Travel report USA January 2019
A German proverb says: "If someone does a journey, then he can tell a story". That’s why there’s a travelogue from me again this time.
This time the occurrences around the usual January trip to the USA start a few days earlier. Four days before departure the security staff strikes at the two airports in Berlin. There is no strike at the third Berlin airport, because its tarmac is occupied by VW anyway. Concerned colleagues extrapolate the situation to my departure day, Thursday, for Düsseldorf. And so on Wednesday I’m greeted with a friendly "Have you already heard, tomorrow they’ll also be on strike in Düsseldorf". I have no luck with Düsseldorf, last year the winter storm Friederike caused a day delay.
So let’s get to work, or let others do the work. Our travel agency redline travel takes care of it. Now you have to know two things: For airlines such strikes are something like earthquakes or a volcanic eruption, which means they are not responsible. Then I could start my flight to JFK from Amsterdam, because Schiphol can easily be reached by train from Aachen. But flying from Düsseldorf via Amsterdam to JFK is cheaper, you can’t just "get into the plane later". So nerve-racking waiting is the order of the day. In the afternoon the mail from KLM – interesting because it was booked via Delta – that my flight DUS-AMS was cancelled. You can still book it at KLM on the homepage; however I don’t have to understand everything. I inform redline travel and the team starts. At 18:00 I get a new ticket from Amsterdam, this time from AirFrance. I could also tell funny stories about codesharing.
Now I book a train ticket from Heerlen to Schiphol and persuade my son to take me early in the morning to the station in Heerlen directly behind the German border.
Thursday at 5:15 a.m. we leave for the station, the train is already at the platform and at 05:49 a.m. the train leaves on time. Not a matter of course in Germany. I set myself an alarm clock and take a little nap. In Utrecht I have to change trains, the 10 minutes I use for a small breakfast. Punctually at 08:29 a.m. I arrive at the airport, check in, hand in my luggage and pass the security check in a short time and without attracting attention. There is enough time for a cappuccino.
The boarding starts punctually and thanks to Comfort+ I’m one of the first to get on the bus, because it seems that we take the bus to New York. But the driver has found the plane, I take my seat and distribute the fuss I need during the flight. Now 2-3 emails, then I switch my devices into the airplane mode and shortly thereafter we are in the air.
At the top of the air, I check my presentations for the coming days. I book internet so that I can still be reached and do some emails. On long flights I can always do a few things in peace and quiet with a good headset.
After lunch I close my eyes for a moment. After waking up I see that we will arrive one hour earlier in New York. For LonMark I also do some homework and devote myself to the specification of new devices.
The landing on JFK is incredibly smooth, I have never experienced that before. Unfortunately I lose the hour I saved during the flight with the immigration, apparently four big planes landed practically at the same time. But that’s no problem for me, because I’ m staying in New York. After the control I look for my suitcase, then it goes to the taxi. A few minutes later I am on my way to Brooklyn and get into the rush hour. Another hour during which I can admire the skyline of Manhattan with the Millennium Tower, Empire State and Chrysler Building. The check-in at the hotel is friendly and fast. A fitness establishment awaits me in the room, but first I unpack the things that I need during the next two days. Before I freshen up there is some stretching and the fascia roll releases the tension in the back from the long flight.
A few phone calls and mails still have to be done, then I’m going to have dinner. I have chosen a small Arabic restaurant nearby. At the hotel bar I finish the day with a glass of American Riesling.
It’ s nice travelling to the USA because you can practically sleep until noon. So I get up well rested and after the first emails – is there anything else I do? – I go to take a shower, then I have breakfast. I choose one with 580 kcal – it’s a fitness hotel – and freshly squeezed orange juice. But it doesn’t appear in the list of calories. After breakfast I decide to work with two mobile phones. The iPhone gets along better with the US SIM card, now I can use LTE speed to access the Internet on the go.
Because the sun is shining and in the morning the view of Manhattan is favourable, I do the best I can to cope with the time difference. I go on a long walk to DUMBO. This has nothing to do with the little elephant with the big ears but stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass and describes the nice little quarter between Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge. Fortunately, they remembered the word Overpass when they found the name, otherwise it would have sounded stupid. In the morning, one has a fascinating view to the two impressive bridges and the skyline of Manhattan. A few people are on their way and they are busy taking pictures. The sun is shining and the blue sky looks like Photoshop, but it is cold and the wind at the East River lets the temperatures drop a few degrees. If I only had brought gloves with me. In the Empire Stores I warm up for a moment, then I go back to the hotel.
