Wednesday, April 25, 2012

[Travel] Sample SRQ-ATL Trip Report

Buckle up and settle in folks, your patience has been rewarded. Alright, that is a total lie, but at least for a fleeting second you thought you were going to get an exciting trip report. Instead today's post is a practice trip report featuring a recent weekend getaway. I've posted a link on Flyertalk and hopefully I'll get some feedback so when the actual sojourn begins I won't completely suck at writing these (I'll just mostly completely suck which is way better). The one thing I've already learned is that I need to take more photos and preferably of higher quality.There are all sorts of things I wish I'd have been able to include visually but that I had no photo for. For the actual trip report I will include flight stats but I'm way too lazy to do that for two brief SRQ-ATL trips.

This past weekend I had a business meeting to attend out-of-town. People routinely say to me, "as a professor you must travel to some really interesting places". Hell yes, I do! I go to the Atlanta Airport Hilton at least three times a year and this time you are all going with me. Oh, the glamour! The trip began at beautiful Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. Don't ask my what makes it international - probably the once-a-day Air Canada flight. Ever since I managed to luck my way into Gold Medallion status on Delta for this year I've booked every flight I can on them. Sure, I rarely get any sort of upgrade but for one moment in time I get to pretend like I'm not just a guy who is getting better treatment for opening a credit card.
The delightful Delta bird taking me to Atlanta
Right before take-off, just for giggles, I looked at where I was on the upgrade list. There were 17 people on a flight with no more than 150 passengers who had some claim on an upgrade. I've seen worse in the past year - including one ATL-PHL flight where nearly half the flight was on the upgrade list - but no luck for me today. Here is a picture of a coach seat. 25C to be exact. I know, you've never seen a coach seat before. As I was taking this picture the flight attendant actually asked me "is this your first flight"? The things I do for a trip report!
It's seat 25c with artistic blurring b/c I suck at photos
It is traditional to photograph the food and beverages during the flight. As a Gold Medallion, Delta was nice enough to give me a coupon for a free snack/drink in lieu of an upgrade. I was all ready to snap a photo of the can of Pringles or the bag of M&Ms that I was going to enjoy mightily until they told me that on such a short flight they didn't stock the plane with anything but peanuts. Not even Biscoff cookies. Andre the Giant's immortal line from Princess Bride stuck in my mind for the rest of the flight.

After deplaning - great word, that - I had a fierce internal debate about whether to grab a bite in the airport. It would have been far more interesting to have a fierce external debate in the middle of the B terminal but I'd had my fill of the TSA already. I knew that there was a delicious barbecue meal waiting me that evening and so I decided to pass on scrounging for food in the airport.

One brief shuttle ride later and I arrived at my home-away-from-home, the Atlanta Airport Hilton. The clerk who checked me in noted that I had stayed here five times but, despite that, she still insisted on being thorough and telling me things I already knew. I was going to stop her but she just seemed so happy to tell me about where the shuttle picked up for my return to the airport. Hilton Gold status got me an upgrade to a room with executive lounge privileges.

As you can see from the photos, the room was quite nice though it was basically the same as any other non-upgraded King room in the hotel. It did come with access to the executive lounge on the 17th floor, which for me means unlimited Diet Cokes. That alone probably saved me more than the free wireless.
Do I really need to caption this?
Excellent view of the airport from the hotel
Having stayed here quite often, I felt pretty confident about what I was going to get. Strangely, this trip was less satisfactory than previous stays if only because of the hotel room doors. I don't know how I'd not noticed this before, but whenever a door on my floor closed it made a ridiculously loud noise. Whenever a door in one of the neighboring rooms closed it would actually cause my bed to shake. Thus I had to rely on all of my bag of tricks (white noise machine, earplugs) to have a chance at sleep. The hotel has just recently undergone a remodeling so this might be related to new, heavier, ostensibly-sound-proof (except for the sound they generate when closing) doors.

