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MY KENYA DIARY: IN QUEST OF EAGLES
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mardi gras madness mileage run part 4: sailing east to go west

2006-03-07 - 7:22 a.m.

Note: To read the previous episodes, click:

Monday, February 27, 2006

I caught the Circle Line tube at Paddington to Victoria, then bought the cheap ticket to Gatwick. The train was almost ready to leave as I stepped up, so I had excellent timing. There was a minor glitch at the airport. A note came up stating that I had a paper ticket, which I didn't. But it took the clerk a phone call and maybe a grand total of three minutes to make it right. Once through security, I spent my remaining British change on two fashion magazines and two giant chocolate bars. One of the magazines came with a spring handbag attached, which was pretty sweet. And the reason I got two chocolates was because the clerk told me that the giant chocolate bars were half off if you bought a magazine. Pretty good, huh?

At LGW they send club members to the Continental Lounge, which was very nice. They had everything so that you could mix your own drinks and a generous selection of treats. I mixed a genuine Bloody Mary with Tabasco, Worcestershire, salt and pepper, lime, and 3 olives. But I only used a half jigger of the Smirnoff vodka, since, after all, it was still pretty early in the day.

There were lots of huge, huge people on this flight. I mean seriously huge -- 400, 500, maybe even 600 pounders. Fortunately, they were smart and had booked into business class. I wonder if it was a travel club or support group or something. A couple of them were obviously families or mothers with daughters. I know, it's none of my business. Scorpios are snoopy.

LGW-DRW, seat 10A. The menu was a double Dewar's with soda, then red wine with the meal, which was a not-real-good chicken teriyaki, an OK salad, and a pretty OK brownie.

I watched two movies. Weatherman was remarkable for how far they had dodged the features out of Nicholas Cage's face to bring his age down to around 30, which was especially odd since his main character had a son of 15. Guess he was a child bride. The other film, Man on Fire just seemed to go on forever after I'd figured out what the situation was. Also, at the beginning of "Man on Fire," they said, There is a kidnapping every 60 seconds in Latin America, which I am confident is a load of happy horseshit. Only if you count Los Angeles as Latin America and count every carjacking as a kidnapping! Seriously, don't the screenwriters own calculators? Let's see, 60 seconds is one minute, 60 minutes in one hour, 24 hours in one day, 365 days in a year -- that's 525,600 people kidnapped a year. I doubt it's 5,000.

At DTW I hit the showers at the club. I must have screwed up the door lock because another lady walked in while I was toweling off. Oops. I hope she isn't traumatized for life.

I charged the phone and had two Bailey's on ice and four of those terrific sugar cookies. When the phone was sufficiently charged, I called Roger, but I must have sounded like I was in a diabetic coma. I could tell that I was making no sense whatsoever. I called a few hotels in Minneapolis. They were cheaper by phone than on the internet but still not cheap enough to convince me to book in advance. One of the ladies let slip that, "Oh, there are lots of rooms left," so I figured I had nothing to worry about.

DTW-MSP, 757-200, 2B. The plane was late and we didn't get a pre-boarding cocktail, but once the flight was underway, the white wine flowed freely. There was no one in 2A and after I finished my book, I scooted over to the window seat and watched the lights go by. I could see Orion and Sirius nice and clear for most of the way. However, once we actually got close to the city, it clouded up. No northern lights for me.

I encountered a completely confused older lady who didn't know how to get the shuttle to her hotel. Since I was going that way, I called her hotel and got them to send the shuttle out. Then I called the Comfort Inn and got them to offer me a better deal on a room since it was getting late. Actually, I think they offered it to everyone who got off that flight, because their free shuttle suddenly filled up out of nowhere.

Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Feb. 28

Their free breakfast is high carb enough for British standards. After some head-scratching, I got the Toasty O's cereal rather than the waffles, the oatmeal, or the huge display of doughnuts and pastries. Then I caught the free shuttle back to the airport.

