In 2015 Heidi and I spent a lot of time in rental cars, mainly because it was fun. It started way back at the start of the year when it was raining and ruined our plans for the day. We had a free day and within 20 minutes of getting up, we had a free day rental booked for the same day and off we went to pick it up. That tradition continued throughout the year and any time we wanted to go for a road trip somewhere for the day, we would grab a rental and get something fun, and new.

So let’s look back at those 12 rentals that I had during 2015 and figure out which one was best. (A side note that Heidi likes to name cars, so we kept the tradition going in naming the car after something that kind of fit. Our rental car during our honeymoon was called Spartan because it was a Chrysler 300. Like the movie…. 300 ;)… ok back to it).

First up was “Ghost” the 2014 Dodge Challenger

From Seattle Life 2015

Pretty decent car, Heidi’s first Challenger. I still think that if i had to get a 2 door coupe, this would be it. Prefer this over a Camaro or a Mustang.

Next up was a 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe, Heidi named it Crater (all my photos point to the name of Moby… but you know, go with the wife).

From Seattle Life 2015

Pretty good drive, fully loaded, but the gas tank on this thing was HUGE!

Next up was a 2015 Ford Explorer Limited… meet Clarke

From Seattle Life 2015

Named after one of the famous explorers in the PNW. Not a bad car at all, pretty comfy for 4 people.

Next up was Sled a 2014 Camaro

From Seattle Life 2015

The Camaro was not to bad, but it was basic basic and we had some problems with it because it was filthy!

Next up was another Challenger, this time a 2015 and we called it Gary (i don’t remember why).

From Vegas 2015

Pretty decent upgrades over the 2014, still love it!

Keeping up with the SUV theme for the year… take this new Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited. Because it was a Chereokee it got a slightly racist name of Kemosabie

From Seattle Life 2015

Pretty decent car, again fully loaded and comfortable to drive!

Then there was the Dodge Durango, I wanted to get one of these before it was finished.

From Dorkfest 2015

Because this one was rented on my own in LAX with my friends… no name. Still liked the car, it was fully loaded (including remote start).

When i headed out to Oklahoma I ended up with a 2015 Altima, it was not a bad car, but it was not really what I wanted. Again this time had problems, but National came through in the end.

From Oklahoma Trip

When we headed out to Spokane in Early October, we ended up with this guy…

From Spokane Trip

Meet Troy our new 2015 Chrysler 300. Not as loaded as others, but still pretty well set up. Enjoyed this car, well worth it!

One car I had been wanting to try all year was a GMC Acadia. I had turned down the chance to take one on our honeymoon and took the 300 instead. So we took Joan for our weekend roadtrip to Portland.

From First Anniversary Roadtrip

The car wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good. I just wasn’t all that thrilled with it compared to a Durango (same class).

Car #11 was Shiny, a new 2016 Ford Explorer.

From Seattle Life 2015

We took this out to the Tri Cities area and I was really happy with it. If I had the choice of an Explorer or an Acadia, the Explorer would win.

Our last car of the year was one that I didn’t really get to pick. When you pick up from a Downtown location, you often don’t get a choice and this is what we go.

From Seattle Life 2015

Meet Matthew the Lincoln MKX. Not a bad car, not fantastic either. Pretty basic for a “luxury” car maker.

All in all the years worth of cars was pretty good. I don’t think we will end up with the same amount of rentals this year, but the free days were fun. We paid for a couple of rentals, and got a few freebies as well. It sure was a lot of fun. Looking back, my favorite cars over 2015 would have to have been the Durango, the Jeep and the 300. I do still love Challengers and the one we had in Vegas confirmed that fact. But National has been good to me in 2015, let’s see what 2016 brings!

Well the year is almost over for real (my travel days are numbered this year a while back) and since everyone else is doing it, I might as well right! Not as much travel this year as last, but then it was a small year last year anyway. This year had some craziness back in the mix, purely because I could.

This is what my year looks like on a map

Not that big of a year of flying... but still plenty of fun.

Not that big of a year of flying… but still plenty of fun.

That is a total of 23418 miles. I wouldn’t even make silver on any one airline with that amount of flying… *sigh*. But hey… who cares right! Let’s break that down to some stats:

Total Miles: 23418
Total Flights: 16
Longest Flight: Seattle to Frankfurt – 5109 miles
Shortest Flight: Seattle to Spokane – 224 Miles
New Airports: 5 – Frankfurt, Newark, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Spokane
New Airlines: Condor
New Aircraft: Boeing 787-9, Boeing 747-8i
Most Flown Airline: TIED! United – 6, Alaska Airlines – 6
Most Flown Aircraft: Boeing 737 (all variants) – 6

I managed to get one new state (Oklahoma) but no new countries in the mix (in fact the only time I visited another country was my trip to Frankfurt). I will have a separate post on all the driving we did this year, rating mine and Heidi’s favorite rental cars of 2015.

