Day 1/21

Flying

Packing my stuff is as difficult as last time. 23 Kilos is really not much, especially if winter clothing has to be carried. Have to leave lots of stuff at home including even toothpaste, which I will buy overthere. United Airlines does allow 18 kilos of hand luggage which I will use to the max. Getting up at 05:00, going to the airport at 06:00 and at Schiphol at 07:00. The rest goes less smooth.

Once we are in the aircraft, they tell us they are waiting on some paperwork but that we will depart very soon. We hear this a couple of times and after a while their story changes. There’s a storm front over the Atlantic Ocean which we’ll have to circumvent. Therefore we need extra fuel that has to be taken in. We depart with a delay of 45 minutes which in its self is not problematic, but I do have only 90 minutes of transit time in Houston for the flight to Anchorage and that can become a problem.

The rest of the flight goes well. In front of me sits a large guy that stands up a couple of times to get things from his bag. One time his sweater shifts a bit too high and I notice a large gun on his belt. He’s not aware of it and sits down again. Later I see he does take care to keep his clothes covering it when standing up. Think that he’s an Air Marshall that has to take action in case of trouble. Wonder how he got in, because the best thing for him would be to behave just like a regular passenger, but of course he wouldn’t be able to pass the checks. Later I want to see how and where he leaves the airplane.

The delay has extended somewhat during the flight. Can’t imagine that I’ll be in time for my connection. There’s less than 45 minutes left and I still have to pass customs. Well, I can’t change anything about the situation, so just lets see what’s going to happen. I’m kind of curious how this will be solved. It better be far too late, then I don’t have to hurry trying to get the connection.

Somewhat later it appears that about 70 different people are going to miss their connections. After landing everyone without a transit is being asked to remain seated in that we can leave the airplane faster and they do. During the last part of the flight we have gained a couple of minutes and I have 45 minutes left now. Maybe I’m still in time. Could be. Keeping up my pace I try to bypass as many people as possible before reaching customs.

Missing the connection

In the customs hall my effort proves invain. I’ve about 1000 people in front of me with only 8 counters open. It’s a long zigzag row like in a theme park. One could imagine that they reserve a couple of counters specifically for transits, but apparently the customs department doesn’t care that people are missing their connection unnecessary.

In front of a special counter for diplomats I suddenly notice our Air Marshall. Funny. So, this is the way it works. It’s a good thing these people are on our flights.

After an hour it’s my turn. Fingerprints of all fingers, photo, the familiar questions, how long will you be here, what is the purpose of your visit, where are you staying.

Then I can continue. Another queue to return the form I just received. Picking up the checked in luggage and drop it off again. Then towards the United Airlines counter. The flight departed already 15 minutes ago. Quite rediculous if you ask me. This isn’t necessary at all if customs processes are optimized somewhat.

A friendly lady tries to get me on the next flight to Anchorage that will depart in another 2 hours. After trying again and again and calling a few times she finds out that the flight is full. No other flights tonight. Then I hear some positive sounds again, an alternative maybe? Yep, after 20 minutes I receive two boarding passes. One to Phoenix, New Mexico in one and a half hours and one to Anchorage with US Airways three and a half hours later. Great!

Soon I’m in the other terminal and have about 40 minutes left before boarding commences. Already thought I recognized this place. Have been here when I was on my way to Costa Rica. Time for a little bit of dinner at Panda, a kind of wok restaurant that was very good last time.

This flight we depart on time. It takes two hours and in Phoenix I start looking for the gate but can’t find it. Appears to be in another terminal. Nice and warm out here, about 38 degrees centigrade I guess. Quickly take the bus to terminal 4.

At the desk I buy an aisle seat for 30 dollars instead of my window spot. I intend to try and sleep for a couple of hours and a bit more legspace is much more convenient.

In the aircraft we get the news that we have a flat tire which will be replaced within half an hour. We are allowed to leave the plane but can remain as well. It appears that my recent purchase has an extra advantage: 3 seats for the price of 1, the whole row for myself. I don’t want to loose it and stay in the aircraft.

After about 10 minutes they tell us that it will take longer and we all have to leave the plane. I rest on the situation and try to cancel the hotel in Anchorage but that’s not possible anymore.

Earlier before boarding I heard a lot of laughter somewhere on the other side of the gate. Now that’s very closeby. Two gum chewing wenches with their mouths wide open and tongue outside, laugh their asses off after almost every sentence, thereby throwing their heads in their neck. Are they high or something? Everybody around is irritated by their behaviour but they do not seem to notice or care. And it goes on and on…

After an hour we are allowed back into the plane. The flight will take little over 5 hours. With some luck I will be in my hotel before daylight after all. The first beverage is free because of the waiting. I enter the land of dreams swiftly.

A scary dog

After a while I wake up after hearing a soft whining. What’s that? There it is again, sounds like a dog. Every time a couple of soft squeeks followed by silence. After a while it’s getting louder and more pressing. Indeed must be a dog, but where is it? The whole cabin is shrouded in darkness but after a bit of direction finding with my ears I conclude that it is coming from the other side of the aisle. There’s a girl sleeping overthere, but I do not see a dog. Now the sound is pitching up to yelping. Isn’t anyone hearing this?

It seems to come from under the seat. I notice a couple of bags overthere but am not table to see them very well. If I look in the direction of the bags, the yelping stops. Do I look away, it starts again. So there the dog must be and it does see me. Unbelievably, the girl doesn’t hear a thing.

The flight will take another couple of hours and I do NOT want to keep hearing that awful yelping all the time. So I guess I have to wake up the girl. But she seems to be in a very deep sleep. Better not wake her up. If she’s startled in this darkness, she might scream. Instead I go and see the stewardess and tell her that I think there is a dog over there yelping. She gives me a strange look but checks it out. Of course the dog remains quiet now and I tell her it’s really there. She goes in head first to have a better look and then there’s a loud GRRRRRRRWEF!!! The stewardes is startled and comes back out quickly. Yesyes I’m not a lunetic.

She tries to wake up the girl but that one doesn’t really want to cooperate. The stewardess gets some of her colleagues and now with the power of three opposite of her the girl wakes up and picks up a very small doggy from her bag that’s under the seat in front of her. It’s really a very small animal, not bigger than a guinea-pig, but very vicious and it starts barking at the stewardesses immediately. The girl is told to keep her dog quiet and under control. She throws me a foul look but I don’t care. Pfffft, finally I can go back to sleep. After a while I notice that the girl has fallen asleep again with the dog on her lap. Finally it has what it wanted.

Anchorage

During the rest of the flight I wake up a couple of times. One of these times I see a lighted city underneath with some lights surrounding it. Very difficult to determine whether I’m looking at water with boats or a desert with houses. I assume the latter. Weird sight with all that darkness around. It seems to float in the air. In the wide distance, there’s only darkness.

Somewhat later we are told that the Northern Lights are visible and indeed there is a long green band on the horizon. Very special to see this from the air.

The approach is kind of wild and the landing rough. Nothing compared with the last time in Iceland, but for sure in my top 3.

There’s a stuffed 1500 pound Grizzly in the arrival hall. What a huge animal!! I have the car quickly and the hotel is closeby. Arrived at 02:00 and in bed at 03:00. In the end the total delay is 6 hours, not that bad after all. Did fly a weird route by the way. Down along the east coast, than horizontal along the Mexico border to the west followed by the whole west coast to the north. Total traveling time has been 27 hours. New-Zealand is nothing compared with this…

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