Louis G. Pol – The Traveling Dean

I began this blog in March 2013 because I wanted to document some observations about my travel experiences in India. As I reflect back on other travel taken prior to March 2013, I wish I had begun posting about my adventures in 2003 as I made my way to St. Petersburg, Russia, or 1992 during a trip to France and Italy, or in 1991 while travelling in Romania and Moldova. Oh, well…

I am the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (formerly Omaha University). I became the dean in August 2003, which means that at this point in time, March 2017, I have been the dean for nearly 14 years, a very long time in one place for a business school dean. The average stay for a business school dean is about 4.5 years. Prior to being named dean, I was a faculty member here, at Rollins College, and at Memphis State University, but not all at the same time. If you want to learn more about me, I am providing a link to my website http://cba.unomaha.edu/lpol. Also, you may wonder what I look like, so here is a picture.

dean-pol-full

As you can see, I am in my official dean uniform. The sculpture in the background is one created by Jun Kaneko. You should look him up.

My goal in regard to this blog is simple. I want to share my experiences with anyone who wishes to know more about the places I have visited. At the same time, if you continue to read, you will gain some insight into my opinions about the places I visit and the people I meet. From time-to-time, you will learn more as I offer comparisons of places, including those experienced before I began this blog. I will try to remain apolitical as I write about what I see, but I will fail at times. Keep in mind that it is March 2017, and remaining apolitical is most difficult.

Finally, I enjoy receiving your comments and corrections.

Advertisements

We Built That City, She Hates That Song

It was back to San Francisco in mid-August, this time with Janet and friends to enjoy contemporary art, good eats and a visit to wine country.  By the way, the title of this post refers to the song, “We Built This City” (on rock on roll) by Jefferson Starship (known as Jefferson Airplane back in my day).  Anyway, Grace Slick, lead singer and heartthrob for the group, is reported to having stated that she hates this song.  It was played way too many times on the radio back then.  She now spends her time painting and has produced some really nice work (http://www.areaarts.com/grace-slick/).

Grace_Slick_RCA_records_publicity_photo

In reference to art, our gang had the chance to visit with Fletcher Benton at his studio on Gore Avenue.  Fletcher is an American treasure, a man of great talent who has been most creative and quite prolific in his lengthy career.  I am adding two links to videos, one that shows his sculptures and one in which he discusses his philosophy about work.  (His philosophy https://youtu.be/hf_D91pH5pc; and his art https://youtu.be/UkPQE-UaUzE)  Even at age 86, he goes to the studio to work four days every week.  As he notes, we never know when the gremlin (a great idea or inspiration) will appear, and if we do not show up we will have missed an opportunity.  This philosophy is so true in all aspects of life.  Spending time with Fletcher and his assistant Michael was the highlight of our trip (for me).

Fletcher_BW

We have several pieces of Fletcher’s work both in and outside of our building, Mammel Hall.  The outside work, four large steel pieces, is part of Fletcher’s Alphabet Series.  Many of these pieces were created in the 1990s, although he continued to produce large as well as smaller versions of the letters after 2000.  I am including pictures of two pieces that are displayed on the east side of our building.  Guess what these letters are.  Thousands of people drive or walk by these works of art every day.  It is a joy to know that those lives have been made better as they pass by and view this great work.

Fletcher Benton T & F

Fletcher became well-known as a sculptor as sculpture art, in part, turned toward Kinetic pieces in the 1960s.  He had been primarily a painter before that time (he still paints) but had not enjoyed as much success as he hoped for.  However, once his kineticFB Kinetic work appeared in just a few shows, he became well-known and very much in demand.  Many of these pieces can be found in museums and galleries throughout the world.  However, by the 1970s, his interest in kinetic art waned, and he turned his attention to the alphabet, numbers, and large steel sculptures whose geometric shapes, balance, and colors make us think and smile.

Of course, any trip to San Francisco involves deciding what to do when there is not enough time to do all that you want to do.  Finding a good hotel location is important, especially in a city where parking is very expensive.  We stayed in the Hotel Zephyr on Beach Street, just a short walk from Fisherman’s Warf, and a 15 minute street car ride to Globe Life Stadium (we caught an afternoon game between the pathetic Giants and the disappointing Cubs, great fun!).  We could see Coit Tower a short distance away from our hotel window as well as the bay on the opposite side.  Coit Tower (unpainted reinforced concrete) was built in 1933, and is another excellent example of the classic art deco buildings constructed in the 1920s and 1930s all over the U.S. (think about the Empire State and Chrysler buildings also constructed about that time).  Coit Tower stands out because it is 210’ tall.  It dominated the North Beach skyline until the major San Francisco skyscrapers were added later in the 20th century.

