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Day in the Air #1

January 18, 2013

Travel Day – Sunday, January 13

I knew that making the flight arrangements for the Pacific territories was going to be one of the most complicated things about this journey. I had to guesstimate the timing, and had to take into account things like their rainy seasons and typhoon seasons. Its seemed like the January/February timeframe was the best, and it would be good for getting me out of any potential winter weather in the US. San Diego was the best “hopping-off” point, so my daughter Taryn spent a great deal of time being my travel agent and booking the most reasonable itinerary for the 3 Pacific territories (American Samoa, Guam, and Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands) and Hawaii, using numerous airlines. And once those flights were all booked, those dates became one of the few “cast in stone” dates of the journey. My goal was to have worked my way across the southern tier of states to be in California by January 14. It did not quite work out that way, due partly to my major change of itinerary because of Hurricane Sandy, and partly because of some extra family time here and there, which is all good.

So as it happened, I completed the Deep South states, and short of driving like a maniac across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, I opted to head to Florida when I was done with Louisiana, and used some frequent flyer miles to book a trip from Gainesville to San Diego. This ended up being a 3-leg flight, which is not unusual for flights out of the small Gainesville airport, and I didn’t mind. Driving to the Orlando airport is about a 4 hour round trip, plus there’s lots of tolls and it ends up costing about $80 for an Orlando run.

Tula knows now that when I load up the luggage, it’s time for her to get in the car too. And she would have been very sad to not be allowed in the car. So Toni took both dogs out for a walk, so I could put the bags in the car without Tula noticing. I felt like such a fraud! But that way I don’t think Tula knew I was leaving for a long time without her! We do wonder if dogs have a sense of time – Tula seems to give ecstatic greetings whether it’s been a day or a month, so I don’t think they have much concept of length of time – guess we’ll never know though!

So I spent the whole day en route – Gainesville to Tampa, which was short and sweet, and then a bit of a layover. The next leg was Tampa to Minneapolis, and I had a middle seat, but I asked about changing seats when I checked in and there happened to be a window seat in the exit row. So I was lucky to get that. One of the last people on the plane, who took the middle seat next to me, was a flight attendant (or so I thought). She was very pleasant and outgoing, and after talking for a while I asked her how long she’d been a flight attendant, only to find out she’s a pilot – for both Air Force and commercial flights! I hadn’t been paying attention to the stripes on her uniform and the wings on her jacket. I felt pretty stupid but she said it happens all the time. As we talked some more, she told me she had spent 6 weeks stationed in Guam, and really liked it, and it was fun to hear what she had to say about it. I am not quite as worried about the brown tree snake problem now! She and her husband live on a boat in Key West, so she was a very interesting person to have for a seatmate. And then there was a nearly-3-hour layover in Minneapolis but I was able to get on the computer, and caught up with the kiddos on the phone before heading to the south seas tomorrow. The flight from Minneapolis to San Diego went off without a hitch, and my sister-in-law and 5-yr-old niece picked me up at the airport, and we had a quick bite to eat and visited a bit, and she got me to my hotel – but I didn’t know there were 2 Days Inns within a couple miles of the airport, so we went to the wrong one, and once we got that figured out, we went to the correct one (only a few miles apart) but then I realized I’d left a package on the counter of the other one, so we had to go retrieve it, so there was some unnecessary extra running around which I felt bad about.

But in the end, I was where I needed to be, with a shuttle to the airport at 6am. It was very strange going to sleep, and knowing the next night I would be in American Samoa – the only US territory in the southern hemisphere.

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