Monday, February 25, 2013

Sub-Suburbia Central Connecticut

My trip to Connecticut was for business: I was out there for an interview in Bristol and wanted to connect that with a long weekend in New York to see a friend from Sweden. Bristol is a suburb of a suburb that is undergoing a lot of change, and I was interviewing for a planner position. I actually grew to like the area and could see living there, but unfortunately that would also mean a driving and on this part of the trip I did not get a chance to take very many pictures except for a few pictures of the Calvin and Hobbes-esque houses all around.

I truly expected to see a snow monster or two out there.
Connecticut is a beautiful place. There is no doubt about that, but what the area particular area is struggling with is how to adapt to a post-manufacturing economy. There are some great buildings out there that are completely unused, but the location is just far enough away from the major cities that it can't capitalize their energy. The area is completely car dominated: Bus service ends before many people get off of work and there are no bus shelters (or sidewalks) to speak of in many places. You must own a car, even more so than in a city like Abu Dhabi that I once called an autopia.

What else is out here? ESPN is based in Bristol and is one of the staple employers of the region. Lake Compounce is an amusement park that has one of the oldest operating roller coasters in the world (built in 1927). In Farmington, there is Ms. Porter's School for Girls ($48,000 a year). And Friendly's. We don't have them on the west coast, so I had to try them (I know them from Sam & Max Hit the Road).

The one bright spot that I noticed while I was there was the Super Natural Market in Bristol, which had a great lunch counter. One of the most interesting things on the menu? Steamed Hamburgers. It was pretty good! The process makes the burgers a little more tender and crumbly, but it was a lot for a not that much. If I worked here, I would be checking this place out for lunch daily.

After spending the day driving around, it was time to leave. On the way to drop off the rental car, I dropped by ON20 in Hartford, which is a skybar there. You can check out the photos after the break, along with a few from the train station. Next time? New York City!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Flight Report: Seattle to Hartford, CT on Southwest

I can't remember the last time that I flew Southwest, but since the merger between United and Continental I have been more open to flying whatever is the cheapest ticket available. Southwest happened to be the least expensive for this trip to Hartford, so Southwest it is.

Unlike most of the other carriers, Southwest is a bit of an odd ball. It is currently one of the largest carriers in the US, but it goes against the grain in just about every way: No alliances, no fees for changes or checked bags, no assigned seats, free snacks during the flight, and no prices published through the big fare aggregators like Kayak. They do things differently and there is a lot to like (and dislike).

The biggest mental hurdle for me is the no assigned seats. You have to sign in at 24 hours prior to your flight in order to get a decent seat and that is stressful. I like to know if I will have a window or not, and I prefer to know ahead of time where I will be. For most of the people that I have talked with who were not used to flying Southwest, this was a big barrier like it was for me.

Here's how the system works in practice: Southwest assigns two sets of numbers, A and B, both with numbers 1 to 60. The lowest numbers are for their frequent flyers (the "A" List), people who pay $10 to automatically check in, and then after that it is first come, first serve. Checking in as close to 24 hours prior is strongly recommended.

Once you get to the gate, there are a series of pillars by the gate. When your set is called, you line up by the pillars with the proper numbers, board the plane, and then select any seat that you want. It works pretty well, but there are some issues where people block the aisle that other systems address (many board rear to front to avoid this type of situation). I had A45 and had my pick of window seats and I checked in about 20 minutes after check-in opened.

Overall, the flight was smooth. There is no in-flight entertainment on Southwest, so you have to keep yourself entertained, but the snacks that they hand out are better than usual: Oreo's and other Nabisco snacks, as well as generic Southwest mix (nuts, pretzels, etc.) Here's the view from the wing:

 Next time? Hartford and New York City!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

On the Move!

I am in he Denver airport at the moment on my way to he Northeast. I will be there for he weekend and will report back soon from Hartford and New York City!