Hello SoCal

Glendale, CA

I’m notoriously bad at taking photos while traveling if I’m actually having fun. I had a travel companion for this month’s Southern California trip who made it a lot more interesting, so I don’t have too many photos.

What I do have photos of, though, is meeting a glorious little puppy named Fernie.

Adam with Fernie the dog

Fernie the dog

I met Fernie when I stopped by the Tempo content house in Beverly Hills. One of our producers is taking care of Fernie, who is from Mutt Scouts, a 501(c)(3) non-profit dog rescue based out of Los Angeles, California.

Fernie has an interesting story—she has a weak esophagus, so she needs to be held upright after she eats, otherwise she may choke and die. We’re hoping that Fernie’s esophagus strengthens as she gets older, but for now, our producer helps Fernie stay alive by sticking her into a little vertical container with blankets inside and holding her upright after she finishes a meal.

Snacks

Flight attendant: “Would you like Veggie Straws, banana chips, or cookies?”

“Yes.”

Ok, that’s not literally what she said—she just replied “one of each”—but I felt like this was the perfect context for that meme, seeing as most people just select one snack … heh.

 

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Goodbye Orlando

Florida’s weather is some of the strangest weather I’ve ever seen in my life. A single day can go from partly cloudy to blisteringly sunny to pouring rain to sunny again, then repeat the entire process the following day.

West Lucaya in Kissimmee, Florida

Another observation I’ve made while in Florida is that the drivers are equally as wild as the weather.

Within the first day of arriving in Orlando, I nearly got into a collision while coming back to our Airbnb after picking up sushi because an oncoming vehicle wasn’t paying attention to the curvature of the road and nearly drove head-on into me. I managed to avoid it by swerving sharply off the road and going up onto a curb. Luckily, I was perfectly fine, though Monica’s boba was not… and I spent a few minutes soaking up tea from the floor mats of the rental car.

Not only that, but all drivers in general seem to be a bit strange. Nowhere else have I seen people not follow the speed limit so badly… in both directions. I very rarely saw cars driving at the speed limit—it was either 15 miles per hour above the speed limit… or below it. I mentioned this to one of my col­leagues, and he suggested that the reason for this is likely because those driving under the speed limit are retired, and those driving over it are sick of the retired people.

On a related note, my rental car this time around was a Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk. I obviously put in a reservation for a full-size pickup truck, but they only had one more available on the lot, and there was an­oth­er guy behind me who actually needed a pickup truck, so I let him take it and I took an SUV instead.

It was nice re-experiencing what a mid-size SUV feels like, because I hadn’t driven one of those for a while (I’m so used to driving huge vehicles now that a mid-size SUV feels very small and agile), but my overall con­clusion is that it’s wildly overrated. Of course, there was just the inconvenience of not having a massive cen­ter console like I usually do in full-size pickup trucks, so once I had two drinks, I didn’t have a place to put my phone and wallet. But, for a vehicle that appeared like it was optioned to MSRP at just shy of US$50,000.00, I’d rather get a luxury pickup truck any day.

One of the more irritating things about the SUV was that it had air suspension. Normally, that’s considered a good thing, but I like having a high ride height, and every time I set the suspension at the highest level, it would automatically lower when I exceeded a particular speed, then show “aero” on the gauge cluster. I’m not sure if there’s a setting that stops it from doing that, but I didn’t bother spending the time looking into it.

Orlando International Airport

After we took care of all the business we needed to address in Orlando, we booked our flights back to our respective homes—Monica back to Dallas–Fort Worth, and me straight back to Las Vegas this time. Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip with Monica unless she provided me with a final troll to say goodbye.

After returning the rental car, we walked through the airport and approached the security checkpoint, when Monica told me that she didn’t have her boarding pass and hadn’t checked in yet. Of course, I facepalmed, then told her to check in so we could get through security. She fumbled around with her phone for a few minutes, then told me that she couldn’t check in.

I took her phone from her and looked through her American Airlines mobile app… upon which I discovered that the option to check in wasn’t there. I grabbed her record locator and went to the AA.com website… upon which I discovered that the option to check in wasn’t there either. Confused, we found a place to sit, powered up my mobile hotspot, whipped out my lap­top, and tried to check in from a regular browser… and the check-in link wasn’t there either.

