4 years ago today, I walked through the car park of an airport dragging the following with me

From Emigrating to the USA

I was setting off on an epic journey one that would change my life forever. Funnily enough thanks to the date line i would touch back down into Los Angeles still on the same day. My new life would begin early in the morning on the 2nd of May 2012. I cleared immigration and would begin a whole new journey. I was now a resident in the USA. It wasn’t permanent at that point, but it was for a few years at least.

So much has changed over the last few years, I have moved around a few times, changed jobs, met someone I love, got married, travelled, done some amazing things and it has only been 4 years! O how time has changed! I have so many new friends, friends who make me thankful for life each and every day. I walked away from my life back in Australia and left everyone behind. That was not easy but my new friends and family over here make it easier each day.

As the new year in this country begins, this one will be a blast. I start a whole new chapter with Heidi in the next few months with a new house, getting to introduce my family to my wife & her family. I am sure that as things in the new job get better and better, life will be a roller coaster.

Looking back over photos from that flight over to the USA and the first few weeks in the country was a blast this morning. However I did see one photo that made me think twice:

From Emigrating to the USA

This thing has been haunting me since the day I arrived in this country…… nemesis!!!

Heidi and I took a road trip on Saturday (mind you in an amazing rental.. but that is another story) and we are now the holders of authorised Nexus cards from the combined US Customs and Immigration Service and Canadian Border Patrol. For the low low price of $50 for 5 years (so really $10 a year) we get the fun of being able to quickly and easily go across the border between Canada and the USA.

Now we don’t often go up to Canada so why would we bother spending the $$$ to get quick access to the Northern part of the Commonwealth… ay? Well because for $50 you get Global Entry and also TSA Pre Check. Both of those things are the real reason to buy Nexus. Because Precheck is $85 and Global Entry is $100 so for half the price you get all three. WINNING!

We were so happy to be doing Nexus and saving money, but what they don’t explain to you is that any time you need to make an update (address, jobs, updates to your passports etc) you need to go back to a Nexus enrollment center to do that. *sigh*. They won’t allow it to be just done online, you need to go back to the physical location. That would be ok if we lived closer, or if Boeing Field and more than 1 pair of officers (Nexus center staff work in pairs, 1 american & 1 Canadian.. ay). So we could wait all day and hope that we could get it done at Boeing Field, but there’s no guarantee for that. Instead we will need to drive up north to Blaine to get the paperwork done there, because they always have staff dedicated to changes.

But it is a small price to pay for being able to clear security quickly and easily, the way it used to be. If only you didn’t need to pay for this privilege, then it would be ok. But that is the world we live in today. Guess we could always go up to Vancouver for the day right?

Heidi and I have spent the last couple of months pretty busy. After I got back from my big trip we had to get serious on the house hunting front. We checked out houses as much as we could (most I did in one day i think was 5) and with the help of a good realtor (who was probably a saint after all the crap we put her through considering Heidi and I don’t have easy schedules to deal with) we finally found somewhere.

We failed our first offer and after finally finding somewhere else we liked, we got really aggressive. We had to be with the market the way it is right now. Although all we do now is go back and forth over paperwork, so much paperwork. Every day it feels like I need to submit something or find something to send in, lord knows how many trees we have killed so far, and will kill when we get to the closing part.

We won’t be moving in till the first start of june, which is fine because our lease is not up till that time anyway. Makes it easier on us and gives the current owners time to pack up slowly. It also gives us time to get stuff ready for the move, we can be packed up and ready to move in time. The move will be easy and the set up of the new house just as easy.

But it is exciting to be moving forward in life, settling down and starting a new chapter. The fun part is that I will be able to walk to work from now on (it will be quicker to walk than deal with driving) and Heidi will have a much shorter commute. Here is to being in debt for the rest of our lives!

So the trip is now over, and I have been back to work almost a full week now. It is a tough, tough feeling knowing that the trip is over and all the fun has stopped. All in all I got to knock off four new states (WV, NE, KY, IA), one new aircraft (MD-80), three new airports (OMA, RDU, SNA) and visited a whole lot of new cities.

The trip to me was a blast and brought back a lot of memories of driving in the car with Heidi for our road trips, both long and short. It makes me want to do the same thing again, but this time with Heidi, rather than spending all that time alone in the car myself. Speaking of which I have been asked a lot how it went and the answer to that question is fine. The drive was not that bad and I enjoyed it. The longest day was the first and that was mainly because the road did not allow a decent high speed. With the winding roads and the up and down through mountains, it kept the speed lower than the other days. But the two days in the car was not at all that horrible.

If you wanted to see what I looked at, feel free to check out one of these time lapses that I created:

Or you can just check out my photos, because hey who doesn’t like photos:

12 States in 7 Days

I had a blast on this trip and now that there is a big gap till I get to fly again (July for the big one) who knows what will change in the mean time. All I know right now is I have some time to work off all the crap I ate while I was away. Because hotel waffles are to good to avoid right?

Friday 19th February 2016

After dropping the car back at the rental counter and waving goodbye to Horseman for the final time, I walked along the walkway into the Omaha terminal. It was time to head on home. Alaska has their check in at the opposite end of the airport to the Car Rental area (the southern end). It was an easy 2-3 minute walk past the counters for Southwest, United, past some baggage claims and the car rental counters.

Alaska’s check in area was covered in balloons in Green and Gold for some reason. I didn’t ask why at the time, but it was going to be my first attempt at the Self Tag facility, since that was the only choice. I started the process but it turns out the only record locater I had accessible was not the Alaska one, so the system crapped out on me. Thankfully they allow you to look up by name! The Omaha staff was right by my side to offer assistance and even put the bag tag on for me. They were fantastic and a special shot out to Gloria who was hilarious and very helpful.