Coit_Tower_San_Francisco

Yes, we went to Napa and yes we visited too many wineries.  We chose to visit four, and were free to consume as much wine as we wanted because we had a driver who picked us up in Vallejo after a relaxing ferry ride and drove us wherever we wanted to go. We walked everywhere else that day, thus no driving by any of was needed (no designated driver). A suggestion to readers: visit only two wineries in one day.

One afternoon, after a walk though Chinatown, we ate at the House of Nanking.  This restaurant has a small footprint and excellent food.  Their salt and pepper shrimp mixed with mushrooms was quite a treat.  We were waited on by Peter Fang, a well-known chef and businessman.  He and his daughter, Kathy, are probably known by some of you. http://houseofnanking.net/

House of Nanking

The walk back to the Hotel Zephyr from the House of Nanking is only 1.1 miles (walk everywhere if you are able), and takes you by two classic churches, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Peter and Paul.  Another walk took us by the Hungry I Club, made famous in part by comedian and provocateur Lenny Bruce.

Hungry I Club

Lastly, my book for that week was Carlo Rovelli’s Reality is Not What It Seems, The Journey to Quantum Gravity.  Rovelli is a good writer and is adept at bringing a clearer understanding of relativity, quantum mechanics and several other scientific theories to people like me who are not educated in the physical sciences.  He takes us on the great ride of scientific discovery from Democritus to Plato to Zeno to….Newton to Einstein to…finishing with the next important scientific questions that beg for answers.  Get a copy.

If You Are Offended by Nudity, Turn Around

It was back to Texas in July. One of those nasty north Texas hailstorms had totaled my dad’s roof, and it needed fixin’. Roof replacement is tough work especially on a sunny Texas day when the ambient temperature hits 100 degrees. I was not on the roof though watching the crew try to stay cool caused me to wonder how I ever did outside work (road crew and hod carrier) in that relentless beat down environment. Well, Pops has a new roof and none of the workers fell off.Into_The_Blue_(1245678376).jpg

Each time any of us plans air travel, we know that it is possible to have delays. I know delays. I haven’t been on a flight from Omaha to Dallas that has left on time in many months. This time, bad weather in Philadelphia delayed our plane’s travel to Chicago (then to Omaha) and the delay rolled downhill as our inbound flight was late. The ground crew did a great job in turning the flight around, almost.

There was a discrepancy between the actual passenger count and the official list of passengers (one more person on the aircraft versus the official list). Time passed, and then we did a roll call, yes a roll call! Aaron, here, Anderson, here, Butts, here… About midway through the roll call, a crew member came on the horn to announce that they had figured it out and we would soon be underway. An uneventful push back took place.

But, it was not over. Guess what? The list was right. We had too many butts in seats. After pushback, yes, out in the middle of the tarmac, some genius realized that they were on the wrong flight. And, you have guessed correctly, we rolled back to the gate. No one said anything. No cat calls, no booing, no hissing, and no tweets, just relief that the culprit had self-deported, and departed. Imagine what it might have been like had that passenger been sitting next to Ann Coulter.

Finally, it was time to sit back and relax (no Sudoku again, come on SWA bring it back!). I eased back into the book, House on Fire, a great story about how science, innovative thinking about the spread of a specific disease, and good judgement were brought together to eradicate smallpox in Africa and India. I know what some of you are thinking. This dude is weird. How can a book that tells the story behind the eradication of smallpox be interesting? You will just have to trust me, it’s a very good read.

Have you ever asked yourself about the three digit identification number found in the wheel well and other locations on commercial aircraft? What do those numbers mean? Perhaps you haven’t thought about it, until now. If you follow that number (go to a list of airlines, click on an airline, and then click on the three digit ID, https://www.flightradar24.com/data/aircraft/), you will find type of aircraft (e.g. B737), serial number, age of aircraft, today’s schedule (all origins and destinations), a schedule two days in advance, and the flight history of the past week. Click again and you can see flight router, number of miles, average flight time, and for completed flights graphs of altitude and speed changes for each flight. Wow! Perhaps this is more than you will ever want to know.

