Tuesday, May 31, 2011


May 31                 Tuesday               USA                       Flight to Iceland                                              

It was a toasty awakening.  My A/C wasn’t working & I’d foolishly told my landlord not to worry about it as I’ll be away for several weeks.  Fortunately he’d tried to fix it, anyway, but the A/C guys didn’t show up.  Alas, my return back to DC the night before brought me right back into a rather early heat wave.  I hadn’t even noticed the weekend before as I relaxed comfortably in the ocean breezes in Barnegat Light, New Jersey.  When at the beach: heat waves are a blessing.

So packing proceeded a bit slowly, but I still seemed to wrap up with plenty of time to spare.  This meant it was time to sit and try to figure out what I forgot… there is always something.  Always.  What matters is whether it was important or not.

Lindsey would get to drive my car for, I believe, the 3rd time – setting a record in how many times another person has driven my car.  I think even my parents and closest childhood friends haven’t made it to three… I’m not even sure any of them have made it to two.  But first I was behind the wheel, heading up to her place & running through the final checks before the trip.  Everything seemed to be in order: warm clothes, jackets for the cold, toiletries, first aid supplies, camera gear, adapters & converters, hiking boots, guidebooks, blanket & pillowcase, etc.  We added a sheet, backup camera, and alarm clock to the mix & I seemed good to go.

Having eaten Greek Spot at Lindsey’s during preparations, only a couple hours later she force-fed me Chick-fil-A.  Of course, I use “force-fed” lightly given that while I initially protested on account of still being full, when I gave in I still devoured my meal.  I’d come to be grateful for this… I also get frequent Chick-fil-A cravings (usually on Sundays) and it was nice to depart from the country on a chickeny note.

Arriving at Dulles, she switched into my driver’s seat & I continued into the airport.  I’d never seen it that empty.  The outside was almost devoid of vehicles, the inside almost empty of people, and the line for my airline… well, the only one with people in it; but it was a queue only about 5 groups long.  It took about 10 minutes there & I was on my way through security.

It’d been about 1.5 years since my last trip, which just happens to be about as long since Dulles finished their new construction.  This included a new security area, AirTrain (or AeroTrain?), and a rehab of, if I recall correctly, Terminals A and B.  While I approached security with hesitation on account of not being entirely sure where to go, when I made it there I was in awe at the room: a civil engineers’ dream.  Nothing too fancy, but I stared up at the ceiling and attempted to estimate the forces acting at each point.  Actually, it was so simple that I was slightly amused in that the structural engineers probably far-overcharged them for the work involved.

I chatted with a cute girl in line (the only other one in line) who was headed to Boston, but I lost attention toward the conversation as I attempted to recombobulate myself after the checkpoint.  Getting my laptop back in proved a bit more of a trial than anticipated… despite having packed (or so I thought) for an easy reinsertion.  The girl seemed to hang about for a moment, but left shortly before I wrapped up… just as well, as I’d spent the next several minutes taking photos of the new train station just beyond.  A transportation engineers’ delight.

There was an hour to chill at the gate.  I made the obligatory phone calls to my parents & then sat there contemplating what I forgot.  I was still keen to think of what it was that was missing.

Walking toward the plane – named “Helka” – I was excited in that I knew I had a window seat.  I knew the plane had two sets of six rows, meaning window seats were either A or F; and I had 5A.  As I stood in the hallway a few people back from the door, I stared through the window & an estimated about 5 seats back… right on the wing.  It had to be.  Crap… I score a window seat without even having to ask; and I get it on the wing.  A whole trip’s worth of aerial photos out the window, so to speak.

I was slightly confused, then, to step on board and find that the first row of coach (rather: “economy class”) seats was row 9.  I attempted to put two and two together, but my brain didn’t seem to quite believe that I’d be in front of economy class.  Slight tangent…  I miss just calling it “coach” or even the old-timey “3rd class”.  I’m not an economist; I don’t belong in economy class.  If anything the people in 1st class have a greater impact on the economy: they should be in economy class.

OK tangent over.  I hesitantly made my way into the already-seated Saga Class area.  Sure enough: row 5 was in there; and 5A was empty.  I felt kind of bad being dressed as a bum – flip-flops, quick-dry convertible cargo pants, baby blue LBI taxpayers’ association shirt, and already sweaty from the heat wave… here among well-dressed business folk.  I sat down expecting a flight attendant to ask me to leave.  (another tangent… it’s stewardess!  What among the aviation lexicon hasn’t become more politically-correct over the last few years??)

Anyways, I sat there and no one seemed to ask me to go to my correct seat… and then I spotted a little card on the armrest indicating that I’d been bumped up.  Win.  Seriously, I have amazing luck when I travel… this contrasts to my Mom, who brings rain anywhere she goes.  Now I should say that Saga Class isn’t necessarily 1st Class… there wasn’t really a 1st Class at all.  I’d say it was more 2nd class… 2 seats per set; wider; more leg room.  You know: 1st class before we all outgrew 1st class seats and they swapped those out for double-sized recliner mini-cabins.  I was in the 1st class of yore.

Hoping to dispel the awkwardness of being underdressed & also asking him to change seats, I immediately introduced myself to my seat neighbor in 5B.  He was an older gentleman and a bit portly, but typical of pretty much every man his age who isn’t a fitness guru or bicycle commuter.  It turns out he was actually Iceland’s former Ambassador to the United States… so that was kind of cool.  Wish I could have that luck at the end of my trip when I'd have been able to rattle on a bit about his home country.

The meal I selected was a chicken breast with mushroom cream sauce and a pesto.  It was OK… didn’t taste any mushrooms and the pesto was weak; nor could I identify the orange things I was eating.  That last bit should amuse my Richards side of the family – they weren’t carrots!  I think.  I have a bit of a history with cooked carrots.

The sky never went to full darkness.  While the sun was nearly past the horizon when we took off, out ascent brought it right back into view.  It reset beneath the horizon a few minutes later, while we were somewhere over western Maryland.  It never really got dark, though: its glow just skirted around the north before rising again in the northeast.

Our course was originally plotted as taking us just west of most of the major eastern seaboard cities; we actually flew just east of the cities: affording me great views of Philly, New York City, and a host of others.  With a 5 hour flight and about 1.5 of those hours spent with my head glued to the window: I knew I’d be short on sleep the next day; but hopefully the excitement of a new adventure would provide me with the energy I needed.