A hot cup of coffee feels good now, and I’m getting ready for my meeting. After all, I’m not in New York for fun. I send some pictures to my colleagues by e-mail. That’s how the myths arise that I’m on vacation. Now my suit and tie are due for my meeting and shortly before 01:00 pm I am at my appointment. The meeting lasts longer than planned, that’s a good sign. Since I also get to know everybody for the first time, the good atmosphere and the great interest are very pleasant. This is a promising start for an acquaintance.
Once I arrive at the hotel, my suit is being spared, as I will need it on this trip again. I have another cup of coffee. By email I give a first feedback about the meeting to home.
I take another coffee break. I record my fresh impressions and memories of the meeting in a report and define the points for the follow-up work. I research a few points, then the report goes to the company.
For dinner I go to a nearby BBQ restaurant. Unfortunately it was a mistake, but also no catastrophe and not too bad. Eating less is also healthy and so I walk the few minutes back to the hotel through the frost. There I order a transfer to the airport for the next morning. By APP I check in for the flight the next day. I finish the evening with a glass of Riesling.
Today the sky is a little cloudy, with -4°C it is a little colder than yesterday. It’s travel day, the flight to Atlanta is scheduled. After breakfast it’s time to pack my suitcases. I hear a bit of WDR2 and call home. Later a friend reaches me by mobile phone.
The suitcase is closed, I go to the reception and check out. My taxi is already there and I quickly go to Newark airport. We cross the Manhattan Bridge to the Big Apple and on the other side out to New Jersey. After a short drive I reach the airport and hand in my luggage. The security check is as usual. I get a coffee and a bagel for lunch and work on a whitepaper. The view is good and I can take a picture of the skyline of Manhattan with the Millennium Tower rising over everything. The boarding starts punctually and is very disciplined. This is a good thing because the flight is full. I have downloaded a few manuals onto the iPad, so I can spend the flight reading. I also read the Saturday newspaper.
After arriving in Atlanta I pick up my suitcase at the conveyor belt and take a taxi to the hotel. During this trip I decided not to rent a car. In New York this is nonsense anyway. My hotel in Atlanta is close to the convention center and there are shuttle buses as well. Unfortunately, a unpleasant surprise awaits me in the hotel: After my credit card number was given on Thursday, the booking was not confirmed but cancelled. As currently all hotels in Atlanta are practically fully booked, this is a small catastrophe. I complain politely – it’s not my fault – and the hotel management tries to solve the problem. In the room I unpack my luggage.
In the hotel I have dinner, I have red wine this time. Restlessly I go to bed, because I don’t want to sleep under a bridge from monday on.
I wake up at 5: a.m., but I don’t really want to get up. I pull myself together and go to the fitness room and do a little stress reduction on the crosstrainer. After the shower I have a peaceful breakfast. The day continues well because the hotel has solved the problem. I do not have to move to another hotel or room.
I turn my room into a small laboratory and test my demo equipment. Everything survived the journey.
Since I can only pick up my visitor badge at noon, I still have to beat some time. For example with this report. I get an email from Ron Bernstein, he has arrived at the hotel and picks up his breakfast. Since I was about to go to the Congress Centrum anyway, I meet him first in the restaurant and we have a chat. Together we drive off by taxi, because he has all the brochures with him. We pick up our badges and check whether the LonMark stand is well set up. We meet some other old acquaintances at the assembly. Since Ron already has meetings, I now go back by foot. The Hard Rock Cafe is on the way, there I buy a glass for my daughter to complete the collection. And I meet an old friend from Germany. We decide to drink a beer, because it’ already evening in Germany. We talk about business, private and American football. After a good hour in the bar we split up again, in the next three days we will still run into each other often enough.
