Friday, October 18, 2019

Travel Soothe Cabin Fever Prior to AK Trip

By Cal Orey

Back in mid-September five years ago when I traveled from California to Quebec I admit I was a bit on edge about flying. I have been on airplanes, though. My first flight was with my sibling when I was 16: We went to Southern California for the Ontario car races.  It was a piece of cake. No anxiety. Then,  one year later, he came hitchhiking with me and we got a ride from Oakland to San Jose via a small plane. I rode shotgun. And that was the beginning of fun flying for me...

Not sure why I choose to leave Lake Tahoe in the Fall
Flying on the West Coast...  In my late teens, I flew from San Francisco to Los Angeles and back home again. Actually, I used to people watch or panhandle at SFO ("Spare change? I almost have enough money for my flight.") And from my grandma's in Arizona to San Jose--quick in contrast to hitchhiking through the Mojave desert! In my thirties, a grad student and budding journalist, I flew to Long Island to catch a ferry en route to Catalina Island. (I penned an article on motion sickness.) Later on, my writing took me to Hawaii three times and different island so small aircraft. The only concern was my ears felt like huge rocks were pushing on them while descending when coming back to SFO. In my forties, I went to British Columbia with a friend. Plane ride was fine, relationship shaky. Years later, a book tour took me to Seattle and back down to L.A.. even Tahoe to S.F. (small aircraft) to do a book signing in the City with geologist Jim Berkland. (I stayed at his house after; took a shuttle bus to SFO at 3:00 AM. It was surreal.) The only superturbulent flight was the regional plane from Reno-Tahoe International Airport to SeaTac for a book signing at the Seattle downtown bookstore. The minute I boarded the small plane with two seats on each side suited for the Wizard of Oz munchkins and a narrow middle aisle, I knew I was in for a bumpy ride. And that it was. A man three times my size became my best friend during loud noise and the ongoing ups and downs. Once landed, several women with green faces fled the plane to the airport bathroom. But I survived. And there was the turbulent ride to Los Angeles and I thanked God I missed my plane back to Lake Tahoe. We drove home and it was smooth. Overall, I really don't have a mega fear of flying.

The Flying Formula for Comfort to Canada... These days, it's no wonder I have a formula that works for me. Big aircraft only and first class because I am too sensitive and need my space. I can feel the tension of people when the plane ascends and descends as well as when the pilot announces:  "It looks like we may have some rough air." But in first class I have more room to stretch out and tune out negative energy, sort of. Also, a window seat only.  Plus, you get to board first and get off the plane first. You are pampered a little more... We're talking big seats (I'm about 115 lbs.) with cozy blankets and a pillow. 

And, my fellow passengers amuse me. My last trip to Canada included conversing with a female doctor, a former criminal attorney, a software sales engineer, and a well-to-do woman from Lake Tahoe. The dangling conversations were stimulating--I made connections that led to tears and confessions that'll always move me. And yeah, as an author-intuitive I did dish out free readings and got their Sun Signs spot on. 
Airplane food (any class) doesn't work for me, being a vegetarian/vegan.  En route back to Tahoe one flight attendant felt sorry for me. She gave me purple grapes, Italian cookies, and orange juice. I'm high maintenance on ground and in the air. I crave hot tea but I read somewhere that the water isn't safe to drink... I did nurse little bottles of water given to me.
Salt Lake City International Airport
is small and rustic the way I like it 

I choose to go off the grid as much as possible. In other words, I do not take my computer. I do not let people know what flight I'm taking or where I'll be staying. This way, it gives me a sense of freedom--disconnecting. Perhaps, this is why I love flying to Canada. It takes me back to when I was young, carefree and without any responsibilities. Bliss.

Also, I have learned through my sixth sense and recent experience no short flight connections! Four days before I left for Quebec, I called the airline and changed my flight plan--and I'm glad I did. They had me on a 31 minute flight connection and a good luck, bring your running shoes agenda. If I missed it a domino effect with my other flights and hotels. I had a rap sheet because I called once a week asking if there was a new, improved flight plan. I caved and took the early bird special: Up at 2:00 AM! During the trip we had engine trouble two times; a fight in economy once--delays. Worse, I watched an elderly woman have a meltdown because due to a tight flight connection.  She cried. She screamed. She cried. She just wanted to go home from Atlanta to Mississippi. I had befriended her earlier when she was smiling and happy to be almost home. That woman could have been me.
Seattle-Tacoma Airport

Salt Lake City Airport to small and rustic--the way I like it. I found a restaurant that boasts the best salsa and warm corn chips. Another vendor offers salt water taffy--a bag for five dollars. It's a nice, comfy Utah airport that is doable to pass the time for a two hour layover--as I will have come January 2015 on the way to and back home from Seattle. I won't have a layover in Seattle. As before, I'll grab a cab and scramble through traffic to a hotel...a book signing. Then, it's on a train to Canada--my home away from home. It may be quicker to take a regional plane from Seattle to Vancouver but in the chilly PNW during wintertime it is too dicey. The wind and rain? Not going to chance it. A train ride seems the safer mode of transportation.

Going back to Canada... So, this time around no early morning flight for me in the beginning. I booked a noon-ish flight so I should be well-rested. But on the way back we're talking a 6:00 AM flight from Seattle. Translation: Up at 4:00 AM to go through all the changes but at least I will be back in U.S. I've decided the last night I'll play in Seattle. 
In retrospect I probably should have made a later flight but once on the airplane I'm awake and they say--the flight gurus-that it's the best time to fly for less rough air and being on time. And give me a good latte and bagel in the morning, I'm good to go. What's more, after a week away from my fur kids I will be eager to reunite. I hope my middle child--the Aussie--doesn't have attitude this time...
I've learned more is less. This time I'll take one smaller suitcase and carry-on.  I'll layer clothing, think simple: Skinny jeans, tees, sweaters, combat boots/sorels, neck scarves, hat, mittens, and sweater coat, and bathing suit. Done. I'm ready. The flight and hotels are booked but I'll probably switch the latter. Or not. Time is on my side.

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