I told Monica that there was clearly something wrong with her reservation, and that we prob­a­bly had to check in in-person. We exited the main area of the airport out near the en­trance and went on one of the American Airlines self-service kiosks to check in… and we couldn’t check in there either. Now just bewildered in confusion, we stood in the line for customer service and waited for a representative to help us out.

The representative helped us discover the problem. Our travel date was July 30. Monica ac­ci­den­tal­ly booked her flight for August 13.

Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport

Orlando International Airport is interesting. It takes the concept of “airport hotel” to a whole new level. I’m not sure if this is more common in other countries, but throughout all my travels, I have never seen an airport hotel actually physically literally be inside the airport. Apparently that is the case for Orlando.

After we made it through security, unfortunately, I discovered that The Club MCO in Terminal B, Concourse 4 was temporarily closed due to COVID-19. I could’ve gone to the one in Terminal A, Concourse 1, but because of the way that Orlando International Airport is laid out, that would mean I would have to exit security, go back through security on the opposite side of the airport, then exit security again and come back to the security check­point on this side of the airport to board my flight. I decided it wasn’t worth the trouble, so I just found myself a nice wooden bench to sit and work on.

Departing Orlando International Airport

I’m not really a big fan of how American Airlines is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Apparently they aren’t blocking out middle seats, and the flights are packed way too full—Monica and my flight from DFW to MCO was nearly at capacity. Because of this, I decided to take Delta Airlines back home (which is my preferred airline anyway), which meant my layover back to Las Vegas was in Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport instead of Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport.

I visited Minneapolis once before for X Games Minneapolis 2019, so it was nice seeing it again.

Approaching Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport

Taking the inefficient flight path via Delta up northwest instead of straight west did mean that my travel day was right around 8 hours instead of 6.5 on American (or potentially as low as 5 if I took Spirit or Frontier, but there’s no way I would’ve done that), but I personally think it was worth it for my own safety. At least I got some extra Delta Medallion-qualifying miles for the extra distance traveled.

Lake Mead

Home, sweet home.

 

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Hello Orlando

After spending a day in Dallas–Fort Worth with my assistant Monica, I headed out with her to our final destination in Florida.

Luckily, The Club DFW was open, so we were able to swing by the airport lounge to grab some food. I did a quick overview of airport lounges during the pandemic in my blog post from when I traveled to New York City, and the idea in Dallas was pretty much the same—a lot of seating areas are blocked off to force social distancing, there’s a lot of plexiglass separating employees from clients, and the buffet area was converted to a restaurant-style ordering process.

The Club at Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport

The Club DFW was also one of the more intriguing airport lounges I’ve been to. The layout was a little strange, and it felt more like it was three micro-lounges in close proximity, rather than an actual real lounge.

Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport

Upon boarding our flight, I discovered that Monica is actually 80 years old when she whipped out her knitting kit and started knitting a scarf for one of her players while on the flight.

Monica knitting on a flight

I opted to do things that were more fitting for our age, like use the in-flight wifi and take pictures out the window.

Flying out of Dallas–Fort Worth International Airport

After just shy of three hours, we made it to our destination, Orlando, Florida.

It was an intriguing sight flying into Florida, because I had never seen so much swampland in my life. Seeing as I call Las Vegas home, and flying into the Las Vegas Valley involves flying over endless barren desert, it was weird looking out the window and seeing so many shades of green and blue.

Flying into Orlando International Airport

Unfortunately, because I’m here for a sensitive human resources matter, I can’t really provide many details on what’s going on. But, in my free time, I tried to do some sightseeing.

If you’ve taken a look at the news lately, you may have heard that Florida is one of the hotspots of the spread of COVID-19. Being here first-hand, I can definitely see why that is. For some reason, Floridians are almost acting as if there isn’t really a global pandemic.

I decided to check out Lake Minneola, which is out in the Orlando suburbs and somewhat near where my lodging is. It actually looked surprisingly similar to Illinois, where I grew up, and Wisconsin, where I went to university.

I saw about 40 people, only two of which were wearing face coverings, both of whom had their masks on their chins, so I opted to just look at things from inside the rental car, and then just flee.

