Wednesday 20th July 2016

We pulled into the gate and were off the plane relatively slowly but once we were off it was bedlam. A full A380 full of passengers along with also other flights that had hit the ground. It was a mess! The lines were stretching back past the duty free store into the terminal itself which was scary. I had to make a quick stop at the duty free store to pick up some stuff for mum and dad (that was a mistake, hello dealing with a US card) and then it was on my way to the line.

I had pushed Heidi to go on ahead after I got held up in duty free and we were separated. I got stuck behind several flights worth of crew in the express path. When we landed we had 1 hour till our flight boarded so less than an hour to make that baggage cut off. Well, that was not going to be easy at all. By the time we got through immigration to the baggage belts (Border Security was being filmed apparently, didn’t see them anywhere) we had about 30 minutes to make that cut off. This was doable if our bags came out quickly. What do you think happened? Our bags were the last two off the plane, and it was past boarding time by that stage.

So we made it through Customs super quickly and the staff told us where to go for connections. We made it up to the Qantas Domestic terminal and a staff member pointed us towards the Service desk to get rebooked. Thankfully i knew already the 1010am flight had space (thanks to Cranky Concierge) and it should be easy for them to fix that up. We reconsolidated a bit of baggage and went to security which was its true, Australian amazingness. Not a single person ahead of us at security and friendly people who wanted to help. It was effortless!

We got through and headed up to the Qantas Club where we were able to get a snack and a drink (although all the coffee machines seemed to be broken… what the hell!) and we were able to call home and let them know of the new arrival time (just an hour later). Everything was able to calm back down. Unfortunately not enough time for a shower today or even a change really, just enough time to clean my teeth and feel somewhat better.

The QF Club had great views of the ramp and of our gate in particular. What was fantastic was that we were able to watch our plane pull in. Not just any plane, it was one of Qantas’s two Retro Liveries. I was hoping to get to see one while I was here, but flying one was a double treat. A lot of people were at the window taking photos when it rolled in and I was super excited. We started to head towards the gate not long after that which took about 5 minutes or so.

Qantas Airways – QF612
Melbourne Tullamarine to Brisbane
Boeing 737-800 (VH-VXQ – Retro Roo II)
Economy Class – Seat 18A

Boarding: 0956 (Gate B22)
Push Back: 1006
Take off Roll: 1028 (Runway 16)
Top of Descent: 1150
Touch Down: 1213 (Runway 01)
Shut Down: 1217 (Gate 24)

I had barely been at the gate to take a few more photos when 2 old ladies were pre boarded and then seconds later a very informal “come on in guys” to the line of people waiting happened. There was a good 10 people onboard before they made an announcement. I had totally forgotten just how pleasant flying could be. As we stepped onboard there was the traditional wall plaque of the Qantas logo, but this one was the retro logo, which gave it the old “Flying Kangaroo” name as it was a Kangaroo with wings. Couldn’t get a photo at the time but I was determined to do so later.

We got ourselves sorted in the seats and boarding was set for about 25 minutes, so way less than in the USA and although the flight wasn’t 100% full today, It still pushed back 6 minutes early. Take that Alaska! This was the first flight on this trip so far where we had been on time. Crazy! The push back took a few minutes and then it was off to the runway where we were number 3 for line up. But that number 3 had to wait for a number of arrivals first.

By the time we lined up there was another 6 or 7 planes waiting to go after us. We were up and into the air pretty easily and within a minute or two the seat belt sign went off. Service started quickly and they had everyone covered with headphones and also with newspapers. After that it was a good 10 or 15 minutes (on a 1 hour 45 minute flight) till they had the snack trolleys out. Only one pass through of the drink trolley today (I made sure to get coffee to keep me going through the day) and some snacks. No real choice it was both Savory and Sweet snacks today and i traded my savory for heidi’s sweet. Good Luken and May cookies on offer this morning of which I only had half and kept the other half for later.

I was watching TV shows on the tablet for most of the flight and just relaxing looking out the window. I did manage to get up and take a photo of the Retro Roo logo by the front door (I made sure to ask about going forward into the Business Class cabin which would have been required in the states but the Qantas crew just laughed and said not to worry). Even though this aircraft didn’t have the BSI it had the newer QF seats and even a space lav fitted. That was a first time experience for me and it was quite the difference involved.

We started descent over the Gold Coast Hinterland and unfortunately I was on the wrong side so didn’t see any of the coast but I did get to see plenty of the city as we came in over it. It looked so different and just so built up now in comparison. Everything seemed so different. I was shocked. Heidi had fun poking fun at me as I was shocked at how different everything seemed.

We landed on Runway 01 and had a nice quick taxi to the gate. Everything at the airport looked familiar from the airside portion of things, but once we got to the terminal, it all ended there. I got off the plane into what seemed like a whole new airport (although to be honest I wasn’t flying Qantas much in those last few years) and met up with Mum and Dad. First time in almost 3.5 years. It was good to be home.