Next years travel will make for a much longer year for miles, purely because Heidi and I are travelling back to Australia and then up to Asia. But for the moment, there is still some craziness involved. If all goes to plan I should be able to knock my unvisited states to practically nothing.

Here is to a good travel year in 2016!

It has been a busy few weeks and that has cut back on my posting. Actually life in general has cut back my posting as of late if I’m to be honest. With a full time job on the cards and life at home it is tough to blog these days (or at least have interesting things to talk about). I have done so much travel as of late that my weekends have had me more out of the house than in it.

After the two trips in September (one to LAX the other to Oklahoma), I was not ready to stop. The weekend after Oklahoma we did a lot of stuff downtown (does that count as travelling?) and spent time with our friends.  Then it was back on the road. Last weekend we flew to Spokane and it was my first time flying out there.  Everyone I spoke to about that trip asked us why we were flying  why didn’t we just drive. “it’s only 5 hours”. Yeah only 5! Considering flights were on sale when Alaska ran a points promotion, dropping tickets to 5000 each way, how could I not!

I found out the day we were due to fly out that you could standby on any earlier flights for no cost so we did that. We didn’t clear because all the elites kept trumping us at the gate.  But both ours & the earlier flights were delayed (though they never announced anything, which seems standard practice for Horizon) so that put a hamper in our evening a little. We got to the hotel super late but not horribly so.

The hotel in Spokane was good, it was a La Quinta, nothing over the top but cheap, clean, friendly & nice people. Can’t complain right? We had a fairly nice car and got to visit some friends of Heidi’s while out there so all in all a fun weekend. Coming home was fun because it was my first special livery flight. We got to return back to Seattle onboard Alaska’s Spirit of Disneyland Resort livery, aka Tinkerbell. Funnily enough Tinkerbell was the last plane I ever cleared to depart while I worked the ramp at SeaTac, so it has special meaning to me.

This weekend should really be spent at home (since it’s pouring rain outside right now) but we are off to Portland to celebrate our anniversary. Since I’m working next weekend I figured I could put a long weekend to good use. 

So much travel at this part of the year usually means that I will be grounded for the remainder of the year and it does look like that. But it means that I don’t have to deal with holiday flying (well at least outside of work) and the new year is going to be pretty different. Next year starts the real settling down process. But more on that another time.

Introduction
Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to Tulsa
Oklahoma
Oklahoma City to Seattle

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

After dropping the car back at National (and OKC had plenty of half decent cars available in the Emerald Aisle including a new Edge Titanium) I grabbed all my stuff and headed for the terminal. The first thing I noticed was just how easy it was to get around in Oklahoma City and how nice the airport looks. Not sure how old it is but it looked super clean, modern and although the security checkpoint was small, there was not much of a wait and soon enough I was through to the main terminal itself.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Once through I noticed something I had bet my money on before getting to the airport. There was a Sonic in the terminal, but they didn’t seem to have the half price ice cream advertised, so win to me! The terminal was spotlessly clean and was nice (albeit compact). I walked the entire length of the airport and it was quite easy getting around. Purchased a bottle of water and a souvenir to take home and headed towards the gate.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

By the time I made it to the gate, the plane had not quite arrived but it would be in a few minutes. They were actively promoting to get preferred seats sold and also First Class upgrades (sorry $100 on a non meal flight when I should be home in time for dinner is not a sale for me). They started offering bag checks as I got to the gate so figured I might as well not deal with the suitcase. Ahh Alaska, so predictable! Free bag check fees by waiting to get through security… suckers.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I got my bag tagged and a printed boarding pass (i changed my seats to get a row of two to myself) and headed off to get a picture of the plane that had just arrived. I got my snaps and headed to find a power outlet to charge stuff up before I got onboard. I relaxed and watched the people around me (something Heidi loves to do) and wrote an email (thanks Carlson Hotels for fixing things so quickly). Soon enough the newest Alaska outstation was getting themselves ready for boarding. Now I can’t tell if these guys are contract workers or are actually Alaska employees, but they were pretty good if you ask me.

Alaska Airlines – AS3427
Oklahoma City to Seattle Tacoma (OKC-SEA)
1605-1823
Embraer E175 (N170SY)
Economy Class – Seat 21A

Boarding: 1535 (Gate 2)
Push Back: 1553
Take off Roll: 1611 (Runway 17L)
Top of Descent: 1727
Touch Down: 1758 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1804 (Gate C18)

Boarding was called beginning with the pre-boards and then military and soon enough they got through the elites then it was a free for all. 21 rows of a plane and they just free for all it. Ugh! But other than that small complaint it was a good show at OKC. Now it was time to get onboard and start heading home. I got onboard to my first Embraer of the year and headed all the way to the back…. All the way! I was in row 21 because it had two empty seats and would hopefully stay that way. I was in 21A and B was hopefully going to stay empty.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I got myself settled in and just before we closed up I fired off a “see you soon” message home. Today’s flight should only take 3 hours 15 minutes of air time (apparently) and we pushed back and then sat for a while (new staff, I will let them have it). We taxied out towards the runway and had to hold a little while for some Air Force T-38s from Sheppard Air Force Base doing pattern work. Once they had finished we turned onto the active, dumped the fuel into the burners and off we went. We passed the T-38s as they taxied back with canopies open (probably so they don’t cook themselves in the 95 degree heat). We climbed out through some bumps and cloud and started to head towards the PNW. As we climbed out we were informed there would be WiFi (yes!) and streaming entertainment as well. That should make for an easy flight. It was meant to be a super calm flight, but for some reason it wasn’t really calm. I didn’t figure it out till I was checking Flightaware after some big turns that didn’t feel normal to see that we were dodging a line of storms that seemed to be working their way east. Won’t complain about that little detour!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

