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The Corners of the US (Trip Report)

As you all know by now, I made a couple stops around the country on a recent trip that had me on three different airlines. First, it was up to Seattle on JetBlue for the APEX expo. Then I went to New York on Alaska where I met up with my wife (who came from work in Orlando) for a wedding. After over a week away, we flew back on Delta via Atlanta. That might not have actually hit each corner of the US, but it certainly felt that way.

The first flight cost $121.70 on JetBlue and the second $283.70 on Alaska. Both of those were reimbursed by the APEX folks. The last flight home cost $175.40 on Delta. (You might remember my decision-making process on this one.) Overall, it was a good trip.

September 11, 2011
JetBlue 290 Lv Long Beach 705a Arr Seattle 949a
Long Beach (LGB): Gate 23, Runway 30, Depart 12m Early
Seattle (SEA): Gate A10, Runway 34C, Arrive 29m Early
N729JB, Airbus A320-232, Mosaic Tail, “If You Can Read This, You’re Blue Close”, ~50% Full
Seat 7A
Flight Time 2h07m

This was the first September 11th I’d flown on since before THE September 11th ten years ago. Being the tenth anniversary, I figured I’d arrive early in case security was stepped up. That was totally unnecessary. Long Beach Airport ConstructionWe left from the northern gates at Long Beach and the security line was shorter than usual. The waiting room, however, was jam-packed.

With the construction at LGB, we had to walk for about 5 minutes before we got to our airplane. Once there, we boarded quickly – the flight was only about half full.

The flight itself was uneventful as we headed north. JetBlue struck a deal to show a sneak preview of that new Zooey Deschanel show “New Girl” before its network debut, so that was a nice change of pace. (Show isn’t bad, actually.)

Then I watched an hour of NFL Gameday before I had had enough. That’s when it got weird. I flipped to MSNBC where Watching September 11the network was replaying NBC’s coverage from September 11, 2001 in full. I have no idea why, but I couldn’t stop watching.

I saw the confusion when American 77 hit the Pentagon. Then I saw one of the towers fall. Seeing this from an airplane was surreal. I’m not sure why I didn’t shut it off. I kept watching until we arrived at our gate in Seattle.

Once there, I met up with a friend and hitched a ride into town for a very good time at APEX. By Thursday, it was time to move on.

September 15, 2011
Alaska 8 Lv Seattle 905a Arr Newark 525p
Seattle (SEA): Gate D6, Runway 16L, Depart 6m Early
Newark (EWR): Gate B41B, Runway 4R, Arrive 22m Early
N548AS, Boeing 737-890, AlaskaAir.com Colors, 100% Full
Seat 18F
Flight Time 4h41m

I had never flown Alaska for a long haul before, so I was looking forward to it. I took the light rail to the airport and found an insanely long security line – took me I think about 30 minutes Magical Alaska Self Serve Pancakesto get through.

Alaska had been kind enough to give me a lounge pass when I had visited the airline earlier that week, and I was happy to take it so I could see the lounge. But since it took so long to get through security, I only had about 15 minutes to spare.

I went into the lounge near gate D1 and it’s a nice two level lounge with a great view. I went straight upstairs to try the much-vaunted pancake machine. It was awesome. Then I grabbed a glass of water at the kitchen window (which reminded me of a middle school cafeteria, in a good way) and then headed off to my gate.

When I arrived, I found our AlaskaAir.com liveried aircraft already fully boarded. It was still very early, but I got on. Seattle had been murky and chilly all week, so I was looking forward to a little sun. We took off and got through the clouds fairly quickly. Unfortunately, clouds stayed under us for much of the trip toward the Great Lakes, an area over which I had never flown before.

Onboard, I planned on using wifi, and it was lightning-fast. Probably helps to be in a part of the country where very few airplanes are flying.

But I also got myself a DigEPlayer onboard – one of those standalone movie players. This was pretty good, and Onboard Alaska 8I enjoyed watching X-Men First Class, but there were a couple problems. The biggest issue was that I hardly had room for two devices on my tray. I needed a place to hang the DigEPlayer. But more concerning was the cost – it was $14 to rent that thing. Sheesh. I watched one movie and then couldn’t finish the second. That’s a lot of money to pay for 1.5 movies, even if it can access the internet as well.

After we went just north of Chicago, we aimed for Newark. A front was rolling through so there were a lot of clouds, some rain, and a bunch of wind. Our pilots deftly weaved us through the traffic, plunking us down hard on the runway nice and early . . . in Newark . . . when the weather was bad. Crazy.