I have described my many visits to Dallas and north Texas before, and I will spare you news about any trips to Whataburger, the driving habits of cowboys, or Big Tex. One item of difference on this trip is notable. We decided that it was time for a road trip in and around the small towns that surround Denton, Texas. My dad lives in Sanger Texas, not far from Lake Ray Roberts which is a very cool place for boating, fishing, and just hanging out. On the other side of the lake is Pilot Point, an old haunt for Bonnie and Clyde. The 1968 movie about them was in part shot in Pilot Point (one of the bank robberies). We also saw Krum, Ponder, Gainesville, Bolivar, Vally View…, all interesting places in one way or another.

Bank

My favorite spot was found by accident driving along on a barely-paved country road. Coming up over a hill and through the dust kicked up by the previous vehicle, we saw some incredibly bright signage. Several as yet unclear images stood in the front yard of a good-sized ranch. We were curious. We drove into the ranch entrance (the gate was open) only to find a sign, “If Nudity Offends You, Turn Around.” Stunned, but not deterred, we drove on, a bit. Well, it was the world famous Adult Bike Rally right there in the Texas countryside. Naked and tattooed people on Harley’s, who would have thunk it? Sometimes, but only sometimes, I miss Texas.

Adult Bike Rally - Texas

The Long, Very Long, Train Ride

Elevated Train in NYC

I think that I know where my interest in train travel originated. My first memories as a young child are of the three family house in which we (my mother, my grandparents, and I) lived in the Bronx. We were just a half block from what was then named the Third Avenue El (elevated), now called the IRT Third Avenue Line, and there were two big treats as I recall.

The first was hearing and then seeing fire trucks roar into our neighborhood to put out fires on the elevated tracks. The passenger cars on the train threw off a lot of sparks, now and then causing a small blaze on the wooden track supports for the rails. The fires never lasted a long time, but the resulting cacophony of cars, fire trucks and people was exciting and never got old. These events convinced that little boy (me) that I should be a fireman when I grew up. Perhaps if I had continued to live in that part of the Bronx, I would have become one – I so much wanted to drive a hook and ladder truck.

The second big treat was taking a ride on the Third Avenue El. Generally, we were dressed nicely for such a trip, and I would get all wired up as we walked the short way to the train stop. I am sure that I was almost impossible to be around as we walked up the stairs to the platform. Mind the gap? Not me. I kept wondering what it would be like to be down in the pit with the railcars hurtling toward what would certainly be my demise. Perhaps once or twice my grandmother or my mother gave thought to letting go of my hand, just to see what might happen.

Janet and I have been talking about a major train trip (west coast) for several years, and in mid-March it finally happened. We flew to Chicago. Our destinations were Seattle, San Francisco and back to Omaha riding The Empire Builder (Chicago to Seattle), The Coast Starlight (Seattle to San Francisco) and the California Zephyr (San Francisco to Omaha). Like that little guy more than 60 years ago, I was wired.

AmtrakAmTrak Zephyr

The first part of the trip was not without a bit of excitement. Our friends at Southwest Airlines thought they had lost Janet’s case. How do you lose luggage on a direct flight, we asked? Well as we learned 45 minutes later, the bag had only been misplaced (what’s that?), and our hosts blamed the TSA for the snafu (we blame the TSA for a lot these days, bad weather, bad breath…). Any way. There was no apology but we did get a $50 voucher, a reasonable recovery from a mistake.

I love taxi and Uber drivers. Many are a lot more interesting than many of the people I see day in and day out (sorry). Our Uber driver from Midway to Union Station was Syedalay, a most interesting chap. His father was a pilot for Pakistan Airlines (PIE) in the early days after the split. A few plane adventure stories were told. Janet and I just listened and thought, oh my. Syedalay originally came to Long Island from Pakistan, and had moved to Chicago only three years ago. He has three children and we heard a lot about them as well.

Union Station in Chicago is a cool place, and is in the process of getting much nicer. It has a great hall with a very high ceiling of glass. The stone carved walls and support structures give it a very classy look, yet not stuffy. It is fun to walk around, check out the shops and eateries, and make your way to the platform when your train is called.