In the hotel I am working on a whitepaper about the use of RF-WAN technology in Gesytec. The team answers the phone for the technology demo at the LonMark booth. We still have to integrate the part of Gesytec. I’ll get everything ready. Alan, Samy and Michael arrive. In the hotel lobby a big table is free, which is made for us. We explain our superstructures to each other. It turns out that the security check has removed the power cable while setting up Western Allied. Fortunately I have something suitable with me. Then we connect my HD-PLC setup to the LonMark demo. It is programmed that via a button a lamp can be switched on the HD-PLC board. It works right away, we are thrilled. But this is common with LON. The performance is amazing, and I walk with the Powerlineboard through the lobby and we test the individual sockets. Then the body is packed again and we look for a restaurant nearby. At the first there is 50 minutes waiting time, we are not alone in the city. Samy calls a nearby Turkish restaurant. They have tables free and we set off. It’s just around the corner. On arrival we meet colleagues from Alan, Samy and Michael. What a nice surprise! The world is small. Shortly afterwards Michael from MegaChips joins us. The restaurant is a good choice and with lamb or kebap, coffee, tea and sweet dessert we treat ourselves.
Again I wake up before the alarm clock. I check the emails, read the Aachen newspaper, then take a shower. At breakfast nobody of the others is there yet. I go to the shuttle bus and meet Daniel Zotti. Walking would have been the better solution because the bus is stuck in a traffic jam. Arriving at the Congress Centrum I part with Daniel, who still has to register, and go to the stand. Shannon is already there, we talk a little and wait for the start. All other LonMark members who have registered arrive. We realize that we even have a quorum for a board meeting. The demo setup goes live, everything works as expected. But the day could be better. We want to make contacts. The area for building automation is relatively far away from the main entrance. But a few interested people find their way. Unfortunately it is also quite cold in our corner of the hall, cold air draws through a hall gate. At 5 p.m. there is a reception at Adesto. I meet Chris Jodoin, who is now in charge of Echelon. In the evening we have dinner together, we go to an italian restaurant. After a nice dinner we are back at the hotel around 21:30. I already start to pack the suitcase for the onward journey.
At 06:00 the alarm clock goes, I could have slept even longer. I put myself into the shower to wake up. I get used to the time difference. After a few emails I treat myself with another extensive breakfast. The suitcase is packed and I doubt that I will ever be able to get the test setup back in again. I call home and make some other important phone calls. Then I check out, hand over the suitcase for storage and walk to the AHR. The weather is great. It’s fresh, but the sun is shining through between the shreds of fog. The tops of the skyline are still in the fog while their feet are already shining in the sun. Atlanta dresses up for the Super Bowl. This causes a bit of chaos, as the stadium is right next to the exhibition centre.
On the way to the stand I hold two little conversations. Of course I don’t reveal the interesting details. I decide to keep the demo setup in the USA, because Western Allied can advertise for us with it.
That also solves the space problem in the suitcase. There are rumours that the security checks at the airport take three hours because of the shutdown. To have enough time I go back, get my suitcase and order a taxi. Since another guest also has to go to the airport, we share the taxi. A stroke of luck, because he recognizes me as LonMark board member by my badge. My passenger is in the management of a large Canadian company and knows all about LON. But not with the latest information and after a short seminar we decide to stay in touch. At the airport I give up my luggage and pass the security check in about 50 minutes, which is much faster than I thought. With the plan train I go to Terminal E. I do something I have not done in the last few days: I have lunch. Even if it is only Wednesday I go to the TGIF. Because I order a beer I am asked for my identity card for age control. I take that as a compliment and rest a little. The steak is difficult to cut, which is probably due to the plastic knife. Ok, sharp steak knives don’t belong on the plane either. Then I call home again, write a few reports and plan the first actions after the trade fair. Boarding is on time and we start five minutes earlier. In the plane I write the fair report, after that we have to rest. Over the Appalachian Mountains, past Louisville and over Lake Michigan we fly into the night, it is a quiet flight and we arrive much earlier. The pilot shows us what the brakes of a 737 can do. He takes a high speed exit from the runway, he might want to go home as soon as the flight is over. The airport is already empty. I walk to the suitcase tape, by taxi it goes into the city. The Artdeco hotel is beautiful. For dinner I have a trout, because I am at the water. The new hour time difference takes its toll and I am early in bed.