When the FA brought around the drinks trolley I got myself a diet coke and decided to try out the flight credit that comes with my Amex Gold Card and see if it would really work on in-flight food. So I purchased a snack box (not that I was going to eat much of it) and it was now time to wait to see if it would come back as free. The flight just kept on cruising Northwest as I sat back and worked on the trip report (plenty of air time to do this) and relaxed into my happy place. About the halfway point in the flight the Copilot came on to say we were passing the Grand Tetons off to the right. Thanks buddy, I am on the left side…. do a quick turn around will you!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

As I was working away online, I lost track of all time and soon enough we were about 90 minutes out of Seattle. The two crew were super nice and were keeping everyone served pretty well. The flight wasn’t exactly full but they weren’t hiding in the galley either. I had a good chat to one of them about the roads around SeaTac at the time since the Chinese President was tying things up. Before I knew it we were on descent into SeaTac and it was time to pack things up.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

By the time I had everything stashed away, we were turning north over Auburn and Kent for our downwind leg. We passed SeaTac off our left, then Renton and also Boeing Field. We turned for final approach right over Kenmore and Bothell, way up where I used to live. It was kind of surreal to get this kind of approach, since I used to watch them all the time. We tracked over downtown for a 16R arrival and as we approached it was time for this all to be over. We touched down and started the long complicated taxi over to the Alaska gates.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

We were stuck waiting off the gate while the Horizon ground agents got themselves into gear at C18. We finally did pull in and then the dings went off and it was time to wait to get off. I had a last minute chat with the flight attendant about the traffic problems about to hit us all, and then it was off into the terminal to get my bag. By the time i got down to the baggage claim the belt had just started spitting out bags from our flight. That meant no 2500 points for me :( Soon enough I was on my way to the shuttle to get the truck…. trip over :(

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Introduction
Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to Tulsa
Oklahoma
Oklahoma City to Seattle

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Getting off the flight was relatively easy and I started to head my way towards the baggage claim and then down towards the car park where the signs were sending me. Except my phone told me I had to go to the rental counter… o dear. Backtracking to find some signage and when I finally did find the rental counter, they told me to go straight to the car park…. *sigh*

From Oklahoma Trip

Eventually I made it to the National Rental area and there was like maybe 6 cars in place. This is not good. No wonder the virtual aisle was not working, they had no cars! I had reserved a full size since the price was so good and it was a reserve service, not an aisle set up. So I should have had a car waiting. When I got there the person working the booth did not seem to care there were no cars and offered me either a Cherokee or a Patriot… both of which are SUVs and neither of which I wanted. I asked him what cars I can have, he said none. I pushed back saying I reserved a full size, he offered me a Fusion, a Camry or a Chrysler 200, all of which are not Full Size. I said I would take the Cherokee in this instance but as soon as I got to the car it didn’t look that great inside so I went back, but I had missed out on the fusion by moments. Again I pushed back to the guy that I reserved a full size and I would like a full size. He said he might have some (he didn’t want to look in the computer at all) and said that maybe when the drivers get back they can get something for him. I said I was willing to wait but he looked like he just wanted to get rid of me. He asked me again what I was looking for and I said “What I reserved, a Full Size, like a Charger or something like that). Well he again had a huff, and then said “What about an Altima” I said sure, that’s a full size. So he walked off down to Alamo and got the keys from them and swapped it over in there computer. Could he not have done this in the first place… *sigh*

Finally off to my hotel and the area was exactly how I expected it. A mix of residential/industrial/commercial park, right next to the freeway. Lots of food options around. When I got to the hotel though, things did not go as planned here either. I arrived to find the driveway of the hotel full of security and police cars. All in all there was 8 police cars at reception. This was NOT a good sign. I ventured inside to check in and the lady on reception again did not seem to care at all, and when I asked about the police cars she just nonchalantly said “O Don’t worry about that”…. ugh yeah… sure! I moved my car and went up to the room briefly to drop things off. I was not impressed with the room and I won’t air all the dirty laundry here, but this was not a wise choice. I tried to see if there was any BBQ still open, but there wasn’t so I did the next best thing.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I jumped back in the car and drove off for something that I passed on the way to the hotel (well not that exact one, I picked one a little bit closer and close to an area I could find water after). I went to Waffle House. First time at this US staple and it wasn’t half bad. It was dirt cheap and as you would expect, I had a waffle. I had breakfast pretty much for every meal that night with Bagels for breakfast and lunch and then Eggs, Sausage, Waffle and Grits for dinner (although apparently I should have had hash browns… silly me). After my dinner and catching up on digital life I hopped in the car to find the nearest grocery store to grab some dessert and some water for the next day. All that seemed to be open was a Walmart, so that’s where I went. I returned back to the hotel to find all the police cars cleared out and the hotel deserted. So after a quick call to the wife and planning out where I was going running the next morning, I hit the sack.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Wednesday 23rd September 2015