Train travel is different. While I understand the need to move around the country quickly, plane travel can be very boring. Flight delays, flight diversions, passenger ejections, punch-ups, bag searching, TSA pat downs, and the child that won’t stop screaming all have their place in that world, but something is missing. If you really want to see our country (or another country), really interact with fellow passengers, and really kick back and relax, get on a train for somewhere. And, if you take a really long trip, you will see a bit of everything.

A few suggestions for those of you who are considering a trip. First, if you expect to arrive on time and it is a long trek, then you have recently hit your head on something. You will be late, but the delay may well be worth it. The first leg of our trip, Union Station in Chicago to King Street Station in Seattle was scheduled at 45 hours, give or take (2,206 miles). A big mudslide in Montana led to a 15 hour delay. So, while we missed some of our planned sightseeing in Seattle, we saw stunning views in western Montana that we would normally miss because it was night. Some of the Amtrak staff told us they had never seen these views.

Second, the sleeping rooms are nice, but very cramped space wise. Your big tent that you camp in is roomier. And, you can poop and shower at the same time (the commode and the shower are in the same space). So, I suggest that you get off the train for one or two nights of the trip and snag a hotel. The trip will be a bit longer and more expensive, but you will have more fun.

Third, as soon as you stow your gear in a sleeping rooms or in coach, get on down to the observation car, (and, if you are going from Seattle to Los Angeles, run down to the parlor car it’s a real treat). Many people who travel on trains are fascinating. The former science reference librarian at the University of Wisconsin – Madison had great stories about faculty and students. I met two Amish guys who were talking smack to each other. I met a turkey farmer from Provo Utah who told me about how mechanization of his business has made things better, and worse. He’s a Republican, but told me that President Trump scares him. He has a congenital heart defect, and is worried about health insurance. Also, enjoy the views. The mountain and river scenery is incredible. We even got mooned by two dudes near Grandby, Colorado.

Parlor Car

Fourth, get off of the train and walk around when train officials announce that you can. You will have to walk around the smoke clouds from those who run off the train at any stop allowed to smoke a cigarette. The two Amish guys mentioned above had really cool pipes. Get back on the train on time. Some passengers were late returning to the train in Whitefish, Montana. We did not wait for them.

Fifth, check out the very, very cool train stations. There is a lot of train station refurbishing going on these days, and these former transportation palaces are the scene of architectural designs that can only be found in a few places in the U.S. these days.

Sixth, be observant. After the first night of travel I woke up just west of Minot North Dakota. It was deer, donkey, and snow along with farm fields of oil wells, oil storage facilities, and wind farms. Later on we passed near the largest wind farm in Montana.

Finally, take some interesting reading material. Yes, you will get talked out. The drinking and the card games will get old too. My book for the trip was Ghost Map, a fascinating story about the effort to eliminate Cholera in nineteenth century London. It’s a reasonably quick read, if you like science, especially epidemiology, buy it and read it.

The Sunshine State

downtown-fort-myers

Whoops. I just remembered that I made a trip between my Denver and New Orleans ventures, to Ft. Myers, Naples and Venice, Florida. This was the first week in February. The purpose of the travel was twofold: visit with several alums/donors/potential donors and attend a fundraising conference (just looking for ways to extend my skills). There were a few exchanges/observations that are worth noting.

We have all been the victims of a rude person who in a very public place either makes or takes a telephone call and speaks loudly, very loudly, in an effort to impress the surrounding passengers/hotel guests, all of whom really don’t care. You know the type, the one who boasts about the size of the deal, at least in the many of thousands of dollars, as well as its complexity. The deal also requires their considerable skill because (fill in the name) is such an (fill in the obscenity). But, every once in a while someone, an innocent bystander, will say out loud, “I don’t really care about hearing your____,” and the jawing begins. Well, early in this trip Mr. “Aren’t All of You Impressed With My Business Deal” had it out, verbally, with Mr. “I Really Don’t Care, You Moron.” The exchange gave all of us in earshot a much appreciated break in the tedium connected with travel, and in many ways the back-and-forth was funny. (No fight broke out, but we had not yet boarded the aircraft.) When that kind of exchange is experienced early in a venture, the lure of more entertaining possibilities is strong.

