Goodbye Indianapolis

After a week in Indianapolis, my time in the city is wrapping up as I prepare to go to my next destination tomorrow. It was nice seeing my childhood best friend again, and it was an interesting experience driving through downtown Indianapolis and remembering seeing some of the shops and mon­u­ments when I was last here over 13 years ago for my cousin’s law school graduation ceremony.

Apart from the tourist attractions and destinations I already blogged about, we also went to a few other restaurants, mainly trying to hit ones with good ratings or recommended by food blogs.

One of the restaurants that Ed’s mom wanted to go to for brunch was on a farm. There was a cat outside on the farm property that was a bit scared of me at first, but warmed up pretty quickly after I swooped down, blinked slowly, and held out my finger. He started headbutting my hand and legs and wouldn’t stop, but I eventually managed to snap a photo.

Indianapolis

We also visited Canal Walk. I wasn’t really too interested in renting a gondola, but we took a stroll up and down alongside the canal.

Indianapolis

Indianapolis

Canal Walk had a lot of miniature waterfalls along the side, which I liked.

Indianapolis

This was also right by White River State Park, so we visited that as well.

Indianapolis

As a Marriott fanboy, I obviously had to take a photo of the J.W. Marriott.

Indianapolis

My hotel of choice for this trip was the Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Indianapolis Northwest.

I didn’t really use the amenities because I was particularly active during this segment of my trip (e.g., I wasn’t hungry for breakfast because I would get so much food with Ed and his mom, and I didn’t use the gym more than once because I went to Ed’s apartment’s community center or just got exercise walk­ing a lot from touring). But, from what I did see, the hotel was nice and resembled the other Fairfield Inns that are well-maintained—basic, clean, straight­for­ward, and simple.

I always skip housekeeping throughout my whole stay, so part-way through the week, I stopped by the front desk to get a refill on shampoo and con­di­tion­er. I happened to run into the manager, who got me my bath amenities, and we also had a nice chat about my voluntary homeless adventure across the country. She seemed very intrigued and impressed that I took the initiative to do something so unconventional.

Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott Indianapolis Northwest

Overall, I thought Indianapolis was pretty nice. It wasn’t that crazy of a city, but it still had enough special traits and characteristics (like with racing) that it had its own unique identity.

It was also nice visiting Ed for a week. We used to see each other fairly frequently when we were in high school, then went to different undergraduate universities and usually would only meet up during holidays. It was unfortunate that my trip to Indianapolis was immediately following a month and a half with my parents, because I think having a week or two of alone time as a buffer period between the two visits would have made me appreciate the social interaction a bit more. But, nonetheless, it was a pleasant experience.

Tomorrow, I’m going to be flying to Seattle for a one-week break from my road trip to visit some friends and co-workers. I’ll be spending a week on the Pacific Coast, then flying back to Indianapolis to pick up my truck and continue on my journey to the next state. More tourism blog posts to come soon…

 

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Hello, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

My second tourist activity of Indianapolis was visiting the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the race track best known for hosting the Indianapolis 500, or just the “Indy 500.” I wasn’t too interested in seeing a live race (and was too late for it anyway), but I want to see the notable points of interest that each of my road trip cities are known for, so I wanted to at least check out the track and the museum.

My tour started with a guided lap ride around the race track.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The race track used to be made out of brick, but has since been covered with multiple layers of asphalt. However, there is one strip of the original brick still visible near the starting point of the race. Apparently, professional race car drivers kiss this portion of the race track, so the tourists were also al­lowed to swoop down and kiss the brick for photos. I personally thought that concept was repulsive, so instead, I just asked Ed to take a photo of me sit­ting next to the brick.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

After the tour, we went back into the museum for the self-guided portion of our trip.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

I usually don’t really have pictures of myself when I go to tourist attractions, but seeing as Ed was here with me, he took a few shots of me sitting inside the race cars designed for photos.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

I’m one of the people who have always thought the Indy 500, and every other professional racing event, was fairly boring, because I didn’t really see the appeal of watching a bunch of people drive their cars in a circle and continue turning left over and over again.

After visiting the Motor Speedway, I still wouldn’t consider myself a racing fan, but I did have two takeaways that changed my view of the sport:

  • Racing is just another outlet for the drivers and their teams to showcase their skill. It takes a lot of top-tier science, engineering, intellect, talent, and control to be able to drive at racecar speeds. It is also a perfectionist’s sport, because a single unnoticeable error could result in catastrophic disaster for the driver.
  • A lot of fans like the Indianapolis 500 as an observer’s sport, but that’s just a portion of it—a lot of the fans love it more for the heritage and tra­di­tion, as well as the strong patriotism that the Indy 500 represents.

 

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Hello, Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

For my first real tourist activity of Indianapolis, I went to Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art. Newfields is 152 acres and contains over 50,000 items in their collection. I noticed that Newfields is also one of the most highly-rated art museums in general across the United States.

Throughout my road trip, when I go to a tourist attraction, I usually go in the late morning or early afternoon so I will have a good chunk of time to ex­plore before the exhibits close, then I can pick up food on the way back to my hotel. However, for Newfields, I went with Ed, so unfortunately, I had to do some schedule coordination and didn’t make it into the museum until 5 PM. The museum closed at 8 PM, which meant we only had three hours to view everything; usually, three hours would be enough for a museum, but due to the sheer size of this museum (and because of the fact that it was driz­zling rain), we missed out on all of the outdoor gardens and exhibits.

Here are some highlights from my trip from the various different sections on display:

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Newfields: The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Yes, that is me in the final photo standing in front of a really big cloud thingy. Unfortunately, the cloud was a little bright and the rest of the museum was dark at that point because there was dim lighting by the entrance, the sun had set, and it was almost closing time… so even with a lot of editing in post, I still look sort of like a silhouette.

