It all sounded so romantic!  A new overnight train service from Brussels to Berlin.  One of us had visions of restaurant cars, a full bar, and comfortable compartments.  Lets just say he was wrong.

More like a second class couchette with a hard bed and a minuscule menu topping out at hangover-inducing beer that even a college kid would scoff at.  Oh well.

Lessons learned: listen to romey (check), bring your own food (check), bring your own booze (check).  Just fly…

With a name like the “European Sleeper” how could it go wrong?

This guy had a faster trip with better beer and he had to steer.

Yes, of course we drank the dang beer.

Anyway, we did it so you don’t have to!

And we arrived in Berlin.  At the wrong station.  Late.

Four cities in two days will do that to you.

Upgraded on one hop to Pittsburgh on United!!

Then a tiny ancient United puddle hopper to NYC (Mesa needs more new planes).

New York was gorgeous

Train to Connecticut from Penn Station bright and early


Now leaving NY

Now leaving NY

Then it was on to the worst Hertz rental car of all time. Dirty, over milage, driven hard, shimmy. Just crap. You can really suck Hertz!

This Hertz car sucks

This Hertz car sucks

By now loyal readers know that noplasticshowers has packed up the tent and is not flying anywhere in December, but the blog can live on through careful spycraft. That is, by sending proxies into the breach! Go proxy go.

Our first attempt at these shenanigans involves NY city and the Eventi hotel.

The Eventi is really close to Penn Station. That’s a major plus when you train into town on the Acela.

The Eventi somehow magically determines who our spy is (through the twitters) and greets her with fruit, cheese, sparkling water (!!) and a note. Plus two. Houston, our spy has been outed!

Uh oh, the spy welcomed by name with sparkling water.

Uh oh, the spy welcomed by name with sparkling water.

Room 815 is the king suite variety. But it is uncharacteristically messy.

Noplasticshowers does not mess up its table like this usually.

Noplasticshowers does not mess up its table like this usually.

Does the bathroom art appeal to our agent as much as it does to us? Why, yes, it does.

Bathroom art looks mighty familiar.

Bathroom art looks mighty familiar.

Unfortunately the spy thing is not working out. Here is a picture of our noplasticshowers secret agent outing herself! Don’t look now, it’s a mirror selfie.

Secret agent overtly covets the marble sinks.

Secret agent overtly covets the marble sinks.

Finally, and most importantly, the shower is certified non-plastic by our agent.

This shower is not plastic---at all.

This shower is not plastic—at all.

Five showerheads and a big thank you for not putting our secret agent in the gulag but rather treating her like a member of the Kimpton family. You guys rock.

Fortunately, our agent somehow avoided the wiles of oh so dapper barman bob at Lantern’s Keep this trip out. That was a close one!

A, O, Way to go United

August 27, 2012

(With apologies to The Pretender’s My City Was Gone.)

After several weeks not on airplanes, it’s back to the rat race—and all continues to be not well with United. It seems that Mr. Smisek still can’t run an airline that pleases and rewards its most loyal customers. I could have titled this posting My Airline is Gone.

I’m writing this entry in Buenos Aires, Argentina after a ridiculous bout of travel. Here’s what happened.

I should have known when I had to book the flight to Buenos Aires through Newark that something was fishy. United used to fly nonstop from IAD, but no longer. (Last time I came to Argentina, I flew that route.) What could go wrong adding a leg in the opposite direction of where you’re actually going? Hah.

More back story. My horrendous United experience earlier this year when I was de-upgraded by the confluence of an asshole and a pathetic set of gate agents plus all of my other railing against United’s bad service and Smisek’s bad leadership, led to my getting a call from a special assistant to Mr. Smisek who offered to help smooth things over. She actually did what she said she would, getting my bribes for bad service through the system and working to make sure I was upgraded to business using my now-mostly-useless systemwide upgrades on this trip to Buenos Aires. Right.

So I was getting ready to head to the airport and I got an email stating that the flight from IAD->EWR had been cancelled. I immediately called United and they had booked me to fly through Houston the next day. You guessed it. No upgrade and inferior equipment with no lay flat beds. Their default plan B was more like plan Z. 11 hours in economy overnight with 35 degree recline. I’m too old for that nonsense.

I figured out an alternative, flying through Cleveland (?!) from DCA to get to EWR (with no time to spare), got it ticketed via phone, and started driving like a maniac to DCA. By the time I got there, that flight had been delayed by weather so long that I would miss the flight from Cleveland (?!) to EWR and thus miss the leg to Buenos Aires. Fortunately, there was a superb gate agent at DCA named Corwyn Jeffers who suggested that I take a train to EWR. Apparently United would put me on that train for free (though none of the agents on the phone know that). Corwyn issued me a voucher and I snagged a cab to Union Station with 25 minutes to spare. Amtrak to NY. Yes, indeedy.

Of course the train was delayed thirty-five minutes (late departure due to poor line management), one-tracking outside of Delaware, etc., and I made it to EWR exactly 47 minutes before scheduled takeoff. I hustled from the station to Terminal C only to discover that it was too late to check a bag. Off to a very slow security line where they confiscated my toothpaste (too big) and almost caused me to miss boarding. EWR has no elite security line late at night, so be prepared to wait and fret while little old ladies who have apparently never flown before but who are ahead of you in line attempt to dig their laptops out of their suitcase.

Anyway, after all that nonsense I made it on the plane along with the last four Group 6 people still in line. I slept in my lay flat bed, all sweaty from the running. Takeoff was delayed for maintenance paperwork, but we landed on time. The crew was great.

But was the trip as a whole great? Not really. As we said back in Tennessee where I grew up, United can’t win for losing.

I was in San Fran, not really enjoying the Palomar, when my flight back to Virginia was canceled.  Seems a snow storm that had yet to do anything was menacing the entire mid-Atlantic.  As you know I took a detour through LA (by way of the very nice Georgian Hotel).

But wait, there’s more.  The United computer rerouted me so many times (including the LA jog) that nobody was sure where I was going or how I was supposed to get there.  Nice.

So I called ’em up and booked 4 possible routes home.  All went through Denver.  Denver, hub.  Check.  The routes were: IAD, Philly, NY, Boston.  <drum roll>  And the winner is—New York!  See I was moving up the coast looking to catch a train down in case I could not make it to Dulles or Philly and so on.  And that’s what happened.

When I arrived in NY after two nicely upgraded flights, I  shleped over to the company apartment where  I was very surprised to find actual employees hanging out and making some dinner.  Much fun was had at a local hooka bar until 4am.  (OK, I was pretending to be much younger than I actually am.)  Of course the IAD flight was canceled and my two hours of beauty rest were for naught!

Turns out a good friend of mine who lives just over the hill was also trying to get back to Dulles from Seattle.  We ended up training down together on the Acela and trawling for a car service to take us to our cars at Dulles.  Much fun was had, especially with the flamer of a train waiter person.

I finally made it home just in time for the superbowl on Sunday.  Longest trip home evah.