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Going to Memphis for lunch

Going to Memphis for lunch

Old Oct 5, 04, 10:18 pm
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Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: SQL
Programs: SPG Platinum; Hyatt Platinum; UA 1K
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Going to Memphis for lunch

TravelKhatt and I had booked a cheap ($128 all-in) SMF-MEM MR a while back to bring us up to UA's 2P level.

In light of horror stories about driving to SMF in Friday rush hour traffic from the Peninsula, we left very early (5.35pm to catch an 11pm flight). I had also looked at some maps and came up with what seemed like a decent alternative to the "conventional wisdom" route: Instead of US-101->I-80->CA-113->I-5 I had planned for CA-92->I-880->Hesperin->I-580->CA-13->CA-24->I-680->I-80->CA-113->I-5. This avoids the painful drive up 101 to the city as well as the even worse stretch to and over the bay bridge. Additionally I wanted to avoid the always painful 880-238-580 stretch by taking Hesperin. This routing adds about 8 miles, but was likely to save us the worst of the commute traffic.

We were lucky with traffic over the San Mateo bridge, but things were backing up even farther than usual before 880 and I decided to use surface streets to cut over to Hesperin a bit early. In retrospect this probably cost more time (due to lights) than it saved. Once we hit 580 though it was pretty smooth sailing all the way until we got to I-80 where we rejoined the "conventional wisdom" flow. Traffic was noticeably heavier here which gave me warm fuzzies about the route we had taken. All in all it took about 2.15 to get to the airport from Redwood Shores - about 45 minutes longer than the normal route in best conditions (not bad for Friday rush hour).

We went to short term parking and dealt with Mr. Sleazy Chicken. I was a bit disappointed not to have all four segments spit out as I've heard other folks talk about on other MR's. I wanted to try and get E+ or Exit row, but the check in line for the few agents was pretty long due to the near-future departure of the SMF-SFO flight. We left SMF in search of food and some gas for the car. As we had parked less than 30 minutes it was free.

While I filled up with gas TravelKhatt played with the GPS and found an "Old Spaghetti Factory" to go to for a quick meal. We went there only to find that it is a happening spot on a Friday night and we would need to wait 35-40 minutes for a table. We decided we didn't have that much time to spare and found a convenient street parking spot near a pizza joint. TravelKhatt had the fish and chips while I opted for the Philly Chickensteak (like a Philly Cheesesteak but with chicken). We left and headed back to the airport.

As it was a bit more than an hour until departure I made another stop at short term parking and found the line at check in pretty short. The TA happily moved us up to the exit row (11DE) for the first leg on the A319. It turned into an A320, so we still did well.

We then drove back out of short term parking to the remote lot, got our carry-ons and took the long bus ride to the terminal. Security was pretty friendly: TravelKhatt had neglected to remove her cell phone from her pocket and was permitted to get a second pass at the magnometer without facing additional scrutiny. We made way to our gate and waited for boarding.

I let TravelKhatt take the aisle seat while I gallantly took the middle. The fellow in the window seat was an interesting character. A road warrior with 265 nights per year in hotel stays, he is an analyst involved with casino software. He was very jittery and mentioned that the three hours of sleep he was about to get would have to last him for the next 40. That and comments like "That's what Xanex is for." makes me suspect he is on the edge of burnout, but he had some interesting insight into the his industry. It surprised me to find out that he is not a member of any hotel loyalty program as most of his nights are comped by client casinos.

Due to a mix up, we were treated to an encore of last month's film (The Alamo) and so missed out on the advertised Around the World in 80 Days. The FA would not entertain any suggestion of a refund or other compensation. Anyway a couple of Jack and Pepsi's later and I was lulled to sleep by the gentle cooing on Channel 9.

I slept most of the flight, and upon arriving at the C gates at ORD immediately took refuge in the RCC. I did notice something black moving very quickly between two sets of chairs so I suspect they have a small rodent problem. I was able to get our remaining boarding passes handed over (only after seeing both my and TravelKhatt's IDs and comparing with our faces). The TA was unable to explain why she needed to see ID even though I could check in online and get BPs without any ID for either of us. Oh well, I am sure it somehow makes us safer in this post 9/11 world in some way I am unable to understand - so I guess it is a good thing. I did try to get us moved to either an exit row or other E+ for the ORD-SMF segment but was unable to convince the agent to do it.

With about an hour to go before our flight we went to grab the shuttle bus to terminal 2 . . .upon getting to the stairway we were told that it would not be running that day. We stopped back at the RCC to give them a heads up and continued to the tunnel into B and through the habitrail tube to Terminal 2.

We arrived for a pit stop at the Terminal 2 RCC until a half hour or so before our flight. I was again shot down in my attempts to improve our final leg seating.

We were a tiny bit late boarding and had to check a duffel that could find no room in the now very full overhead bins. We gate checked it and sat down in 1CD on the CRJ. I was again gallant and gave TravelKhatt the window and proceeded to catch up again on my beauty sleep.

After landing in MEM, we quickly made way to the Hertz bus, where a delightful man with the unlikely name of Major provided us with a truly warm and amusing welcome to Memphis. It would be hard to convey his persona other than to suggest that he could easily double for a DJ on a Jazz station. Example quote: "Just like the Staple Singers, I'll take you there."

We still had almost an hour to kill before our BBQ destination opened so we made brief side trips to Mississippi and Arkansas (if only to be able to boast of being in 10% of the states in a ten hour period).