 

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Hello, Provision in Indianapolis

For my first stop of my continued road trip after visiting my parents, I’m visiting Indianapolis, Indiana, to which my childhood best friend (you may know him as Ed Lam or “Grainyrice”) and his mom moved not too long ago. Today is Ed’s mom’s birthday, so I treated her and Ed to dinner at Provision, a highly-rated res­tau­rant in the Ironworks Hotel.

Our meal started with a pre-appetizer while we were browsing the menus and deciding what to eat. I don’t recall what exactly was in the dish, but it was very tart and sour.

Provision in Indianapolis

For our main appetizer, we ordered and split one crab hashbrown with spinach, candied jalapeño, fried egg, and jalapeño hollandaise.

Provision in Indianapolis

For my meal, I opted for the chef’s tasting menu, a six-course dinner with a soup, four various meat dishes, and dessert.

The opening course was chilled English pea soup drizzled with crème fraîche and topped with smoked sea salt, and a side of crispy Serrano ham. Upon the first bite, the flavor was overwhelmingly peas, but after I mixed in the crème fraîche and sea salt and nibbled on the ham along with it, it had a much better taste. The blandness of the pea soup was well-complemented with the saltiness and savoriness of the ham.

Provision in Indianapolis

The next dish was hamachi (better known as Japanese amberjack or yellowtail) with Shiso oil, cucumber chutney, pickled strawberry, fried caper, to­bi­ko, and rice emulsion.

I’d say this was my least favorite dish for a few reasons. First, I’m a sushi enthusiast, and I immediately noticed that the yellowtail didn’t really taste much like yellowtail. This may tie in with the second point, which is that everything was extremely sour, probably because the strong flavor of the pickled straw­berries and capers got on the other ingredients. I’m not sure if this affected how the yellowtail tasted, but I’d say this tasted more like an extremely sour salad more than it did a fish dish.

Provision in Indianapolis

Third was lobster risotto with Fresno chile salad and lemon oil. This might have been bland for some other people, but this was perfect for my taste, and was my second favorite dish. There was lobster both in shreds and in small chunks, and the risotto had a smooth yet satisfying texture. This is also the first dish where I noticed the chef did a good job at maintaining the optimal serving temperature of the dish by heating the plate up; the top of the ri­sot­to was warm, but after digging in a bit, the innards were nice and hot.

Provision in Indianapolis

The next course was quail with sage, apple and celery root purée, and fig demi. This was my first time eating quail, and I thought it was fairly un­der­whelm­ing—it tasted mostly like turkey. The preparation was nice—it was crispy on the outside but juicy on the inside. However, I think quail just might not have the highest-quality cuts available, so it just tasted like generic meat. It wasn’t bad, but I’d say this was my second least favorite dish.

Provision in Indianapolis

Fifth in line was Japanese A5 Wagyu seared in olive oil and surrounded by pink peppercorn and sea salt. As you may have guessed, this was my favorite dish.

The Japanese use A, B, and C to grade their meat’s cutability, which represents the amount of meat taken from a carcass as calculated by a particular for­mu­la. “A” means it has higher yield than standard, “B” means it has standard yield, and “C” means it has lower yield than standard. After the letter, you’ll see a number from 1 to 5; this represents meat quality as based on things like marbling, coloring, and texture. A score of “1” is the lowest and “5” is the highest.

This dish was a perfect example of the melt-in-your-mouth quality of beef I would expect from A5 Wagyu. I accidentally overdid it with the sea salt a bit for my first bite, which I was disappointed about, but after realizing that the crystals on the side were literally pure salt, I used it in moderation for future bites, and the rest was amazing. The sear on the outside added a perfect amount of crisp to the otherwise buttery soft inside.

The waiter let me know that they usually sell this for $25 per ounce, so a standard 8-ounce steak would cost $200. The portion I received was 2.5 ounces, so I realized that the chef’s tasting menu was actually a pretty amazing deal (I’ll do an overall price breakdown at the end).

Provision in Indianapolis

The final course was dessert: ricotta donuts with maple cream, bacon crumble, banana ice cream, two cuts of strawberry, and a blackberry. This ended up being a fairly stereotypical dessert dish. The main thing I liked about it was that it wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet, and the banana ice cream had a unique taste profile where it tasted like vanilla first, but once you leave it in your mouth for a few seconds, the banana flavor emerges.

Provision in Indianapolis

Instead of the full-blown chef’s tasting menu, Ed’s mom opted for a “miniature” version of it, called the Devour Summerfest. Apparently this is a thing in which over 100 restaurants participate by offering value-priced three-course meals.

Her first dish was an appetizer, for which she picked shrimp and chicken gyoza with pineapple ponzu, spicy sauce, and pickled Fresno. I tried a small piece of the edge of one of them, and it tasted like fairly generic fried dumplings.

Provision in Indianapolis

For her main course, she got salmon with plantain curry, cucumber, pickled onion, harissa raita, and lentil.

Provision in Indianapolis

Ed was probably extremely bored the entire time, because, while I got a six-course meal and his mom had a three-course meal, he just got a normal menu item. He had the short rib with herb spaetzle, asparagus, corn, fennel, potato, and smoked onion demi.

Provision in Indianapolis

And finally, for Ed’s mom’s dessert, she got a cheesecake with cherry preserves and pistachio. Usually when you make a reservation to a high-end res­tau­rant, they’ll ask you whether your just visiting for a regular meal, or if there is a special occasion; I marked down that it was her birthday, so they turned her cheesecake into a miniature birthday cake.

Provision in Indianapolis

Ed also had dessert—an Indiana sugar cream pie with a candied orange slice and Turkish coffee ice cream. Unfortunately, I only took one photo of his des­sert, and it ended up out of focus, so I don’t have a picture to share.

