Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Flying the friendly skies

Thursday morning's wake-up was an unfathomable 5:00 am. My bags were packed and ready to roll; I was on the road at 5:30 am, in the dark, traveling at reasonable speeds, with only trucks for company. An 8:05 am departure meant providing myself enough time for traffic (almost non-existent at that hour), possible delays (construction at the airport parking lots), parking (wonderfully bereft of issue), airline check-in (frightfully friendly for the hour of the day), and security (quick and without smiles). The puddle jump flight from Columbus to Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was quick, free of turbulence, and on-time.

Chicago was bustling even at 7:30 am, but soon they were herding countless laughing librarians like cattle, loading the charming Boeing 757 destined for John Wayne International Airport, Orange County, California. All buckled into our seats we backed slowly away from the gate when the captain announced the "tow bar" had broken off from the gate and we needed to wait for maintenance to bring a new bar and check the nose for any damage. My first thought? How important is the tow bar? Second thought? Yes, please make sure the nose is fine before we take off for a three hour and fifty-minute flight!

All was well as we cruised over the mid-west. From the airplane window, even though I dislike flying I oddly enough enjoy the window seat, it is always disconcerting to look out and see clouds below. Even more so being high enough in the air to see the curvature of the earth! We landed in Orange County over the Pacific Ocean, so I was able to at least see it from my window seat in the sky. Things went smoothly upon landing. I gathered my belongings, deplaned, located a restroom, gathered my suitcase, took a quick photo of the John Wayne statue, and was quickly directed to an airport shuttle to my hotel (more on the hotel later). Less than an hour after landing I was checking in to my hotel and destined for the convention center to register.

If possible, my return trip was even less eventful. The super shuttle arrived on time, our driver was a comedian trying to convince us we were headed to LAX, check-in lines were at a minimum, security checks went smoothly (even for the girl with a cat), and I had ample opportunity to call home before boarding for Chicago. Tow-bar intact the pilot informed us take-off from Orange County airports were different due to the noise ordinance; we would be departing at a relatively steep incline and he would be throttling back the engines to reduce noise. O-kay. No worries, I got an even better photo of the Pacific Ocean and we were on our way with free soft drinks and opportunity to purchase three dollar cookies and six dollar sandwiches in our near future.

Do you ever wonder why pilots feel the need to tell you what state you are currently flying over? It's not like we can see someone on the ground holding a flag that says "welcome to Missouri." But, I digress.

I did the airport dash at O'Hare Monday evening since the big 757 landed at one end and the tiny little American Eagle Express bound for Columbus took off at the other end of the concourse. I made the boarding time with three minutes - and a bathroom trip - to spare. There was a beautiful sunset outside the airplane window, yes a window seat again, that I could not resist. I have another shot without the airplane wing, however I liked this one better. Flying the friendly skies, the portion of my journey filled with the most angst, was not only painless, but on time with accompanying luggage.

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