The Great Places

Nearly 10 years ago, I walked across the stage at Northrup Auditorium to receive my Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Having focused my studies in video production, I had no idea where my career would take me—boy, what a crazy non-video-producing journey it’s been!

I was recently inspired to tap back into the world of motion pictures… so, naturally, I bought a gimbal. The magical three-axis tripod was just what the doctor ordered for this traveling, iPhone XS Max-wielding girl. About the same time, I found a roundtrip airfare to Denver that I simply couldn’t pass up. The Mile High City was one of my favorite day trip locales, so returning there was a no-brainer.

I had an amazing time in Denver, and get this… my door-to-door cost was $140—that includes airfare, ground transportation in both Chicago and Denver, coffee, a donut, two beers, a giant pretzel, a (veggie) burger and fries, an airport beer AND snacks for the plane. I wonder if more people would do what I do if they knew how affordable daytripping could be?

I spent 13 hours on the ground in Colorado, and I condensed it all into this 70-second video… enjoy!

If you never try, you’ll never know

A year ago tonight—a Thursday evening in the third week of October—I sat at home with my husband in our downtown St. Paul apartment, frantically preparing myself for what I considered to be the biggest opportunity of my life. The next day, on October 20, 2017 at 12:30 p.m., I was to board American Airlines flight 2455 from Minneapolis-St. Paul to Chicago O’Hare—a 400-mile, 80-minute flight. Upon arrival, I’d board the CTA Blue Line, exit at Clark and Lake, walk one block south and five blocks west to get there… to get to Boeing World Headquarters to interview for a spot on the Executive Communications team.

You may have read my blog from last November, proudly announcing I’d be moving myself and my two cats to Chicago to work for the greatest aerospace company on the planet. It was such a bittersweet time in my life—I was following my dream, but leaving my friends… my family… my husband… I was leaving all of them behind in the state I called home for 28 of my 30 years of existence. Lucky for me, I had a rock solid support system then—luckier yet, I have that same rock solid support system now.

While it’s been tough at times, everything about this experience has made me a better, stronger person. I’ve met incredible people and learned incredible things about the aerospace industry, the world, communications… and I’ve even learned some pretty incredible things about myself. It’s been one heck of a year, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

A few highlights:

  1. I live a hop, skip and a jump away from the second-most-connected airport in the world… it’s truly an aviation enthusiast’s dream! To say I’m out at ORD often may be an understatement.
  2. I got to visit Boeing’s Everett factory for the first time in my life. It’s an overwhelmingly huge, city-like building where incredible, beastly machines are built to connect people and goods across the globe. So. Flipping. Cool.
  3. I met one of my best friends, and her amazing partner. You know how sometimes you just connect with someone, and you immediately feel the goodness in their heart? That’s how I feel about this person—she’s a remarkable human, and one heck of a communicator.
  4. I reunited with one of my best friends… someone I went to high school with and someone I’ve always had a special bond with. She handed me an extra stick when I dropped one of mine while drumming in an emo band more than a decade ago, and today, she brought my doodle to life to create a legit logo for The Great Planes.
  5.  I started traveling by myself. I find cheap, same-day, round-trip flights to new cities and I go explore. If you have the capacity to do that, I highly recommend it as it’s helped me to break out out of my anxiety-ridden, introverted shell, and meet new people and build a sense of confidence I never thought I’d have.

Coming to Boeing taught me that following your dream is worth it. Even though being in a new city is tough, adapting to a new lifestyle can be stressful and learning a new routine can be really, really hard… it is worth it. I’m a very, very lucky girl… and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.

Seven Days, Seven Cities – Ranked

mapThis year, I’ve been fortunate to travel often. Whether it was to Seattle for work, Orlando to see my dad or back home to Minnesota to visit family and friends… I spent a lot of time in the sky and even more time on the ground with people I love.

In between those routine visits, I day-tripped. Warning: If you haven’t day-tripped, it is highly addicting. Here’s how I do it:

I go to Google Flights, pick a Saturday (or sometimes a Sunday) and enter that date for both my depart and return flights, I input Chicago (all area airports) as the origin and leave the destination blank. I peruse the map for any cities that are exceptionally cheap (think $50-$90 roundtrip) and POUNCE. Of course, the schedule needs to work (e.g. it needs to be a relatively early departure time and a relatively late return).