Here is the breakdown of what I paid:

Chef’s tasting menu  $  95.00
Devour Summerfest  $  40.00
Short rib  $  38.00
Indiana sugar cream pie  $  10.00
Soft drink  $   2.75
Occasion dessert discount –$  10.00
Taxes (9%)  $  17.62
Gratuity (20%)  $  42.67
Total  $ 256.04

I thought this was a great deal. I recently went to Nonesuch in Oklahoma City, a similar tasting menu restaurant, which cost just shy of $440 for two peo­ple. Although Nonesuch had 11 courses while Provision only had 6, the portion sizes at Provision were proportionally larger. Although Nonesuch was much better at food presentation, I think I would say that the taste was better at Provision, and to me, that’s the more important part.

The waiter comped Ed’s mom’s dessert for her birthday, so we ended up getting a $10 discount.

I enjoyed my meal, and Ed’s mom appeared to have had a good time as well, so I’d say this was overall a good dinner. If you’re ever in the northeast In­di­an­apolis suburbs and this restaurant is within your price range for a meal, I’d definitely recommend giving it a visit.

 

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I’ve decided to continue my homelessness

In case you’re late to the party, I decided back in May 2021 that I would become voluntarily homeless and go on a road trip to travel the country. Since then, I’ve visited Long Beach, California; Lake Las Vegas, Nevada; St. George, Utah; Salt Lake City, Utah; Rawlins, Wyoming; Denver, Colorado; Wichita, Kansas; Kansas City, Kansas/Missouri; and Springfield, Illinois. You can filter my blog to just show travel posts by using the “Travel” category.

Adam Parkzer's travel map

At the time that I decided to start this journey, I left things very open-ended. I knew that my first destination was going to be my parents’ house in the Chi­cagoland suburbs, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do after that—whether I would continue east, or just drive straight back home to Las Vegas and sign a new lease. Well, after almost three months of being homeless, I have decided that I want to continue my journey and extend my adventure for as long as possible.

Of course, this wouldn’t be an Adam Parkzer blog post without a breakdown and some in-depth analysis, so here are the things that I like and dislike so far about being a nomad.

 
Things I like:

  • I feel an even stronger sense of freedom than I did before.

    With my job being remote (even prior to the pandemic) and having flexible scheduling with no set working hours, I already had a lot of freedom when it came to what I wanted to do with my life. But, now that I’m literally roaming the country and never staying in one location for more than a week at a time (except for visiting my parents for a month), I feel an elevated sense of freedom. I hate feeling constrained or confined, so this is probably the happiest I’ve been in a while.

    Previously, even though I’ve been able to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, there wasn’t actually really that much that I wanted to do, so I would mostly just stay indoors and work. However, now that I’m surrounded by so many new things, there are a lot of things that I do actually want to do… and it is liberating knowing that I can just go and do them if I feel like it. I’ve already been very thankful of my current working ar­range­ment, but traveling like this makes me double down on the appreciation.

    Similarly, if I want to work, I know that I can get uninterrupted work done whenever I want to. I pass on daily housekeeping and keep the “do not disturb” indicator on my door at all times, so that means nobody ever bothers me in my hotel room.

  • The fact that I no longer have to pay rent in an unoccupied apartment or condo during travel is very satisfying to the efficiency part of my brain.

    One thing I hated about traveling in the past is that I would be paying rent in an apartment or condo that would remain vacant while I was gone. The worst part is that I actually traveled quite a bit for work, so sometimes, I would only actually be at home half the time, yet I would still be pay­ing full price in rent.

    Now that I am no longer committed to a lease agreement, I am happy to fly to Las Vegas, Southern California, or any other location for work and spend as long as I need to in those areas. The only additional expense would be parking my pickup truck at the airport of whatever city I happen to be in at the time, but the magic of living out of hotel rooms is that I don’t have to continue paying for hotel rooms if I’m at the company team house (or, if I do pay for hotel rooms for work at those work-related locations, those are reimbursable, while my rent would not have been).

  • I’m learning a lot.

    Traveling and exploring new areas obviously exposes me to many new experiences that let me learn about how other areas of the country live. But, there’s another aspect to this as well—by traveling through smaller “middle of nowhere” towns, I am learning a lot more about different cultures.

    When you get very deep in your own world, it’s sometimes easy to lose touch with the rest of reality. This is especially true in the Internet industry because of how unique the Internet ecosystem is.

    This is also especially true in the video gaming and entertainment industry, which is heavily centralized around the Greater Los Angeles met­ro­pol­i­tan area. People in big cities mind their own business and generally don’t care about other people. It’s normal for you to walk past thousands of people on a daily basis and never talk with any of them.

    I first noticed the stark difference between big city culture and small town culture when I made a trip to Oklahoma City and everyone seemed in­ter­ested to talk with me. I saw this was also the case in other smaller towns throughout my road trip. It definitely gave me a different per­spec­tive about the social aspect of human life, and how there is some merit to talking with random people on the street for “no reason,” then un­cov­er­ing something unexpected that you can learn from them.

  • Hotel life is actually pretty nice.

    If you’re living out of hotel rooms and commit to a specific hospitality brand, it’s very easy to max out their loyalty program. My hotel chain of choice is the Marriott, and I am a Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite member.

    This comes with a wealth of perks and benefits. Based on availability, I automatically get upgraded to the best suite available, which is nice if I’m going to be living in one for a week at a time in each city. I get lounge access if one is available, which means I usually get free snacks, water, and other beverages. I get a welcome gift upon arriving at the hotel, which is usually just some extra loyalty points that I can redeem for future travel, but one hotel went as far as to give me a custom-baked cookie with my name on it. I also get guaranteed 4 PM late checkout, which is useful if I plan on leaving the hotel later in the afternoon or evening (as opposed to the normal check-out time, which is usually in the morning).