5th-Avenue-South-shopping-restaurants-Naples-Florida

Because my visits included time with prospective/actual donors, my partner at the University of Nebraska Foundation was along on the first part of the trip. The schedule also called for three hotels in five days, an arrangement that I can usually avoid, but not this time. In addition, I had more shuttle/cab rides than usual. Some of you know the book, Working by Studs Terkel. In that book, he chronicles the working and personal lives of people employed across a range of professions (read it if you have not). Terkel died in 2008, but during his life he showed great skill in asking the right questions and then bringing the day-to-day activities of hard working people to life so that we could understand who these people are. Terkel is also a great inspiration to all of us social scientists who believe in ethnographies and the power of telling a good story. During my travels, I try to find people who are not like me in any way, and ask them questions about their lives.

stretch-limo

Taxi and limo drivers are most interesting, especially those who are from another part of the country or another nation altogether. On this trip there was Mike, a Brooklyn-born dude who moved to Ft. Myers 25 years ago. He arrived at the hotel in a stretch limo, and I was his only passenger (great for conversation). I learned about his time in the construction business, his move from Brooklyn, his views about the world in general, and the odd arrangement among taxis, limos, and the local airport authority. Then there was Chuck. He had moved to Florida from Michigan 13 years ago (to care for an aging parent), and now drives a taxi but only part of the year. When the weather warmed (in North Dakota), he planned to return to Williston to drive heavy equipment in one of the oil patches. He told me that he would stay there, again, until the ground was frozen and then it was back to Ft. Myers to drive a cab.

Then, there are just the normal observations; that is, what did I see that caught my attention. First, the options for airline services at the Ft. Myers airport (proper name: Southwest Florida International Airport, RSA) seem to be increasing. In addition to the usual suspects; e.g., American Airlines, the possibilities include: Air Canada, West Jet, Sun Country, Airberlin (German), Silver Spirit, and Alegant. Activity at the airport is increasing, but it still is most convenient with respect to passenger pick-up and drop-off and access to rental cars.

Ft. Myers is populated in part by an aged population (yes, folks my age and above), many of whom are snowbirds, or simply travel back and forth frequently between Ft. Myers and some other place ‘up north’. Flying to Omaha through Midway I observed a wheelchair traffic jam in preparation to board my flight, nine in all stacked up in formation. The wheel chair passengers were all patiently waiting, some with families, for a flight to a place whose high temperature that day would be less than that experienced in Ft. Myers. Many did not look very happy. Perhaps it was the wheelchair effect or that they were leaving nice weather for who knows what. We should get used to this scene. The U.S. population is aging quickly and a good size segment of the older population will continue to travel by air. More wheel chair traffic jams are inevitable. I just hope that when my time comes, and it will happen soon enough, that my ride will be cooler than the ones currently found at the airport.

The Crescent City Seems to be Losing Some of Its Monuments

Downtown NOLA

I was back in New Orleans in early February in conjunction with the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) Deans Conference. Once again, hundreds of business school deans got together to commiserate about their challenges, brag about the extraordinary work (perhaps an exaggeration) they have done, and renew old friendships that sometimes last for decades. For me, the meeting involved seeing even more new faces, a chance to hear about and discuss best practices in curriculum development and fundraising, visit with one of our most interesting alums, and have the opportunity to be back in a city that I really like.

This visit was a bit different than all of the other times I have been in the Big Easy. On Tuesday February 7, while Bill Hargrave, Dean of Business at Auburn University, was moderating a session on crisis management (his business school had a big fire in 2016), my phone alarm went off, three times. Little did we know but it was Twister Tuesday! No one seemed to know what to do, and there was no sign of the Hilton Staff (maybe they were in some bunker). So, we managed that crisis by not doing anything at all. Imagine that, 70 or so for the most part Type A personalities frozen in their chairs. Before much more time had passed, six tornados had set down (there were five injuries reported), one in Orleans Parish, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway was closed, and Governor Jon Bel Edwards (last name sound familiar?) had declared a state of emergency. We, yes we, just sat there hearing about how others managed their crises!