Since my first day-trip to Atlanta on March 3, I’ve had a total of seven of these in-and-out adventures. I decided it would be a worthy project to rank them… so, here it goes!

Seven: TPA

City: Tampa, FL
Date: March 10
Airline: Southwest
Ground Transportation: Lyft
Food: Farmacy Vegan Kitchen + Bakery
Drink: N/A
Sites: Downtown, University of Tampa
Activities: Plane Spotting

Six: MSY

City: New Orleans, LA
Date: June 16
Airline: Spirit
Ground Transportation: Lyft
Food: Café Du MondeSneaky Pickle
Drink: Brieux Carré
Sites: Bourbon St.
Activities: Plane Spotting

Five: SYR

City: Syracuse, NY
Date: Sept. 30
Airline: United, Frontier
Ground Transportation: Lyft
Food: Glazed & ConfusedStrong Hearts Café
Drink: Freedom of EspressoMiddle Ages Brewing CompanySahm Brewing
Sites: Inner Harbor
Activities: Airfield Tour

Four: BWI

City: Baltimore, MD
Date: Sept. 1
Airline: Spirit
Ground Transportation: Light Rail
Food: Patisserie PouponOne World Café
Drink: Waverly Brewing
Sites: Camden Yards, Inner Harbor
Activities: Plane Spotting

Three: ATL

City: Atlanta, GA
Date: March 3
Airline: American
Ground Transportation: MARTA
Food: Sweet Hut Bakery & Cafe
Drink: N/A
Sites: Georgia Tech
Activities: Delta Flight Museum, Plane Spotting

Two: DEN
City: Denver, CO
Date: April 28
Airline: United
Ground Transportation: Light Rail
Food: Habit Doughnut DispensaryVine Street Pub & Brewery
Drink: Denver Beer Co.
Sites: LoDo
Activities: Plane Spotting

One: BOS

City: Boston, MA
Date: April 7
Airline: United, JetBlue
Ground Transportation: Silver Line
Food: Kane’s DonutsClover DTX
Drink: Cheers
Sites: Freedom Trail, Make Way for Ducklings
Activities: Bunker Hill Monument, Plane Spotting

So… why did I rank Boston number one? Because it was everything I hoped for and more.

History: Bean Town was rich with easily digestible, easily navigable history. The Freedom Trail was a magnificent learning experience and at the end, you can climb to the top of the Bunker Hill Monument.  All of that was FREE and easily doable on foot.

Public Transit: The public transit was spot on (did you notice that the cities I ranked lower are the ones where Lyft was my only option?). The Silver Line was cheap, easy and quick.

Food: Kane’s rocked it with killer donuts and cold brew… it was a great way to start the day. And Clover DTX was so flippin’ AMAZING. I asked for the acclaimed Bridgewater sandwich (jalapeño cream cheese spread, buttermilk-fried cremini mushrooms, honey-sriracha glaze, and a fresh kale-and-red-onion slaw) even though it was no longer on the menu and I still can taste it… it made me proud to be vegetarian.

Attractions: Let’s be real. Everyone wants to go to THE Cheers bar, and I went. It was worth it.

Plane Spotting: The views at Boston Logan are unlike any other, with runways right along the water, it was so gorgeous and so much fun.

So, there you have it! OK my friends… where should I go next?

Awake on my airplane

For whatever reason, I’ve had two songs stuck in my head over the past month or so: “Take a picture” by Filter and “Samson” by Regina Spektor. Both are songs I feel strong emotional ties to—each bringing me back to a different stage of my life.

Yesterday, I flew to Syracuse, NY, marking my seventh day trip this year in addition to being the smallest city and cheapest airfare of the septet. I nabbed a $40 basic economy fare on United Airlines for my outbound flight (an Embraer E-175 operated by SkyWest), and a $28 fare on Frontier coming home (my first time flying the Denver-based airline with an all-Airbus fleet).

A week or so ago, I reached out to the media relations team at Syracuse Hancock International Airport about a potential airfield tour. I just love being in the action, riding alongside the airplanes and learning the stories of different airports, big and small—Minneapolis to Van Nuys, Ames to Schipol, O’Hare to San Diego and now: Syracuse.