    The hotel lifestyle is also nice even without the special elite perks. If I need help with anything, even if it’s not something hotel-related, someone is always available at the front desk to assist. All the hotels have fitness centers, so a workout is always just a short walk away. If I ever run out of stuff like shampoo, toilet paper, or other bath amenities, I can call the front desk and someone will bring some for me to my door.

    Marriott also does a great job with housekeeping, so my rooms have always been clean upon arrival (except for the one hotel I stayed at in St. George, which had an air conditioning unit that smelled like moldy sneakers). In a similar vein, I personally never have to clean anything; I tidy up my room prior to departure to help out the maids a bit, but apart from that, the staff handle all the cleaning, so I never have to wipe another toilet for as long as I am living in hotels.

  • I have something to blog about.

    This one is a little silly, but this nomad lifestyle gives me something to blog about. I enjoy blogging and writing in general, but some­times, I just don’t really know what to write about; always being exposed to something new makes it much easier for me to continue doing what I enjoy.

  • I like driving my truck.

    This one is also a little bit silly, but I actually enjoy driving my pickup truck around to places. I still think the modern-day mid-size pickup truck is the perfect size for a dynamic person who needs versatility and capability. It is narrow enough that it can easily navigate through dense cities, it is high up enough that I get a good view of the road, and it has enough cargo space that I can carry all my essential belongings in the back seats and bed.

    I appreciated the fact that I had a pickup truck when I was driving through the Rocky Mountain states with a lot of elevation change. Even though my truck has a V6 engine instead of a V8, it is still plenty of power to blast up mountain roads. I especially appreciated the fact that I had a pickup truck when I was in Wyoming, where half the roads seemed to either be unpaved, or damaged so badly by weather that they might as well have been unpaved.

    To put things simply, it is very satisfying and liberating to know I can conquer pretty much any road situation I encounter.

 
Things I dislike:

  • The Internet can sometimes be unreliable.

    Internet speed test from Element Overland ParkMarriott has been doing a great job with improving Internet con­nec­tiv­i­ty in their properties. Surprisingly, about half of my hotel rooms had work­ing Ethernet ports so I could plug my computer di­rect­ly to a wired Internet connection. The Element Overland Park had the best Internet speed out of all the hotels I stayed at, with speeds reaching nearly parallel gigabit.

    However, there are still some hotels where the connection isn’t re­al­ly the best. Especially with wireless, my connection can drop eas­i­ly from stuff like if someone is using a microwave in a neigh­bor­ing room, or if there is too much metal in the way and the wireless signal doesn’t reach my room well.

    It doesn’t really make too much of a difference if I’m just browsing or watching buffered videos, but it can get annoying if I’m constantly editing a spreadsheet on the cloud for work, or if I’m trying to play a game. In these situations, I end up plugging my phone into my computer and using a USB tethered 4G LTE connection.

  • It can get annoying unpacking and packing all my belongings every week.

    One of the things I mentioned before I started traveling was that I did not want this to affect the quality of my work at all. Being the head of cor­po­rate operations at Tempo, a lot of work I do involves large electronic documents and spreadsheets that aren’t the best to work on using a small lap­top screen. Thus, I have been traveling with my desktop computer with two full-size monitors and setting up my entire workstation at every sin­gle hotel that I’ve stayed at.

    I’ve streamlined this process pretty well so it only takes about half an hour to move all my boxes into the hotel room and get everything set up now, but after doing it over and over and over again, it starts getting a little bit annoying.

  • If I’m in the East of the country, flying back to the West monthly for errands and work can still be tiring with long travel days.

    Another aspect of making sure my road trip doesn’t affect my work is making sure that I’m still able to travel to the company headquarters in Southern Cal­i­for­nia during my routine interval of around once a month. While I fly over to SoCal, I stop by Las Vegas as well to get a haircut, check my PO box, and do other errands.

    Back in 2016, one of the reasons I moved from Illinois to California was because it was getting annoying flying back and forth so much to go to esports events for work. Travel is much more comfortable now and I don’t mind planes anymore, but it can still get sort of tiring having long travel days and going back and forth the country in transcontinental flights.

  • There has been a growing thought in my mind that I might suffer from lifestyle inflation.

    When it’s finally time to settle down, get married, and have chil­dren, I’m hoping that I will look back on these travels and remember them fondly, as opposed to feeling stuck in my future situation and want­ing to become a nomad again.

 
So, what’s next? My current plan is to head off to Indiana on September 1 and continue my journey east. I had previously been considering visiting some family members in the northeast, but with the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic due to the new emerging variants, I figured I would travel on my own for now and potentially visit them later, seeing as many of them are older and classified as high-risk individuals.

After Indiana, I’m parking my truck at the airport and making another air trip to the West Coast for work purposes, then flying back to Indiana. Afterwards, I have a route planned out for driving through Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. This will land me in mid-October, at which point I will take yet again another flight to the West Coast for work, fly back, and continue my journey through Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, the route of which is currently unplanned.

 

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When brand loyalty goes a little bit too far

I am extremely loyal to brands. I study and analyze all the available options, then I pick the best one and commit to their services. For brands that are ex­tra favorites of mine, I even go as far as to purchase their publicly-traded stock. The most obvious brand I’ve committed to that is apparent from my re­cent cross-country road trip is Marriott. I stay only in Marriott hotels, I am Titanium Elite in their Bonvoy loyalty program, and I own thousands of dol­lars’ worth of stock of Marriott International, Inc.