After checking in and handing off my bag I headed upstairs to the departures level. I decided against purchasing steaks (sorry Heidi) and had a quick look around in the pre security area. There wasn’t much and there was signs saying there was more stuff after security, so I headed down. Didn’t have to wait long at all (this is Omaha after all) and soon enough was through security (after a pat down.. sigh).

There was some things after security, but not much. There was a bar with ramp views and power points so that was going to be good enough. I bought a bottle of water and camped out by the windows watching the few planes coming and going. The two hornets that flew past while I was on my way to the airport were parked on the far side and were joined later on by 4 more! Watching them do standard Navy approaches was fun and I managed to get a few half decent photos with my point and shoot. Soon enough the inbound aircraft showed up so it was time to pack up and head to the gate.

Alaska Airlines – AS3469
Omaha to Seattle Tacoma
1500-1650
Canadair – CRJ-700 (N216AG)
Economy Class – Seat 2A
Boarding: 1426 (Gate A9)
Push Back: 1450
Take off Roll: 1458 (Runway 32L)
Top of Descent: 1604
Touch Down: 1625 (Runway 16R)
Shut Down: 1630 (Gate C16)

While I waited at the gate for boarding to be called I had a chat with Gloria who remembered me by name from the check in area. The benefits of working at a small airport. I watched the staff in action with all the guests coming off the plane and they were fantastic. No wonder they get rave reviews here. Boarding was called and I had to wait to be the last group to board. Sadly without Alaska status it is how I have to deal with boarding. I made it on eventually to have to settle into my seat. That wasn’t easy as I was in 2A (not sure how I snagged that seat) and since it was a CRJ, there is no way to store my camera bag up top. The camera bag went under the seat in front (barely) and the backpack went up top. Which never works right? Because I want to access the stuff in my backpack and now I can’t? Sigh! I am going to be one those seat mates today it seems.

We sealed up tight not long after I boarded and pushed back early. Things work nice and easy when you fly an RJ and you work at an outstation. I should do this more often! We taxied away from the gate and headed for the runway. I did not realize there were multiple runways at Omaha and we had a bit of a longer taxi than I expected. The view out my window was not all that fantastic due to a very scratched and dirty window. I took what photos I could and would deal with whatever turned out later.

We climbed out and away from Omaha and left the Midwest behind. I wanted to sit back and catch up on some TV that I had brought with me and was yet to finish, and with the sun coming directly into my window, I had to drop the blind. The guy in the aisle didn’t mind about that, what he hated was my constant fidgeting of my feet. The camera bag wasn’t helping either of us, so when I got a chance, I asked the flight attendant if there was a place to store it. She offered up the closet where they store their bags (so much space available) and I accepted and thanked her profusely.

Now that I could actually move about a bit, I settled in to watch TV and read for the rest of the trip and with a flight time of 3.5 hours, it was not going to be all that comfortable. To be honest after spending 9 hours or more stuck in the driver’s seat of a car, even that was more comfortable than the cramped confines of the CRJ today. O well!

The flight went past ok, a couple of drink runs by the 2 flight attendants and a lot of time for them to stand around chatting in the galley and we hit descent about 35 minutes out of Seattle. I packed up my stuff and stashed it at my feet, deciding not to interrupt my seat mate again. We came out of the clouds from our descent over Totem Lake to the north of Kirkland and tracked for a South Flow landing. Coming in over downtown and the Museum of Flight, we were vectored in for a 16R landing. This would put us on at least a 5-10 minute taxi to the gate… on a good day.

Taxi time today was fairly average and we pulled up at Gate C16 today. With a CRJ on the ramp at SeaTac it means that Horizon are looking after the plane and that means boarding onto the ramp. So much fun on a rainy Seattle day  O well could be worse. It could be pouring rain and blowing a gale. I was off the plane fairly rapidly and with most of my stuff in hand, I was on my way to the gate. Most people had to wait around for their gate checked bags, me I was heading into the terminal post haste. I stopped by work to check my roster for Sunday (making sure it had not changed) and then it was downstairs to get my bag.

My bag was trundling around the belt by the time I got there. It’s sad; because I wanted to get some extra points to help out with the fact my accounts were now all bone dry. It was off to the shuttle bus for me, ending this trip the same way it began. Now the problem was trying to remember where I left the truck.

Friday 19th February 2016

I awoke this morning on the final day of this adventure. I had slept pretty damn well so was thoroughly impressed by the Residence Inn. The hotel while not the flashiest I have stayed in hit the mark on all levels (apart from the gym, it just needed more equipment). The hotel was clean, comfortable, the staff were all great (especially the lady at breakfast). The rooms were large, spacious and had everything you could need and more (hello full kitchen!).

I had breakfast before heading off on the road again and decided to indulge a little this morning. A waffle with cream… why yes! The breakfast was tasty and with plenty of options it was so much better than just a bagel or cereal. It hit the spot and the coffee was good as well and made the start of my day really easy. Today’s drive was the easiest as well and if all went to plan, I could have some time to see a thing or two in Omaha before heading to the airport. I hit the road as the sun was rising spectacularly and managed to skirt the edge of downtown so didn’t have to deal with traffic.

I was on the I29 heading north to Iowa pretty easily and once I cleared the airport area the speed limit went up and I was fully enjoying cruise mode. Cruising along listening to my ipod (since SiriusXM decided to update the subscription yesterday and remove itself just miles from Kansas City). It was miles and miles of I29 this morning but it wasn’t boring at all. It was a lot of straight road but the scenery was very pretty in some places. Plus the signs kept me interested pretty much the whole way.

