Saturday, November 20, 2010



One final missive, and the trip will be officially over.  This will wrap it up and consign it to the history category.


I was up about 6 on Thursday and went through my morning routines.  Checked the computer, went out to McD’s to get some brekkie, packed everything up one last time, loaded the car, and made my way to the airport.  I used the Qantas lounge while waiting, making myself a little sandwich and some fruit for a snack.  The flight to Sydney was short and sweet.  Somehow, in a flight that lasted about 75 minutes, they managed to serve a very nice lunch.  I had to hurry to finish it, as we were coming in to Sydney by the time I was done.


The layover in Sydney was about two hours, and I used the Qantas lounge and checked my email and the web.  I decided to get a bottle of my high proof Bundeburg Rum at the Duty Free shop in Sydney.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to carry it onto my flight in Los Angeles, but I figured out the workaround for that a couple of trips ago.  We left Sydney at about 3 in the afternoon, and I had had breakfast, a snack and lunch.  More meals to come, on this long long day.


As I think I mentioned earlier, it was a 747 to Los Angeles.  It was supposed to be one of Qantas’s six double-decker A380’s, but they are grounded right now, after an engine broke up in flight a couple of weeks ago.  I was again upstairs in a window seat, which is what I like on that plane, when I’m lucky enough to be flying business class.


I had a talkative guy from Philadelphia next to me, and that helped pass the time.  They served drinks (good booze – Wild Turkey bourbon for me) and then an excellent lunch, my second of the long day.  I had three choices, and I chose the fish.  The meal was described like this:


“Seared Suzuki Mulloway with Black Olive Butter, Steamed Potatoes, and Asparagus”.  There was also a “Salad of fresh goats cheese, toasted walnuts, and beetroot relish”.  Both were excellent, as was the quinoa bread.  Mulloway seems to be a southern hemisphere fish.  This looked and tasted like really firm, really good halibut.  It was a filet about an inch thick, and I think it was as good a piece of fish as I have ever eaten.  Full points to Qantas for their meals in international business class.  Of course, I had some Australian wine with dinner, including a nice dessert wine with my cheese course.  A little cognac finished up the meal, with the chocolates.  A nice little “lunch”, and it passed some time.


The time passed.  The flight was about 13 hours long, and I watched one movie, read my book off and on, talked with my talkative seatmate, and finally reclined the seat all the way flat and sort of dozed off and on for about three and a half hours.  From time to time I got up and walked around and stretched.  Time passed.  I realize that I keep repeating that, but I was constantly aware of it on the flight, so I keep mentioning it.


The breakfast was one that you ordered from a menu of choices, at the start of the flight.  I had scrambled eggs, sausages, a little spinach and feta cake thing, toast, fruit, juice, and a small cup of coffee.  My second breakfast of the day.  We had had a period of darkness, but it was still Thursday, November 18, so I consider it all one long day.


Arrival in LA was the usual unpleasant experience of arriving in any American port of entry.  I haven’t traveled internationally very much, but my limited experience and what I have heard from others tells me that a US arrival is about as unpleasant as it gets anywhere in the world.  Immigration wasn’t really too bad, as they had just opened up some new stations, and I got through that in about ten minutes.  I think the non-US citizens have to be fingerprinted, though, and it seemed to take them somewhat longer.


After that, it was the baggage claim room.  There were six very large carousels, and lines of people all around and through the middle, pushing their carts of baggage.  They were in line to exit through customs, it turned out.  You couldn’t tell how many lines there were, or if they were all the same, or which one was shortest.  Just to move around at all, you had to push through the lines.


I found my carousel and got my bags, then chose the closest line, hoping it was the right one, or that they were all the same.  No one else knew anything either, of course.  As it turned out, I think I must have lucked into a short line, and I was through in only  about 15 or 20 minutes.  What a circus it all was, though, with mass confusion and people milling around trying to figure out where to go and what to do.


After getting through customs, those passengers (like me) who had connecting flights in LA, had to push their carts down a couple of long halls, where we were relieved of the checked bags, which were put back into the baggage handling system.  It was during this trek down the long halls that I stopped and put my duty free booze into one of my checked bags, for the trip to Seattle.  I don’t know if that is allowed or not, but no one stopped me and I did it as quickly as I could.  The bottle survived the flight, and so now I have one more bottle of my rum, and it is a 40 ounce bottle (1.125 liters).  They don’t export Bundy to the US, so it will probably be the last I will ever have, unless I go back to Australia again.  I just finished the bottle I brought home in 2008 about three months ago, as I dole it out to myself.