Delta has recently become one of these brands too. I also own thousands of dollars’ worth of stock of Delta Air Lines, Inc., and if possible, I always take a Delta flight instead of a flight with a different airline. For my recent trip from LAX to ORD, I had the option of flying non-stop via American Airlines. Instead, I chose to fly Delta Flight 937 from LAX to MSP, take a layover, and fly Delta Flight 3582 from MSP to ORD.

The connection was a little bit tight, but I was fairly confident I could make it. Flight 937 would arrive at MSP at 6:44 PM CDT. Flight 3582 departs MSP at 7:25 PM CDT. Boarding doors generally close 15 minutes prior to take-off. That would mean I have a 26-minute window to deplane, go to the next gate, and board my next flight. Hashtag doable.

An interesting flight path from LAX to MSPThat is, unless the crew is late, and then the pilot decides to take a very strange flight path. A 1:05 PM PDT on-time departure turned into a 1:14 PM PDT late departure, and a 6:44 PM CDT on-time arrival turned into a 7:04 PM CDT late arrival. Instead of taking a nice, smooth arc from LAX to MSP (or a straight line, if you’re a flat-earther, I guess), the pilot started flying due east out of LAX, presumably to avoid some California wildfires, then went off-angle for a bit, decided to add a nipple to his flight path (probably to avoid a storm in Iowa), then approached MSP from the wrong side and did a circle around the airport.

We deplaned out of the D gates, and my connecting flight was boarding from Gate C20. With a 20-minute arrival delay, that gave me a 6-minute window to make it to my next gate before boarding doors closed. I’ve pulled off some pretty incredible feats at airports, like running two-thirds of a mile with a backpack and luggage in six minutes at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The unlucky part is that, you’d expect the D gates to start when the C gates end, i.e., it goes from C1 to C25, then D is after C25… but that’s not the case. The D gates are before Gate C1, so getting to C20 is a bit of a trek.

But I wasn’t discouraged. This was still doable.

Flying into Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport

… My entire six minutes was used up by the flight crew opening the doors and letting us out. We arrived at the gate at 7:04 PM, but the doors didn’t ac­tu­al­ly open until a few minutes afterwards, and I wasn’t off the plane until a few more minutes on top of that. I checked the Delta app hoping for a de­lay on my connecting flight, but it showed an on-time departure. There was no way I was going to make this one. I didn’t even bother running.

Walking from Gate D4 to Gate C20 at MSP

I made it to Gate C20 by 7:24 PM CDT, just in time for the gate agent to tell me that the plane had already left several minutes ago for an on-time de­par­ture. I sort of shrugged it off and asked her where the closest Delta customer support desk was, but others didn’t handle it as well as I did. A couple showed up moments after me; they clearly didn’t understand that boarding doors close prior to the scheduled departure time, and were infuriated that they had made it “just in time,” but the plane was already gone. In their rage, they pulled off their face coverings and started yelling at the gate agent. Did you know that the COVID-19 pandemic stops existing if you’re mad about missing your connecting flight?

Anyway, I managed to find my way to a Delta customer support desk between Gates C1 and C2. There was no representative at the desk so I used the support phones to get my replacement flight booked and sorted; by the time I was done with that, a representative had shown up, so I asked her for a hotel voucher and a toiletry/amenity baggie. I made my way downstairs to ground transportation and hopped on a hotel shuttle bus to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bloomington – Minneapolis South, my assigned complementary hotel.

 
It was a packed shuttle going to the DoubleTree. After about 20 minutes (a bit longer than expected because we went to the other terminal too to pick up more passengers), a group of ~8-10 parties exited the shuttle and walked into the hotel with vouchers for check-in. Ahead of this group were a few guests who had already checked in and needed assistance with their stay.

One of these guests was a man who went up to the counter with two ice cream bars. He had apparently just purchased them for $4 each, but noticed on his receipt that he was overcharged and wasn’t quite sure where (I imagine the receipt wasn’t itemized). The Hilton representative looked up the trans­ac­tion and let him know that, although the sign said the ice cream bars were $4 each, one of them was actually $5 and the other was $8 (even though they were both the exact same ice cream bar).

The guest requested a refund of the difference in price, and justifiably so—if the ice cream bars are labeled as $4 on the refrigerator, it would make sense that he should only pay $4. The representative tapped on his keyboard a bit, then said “I will refund you $1.52.”

That clearly was not enough to make up for the difference in price, so the guest sort of stood there in confusion and didn’t say anything. Moments later, the representative said “you have been provided with a full refund, please return the ice cream bars back to the refrigerator” … which is obviously not what he just said he would do, and is not what was requested.

The guest clearly had enough. He had mentioned earlier that he was down here to check on the price because he was sick of getting screwed over by this hotel, so I imagine this was not his first incident with the Hilton. I don’t necessarily agree with his methodology, but I definitely don’t blame him for what he did next. In a fury of rage, he crushed the ice cream bars, walked over to the refrigerator, threw them back in, slammed the door, tore off the “$4 each” sign, and slammed it on the check-in desk, pointing out that it was false advertising. He then went to the elevators and returned to his room.

The Hilton representative’s bald head began shining with sweat and his panic ensued. The representative paced back and forth for a bit, then grabbed the phone and called who I presume to be the security office. He acted like there was an active threat, even though the guest had already left. He hung up, picked up the phone again, and made some more calls. Eventually, a few more Hilton staff members, one of whom appeared to be dressed the part for being a manager, came out from the back to see what was going on.

The representative who was involved in the incident pulled up the irate guest’s personal information on file and started reading it aloud in front of the 8-10 parties still awaiting check-in—the ones who had just gotten off the shuttle with me—presumably so another employee could write it down. He then began explaining to the manager what was going on, pointing out that he had basically been assaulted by this guest.

I couldn’t help myself.