Time seemed to go past pretty fast, and before I knew it I was at the Iowa border, about an hour from Council Bluffs (which is just on the other side of the river to Omaha). I managed to get the Missouri sign (over my left shoulder) and the Iowa sign and then it was onwards into Iowa fully. Funnily enough the first town over the border into Iowa is called Hamburg, so that kept me chuckling for a little while (in a very bad german accent too). The only issue was the first rest stop in Iowa was over 35 miles into the state and since the last one was well over 100 miles previously, I needed to stop. Badly!

While at the rest stop I consolidated a bit of stuff and tried to figure out what to do as I was going to get into Omaha a bit early. I decided to go check out the Union Pacific Railway Museum (it was free) and it was in Council Bluffs, about 20 minutes away. I ended up sticking around for about an hour and had a bit of a tour from an old lady who volunteered. It was a bit creepy yet very endearing. After the museum I headed into town to grab some lunch. I found a place that looked ok online and was an old school looking diner. The food was pretty good and I finished off the trip with the same meal I started it with, Chicken Fried steak.

With lunch done, I headed off to fill up the car and drop Horseman off at the rental return. By the time I got back to the airport it had been a long trip, but totally worth it. Time to head home!!!

Current Location: Omaha Airport, Nebraska
Total States Visited: 12
New States Visited: 4 – Iowa, Nebraska, West Virginia, Kentucky
Miles Driven: 1715
Cheapest Gas Purchased – Kwik Stop Omaha – $1.49pg
Cheapest Gas Seen – Random Gas Station in Kansas City – $1.29pg

Tuesday 16th February 2016

After my bag finally showed up I headed out to where the Rental Car shuttles pick up from and I had to sprint for the shuttle as there was one pulling in right then. Not easy to run with a suitcase. camera bag and backpack. After one other person got on the shuttle we headed off to the National lot. I was meant to pick up my vehicle over 5 hours before and I was hopeful there would still be something good left. My coworker was adamant I needed something with 4WD/AWD for the drive since you know, snow. But only chance would tell me if I was going to get it.

Things did not look likely when we rolled up to the Emerald Aisle/Executive Aisle areas and it was minivan central. Need a minivan… they got it! There were no sedans at all! There were a couple of Challengers, a number of trucks and that was it. So I asked, and what was on the line was it. I explained the situation about the one way rental and he suggested to head up to the counter and ask as they often have a “Hot Line” for stuff that they reserve for one way rentals (ie stuff they want to get rid of). As I went over to the Emerald desk I spoke t the lady who went in and checked for me and then while I was waiting I was chatting to the original guy there and saw a Hemi Charger sitting on a line of cars. When the lady came back she said all the hot stuff had gone and all that was left was a row of upgrades. I asked about the Upgrade on the Hemi Charger and was told that had already been rented? Wierd. I went back to the line and the original guy tried to help me find the best I could get. He walked up to a Challenger with 4 miles on the clock. Yes that is right…. 4! SOLD!

I quickly threw my gear in the car and jumped in before someone else tried to steal it on me. Screw the AWD part. I took what I could 😉 I headed out of the airport towards a grocery store around the corner from the hotel and from there onto the hotel. By the time I got to the hotel it was approaching 11:30pm at night so my one night stay at the Millennium Durham was now becoming just a handful of hours. The hotel looked good from the outside, but the inside was pitiful. I thought that my stay at the hotel in Oklahoma was the worst I have had. This was borderline as bad, if not worse. It was pitiful! Thankfully the hotel is undergoing renovations (not soon enough) it is a disgrace to the Millennium brand! It would do for the night.

Wednesday 17th February 2016

I woke up after barely any sleep and skipped the gym for an extra bit of sleep. I packed up what stuff I had pulled out and got myself ready to get on the road. I had 530 miles to go today and it was not going to be easy. I had a quick breakfast (not the best, not the worst hotel breakfast) and hit the road just after 730am. My day was going to be lots and lots of road.

The plan was to go from Durham, North Carolina to Louisville, Kentucky. This would take me across North Carolina, into Virginia then West Virginia, clearing out my afternoon in Kentucky. It started off cold but not horribly so (around 32-34F) compared to what I expected. It was a little bit sunny as I left with the sun rising behind me for the first part of the morning. As I got through Virginia climbing over first the Blue Ridge Mountains and then into the Appalachians the snow started to fall. I was worried about it, but the Challenger (henceforth referred to as Horseman, because it was the best I could come up with that kind of referred to 4) handled it pretty well. I crossed into West Virginia mid morning and kept on pushing. I was aiming to get through the state after lunch and end up in Kentucky around 4:30-5:00pm. By the time i got past Charleston, WV I was starving! So I gave it a bit longer and stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel (first time visiting, wasn’t bad).

Horseman was getting pretty good gas mileage with the average of around 27mpg so I only had to fill up once and that was about 100 or so miles outside of Louisville. Rest stops were my go to place for stopping for a quick bathroom break and they were well signed (thankfully). I got into the habit of going in along the way and taking a photo of the “You are here” signs in each state. Fun! I also managed to get the “Welcome to ” signs to every state I visited.

I got into Louisville around 5:30pm right in the middle of peak hour traffic. 10 hours after leaving I was safe and sound at my hotel. I ended up hitting the gym straight away, because traffic was horrible, so get it out of the way then and there. The hotel was much better than last night and this time even though it was also under refurbishment it was almost complete. My room was I would say barely finished and it was immaculate. If this is what all the Country Inn and Suites are going to look like, I love it!

I finished off the night by heading over to Skyline Chilli, a mile or two from the hotel. Originally durning the planning of this trip I was heading to Cincinatti which is famous for its Chilli. It isn’t Chilli like most people think of it, it doesn’t have heat, it has spice that comes from Cinnamon and the likes. It is served on top of spaghetti and covered in cheese. I mean COVERED in cheese. It was pretty good, I ended up having it “5 Ways” which is a 3 Way (aka Basic Spaghetti, Chilli & Cheese) with both Onions and Beans. It was pretty good but could do with some heat to really set it off.