I woke up earlyish and headed over to Riverside Drive, about 4 or 5 miles drive away. This was the number one running trail that I could find in all of Tulsa and it was pretty damn awesome. Cutting through the middle of Tulsa is the Arkansas River (funny considering that its no where near it right?). The city of Tulsa has done things right here by putting in miles and miles of running/cycling path and really amazing facilities for people to enjoy along the way. I parked my car at the 41st Street Plaza where there was ample parking, restrooms and best of all, resting space if things didn’t go to plan. I hit the trail and it was wide, flat and open and passed plenty of people doing the same thing on the way. All while forgetting my camera :( I did get to enjoy a lovely sunrise as the colors went from dark to light and tinged pink and red and orange. The people were all friendly as well, with just about everyone greeting you as you passed them. Always a great way to start the morning with a sunrise run in a new city.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I headed back to the hotel and again, more problems found (try no hot water) and so I showered and headed to breakfast (no wifi at all!). Breakfast was as you would expect when it’s free, carbalicious (no fruit so thankfully I brought my own) and I went with something in honor of Heidi, a waffle! A good waffley breakfast and some coffee and I hit the road to make a quick stop back at Riverside Drive to get some photos since the place deserves it!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Off on the road to Oklahoma City I went. Open road, cruise control and some music was something I wanted and it was a great drive. Turns out the drive from Tulsa to OKC is a toll road for part of it and $4 cash later, I was able to continue on my way. I expected the drive to just be solid flat road, but it was actually more like rolling hills the whole way. It was a good drive and I didn’t really have an idea of where in Oklahoma City I was heading to but was going to just head downtown and take it from there. I ended up coming in on the freeway seeing signs for the State Capitol and that sounded as good as any for somewhere to go to.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

The State Capitol looked pretty decent and I actually saw one of the state senators arrive at work as they all have reserved car spaces (no names though). Funny that here in the USA the state senators & representatives all drive to work in their own car. In Australia they would all be driven to work in a government car. From there I headed off to find some lunch! I just googled BBQ and went to the one with the best rating. Leo’s BBQ is where I ended up and the place look exactly how I was hoping. A DUMP. But this generally means that the food is good, at least in BBQ perspective because it’s all about the pit, not the ambiance. Leo’s has apparently been on the Food Network so I expected it to be full of tourists, but when the guy sitting next to me at lunch (had to share a table) had been eating there for 35 years, well it was a locals joint. He told me what to order, said he had been eating the same thing for his entire life so I knew it had to be good, and it was. The Brisket I had was amazing, it was melt in your mouth tender but with enough chew to really taste it. I had one rib and it practically fell away from the bone without being overcooked. The Fried Okra was great and the beans were so flavorful. In something I had not experienced before they had a cucumber and onion pickle to go with it. Not a gherkin style pickle but more like a fresh cucumber salad style pickle. It helped cut the richness of the meat really well. None of the meat came out sauced and the guy at the table gave me the good sauce (and good it was!). All of it came served with a slice of their famous Banana Strawberry cake and to be honest, I’ve had better cake. Now lunch wasn’t cheap (probably my most expensive thing in the entire visit to Oklahoma) but it was good!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I moved on from Leo’s (my car had not be stolen or damaged so that was good considering the area was sketchy) and headed towards a place I had found in a little brochure around the state capitol. Tinker Air Force base is located in Oklahoma City and was not to far away. They had a big Air Park just next to the main gate so I headed over there to ogle some avgeek goodies. A big piece of park full of heavies and some small stuff that I did not expect. It was really worth the short visit. From there I headed over towards the airport to fill up. I kept passing Sonic’s all day yesterday and today and when I passed one it turns out it was half price ice cream all day…. SOLD!

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I found the closest Sonic to the airport and then headed that way to grab a treat before I filled the car up. I just wanted somewhere I could consolidate all my stuff (rather than having to do it in a gas station) and whenever there is ice cream involved I can’t really complain right? Sold! Plus when it cost less than $2 for a Waffle Cone Sundae who would say no! Hell it even came with a cherry on top! I gassed up the car (where else can you get gas for under 50c a liter!) and headed towards the airport, ready to finish off the last part of my quick trip to Oklahoma.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Introduction
Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to Tulsa
Oklahoma
Oklahoma City to Seattle

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Tuesday 22nd September 2015

*beep beep beep* Crap, time to get up. It’s O Dark Stupid and unfortunately I need to get up and get moving. The normal morning process of Gym, emails, last minute packing (I always seem to forget the same things every time) and it’s time to kiss the wife and head to the airport. Rather than use the employee lot, I decided to use up a couple of expired groupon vouchers and park at Wallypark. So within 45 minutes of leaving the house, I am walking on the secure side of the airport (unfortunately Checkpoint A was an absolute zoo, thank god for premium access).