We arrived at Neely's Interstate Barbecue at opening time and ordered the 1/2 chicken dinner as well as the sampler plate. It was all good, but particular favorites were the pork ribs, the chicken, the pork shoulder, and the beans. We were concerned about the spiciness level being a challenge for TravelKhatt, but she survived pretty well, only feeling a bit uncomfortable at the end of the meal due to the cumulative effect.

Next stop was Graceland where you get to pay two bucks just to park at the shrine. By the way: a careful examination of the site map (available on the website) will provide invaluable information on where in the lot to park. Despite there being hundreds of cars in the lot, we wound up five or so spots from the bridge to the rest of the facility (Hint: drive way back into the lot around all of the other cars and come back up the other side - the best parking is near the SE corner of the lot).

We then ran over to the ticket booth and purchased our (AAA discount - 10% off) tours of the mansion and quickly got in line to get on the shuttle bus. The tour itself was better than I expected - some random observations: Graceland is not the huge mansion I expected it to be, and other than an unusually large number of staircases and interesting decorating it is a quite normal house (e.g. the kitchen was large but not hugely so, and placed in the center of the house with visibility to many other rooms as opposed to a hidden kitchen designed for servants).

One of the most surreal things was the jewel encrusted Chai necklace among the jewelry. The only conclusion that TravelKhatt and I could come up with is that Sammy Davis Jr. was somehow involved. Unfortunately, there was no helpful signage to help clear up the mystery. [Update: The truth gets weirder and weirder.]

We needed to rush through the last bit of the tour in order to have time enough to visit the gift shop before returning the car. At the gift shop there was an awkward moment when I inquired about black velvet paintings (for a friend -really) and the saleslady thought I said black velvet panties, and repeated that back to me loudly and incredulously. I corrected her and found out that paintings were not available either. As I walked away I heard loudly: "I thought he said black velvet panties!".

Hertz was a bit of a disappointment on the way back as there was no one to check cars in outside. Eventually a worker told me that I would need to go inside. Inside I was told to get at the end of a formidable line which would have been dicey as far as catching our plane. I had to be a bit loud but eventually the manager checked us in after a few minutes (it was exactly the sort of thing that the "Not exactly" commercials imply won't happen at Hertz).

Luckily the security line was non-existent so we were quickly through. FYI: The TSA folks at MEM are some of the most friendly I have encountered . . . They seemed genuinely interested in our trip, particularly our choice of barbecue venue.

I tried once again to move our last segment up to E+ at the gate, knowing that United Express employees are a bit more lax about the E+ restriction for non-elites. Unfortunately, they were even more strict than usual being under the impression that they could only move us within the rows allotted to our current seating group.

We sat in the same seats (1CD) on the same equipment as we had used on the ORD-MEM segment. One long nap later we were approaching Chicago. We had a really cool approach that took us almost directly over ORD (at about 3000'). From the air it looked just like the terminal map in the Hemispheres magazine - except with little tiny airplanes all around it.

Finally we landed and made our way to the B6 RCC (with recently acquired RCC drink coupons in hand). There was an amusing moment as we pondered the various cocktail napkins advertising Ted. The one we like best was "What's a three letter word for fun?" Obviously, the correct answer is "rar".

I went up to the RCC TA and produced my mileage summary and recent stubs hoping to convince him that I was by all rights premier (BTW: TravelKhatt found this final attempt quixotic - but in the pathetic sense, not the stoic sense). He totaled up the miles on the stubs, was coming up short and finally I slid forward the boarding passes for the final segment that would take us over the top. He paused and said, "You really aren't supposed to get the privileges before you finish the segment." We eventually made a deal that he would move us to E+ but we were not to extend our legs until we were well past the rockies.

While in the RCC, I also took the opportunity to call 1-800 check-in to get our room assignment for the night at the Hyatt Regency Sacramento. I then called the property to get our amenity sent up as we would be arriving around 11 pm.

We made it to our gate just in time for boarding (our hopefully final time in a boarding group later than 1) took our seats and enjoyed the $10 BOB sandwich along with a few more drinks. TravelKhatt for some unfathomable reason decided to watch "Spider Man 2" while I fell asleep to the lullaby of air traffic controllers passing us along the country.

We were quickly off the plane in SMF, and waiting for the economy lot bus to come by. I was glad that we parked in the far reaches the day before as it was a very quick ride to our car (first stop). We paid 8 bucks and drove downtown to find the Hyatt for our FFN stay.

We arrived right as some sort of event was letting out which made driving a bit challenging but afforded us free street parking directly across the street from the hotel (cha-ching!).

We got a corner room on the 14th floor (I believe that the 15th is currently occupied by the guvernator) with a nice view of the capitol.

We were quickly asleep and woke the next morning to a breakfast mostly consisting of a lot of smoked salmon at the Regency Club. Finally, we went for a dip in the pool and a soak in the hot tub before showering and packing up for the drive home. Traffic on I-80 was moving slow so we again took the alternate route home.

Last edited by VPescado; Oct 9, 04 at 12:11 pm
VPescado is offline  
Old Oct 8, 04, 2:27 am
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Nice report! Was the barbecue better than at The Rendevous?
cblaisd is offline  
Old Oct 8, 04, 7:52 am
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Originally Posted by cblaisd
Nice report! Was the barbecue better than at The Rendevous?
Don't know. We only had time for one. A lot of our pre-trip research suggested that the Rendevous was overrated with respect to the product, while the Interstate was the real deal, if lacking in decor and being located in a worse neighborhood.

Last edited by VPescado; Oct 9, 04 at 11:55 am
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