I had a couple of hours to wait for my Alaska Airlines flight, and I spent the first part of that outside, enjoying being able to move around.  The car exhaust and the smoke from the smokers who couldn’t smoke anywhere in the terminals made it less than fully enjoyable, but it was better than being cooped up in a plane, even in business class.


When I finally went into the terminal, I learned that my flight to Seattle was running about an hour and half late, so I had a good long time to sit around in the terminal anyway.  LAX was overrun with people, with flights being switched from gate to gate, announcements constantly being made, and it seemed like organized chaos to me.  Flying sure is different than it was back in the 70’s.  The airport was looking pretty shabby to me, too.


Finally we got on our way, and the flight to Seattle was fine.  I was too tired by then to even read, so I just sat there like a zombie, waiting.  Oh yes, they served what was humorously called “lunch” – my third airplane lunch of the “day” for me.  This one was terrible in comparison to the two Qantas lunches.  A portabella mushroom and cheese sandwich and a little of some kind of barley salad or something.  Mushrooms are fine, but not something to make a sandwich out of, in my opinion.


So, I finally arrived in Seattle about 30 hours after I had gotten up in Werribee.  Christina picked me up and made me a nice sausage and cheese omelet for my first dinner of the day.  It was very good to be home.


One of the nicest things about being home is having a faster computer and a fast internet connection.  And, a keyboard that I like and can type on without hitting all kinds of keyboard shortcuts that jump the cursor all over the document or close the window unexpectedly or all kinds of other annoying things.  I am going to have to either buy a new computer before I travel again, or else get an external USB “N” wireless module and also do a lot of work on the computer to speed it up.  If I keep it, I will wipe it clean and reinstall everything, in the hope that it might speed it up.


It was another great trip to Australia.  I saw parts of the country I hadn’t seen before.  I got to see the interior in a rainy year, after a nine year drought, wetter than it has been for decades.  I met a number of people and enjoyed that aspect a lot.  I ended up seeing 250 species, when my initial estimate was that I would see 243, so that was good.  The one disappointing thing was that I only saw 15 new birds for my Aussie list, thus bringing it to 440 species.  I had known in advance that I wouldn’t see many new ones, but I hadn’t realized that that would be as disappointing as it turned out to be.  Maybe this was my last Aussie trip, unless Christina someday consents to go on a sightseeing visit with me.  Of course, I have said after each of my four previous trips that it was the last one, so we will see.  As we took off from Sydney, I did say good-bye to Australia, though.


Yesterday I felt pretty rummy, both from jetlag and also because I overdid the homecoming celebration on Thursday night, consuming more scotch than I should have.  It didn’t seem to be affecting me, until all of a sudden it did.  I guess that being up for 36 hours in a row changes my body’s reaction to alcohol.  Today I feel much better than I did yesterday, so I am getting this final Ramblings done, to officially close the trip.


Did you know that Microsoft Word will count the words in a document for you?  I had never used that feature, but now I know how to use it.  I wrote about 73,000 words worth of Ramblings on the trip.  About 117 pages worth.  I find that I write more on each trip I take.  As I have said, it is necessary for me to write while on one of these long trips, both as a record for myself and in order to keep in touch with people at home.  I think that about 15 or 20 people read at least some of them, and I suspect that several of you read them all.  Many of you made comments on Facebook or via email, and for that I am very thankful.  It really did feel like you were along with me on the trip, which is one of the things that made it possible to be gone from home for 45 days.


Now I am back to my routines.  I ate the right things yesterday and so far today, and I can already tell that it is making me feel better to do so.  As many of you know, I lost almost 90 pounds in the 18 months leading up to the trip, and I gained back about 12 pounds on the trip.  Now I plan to shed those pounds and maybe a few more.  Most importantly, though, the trip served as a reminder of how much better I feel when I eat right, and thus reinforces my intention to eat like this for the rest of my life, except on trips perhaps.


Thanks again for coming along.  It was fun having you with me.