Monday 18th July 2016

We dropped off the rental car at the National depot and got ourselves onto a shuttle over to the airport. This time I unfortunately got stuck waiting for a fresh shuttle to fill up. I had made sure that we had extra time today as we had to go check in to get boarding passes. We headed over to the Bradley Terminal to check it out. The last time I was there was way back in 1994 and back then it was a dump. Now it looks amazing!

Check in was a breeze and we had our boarding passes and instructions on getting to the lounge (though they were not as easy as they really should have been). Security meant the full show today unfortunately as there is no Pre Check in that terminal as it is mainly International Airlines. We got ourselves into a relatively short line and had to spend forever waiting as our bags had already gone through the scanner. Thankfully joking with the TSA agent got me to the front of the line through the WTMD rather than the nudoscope.

On the other side we headed off to the lounge and it was a rather large place. Took a minute or two to check in but they let us loose into this giant canvernous area. They had plenty of different spaces but my priority was power. I wanted to make sure that I got my phone charged up and I could do some stuff on my laptop. Sadly it was at this moment I lost my shit. No seriously I had lost my shit. I could not find any of my charging stuff at all. This wa NOT good. I checked through all my bags and tracked it back and it must have come out while in the rental car. Dammit!

I was on the phone frantically trying to track down all the stuff, but National was making things difficult. I eventually got through to the LAX desk and the bad news came out. The Lost and Found team were done for the day. So much for getting my stuff back! Even if they did have it, no way was I getting it today. Time to go and try and replace them! I knew I had some chargers back home in Australia, but the cable for my phone was the essential item. I wasn’t sure if I had one at all anywhere else.

The one store with the cable I wanted had them for $30 as they only had the official Apple version. Considering I paid $2 for mine, wasn’t going to happen. Heidi had a cable of mine so we were covered there thankfully! I checked with the lounge staff and they confirmed that there was a USB charger at every seat and a universal power adaptor as well. Problem solved!! I could deal with it in Australia (since I had other chargers waiting for me at home in Seattle as well).

I took the time in the evening to use the one real charging area of the lounge, write some trip report and relax as best I could. Airline cutlery may have made it into my bag, or it may not have 😉 The food was pretty decent and it was changing up most of the night. It became extremely packed in the lounge though and we started to head out to the lounge with about 20 minutes to go. I wanted to get onboard fairly shortly after it started.

Qantas Airways – QF94
Los Angeles to Melbourne Tullamarine
Airbus A380 (VH-OQL)
Economy Class – Seat 36K

Boarding: 2132 (Gate: 156)
Push Back: 2257
Take Off Roll: 2339 (Runway 25L)
Top of Descent: 0708
Touch Down: 0738 (Runway 16)
Shut Down: 0745 (Gate D9)

Boarding was called and I had checked beforehand as to how we board since we were not on the main Economy deck. We had 2 seats in the 5 rows of seats on the upper deck. So we were wayyyyy down the back, but better than the same on the lower deck to be honest. We got onboard and had to walk all the way through Business and Premium Economy. The small cabin at the back was pretty good. We had 2 seats in the very last row and they were right in front of the Galley side. We didn’t have to deal with the rest room side.

Once we got settled in to our seats (thankfully the window has the side storage bins on the upper deck… woooooo) it was time to wait. I was fending off snuggly wife every few minutes so I had my hands full. We waited quite a while. Departure time came and went and thanks to the Skycam I could tell when the boarding doors were still open. We had a wierd guy up the back sitting just about anywhere he could in the hopes someone didn’t show up. Suck it up moron and take your seat!

We eventually pushed back almost 45 minutes late and at that point we had been onboard like an hour and a half. Ugh… so not going to be a good connection in Melbourne. Life was going to be rough. The crew up the back were pretty good, after a small grill about my batteries (stupid lithium battery problems these days) they were really friendly to everyone. We even got a pre departure beverage which was really nice as they had to many poured from Premium. Being upstairs has its benefits!

Took a while to push and get started up. Taxiing at LAX is all over the shop these days. We headed to the east, to go back west. Down the far side taxiway for some reason. Ugh… confusion. We finally got our turn to take off and it was a long slow climb away from the USA, out over the pacific. The seat belt sign went off at a non us airline point so we were able to really get ourselves settled before things got too out of hand. The meals were being heated up so the cabin started smelling of deliciousness.

One downside to our seat was the fact that we were the last ones to be served, so there may not have been much choice. But they had all options and the best part. They had Premium Econ leftovers, which are a larger portion. Qantas has stopped giving the whole tray style main meal thing and it is really more a plate with the meal placed on top of it. Apparently makes it quicker and easier to clean. It is also less food, which is good when it is almost 1am. This meal should be more a snack than a full meal. Food was good, giving my wife her first real drink of Bundy though, that was priceless. The crew were not light on the pouring either, very generous tonight!

Once the meal had been served and cleaned, I had been starting to drift off. So I did my best to get some form of rest. Next thing I know almost 2-3 hours had passed! That was probably about as good as it would get and Heidi had just woken up, so we swapped seats as I was pretty sure my sleeping was done. I tried for a little while longer and failed, so I decided to just run with it. Coffee and snack time!! Spent the rest of the time finishing off the movie I had started and then writing. Interspersing the time with walks and chats really helped me out!