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/02/07/tornado-inflicts-major-damage-in-new-orleans-east-building-collapse-reported.html

New Orleans continues to recover for the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. There are still remnants of properties destroyed, but on the positive side, there has been significant renovation and re-birth adjacent to the river, downtown, in neighborhoods and along Canal Street and other main thoroughfares. Only one large eyesore remains downtown, the former World Trade Center hotel at the foot of Canal right at the river. The Riverside Complex was buzzing with foot traffic, and on a Sunday afternoon I observed the departure of the Norwegian Dawn, a cruise ship with a bunch of crazy tourists bound for a few days of extreme sunburn in the Caribbean.

New Orleans celebrates its diverse culture, and, in particular, the contributions of immigrants to its over 200 years of history. The statue pictured below is one dedicated to Italians, my people. It’s a very nice work of art, and is located along the river walk.

Nola Statue

On the statue and monument front, New Orleans is having the same conversations that are occurring in many cities and towns in the old south. One of the main issues to be resolved is the future of monuments, mostly statues, commemorating the Civil War. I have written about statues before, in particular, the issues relevant to the removal of the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest, slave-trader and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, in Memphis. In 2015, the Memphis City Council voted to relocate the statue from a public park, only to be over-ruled by the Tennessee Historical Commission.

Recently, May 2017, four statues were taken down, three at night, after the City Council of New Orleans voted to have them removed. As expected, the backlash from incensed supporters of southern heritage was significant, thus there were no announcements regarding when the statues would be moved. A genius legislator from Mississippi recommended that the New Orleans leaders be lynched (although he did apologize later). Others posted Facebook threats and left nasty language telephone messages. Workers who removed the statues wore protective gear and had their faces covered out of fear of reprisal.

So, who came down:

  • General Robert E. Lee, all 16 feet of him on a 60 foot pedestal above St. Charles Avenue at Lee Circle. We know his historical significance as the leader of the Confederate States Army. His statue was the last to be removed, May 19. The statue was erected in 1884.
  • General Pierre Gustave Toutant (PGT) Beauregard, four feet taller than General Lee and on horseback. His statue was located at City Park, and was erected in 1915. P.G.T. Beauregard was a United States Military Academy graduate, rising to the rank of Brevet Major in the U.S. Army before he became a General in the Confederate States Army. He commanded the armies of the western theatre, but also served in Charleston and Petersburg. His statue came down May 17.
  • Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America. His statue was 6 feet high, and it resided on a 12 foot column on Jefferson Davis Parkway at Canal Street. It was erected in 1911. Davis was also a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, rising to the rank of Colonel in a volunteer regiment. He served as Secretary of War from 1853 to 1857 under President Franklin Pierce. Davis’ statue came down May 11.
  • The Liberty Place Monument was erected in 1891, and commemorated a bloody uprising in 1874 of the white-supremacist Crescent City White League. The league objected to the New Orleans integrated police force and state militia. The monument was 35 feet tall and was located on Canal Street near the French Quarter.

PGT Beauregard monument down

I recommend reading more about the four monuments, asking yourself the more general question: what are we to do, if anything, with the hundreds or more monuments still standing throughout the south?

One final observation. The New Orleans Airport, named for Louis Armstrong, is old and tired. However, a new one is on the way, scheduled completion 2018 (you can look it up). Will the new airport be named for Louis Armstrong?

 

Back West, Denver and Vail

I flew to Denver and drove from Denver to Vail in late January. It was the beginning of a five trip series, all in less than 30 days. By the end of the last trip (Scottsdale, Arizona), I was worn out, but smiling from a set of experiences that were great fun. Then I ended up with pneumonia.

The purpose of the Denver trip was to attend a University of Nebraska Omaha alumni event, and to visit with some of our college’s alumni, including a couple who live in Vail. It was the usual stuff in regard to the airports (e.g., de-icing, which smells and sounds weird). As our 737-800 approached Denver, it was apparent that there was not only no snow on the ground, but little of it to be found at the lower elevations of the Front Range. Yes, there was snow on Pike’s and Long’s Peaks, but not at the levels I have observed many times when flying out to Denver in January and February. In fact, we saw virtually no snow until we were about an hour east of Vail. The van from the airport was full of humanity, and some of my fellow travelers, perhaps, had forgotten to shower in the previous few days. The driver seemed unmoved by the sounds and smells filling up the van, and I was happy to be the first one out.

