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Homeward Bound

(Reprint from News: May 22, 2002)

April 8, 2002


After my "Sunday in Sydney," I got up at 5 a.m. on Monday morning and drove over to Sydney International Airport, where I said goodbye to the Toyota Camry, my faithful companion during the last two months and 9,075 miles.  I got checked in at the airport, went through customs, and then at exactly 9:12 a.m., I hopped on my Air Canada plane bound for North America.  After finding my seat, I settled back for what I hoped would be an uneventful trip.


Not quite.  The first problem was simply taking off.  The plane pulled away from the gate at the Sydney airport and then… stopped.  For the next two hours, we sat parked on the tarmac just a few yards from the terminal because of an equipment problem.  To top it off, the plane's air-conditioning didn't work, so it got a weeeee bit stuffy as we sat there and watched 471 other planes take off.  Fortunately, though, I didn't have a screaming baby with a filled diaper sitting behind me and everyone on the plane was patient and polite, so I counted my blessings.


As the plane sat on the tarmac for the next few hours, I got a nice tan on my left arm while reading the Air Canada magazine 14 times and learning all about the fascinating city of Moose Jaw.  After what seemed an eternity (well o.k., half an eternity), they fixed the problem and the plane took off, so I settled back in my seat once again. 


We were going to land in Honolulu in about 8 hours and then continue on to Vancouver, British Columbia, so I popped in a MP3 disc of Jann Arden, put on my headphones, enjoyed the chicken dinner, and downed three small bottles of wine.  Yeah, I should've heeded that travel guru Rick Steves' advice never to drink on airplanes, but I was feeling pretty cheerful since I was flying back to the U.S. after being gone for four months.  A few hours later, though, and somewhere over New Guinea, I started to feel kinda woozy and regretted downing that third Cabernet -- yeah, I'm a lightweight.


Although I knew we were going to land at Honolulu and refuel, I figured that I’d just stay on the plane.  Wrong!  After the plane landed at Honolulu at 1 a.m., I learned that EVERYONE had to get off the plane and go through U.S. Customs.  That included (and don't ask me why) those of us who were staying on the plane and flying on to Vancouver, Canada.  I had booked a good window seat though, so I wasn’t too upset. 


Here's John Denver singing Back Home Again.

Requires a RealPlayerIf problems, see Help.


When I reboarded my plane in Honolulu an hour later and walked down the aisle, I noticed that a cute blond woman was sitting in the seat next to me.  Hey, maybe this flight wouldn't be so bad after all.  Unfortunately though, as I quickly discovered, she was attached to a rather large and hairy boyfriend -- at least, that's who I assumed was sitting across the aisle from her, holding her hand.  Then to top it off, she tried the old "My boyfriend is sitting across the aisle and would you mind switching seats with him so we can be together" ploy. 


Being a single traveler who enjoys window seats, I’ve had this stunt pulled on me several times and sometimes I take pity.  Not this time, though, because I was tired.  I didn’t care how cute she was – I was going to enjoy my window seat all the way to Vancouver, so politely told her "No," then curled up and went to sleep.


We landed in Vancouver at 9 a.m. the next morning and I stumbled off the plane pretty bleary-eyed.  Since the plane was 2 hours late leaving Sydney, I had missed my connecting flight from Vancouver to Seattle but a friendly Air Canada guy at the Vancouver check-in counter booked me on the next flight to Seattle.  After going through customs for a second time on this trip ("No, I still don't have any weapons or drugs"), I hopped on a puddle-jumper for a scenic flight from Vancouver to Seattle, waited in the SeaTac Airport for a few hours, then got on a bus for Bellingham.  I stumbled into my Dad's house that afternoon after 26 hours of traveling… and then, because of the International Date Line, I got to enjoy April 8 all over again. 


Actually, the plane trip really wasn't that bad and I was glad to get back to the U.S.  Next time I go to Australia, though, I'm definitely booking a direct flight.  And I won't drink three bottles of wine, even if they are free.


2-3413_Camry_at_Airport.jpg (47717 bytes)    2-3414_Sydney_Airport.jpg (66507 bytes)    2-3418_On_Airplane.jpg (30167 bytes)

Above left:  Saying goodbye to my faithful friend at the Sydney Airport.  The Camry has been my companion for 9,075 miles around Australia. 

Above center:  The International Terminal at the Sydney Airport.

Above right:  Ready for takeoff...


2-3419_Waiting_for_Plane_to_be_Fixed.jpg (25472 bytes)    2-3424_Botany_Bay.jpg (18554 bytes)    2-3435_Vancouver_Island.jpg (40938 bytes)

Above left:  ... and still ready.  This was my view for 2 hours while they fixed the problem.  I got a nice tan, though.

Above center:  So long, Australia...

Above right:  ... and hello, snowy North America.  Brrrr, no more shorts, I guess.


2-3464_Dads_House.jpg (76093 bytes)    2-3482_Doti_and_Dad_at_Dinner.jpg (87788 bytes)

Above left:  My truck is still in one piece after enduring a rainy Bellingham winter. 

Above right:  Dinnertime with Dad and Doti.


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