I dropped off something at work and headed for the United Club. One of the whole reasons for this trip was a final swan song of my *G status before it expires in November. This meant that I could have a quick relax before the flight boarded. I should of had about 30-40 minutes before we boarded to catch up on life and relax. The reality though was our light was delayed for “Operational Reasons” which really was code for “The crew needs to sleep and is running late”. So I had about an hour or so before we were due to board.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I had some coffee, stole some breakfast and then got myself ready to board. I saw the seat map was wide open and although I tried to get myself an exit row, the gate agent was not in the mood for being helpful. So I took at least a row to myself, nice try lousy gate agent!

United Airlines – UA6522
Seattle Tacoma to Los Angeles (SEA-LAX)
0645-0927
Canadair CRJ-700 (N706SK) – Operated by Skywest
Economy Class – Seat 14A

Boarding: 0635 (Gate A7)
Push Back: 0702
Take off Roll: 0717 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 0901
Touch Down: 0928 (Runway 24L)
Shut Down: 0945 (Gate 87)

We boarded and by the time I had looked through my bag to find something, they had gone from Zone 1 to Zone 2 and with only 1 other person in that zone other than me, i had barely touched the walk way before it was Zone 3 being called and I had to move quickly to escape the masses.

Once in the jetbridge I dropped my bag at the door (this is a CRJ remember) and headed inside. There was a back up for some reason (what are people trying to stow?) and I waited a little while before heading to my seat. I got myself situated in the seats and waited for everyone to board (which didn’t take long). We could have departed on time had we not had to wait while the crew finished all their required checklists. Till that time I just sat there doing stuff and flicking through the magazines etc in the seat back pocket.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

We finally closed up and pushed back a few minutes before the revised time of departure. We had a long taxi out as it was South Flow today and United uses the A gates…. sadly. So after about 10 or so minutes we were at the north end of the field and lining up behind a Virgin America A320 waiting to depart. Sadly no good photos today as the windows on this old CRJ were solidly disgusting and dirty. While I could see out the window the photos just would not turn out, otherwise you would see below a brand new 787-9 and even better, two Antonov AN124’s (one from Volga Dnepr, one from the Antonov Design Bureau).

We climbed out quickly and cruised up into the morning sky, with the sun rising directly out my window. I was able to get a good view of Mt Rainier before we hit the clouds and it was out of sight. I just sat back and did some writing for the blog. Eventually the cart came around and I got my usual morning order of Coffee and Water. This with my pilffered breakfast of Bagel and Banana it was as though I was doing the one thing I have done time and time again. An early morning departure from Seattle, drinking airline coffee and looking out the window. De Ja Vu much?

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

The flight down was pretty uneventful. I drank, I ate, I typed and then you know. We started descent into LAX. We were coming in long and slowly over the mountains to the north of the greater Los Angeles area. We even had a good sight of the Hollywood sign as we came in and did a nice gentle right turn over Dodger Stadium (sorry no games today). We came in for a nice long final approach onto the North Runways and that meant one thing at LAX. A long taxi :(

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

As we touched down on 24L we hit the breaks quickly and hard and pulled off right at the start of the taxiway to the Down Under Ramp. We taxiied up the ramp and stopped, right in the middle of the taixway. Great… this means one thing. Penalty box! We were waiting for our gate to open up, which always seems to happen to me while I am in LAX.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Finally we headed up to our gate and taxiied in and then there was a mass exodus off the plane, but I waited and was in the last few people off the plane. I had to wait for my gate checked bag so that I could keep going and knowing ground staff (I used to be one remember) it would be a few more minutes (and it was). When I finally got my bag I took a bare few steps up the jetbridge and I saw it. The 787-9. I snapped a few photos and headed off on my way around to the United Club.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I got over to the UA club out at the end of Terminal 7. The gate that had my plane was way at the end, and there was a club pretty much right above it. I had enough time at the club for a quick bathroom break and then it would have to be off to the gate. Though when I got there I took advantage of a nice person at the desk and asked them to see if they could help me out with the seat situation. She did a big shout out to the United Club ladies for always being there to help (since I have never been let down before). I grabbed a quick snack and headed off to the gate.