Lake Minneola

Lake Minneola

Florida is wild.

 

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Hello Dallas–Fort Worth

Less than a week after a personal trip to New York City, I’m already back in the air and on the road, this time for business travel. First stop is the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex.

Flower Mound, TX

The second leg of my trip to my final destination will be tomorrow. Today, I stopped by Texas to meet up with my travel companion Monica, Tempo‘s mobile esports manager, and my assistant.

I got a rental vehicle for a day so I wouldn’t have to use rideshare to and from my hotel and the airport, and so I could swing by and pick up Monica on our way to the airport tomorrow morning so I wouldn’t have to burden her boyfriend into giving her a ride. Unfortunately, no RAM Rebel this time, though a RAM 1500 Laramie is close enough.

RAM 1500 Laramie

Of course, it wouldn’t be a meet-up of Tempo employees without all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue, so I took Monica and her boyfriend to Gen.

Gen Korean BBQ with Monica and her boyfriend

I swear, it was an enjoyable experience. Don’t let the look on my face deceive you.

After dinner, I stopped by their apartment to meet their two cats, Marvin and Mildred.

Marvin eating catnip

Marvin eating a treat out of Monica's hand

Mildred the cat

Marvin was exceptionally friendly, but Mildred took a little time to warm up.

After spending about half an hour petting cats, I drove off into the sunset back to my hotel in Flower Mound.

Dallas–Fort Worth sunset

The next several days are going to be interesting. I’m hoping that doesn’t end up being an understatement.

 

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Traveling in the middle of a global pandemic

I gave into the urge. I am now on the other side of the country.

McCarran International Airport

When the pandemic first broke out, I had a burning urge to travel everywhere because of how cheap airline tickets were. But, for the sake of the greater good of humanity, I decided not to travel—the United States was not well-equipped to handle COVID-19, and me moving around would only serve as a vessel for COVID-19 to transfer to others. I stayed at home and quarantined, just like (almost) everyone else.

Now that we’re months into the pandemic, people are responding appropriately to minimize the coronavirus’ virality. It is commonplace for everyone to wear masks, hand sanitizer is plentiful, and most people distance themselves from others as much as possible. Even though the wave of cheap airline tick­ets is now gone (seeing as the supply shrunk drastically to accommodate for the decreased demand, and pricing has readjusted), I figured now is no longer considered a maximum-risk time period to travel anymore.

If you’ve been keeping up with my other blog posts, you know that I’ve traveled back and forth a few times to SoCal to visit Tempo‘s studio and team house, but those were road trips. This was my first flight since traveling to PAX East in early March 2020.

 
My adventure starts at my condo, where I called an Uber. Usually, I find a ride within several seconds and my ride arrives within a few minutes—one of the perks of living on the Las Vegas Strip. For this trip, I guess there were so few Ubers available at 10:30 AM PDT that it took several minutes for my app to finally find a driver, then an estimated 14 minutes for arrival… which ended up being closer to 20 minutes.

After I got to the airport, the environment I felt is something that I had never experienced before at an airport. It wasn’t completely empty, but it was obviously nowhere near where it usually is.

I received an email from Delta alerting me that McCarran International Airport’s wait times were higher than usual and that I should arrive at least two hours before my flight, but when I got to TSA PreCheck, I was the only one there and I was in and out of screening within a couple minutes.

The best way that I can describe the mood of the airport is “apocalyptic.” People were wearing masks and distancing away from each other, but that def­i­nite­ly wasn’t the reason for the strange environment—most people were doing this everywhere else in Las Vegas too, but nowhere else that I had been to had this vibe to it. It felt almost as if everyone had no more energy left, and everyone was waiting for the world to end.

A vast majority of the stores were closed and barred shut. People on the airport slot machines seemed to have a zombie-like glaze in their eyes, as if they were gambling away their money because there wasn’t going to be anything else for them to spend their money on after the world ends. There was usu­ally a subtle sense of rush in the air, but this time, it felt like everyone was moving at a normal pace, something very out of the ordinary for an airport.

The lounge was still open in Concourse D, so I stopped by The Club at LAS with my Priority Pass Select to grab some free food before my flight. Normally, the lounge has a buffet-style food retrieval set-up, but in order to avoid people from coming into contact with others’ food, they converted it to a restaurant style where employees collect and distribute food on your behalf.