Another hour’s time difference will make me sleep late. I’m in a good mood, because I’m going home today. Before breakfast there are still some emails and again I call Gesytec. The breakfast is cosy, because it is served at the table. It’s quieter than buffet or Starbucks and I love that. Then I call home and close the suitcase. I check out, leave the suitcase in the hotel and go one block further to the customer appointment. In a good hour we work through the things that are usual for larger orders. The successful meeting only lasts an hour and so I take the opportunity for a walk along the frozen Milwaukee River. In a city like Milwaukee with historic buildings, you have to look at the entrance halls. There is a lot of Art Deco. After a good hour I have enough fresh air and drive to the airport. When I print the boarding pass, the terminal asks me if I want to fly later. That doesn’t promise anything good. But when I hand in my suitcase I am rebooked for an earlier flight by the very friendly Delta Airlines staff.
The security check is not busy, so there is still time for a detour to Starbucks. Boarding is on time. During the flight I write the visit report. Over Lake Michigan we go to Detroit, located between Lake Erie and the small Lake St. Clair. At 3:25 p.m. we land softly in light snow rain, it is foggy. Now I’m allowed to kill some time. I take the collected business cards and edit the trade fair report again. The reports are then emailed to my colleagues. I am surrounded by dead minutes and hours, I am not the only time killer. While most people in Germany sleep peacefully, I walk through the terminal again. With a length of 1.6 km it is the second longest in the world. At the fountain in the middle of the terminal is an Illy, so another latte macchiato and a banana muffin. Let’s see what the scales say tomorrow. I can watch the fountain from the café. The tension of the last days dissolves and I get tired. Back at the gate I see the pudgy 777-200 of Air France taking me to Paris. Thin snow covers the wings and the cabin roof. Everyone is disciplined during boarding and the cabin can be closed in time. Next to me the space remains free and thanks to a few Euros I paid I can stretch out my legs. After dinner I put on my sleep mask and try to rest a little.
Due to the time difference, this night is 6 hours shorter. Around 09:30 a.m. the cabin light turns on again. Because I am not hungry, I only have a cup of coffee. On the monitor I see the plane passing south of Ireland, then over Cornwall to Paris. To find your way on CDG there is a video which is helpful. As well as the display of the terminals of the connecting flights. Due to the de-icing in Detroit we set up a few minutes too late. The sun welcomes me. In the terminal I make my way to Terminal 2G. The detector doesn’t like my Smartwatch and my backpack is also examined. Afterwards there is a small sightseeing tour by bus to the other terminal. There is a passport control. Although I look a bit frizzy and stubby, I am recognizable. In Heathrow it takes three times longer. I contacted home and the company. But then, the flight is about 20 minutes late. It is the only delay of the last 8 days. After my last flight is assigned to the gate, I board a nice little Embraer 170. The Brazilians build good airplanes. I close my eyes a little. As a small snack there is a small roll with goat and walnut cheese, vive la France.
I’m drinking coffee with the dish, now for once with sugar. Orientation is difficult in the air, and the lower landscapes are covered by fog. The higher areas are slightly covered with snow and I wonder where we are right now. But Rursee, the long straight new section of the A4 and the characteristic cloud towers of the lignite-fired power plants rising out of the fog reveal it. We leave the Eifel and the landing approach to Düsseldorf already begins. A short time later I am in the terminal. On the way to the suitcase tape I get an email from Air France that my suitcase was found. This promises nothing good and I am right with this presentiment. My suitcase stayed in Paris. I give my contact details to the luggage service. My son picks me up. We find each other in spite of difficulties and through the foggy landscape it goes to the sunny Aachen. My wife takes me in her arms. After 20 hours travel time I am home again. We have a cup of coffee, then I take a shower. Now the shoulder-friendly trolley backpack is unpacked, I still have to wait for my suitcase. Because I didn’t sleep much on the plane, I get tired early in the evening. This helps me to cope with the time change.
In the afternoon, the courier comes with my suitcase. After 223 km railway, 6 flights, 19.660 km and 22:24 hours in the air and some taxi rides the journey is finished. A Smartwatch is practical for a trip to another time zone, but surprises with the message on the plane that I have now moved sufficiently physically. Also the request to get up during the flight by my gadget at the wrist amused.
After the journey is before the journey, the next appointments already wait.