By the time I chatted with Heidi when she got home from work, I was out like a light! It had been a long day and I had to do it all over again the next.

Thursday 18th February 2016

Woke up and snuck into the gym about 15 minutes before it was meant to open. It was good to get a morning workout in before being stuck inside a car all day. Breakfast was quick (hello Hotel waffle) and then it was off to the car again. As I walked past reception they had cookies out already (evil bastards!). My coffee would have to do! I had to scrape down the windshield to get rid of all the ice. Thank god for hotel loyalty cards because without one I would have to resort to using my own credit card…. ugh no thanks!

Back on the road and this time the temperature was pretty cold, around 25F but it warmed up slowly as I moved on. The road was pretty busy as I crawled through Louisville morning traffic. At one point I was at a complete standstill just a mile or two from the border… UGH! The accident that was holding everything up got cleared and it was out and away. While yesterday’s drive was full of turns and mountain climbs hence pushing my 8 hour drive to 10 hours with stops. Today was going to be a lot of high speed open interstate over rolling plains. Average speed today was a good 70+.

Passed through Indiana and Illinois, managing to get the Welcome to signs at both as I came through. The Missouri sign though, well that I missed. I was originally going to head into Downtown St Louis for lunch but by the time I passed through at 10:30am (I gained an hour thanks to Central time), it was raining and too early, so I pushed on. I missed the Missouri sign thanks to being on a new piece of road that my GPS didn’t recognise but the signage clearly was correct. I was tempted to circle back around but thought better of it.

I took a quick lunch break in a waffle house about 45 minutes outside of St Louis. Refueled by some waffley goodness for the 2nd time today I was back on the road, headed west. Passing through Missouri was pretty uneventful apart from the wind. It picked up like crazy and at times I really had to hold onto Horseman as he slipped all over the place. The further I went west the further that temperature rised though topping out at 73F. Pretty good to almost triple the morning temperature!

The further west I went as well, the more the gas price dropped. I filled up about half way between lunch and my end destination and it was pretty cheap or so I thought. It kept getting cheaper the closer I got to Kansas City. I rolled into town past all the stadiums and into a very poor neighborhood. I wasn’t particularly impressed but it could be worse right? After 9 hours on the road, I was all set and in my hotel at the Residence Inn Kansas City Downtown by 3:45pm!

I took the afternoon off to sit on the couch of my room and enjoy some relaxation after concentrating for the last two days. Tomorrow’s drive into Omaha would not be as taxing with about 3-4 hours of driving. I would cross another 2 more states tomorrow that I needed off my list and then by dinner I would be home to see my wife. However dinner tonight I was looking around to find some good BBQ. I could walk down to one BBQ place or I could drive a mile or two over to what some people say is the best bbq in town. O it is in Kansas not Missouri? SOLD!

The restaurant was actually only about a 10 minute drive through suburban streets and really easy to find. It is still an active Gas Station and one part is the gas station, the other the BBQ restaurant. I had to line up and wait (as expected) but only had to wait 10-15 minutes at most to order. I ordered a lot (like usual) and it was all pretty good. I went with the brisket & pulled pork with some beans and some spicy slaw. The sausage was good too after a small taste so grabbed some of that as well. The main thing with Kansas City BBQ is it is all about the sauce and the sauce was gooooooood. It went down nicely with Diet Mountain Dew (it’s so rare to find at places out west why can’t we have it everywhere!!!!).

I returned to the hotel to finish off some stuff and get another good nights rest. One last stretch in the car in the morning and maybe, just maybe i can get in a little sightseeing in Omaha. Who knows!

Current Location: Residence Inn Kansas City Downtown/Union
Total States Visited: 10
New States Visited – 2/4 – West Virginia, Kentucky
Miles Driven: 1522
Cheapest Gas Purchased (Plus/Premium): $1.71pg – Pilot Boonsvile, MO
Cheapest Gas Seen (Regular): $1.29pg – Random Gas Station in Kansas City, MO

Tuesday 16th February 2016

Up at O Dark 45 this morning to get myself ready to head to Raleigh to begin my big drive. It was dark and quiet in Orange County and after staying at the Sketchiest hotel I have stayed at in years (this is what I get for being cheap) I headed onto the freeway and to the airport. I dropped off the car at SNA and had to hunt around to find the drop box, but eventually found it.

It was quiet in the terminal as I entered and found check in quick enough. I had to wait a little bit to finally see someone but was checked in and had my boarding passes soon enough and my bag (with priority sticker) on it’s way into the bowels of John Wayne Airport. The TSA today was funny as everyone was walking straight past an open checkpoint to another one. I was so confused, but hey… whatever. No line is no line! I was through security pretty quickly and spent more time putting my stuff back together than I did getting it all out and through security.

Once through I walked through the terminal a bit before heading up to the Admirals Club when it opened. This was going to be my first time flying American properly and I had scammed access via a status match with Air Berlin. I had mainly done that so that I had access to lounges on my way to Australia. The lounge opened up at 530am and with that I had somewhere to grab a coffee and use the restroom, away from the gate lice. I headed down to the gate early and this was my first mistake. When I got down there I realised that everyone was down there as well… but something was up.

The gate staff were not making any announcements about their boarding process or anything. They were calling people up at random, but not saying anything else. My thoughts was that it was connecting flights internationally and they were checking passports etc, but not sure. Then boarding time passed, and nothing. Delay was about to strike, I positioned myself in such a way that I could get to the club quickly if I had to. When the announcement was made that there would be a delay I was halfway to the club and barely heard the reason. A dead battery? Really AA? Lame!

