2017 Snow & Lights – Days 26; 27; 28

ST HELENS to PORTLAND to SAN FRANCISCO to SYDNEY – back home among the gum trees

To PortlandWednesday – today is the last day, yes the very last day of my time in the Good Ole’ USA.  It is hard to believe this adventure has come to an end.  Well not really an end as I don’t get in to Sydney until Friday 3rd March.  This is because I lose the day I found on the way over.

The weather is lousy to say the least and the skies hold no promise of improvement.  My Alaska Airlines flight leaves Portland at 5.55pm so I have plenty of time to enjoy breakfast and make sure I have everything packed.  The latter is easier said than done.  You would think that being allowed two suitcases would give me enough room – but no – time to squeeze and shove and jump on the cases.  Holy cow – my purchases have certainly added up.  You don’t realise until everything is together just how much stuff you have.  Some really serious packing skills are needed and finally everything is done.  I am worn out.

We head off for the airport and the skies are still full of threatening clouds – at least there is no snow.

ScappooseSt Johns BridgeWe pass Scappoose and then over St Johns Bridge.  It is a lovely bridge, so full of character.  Through the outskirts of Portland and we arrive at the airport.  It is always a bummer getting luggage out of the car and onto the trolley – especially when the bags are so full.  My camera bag and my new Korrs bag are chokkers and I feel like a pack mule.

Arriving at the check in counter I am once again given a TSA Precheck so at least I do not have to go through the shedding of belts, shoes and anything else.  In keeping with the weigh in – one of my bags is about 2kg over the limit.  Of course it is the bag with that bloody big coat I bought in Whitehorse.  The attendant asks me if I can shuffle things around.  Try as I may there is no getting around it – I will have to carry it.  So now I am loaded down with that jacket, my snow jacket, the camera bag and my Korrs bag.  Do you believe this crap?  I can carry the jacket but I can’t pack it.

Tylers Onion RingsOK – let’s get something to eat.  Kylie suggests some restaurant – I think it may have been Stanfords.

Anyway, I order a salad and after waiting for ages they put egg in it – so that goes back. I tell them I don’t want anything else – they are not going to charge me – how kind.

Tyler has ordered onion rings.

I have never seen onion rings this size and neither has K&T.  It is just too ridiculous for words.  There are not many people here – maybe it does not have a good reputation?  All I can say is that I am not impressed with the service or the food.  The only good part of eating here is that it is close to customs and my departure gate – C2.

My planeWhile we are wasting time, my Alaska plane arrives at the gate.  How exciting!  Gathering up what gear I have to carry, it is time to say goodbye and go through security.  It is always hard saying goodbye but hopefully it will not be long before I get to see my girl again – and Tyler of course.

I have about 4 trays to go through the machine – and then it is always a grab to make sure that I retrieve everything.  By the time I get to the lounge – about 10 minutes walk I am buggered, I am also tired of people looking at me wondering about all the gear I have.  When it is time to board I wonder how I am going to get everything stowed away.

PDX to SFOI find my seat 18A and there is already a guy sitting in the seat beside me.  He is quite kind and helps me lift the camera bag into the overhead locker.  I stow the Korrs bag under the seat in front and collapse with the two jackets on my lap.

Mr Kind asks me if I want the jackets in the overhead, so I get him to put the Whitehorse jacket up there and I will keep the other one in case I get cold.  Time for some deep breaths and  looking out the window.  OK – time to retrieve the camera from the bag under the seat in front, meanwhile I strike up a conversation with Mr Kind.  He is Australian and heading back home to see his family after being away for work.  He has a daughter in Adelaide and he once had some land in Bellingen. I nearly fall out of the seat.  He asks me do I know where Bellingen is and I reply that my mum and dad moved to Urunga (close to Bellingen) ages ago now my mum lives at a care facility in Bellingen.  Talk about a small world.  Time for photos – and it is not too long before I get THAT look.

PDXTo SFOFlying when the sun is setting is great  – such wonderful colours.  The usual complimentary drink and bikkies and time to settle down.  We are due into SFO at 7.45pm so it is going to be a long night – at least my luggage is checked through to Sydney and I don’t have to worry about that.

A smooth flight and landing and then it is time for the gate shuffle.  My flying kangaroo does not leave until 11.25pm so there is no rush.  I let all the ‘me first, me first’ people off and then, taking another deep breath, I gather up everything and the pack mule is on her way.

Now the fun begins – my departure gate is not listed. Not on my ticket and not on any of the flight boards.  I ask some airport worker and he grunts that it is too early.  I go to ask him when do they put up the notifications but he is gone.  Great – once I sit down that will be the end of me – but I have no choice.

There are three terminals here so I am hoping it is in Terminal 1 where I am now.

Time to goWaiting, waiting, waiting and finally the gate comes up on  the board – – I cannot remember what gate – all I remember is loading up again and heading downstairs.  At least it is in Terminal 1.

There is no one here; please don’t tell me that this is not the place.  Eventually people arrive – the attendants arrive – and I am happy.