I took the AirTrain to New Jersey Transit into the city and spent a couple of great days in New York. Thank you to everyone who chimed in with suggestions on Trippy.

After heading up to Tarrytown for a wedding, we headed to Westchester Airport for our flight home.

September 19, 2011
Delta 4951 Lv Westchester 1030a Arr Atlanta 1248p (operated by ASA)
Westchester (HPN): Gate C, Runway 16, Depart 4m Early
Atlanta (ATL): Gate C42, Runway 8L, Arrive 3m Late
N605QX, Bombardier CRJ-700, Standard Delta Colors, ~99% Full
Seat 13A
Flight Time 1h57m

It was a beautiful day Westchester County Airportin New York as we headed to the airport. Westchester is such a tiny terminal, undoubtedly due to rich residents nearby refusing to build an adequate terminal to service the traffic. Instead, the check-in area is tiny with lines criss-crossing all over the place.

We went through the small security area fairly easily, but then we were sitting in the one big hold room where seats were just about completely full. There were four of us traveling together on this flight, and we had to settle for two seats in the waiting area until another flight boarded and seats opened up.

Our airplane, a former Horizon bird that’s now with Atlantic Southeast, pulled up right on time and we boarded the newly Delta-fied aircraft.

There are a few things I hate about the CRJ-700, and the biggest one is the tiny size of the bins. My bag was able to be wedged into the bin, but from the looks of all the open space, not many others were successful.

After a short air traffic control delay (which the captain dutifully kept us up to date on), Delta CRJ-700we took off to the south and I took notice of the significant cabin noise from being in the back. We were just one row behind the exit, but it was really noisy.

We sat in light chop through a high cloud layer much of the way down to Atlanta. The seatbelt sign stayed off, however, and I was able to use the lav. It’s not really that small, but the engine noise is deafening, and this one was pretty dirty.

We landed almost on time despite having to loop around to land from the west. At that point, our two friends went off to their flight to San Francisco and we went to try to get an earlier flight home.

When I originally booked these tickets, the flight was a 757 with wifi. I was looking forward to being able to get some work done after pushing things off all week long as I traveled. That didn’t happen.

Our airplane was replaced with a 777. That’s usually not something to complain about, but I really needed to get work done. When the swap was first made, I called Delta to see if I could change my flight. The agent said I could, but she said that the earlier flight was an illegal connection with just under an hour. That’s actually completely legal, but I got busy with something else and never followed up again. So we stuck with our flight.

But when we got to Atlanta, we figured we’d try to stand by. We went from our C arrival gate to the B gates only to find an agent unwilling to even put us on the standby list it was so full. So we trekked back to the E gates for our original flight.

September 19, 2011
Delta 637 Lv Atlanta 305p Arr Los Angeles 447p
Atlanta (ATL): Gate E12, Runway 9L, Depart 5m Late
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 57, Runway 25L, Arrive 2m Early
N701DN, Boeing 777-232LR, Spirit of Delta Colors, ~99% Full
Seat 45J
Flight Time 4h1m

If there’s one thing I really don’t like about flying, it’s flying through storms. Yet sure enough, there was a big line heading east over Mississippi, and I was getting anxious about it.

This was not helped after we boarded the aircraft and the flight attendant repeated every 5 minutes that the captain said everyone would have to stay seated for the first hour due to rough air, so if anyone needed to go to the lav, they should go before we departed.

She was actually very good at keeping people informed, but it just raised my anxiety. (Yes, I know it’s silly, but I’ve yet to figure out a way to get my fear instinct to accept that.) When we Flying Over Phoenixtook off, we pointed west and climbed to reach cruising altitude before we got to the weather.

In the end, it was a total non-event. We flew right in the cloud tops, and there was barely a bump. About 45 minutes in, the seatbelts signs were off and it was smooth sailing.

We went just north of Dallas and waited for drinks and food to arrive. It took well over an hour after the seatbelt sign went off before they reached our row in the middle of the coach cabin. I have no idea why they were so slow, but it was frustrating We were really thirsty, and I was hungry so I had a tasty roast chicken and red pepper sandwich.

I flipped on a movie but got bored quickly. The screen was a real pain to use anyway because the touch sensitivity seemed to be about an inch to the right from where it should have been.

But that was fine – I could still get some work done while not connected to the web, so I did that and watch out the window as we went far south, barely skirting along the Mexican border over El Paso.

We came up just north of Tucson and landed in LA a couple minutes early.

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