I was the first person into the club and the line formed after me and I was quickly helped. I was told to just sit tight if I wanted to keep my first class seat (I sure as hell did!) and that they would protect me on the next available flight from DFW to Raleigh. This was one of these moments that helped for sure, but I was just frustrated! I was protected but it meant waiting around for several hours and told that there was nothing else at all. Changing airports was not really an option since it would get me there way to late tonight. I came back to the desk after a little while to get a seat assigned and all that was left was Aisles 🙁 ugh. But i guess with a night flight that will be ok.

I sat around in the club just chilling out, trying to relax. I fixed up my travel plans for that day, reaching out and letting people know about the delay (was meeting someone at Dallas and seeing a friend in RDU). I changed around the pick up time for my car hire tonight and also let the hotel know I was coming in late… *sigh*. About an hour before the new flight time was meant to depart, I headed up to check if it was still going on time and tried to entertain myself somehow.

After walking around the terminal a bit, I returned to the gate in the hope we would get more information. Nothing. They made one announcement to say that the battery was “on site” however there was not a single person moving around the aircraft to do anything. It was hard to know what was going on when no one was saying anything! So rather than head back to the club, I stuck around the gate area and just waited it out. I was quite bored just standing around but I figured if I left something was going to change and I would miss it.

So the 9:30am departure became 10am, the 10am became 10:15. It just kept dragging on and on without any word. The battery did show up at the aircraft around 10am and it was installed pretty quickly. About 10 minutes later boarding was called and the bum rush for the gate began!

American Airlines – AA1627
Orange County to Dallas Ft Worth
0645-1155
Boeing 737-800 (N928NN)
First Class – Seat 4A

Boarding: 1012 (Gate 7)
Push Back: 1100
Take off Roll: 1111 (Runway 20R)
Top of Descent: 1510
Touch Down: 1534 (Runway 36L)
Shut Down: 1545 (Gate A14)

First Class was called and it seemed everyone was in First Class because they rushed the boarding area. I scooted around the side and did my best “Screw you I am boarding when I want” look, cutting in front of someone else (who turns out was not in first class). I was going to milk every last bit of this points redemption to RDU today.

I finally got a good look at our aircraft when I boarded and was happy to see the Boeing Sky Interior. That meant that I could actually charge my phone as well because the seats would have power, however no seat back tv, just wifi to your own device. Eh whatever! I took my seat by the window and got myself situated. Boarding followed after that and it was an utter mess with people everywhere. They wanted us on and seated as quickly as possible, even though we were just going to sit there.

We sat and waited onboard while the rest of economy boarded and I joked online if I was going to get a Pre Departure beverage. Well moments after I made that joke, I was offered a water or an orange juice. Now that is the cheats way out of it for American, but it was better than nothing right? Water it is today! I sat back while the flight attendants shuffled around the galley, drinking coffee doing nothing.

We finally heard from the cockpit saying that they were waiting for us to be fully gassed up before we could do anything else and that meant we waited some more. I had a prediction with a fellow passenger we wouldn’t leave until 11am and I looked like that was going to be spot on. I sat back, texting my wife, joking with friends and just trying to relax and enjoy myself. Even leaving at 11am I would still have plenty of time in DFW.

We buttoned up at around 10:50 and pushed back right on 11am, as predicted. We had to hold on the taxiway a while, waiting for traffic. We were right on the runway threshold entrance so we could just hold in position until it was our turn. After a Southwest 737 departed we made our turn onto the active runway. We had to wait a little bit longer at the hold point for another Southwest 737 to land and then it was our turn.

I had heard so much about departing from SNA and their unique departure. Due to noise abatement they had strict rules on how and when you could depart Orange County. Firstly no jet movements before 7am in the morning. The line up to get underway at 7am in the morning was like 15 or 16 aircraft and they were backed up everywhere, all waiting. When it is your turn to depart, due to the short nature of the strip it is full throttle, balls to the wall. But once you are in the air the noise abatement comes back into play. SNA is surrounded on all directions by housing, so you can only climb at power till 5000 feet and then you must throttle back until you cross the coast. Once across the coast you can then throttle back up to climb power. When it was finally our turn, it was full throttle and then off we go!

We climbed but the level off and power down wasn’t as evident, so I was a little bit disappointed. I know that sounds stupid, but I wanted to hear the engines wind back down. Guess not! We kept climbing albeit a little bit slower and crossed the coast and it seemed we were going to do so at the same rate. Maybe we were light today and everything was offloaded to other flights? I know that this flight was non rev express with every man and their dog cleared onto the flight. So maybe that was it.

We turned back east and climbed over southern california. I could see down below us as we passed what looked like Ontario and kept tracking east over Palm Springs, Palm Desert and the Coachella valley. The sky was as blue as it could be and the contrast against the desert below was stunning. We kept cruising east and the pilot came on to tell us a little about the flight (flying East over the Texas Panhandle etc, flight time of 2h30 mins and an ETA on the ground that would give me 2.5 hours).

Drinks were delivered just after the speech and then once that was handled the flight attendant working the cabin decided to do service by cart. That was a little bit different for first class, but hey, whatever. Breakfast orders had been taken on the ground and I was thankful I did not pre select today, because otherwise I would have been boned. Originally I was going to go for a light breakfast of oatmeal, about the best idea after a weekend of indulgence. Thankfully I didn’t do this because I would have been disappointed when we had an almost lunch time departure. I went with the “Hot” option which was a Quiche of some kind with potatoes, fruit and a biscuit on the side. Pretty decent light lunch if you ask me (could have done with some vegies, but hey… whatever).

I consumed my “breakfast” fairly quickly because I was pretty hungry and it looked good. The taste was ok, so I was not going to complain. The biscuit was pretty decent for being in the air so that was good (no seconds offered although there was plenty spare… but be good malcolm!). We had a few lumpy bits somewhere about an hour into the flight (nothing serious) and I went back to working on my laptop on the trip report). After a while I decided to pack that in (I had plenty of time to write it) and catch up on some tv.

