My professional life has been tied to the outdoor recreation industry ever since I dropped out of grad school in comparative literature and took a minimum wage job at a bike shop in southern California thirteen years ago. That means that I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in Salt Lake City, which hosts the bi-annual Outdoor Retailer trade show – in fact, I’ve gone to SLC twice a year every year since 2007. My first show was two days after I moved to the Bay Area, and I just completed my 20th show last month. I hate SLC airport, but I kind of love SLC. It gets way too hot for me to ever want to move there, but the scenery is beautiful, there are tons of good restaurants, bars, and bookstores downtown, and the cost of living is cheap. You’d think after 20 trips that I could figure out the fucking street names by now, but that one thing still eludes me. I’m even starting to warm up to the Delta Sky Club.
Unfortunately, despite having great outdoor recreation, Utah’s government isn’t particularly committed to protecting those areas. They’re opposed to Obama’s use of the Antiquities Act to declare new national monuments, saying that they can protect resources better on the state level, rather than conceding to a big federal land grab. Anyone who believes that, however, is either a disingenuous liar toeing the party line or a fucking gullible moron. They want to sell the land off to profit in the short term, and everyone knows this. For that reason, the Outdoor Retailer show just announced that they would no longer host the show in SLC and is considering alternative venues. The most likely seems to be Denver, and Colorado is making no secret of its desire to get in on SLC’s sloppy seconds. They even ran this ad in the Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News:
(Let’s ignore for a second how the Outdoor Industry’s affinity for beer and pot threatens to make it a parody of itself… especially since anyone who has sat in a meeting across the table from a buyer at REI will tell you that your head better not be cloudy if you want to win any sales…)
I’m conflicted about Denver for really dumb reasons: chiefly that airfare from San Francisco is too expensive for me to fly first class. I realize that I’m an insufferable snob, but the $60-$80 premium to fly in first between SFO and SLC is my treat to myself for the amount of work these shows entail for me. I’ll be bummed out when I can’t afford $120-$180 extra each way to Denver. I can pretty much guarantee that there are no companies in the outdoor industry that reimburse their employees for first class airfare! After all, we’re slinging sleeping bags, not derivatives. The situation is a little better now that Virgin America is giving United some competition on the route, but it’s still overall more expensive than flights to SLC.
As someone who really isn’t a big fan of turbulence, I’m also not super jazzed about flying in and out of Denver all the time, especially in the winter. I’m sure I’d get used to it (and Salt Lake is no picnic either), but it’s just a little bit of extra stress to add onto a stressful week of work. The bottom line, though, is that I’ve been in and out of SLC so many times that I’m on autopilot now, and I’m annoyed to have my routine disrupted. When I travel for leisure, the wonder of discovery is what makes the trip great. For business, it’s what makes the trip a pain in the ass. I like knowing I could walk through the terminal with my eyes closed, hop in a cab, jump out at the Candlewood Suites, take the light rail to the convention center, etc. After so many years, I didn’t realize how comfortable with SLC I had become until I realized how irritating it will be to try to navigate the show in a city I had never been to – even if the beer is stronger and the recreation is higher.
This post isn’t super relevant to what I usually write about on this blog, but it has been in my mind for the past couple days. What about the road warriors? Do you like going to the same place over and over again, or do you enjoy using business travel to experience new places?