I was delighted to hear that someone on the airport operations team was more than willing to show me the ropes. Upon arrival, I was instructed to make my way down to the lower level of the airport to meet with a guy named Darren. While I was waiting, I stood with my nose and the palms of my hands pressed against the large windows (as I typically do) and just gazed lovingly at the few planes sitting idle in front of me. And then, as if on cue, I faintly started to hear music: “Awake on my airplane, awake on my airplane…” For those who know the song from the late nineties, those are the opening words to Filter’s “Take a picture”—the song I referenced above. It was eerie, exciting and perfectly fitting.

A few minutes later I saw a truck pull up outside, and a gentleman hopped out and came inside—it was Darren. I followed him out the door, hopped in the passenger seat of his truck and away we went. We drove the whole perimeter of the airfield—I saw and learned so much. I found out that Darren himself has worked at the airport for nearly 40 years, and has lived in the area his whole life. He also holds his commercial multi-engine pilot’s license, which (of course) I found to be super cool. I always love meeting others with a passion for aviation, because no matter the tie to the industry… it’s a common bond.

SYR has two active runways: 15-33 and the longer 10-28. On any given day their outbound flights (commercial and cargo) cap out around 75. In the summer, pilots and passengers on inbound flights may be able to catch a glimpse of the pink, plastic flamingos in the grass just before touchdown on 28. In the winter, you’ll see penguins in the same spot.

The terminal is in the midst of a $45 million renovation and upgrade that, if all goes according to plan, should be complete by the end of this month. It was a beautiful, charming place that I hope to return to. I had a great time chatting with Darren and exploring the airport. We wrapped up our airfield tour close to 10:30 a.m., at which time I hopped in a Lyft and headed into town.

First up, Glazed and Confused—a cute donut shop right in downtown that had stellar reviews. Though all of the donuts looked tasty, I opted for the “Pardon My French Toast” and took it to go. I strolled north to Freedom of Espresso, a local coffee shop occupying a smallish space in the lower level of a large brick building. I opened the door and stepped up to the counter, and wouldn’t you know it? “Samson” by Regina Spektor was playing. I mean COME ON… I was clearly meant to be in Syracuse. I then hunkered down with a cold brew to compliment my syrupy, doughy and frosting-laden breakfast treat.

After that, I ventured to Syracuse’s Inner Harbor where I found hundreds of birds spread across the greenest grass—most of the birds were seagulls but a few other species of water fowl were peppered in the sea of green and white.

After taking some photos, I left the area and ventured back south toward Middle Ages Brewing—the city’s longest running brewery. I was pleased to find a very industrial-style, warehouse type building and an entry way that led me into a cozy, dog-friendly hangout that serves nothing but the beer they brew right there.

Following that, I headed back toward the heart of downtown to see what was going on at Sahm Brewing. Surprisingly when I arrived, no other patrons were there… just me. I ordered an IPA at the bar and took it outside to the patio. Being out and about alone is a bit awkward in and of itself, but being the only person at a restaurant or brewery is flat out awkward. The beer, however, was stellar!

And then… it was time for more food! I meandered through the city streets to Strong Hearts Cafe, a renowned vegan eatery that I was really looking forward to visiting. While I am vegetarian and not all-out vegan, I still love me some quality food that is completely void of anything relating to an animal. I got the BBQ tempeh sandwich and a side of the macaroni salad… both were delish.

Finally, I knew it was about time to head back to the airport. I had a couple hours to spare, so I figured I would get as close as I could on foot. I made it about five miles before I had to call a Lyft to help me with the final stretch (roughly a mile).

I relaxed inside the terminal and grabbed one final brew at Middle Ages’ airport location, which also had some pretty tasty sounding grub. I then saw my plane arrive… Frontier’s “Rosie the River Otter” Airbus A320neo that I had oddly enough taken photos of earlier in the week out at O’Hare here in Chicago. Even though the plane wasn’t a Boeing, watching it being prepped for me and my fellow travelers to board made me feel something so magical. Wrapped up in the moment, I was so quickly brought back to the passion that brought me to where I am today. The icing on the cake? Being in row 16, I was part of the “rear boarding” group who got to walk out on the tarmac and board the aircraft via stairs as opposed to the jetway that the folks seated in the front several rows had been using.

I cozied up in my over-wing window seat, closed my eyes and before I knew it I was home. The Windy City welcomed me back with open arms, as she always does. I’m a very lucky girl, and I’m especially careful to make sure I don’t lose sight of that. Thank you Syracuse, for an exceptional day.