By the time i finished watching TV, my flight was about to begin descent so I packed up all my stuff, taking a little bit of compensation from the aircraft with me 😉 By the time that had done we were into our descent and my seat mate started packing up his stuff as well. Pretty soon we were on our way down into DFW. The landing was pretty picturesque on the way in and we did a downwind past the airport and over AT&T stadium (aka the new Texas Stadium) and the Baseball stadium for I think the Texas Rangers. Right next to that was also a theme park and it looked like I might have seen my first ever Six Flags (judging by the Batman and Superman logos I was assuming Six Flags over Texas?).

We landed and quickly got off the runway and onto one of the many taxiways at DFW. What I was now waiting on was getting to the gate, because at DFW, that could take a while. We took a little bit to get to the gate, but nothing over the top. The wait wasn’t horrendous till we had the jet bridge to the door and I was headed out of the plane, into the terminal. I was headed to the D Concourse as I had some time to kill and during my wait I was headed over to a meeting for a quick tour with a coworker. I won’t be specific, so let’s just say it was an eye opening experience.

I stopped by an Admirals Club to get my seat assignment fixed up and they did that, along with reprinting me a boarding pass. That was so easy and I headed over to the C Terminal where my flight was heading from. I camped out in the Admirals Club there (while also snagging myself an extra drink chit for a bottle of water… well 2 actually). I should have known to ask for them earlier! When it came time to head down to the gate, I packed up my stuff and headed out.

The admirals club sure left me a number of questions for someone i know who used to work in one. A number of questions regarding standards etc. But on the whole it was a fine way of just getting stuff done. I went down to the gate and tried to see if the gate staff could tell if my bag made the flight, the only thing left for me to worry about. Unlike other airlines they don’t seem to keep track of it through all stages…. *sigh*. I just waited around the gate area and eventually it became time (I will admit, I gate liced it).

American Airlines – AA1207
Dallas Ft Worth to Raleigh Durham
1820-2155
McDonnell Douglas MD82 (N466AA)
First Class – Seat 3F

Boarding: 1750 (Gate C15)
Push Back: 1813
Take Off Roll: 1830 (Runway 35L)
Top of Descent: 2100
Touch Down: 2139 (Runway 23R)
Shut Down: 2143 (Gate C23)

Boarding was called and I was one of the first people down into the Jet Bridge. Down at the aircraft they were still loading food so I wasn’t sure if we should be onboard or not. I still got on anyway when she said it was ok. I jumped into my seat and stashed my stuff as quickly as I could. I took the Bulkhead because it was the only window available, even though I don’t really like it sometimes (when the storage situation is dire).

Boarding filled the entire plane pretty quickly and the flight attendants did not do a PDB. Scratch all the good things I said about AA…. ever! Nah that is mean, but the FA today was already on my shit list. We ended up pushing back early and set up for a flight time of 2h 5mins giving us a good 30 minute of ground time in the schedule. That makes sense since DFW is the size of a state!

As we pushed back and lined up to leave the apron I realised that up front in the MD80 there is no real noise at all. It was just so quiet from the plane. What you did hear was stuff going on the in the cockpit, the flight attendants gossiping (we had someone non revving in the jump seat). The sunset out my window was fantastic though, just stunning! It made me think just why I fly all the time. Looking out at that sunset over a city below is what makes me happy (and why I want a window seat).

As we climbed out of DFW I settled in to watching out the window till the sun set then went back to watching TV on my tablet. I still had shows to watch and it was something to keep me going right? Service was slow tonight. Drink orders were taken before take off but no meal orders? Confused. Then when we got around to being in the air, drink & nuts came out before the hot towel? Again confused. Mind you none of this was rushed at all, it was slow. Really slow. With a flight time of 2 hours the FA didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry.

Dinner service finally started about an hour into a 2 hour flight (wierd especially when you need to have everything cleared by 30 minutes out) and she followed the old FEBO rules. I figured that would happen eventually & being at the front on an odd numbered flight, I was going to get whatever was left. Sigh. By the time I got my meal about 10 minutes later, I still had both choices & went with the Green Chilli Tamale over the chicken. However 5 minutes after I started eating we had to start packing up as we were heading into turbulence & they wanted everything sorted since when we came out of that we would be in descent. Start scoffing it down!

I packed up my stuff, and got the FA to put it up for me eventually & just sat back watching the descent out the window. I had no idea where I was or what was going on so I just relaxed. I finally saw what looked like an airport & we took a roundabout way to come onto finals.

We touched down very quietly up front but when we turned off those brakes groaned. At the gate it was worse :/ within a few minutes the were set at the gate and I was off the plane and through the terminal. Nice new modern looking terminal bug baggage claim felt like miles away from the gate. Add onto the fact that my bag was one of the last out and you can bet how tired & Cranky I was. O well off to get my car & some sleep.

Friday 12th February 2016

After getting my nice shiny new Nissan Maxima and hitting the 405 north towards LAX I was starting to get hungry. I wanted to head to a place that had come recommended to me by a friend. It was an old school restaurant, with the old neon style signs. But it was also a replica of the restaurant that was used for Pulp Fiction. They had all the same booths etc from the old Hawthorne Grill which has since closed. I am not sure if they are the same or both owned by the same people at one time, but Pann’s was pretty amazing on the inside.

I had my breakfast (which was really my lunch) and then found out that a friend was stuck at LAX for several hours. By the time we finally connected, she couldn’t leave the terminal, but if only I had of known! After a tasty filling meal, I was ready to get into the sun and get some spotting done. I was just going to hit up Imperial Hill for a little while and get some photos before I had to head out to Ontario. It was fun texting back and forth with my friend who was on the opposite side of the airport, showing her the planes on my side. After getting heaps of photos of stuff I wanted, there was an o shit moment. My camera batteries started to die.

