Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weekend 10: International Air Travel

So... as this posts, I've finally managed to land in Australia--or Oz as the locals call it. I'll save the fun stuff for later. For now, though, as you head into the weekend, know that there are some good things about traveling half way around the world ... and there are some bad things.

Let's begin, shall we?

10) You get what you pay for. Every journey begins with a single step, and that would be the Idaho Falls-to-Salt Lake City leg in this case. The plane ride was cramped, as usual. Then there was the "quality" hotel I managed to book on Hotwire (buyer beware, folks). The shuttle was a black SUV with no recognizable name on it--the driver spoke a single word of heavily accented English ("Quality! "Quality!"). When I arrived at the "hotel," the poor desk clerk proved why she worked at this particular establishment--she looked exhausted, and then told me she shouldn't have done "so much X at the rave last night." My key wouldn't work. Twice. I got reassigned and my key wouldn't work again. But I learned if you just pulled the handle up instead of down, the door worked just fine--Hell, I didn't even need a key! The lesson? For Christ's sake, spend $20 bucks more and stay at Motel 6.

9) Seatmates. If you're following along, I haven't even left the country at this point, but I had a seatmate on the flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles who wanted to relive the Scopes Monkey Trial on the plane. And, for the record, I didn't argue once... Just nodded and smiled, and eventually just closed my eyes in a futile attempt at self-preservation. Just as this fellow got the  hint that I wasn't interested in playing Clarence Darrow in his little drama, the dude in front of me decided it was time to recline. In my lap.

Much better... Thanks Virgin Australia.
At this point, I'm wondering what I'm in for on the 15-HOUR flight to Oz, right? I'll tell you what I was in for... I followed my own advice from No. 10, and sprung for the exit row window seat. Legroom. It's underestimated. And the flight was an overnighter. I'll take it (Honey, sorry about the Capitol One charge--I know you'll understand). Turns out I had the entire exit row to myself and a cute Aussie flight attendent from Gold Coast who told me where all the parties are tonight in Sydney--hit me up on Facebook, and I'll tell you. If you go, you'll have to tell me how they were--I intend to be sleeping.

8) Exchange rates. Need more evidence that these aren't the good old days anymore? First, just for the record, you can only get 11 pesos for every dollar. Hmph. Second, it costs $1.1998 (OK ... a buck-twenty) for an Aussie dollar. That's like three beers over the course of $100. Geh.

7) LAX. Again, if you need proof that we've fallen a bit behind, just visit this Third-world barrio and I'm sure you'll be satisfied. It's so rickety that I didn't even know there was a 4.5-magnitude earthquake beneath us, because I couldn't tell the difference.

6) Layovers. Ten hours? Really? On the plus side, I got damn near a full day's work in, but I had to pay $50 just to find an internet signal at LAX (it's still America, right?) that didn't require me to watch a penis-enhancement commercial. I suppose I could have just spent $50 on penis enhancement, but, you know, it's the principle.

5) Bag fees. So, let me get this straight. On two separate flights I paid $25 per flight to check a single bag on Delta, just to get from Idaho Falls to Los Angeles. On Virgin Australia, I checked two bags for, um, free. Up yours, Delta.

It's Australian for Advil, mate.
4) Sinus headaches. Eventually, I learn to pack the ibuprofen. Nothing like a real hammer-and-anvil number that kicks in at Hour 7 on a 15-hour flight. Two things that should eventually meet--humidifiers and airplane cabins. Just sayin'.

3) The customs process. The question on the entry card into Australia asked me if I'd visited a farm, handled any farm animals (tee hee) or been in any "wilderness areas" within the last 30 days. I had, indeed, been in a wilderness area, so I checked "yes" on the card. When the customs agent looked at my card, I got sequestered into a line with what appeared to be the entire population of the Shandong Province of China. Thirty minutes later, a cheerful Aussie agent looked at me and said, "Hey mate... so you've been on a farm?" I simply said, "Nope. I went fishing in the Jedediah Smith Wilderness." He grinned, and said, "You're good, mate. Enjoy your visit."

2) Summer. Wait ... no. Winter. Yes, indeed, it's winter Down Under. It's not your average brutal eastern Idaho winter--it's more like winter on the northern California coast. But when you show up in Keens and a pair of shorts, and it's 45 degrees outside, winter is winter. 

1) Electricity. Not that they don't have it down here. They just get at it a bit differently. Thankfully, I was prepared--I bought a converter before I left the States. But I can imagine the look on some poor sap's face when he goes to plug in his nearly dead laptop...


  1. Ha - great post Chris - 'I had soooo much X last night...'

    Have a good time!

  2. Good gawd man, you've convinced me to never fly from Idaho Falls to Salt Lake, to LAX, to Australia. I'm staying home, or only going where I can drive. But I enjoyed the hell out of your write-up, and almost feel a bit sorry for you. Almost.

  3. Done long international flights many times. Water, water and more water. Before and during the flight. Melatonin, 2-3mg when you board for a 10 hour flight. Eye covers and a pillow. Buy a cheap soft one, leave it on the plane. Food and alcohol: a minimum, no alcohol if you can do that. Enjoy Oz.

    1. Good advice... I have another big flight in a couple weeks, and I'll follow it to the letter.

  4. Haha, great post Chris!! Still can't believe the hotel clerk's comment. Wow!

  5. I know, right... so disinterested. It made me write my first-ever truly inspired Trip Advisor review...

  6. Ha ha ha! Outstanding post! I have to say that for the past couple of hours I have been hooked by the amazing articles on this site. Keep up the great work.

  7. I'd feel more sorry for you if you weren't posting fantastic pictures. Just compare itto the journey that it used to take to get to Ozzieland (dugout canoe anyone?. Looking forward to the writeups as you post. Watch out for everything that slithers, crawls, flies or swims. It'll probably kill you.