United Airlines – UA1977
Los Angeles to Houston Intercontinental (LAX-IAH)
1100-1647
Boeing 787-9 (N38950)
Economy Plus – Seat 18A

Boarding: 1010 (Gate 76)
Push Back: 1055
Take off Roll: 1105 (Runway 25R)
Top of Descent: 1507
Touch Down: 1544 (Runway 8R)
Shut Down: 1552 (Gate E5)

When I got to the gate, boarding was well underway and I got there right as Zone 3 was starting. I had to move quick to beat some more hordes of people but I was down the jetbridge quickly. Stopped at the door for a few pictures, and then stepped onboard into door 2L. Sadly it is a right turn into the aisle and off down the back. Past the 2nd business cabin and into Economy Plus for me today. I was able to get settled quickly before I was joined by my seat mates. Sorry to the two folks sitting next to me who originally had a row to themselves 😉

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I got myself settled into the seat and the legroom was great and the screen was nice and clear. I managed to snap a lot of pictures in the 45 minutes or so we were at the gate during boarding. About 5 minutes prior to the proper departure time we started pushing back from the gate and I was giddy like a schoolgirl. The wing looked so amazing (I have to say I do love the wing on a 787) all curved up and raked. The window in the first dimmed setting was the best for today as it cut down so much on the glare. We taxiied to the end of the runway right near our terminal and it meant that we would be off within minutes rather than having a long taxi. We did not even stop when we turned onto the runway. We just turned right onto the active and the GenX engines were wound up and into the sky we went.

From Oklahoma Trip

We climbed out and turned left back over the ocean and then kept turning left till we were pointed east. We ended our climb out at 41,000ft (according to the Captain) and it was a smooth climb. Watching that raked wingtip bounce up and down was great and probably as much entertainment as the tv in the seat back. I had been watching a movie, though not paying to much attention to it (it was the new Terminator movie so not at all that great).

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I spent most of my time on the flight working on the trip report or just generally relaxing. I again ate some snacks I had pilfered from the lounge and just chilled out. I knew that once I got to Houston it was going to be from one end of the airport to the other. We started a very early descent into Houston and we got passed by a Southwest 737 going like a bat out of hell. It was a very slow descent (then again we were up super high at 41,000ft). We did eventually start to get lower and lower and eventually some of Houston’s surrounding areas came into view. I thought I saw the airport, but I was wrong.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

As we circled around to approach Houston, it seemed we were coming into the same side as I had when I was first here back in 2012. Coming in from Qatar we had a long approach all the way past the D gates, and it was the same as last time. We touched down and started the long taxi back around to the E gates which were on the totally opposite side of the airport. Sadly my camera was having a hissy fit dealing with the clouding on the window and the blue tint (which kept the glare out).

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

We taxiied all the way around to the E Gates and we pulled into our gate right next to a Star Alliance 777-200 so that was a nice welcome to the city. Once eventually deplaned (they took their time bringing in the air bridge but then we did get in SUPER early) I headed into the terminal, snapped one last picture of the 789 and headed off back on a trek across the airport. I was heading to the B gates which are back pretty much where we landed. It would mean a lot of walking and a train just to get over to the gates. O well, time to hoof it! I am glad we got in early as it would mean I didn’t have the 54 minutes originally scheduled to get across the airport.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

I decided to check out the United Club in the B concourse but the place was an absolute zoo, I was not going to stick around long because there was no real seats anywhere and I had to really look hard to find a seat with a power plug to give the laptop some juice. I eventually decided to head out of the zoo that was the club and find the gate. Well the gate i found, kind of. It seems the B gates are essentially for the regional jets and rather than bus people out. They come into something akin to what Horizon use in Seattle. However rather than having one mass gate and having people walk to the plane itself. They have the gate at the top and then you walk down to the gates themselves where they scan your boarding pass and let you on from there. It didn’t seem smart to me.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

United Airlines – UA4573
Houston Intercontinental to Tulsa (IAH-TUL)
1738-1908
Embraer ERJ-145 (N16170) – Operated by Expressjet
Economy Class – Seat 2A

Boarding: 1708 (Gate B23)
Push Back: 1731
Take off Roll: 1744 (Runway 15R)
Top of Descent: 1825
Touch Down: 1855 (Runway 18L)
Shut Down: 1900 (Gate B6)

So when we were called down to the gate I headed down the escalators and then down to the plane gate itself. I made sure to get another photo of the plane up close before getting into the Zone 2 line (it was combined with Zone 1) and for some odd reason we had to wait to board from there. It was unlike anything I had experienced before… odd.

From Oklahoma Trip

Once out the door I dropped my bag at the “Valet” gate check and headed up to the plane. Stepping onboard i realised I was not going to be able to do what I wanted and was just going to have to enjoy the flight without any hassles. The flight filled up and i contorted myself into my seat and stored everything at my feet (and then had no room for my feet). I knew I had chosen poorly on this plane now, and kind of regret it. We eventually buttoned up with 37 people on board and got ready to taxi.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Pushing back from the gate and then holding at the taxi way for a while meant we had to wait. We headed over to a new part of the airport I had not been to before and we lined up on a parrellel runway to an Aeromexico E190. We climbed out and turned right (sine the E190 went left) and we turned back to the north towards Oklahoma. Totally uneventful flight as we just climbed out and the total flight time was an hour. This shows you how crap the US airlines are. Back home Brisbane to Sydney is a 1 hour flight time and that means a full meal service on an airline like Qantas. In the US it means a drink, and that’s it. I was lucky enough to get one cup of diet coke and one of coke zero and a lot of reading my book. To high to see anything decent and by the time we started descending I had no idea where we were.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

As we circled around and landed I was shocked to see just how big the airport was. I had forgotten that this is a big facility for American Airlines as they have their maintenance base here. We landed and had a slowish taxi up to the gate and soon enough I was off the plane and into the jet bridge to wait for my bag.