The usual announcement of ‘please wait until your section is called’ is made and of course there are those of the ‘me first, me first’ brigade ready to trample anyone who gets on before them.  I am soon on my way and wonder if there will be any room left in the overhead locker.  Seat 52A – yep here I am and there is room although the bag now feels like it weighs a ton.

A valiant effort is made – and it is flung up above my head and securely stowed along with the Whitehorse coat.

Once settled, it is time for a photo or two and this time I made sure my camera was in my pants pocket so I don’t have to retrieve it from the bag under the seat.

SFOSan FranciscoEveryone is seated and the attendants do the customary check of seat belts and stowed luggage and soon we are on our way to take off.  As tired and exhausted as I am, I still get that adrenaline rush when the engines start revving and we fang it down the runway.

In the air and levelling out we are given the Bickfords no taste Signature Range drink and it’s time to check out the flight details.  At this stage of any journey my eyes are too tired to write details in my journal so some screen photos will have to do.  I will relate the info from the photos as we go along.

Distance to Sydney – 11952 km; Time to Sydney – 13.36 hours; Local time in Sydney 7pm; Altitude – 1113m; Outside air temp is 9C.

DinnerNot long after take off, the smell of food comes wafting through the cabin.  I choose the Braised Beef in Red Wine Sauce with Broccoli, Carrots and Steamed rice.  This is served with Herb Bread and for dessert – White Chocolate and Raspberry Cheesecake.  Now a surprise for you – I do not ask for wine, I choose orange juice.

Yes I know this is a shock but I am definitely not in the mood for wine – I must be ill.

This may not look appetising to some of you but it was delicious and it certainly filled the tummy until the next round of food.  Looking at the menu (of which the printing certainly has been down graded) I can look forward to a Kit Kat – Ham, Cheese and Dijon Mustard toastie and fresh whole fruit.  I slept through all of that and when I check the flight screen it is now Friday and I am nearly home!  It is time for breakfast.

Flight screenBreakfastThe Seasonal Fruit Platter is the only option for me as the other choice is eggs (yuk) – breakfasts are not as good as in days past but it is still tasty and I do like fruit.  The Yoghurt with Blueberries was a bit tart and the Summer Berry Muffin was scrumptious.  The coffee was not bad.

Distance to Sydney is 1852km; local time in Sydney – 6.24am.  Ground speed is 833kmh; Altitude – 11852m; Outside air temp – minus 50 celsius.  Just a tad chilly.  We have 2 hours and 26 minutes before we land.

Time for some more photos –

Out the windowTime to landLower and lower and as we get through the clouds – my wonderful city has decided to turn on the water works.  Well, that’s not a nice welcome home I must say.  What a lousy day.

LandedAfter such a long flight, even though I love flying, it is always good to get home and the thought of sleeping in my own bed with my own pillow keeps me going.

Once we land, of course the usual jumper uppers are on the move, I don’t have to make any connecting flight only the connecting car ride home.  Let’s hope the gang is there to meet me.

Time to move – collect the bags and coats and I am on my way.  I call in at the Duty Free and buy some perfume and also a bottle of scotch for Stuart – great – another bag I have to carry.  Customs is one big area of confusion.  Automatic passport readers – some working – some not working – and of course I choose one that cannot read the card so I have to line up.

I put my gear on the ground to get organised and then they change the line and that means I have to pick up everything at which point I over balance and end up sitting on the floor where I immediately get the giggles.  Great and to think I haven’t even collected my suitcases yet.

Through customs and down to the baggage reclaim I immediately grab a trolley and of course it takes forever for my bags to appear. Once they are loaded onto the trolley with camera bag, duty free, Korrs bag and coats, I am off to quarantine except that the trolley doesn’t want to move – and I don’t blame it.  This is exactly what I do not need and I have to work up a sweat just getting the thing down the line and round the corners.  I AM OVER THIS.  Last corner to turn and the bloody thing has a mind of its own and one of the cases decides to overbalance and fall off.

This would make a good bit of film for Australian Customs.  I have a couple of items to declare – they ask me what they are and take one look at my forlorn face and the amount of luggage and wave me through – thank you; thank you.

As soon as I get to the meet and greet, the trolley is practically thrown at Stuart who doesn’t seem to have much of a problem getting it to the car – I just snarl at it and as I take it back to the trolley area I kick it.  Yes I know but it makes me feel better.  I WANT TO GET HOME AND I NEED A DRINK EVEN THOUGH IT IS ONLY AROUND 8AM.

As I write this; on reflection with glass of Vitamin G in hand, this has been a fabulous journey.  Of course like all my other journeys there are things I would have done differently and photos I wish I had taken but as I have thousands of photos to go through, I doubt I will forget anything.

I am much beholden to Yellowstone for letting me share in all her Winter glory, truly an experience of utter enjoyment and to those fabulous Dancing Ladies – words cannot express the amazement I felt in standing under starry skies while they danced in glorious technicolour above my head

Now it’s time to start planning the next journey – it will either be Hawaii or Japan so stay tuned because I know you are just dying to know where my wanderlust will take me.

This just about says it all – thanks Kylie for the great photo!!

Flat out