I had to get the rest of my boarding passes today because only two of them had printed out at Gatwick, LGW-DTW and DTW-MSP. The ticketing agent looked shocked when she saw how many boarding passes came spitting out of the machine. "Is that right?" she asked in surprise. I assured her that it was, and she just shook her head in amazement at the insanity of it all. Although she clearly thought I was a nut, she just as clearly assumed I was a harmless nut, since I didn't get singled out for any extra screening or anything. In fact, I had plenty of time to stop by the MSP club and make my Mardi Gras Bloody Mary (no olives here though) and watch the coverage of Mardi Gras on CNN. They seemed shocked that it was a family event. I mean, hello, it's parades and marching bands and plastic beads and masquerades. How is it not obvious that a large part of the party is for kids?

MSP-PDX, seat 27-A Exit. The lady apologized and said that they had a long waiting list of platinums for this leg. I didn't mind. I had my special seat! The guy next to me was sure in the Mardi Gras spirit. He ordered 3 bottles of Jack Daniels and pretty soon they brought him 3 more. (It seemed apparent that he was a familiar face to the staff. They offered him one or two bottles for free, even though we were in coach.) I'm too cheap to, like, actually pay for booze, but it was going to be a long day anyway, so I just had some of the La Croix Wisconsin sparkling water.

In Portland, I had 3 bags of baby carrots (without SpongeBob on the wrapper) in ranch dressing and a glass of white wine for lunch. There wasn't really a lot of time. In fact, there was less time than they had said, and when I emerged from the club, they were already halfway through the boarding process. Uh oh.

PDX-HNL, seat 27-A Exit. Not much to say. Since there was no one in the middle seat, I took a nap.

At Honolulu, I dropped off my backpack and heavy coat at the club, then grabbed a glass of red wine and tried to call Roger. I wanted to see if you could really call on Sprint from Hawaii. Well, in theory you can, but it didn't really work real well. As I talked, I noticed the headline on the newspaper that another traveler was reading, "Shark Attack in Maui." Hoo boy.

I planned to catch a bus or shuttle to the beach, but the clerk at the desk warned me that there was a huge traffic jam going on and that she didn't advise it. On top of that, it was raining. I went outside to walk around the area and quickly got four new life birds on my species list. I even got a photograph of each species. But then it really started pouring down rain.

I went back inside, cleared security again, found the Zen Garden, then found the Continental President's Club which now admits World Club members. No fair. They had fresh grapes and cheese. Where is our fresh fruit in World Club? And of course I had another glass of wine to wash it down. Then I finally wandered back to the Northwest club. When I first got there, it was pretty quiet, and I stuffed my sheepskin coat in the pillowcase to make a pillow, then curled up on the carpet to get some sleep. (No, I don't know why some clubs have sofas that you can sleep on, and some don't. Since the clubs are not open 24 hours, doesn't seem like there would be a real issue of people using them as hotels -- and even if they did, hell, they're paying for it, right?) In any case, I slept pretty hard for a couple of hours and then woke up as some other people began to drift in for their pre-flight drinks. I excused myself to freshen up in the bathroom and brush my teeth, and then fixed myself a Dewar's and soda and talked to the two ladies who had seated themselves near me. They were doctors, and one of them had trained at Charity. I told her that Charity was destroyed by the storm, and she seemed shocked. In fact, I'm not sure she really quite believed it. It's hard to take in sometimes.

One more Dewar's and soda, and then I was on my way.

HNL-LAX, 27-A. The guys next to me were big Hawaiian guys, and there are no bigger guys than big Hawaiian guys. That's where my exit row seat really proved its value, because we were all able to sleep and be fairly comfortable despite their size issues. The plane was a little late though, and I had to run to catch my next flight.

LAX-MEM, 3D. The exact same first class breakfast I had the other day down to the Bloody Mary and crumb cake.

MEM-MSY, 3B. For some reason I had the bright idea to go all low carb and get a drink I'd heard suggested elsewhere on the internet for low carb diets, Rum and Diet Pepsi. Dear God. It was truly nasty. I haven't had anything containing Nutrasweet in years, and I can't imagine how I ever tolerated the stuff. It was the ruin of a perfectly good glass of rum. Oh, and if anyone is keeping score, I did finish and leave along the way all 12 of the paperback books and all 4 of the magazines that I brought on my run. Even though I bought two more magazines, I dropped a significant amount of weight in paper over the course of my trip!

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