Saturday, July 28, 2012

To Vegas and Jacksonville, Part 3

July Fourth, the holiday that enabled my ducking out of work and onto this trip, not least because United’s cheap fare was a function of the light holiday demand, began with my waking much later than I’d hoped. It’s not that the sleep-number bed at the Radisson Jacksonville was exceptionally comfortable; rather, I was exhausted after the prior night’s red-eye “pilot-in-command”-ing, er driving, from the Bay Area to the Las Vegas McCarran airport.

I had envisioned pulling myself into the shower at 6am and savouring the city some more through the vessel of a local coffeehouse and, perhaps, a greasy spoon breakfast joint. Instead, I was executing yet another controlled-panic drive to the airport. Fortunately, these are my specialty, and I timed it at the sweet-spot: only modest speeding and not quite breaking a sweat, both on the highways and in the airport corridors, and arriving at the gate with boarding well underway, but before the final call.

The partially-obscured CR7 that would ferry me to O'Hare

The late morning brought another CRJ-700 ride between JAX and a United hub, just like the prior day’s journey down the eastern seaboard from Dulles. This time, though, I was enroute to Chicago. Once onboard and again in seat 2A thanks to an upgrade -- amazingly, this would be my seat assignment on all five segments of this trip -- I took a quick call before the door was closed. As it happened, the call was in Polish, my Muttersprache, which the front-cabin flight attendant picked up on and then proceeded to use in our conversation for the entire flight. Kava z mlekiem? Bardzo prosze!

The flight to O’Hare was expeditious and lovely. Wheels-down was over thirty minutes before scheduled arrival, and the preceding approach routing onto 27L provided the usual blitz-glimpses onto the Chicago neighbourhoods that are nearest to my heart. Notable, also, is that flight service featured the United Express First snack box, an admittedly cheap offering but nonetheless better than nothing, especially for the frugal traveller.

Stock image of a United Express First snack box (source: Yelp)

The day brought its sine qua non upon my stepping into the B concourse. My Polish-language conversation partner, my lovely dad, was waiting at the Terminal One curb and would host me for a few relaxing yet high-gear hours. Good conversation and a stocking up on addictive Polish poppy seed cake were among the afternoon’s activities, before the hour indicated that the next departure would soon be at hand. And so the day’s second iteration of the aggressive dash to the airport followed, this time down the Kennedy (traffic clearing after Sayre Ave. as always) and I-190 to that same Terminal One curb. A kiss goodbye, the security dance, and into seat 2A with the remnants of the boarding mass some 8 or 9 minutes later.

High clouds encountered at cruise altitude while enroute ORD-SFO

There’s little to report on this standard A320 journey between O’Hare and San Francisco. The holder of seat 1C asked that I switch seats, to which I gladly acquiesced. My seatmate was a tad on the talkative side -- usually a bad sign -- but he mercifully withdrew his aggressive conversation attempts once we leapt into the realm of Icarus from 32L. The meal wasn’t half bad, although its details escape me as I write 24 days later. I do, however, recall that my request for a glass of milk to accompany the dessert of chocolate chip cookie was met with a knowing smile by the motherly lead FA. An alcohol-catalyzed nap for most of the flight’s remainder followed.

A strikingly sharp heavy glimpsed while within SFO's friendly confines. This A340 would operate Swiss 39 to Zurich.

Despite San Francisco being the current home for my luggage, the evening had one more flight in store: San Fran to Vegas, just after nightfall. This being the Fourth of July, our departure routing from SFO -- northbound over South San Francisco, then turning making a gradual and wide turn west, south and eventually southeast to bring us down the west side of the Peninsula and over San Jose -- afforded a brilliant view over the dozens of firework shows, professional and amateur alike, going off simultaneously across the Bay Area.

Dinner from Laurita's
Rather exhausted, I proceeded to enjoy a plate of awesome local Mexican grub from Laurita's taco shop, just a bit southeast from the airport. And then: well-earned sleep.

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