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mardi gras mileage run trip report: part 1

2006-03-04 - 6:32 a.m.

all photos 2006 by Elaine Radford
Note: This is part one of my crazy international mileage run in which your heroine flies to London from New Orleans via Honolulu.

Monday February 20th, 2006

The airline's website told me to check in at the airport kiosk or to see an agent. The kiosk said, er, no, you weirdo, go see an agent. The agent said, as the boarding passes came pouring out of the machine, "Oh my God, can that be right, that's three days of flying." Oh well, somebody has to be the weirdo. The journey of 25,000 miles had officially begun.

I have a suggestion for the airlines. Why can't boarding passes be credit card sized or even passport sized? There is never a good place to put them. They're too big, ya'll. I've barely taken two steps before they're either crumpled up in my hot little hand or else they're safely tucked away for safekeeping some place I can't find them without fumbling for ten minutes.

MSY-MEM, DC-9, seat 3D window. Yes, I am a bad evil lady. It's 6:20 AM and my complimentary pre-boarding drink is a Bloody Mary. Hey, it's Mardi Gras time and everybody's having fun and all that good happy crap.

It's 6:45 AM. We're in the air. Sunrise over a bank of pink and blue clouds, but the pink has washed away, and now it's a blue and white polar landscape.

It's 7:25 AM. I couldn't do two Bloody Marys this early. Sorry if I let down the team. I had a can of club soda and watched the guy freak out about the loss of cabin pressurization. He must have had very sensitive ears, because he noticed it way sooner than I did. The flight attendant told him it was OK. But after awhile things got to popping, and then the captain announced that the cabin pressurization device was broken, but it was fine, because we were flying too low to need it, and blah de blah. Nothing like a little taste of excitement to keep you on your toes in the early morning hours.

MEM-LAX, A319, seat 5D. The gate agent said that there were too many platinums, so no room in first class for a mere gold. I couldn't complain with this seat just behind first class with plenty of leg room. I just stuck my duffle under seat 4 and then slid it out after take-off to make my own footrest. There was snow on the ground at MEM, orange and yellow wildflowers on the ground at LAX.

I went to the club and signed up for a 60 day pass. I'll save a fortune on buying food and drink, but we've definitely entered into carb hell now. The buffet offered cookies, pretzels, and apples. Who bitched on flyertalk.com about the Atkins protein bars? You don't know what you've got till it's gone!

My lunch is 1 apple, 2 (wonderful) sugar cookies, a double shot of Bailey's on the rocks. I guess there's always something there to remind you, because the sugar cookies remind me of Lawrence's Bakery, sigh.

OK, 12:15 PM and I just ate 2 more sugar cookies.

12:40 PM and I moved to a plush chair away from the sugar cookies. No more Bailey's either. But I'm wearing my Mardi Gras beads and I did pour a nice glass of the Fetzer Chardonnay.

1:20 PM. Another glass of chardonnay. I'm awful.

1:30. Some of the other club habitues bitched and moaned, and the little packets of Wisconsin cheese have now been put out. They were definitely not worth it.

LAX-HNL, 757-300, seat 27-A Exit. They don't give free upgrades to Hawaii. They don't consider it domestic. Canada is domestic though. Go figure. I knew and I came prepared with my own mini bottles of pino grigio. They were parade packed in New Orleans in plastic rather than glass bottles. OK, not too healthy but, hell, it's just this once, right? They don't feed you either but I had my teriyaki beef jerky and my California walnuts from J's sister in the TV business so I don't need any nasty airline food anyhow. During the safety briefing, the flight attendant said that no one, of any age, is allowed to sleep on the floor of the 757-300. Is this, like, a huge huge problem with that aircraft?

This seat is the best. It's better than 10A because I can put my duffle on the floor and have a footrest, but I have just as much legroom. I stuffed my sheepskin coat in my pillowcase and then I had a full-sized pillow. I pretty much slept like a log, although they woke me at 8:30 PM with a stupid announcement about an agricultural form we were supposed to fill out -- and then they didn't give our row the form!

Since we got off late in LAX, I didn't have time to go anywhere in HNL. But I can kind of, sort of, say I've been in all 50 states now. I went to the club and had a Dewar's and water and a package of Milano cookies. Then I had another Dewar's and water.

Tuesday, Feb. 21

HNL-SFO, 757-300, not just the same kind of plane but actually the very same plane, in the same seat. I slept the whole way and woke up in time to see city lights as we were landing.