I, as the witness closest to the incident, informed the manager that the representative effectively provoked the guest by overcharging him for his pur­chase, then literally saying he would do one thing to resolve the problem (which wasn’t even an appropriate resolution) and then proceeding to do some­thing completely different. Needless to say, the representative was not happy.

Things eventually settled down. After the manager deescalated the situation (and by “the situation,” I mean “the representative,” because the angry guest had been long gone by this point, and there wasn’t really a situation to deescalate anymore), I was next in line to check in.

Seeing as I had just ratted out this representative to his boss, I wasn’t expecting much. I let him know that I’m Titanium Elite with Marriott Bonvoy, and asked if he would be able to do a status match in benefits for this stay, to which he said “no.” I asked him if I could at least get a complementary bottle of water or something, to which he replied “no.”

My response was, “this is why I stay at Marriotts.”

With an ever-so-barely visible scowl on his face, he put me on the lowest guest room floor of a 22-story building with a nice view of concrete.

 
After a passable night’s rest, I woke up in time to catch the 8:30 AM shuttle to the airport. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was full, and it was on a first-come, first-served basis, so I was out of luck. My rebooked flight was at 10:30 AM; the hotel’s airport shuttles operated once every hour, and I didn’t want to take the risk of waiting for the 9:30 AM shuttle, so I just called an Uber.

Five minutes into my Uber ride, I got an email from Delta saying that my flight was delayed, with a new departure time of 11:37 AM. That obviously would’ve been nice to know before I had already left the hotel, but it was fine. I’d just spend an extra hour at the airport eating some breakfast and people-watching. … Shortly after I arrived at the airport, I got another email saying the departure had been delayed again, this time to 12:09 PM.

I bought a protein shake and went to an empty gate with nobody around so I could take off my mask and enjoy my drink. I got very lucky with my gate selection, because I happened to pick one where they were running training exercises for the airport bomb-sniffing dogs.

Bomb-sniffing dogs under training

Bomb-sniffing dogs under training

Bomb-sniffing dogs under training

Upon the conclusion of my entertaining dog show, Delta emailed me yet again informing me that my flight had been delayed to a 1:07 PM departure. I looked up the inbound flight for the plane that was sup­posed to take us to ORD, and apparently it was still grounded at OKC, hours after it was sup­posed to take off. I assumed it was some sort of mechanical problem with the aircraft (which I later confirmed was correct), so I walked around MSP un­til I found a power outlet, pulled out my laptop, plugged in, and started getting some work done.

Delta must have thought that this was a great idea, because they delayed the flight again to 2:16 PM.

As the time approached closer to 1 PM, I took another look at the status of the inbound flight and saw that it was en route. I realized that this is likely go­ing to end up being the last delay, and I will finally make it to Chicago. At 1:46 PM, I packed up my laptop and made my way to Gate C14 for boarding. I scanned my boarding pass and got on the plane. Everyone else boarded, the flight attendants closed the boarding doors, the airport crew retracted the jet bridge, and we were ready to leave. My travel day was finally coming to an end.

Awaiting departure from Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport

Then the pilot announced that ORD was grounding all inbound flights at their origin until at least 3 PM due to severe thunderstorms.

Honestly, it would be more surprising if I was surprised.

I pulled out my tablet, opened my Kindle app, loaded up a Stephen King book that I’m in the process of reading, and re­clined all the way back in my seat, thank­ful that I got upgraded to first class.

Awaiting departure in a Bombardier CRJ900

I was fully prepared and expecting to be told that ORD extended the postponement of inbound flights, but we were actually cleared to depart at 3 PM. We set off, and in under an hour of air time, we arrived safely at ORD. I’m sure you can guess how excited everyone was when we flew into Chicago and saw no trace of the thunderstorms that delayed us for an additional 44 minutes on the Minnesotan tarmac.

Flying into Chicago O'Hare International Airport

Delta is still my favorite airline, and if possible, I will continue to always fly Delta Air Lines. Prior to the past two days, Delta has provided me with no­ta­bly smooth and high-quality service for years.

However, after this experience… I may possibly consider taking American Airlines in the future if they have a non-stop flight available while Delta does not. 🙂

 

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Reunited

Yes, I am still alive. If you’re one of the few people who have actually been deeply invested in my nomadic travels so far, I understand that it can be a bit jarring to see a new blog post once every few days, then suddenly see nothing for a month… but the simple answer for that is because I’ve just had noth­ing interesting to blog about.

On July 12, I arrived in the Chicagoland suburbs at my parents’ house where I grew up. They live in a very small village where there isn’t really much to do nearby, and I’ve mostly just been working, playing games, and helping my parents catch up on errands and appointments that they never got around to doing on their own.

Two days ago was just shy of the two month and two week mark of transferring my portion of my condo lease to someone else and voluntarily becoming homeless to travel the country. Seeing as I still consider Las Vegas my home (and it is still officially my home in the eyes of the government), I parked my truck at a nearby airport and made an air trip back to Las Vegas take care of some errands that were piling up while I was gone—getting a haircut, go­ing to the chiropractor, picking up my vehicle registration renewal sticker, picking up insurance renewal documents and cards, picking up new mem­ber­ship cards, and other various similar tasks.

But, the most important task of all… was visiting and being reunited with my former roommate Winnie’s cats.

Mochi

Pudding

Pumpkin

My parents have a Yorkshire Terrier that is a typical overenthusiastic dog with way too much energy, but also isn’t very well trained. She’s the type of dog that barks at seemingly nothing, and then proceeds to bark at herself barking because she’s confused why she’s barking. She also has some of the worst separation anxiety I have ever seen in an animal.