It wasn’t an easy flight, but it had it’s moments. I was happy to be on the flight and once I got this flight over and done with, all the rest of the long haul would be much, much easier!

After a little while longer I had been watching another movie and again halfway through it, fell asleep. Nothing but consistent apparently! But the flight continued on. I went for some real coffee at one point while Heidi was awake and I was even given it from a real china cup! Nothing but amazing service from the crew today. I was very impressed!

Within a few hours of landing there was smells filling the cabin and that meant one thing. Fooooooooood. Breakfast was either a hot breakfast of the usual styles (eggs etc) or a fruit platter. Heidi went with the eggs, I went with the fruit. Both looked good and Heidi scored a premium economy version again! A couple of coffees later I was finished watching TV and we were approaching Australian shores. We crossed the coast just south of Sydney, thought we couldn’t see anything due to cloud. We were definitely going to be late so that was going to eat into that connection time. It was all going to come down to how long we spend in immigration and waiting for a bag.

We came in from the north of Melbourne so there was no real views, only of the surrounding airport area and we were off the runway fairly quickly. We got to the gate in a short amount of time, but had to wait to get off the plane. We were the final people off the upper deck, but that put us right in the middle of bedlam.

Monday 18th July 2016

It was an o dark stupid wake up this morning after a night of barely no sleep at all. It was also going to be the longest day of my life. I had 3 flights to get through before I could sleep again in a real bed. By the time I got everything cleaned up and ready to go, we ordered a lyft to take us to the airport (hello 50% off deal) but that took a while as the first guy cancelled on us because of the distance. I thought Uber and Lyft were not meant to play taxi games.

We sailed over to the airport and there was not much of a line to check in. We got our bags checked through to Brisbane but unfortunately we couldn’t get boarding passes the whole way. TSA precheck came in handy today as we were through security in just a few minutes. Then it was off into the terminal for some rest, relaxation and a little breakfast. We rested up and headed out to the gate about 10 minutes to boarding. The aircraft was doing a short turn from Anchorage and was still letting off passengers as we got there. Unfortunately when boarding time came, the gate door closed and that did not mean good things.

We started delaying, with no real explanation and eventually got word that it was a maintenance issued, but no real information. 7am departure came and went and eventually it looked like an 8:30am departure. At one point they pulled everyone away from the gate area on the ramp and did a full engine run. Once that was complete they started boarding within a few minutes.

Alaska Airlines – AS462
Seattle Tacoma to Los Angeles
Boeing 737-900ER (N224AK)
Economy Class – Seat 8A

Boarding: 0750 (Gate D2)
Push Back: 0827
Take off Roll: 0841 (Runway 16C)
Top of Descent: 1045
Touch Down: 1106 (Runway 24R)
Shut Down: 1143 (Gate 65)

We boarded for what was going to be another wait. But i got myself situated and started watching TV shows on my tablet to pass away the time. Before I knew it we were pushing back on a fairly off weather morning and headed towards the runway. We had to wait in line for single runway departures this morning and on the center runway as well, so it meant that we had to wait for more people to land before we could hold on the other side. Makes for slow going.

We took off into the sky and it was fairly cloudy and boring so I focused on my t and tried to enjoy myself. I had been pretty annoyed for the lack of information and real caring on the airlines part, so being able to switch off was good. Thankfully we had a 12 hour stop as if this had happened with a 2 hour layover, not good things will have been said.

We cruised south and the crew were super slow about getting service out. Was this going to be another lazy Alaska crew like my last flight. Probably! Didn’t phase me, I was engrossed in my shows. 3 of them later we were approaching descent into LAX. The descent was pretty rapid but as we headed in I could see another plane running parallel to us, that was not good. North runway ops 🙁

As we landed in on the north runway it was pretty crowded down there so I knew that it was going to be a while till we got to the gate. I figured it would just be a long slow taxi. Boy was I right. At one point we took a full 180 turn and faced the opposite end of the field. Yep… penalty box time! We sat there a good 10 minutes before a crew member even confirmed that we were waiting for a gate. We had to wait for that, along with also dealing with an emergency on the ramp. A flight had landed and it was surrounded by 5 fire trucks and an emergency air stairs. Unsure why! We taxied past it eventually and got to the gate where we were soon onboard and I was able to use the restrooms…. Tmi?

Off the plane and out to the street to watch a National Shuttle roll straight past us. Had to wait about a solid 10 or more minutes for another one to come by. By the time we got over to the rental lot we were over 2 hours behind where we wanted to be. But at the lot we were greeted with a smiling face and when I asked where the convertibles were, he said “what color” and said he would bring one up. I asked him to bring us the newest one he had. He rolled back up a few minutes later in a silver 2017 Mustang Convertible.

We spent the afternoon grabbing some lunch at Souplantation (to make my wife happy) and doing some plane spotting at Imperial Hill. I managed to snap some good stuff and we headed over to the beach for a while so Heidi could enjoy the sand and water. I spent most of my time walking and or watching planes take off. We ran a few errands and finished off the afternoon at In n Out watching the planes land. Pretty good sunny afternoon.

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
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
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
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
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