SFO-DTW, A320-SR, Seat 2A. Yes, another upgrade, another pre-boarding Bloody Mary. At this point, I'm ordering the free booze just because I can. The first class breakfast was club soda, cheese omelet, cottage fries, two sausages, crumb cake, some fresh fruit. There seemed to be a fair amount of snow out west, snow on the Rockies, snow on the pizza farms, strangely enough an area with greeny-brown on top but snow or ice actually down in the valleys to make fractal patterns.

Time for a free shower in the DTW club room. Oh, it felt wonderful. I washed my hair and after awhile someone came and pounded on the door to see if I'd moved in permanently. Then by the fire I enjoyed a glass of cabernet, two packages of baby carrots with Spongebob Squarepants on the wrapper, 2 packages of sesame crackers, 1-1/2 packages of white cheddar cheese, and a Baileys on the rocks with 3 sugar cookies for dessert. Oh, and a package of Milano's but I'm getting tired of the Milano's. The fresh-baked sugar cookies are soooo much better.

I had a message from my homeowner's insurance on my cell phone. They wanted to give me my check for my ALE. I've already received my check for my ALE. After I kicked up a fuss a couple of months back, they Fed-Ex'd it to me. So I called him back and told him I already had the money and that I was happy now.

Then time for another Cabernet. Damn, these mileage runs are thirsty work.

DTW-LGW, seat 10A. A good seat since no one can sit in front of me but there's nowhere to stow my duffle to make a footrest. They still ply you with free booze, even in coach, on the trans-atlantic flights, so first came the two mini's of Dewars and soda, then came the bottle of wine and a fairly horrible meal. I fell asleep and was out like a light and the next thing I knew someone was asking me if I wanted breakfast.

Wednesday, Feb. 22

I asked for the combined ticket for the slow train from Gatwick to Victoria and then a tube pass that I could use all day. It was 10 pounds. The Gatwick Express, which would get me to Victoria all of 5 minutes sooner, is 14 pounds, and I still would have had to buy another ticket for the underground. I'd just as soon keep that extra $8-10 in my pocket, wouldn't you? I didn't hang around Victoria but headed straight to the Paddington area where I knew I could find a cheap hotel room. Then I headed over to the Natural History Museum in South Kensington where they are celebrating the 100th birthday of the Diplodicus skeleton in the great hall. I presume they mean it has been 100 years since it was pieced back together, since Dippy is way older than a mere century. They also had a life-sized T. rex model that can sense where you are and turn around and roar at you. There was some kind of security concern, since they were checking all bags, even for small items like scissors, and the diamonds had been removed from public display. Maybe they knew that there was something big going down -- at some point during the week, a bold gang of thieves would make off with 50 million pounds -- 100 million dollars.

Here is a cute thing. On the way out of the dinosaur area, they had an animatronic baby dinosaur who was sound asleep. I heard some people walking past ask, "Is he dead?" but if you watched for awhile, you would see him twitch and stir in his sleep.

I never got a complete look at the V and A before, so after I checked in with the dinosaurs, I crossed the street. That's the great thing about London. The museums, the best ones anyway, are free, so you can come and go as you please, without feeling compelled to see everything at one time. I'm never quite sure what the V& A is, other than a hodgepodge of treasures, but their brochure modestly proclaimed them the best museum of design in the world. That's a tiger claw and gold necklace from India, circa 1865, in the small photo, by the by.

In the temporary exhibit, they had a show called POPAGANDA: The Fashion & Style of JC de Castelbajac, about a designer probably best known to Americans for designing the costumes for Charley's Angels. I wouldn't say that all of his designs were that flattering to the figure, but he had a lot of fun stuff like a fur coat and even an entire sofa made up of teddy bears sewn together. At some point I felt a deadly wave of thirst and tiredness, probably jet lag. I was buried pretty deep in the V & A, and rested for awhile by the Raphael cartoons, but I needed actual food. I finally found the cafe but I wasn't real impressed. A ham and swiss sandwich with a small bottle of cabernet was 7 pounds. Yikes. It gave me a second wind, but eventually I felt another huge wave of tiredness and had to head back for the hotel. I did pick up a bottled water and a smoothie at the grocery store.

Dreams, awful dreams, getting caught up on the REM sleep, I suppose. The price of globe-trotting.

Contine to Part 2 by clicking right here.

entrance, victoria and albert

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