After having lived with Winnie and her cats for over half a year, untrained and unsocialized dogs (like my parents’) became a bit overwhelming for me. The difference was made even more dramatic after staying with my parents for a month, then coming back to visit the cats again. Winnie’s cats are ac­tu­al­ly very well-trained, and I’m sure that has a lot to do with it, but cats are undeniably more angelic and loving (at least in my eyes).

I also got to see Tyson again, Mochi and Pumpkin’s son. I didn’t get to spend much time with Tyson prior to going off on my adventure, so he’s still fairly shy around me, but he still let me give him some head and back scratches.

Tyson

And finally, for the first time, I got to meet Melon, Mochi and Pudding’s son.

At first, Melon was extremely shy, but after I crouched down onto the floor, blinked slowly, let him boop my knuckles, and scratched his chin and the base of his ears a bit when he approached, he got instantly attached. He started headbutting and rubbing himself up against my legs and arms, which is a Pudding trait. When I pet him, he would push his head harder into my hand, which is a Mochi trait. When I would pause petting him, he would go hunt­ing for my hand and force his head under my palm, presumably under the philosophy that, if I don’t pet him, then he will pet himself using my hand.

This literally meant that I couldn’t actually get a good picture of him, because every time I would try and snap a photo, he would move and try to pet him­self with my hand. The best I could do was to take a shot with one hand while my other was giving him ear scratches.

Melon

Melon also has some of the softest hair I’ve ever felt. His coat reminded me of some of those synthetic furs that are scientifically designed to be ex­tremely soft to the touch… except Melon’s is actually real hair.

Visiting the cats was more or less the only particularly interesting and eventful thing I’ve done in Las Vegas, with the rest of my time here mostly just be­ing productive. Tomorrow, I head out to California to visit Tempo’s team house and meet some of our new employees; more blog posts of that in the com­ing week.

 

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Re: “How is it financially viable to live out of Marriott hotel rooms for half a year?”

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback regarding my decision to become homeless for half a year and roam around the country. The general consensus is that people are happy I’m finally taking time to myself (as opposed to constantly grinding work), and many are keeping up with my travel blog posts and liv­ing vicariously through me.

There have been a few people, though, who think this is a terrible idea, and most of them believe this for financial reasons. I’ve had one person point out that I must be “filthy rich at this point that [I] don’t even know what to do with all my money,” while another has more bluntly stated that I’m a hyp­o­crite for pushing theories of financial responsibility and then proceeding to go do something as “reckless” as this.

I thought a great way to address this and explain just how it’s actually financially viable for me to do something like this is to do a breakdown of how much money I am and would be spending in each of the two living situations.

 
As a precursor to this, I want to point out that, no, I am not actually filthy rich. I am satisfied with the volume of my various income sources and I am much better off than an overwhelming majority of Americans, but I am in no way considered “rich.”

Also note that I am only 29 years old, and have a Bachelor’s degree and half of an incomplete Master’s degree. This means:

  1. I’ve only been in the workforce for a handful of years, not only because I’m still fairly young, but also because I spent a lot of years in school;
  2. I entered the workforce with an overwhelming amount of student loan debt, a lot of which had relatively high interest rates that I wanted to pay off as soon as possible; and
  3. I’m still busy saving up for retirement, as I want to get as much of that as possible taken care of now so I don’t have to worry about it later.

 
With that being said, let’s start with a breakdown of what my housing expenses would be had I stayed in Las Vegas. I was originally planning on moving to a studio in the Veer Towers, an all-residential high-rise condominium complex at CityCenter. The main reason I ended up not going this route is be­cause I had some lease agreement conflicts with the property management company and ended up walking away from the contract. But, for this ex­am­ple, we can pre­tend like this lease went through.

For the past year, real estate in Las Vegas has been absolutely insane—prices have been climbing faster than they’ve ever gone up before. Many rich Cal­i­fornians came into town as a result of work-from-home arrangements during the pandemic, and even though Las Vegas cost of living is still much cheap­er than California, it is nowhere near as cheap as it used to be when I moved to Las Vegas in 2018.

The list price for the studio I was looking at was US$1,600.00 per month in rent, which was reasonable relative to the going market rate. I was able to get a small discount off that price, down to $1,550. Note that there is extremely low inventory right now, so I consider that discount to be unreasonably luck­y, but I’m still using the discounted rate, seeing as I managed to secure it.

These luxury high-rises on the Strip all have homeowners’ associations, and the HOA dues paid by the owner/landlord cover most utilities. The only ad­di­tion­al expenses I would have on top of that would be ~$50/mo. in electricity and ~$100/mo. in Internet service.

Thus, my monthly housing expenses would total $1,700, which averages out to $56.67 per day.

 
Next, my Marriott hotel situation.

To begin, I want to clarify that Marriott is a massive brand. Marriott is the largest hospitality provider in the world; if you narrow it down to the United States, they’re the hotel chain with the second most locations, just behind Wyndham. With this many properties, there is quite a noticeable range of op­tions when you take a look at all their hotels.

When I say I’m staying at Marriotts across the country, I do not mean I’m staying at places like the Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, or even the JW Marriott. In­stead, I’m staying almost entirely at brands like the Courtyard, Fairfield Inn, and Residence Inn. Marriott’s luxury hotels are designed to pamper you with amenities and give you a vacation experience you’ll never forget. Marriott’s “select” collection, as they call it, is designed to give you bare­bones lodg­ing at an affordable price that still meets the Marriott standard of quality, cleanliness, and safety.

Obviously, the nightly rate can vary substantially depending on where and when I’m staying. If I snag a spot with a promotion and/or an extended stay discount, I could get a room as low as $50 per night. On the other hand, if it’s the weekend and I’m passing through a tourist destination or just happen to be unlucky and am caught in the middle of a big event or convention, sometimes the cheapest I can get is $150 per night.

