally and my change ended up routing me through Cincinatti,and I lost my afternoon in Baltimore, but I didn’t care – at that point, I just wanted to arrive yesterday.

I was amazingly early to the airport to catch my “new” departure flight. The flight was one of the worst I’d ever had – to the point that I almost threw up on the approach to Minneapolis. I haven’t had a flight that bad since I was on a football charter to Rice in 1996, and haven’t felt like I was going to throw up on a plane since we were coming back from Germany in 1986. It was terrible.

But I arrived in one piece, and did so without booting all over the woman next to me. I get to the gate for my connection to Cincinnati, and promptly find out the flight is overbooked. I realize this is partially my fault, since I wasn’t supposed to be on that plane to begin with. I then discover that there’s no boarding pass printed for me. I’m not going to make this flight.

The gate crew says they’re looking for volunteers to sit, and that they don’t have a seat assigned to me. I asked if I was bumped how I might get to Baltimore. The woman says “there’s one seat on a direct flight to Baltimore out of here at 7:20. You can have that if you want it.”

So, Delta gave me a seat on the flight to Cleveland, immediately bumped me, gave me a $400 flight voucher for bumping me, gave me a $7 meal voucher to use at the airport, and I instantly had a four-hour layover in Minneapolis. Basically, I got paid to sit out on a flight I never should’ve been on in the first place. It was awesome.

I successfully murdered four hours in Minneapolis, and arrived in Baltimore around 10:50 p.m. after watching the majority of “Star Trek” on my iPod. A $40 cab ride later, I was in my hotel.

A crazy day, but I got here in one piece — and since I missed the Cincy flight but my suitcase did not, I didn’t even have to wait for baggage claim in Baltimore. My suitcase was just sitting off to the side waiting for me.

In all, a pretty good travel story considering my stupidity in getting the day started.

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