From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip
From Oklahoma Trip

Introduction
Seattle to Los Angeles to Houston to Tulsa
Oklahoma
Oklahoma City to Seattle

________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I have not really added this to my bucket list but I have an unofficial challenge to visit all 50 states in the USA. Slowly but surely I am ticking them off. Last Year was Alaska, the year before, Kansas and Missouri. I had two options for this year. If I was going alone, it was going to be Oklahoma, if I was going with Heidi, it would be Iowa and Nebraska. Well things didn’t quite work out for a trip to Iowa, so it was just going to be me and that meant Oklahoma.

Getting one way to Oklahoma was going to be easy as Alaska has just started service to Oklahoma City. I had enough points for a one way flight. I also had some expiring Aegean points leftover after my trip to Frankfurt, so that was something I started to look at. While playing around on United’s website one day, I actually found that they fly a 787-9 from Los Angeles to Houston and thus this whole trip fell into place.

I went back and forth about going or not for quite sometime and I can tell Heidi got sick of me trying to work it out. So eventually she just said yes and that was it, I was off! Booking the Alaska flight would be easy, the United flights, not so much. I couldn’t get any decent flights into Oklahoma City to work at all for the days I needed, even reversing it did not work. So I tried a different tactic. Tulsa is about 100 miles from Oklahoma City so I checked out one way Car Rentals and they turned out to be cheaper than just a one day in OKC. So I started working flights into Tulsa and they would work (better than what OKC would actually). So I called up Aegean and they could see the flights but then the fun began. First quote of 200 Euros in Taxes. PASS! Asked them to Recalculate since the taxes should be about $20, and she wouldn’t budge. Hang Up Call Again! Again could see the space, taxes worked out correct, however this time she would not allow the three segments I wanted on the same ticket.. Dammit not this stupid clause again.

So I set back to working out the problem and found that if I ticketed the SEA-LAX separately on a paid fare, I still only spent less than $200 with the car rental, so I went with it. I called back and got it all worked out, then jumped online quickly to book the missing flight pieces. Ok so the flights were set. I booked in the car rental (after a little while playing with rate codes) and got that sorted. I then used up some of my remaining Club Carlson points (again leftover from Frankfurt) to book in a hotel. I went with the cheaper of the two hotels on offer in Tulsa because it seemed to have more around it.

A Quick look at just how this was going to pan out,

A Quick look at just how this was going to pan out,

Although this was going to be a quick trip, it sure was going to be an experience. I know Heidi was not looking forward to losing me from home for just a night, but I was excited to get back up in the air for some good old fashioned fun. A new state, a couple of new airports, a new plane and some new services to bring it all together. Sounds like fun right?…. Just wait.

The title says it all. I am coming home to Australia for a little trip next year. Better yet, Heidi is coming with me. Getting it all booked was an absolute mission, but it is all done and dusted now. The most exciting thing is going to be introducing Heidi to my friends and family in Australia. My parents have spoken to Heidi (never seen since they can’t work out Skype properly, and if someone wants to go give them a lesson, be my guest) and they know how much I love and care about her, but not having had them meet yet sucks a little bit. But that is going to change.

We have always planned to go to Australia and I wanted to go this year, but time has always been the problem. All of the points we have used to head down on this trip I have had for quite some time, so it has just been finding the time for both of us to go. Sadly it won’t be this year in 2015, it will be 2016 that I head down, shortly after the anniversary of my 4th year in the USA.

So what are we doing in Australia? Well pretty much just spending time in Brisbane with my family and friends. I get to show Heidi where I grew up, where I went to School or where I went to have fun. I want to introduce her to my family, my friends, the town I love. Best of all, I want her to experience my home country in a way that really immerses her into the experience. Of course we get to do all the touristy things like cuddle a koala etc (they just smell like a giant bottle of Eucalyptus Oil but hey it is what she wants), feed some Kangaroos, check out the sites of Brisbane, Eat a meat pie etc.

Getting down to Australia is not going to be fun, unfortunately what space there was in Business went way to quick so unfortunately we are flying down in Y. Why am I doing it, well because we didn’t have a choice. So to get down to Australia we have to fly to Melbourne and then connect back up to Brisbane (the fun of flying on points means you go where you can, not where you want). From Brisbane though is the fun part. We leave Brisbane to take Heidi up to Asia for the first time, and of course the easiest way to do that for a couple of days is to Singapore (known as “Asia Light”). We get to fly up there on Emirates Business so Heidi will get her first taste of a premium class. For me it also means I will finish off all 3 classes on Emirates having flown First and Economy in the past.