Delta Airlines flight

Boarding the flight was also a different experience than usual. Normally, people are prompted to board by group, which generally goes by order of loy­al­ty status and upgrades, before calling the main cabin, and saving basic economy for last. However, this time around, first class was still first to board, while everyone else boarded in reverse order of seat row number, presumably to minimize the number of people who would have to walk past other already-seated people, thus minimizing potential contact.

The flight itself was pretty empty. I had a Delta Comfort+ seat in row 11, and I had the whole row to myself, in addition to row 10 being empty. I took advantage of this by reclining back and stretching my leg out into row 10, constructing my own makeshift business class seat. (I fell asleep like this and woke up with terrible lower back pain, so maybe this wasn’t actually really the greatest idea.)

In-flight service was also a bit different. Instead of coming around for regular drinks and snacks, the flight attendants had pre-bagged kits available that contained some Cheez-Its, a granola snack, bottled water, a napkin, an advertisement, and hand sanitizing wipes. I was in the section of the plane that re­ceives free alcohol (though I don’t drink alcohol so I didn’t actually order any), but I was never offered a selection of any drinks apart from alcohol, so it was ultimately inconclusive as to whether or not standard soft drink service was even available.

Flying into New York City

After a surprisingly quick flight of about four and a half hours, I made it to my destination, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. It was a little after 8 PM EDT when I arrived, but the airport was already pretty empty—almost as if midnight had decided to relocate itself four hours earlier on the clock. However, JFK didn’t have that eerie apocalyptic feel to it like LAS did; it just felt like a calm airport with not many people.

John F. Kennedy International Airport

And thus was my experience traveling in the middle of a global pandemic.

I realize I’m not setting the best example by choosing to travel for non-essential, leisurely purposes, and I encourage you to avoid doing what I did. How­ever, if you choose to do so anyway, make sure you wear a face covering, regularly wash and sanitize your hands, stay away from other people, avoid mak­ing unnecessary contact with unsanitary surfaces, and just be conscious and aware that you do not do anything stupid that may compromise the health of those around you.

 

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The best part of traveling is coming back home… unless it’s on fire

Another routine monthly Beverly Hills is in the books. I don’t have too many photos this time, as the trip was pretty uneventful.

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Because the team house is up in the Hills, the parking is naturally a bit difficult. The road leading up to the property is narrow, and street parking is very limited. If we try really hard and none of our neighbors take any street parking spots, we can squeeze in a maximum of eight vehicles, two of which would be barricaded in.

Of course, on one of the days that we had a few producers and writers at the house holding an ideation session, an electrician, the gardener, the pool cleaner, and a pest control company came, virtually all at the same time… and then the landlord showed up to help coordinate and make sure everyone was doing their job.

Needless to say, I was very much barricaded into the back of the garage by two vehicles, and we were still running out of parking spaces, with some cars now just randomly sitting there in the middle of the road. Obviously, I couldn’t go out for my daily food run, so I decided to order delivery.

With COVID-19 stay-at-home orders loosening, the traffic around the Los Angeles area is increasing, so it took about 50 minutes for my food to arrive. By that time, exactly two people had finished their work and left the house. Which two people? The two people who were barricading me in. My truck was now free to exit, and I didn’t have to order delivery.

One of these days, the world will run out of ways to mildly troll me, and then I will finally find peace in my life.

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On my drive back home to Las Vegas, I ended up sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the middle of nowhere in the California desert, because it’s California and why not.

At least the view was nice.

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The day after I got back home, Tempo‘s CEO reynad came to visit Las Vegas for some business meetings. He was staying at the Cosmopolitan and got pretty lucky with a 45th floor hotel room, so I snapped some photos while I was there to meet up with him.

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I always say that the best part of traveling is coming back home, and I still believe that… unless your home is about to catch on fire, that is. Of course, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but apparently the Las Vegas Valley was having a bit of a tough time after I got back, first having some massive dust storms coming in from the north, then a massive fire starting in Mount Charleston, later named the Mahogany Fire.

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If that fire comes closer to the city, I think I’m going to need a bigger fire extinguisher.

