Yes, I am a glutton for punishment. I traveled approximately 6000 miles in 6 days, from Houston, to the Appalachians, to the Great Lakes, to the Rockies, and back to Houston. This was strictly a work trip. We had a narrow window weather wise, as well as the need to complete the work before Thanksgiving.
About a month ago, the organizational structure in my company changed. This left me holding the bag when it comes to facilities management. Not that I am complaining, mind you, but my work load tripled, and the multi-function copier project that I have been working on is coming down to the final wire for completion. Thus, in the interest of trying to get in and out of the North East before winter sets in, and completing the remote phase of my project, it was determined that I would travel to all of our remote sites (4) outside of Texas in one week. My job was to install the new multi-function printers, inspect all the offices for facility's needs, and assess and inventory the network infrastructure of each site. In order to complete this phase of the project, I took along a the representative of the company that is handling our new MFCs. He has become a good friend, and was a HUGE help in getting everything accomplished.
First leg of the journey was from Houston, TX to Montrose, PA via Detroit, MI. I don't understand the full reasoning of shuttling passengers all over the country when a straight through flight is faster, but it was cheaper….. Go figure… I arrived at the Montrose PA office Sunday night and got to work bright and early Monday morning. Everything went really well, and I was able to complete the work on time. I had to rent a car to go to the next two offices, as there was no airport remotely close to the 2nd office I had to visit. So, on Tuesday, I headed off to drive from Montrose (east side of PA) to Canton, OH via Clearfield, PA. This was a beautiful trip, but a long drive. Work in the Clearfield office went quickly, and I was in Canton by Tuesday evening. Thus far, our luck had held, we had beautiful, cool weather, and everything worked like clockwork.
This all changed Wednesday. First, it was cold and wet…. Then, nothing went right with the printer installation. The delivery was bungled (leaving the printer on the sidewalk in front of the building), had to figure out how to haul the printer up 30 steps in a narrow stairwell, Installation tech was MIA, and then to top it all off, the office building is in dire need of repair and upgrades. Having the representative from the printer company with me, was a lifesaver. It allowed me to get stuff resolved facilities wise, while he got the installer tech snafu resolved. Needless to say, we had to fly out on Thursday, so the issue was not completely resolved with the installation until Friday. I had to leave a job half finished, which irritated me to no end. The only redeeming quality of this day was the awesome little pipe store I discovered in Canton. I walked in and the proprietor was wonderful. After visiting for a few, I discovered that he had one estate pipe for sale. It was a Caminetto rusticated bent egg in original box with original pipe sock and leaflet. It is a Caminetto KS pipe. I was able to acquire this pipe, and it is a great smoker.
Thursday was even worse. The flights to Denver via Chicago were both butt-puckering, with the last 2.5 hrs spent jammed into an airliner like a sardine. My 6'4" frame was wedged into that itty bitty sling they call a seat without any room to stretch out my legs. I suffered from leg cramps the whole flight. However, the cramps were preferable to the landings in Chicago and Denver. At both airports, I was sure that our pilots were either drinking or smoking pot. I swear the wings were inches from touching the tarmac upon touch-down as the planes bounced, and tilted upon landing. As I said, butt-puckering. After kissing the ground after exiting the aircraft, I headed to the car rental place. Then, the real trial began. Remember how I rented a car in Montrose? Well, unbeknownst to me, the rental place yanked out extra cash as a "deposit", thus leaving my funds depleted as the next car rental place wanted their slice of the pie in a deposit. All I can say, is I don't remember much from the conversation. Apparently, my patience, as well as my usual couth and tact decided to abandon me at the same time. According to the printer rep, I called the fellow behind the counter several unflattering names, and threatened to put the car rental where the sun don't shine due to his company's insanely stupid and nigh unaffordable deposit policies. Thankfully, reason and calm ruled the day and I was able to calm down and apologize for my unsavory behavior. In the end, all worked out, and the guy behind the counter was nice enough to even upgrade our ride for free. Lesson to self, kindness and humility always work wonders.
Friday was an awesome change. Everything worked like a charm, the office was in good shape, and all work was completed by 1pm. This was great as it allowed us to play tourist in Denver and the surrounding areas. We got to drive up to Estes Park, and enjoy the beautiful weather. My day really turned good later that evening, as I stopped by Edward's pipe shop in Englewood, CO. I went in to see what it was like, and didn't see any pipe tobacco, so I asked and was taken to a locked room that had tobacco from floor to 12 ft ceiling. This was heaven! As I looked around, I saw some Esoterica blends, which tend to be highly sought after. So, on a whim, I asked the proprietor if he happened to have any Esoterica Stonehaven. I knew this would be a long shot as the stuff is about as rare as Unicorn Farts. He went and looked. Sure enough, he had one 8oz bag left, which I promptly purchased. I felt as if I had won the lottery!
Saturday was the final day of travel. We flew from Denver to Phoenix, AZ with a super smooth flight. We then caught the flight to Houston. On the flight to Houston, I was seated next to two gentlemen who were on the way to a convention. Come to find out, they both are huge names in the comic book/graphic novel industry and are responsible for the story and art in the video game "Gears of War". They invited me to the convention to be held on Sunday. I arrived in Houston after a very nice 2.5 hr flight and arrived home around 10pm. Boy was I glad to be home! However, the fun didn’t stop there.
When I arrived home, I was greeted with several boxes that had come in the mail for me. Box 1 held a tin of McClelland's 221 Baker Street Black shag from 1998. This is a wonderful blend that is awesome with some good age on it. I had won it on Ebay for a song. Box 2 was from a Brother of the Briar in Alaska (affectionately known as Fatman). He sent me a small Savanelli Lollo pipe in a shape that I had been wanting to get. This was a surprise and very much appreciated. It is a great smoker, and is a very treasured pipe. Box 3 contained a pipe that I think almost every pipe smoker would love to get their hands on…. A birth year pipe.. I was born in 1977, and to find a pipe that is verifiably made in one's birth year is extremely difficult and often times, very expensive. A brother of the pipe, AJ, was kind enough to sell me this pipe out of his personal collection (which he does not do) It is a 1977 Christmas Pipe from Comoy. Comoy happens to be his favorite brand of pipe, thus his generosity is that much more noteable and appreciated. It is a gorgeous pipe, and I have not smoked it yet. It will be saved for a special occasion, I think.
To top all this off, I went to the convention today, that I was invited to. It was really relaxing, and pleasantly small. I was able to meet many very cool people, artists, actors, and musicians who are really big names in the gaming and comic/graphic novel industry. It was wonderful to be able to actually visit with them, and drink beer with them without the crowds. I made several friends, and look forward to the next convention
All in all, it was a very pleasant week, with a few hiccups. I learned a lot about my job as well as about myself. I look forward to making this trip again next year. So, for those of you who wondered where I disappeared to, there is my week in a quick summary (though it looks more like a novel).