(I BELIEVE pictures posted here can be enlarged by clicking on anything interesting and “back” to return to the text.)
At 4:30 am — even with only three hours’ sleep during the wee hours of January 30/31 — I was neither groggy or glum, surrounded by travelers, most waiting for the Spirit Airlines flight to New York city. I was apparently the only westbound flyer who had spent the night in the terminal. I had been the only one in the check in area since my return to the seat I had forsaken for that cot about 11:30 and returned to four hours later. After the New York “pax” (passengers) had boarded there were only a few left, including a young couple traveling with a toy “Peek-a-Poodle” if I remember right. The let him out of his very small carrier not much larger than a hungryperson’s lunch pail , attached a light leash to his collar, and gave him some water in a styrofoam bowl. I was looking forward to seeing how soon it would be for the critter to stain the floor. Maybe it happened after I asked the couple to watch my carry-on bag and seat while I went to the McDonald’s at up the concourse and purchased a cookie and a cup of coffee for $3.58. The pooch was back in his lunch pail when I returned, and soon after, they arose with their gear and disappeared into the stream of consciousnesses flowing down the main artery of the concourse.
Less than 10 minutes after the NY aircraft was pushed back, the Airbus A319 that would fly me to LA arrived. It was still severe dark out at 6:03, according to my notes taken as it all happened.
At 6:18 I called Jerri, my host out West and told her I was about to board, that the flight would depart at 7:10 Chicago time and arrive 9:39 LA time. I was surprised that she sounded so awake at 4:18 PST.
Boarding was a breeze when my section three was called for Flight 731, and light was visible as I settled into my economy class window seat at 6:40. A middle-aged couple followed me in. The wife sat in the middle seat at first. I needed in her direction, smiling and said “Good morning!” She turned to her husband a second later, said something to him, both arose and traded places with him. She took the aisle seat, and he took the middle. He was a BIG fellow! Might have had his own area code. In a futile but earnest effort at self-defense, I cowered like a cornered Peek-a-Poodle next to the window. He was clearly as unhappy as I was, so there was almost zero conversation for the next four hours.
The airplane was pushed back at 7:05.
We were instructed to turn off cell phones, so I did.
When I asked my neighbor if he was wearing a watch and he said he was, I asked him the time. He croaked
“about 7:30.” I was surprised as we turned for take off, not at the start of a runway but further down the runway. I could see the end of it as we turned right, onto it. I wasn’t worried. I knew the pilot knew what he was doing. Estimated time of departure from terra firma: 7:35.
It didn’t take long to appreciate the fact that I was in a seat that was perfect for photography in flight. THAT was a stroke of luck.
I had planned to enjoy a snack and more coffee en route. My last meal had been a salad about 1:30 in my office.Thursday afternoon. When they announced food service the flight attendant also said NO CASH; credit or debit card only! DANG!
The climb to cruise altitude of 38,000 feet and cruise speed of 525 mph was swift and smooth.
About 8:24 I noted I had seen nothing but snowy ground during breaks in clouds. At 9:08, more than half way there nothing had changed. My eyes were outside the airplane every second that I was not flashing my cell phone on for a second or two to check the time . . . . or writing.
9:30 – SURPRISE! I saw another airplane in flight. It was a lightplane that I could not identify in the brief time it was in view, maybe a quarter mile to our right , on a parallel heading, and almost at our altitude, no more than 500 below. We passed him like he was standing still. There was no mention of the other airplane from pilot on intercom or attendants.
9:40 over solid clouds, maintaining cruise altitude.
By twisting to the rear right, I could see the winglet at the tip. At this time, fairly early into the flight, I thought the wing tip was painted dark blue. I would later realize the dark at the tip was the shadow of the vertical stabilizer, and the shadow closer to me was from the fuselage. Based on this it was obvious that the sun was behind us and to our left, and that confirmed we were flying west, maybe a little southwest. Later in the day, the shadow from the vert stab was gone and the sun was higher into the morning sky.
At 10:15, I felt I was being crushed against the right wall like a canned sardine wearing a straight jacket. The fellow on my left was not a talker, and he’s built like a defensive lineman foot ball player. Part of me seemed to be touching part of him (elbow, knee, whatever) all the time. My knees were ALWAYS touching the back of the seat in front! I could not place my briefcase flat on my lap. There’s no room in front.
I kept looking for mountain peaks. Weren’t the Rocky Mountains down there? How could I miss seeing Iowa, Kansas, Colorado, Nevada, Utah? That was a mite disappointing, but the view was fascinating none-the-less.
At 11:10 I saw the first GROUND I’d seen since leaving Chicago. We were still very high, we had slowed down a little it seemed.
At 11:27, the pilot announced the start of descent for LA. Temperature there: 58. We descend through scud-like clouds, engines are very quiet, maybe flight idle.
My cell phone has changed readout to reflect local time.
We touched down at 9:33 and taxied to Gate 32. We had been airborne 3 hours, 22 minutes.
The ride to the Spirit Airlines part of the terminal was as camera friendly as the flight.
I saw more that two Airbus A380s, but I knew my real priority photography was yet to cone, so I took very few pictures at this airport.
Again I was in no rush to exit the airplane, and I took a final picture, looking forward. The two abreast seats were “First Class” accommodations. I didn’t envy anybody. I’ll gladly fly “Economy” any time! I was just delighted to have flown.
Sure beats walkin’!
Coming in Part 3: Meeting My Hosts and Visiting Three Incredible Airports.