Wrote this on the plane today:
Well, here I sit in seat 3-A of our Airbus something-something, on my way from Denver to Washington Dulles airport. I’m sitting first class (sweet) and sipping my second complimentary glass of red wine (sweet sweet), and trying not to think about the fact that I’ll be spending the next 20 hours in airplanes, airports, customs lines and cars. Unfortunately, I won’t be getting bumped to first or business class on the trans-atlantic leg of my voyage; they don’t give them international upgrades out to easy. The good news is that it’s not my first rodeo, so I have a stash of hydrocodon I received for my gimpy, old-man back, and some generic Ambien my family was kind enough to get for me on a recent trip to Mexico. Their powers combined allow me to sleep thorough just about anything, even being 6‘5“ tall and sitting coach while flying across an ocean. Thank God I get paid for my travel time.
So, work has once again afforded me the unique pleasure of heading to Grevenbroich, Germany. This will be the 5th time I’ve made the 24-hour trek from Denver, Colorado to the small city on the western edge of Germany. Located about an hour‘s drive inside the Belgian border, this town of about 60,000 inhabitants has been dubbed Energy City (by whom I couldn’t tell you) due to the astonishing amount of power plants, both coal-burning and nuclear, and wind turbines that dominate the nearby countryside.
Much like the places I visit domestically, Grevenbroich isn’t anything close to a touristy place, and to go anywhere really worth mentioning one has to leave town. Both Cologne and Düsseldorf are about an hour away, but I’ve done nothing more than spend one evening wandering around each city. Both were gorgeous, and if you have a chace to see the Kolner Dom, a massive cathedral in Cologne, before you die I highly recommend it. Grevenbroich is a descent little place, but I have a hard time imagining a less romantic Western-European destination.
My cohort Glen Kelley and I will be in Grevenbroich for 12 days to install a brand-spanking new laser-based boiler optimization spectroscopy sensor system in one of the nearby plants. This job is aggressively scheduled to the point of absurdity, and supposedly will take 10 work days of 10-12 hours each. The last install I was a part of took 13 days, with the average job taking 11 or 12 days to complete. The customer on this project is our biggest, who owns about 1/3 of our fleet, so needless to say, shit’s gotta be perfect. So the chances of Glen and myself finding a day or two to see Brussels are slim at best, and frankly I think we’re more likely to be over schedule than under. However with my boss better than 5,000 miles away, we might be able to sneak in a half-day or two depending on our progress.
It’s harder than one might think to find the time to see the area while we’re out here. Between Glen and myself we have about 300 pounds and $10,000 worth of tools and equipment, so hostels and trains are pretty much out. I’ve thought about keeping the company rental car an extra day or two, but at better than 100 bucks a day, it ain’t cheap (turns out they charge Americans out the ass to rent a car in Germany, I guess something about a giddy 26-year-old driving 140 mph on the Autobahn gives them pause, go figure). Sometime I’m sure it’ll work out and I’ll take a week or two out here, but frankly, after twelve or thirteen days of stupid-hard work, home will sound just as good as anywhere in Europe. I did get a chance to spend a night in Paris on my last trip out here, but that’s another story for another day.
The good news about visiting Grevenbroich, is that it’s one of the few places I have good friends that I’ve met and kept up with during the course of my travels. This is awesome, it’s absurdly lonely and difficult to spend 2 weeks working in a foreign country without hearing your native langauge from anyone other than the dude at MacDo and one or two people at work. So I’ll have a partner in crime during the day, and good company for dinner and happy hour in the evenings which will definitely help assuage all the lonely. It’ll be good to catch up with my German buddies, but unortunately they can’t make the work any more fun…
Still, it’s gonna be a pretty interesting and entertaining couple of weeks, so stay tuned…