 

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The second time I’ve ever enjoyed going to Los Angeles

The first time was when I originally moved there.

 
With COVID-19 quarantine regulations ever so slightly easing up, and my desire to travel ever increasing, I spent the last week and a half in Beverly Hills at Tempo‘s team house. Of course, just because stay-at-home orders are lifting doesn’t mean the threat isn’t still there, so I drove there instead of taking a flight.

Usually, driving from Las Vegas to Beverly Hills can take anywhere from five to seven hours, depending on the severity of the traffic. Obviously, the trek through the desert is usually pretty quick, but it’s the final stretch of road from San Bernardino to the Pacific coastline that really gets you. I distinctly re­call a drive back home to Las Vegas in December 2019 where that stretch of freeway had so much congestion that I was sitting in traffic for three hours and literally had to get a hotel in Victorville because I was already so tired and felt like I couldn’t safely finish the drive home.

This trip? Four hours and forty-five minutes, including three breaks. Actual driving time was just shy of four hours. It was the fastest I had ever made it from Las Vegas to Los Angeles.

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My favorite part of the drive was when I went to a McDonald’s in Barstow and proceeded to get kicked out because I didn’t have a mask on. Why is it my favorite part? Because the person who kicked me out had his mask on around his neck instead of on his face.

 
I usually like keeping myself isolated and staying alone, but this trip actually made me realize that interacting with people can be nice if the people are pleasant and also just as driven for success as you are. The team house obviously hasn’t been getting any visitors lately, so the only people around were long-time employees around whom I’m already comfortable, so my time in Beverly Hills was surprisingly productive.

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What made things even better was that the Studio City area was actually driveable. When I was setting up the team house back in December 2019, there was so much traffic that I literally couldn’t even find a spot to park in at the grocery store, so I had to go to three grocery stores before I found one with sufficient parking to actually go in and get food. This past week, I’d say the traffic was at about 50% of what it usually is.

Now, I’d say the “usual” traffic in Studio City is around 160% of maximum capacity, in that it’s about to explode around the edges because there are so many cars, and the roads are just completely inconvenient and unnavigable because of traffic congestion. Obviously, 50% of 160% is still 80%, so the roads were still pretty busy, but it actually just felt like a bustling city rather than a place that needed a purge. I was actually able to go out and do er­rands without having to drive in circles for ten minutes before each stop in an attempt to find parking.

One funny thing though was how fast food restaurant drive-thru lanes were packed and flooding out into the street. I’m not too familiar with the Studio City area, so for food each day, my strategy was to drive around until I found a restaurant with a drive-thru that actually had room for me to fit. This made it so almost every day’s meal ended up either being McDonald’s or Taco Bell.

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One of the days, though, our CEO added my food to his Postmates delivery order from SUGARFISH. I went with the “Trust Me,” which came with 8 pieces of nigiri, a small cut roll, some slices of tuna sashimi, and edamame. The price? With tax and fees included, ~US$42.00. For that price in Las Vegas, you can get all-you-can-eat sushi with a specialty beverage and gratuity covered. That’s absolutely insane.

 
Due to the generally confidential nature of my job duties, I can’t share too much else of what I was up to in Beverly Hills, but one thing that I can share is snapshots from all the productions that happened while I was around. We did some filming with one of our Rainbow Six Siege players, went out to The Point at the Bluffs in Pacific Palisades to capture some b-roll footage, and recorded some YouTube videos with our broadcast personality Jake.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is obviously a terrible thing, but if we’re searching for silver linings, I think one of them is the fact that people are realizing that they can do a lot of things from home, and they don’t necessarily have to go outside. I’m hearing that a lot of tech companies are realizing how ef­fi­cient work-from-home actually is, and are extending the offer to employees to continue working from home, even after the pandemic has subsided.

People staying home is what’s making Los Angeles much more pleasant for me now, because I feel like I can go out and take care of business without having to be paranoid about not being able to find a place to park my pickup truck, or worrying about not being able to make it back home from run­ning errands for 2-3 hours.

If I’m being honest with myself, I don’t think this is going to last. But while it does, I don’t think Los Angeles is that bad. Dare I say, “not that bad” enough that I might return for another visit in a few weeks.

 

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