This was expected because I had two batteries that had been heavily abused lately, so I knew they would be ending soon enough. But with two others spare I didn’t want to charge the ones in the camera up. So I left the battery charger in Seattle thinking I wouldn’t need it. Sadly I did not check the spare batteries status as for some reason they were dead too. Sigh. So now I had 4 dead batteries and no charger. I through in the towel for the day and headed towards Ontario (with a brief stop for some fresh donuts… what don’t judge me!).

Traffic in LA is notoriously bad, and today was no different. I left the LAX area around 1pm ish and hit the freeway towards Ontario around 1:45pm. I managed to reach Ontario at 4:15pm, around 2.5 hours after I left… sigh! I don’t mind spending 2.5 hours driving somewhere, but not doing 5mph stuck in traffic like that. It was horrific! It was only 60 miles, how could it be so hard! Ugh! Either way by the time I got there I was spent! I decided I needed to catch up on a few things and just chill out for a while.

I looked around online for a good hotel deal when we were planning this trip and about the best deal I could find was for the Aloft Hotel Rancho Cucamonga, it wasn’t a bad hotel. Basic rooms, yet still nice and trendy. Not bad to be honest for the price compared to what the other hotels were asking. The room was large enough and looked clean. The hotel had a decent gym, a pool and free parking. About all you could ask for right? I had some stuff I needed to do online (which I did) and headed out to grab some food. I found a place that I heard on the radio earlier that day, and it fit the bill. I had my first visit to Souplantation. It wasn’t bad but a little confusing, but it was tasty!

I headed back briefly to the hotel with some supplies I had picked up to set up a little gift display for Heidi, and then headed off to get her dinner and pick her up. She asked me to get her a specific order and since it was around the corner from the airport, it was a given. It was ready right as she landed and then by the time I got to the airport, she was standing on the curb. Easy as pie and minutes later we were back at the hotel to sleep!

Saturday 13th February 2016

Today was not going to be a thoroughly eventful day. After a morning run, Heidi and I headed off to her friends place to hang out and chill for the day. Today wasn’t about doing anything other than relaxing and catching up. Heidi was excited to see her best friend and her two children. I was surprised when the oldest daughter actually didn’t try to hide from me so much and that was pretty good. At one point I was walking holding her hand, so that was pretty good!

We had to go to the mall to get some new swimwear (since I had left mine at home, again) and then we all came back to the hotel (well I had a nap before the others got there) and headed to the pool for a bit. By the time the sun went down and we hopped out, it was starting to get a bit chilly, so we warmed up and headed out for some all you can eat sushi!

The place was one that I found last time in Ontario and it was still there. It had a huge line and it was amazing! We may have waited a little while, but totally worth it! By the end of the day we were rested, relaxed and thoroughly full. Pretty awesome day if you ask me.

Sunday 14th February 2016

Waking up on my normal schedule this morning and off to the gym, then a quick breakfast before hitting the road with Heidi. We were off to Palm Desert today to catch up with Heidi’s grandparents who move down to the city for a couple of months a year during winter. It was my first time in the area and it was such a new experience for me. I was excited to go and visit the city that I had heard so much about, and finally give in to Heidi, who had wanted to go so much.

It is only about an hour or so drive out to Palm Desert and this was going to give us a good test of Russell, the Maxima (named of course after Russell Crowe’s character from Gladiator). The car handled it well, and easy as hell, comfortable drive! Pretty soon we were in Palm Desert meeting up with the Grandparents and getting shown around. We hit up the markets, Babes for some BBQ and then out to the Date Farm for a shake. We also got to see where the grandparents were staying, and if they stay there again next year, we might ourselves head down for a weekend to check it out!

We left Palm Desert mid afternoon, waving goodbye to the grandparents and still really relaxed. We headed back to Ontario to head to the movies on what was Valentine’s Day. We wanted to see Deadpool, since it’s a “Valentine’s Day movie”. HAH! Not really but it is a good justification right? Really loved the movie in a full theatre. Movie theatres in the USA feel so different. Way more people, more cinemas (this one had 22, the AMC next door had 30) and way crappier seats. Ehhh, whatever.

We finished off the night with some Sonic for dinner and some ice cream. Nice and relaxed!

Monday 15th February 2016

Today was the day Heidi was heading home and after another run and then packing everything up, we headed out to grab some breakfast. We went to a little dive place that had some good food, and it wasn’t far from the hotel. One thing I have a problem with though is choosing foods that I won’t be able to finish, like pancakes at dive places. I said I wanted a full stack, to which Heidi knowing something I didn’t somehow, asked me if i was sure. I said yes, but really I should have listened to the wife. They were HUGE!

I finished a good portion (with some help from Heidi) and took the rest with me. I dropped Heidi at the airport and soon had to head off towards Orange County. I wanted to get down there without hitting traffic. It was an easy drive following the freeways and I only had to leave the freeway once, but that was because the Sat Nav in the car locked up and I had to get off, park the car and turn it off. 3 minutes after leaving the freeway I was back on it. No big deal. Sadly though I was in Orange County super early without a camera to go spotting as originally planned. I headed to the hotel, but they didn’t have any rooms for me yet, so I just headed out to find something to do.

I did a dry run of dropping off the car so I knew what I was doing the next day, and then headed back to try and see if Best Buy had a charger. No dice on that, then I ended up heading out to have coffee with a friend from twitter. By the time I got back to the hotel, they had a room for me and I spent the afternoon doing some laundry and getting ready for my big road trip starting the next day!