Our hotel was 35 minutes from DIA in Cherry Creek, not far from the dam that holds back the water in Cherry Creek Reservoir. My room was on the tenth floor and faced the mountains (see picture below). Wow.

Hotel View

I made my first trip to Denver (the first one that I can remember) in 1966 to see my father. I had not seen him in 14 years, and as you might suspect I was a bit nervous. That flight from Dallas Love Field was uneventful, but as we approached the Rocky Mountains I was overtaken by the views. Flights landed at Stapleton airport in those days, nearer to Denver than DIA and closer to the front range. In the more than 50 years that have passed since that first visit, I have never lost the sense of excitement at the first appearance of real mountains and all of the promise of adventure that come with the views.

During that first visit, I learned about gold and other ore mining, starting with day trips to Cripple Creek and Leadville (subsequent reading as well). I also got my first introduction to coal mining.  I heard, first hand, some of my grandfather’s stories about his days as a coal miner, although I found out about the real exciting stuff in later ventures to his home in Louisville, Colorado.

Leadville CO

Leadville, Colorado

Our event in Denver went as planned, and I felt a strong connection to our alumni. I heard stories of success and changes from a group of people who greatly value the education that they had received from us. We have a large number of alumni in metropolitan Denver, and many of them have been out there for 30 or more years. We also saw some hockey. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, our hockey team lost to Denver University (DU) 4-2 in the first game of the series. Now I can feel just a bit better about that loss given that DU won the national championship in hockey two weekends ago. We, UNO, were in the Frozen Four in 2014.

We were given a tour of Galvanize by one of our alumni, a start-up business hub in an area of Denver that has undergone significant redevelopment. It’s a very cool place, an old warehouse that has been converted into rental spaces for aspiring and actual entrepreneurs. There are coding classes offered as well. My favorite alumnus visit was with Mike, a former student of mine (in the course, Marketing Research) whom I had not seen since 19887. Hearing his stories about career and family, all good, makes me smile. Meetings such as this one serve as a reminder about how much I have to be thankful for regarding my time in the classroom.

UNO vs DU

The drive to and from Vail was an adventure. But first, a bit about Vail. It’s a relatively new place, incorporated in 1966, four years after the opening of Vail Ski Resort. Pete Siebert, who had served in the U. S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division during World War Two, and local rancher, Earl Eaton cooked up the idea of establishing a ski resort, and decided to name it after Charles Vail, the highway engineer who in 1940 routed U.S. Highway 6 (it goes east through Omaha) through Eagle Valley. Siebert and Eaton found investor support in Denver, and they began what has become a first-rate ski area, one of the best in the U.S. Vail is now the largest ski area in North America.

ManorVail_Winter

Now back to the adventure. The drive to Vail was fairly pedestrian. There was the expected rise in altitude and turns in the highway, but Interstate 70 has taken away most of the really exciting elements that can still be found on highway 6 and other non-interstate routes. We encountered some snow and a bit of wind near the Breckenridge exit, but before long we were settling in for a wonderful dinner with friends (an alum and spouse) at La Bottega in beautiful Vail.

The ride back to Denver after dinner was a bit different. Upon exiting the restaurant, we could feel the extra cold, -1 degree Fahrenheit, and a bit more of wind. As we began the trek back east, there was even more wind and steady snow. From time-to-time the road surface was hard to see, especially as it wound around the beautiful but unfriendly landscape (what we could see of it). Fortunately, the conditions were not too slippery, and the car handled quite well. But, the ride did not feel completely safe. At several junctures I was driving less than 40 miles per hour. My passenger, our college’s development director, felt less comfortable than me. Earlier in the day she had suggested alternative plans that involved not driving at night. I assured her that if the conditions became too dangerous, we would find another hotel for the evening. I also let her know that I had a number of experiences driving in conditions like these. I am not sure that she believed me, but it’s true. The 45 minute drive back to the continental divide and the Eisenhower and Johnson tunnels, seemed to take hours. At one point we slowed even more due to lane closings (snow was being cleared). As soon as we came out of the east side of the tunnel, the snow ended and there was much less wind. The mostly downhill ride back to Denver was much less interesting. It was good to get back to the hotel that night. The next day and the return home was uneventful. I was already thinking about my next destination, New Orleans.

eisenhower_tunnel_coloradoloveland-pass-colorado1