Finally Home! And a not so quick recap…

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

I left the house on February 19th, early in the morning on my weekly Chicago commute. However, that week was different. On Thursday, I had a flight out of O’Hare to Washington, D.C. So instead of coming home as I usually do on Thursdays, I flew out.

The trip was mostly for work, though I did get some fun in when I could (more on that later). The main work thing I was traveling for was what we call the National Technical Conference. It’s a hoity toity title for 3 days jam packed with information and training for the tech support contacts out in the “field” (where field means anywhere other than the HQ). At any rate, I arrived in D.C. in the early afternoon, picked up the rental and drove out to Tyson’s Corner (where the company HQ is located… the company being USA Today, of course).

I was the first to arrive, and my job for Thursday and Friday was to make sure that everyone was on task and to fill any holes in the agenda. Fortunately, everyone seemed to be OK, and I only had to make sure some logistical loose ends were tied up.

Saturday night was fun, I went out dancing with some colleagues. We called it “girls” night out since I was the only “boy”. We ended up in D.C. at a place called Rumors. The music sucked, but it was fun to dance anyway.

Sunday night was the beginning of the conference. My group hosts and coordinates the whole thing so it was basically game on from that point until conference end on Wednesday. The whole thing went without a hitch. Much more smoothly than last year when we had to juggle the schedule the entire time.

Thursday was the day of the 8 hour meeting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for hammering things out and getting consensus, but it took all day to get very little accomplished. Friday was more of the same, but we resolved most things and left with some tasks. We wrapped things up around 3:00 which normally would mean I could catch a 5:00 pm flight, but instead it meant that I was driving across town for some fun.

And by fun, I mean D&D eXPerience. It’s an annual convention that happens around the end of Feb in D.C. (and as one of the planners of the technical conference, you know it’s no coincidence that both events happen around the same time). At any rate I arrived just in time for a D&D Miniatures event featuring the new rules (DDM OP Presents). It went a little long, but I still had fun.

That night, I hung out with some of the Georgia crew. Clint, Shayne, Brandon and Mark. Then Sara Girard, a WotC staffer (who was only slightly tipsy) walked over to us and started talking 4e (that is 4th edition, the forthcoming edition of D&D). We chatted for a bit until Katie Page from the PR firm that represents WotC came over and begged us all to join them and Scott Rouse at Mackeys.

We all hemmed and hawed because Saturday morning was the time of our main event (the D&D Miniatures Limited Championship). They eventually wore our resolve down and we decided to make the trek to Mackeys. Once there Clint and I played darts while the rest of the crew sat and talked. Clint sucks almost as much as I do at darts (heck, he’s worse).

I had a creamy Guinness, which was the only reason I went to Mackey’s in the first place and listened in on the conversation between the WotC staffers and the Georgia crew. Thankfully Mackey’s closed pretty early so we were able to head back to the hotel and get enough sleep before the Championships.

Now… onto the main event.

Of Amtrak and Commuting…

So now that I have the folding bike, I’ve been thinking of ways that I can take the train to Chicago instead of commuting by car.  One obvious option is to take Amtrak up.  The only problem is that my office is actually in the west suburbs of Chicago, an area that doesn’t get Amtrak service.

So then I have to look at options for transferring to the Metra (the local light rail service).  I can switch trains in downtown Chicago, and the Metra will get me within 2.5 miles of my office.  Easy biking distance.

And then I looked at the cost…   In order to maintain parity with what I pay now in gas (which is a significant sum), I would have to ride the train up to Chicago on Monday night instead of Tuesday morning.  And I would have to ride back on Friday morning instead of Thursday night.  Why?  Because the train that is most convenient for me (weekday mornings and nights) is the one coming from and going to New Orleans.  Since this train has the full complement of dining cars, sleepers, etc…  it costs more to ride.  $35 vs. $13.  Ouch!  Add the cost of riding Metra and you’re well on your well on your way to double what I pay now in gas.

I’m not sure I can afford to do this with any regularity.  I suppose though, that it’s good to know that the option is available should disaster strike.  For now… it’s back to the drawing board.  I’m tired of driving so anything that alleviates that for me will be welcome.

–sam

New (Used) Bike… Giant Halfway

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

Howdy folks… say hello to my new (used) bike. It’s a Giant Halfway I got off of eBay, and it’s awesome. I think I’ll call it Optimus Prime (for obvious reasons).  The bike folds up… which means I can take it up to Chicago with me, even if I go up there via train.  Sweet!

Giant Halfway

And here it is in its “bicycles in disguise” form…

Giant Halfway Folded

Folding Bike

Originally published at Kickin’ the new Kuh-nowledge. You can comment here or there.

I’m seriously considering a folding bicycle. When I first started looking for one, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted… but thanks to the power of the intorwebs, I have found several options….

1. Downtube (http://www.downtube.com):  The model I’m looking at is the 2007 9 FS.  The 9 means 9 speed.  I think I can find it fairly easily on eBay.

2.  Dahon (http://www.dahon.com):  These are a bit pricier, but you do tend to get what you pay for with most bikes and these are no exception.  The Glide P8, The Mu and the Curve are models I wouldn’t mind getting.  Alas, these are probably out of my price range.  The only one I can really afford is the Boardwalk and it’s basically a folding beach cruiser.  :(

3.  Citizen (http://www.citizenbike.com):  This is definitely in my price range, but reviews I’ve read make it out to be an OK, not great, bike.  Again, you get what you pay for I suppose.  But considering my budget, it’s definitely something I’m looking into.  Bike snobs probably wouldn’t touch this one with a ten foot pole.  I laugh in the face of ten foot poles.

4.  Birdy (http://www.birdybike.com):  Birdy falls into the “if money were no object” category.  These bikes are awesome, look great, and all the reviews say they perform really well.  Sadly, they cost quite a bit.

There are other brands, some in my price range, some not.  I’m glad I found the wacky world of folding bikes.  I had no idea there were so many options.  As noted above, I’m seriously looking at the Downtube bike, if I can get it on eBay.  If not, I might go with another of the bikes that is in my price range.  Either a used Dahon or a Citizen or something else if I can find a good deal on eBay or Craigslist.  By this time next month I should have one… just in time for the awesome Fall biking weather.

–sam