Day 1 – getting there (part 1)

Tuesday 14th August

I’ve called this blog entry day 1 but in truth, the first day will end up spanning at least a day and a half. This is because of the time zone shifts we’ll undergo as a part of this journey. We’re travelling half way around the world through no less than thirteen time zones to get from Melbourne to Los Angeles. And that’s just this first leg of the trip. We have another three time zones to pass through from LA to Orlando. We’ll have a five-hour layover in LA before the second leg, although I’m not sure at this point whether that’s going to work to our advantage or disadvantage. It’s going to play absolute havoc with our body clocks. One thing I am certain of is that we’re all going to end up walking around like death warmed up by the time we stumble across the threshold into our rental condo in Davenport, Florida. If we haven’t erupted into meltdowns and/or full-scale throttling of each other warmly by the throat by that time, I’ll be mightily impressed.

For now, all of that seems like a long way off. We’re about half way through the first leg of the flight to LA. We’re flying through the night and have just been served the second meal of the flight – a midnight snack. Time, then, to reflect on the events of the day to this point.

I don’t think any of us really got any significant sleep. For one thing, we were all rather late getting to bed. It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway. The truth is we’re all too excited, or anxious, or scared, about what’s to come for any of us to really expect a decent sleep. Last night, Sandy was having a last pyjama party with her girlfriends and Paul insisted he would ensure I got a good night’s sleep by plying me with alcohol. His theory was that topping me up with Moscato – almost two full bottles as it turned out – would ensure I’d slump into a drunken stupor and pass out for the night. It was a good plan, but I’m not sure how successful it was in the end. Damien popped in about half way through the second bottle to give the kids some spending money for the trip, which was extremely nice of him and Renee. We really do have such good friends.

I had set my alarm for 05:00am but I was only really cat-napping from around 03:00am. In recent weeks I’ve been experiencing some pains in my forearms and hands. It’s like that feeling you get when you cut off blood circulation for a while but then the blood comes rushing back to the extremities. Everything comes back to life again with a tingling sensation. I’ve had that mild tingling more and more lately. It has been keeping me awake quite a bit and last night was no exception. I kept needing to slightly re-position myself so as to allow my forearms and hands to ‘wake up’ again. Sandy thinks it’s the same thing she had when she had carpal tunnel syndrome. Had it not been for this journey, I would have been to the doctor to get it checked out in the past week. Now I’ll probably have to wait until we get to Europe. I could get it looked at in America, but I don’t think that will make much sense. For one thing our insurance probably wouldn’t cover it, so it would end up costing me an arm and a leg (tingling ones at that). For another thing, going through the rigmarole of a diagnosis and surgery to correct for the problem just won’t fit into the schedule I have planned for us all. I guess I’ll just have to grin and bear it for a few months.

Paul insisted that we not attempt to avoid waking him up by tiptoeing around the house in the morning. Between the creaking stairs and me lumbering up and down them with a dozen bags of assorted sizes, there was never much chance of that anyway. For the duration of our stay at Paul’s house, we have displaced him to the couch in the front room. He has tolerated – nay insisted – us using his house as our own for the past couple of weeks. We really do have such good friends.

Right on cue, and just as I had worked up a sweat manoeuvring the last of the luggage onto Paul’s front porch, Kelly arrived with her massive four-by-four to whisk us all off to the airport. I had been worried up to this point that there was going to be no way we would get all our luggage AND all of us AND her and Blake into a single vehicle. The problem is the sheer volume of stuff we have. Since we’re having to accommodate for both warm AND cold weather, we’ve had to pack more than would normally be needed for just our time in Florida. By the time we get to Europe, their summer will have abated and we’ll need to sustain ourselves there with sufficient clothing for the colder weather that will be setting in. We won’t be reunited with our container full of our regular clothing until the end of the year so we’re effectively having to pack double. Notwithstanding my misgivings, however, Kelly was spot on with her prediction. With an amazing feat of Tetris’ing, she squeezed everything in and we all found a seat. With Kelly driving, Joey and Blake took the remaining two front seats with Sandy me and Jennifer in the second row. After cuddles all around for Paul, we were on the road by around 06:20. Kelly coming to our rescue with transport to the airport saved us the need to spend a shit ton of money on a taxi, an Uber or a night at the airport. We really do have such good friends.

The only glitch with Kelly’s car was that one of the seatbelts was not latching. As it happens, it was mine. I wasn’t overly worried. Kelly is a good driver and I had Blake’s head to cushion the blow for me if I did end up lunging forward in the event of an accident.