After unpacking and catching up on work e-mails, I desperately needed food. So like a good Floridian I went to dinner at 4 PM. I headed to Barbecue Kitchen of College Park, my one go-to, never-miss restaurant in this area. I got the barbecue pork with fried okra, a delicious mashed potato casserole, the mixed basket of biscuits/cornbread and cherry cobbler. Damn good cherry cobbler. Everything was as delicious as usual except, disappointingly, for the pork. It had a nice smoky flavor but was otherwise bland. The powerful and tangy barbecue sauce did its part to redeem things but I was kicking myself for not getting the brisket. After all, if the best you can say about the meat portion of your dinner is "the sauce redeemed it" then something has gone wrong.
Mmm, cherry cobbler
Early the next morning I hauled myself up to the Executive Lounge for breakfast. The spread is certainly enough if you aren't picky and, fortunately, I'm not. A delicious Starbucks-esque muffin, some fruit and a box of Fruit Loops later and I was back in the room rooting on my beloved Gunners as they played to a draw against the hated Russian imperialist army that is Chelski. I also drank two or three diet cokes courtesy of said Executive Lounge.
Executive Lounge spread. Minimal at this time of day.
Comfortable seating area
Later that day I saw a giant vulture walking on the ledge - scary!
I then spent the day in meetings. I had very little to add as I am a new member on this Board and the activities are a bit outside my knowledge area. Little surprise though that I had quite a few thoughts on how we could be maximizing our credit card spend. The organization will save at least a few dollars thanks to me on that front.

My other contribution, and this one shocked me, was to suggest the Barbecue Kitchen for lunch. Somehow, despite a combined 30+ Atlanta Airport Hilton stays between them, none of my lunchmates had ever been. This time the meal turned out spectacular. I had the brisket and it was hands-down the best brisket of my life. I say that even knowing that my grandmother might be reading this and it would break her heart. Grandma, your brisket is a strong second! No pictures on the meal because it was so damn good that I couldn't stop eating for long enough to get the camera out. Apologies.

That night I made a bit of a dinner out of the Executive Lounge. At five or so they put out some cheeses, a few vegetables, and exactly one hot item. Tonight's was potstickers which one person delightfully referred to as "these weird tacos". Yup, it happened.

After one more uneventful night at the Hilton, I had a decision to make. For lunch I could either go to one of the three (3!) Waffle Houses within half a mile or I could go to the airport and sample their wares. I ended up going to Popeye's Chicken in the C-terminal. It was not worth the extra train ride as the biscuits were cold. What the hell, Popeye's? I then traveled back to the A-terminal so that I could purchase a soda from the Burger King Coca-Cola Freestyle machine. For those who have never seen one, it's a fountain machine with over 100 flavors of Coke products. Sadly my day was completely ruined - not even kidding - because this one had Dr. Pepper/Diet Dr. Pepper instead of Pibb Extra/Pibb Zero. About the only place in the damn world I can get me some Pibb Zero is from a Coke Freestyle machine and they increasingly stock Dr. Pepper instead.

I spent about ten minutes in the Delta lounge in the A-terminal where I stuffed myself silly with Biscoff-and-nutella sandwiches. I hate nutella. The stuff makes me completely and totally nauseated except when I eat a bit of it on Biscoff cookies. Then it's the foodstuff of the gods. Go figure. The flight back home was brief and relatively uneventful. For maybe the third time ever my upgrade cleared thanks to having few business travelers on a Sunday afternoon. After a brief delay waiting for our spot in line we were airborne for the 70-minute flight home. I did not avail myself of the free booze option in first class, but I did have two Frescas and quite a few of the new-to-Delta Toblerone miniature bars. A perfect ending to a working weekend.
Awwww yeah, living life in first class. Look at that leg room!


  1. Thanks Florida Gooner, Great Trip Report !

    I can't wait to read your RTW (Round The World) trip report !


  2. Thanks! It's fair to say I am desperately looking forward to starting already so I'll have something to put up here :P

    Also, congrats on being the first comment on the blog ;)

  3. Please tell us more about your upcoming trip !!!!!!!!

    I lost track after your "Aeroplan Call"

    Are you re-booked for:

    I can't wait to hear!

    and please please please take lots of pics !