Sigh, Time to Head Home


When I went to bed, I told myself to be awake at 6am.  I was.  I’d assigned a wakeup call for 6:15am and the alarm was set for 6:20am.  All worked, and we were busy finishing our packing and eating breakfast when it was time to leave.  Dressed, carry on bags, luggage, extra food, all ready to go and we were out of the door right on time, 7:00am.

The cab stand sits right around the corner of the Southern Cross motel and we were on our way to the airport at 7:15am.  Light traffic, great.  40 minutes later we had arrived at Melbourne International.

It’s always best to get an early start for an international flight.  Traffic, weather, late; those are the passenger’s problem, not the airline’s problem.  Be there on time or buy another ticket.  That simple.

Neither of us bothered with pictures for the return.  By now, I’ve pretty well covered what it’s like to sit in an aircraft for 14 hours.   I only slept for about an hour, even with sleeping pills.  Movies, music, I tried to write but it didn’t work, games on the entertainment system, pure miserable exhaustion, anything to pass the time.  It actual goes by faster than what you’d think.

Arrival in Los Angeles and customs.  Being towards the front of the aircraft really really helps.  Mental note, premium economy is worth it on these overseas flights.  We got through customs fairly quickly and walked to our gate.  And walked.  And walked.  It took nearly two hours from the time we deplaned until we were at the gate for our San Francisco flight.  That is something to remember about LAX.  Give yourself plenty of time for an international connection.   Three hours minimum.

And, the trouble started.  Pouring rain in LAX.  High winds and flight delays in San Francisco.  I inquired about an earlier flight to SFO and yes, we could do that but our luggage would go on the original, later, flight.  I declined, reason why coming up.  The agent was very nice.

So we got a ground hold in LAX of a half hour.  No big deal except that our connection in SFO was only 40 minutes.  Not good.  We pulled out of the gate, then sat on the taxiway for an eternity.  I kept looking at my watch, more gloomy as the minutes passed.  Finally, out of LAX.

Into SFO and we were off the first flight at boarding time for the next flight.  And, we got a poor airport split.  Not the 7-10 (end to end, no fun at all in Hong Kong), more like the 4-10 (medium, but awkward, half way across Minneapolis or Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta).

Lucky for us, there are speed walks in SFO, and we used them.  Walking as fast as we could.  At the boarding gate for the Pasco (PSC) flight, the agent was asking everyone walking by if they were going to PSC.  Yep.  And two more people behind us.  Now, the reason we didn’t take the earlier flight.

Every single agent I passed on the way to the flight, I told them, “We have four luggages coming off of UAL 449 and a long, expensive delivery in Pasco.  Watch out for them”.  They were rushing me to the flight because of the pouring rain and wind, but I stopped and took the time to tell each and every one of them.  Bless those agents.  They did watch and wait.  The flight was held an additional 10 minutes and our luggage made the connection.

I couldn’t have pulled that off if we were on the earlier flight.

Rough ride in and out of SFO.  Not really bad, I’ve experienced much worse.  And another bumpy descent into PSC.  The flight attendant spent more time sitting than standing as the weather was very unsettled.  She was talking with some other people ahead of us.  The flight crew was expecting another long delay in PSC for the return to SFO, and probably being late for the rest of the day.  They are used to it and take it in stride.

Kudos to United Airlines.  I’ve heard a lot bad about them, but our experience, both ways was about as good as could be expected.  Comfortable aircraft, good customer service, concern for people’s belongings, polite flight crews, decent food, flights on time or close to on time.  Frequent water cart trips during the international flights.  (Asiana needs to do that.)

Landing in Pasco, reality set in.  Snow everywhere, with the tiny drifts in the runway that signals fresh falling snow and wind.  Ugh.  I made myself a promise as I gloomily watched the frozen tarmac pass underneath us.  I’m not coming back home to this ever again if I can help it.  We’ll wait for warmer weather.

We were dressed too cold.  Praxy still had on sandals, so I held her arm ALL THE WAY TO THE TERMINAL because of solid ice on the ramp.  And we had a long walk.  There were several other flights on the ground, I suspect they were delayed or perhaps cancelled for other destinations.   We got stuck a long ways away, nowhere close to the jetway.

Waiting at luggage claim (still nervous about SFO as I wasn’t positive about the baggage making this flight) and our luggage did indeed show up.  Praxy got out her coat, socks, boots, etc. and I got out my coat was well.  Scott and I loaded up the Jeep and we were off.

Praxy starting laughing and grabbed her camera.  Here ya go!

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Vineyards just outside of Pasco.  Meanwhile, one third of the world or 8,500 miles away as the crow flies…

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A bit of a disconnect.

It was very slow driving from Pasco to our house.  50mph tops, most of it 35-40.  Few people were on the road, which is good.  A person SHOULD stay home if possible.

Groceries in Dayton, drop Scott off in Pomeroy, and the drive out to our house near the dam.  Normally a 3 1/2 hour trip, this afternoon and evening it took 5 hours.  No rushing in these conditions.  Some people hurry, and they, sooner or later, live to regret it.

Noon on the 15th and I haven’t seen temperatures above freezing since we left SFO five days ago.  Unless we were indoors or in the Jeep.  The weather is supposed to break in three days and the frozen roads will thaw.  This creates an even more difficult driving experience until the ice clears.  (This information is for my Philippine and Australian readers.)  Challenging conditions, something I haven’t seen since the winter of 2007-2008.  No worries, I can handle it.  Praxy refuses to drive as she has had a couple of accidents and several other bad experiences.  If you aren’t confident, stay home.

I just took her down to the river in the Jeep so she could go for a walk.  15 minutes was all she wanted in the 18 (-5C) temperatures.  We tested the ice on the river.

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It took quite a while to find a rock or something to throw into the river.  Praxy located a piece of ice on the shore that a fisherman had pulled out of the water

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About 1 1/2 inches thick.  Too thin to walk on, it needs to be at least two inches thick for that.

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I’m going to close this with my personal touristy splurge from the trip.   While this probably has no ceremonial and little cultural value, it is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life.

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This is a didgeridoo, purchased at Halls Gap, Grampian National Park in the Brambuk Cultural Center.  Aborigine artists sell their creations to the tourist market here, and the artwork is guaranteed authentic.   I paid the premium price, willingly.

There were several to choose from, all made by an artist new to the Center, Wimbok.   This was my instant favorite in the small size.

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There were larger ones and I agonized for fifteen minutes over buying a large sized one that looked similar in size to what the aborigines play for real.  The price, more than double, wasn’t the issue at all.  It was the size.  It would HAVE to be carried onto all aircraft and I wasn’t sure if it would get confiscated.  It could be construed to be a possible weapon.  Or it might be too big to fit in the overhead bins.  Also, there is always a risk someone else could damage it with their carry on baggage, intentionally (in their way) or unintentionally.   This was the largest one that would safely fit in my luggage.  It got to it’s new home without a scratch.

So happy.  So happy.

1/15/2017  12:30pm

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About Ken

I am a federal employee that loves to travel. I don't get any time off during the busy salmon tagging season, March through November. So, I save my leave and explore the warmer parts of the world during the winter.
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