Sunday 30th October 2016 - Sydney, NSW
I know what you’re thinking – not another bloody long-winded travel blog!! I’ve done that once before (and feel free to click wherever you see a hyperlink – or blue underlined word for those not quite in tune with tech lingo), and it turned into a bit of a behemoth!! My plans aren’t to do that this time around though, so never fear.
But hang on, I’m into the second paragraph of a travel blog and I haven’t mentioned where I’m travelling yet!! Just for something different, I’m heading to the good old US of A for a couple of weeks to get my US sports fix for the year, in what will be my fifth (and in no way last) trip to America since 2009. It’s something that’s good for the soul for me, and whilst there’s a lot of city hopping that will go on over the course of the next two weeks, which you’ll discover as you follow me on my travels via this blog, there’ll be plenty of highlights with friends both old and new and experiencing some cities for the first time, some that I haven’t seen in a few years and some that very much feel like a home away from home.
I’m not going to replicate the style of my previous blog, which as you would know having taken the time to click on the link earlier and scroll through a couple of paragraphs, was very much in the style of “here’s what I did today, here’s what I ate today and here’s when I pooped today”. I’m going to change it up a bit, not because I don’t think that you all would be interested in tracking my every movement, but because I feel there could be more interest in highlighting a certain part of each day of the trip and expanding on it.
So bookmark this page, follow my social media posts (the links are at the top of this page) and make sure you come back every day to follow my 2016 journey across the United States of America. I’ve started short and sweet – it’s lunchtime in the Qantas Lounge at Sydney International Airport and QF73 to San Francisco boards in 20 minutes – and whilst I hope to replicate this, most know I have a history of, shall we say, lengthy articles, so as much as I’m planning to keep this to a short and interesting read, there’s a possibility that it could require a cup of coffee and a biscuit…so don’t say you haven’t been warned!!
Monday 31st October 2016 - San Francisco, CA
The first day is always the longest.
By virtue of crossing the international date line on the trip from Australia to the USA, you're always arriving in the new country on the same date that you left Australia, and quite often it's early in the morning.
Take my flight, for instance. I left Sydney at 2pm on Sunday 30th October, and arrived in San Francisco at 9:15am on Sunday 30th October. Sure, you lose the day on the way back home, but it almost gives you a bit of a feeling like you've invented the flux capacitor and found a way to travel back in time, which is pretty neat!
The issue is, though, that it makes for a bloody long first day, especially when you try and stick to the same sleeping patterns. Everyone will say "sleep on the plane, you've got 13 hours to kill", but when you're in an Economy seat, and you're excited about the journey that lies in front of you, then you can forget sleeping any longer than a couple of hours, max (so if anyone from Qantas is reading and would be kind enough to bump me up a class or two on the return flight home, I'll almost guarantee a glowing review in this blog for you!!)
To put things in perspective, Sunday 30th October lasted some 39 hours for me this year, with approximately six of those spent sleeping. I was still awake when the clock struck midnight in Australia, attending the Nucerity International Australian Conference's Gala Dinner in western Sydney with my wife before four hours of broken sleep, then departing to the airport, alighting that 2pm flight in Sydney, arriving in San Francisco at 9:15am, then finally turning in for the night some 12 hours later. Sure, there was a mid-afternoon nap in there, a couple of 30 minute periods of sleep whilst waiting for laundry to finish in washers and dryers respectively, but for 33 hours of the day, I was up and functioning!
So how can it be managed? I've tried jumping straight on flights to the east coast before, where the time difference is three hours less, but that involves another five or six hours on a plane after you've just spent 13, which isn't for everyone. This time around, flying into San Francisco and spending the day wasn't a bad option at all...although the expected long, deep sleep at the end of the day didn't come knowing that a 5am flight to Chicago this morning awaits...and the departure gate for this flight at SFO is where this is being written.
So it's off to Chicago to soak in some of the atmosphere after the Cubs won Game 5 of the World Series last night to keep their title hopes alive, and to witness Monday Night Football in all its glory as the hometown Bears take on the Minnesota Vikings tonight. Until then, I'm going to try and make this four and a bit hour flight disappear through the magic of some long-lost sleep.
Shaun's American Adventures 2016
Friday 4th November, approaching Trenton, New Jersey
I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I love flying.
Sure, it's been a pretty hectic schedule over the first few days of my trip (which may have meant that this blog hasn't been updated as much as I initially intended) that saw a flight on each of the first four days, but it's allowed me to see some pretty cool places and really maximise my time in the country.
It's allowed me to see Monday Night Football in Chicago, Tuesday night basketball in Cleveland (with a World Series baseball entree) and Wednesday night basketball at the historic Madison Square Garden in New York, which is pretty amazing when you think of it.
Sure, there's been some frustrations - the initial flight over is always long, as documented in my last post, and we suffered an almost four-hour wait at Chicago airport for my flight to Cleveland after the initial plane had an air conditioning fault so a new plane had to be brought in, and then one of the flight attendants missed their new assignment so we had to wait for a new FA to arrive!! Good thing it was a scheduled early flight and we still arrived in Cleveland by 2pm - there were a lot of Cubs fans on the flight that were heading for Game 6 of the World Series that day who were getting increasingly worried with every half-hour that passed, and I had a guy flying on business that was trying to book different flights to Cleveland whilst we were waiting on the plane, talking in a voice that was ever-increasing in volume, only to have him ending up on the same flight as me!!
The experience of flying domestically here in the USA can depend markedly on what airline you fly with. Out of the three domestic trips I've taken, two have been with American Airlines, who are a code share partner with Qantas and hence someone whom I can accumulate Frequent Flyer points with! Their service is pretty basic - you get complimentary soft drinks, juice and water on the flight - but there's no on-flight entertainment outside of fixed screens every couple of rows. It didn't matter for the flight from San Francisco to Chicago, as I had a row of seats to myself so was able to stretch out and have some shut-eye, and did the same on the much shorter, but longer delayed, flight between Chicago and Cleveland.
Things changed when I jumped on a JetBlue plane in Cleveland to head to New York. I had to take two flights - Cleveland to Boston then Boston to New York after a small layover - of no more than an hour each, but the difference was remarkable. Both planes boarded early and left on time, there was a screen in the back of my seat to access live TV (handy on the morning of Game 7 of the World Series when all ESPN wanted to talk about was baseball, which was right in my wheelhouse!) and the crew treated passengers well...not saying that those on American Airlines didn't, but it looked to me like the AA employees were simply coming to work each day and getting through their required tasks so they could go home, which isn't a bad theory to live by, but when you're in a service industry where customers have several different choices and for the most part want to feel some love, a smile and a bit of care goes a long, long way!!
Not sure of the juxtaposition of writing a blog post on air travel whilst waiting for a train (and I'll likely post something on train and subway travel as a bit of an "insiders tip" before I'm done in this space), but I'll take it!! Yesterday, Thursday, was the first day since arriving in the country where I haven't had to board a flight or travel anywhere, and my next two city jumps, including the one I'm taking whilst posting this, will be through the courtesy of Amtrak, the USA's long haul train service, which will take me to Philadelphia for three nights, and then to Boston on Monday 7th - my birthday, for anyone wanting to mark the occasion!!!
Time to do the twenty-three skidoo as the New Jersey countryside passes by accompanied by the click-clack of the rails rather than at 30,000 feet - until next time folks!!