The Australia trip started with the drive to Albuquerque. I got up early to finish a little packing at Tyler’s house, and then we all drove in to town. I stopped at the post office and we all got some doughnuts from the local Daylight Doughnuts shop, and then off we went. I drove with Dee the whole way, while Jeni and Tyler went with Bob. We could have seatbelted everyone in one car, but we would never have fit all the luggage in the car too. There were only five of us at this point, but that includes five luggage-type bags, five carry-on-type bags, Dee’s guitar, and three absolutely enormous bags of dive gear…fins and wetsuits, dive computers, dive towels, regulators (although these are delicate and spent some time as carry-on)…just a lot of stuff. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the weather, so I had both cold and warm clothing.
We only had to wait 5 minutes in Albuquerque before boarding the plane, and had a short flight to Phoenix. We had a very short layover here as well, then took another flight to San Francisco, the major jumping-off point, where we also met Tim and Devon* (1). . We would have at least 6 hours to wait here, and had planned to drive into the city to explore a little…but the prices for storage lockers proved to be so expensive that Tim and Devon had the presence of mind to rent a large van, which held seven people, luggage, and dive gear somewhat squishedly, but successfully.
We drove into San Francisco and messed around for several hours. We walked up to Coit Tower and enjoyed the view (and frescoes) for a while, had pizza near Fisherman’s Wharf, and walked around a really beautiful artsy-park thing, the name of which I have forgotten, but had this incredible web of columns there that looked like part of the Roman forum* (2).
It was pretty hard to navigate out of San Francisco, but we finally did. We checked our gear back at the airport, I accidentally put my hand in some strange white grease on the back of some chair, and we headed to the gate to meet the family there. Refer to the directory for this. Pretty much the entire crew was there at the gate for this flight, except for Michael and Jim, who had business stuff to deal with and would arrive a week later, somewhat. Also note that Catherine (Michael’s wife) is Australian herself, and spent the whole trip with her family, so we actually never saw Catherine or her kids at all on the trip except for the very beginning and end (Michael did come to Coff’s Harbour when he arrived, but came alone).
Because we left late at night (around 11ish), we traveled with the night because we flew with the direction of the earth’s rotation. The neat thing about that was being able to get on the plane at 11 pm and get off it at 6 am, but we had 14 hours to sleep. At least, I would have if I’d been able to sleep. I read, crocheted, listened to Harry Potter 4 on tape, and dozed a very little on Tyler. I put a stop to the sleep-attempts when I tried to move in my sleep and slammed my eye into the metal armrest. I was sore for days after that. There wasn’t much to speak of on the flight (and the movie choices would have been awful, if the projectors hadn’t been broken). I used the nearest bathroom (which was in first class) once and got a nasty lecture from a flight attendant. Another one complimented my afghan I was crocheting. Jeni lost her classes and we had a frantic search for a while before someone four rows behind us found them on the floor. The usual flight stuff.
1. It is very rare that I ever see another airplane in the air when I am in flight, simply because airplanes are extremely small in relation to the great mass of air in which they fly. This landing was incredible because all through the final approach, there was another passenger plane flying parallel with us, below us and off the starboard wing. We came in at the same time and at the same speed, and because the airport has several runways, actually landed nearly in tandem. It was amazing to watch, and I’d venture to guess that it’s a rare thing.
2. The columns were topped with angels that were very noteworthy in that all the angels had their backs to the viewer. Rather than looking like an artificial pose, it looked like they were all just resting there, and having a talk over the tops of the columns. I liked it very much.