I gassed the car up in the late afternoon when crowds would have died down at the local costco (just around the corner from the hotel) and then parked the car for the evening. Russell had been a good drive, good fuel economy, great looking, all the good bells and whistles. Heidi and I both agreed the car needed one or two things. 1. a Sunroof to really make it a good weather luxury car and 2. Memory Seat settings for the drivers. If only that could have worked, it would have been fantastic! But I was really happy with it either way!

I was planning on staying around the hotel that night for dinner, since It was going to be an early start for my morning flight to Dallas and on to Raleigh. The one kicker for flying east is you lose so much time that you just have to suck it up and take what you end up with. My 6:45am departure meant a 5pm arrival into Raleigh. Eh what can you do. That Hooters next door to the hotel looks ok enough, plus I haven’t eaten there in forever! Tomorrow the real adventure begins.

Current Location: La Quinta John Wayne Airport – Costa Mesa, CA.
States Visited: 1
Miles Driven: 424
Cheapest Gas – Costco Costa Mesa – $2.18pg

Friday 12th February 2016

It was a very early start this morning after very little sleep as I worked last night. It is never a good thing waking up at 2:30am and having to head to the airport, even worse when you got home at 10pm the night before from the exact same place. This time though I was not returning to work but for fun!

The commute was filled with rain but I coped and the next thing I know I was at the lot waiting for a shuttle to the terminal area. There were a lot of people on the bus this morning and I was thankful for the free parking (even if it meant screwing around for extra time). I was glad I allowed myself extra time when I got to the terminal as even though it was before 4am, this place was packed! Hello Holiday Travel!

I jumped in the line for Southwest as this was my first flight with them in a while and it was painless. I didn’t have to wait long and I had myself checked in. I was filled in that it was a full flight and in fact oversold, so try not to miss your boarding group advice was given. Headed to security next and noticed that it was an absolute zoo with hundreds of people at each checkpoint and it was not going to be a good day. It was before 4am and it already looked bad! I used my old Premium Card trick and was through soon enough. Turns out they opened the checkpoint early because it was so busy.

By the time i got myself back together and ready to move on, it was almost 35 mins till my flight so decided to just head to the gate. With free wifi it meant i could do some work. The WiFi connection at the airport is spotty at best. For instance I could remote home to my computer without a problem, yet connecting to wordpress… no dice! Volunteers for a bump were called but only the offer of a 3 hour delay, via San Jose and a $300 voucher. Pass. I got what work I needed done and within about 10 minutes of finishing, people were called up to the queues.

Southwest Airlines – WN776
Seattle Tacoma to Orange County
0540-0840
Boeing 737-700 (N7746C)
Economy Class – Seat 2A – Boarding Position A53

Boarding: 0511 (Gate B14)
Push Back: 0536
Take off Roll: 0548 (Runway 16L)
Top of Descent: 0748
Touch Down: 0816 (Runway 20R)
Shut Down: 0819 (Gate 13)

We all lined up as instructed and a couple of first timers were struggling with kids not wanting to line up. Tough! I got through pretty quickly, but there was a long long line in the jetbridge. By the time I got onboard i saw a window open up front… in 2A. What the hell? The lady was camping the aisle and just staring people down. I asked if anyone was sitting there and she ignored me, so I did what I normally do. “Excuse me i’d like to get in there”. She moved but with a very sour look on her face. I took the window, got myself settled and waited as the mass of humanity boarded and took every single seat, including the middle. O lady on the aisle, she stashed her bags under the middle seat, even refused to move them. Poor middle seat lady 🙁

We pushed back and headed for the runway in the rain and dark. Nothing much to see apart from rain, rain and more rain. Boring! I turned on my tablet and some videos and just watched them pretty much the whole way to SNA. I occasionally watched the sun out the window as it rose into the sky, and when drinks were offered, I took a coffee and a can of water (and even got a coffee refil). It was not a fancy flight but at 5:40am in the morning, I couldn’t care less to be honest.

I managed to get through 3 videos and then as the last one finished, we hit top of descent. Perfect timing as we skirted down the Los Angeles Coast line, past Long beach and turned towards Orange County. The landing had us come around from the coast over a lot of the suburbs (including Disneyland). We turned back towards the coast for landing and came down steep. REALLY steep. This strip was tiny and as soon as we crossed the fence and hit the lines, brakes came on hard and out came the thrust reversers and every piece of control surface to make some stopping power.

We turned and headed back to the terminal area and pulled in next to a large range of other Southwest Aircraft. We waited a few minutes for the jetbridge and then i was out of there fast. A lot of people were trying to swim upstream for their bags. Not a good idea. I got out into the terminal pretty easily and then tried to fix the first situation that needed addressing… a pit stop. None in site and before I knew it I was at the next gate and hadn’t gotten a photo of the plane. I kept going figuring the bags would be out soon. MISTAKE! Down to the baggage claim (via the first Bathroom i could find) and turns out that Southwest may not charge for bags, but they are the slowest ever.

I waited about 20 minutes or more for my bag and when it did finally come out, I grabbed it and headed to the National desk. It was located in the parking structure but on the basement level. Wierd! When I finally got over to the National Aisle, there seemed to be an executie aisle and not much else. There was a few cars there, very slim pickings but it was cycling fast. The one thing that annoyed me was that Alamo was sending their people over to get cars from the Aisle and so were National for non emerald aisle customers. Hell if you had a standard EA membership, you got to pick from the Exec. So unfair. I asked for a Mustang, none on site that day. So i was heading for a Challenger (per Heidi’s requet) when I spied a 2016 Maxima, one that was only a few weeks old if that. it had 600 miles on the clock and working Sat Nav…. SCORE!

I hit the streets towards LAX and some shenanigans!

Miles Driven: 0
States Visited: 1