Wichita, Kansas

Our pro services group decided to spare one of our coastal guys a day of misery, and asked me to go to Kansas instead.

This is the first time I’ve been tasked with a job in the central/mountain region. The very area they were happy to have me fill in from time to time.

Wichita is a nothing flight from DFW. It’s a little over an hour. That’s the good part. The bad part is that if you fly American (which I distinctly heard the travel service say “We have an American flight…”) you’ll fly on American Eagle. American Eagle is American Air’s short, rural flight service. The “Puddle jumpers” as my dad used to call them.

They aren’t really puddle jumpers these days. They are usually an Embraer or CRJ regional jet. And, they aren’t really American. They are American Eagle hosted by Uncle Billy’s crop dusting and airline service. Let’s say, they outsource. Some are better than others, and my fights to and from were different companies.The return “airline” seemed better than the trip to. I forget who it was going but coming back was Mesa airlines.

I don’t know if the gate people were American’s, but their rank indifference to the size of the line to check in (or even simply hand off bags) on the return flight led me to believe these were AA lifers. The only dude that appeared to be working simply walked away to check on something else, leaving 50 or so to check in, and two of us that had checked in on the Kiosk and wanted to drop off bags, staring at an empty counter.

Checking your bags is kind of mandatory on a regional jet. There’s enough overhead bin space for a laptop case, maybe a backpack, maybe a soft case like a midsize duffel. That roll-around your carrying? Forget it. Unless it’s tiny, and packed light it’s going to be gate-checked. Sometimes, this is no big deal. In a small airport, you walk down the steps to the tarmac, pick up your bag, and waddle to the terminal. More likely, you’ll wait in a huge line on the jetway. This happened both ways on this trip. After landing at DFW there must have been 25-30 of the wretched lined up to get their gate-checked bags. Both ways, my checked bag showed up in reasonable time. By that I mean, a short wait after hitting the head, picking up a cold drink, and wandering out to baggage claim.

So the flights were decent. Avis hooked me up with a Nissan Sentra that was reasonably well appointed. Nice car, actually. And in Eisenhower airport, although you have to pick up the keys from a human at the counter, the cars are a short walk to the parking garage. They are very nice and understanding there. Especially when you forget that the fob for the keyless ignition is still in your pocket. Something I realized while going through security. Wonder how long the car ran when I walked away from it?

I stayed at a Fairview Marriott. Old habits die hard. It’s reasonable, clean, and has free breakfast of sorts, if there’s any left. By the time I got to it my second day there, there was a few crumbs of scrambled eggs, and a few lonely, soggy strips of bacon in a puddle of grease. They have other stuff. Stuff I don’t care for, so I went for Plan B – McDonald’s.

I like McD’s. The food is consistent. The breakfast, not bad. And it’s cheap, if not free. More often than not, I plug in my Amex and it lets me pay with points. This frees up resources for dinner or beer. A McD’s is also a microcosm of the neighborhood. In this case, I appeared to pick a location with a ton of homeless, and trailer-dwelling types. Many had bikes. My customer said he didn’t know why they all appeared to have bikes, but agreed it was unusual.

Wichita reminded me a lot of Midland Texas, only without the traffic. Old buildings, cool to look at. And zero – no – Starbucks. I was told maybe out by the highway (like in Midland). Could be the utter lack of foot traffic I noticed on the streets. Maybe it’s a local thing. They had a few coffee shops around but they weren’t all that great if you’re a tea drinker like me. “Are you kidding? my only choices are Chai with milk and earl gray? eesh!”

Two big things struck me on this trip.

The first is that IT can be an interesting field if you travel. You may wind up at cool offices (like I have the last 6 trips or so). Or, you could wind up in a dingy, windowless room in an old building that is located in kind of a crappy part of town. If there is such a thing in Wichita. Once or twice in my career my offices have been in such places. Makes for a long week.

The second was that you can’t always trust Google maps.Google is a tremendous tool for finding your way around. That said, I’m certain that they give preferences to this or that restaurant, probably on a pay to play thing. it was amazing to see the restaurants it didn’t show when I got to the old town section. And those that did, I’m certain some of them weren’t where the maps said they should be.

What’s even funnier, as I said earlier, there isn’t much foot traffic anywhere near wherever I found myself. There was almost no car traffic to speak of, even in the more “crowded” old town section. I was sipping a beer, waiting for my dinner to show up and noticed red traffic status on the streets I’d just traveled. Really? it was still there when I left so I had to check this out.

There was nothing. Some cars like my hometown on a Sunday morning. There were a few of the bums on bikes, and the odd hipster walking about. Speaking of which, for the amount of cool restaurants I found, that were 2/3 to 1/2 the price of a major metro, there was a surprisingly small hipster infestation there.

So, in this case, Google done me wrong again. These days I find myself leaning more towards Yelp to find vittles when I’m traveling.

Come time to flee, there was about the easiest trip to the airport ever. Took no time, car return was effortless (more so on my part, since I didn’t even hand them the key). The only blemish was trying to check a bag onto the Bobs Airline express.

An hour or two later, I’m back at DFW, celebrating the end of a successful, easy trip.