Iain’s First Business Trip – California Day 1

OK, so this is something of a deviation from what I’d normally write about, but I thought it might be fun to make observations about my first business trip – I’ve been sent to Palo Alto for a week. I suspect the blogging won’t last – the week is probably going to consist pretty heavily of “went to the office, went to some meetings” but it’s Saturday and I’ve been awake for over 22 hours now (with some sleep on the plane) to try and get through the jetlag, and frankly I’m possibly a bit delirious.


I’ve commented before on how stressful I find travelling; I was determined not to get stressed this time, it was going to be chilled Iain. Iain that accepts I don’t have to arrive at the airport three hours before a flight…

Well that was a stressful mistake; between my deciding to arrive 1:30 before the flight, and a cock-up on the trains to get to the station, by the time I got on the plane I had to buy a little can of deodorant for everyone’s improved environmental comfort.

The flight was uneventful. Late departing… the inbound plane was late, then there was “an issue” found in the pre-flight checks that was fixed within about 45 seconds, and then there was an issue pushing back from the stand that seemed to involve bending the plane’s towbar.

On the plane I watched many films (gee, this is thrilling reading) The Delivery Guy (average, moderately amusing), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (dozed through a good hour of that), Caddyshack (again, dozed), Three Days to Kill (average) , and a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

I arrived in San Francisco, and once more the fear struck. What if they don’t let me in? What if there’s something wrong with my ESTA? What if my bag’s been lost? And between the tiredness and this fear I could feel sweat trickling down my back, and so now I started to worry “how suspicious must I look?” and so it got worse. Still, they let me in; I had to feign interest in the England football (sorry, soccer) game but that was OK.

And now for the next step; how does one get from the airport to the hotel? I’d be forewarned that a taxi was about $120, I could expense it but there were other options. Options that would involve… A TRAIN! And would only cost $10.

This started with a train called the BART; it was surprisingly wide, and a bit like a DLR train. I was only on it for three minutes, and it somehow felt a bit futuristic and like I was in Robocop, I have no idea why that’s the film I associated with it, perhaps it was that the train seemed slightly run down with oddly opaque windows?

Then came The Cal Train. Now we’re talking fun trains, this thing was HUGE. It was double decker! Something I really want to do one day is a long trip on a big AMTRAK train, but for now this will do. The train was very exciting, and I enjoyed it greatly. I wish I could say something that makes that seem less geeky.. but I can’t!

I do love a train. I considered an on-train selfie but decided that was going too far.

But a photo of it as it came into the platform wasn’t.

Oooh, it's a big train! Only 8 carriages, but big!

Oooh, it’s a big train! Only 8 carriages, but big!

Upon disembarking at Palo Alto, I need to get to 4290 El Camino Real; how far can it be? I could get a taxi. I could try and get a bus but… never mind, I’ll walk!

And to begin with it was nice, past the Stanford Stadium I spent a long time looking at the trees I was walking through thinking “Are they THAT tall?” they were quite tall, but I’m not sure they were tall enough that it was a distinguishing feature of the area.

Oh, I was at about 600 El Camino, only 3690 to go.

Crossing roads was interesting too; it seems that there are circumstances where the sign said I could cross but it’s also possible that a car can go, so I end up in a weird situation where I’m being overly cautious/polite because there’s a car coming but I seem to have right of way. Very odd.

After a while I was out of the nice trees and parks around Stanford, just walking. At about 30 minutes in a taxi pulled over and asked if I wanted a lift… No, I’m going to walk. But it took a long time. It wasn’t a particularly nice walk either!

I was excited to get to 3200, but I had another 1,000 to go!

I was excited to get to 3200, but I had another 1,000 to go!

I noticed some odd things, like the street numbering doesn’t seem to follow much of a pattern. For example, as I crossed a road that runs perpendicular to El Camino the street number changed from 1691 to 1705; what happened to the 14 in the cross street?

Another consideration was where would I go for dinner this evening? NOT The Tofu House.

That, that right there, doesn't seem like a great dinner choice

That, that right there, doesn’t seem like a great dinner choice

And still I was walking… and sweating. Passing 3000 El Camino felt like a bit of an achievement. I eventually made it to the hotel, and was slightly giddy with excitement, I’d been walking for an hour and 20 minutes!


Upon arrival at the hotel the receptionists were astonished that I’d walked; “that’s a 2 hour walk” apparently. My time was about 1:20, winning!

Dinner was a place called Armadillo Willy’s. A decent burger and the first time I managed to completely forget that I needed to keep my receipts for expenses. There would be more.