From Singapore we will head on further north on Singapore Airlines in Suites. This was something that had to be included. We had to cancel our Japan holiday with confirmed seats in Suites and it gutted both of us. So this means we get the best of both worlds. We were booked to have a 9 hour layover in Tokyo as well, before heading home to the USA on ANA First to San Francisco. But then…. it happened.

I was chatting with a coworker yesterday showing him what I had booked when I saw the schedule. It told me that I had booked a 777-300ER from Singapore to Narita. I was like “Did i read something wrong? Did I screw up?” The only reason we were flying Singapore Airlines was for Suites and If I couldn’t do that I would change things around. I checked my original itineraries and it showed as A380 (the 777 doesn’t have Suites). So I called Singapore (SQ) and let them know about the situation. I had already checked to see if there was space on the earlier in the day SIN-NRT flight (the one that continues to LAX) and they were happy to allow us to change to that flight. They even waived the Reissue fee for us due to the schedule change. Thankfully that earlier flight arrived into LAX later than what our flight to SFO departed, so rather than having a Red Eye with a 9 hour stop, we now have 2 day flights with a 23 hour layover in between. Hello free stopover in Tokyo!!

So for those who want dates (and i know there are a lot of you back home in Brissie who want to know) this is how this should all plan out:

Our flight routing for our trip to the Southern Hemisphere next year... what will be our Second Honeymoon

Our flight routing for our trip to the Southern Hemisphere next year… what will be our Second Honeymoon

18th July 2016 – Seattle to Los Angeles – Alaska Airlines – Economy
18th July 2016 – Los Angeles to Melbourne – Qantas Airways (arrives 2 Days later) – Economy
20th July 2016 – Melbourne to Brisbane – Qantas Airways – Economy
26th July 2016 – Brisbane to Singapore – Emirates – Business (This is a 2:30am departure)
28th July 2016 – Singapore to Tokyo Narita – Singapore Airlines – Suites
29th July 2016 – Tokyo Narita to San Francisco – All Nippon Airways – First
29th July 2016 – San Francisco to Seattle – Not yet booked, probably United

So there you have it folks, I am coming home to Australia and bringing the wife with me. I am sure that there will be plenty of Schedule changes along the way (hopefully QF do some changes so that I can swap onto the Brisbane flight that runs direct from LAX if I am lucky). Now to try and figure out a way to get some Oneworld Status between now and the departure date so that Heidi and I can use the lounges to at least freshen up after our epic flight in Y.

So Monday was a public holiday for Memorial Day. Heidi had the day off (since it was Monday, and school was out), so we decided to head out on the road. We also had another Free Day with National and decided that it was worth it to use that free day again to grab a car. I know in the past we have said why we do this (a few reasons, 1 its fun, 2 it doesn’t add milage to either of our cars, 3 it is free!) but this time was a little different.

Rather than grab a car for just the two of us, we ended up taking a couple of friends with us, so we were targeting a larger car this time, something way more comfortable for 4 people (the one time we don’t need a car for the two of us, the Executive Line has a Mustang on it). Something like this:

From Seattle Life 2015

I have to say that I am not that big a fan of this car. It was fully loaded with all the good things (including a working Sirius XM) but yet I still wasn’t happy. There was power everywhere inside the SUV but again, still not happy. The one thing that killed it for me was the same issue I had with the F150 I rented in Anchorage last year, The indicators. They self center as soon as you begin indicating and you have to cancel them out by indicating the opposite direction, which sometimes doesn’t actually stop it. *sigh*

But other than my not so happiness with the vechile, it was a good day out. Spent some time out a couple of new places for me. Slowly but surely I am getting to experience the Olympic National Park. It was a good time, even though the weather wasn’t the best. I had fun (and so did my friends, thanks guys!) and ended up with some lovely photos like this:

From Seattle Life 2015
From Seattle Life 2015
From Seattle Life 2015
From Seattle Life 2015

So apparently I never got around to posting some of my photos from Frankfurt Airport, so well for your long weekend admiration….

From Frankfurt Spotting

Lufthansa’s Airbus A321

From Frankfurt Spotting

Lufthansa’s Airbus A320 (with Sharklets)

From Frankfurt Spotting

Bringing up the Trifecta… a Lufthansa Airbus A319

From Frankfurt Spotting

Rounding out the whole Lufthansa Short Haul fleet, Boeing 737-500

From Frankfurt Spotting

British Airways Airbus A319 (heading to Heathrow)

From Frankfurt Spotting

JAL Boeing 777-300ER

From Frankfurt Spotting

Sun Express Boeing 737-800

From Frankfurt Spotting

Swiss Avro RJ-85

From Frankfurt Spotting

Aegean Airlines – Airbus A321

From Frankfurt Spotting

KLM Embraer E-190

From Frankfurt Spotting

Condor Boeing 757-300

From Frankfurt Spotting

LAN Boeing 787-8

From Frankfurt Spotting

Korean Air Boeing 777-300ER (Skyteam Livery)

For More goodies, check out the full album.

Frankfurt Spotting