The Missouri River just south of Chamberlain, South Dakota (about 150 miles west of Sioux Falls).
In some part of my mind, I pleasurably anticipate travel. But I don’t like planning for an airline trip or packing for it. I don’t enjoy dealing with the virtual and physical gauntlet air travel forces us to run. I don’t relish facing the group unhappiness that greets you at the gate and accompanies you as long as you’re in the isolated world of your flight. No, I’m not enamored of any of that.
But from the moment the plane leaves the ground to the moment it touches down, it’s hours of visual poetry (assuming of course I have the window seat I want).
The approach to O’Hare, just west of the airport.
Flew back home last night, a flight that lifted off on O’Hare’s eastbound runway 9R at 6:35 p.m. CDT, circled north, then climbed into a long westering sunset and twilight. We had cloud cover most of the way, but got glimpses of the Fox River, the Rock River, and the Mississippi. More gliimpses: Iowa farms, the North Platte River, Interstate 25 north of Denver. Further west, saw Utah Lake and the cities of Provo and Orem in the dusk. Then mostly blank, dark countryside until we crested the Sierra Nevada, where the lights of the foothills and Central Valley, the Livermore Valley and the Bay Area, all shone.
My seven Chicago days went fast. My dad is prone to what I might euphemistically call confusion about some day-to-day events (a confusion that does not extend to all things, though. When we drive around Chicago, he’s generally pretty quick to answer requests for navigation help). I had told him I was leaving Thursday and reminded him of that a couple times before yesterday. I kept him abreast of my preparations to go yesterday. Still, he twice expressed surprise when I appeared with my suitcase and satchel and said I was heading out. “You are?” he said. “When are you coming back?”
“When would you like me to come back?” I asked. “Tomorrow!” he said. Soon, I hope. But today, here I sit, 1,836 air miles away.
We took off from San Francisco yesterday in weak sunshine, with lots of clouds left over from Sunday’s rain. Heading north and east across the Bay, the clouds billowing up to the west, out toward the ocean, were beautiful I did what I normally do from my window seat: reach for my camera, advisories to keep electronic devices notwithstanding. When I tried to switch it on, the screen said, “Change the battery pack.” Damn. So you’ll have to take my word for it: a long line of what looked like low, low cumulus rising up along the spine of the Peninsula, shrouding the ocean side and leaving the bay side clear.
I may have established the minimum leeway one can leave home from Berkeley, take BART to the airport, and still get on one’s reserved flight.
I had a 2 p.m. flight to Las Vegas. I planned to leave home at 11:30, figuring it might take an hour and a half to get to the airport on BART. That timing would have put me at the airport an hour ahead of time. Through one thing and another, I didn’t actually get out of the house until 12:05 p.m. The BART station is about a six- or seven-minute walk, so I was probably there about 12:12. The train to San Francisco arrived at about 12:21. I grabbed a copy of the timetable and saw that the airport train I needed to transfer to wouldn’t arrive at SFO until 1:31. Gee, that would be cutting it close, but there was nothing to do but take the ride and hope there wasn’t a gigantic security backup. The trains were on time, and I actually got off BART at the airport at 1:30. I waited a couple minutes for the shuttle train to the terminal. There was no line at the security checkpoint; the only delay was the usual absurdity: jacket off, shoes off, laptop out of my bag and in a separate tray; in all, I had to to put four separate pieces onto the X-ray conveyor. The TSA guy opened my small suitcase to confiscate my toothpaste, but otherwise I made it through the check quickly. The gate was very close to the checkpoint, and I made it on board at 1:48. Closer than I would have liked, but all’s well that ends well.
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