08 August 2007

The Long Trip Home

Since this may very well be the last trip across the water, at least this water and to and from Australia, I thought I might want to keep a little log of just how this travel goes. I’ve tried to stick to US Central time and note the Australian time where appropriate.

Sunday, 5 August, Midnight (Sunday afternoon in Newcaslte, 3p.m.) – The journey gets off to a rocky start. Happy Cabby, the alternative to taking the train from Newcastle or flying from Williamtown, has shown up to my place with a flat tire. I chose to call Happy Cabby because I didn’t want to haul my 100 pounds of luggage from train to train and through Central Station and because AeroPelican, the local airline, would have a heart attack if I tried to bring so much onto one of their 18-seat puddle-jumpers. I realize though, as I watch the Happy Cabby driver pace back and forth between the van to a backpacker’s hostel that I really should have just rented a car and driven to Sydney myself. We wait for NMRA (Australian equivalent to AAA) to show up to fix change the tire, which they do, and we’re on the road at twenty minutes after the hour. I wonder what happens if on the way to Sydney we get another flat. Will the driver call NRMA, pace around and apologize for missed flights? Thankfully, I won’t have that question answered. An hour more and the van is filled to capacity. We’re finally on the way towards the airport – 1:20a.m. Central.

Sunday, 5 August, 3:50a.m. (Sunday evening in Sydney) – We finally arrive at the Sydney Holiday Inn near the airport where I’ve spent many a night before flying back to the US. The check-in process is fairly painless – much less painless than the drive down which was scary and slow, but at least not both at the same time. I get a quick, short workout in just to take the knots out from the drive and grab a quick bite to eat. The bar/restaurant in the hotel is quite good and has very friendly service. But I tend to confuse the wait staff a little with my order, which is a burger with just bun, meat and cheese. This always seems to throw folks in Australia, probably because they stack their burgers with everything but the kitchen sink. Fried egg? Sure. Beetroot? Absolutely. Plain…are you serious? After enjoying one of the last two flat whites I’ll have here, I retire to my room and watch a horribly predictable Hollywood film. I try to stay up as late as I can, but as it’s already been a long day (I woke up at 5:30a.m. in Newcastle) I can only make it until 8a.m. Central (11p.m. Sydney).

Sunday, 5 August, 1:30p.m. (Sydney Monday morning, 4:30) – One thing that I try to do when I travel from west to east is to start the trip tired. Going east, jet lag is just horrible. I figure that if I can somehow wake up tired and stay awake until something approaching night time in the US, I’ll have a better time of it when it all shakes out. So I wake, shower, repack, and wait for the airport shuttle trip at 3p.m. (6a.m. Sydney). Thankfully I’ve got US television as a diversion. I start on Meet the Press, but quickly get disgusted by some dude shamelessly plugging Obama’s naiveté as a virtue (seems he’s written a book on the subject) and happen upon the race at Pocono, live. At 2:45 Central time, I check out and hit the bus, on time, ready to be first in line at the Qantas counter. There’s a reason for this.

Sunday, 5 August, 3:15p.m. (Sydney Monday morning, 6:15) – When I called Qantas this past Monday to see if I could set my seat on the flight, I was told that seat bookings open 6 months before the flight date and close when they hit 70% of the flight. I’ve made the hop 3 other times on Qantas and this is the first time I’ve been told this…and I’ve asked. So I felt the need to get to the counter particularly early to make sure that I could get the seat I wanted – on the aisle in the center of the aircraft. My co-worker figured this one out, and it’s a gem. If the flight isn’t full, then the center seats are the last to be filled as no one wants them. If the flight is full, at least there is only one person asking to crawl over me when we’re in the depths of the 12+ hour flight. It’s a win-win. I flew in a window seat twice and regretted it both times. I felt trapped on the window and just prayed that I would sleep the whole way. It worked once. The other, well, I don’t care to do that again. Anyway, I get the seat I want, albeit in the back of the jet, pass through security and get some breakfast – and a last flat white. Boarding time is 6:50p.m. (9:50a.m. Sydney). The good thing about riding in the back of the jet is that there is usually plenty of overhead space for baggage. The downside is that the effect of turbulence is greater and, needless to say, first on, last off.

Sunday, 5 August, 7:45p.m. (Sydney Monday morning, 10:45) – It may just be one of those trips that is a string of delays. We took off 25 minutes late because we had to wait for a passenger. Not that I don’t think we should have waited…I would like that if I were that person. But my hopes of making up the time in the air seem to be snuffed as the pilot slips the arrival time by 25 minutes. My goal of being tired is not working. I’m wide awake.

Monday, 6 August, 7:45a.m. – Landed at LAX. My sleep plan didn’t work out at all. I might have managed 3 hours of sleep during the flight, which is unfortunately even less than I usually manage on an eastern leg. The crazy thing about going from Sydney to LA (or San Francisco, for that matter) is that the flight lands before it takes off. I actually gained about four hours of “time,” but I don’t feel it at all. The fact that it is almost 11p.m. in Sydney is all too clear to me. Thankfully, after a long wait for my bags, customs is a breeze and even re-accomplishing the security procedures is relatively painless – though I really don’t understand why shoes are still being x-rayed. After making it to the gate, with some really bad coffee (from America’s biggest coffee chain) in tow, perhaps it’s time for an hours count. I think it’s 18 hours and 15 minutes since I woke up at the hotel in Sydney, but my math-in-publics skills may be suffering from jet lag as well. I’ve got a nice low-grade headache from the lack of sleep as well, and I may have reached my maximum daily allowance of fun. One more flight, fall into the loving care of my wife, a drive to the new home, and this long, long day will be done.

Monday, 6 August, 2:40p.m. – Landed at Dallas / Fort Worth, and the travel is finished. This flight, thankfully, took off and landed on time. I easily found my wife waiting for me in the baggage claim area, and we eventually made our way to our new home (or apartment, as the case may be). It has been 25 hours and 10 minutes since I woke up in Sydney. I haven’t managed to get more than an hour of sleep at any time, and maybe just 4 or 5 in total. (In fact as I write this portion, it is 2:30a.m. on Tuesday, and I managed to get just 4 hours of sleep before my body decided that it really should be awake at this point.) But the pain of traveling is just part of the process. I am home now, and thankful to be.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, RHM! Very glad you made it home safely! The trip does sound grueling, however. And I'm sorry on behalf of the US for your being forced to drink $tarbuck$ when you landed... indeed, not the best there is to be had, for sure. I associate coffee with you so strongly... hope you get something good ASAP! Okay, two requests: 1) keep blogging, and 2) send me an email with your new email address, if you please. You could even include some personal stuff, like where your new home is! And in return I will send a photo of S and I looking dorky on our recent vacation. Hope you are well! --KKB