Friday, September 22, 2017

Looking Back At I-Bike:The Long Road Home

My last Interbike trip was capped off by meeting Steve Hed and seeing his gravel bike
 Editor's Note: This is Part 6 and final post of a series on Interbike experiences. Interbike is happening this week for the last time in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Making my way home from Interbike was always a big deal for me. I wanted to get back in the worst way, but first, I generally would be spending an evening at the airport. Why? There were a couple of reasons.

First, it was a free night in Vegas for me. I didn't have to spend money for a motel room I would only be in for a few hours. This was because of....

Two- I usually took either the redeye, or the last flight out of Vegas for the night, which generally took off at midnight, or the first flight out in the morning, which was generally around 6:00am. Seeing as how I had to show up early enough to get baggage checked in and get through security, that meant little sleep anyway.

Third- I had to generally opt for the earliest morning flight due to scheduling through the airlines. Plus, while waiting I could use the free WiFi in McCarren to write stories about Interbike so I would have time to sleep and be with my family when I got back instead of having to work immediately upon arrival.

I suppose there was a fourth reason, if I am honest with myself. That would be that I like to stay up all night sometimes if I feel like I am doing something crazy and it makes me feel like a hoodlum kid again. Hanging out in an abandoned airport fit that bill.

Spending all night in an deserted airport meant I had lots of time to write about bikes.
But first I had to get there. Like I wrote in yesterday's post, Grannygear would sometimes drop me off. Those were some bittersweet goodbyes. I would only see him once a year, but we were in contact via phone and email all the time back then. I always felt like we should hang out more than we have. Saying goodbye at the airport underscored that feeling. Then there were the times when Grannygear bugged out early. It was a good thing for him, since he'd get home at nightfall instead of 3:00am in the morning, or whenever he got home at night. But I think he was a bit reluctant to leave me without a ride to the airport.

It was okay though, because one year I walked. Yes. I walked from the Sands all the way out to McCarren International Airport. By the way, I like ultra-long walks in urban areas. This was also interesting since I found that there was a pedestrian way all the way up to the doors of the airport. It was obviously planned, and I was amazed that the city of Vegas accommodated pedestrians in such a car-centric atmosphere.

The year I walked out was one of the last times I got a redeye flight out of McCarren. Those were weird flights. It also did not afford me much time to write, as I was on board the plane by 11:30pm or so. I remember that flight as I saw DJ Birtch in the hallway as I made my way to the terminal. He is such a character! I'm pretty sure that is the last time I've seen him as well.

An desolate hallway in DFW from one of my trips back from Interbike
I recall that redeye went through Dallas/Ft. Worth. When we got there, the airport was still officially closed, and an airline employee was directing us to which way to go since there weren't any other employees there. She was saying a terse, "Good Morning! Where is your destination?" to all in front of me, so I dug out my ticket to circumvent the pleasantries and when I got to her I blurted out, "I'm going to Cedar Rapids, Iowa." She stopped, looked at me with that "mom look" you get when you do something wrong, and said, "No. That is not how it works. Hello! How are you?"  I answered and then we went through the conversation like she was having with everyone else. THEN she pointed me on my way. Oh, and I was the only one headed to the left.

That put me in a deserted hallway, then to an area strewn with sleeping bodies on the floor and benches of the terminal area. Weird! Janitors and restaurant prep folks gingerly stepped around as their morning of work got underway.

The last few years were the all-nighters in McCarren though. The airport baggage check in area was where I usually hung out. It was pre-security, so if I had to get some fresh air, I could step outdoors. I never did that, but it was nice to know I could. I would find a nook and park where an outlet was, spread out my stuff, and start writing. Occasionally an airport worker would come by, or a janitor vacuuming would go around, but I did not see many people there until about 3:30am or so.

Sunset over Vegas from the Sands parking garage. This year is the last year for I-Bike in Vegas
It was then that you'd start seeing airport and airline employees coming to work, which for them started at 4:00am. People with early morning flights would start showing up as well. By 5:00am there was a fair amount of hustle and bustle. I usually had to fend off the sleepies from 2:00am until all this activity would start, but once it did, I would get a second wind.

Then it was time to get through security. I did go through Vegas once earlier in the evening and security was a madhouse. TSA agents were screaming and yelling at people and it was tense. I felt like a cow getting herded off to slaughter. I vowed that I would never again subject myself to that treatment. So, I opted for these flights out in the morning whenever I could.

Generally I could walk right up and security scanning was a breeze. The TSA wasn't amped up yet, so treatment was okay, if not a bit cold shouldered. At least I wasn't being berated for some stupid move the TSA didn't like.

Then the flights home. I went through a few different airports to make connections, and usually those were Denver, (which I HATED flying in to because of the turbulence they have), or the O'Hare International near Chicago. I had quite a scare once coming through O'Hare one year. It was a year that I had left Vegas earlier in the evening. I got to O'Hare around 10:00pm. It was foggy and cool. I was supposed to be back in Cedar Rapids by around 11:30pm. My small connection flight took off and was curiously not gaining altitude. That's when the Captain came on the intercom and said we had a stuck landing gear and we needed to return to O'Hare.

Somewhere out there it lurks! The best thing in Las Vegas. Great Buns Bakery!
There was a collective gasp and the guy across the aisle from me started praying fervently with his two young daughters. When we got above O'Hare you could see all the emergency vehicles with the lights blazing lining both sides of our runway. It was weird and surreal, and scary all at once.

Of course, we made it. Otherwise I would be dead! Ha! But the weirdness wasn't over with. We had to transfer to another plane which took quite a while. Once we had boarded that plane we were told we couldn't use it because the airmen had discovered a problem with that plane. We were told to go back and board our original flight! This caused all sorts of consternation with the passengers.

That is when the Captain came out and spoke directly with us. He said he had a family and wanted to get back to see them again in the worst way, so he would never fly a plane that he didn't believe in. Whew! Instant air clearing speech! I was impressed and I got home late, but safe.

My last Interbike trip ended like many others. Mrs. Guitar Ted picked me up at the airport and we went home and I felt the relief of another Interbike trip, and plane flights, over with, this time for a long, long time. I had seen no reason to attend another show where news was non-existent and that seemed to be a huge waste of time. 29"ers were mainstream now so the endemic cycling media had jumped in to cover the now standard wheel size.

Companies no longer saw the value in "Twenty Nine Inches" coverage so we were largely ignored when it came to press releases, invitations to new model releases, and for review items. I got it. Our time was over. So, I planned not to go to Interbike in 2014 and I was right. It didn't matter. Then at the end of 2014 I left TNI for good. Earlier this year, Grannygear shut the site down and it doesn't exist on the web anymore.

Of course, I am doing these days, but again- going to a trade show is an antiquated idea anymore. With the instant news these days, dealer shows, private invitations to the entrenched, privileged media few, and social media, a trade show that gathers people and wastes everybody's time in terms of business is not efficient. Besides, business itself is changing and no one is quite sure how that will look anymore. Suffice it to say that it will likely be more automated and digital with less people involved in the transaction stream. Again, trade shows in the traditional sense are antiquities of a past that no longer exists. I don't see myself going to Vegas, or anywhere, for a cycling based trade show ever again.


blooddoc23 said...

Did you get to play the slots?

Guitar Ted said...

@Robert Ellis- I did but only once. The first time I went back in the 90's my then current boss insisted that I play otherwise I would never have done it.

I'm not much for gambling.