Friday, April 04, 2008


I always spend a fair amount of time when I get into a rental car adjusting the seat, mirrors, and finding the cubbies for my phone, Bluetooth, and now my Zen MP3 player. All the rental cars now have an input jack for MP3 players unlike my aging ‘89 Corolla, which I just can’t part with for some reason.

I kept my cardinal bearings flying into LAS and on the shuttle bus to the rental car center. Vegas is conveniently surrounded by some mountain ranges that once you have your bearings on those you pretty much know at least in which direction you’re traveling. I had carefully planned my route from the airport to my site. But with the off-site rental car center I found myself on the wrong street heading south, not sure where to pick up I-215 heading east to Henderson.

I found a Starbucks and pulled in for my venti nonfat latte. I couldn’t resist the glazed chocolate old fashioned, which was a bit rubbery compared to the excellent delicate texture of the true Top Pot fare found in the Starbucks around Seattle. This was a Starbucks where they take your name upon ordering your drink. I never give my real name. Today my name was “Buzz.”

From the Starbucks I headed east and eventually ran into I-215. Once on the freeway I knew the route, which I had somewhat memorized during my route pre-planning. I usually do some pre-planning before these trips, if I have the time. I pre-locate my favorite food and coffee places around my hotel, near my project site, and along my route of travel. This saves time by not having to drive around searching for these places. The internet is a wonderful thing.

I exited the freeway and headed east through the suburbs and strip malls of Henderson. The area reminded me a little of southern California where I grew up, with stucco-sided houses in shades of tan, some with faux adobe arch entries, all some variation from the same cookie cutter.

At my project site I met first with the plant manager, a man about in his sixties, with facial skin wrinkled and warbled by the desert sun. He also sported a small diamond stud earring, which I found odd for a man his age, but not out of character for the blingy Las Vegas metro area. He introduced me to the chief engineer and together the chief engineer and I toured the plant site. He was a quiet man, originally from Wyoming I found out. I was the third person he had to tour with over the years as the company changed hands; me being just another guy asking the same questions. But the engineer did warm up a little and was very helpful.

After the plant tour, I went to the city offices looking up permit records and fire department records. I didn’t exactly hit the jackpot but did find a few useful things. This was a low budget project that didn’t allow a lot of time to look at things not likely to be useful anyway. After doing these things as long as I have, you get a sixth sense of what’s important and not necessarily making sure you check all the boxes.

I checked into the Fairfield Inn, quickly washed up and changed into some clothes suitable for hiking and exploring. I knew right where to find the Chipotle, snagged a burrito and ice tea, and headed straight out to Hoover Dam.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Project Deep Freeze – A Tale of Two Cities

The mission was to look at a couple “facilities,” one in Henderson NV and the other in Denver as part of a larger portfolio of “facilities” that shall be nameless in the interest of client confidentiality. Let’s just say it’s one company buying another company and we’re all out doing the environmental due diligence of a portfolio of “facilities” around the world, most located in the U.S. I drew the Henderson and Denver facilities.

I had a 6 am flight Monday morning to LAS. SeaTac was refreshingly quiet. I felt relaxed and unhurried running the TSA gauntlet. I had plenty of time to grab a breakfast burrito at Qdoba and then chased that down with a grande non from Starbucks. The Horizon C-gates were a virtual ghost town at this time of the morning.

The Alaska flight was completely full, mostly Vegas bound tourists. I sat next to a young couple, the young woman giving me plenty of elbow room. The snack was a bag of horrid tasting cinnamon-flavored pretzels that not even coffee could help.

The approach into LAS took us right over the southern shoulder of snow-clad Mount Charleston and Red Rock Canyon. We made a tight left turn over Henderson for a smooth landing to the west.

Alaska Airlines is the apparent stepchild airline at LAS. While Southwest enjoys a whole row of conveniently located gates in the B and C terminals, Alaska has a single gate at the far reaches of the new D terminal. This futuristic D terminal has a control tower that looks just like Bender, the alcoholic chain-smoking robot on Futurama.

You board a tram to get from the D terminal to the main terminal. The tram starts out underground, then emerges into the sunlight before docking at the main terminal like a sand worm rising from the surface of Dune.

The terminal is filled with ranks of slot machines tended by change girls, mostly Asian. Faux desert rock and palm trees give it an oasis feel except for the glaring signs hawking the latest Vegas shows and stars. My one checked bag finally showed up on the carousel and I was off to get my car.

LAS has an off-site rental car center. To get there you catch a common shuttle bus. I have Budget FastBreak, which means I bypass the counter and go straight out to the cars. The keys and agreement are already in the car. I’m off to the races in a Chevy Cobalt.