With all things being con­sid­ered, I would say that a fairly liberal estimate for an average cost of a night’s stay at a hotel is $75. If I scale that up to a 30-day month, the e­quiv­a­lent rate is $2,250. (Note that this is an all-inclusive rate that already includes taxes and fees, and obviously, there are no extra u­til­i­ty charges at a hotel.)

 
However, there are two extra things to account for here, the first being percentage-based rewards that functionally act as a discount.

Although you generally cannot pay rent with a credit card (or if you do, you incur an extra processing fee), it is commonplace and often highly en­cour­aged to pay for hotel stays with a credit card. I have a Chase Sapphire Reserve, a card geared specifically towards rewarding those who travel. The Sap­phire Reserve gives you 3 reward points for every $1 you spend on travel, and each reward point can be redeemed for 1.5¢ cash value using the new “Pay Yourself Back” promotion. Even outside of the promotion, you can still get a redemption rate of 1.5¢ per point if you redeem your rewards on even more travel. This functionally acts as a 4.5% discount.

I am also a member of Marriott Bonvoy, Marriott’s loyalty program. Through this program, you get reward points derived from how much you spend on Marriott hotel rooms and services (excluding taxes). For each stay, I get a base number of reward points, plus an additional percentage-based bonus due to my high loyalty tier qualification. This, again, can depend on where I stay and what tier of status I happen to be at the time of the stay, but overall, this can functionally translate to being about a 10% discount, as a conservative estimate.

Combining the two rewards programs, I get back a­bout 14.5% of the cost of the hotel room. Using the previous estimate of $75 per night, I get back a­bout $10.88 of value per night, resulting in an effective nightly rate of $64.12, or an effective monthly equivalent rate of $1,923.75.

 
But it doesn’t end there. The second thing to account for here is that I am not spending the entire seven months, from June 1 to December 31, in hotel rooms. If I’m traveling for work or staying with friends and family, I have to keep paying rent if I’m committed to a residential lease agreement, but for hotel rooms, I simply stop paying for hotel rooms during that period.

During the seven-month period, I will be spending a total of about a month and a half at Tempo‘s company headquarters, spread out in intervals of a week or two. I generally make a routine visit every month or two, and will continue to do so during my travels. While I am in Southern California, I will stay at the residential sector of our offices and will not need to pay for hotel rooms out-of-pocket.

I will also be spending a total of about a month and a half with my parents at their house in the Chicagoland suburbs where I grew up.

As for staying with other friends and family, although I anticipate spending about a month or so with “free” lodging, I will still be purchasing them gro­cer­ies, restaurant meals, and/or gifts throughout my stay in order to show my appreciation for them hosting me at their home, and I anticipate the cost of this to be comparable to staying at a hotel room. As such, I will not be deducting any expenses for staying with friends or non-parental family mem­bers.

If I account for the free lodging at my company headquarters and with my parents, I subtract three months of lodging expenses from the seven months of travel. That calculates out to each night costing 4/7th of its rate, which brings the $64.12 down to $36.64 per night.

 
We’re almost done, but there’s one more thing to factor in. I’m driving my personal pickup truck to each destination, and there is an additional cost to op­er­ate my vehicle beyond what I normally would just by staying put in Las Vegas. I’m not going to count the mileage of going out and getting food or going on tours, but I will count the mileage of going from city to city.

After mapping out my tentative road trip route, I think I am going to drive approximately 7,000 extra miles (11,265 kilometers) over the span of the sev­en months. According to the IRS standard mileage rate, it costs an average of 56¢ per mile to op­er­ate the average vehicle (which includes things like fuel, maintenance, and depreciation).

Although my pickup truck is a mid-size model with a tonneau cover for improved fuel economy and is more efficient than the average pickup truck, it is still slightly more costly than the average vehicle. On the other hand, the standard mileage rate includes stuff like insurance, which I would’ve had to pay for anyway. I’m going to consider those factors as balancing themselves out, and just stick with the standard mileage rate.

The cost to operate a vehicle 7,000 miles is approximately $3,920. Dividing that by 7, we get a monthly rate of $560. Divide that again, this time by 30, and we get a daily rate of $18.67. This needs to be added to the $36.64 nightly rate, bringing it up to $55.31.

 
And before we come to the final conclusion, I want to address two more miscellaneous points.

First is my food situation. Yes, I won’t be able to cook while I’m on the road… except I haven’t really been cooking much lately anyway. Ever since the pan­demic happened and I got a lot of relief funding from the government, I’ve been going out of my way to ensure I support local businesses and res­tau­rants. Ever since March 2020, I have been eating almost exclusively at family-owned local res­tau­rants (as opposed to going grocery shopping and cook­ing for myself). I will continue to do so during my travels, and the cost of that will be net-neutral relative to pre-travel.

Second is the time it will take me to get from city to city, and the opportunity cost associated with that time. I did not factor this into the calculation be­cause I feel like I am putting in my time and effort of driving in exchange for receiving amazing experiences visiting new cities across the country. On top of that, driving, to some extent, is therapeutic to me, so I don’t mind sitting in my truck for a few hours at a time just listening to music and ob­serv­ing the scenery.

 
So the final verdict.

Renting a place in Las Vegas and living a “normal” life would cost me ~$56.67 per day, $1,700.00 per month, or $11,900.00 for the full seven-month period. Traveling the country and being a nomad would cost me approximately $55.31 per day, $1,659.20 per month, or $11,615.00 for the full seven-month period. (The num­bers don’t line up perfectly to their fractional counterparts due to rounding and decimals.)

Yes, in my unique situation, I am literally saving a tiny bit of money by doing things the way I am.

If you truly thought I didn’t account for the financial implications and consequences of my decision, then you don’t know me very well.

 

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