Armed with my TomTom Go app, we made our way to the airport side-stepping a few queues along the way with a couple of minor detours, which was good since it was full on rush-hour traffic until we got to the city. There was a bit of a hairy moment for Sandy and me when Joey announced he was feeling carsick. The only vomit receptacle we could find was the snacks bag, which was quickly emptied and thrust under his nose to capture anything that came out. Fortunately, nothing did. We rocked up at the airport with plenty of time to spare for the check-in formalities.

During the trip, Sandy was getting repeated messages from her friends wishing her well on our journey. I was scoring her a point each time it happened. I watched on with some longing for my own phone to vibrate but it never did. Hmmm. Maybe people just like Sandy more than they like me? Surely not. Then it finally happened. I was relieved to receive an SMS of my own wishing me a safe onward journey. Excellent, so that’s a point to me and I was going to soon even out the score. But then that same message landed on Sandy’s phone, so we had to share that one. Six and a half points to Sandy and just a half a point to me, then. Oh well. I’ll take it anyway. I did make up for the shortfall eventually when Ree-Ree called to wish us well. A steady stream of FB comments found their way onto our feeds throughout the course of the morning also.

Kelly dropped us all off and went to park the car. Blake, bless him, helped us with finding some trolleys and pushing them into the terminal building to our check-in desks. We spent probably twenty minutes or so in the queue, but it wasn’t an uneventful experience. Sandy had earlier been SMS’ing some of her friends who weren’t coming to the airport for various reasons. It was too early in the morning, they had to get their kids to school, they didn’t want to endure the emotional turmoil (which would have set Sandy off again) and so on. Just as we were finishing up with the very nice man from security asking us about whether we had packed our bags ourselves, etc., we turned around and there stood Suzy and Trina waving and grinning from ear to ear. They had decided to come to the airport after all and kept it a secret from Sandy so as to make it a nice surprise for her. We really do have such good friends.

When we got to the front of the check-in queue, the assistant there was quite accommodating. She really did her best to take care of us. She gave us some priority passes to get us through the security check-point without having to endure the lengthy queues. These would serve to get us priority boarding onto the aircraft as well. The best seating arrangement we could get from the travel agent was two pairs of seats but in different rows. Our lovely assistant rectified this and managed to find us a three and one configuration on the same row (the aircraft is a 3-3-3 configuration). I was actually quite pleased with this, although Sandy not so much. She felt that what we had was a better configuration. On well. That won’t be the last time today I’ll be in the doghouse. I’ll practically be living there before this trip is out.

Thanks to Sandy’s cautious packing, all of the six bags we checked in were a couple of Kilos under the permitted 23Kg allowance. We said goodbye to the bags, hello to the boarding passes and then we all made our way to the nearby restaurant to enjoy a hearty breakfast. It gave Sandy another opportunity to spend a bit of time with her friends, which she was pleased with.

After the last of the chit-chat was had, we wandered across to the security check-point and said our good-byes. My backpack was the only thing to cause concern for the security scanners on account I had forgotten I had a small can of Pepsi I was saving for Sandy. It was duly confiscated, albeit with good humour from the staff, and we were sent on our way.

Next up was the T.R.S. window, where I claimed back around $550 in GST for the laptop and accessories I had bought a few weeks ago. That’ll be a nice little bonus for us in a couple of weeks when that refund is deposited.

All that remained was for us to make our way to the gate where we would park ourselves near an electrical socket to top up all our devices. Unfortunately, our particular gate was at the other end of the terminal building and about as far a walk as could possibly be. By the time we got there, there was very little time left. I found a socket, removed all the charger cables, plugged them all in, found all the devices, plugged all those in and then switched on the plug. It was right at that point that an announcement was made for any passengers needing extra assistance or time with boarding to come to the front. Since we had our priority boarding pass from the lovely assistant at the front desk, this was now the time to put it to good use. However, it was right at that moment that Sandy decided she needed to find a bathroom – pretty much exactly as I would have predicted. Worse still, she took not only her own boarding pass but ALL the boarding passes with her, so we were stuck there until she returned. The silver lining was that it gave me time to reverse everything I had done to hook everything up to a power source.

Sandy meandered back, and we took our spot at the front of the queue near the gate. They wheeled a couple of people in wheelchairs down the tunnel and then we were allowed on. We found our row and were able to get ourselves settled without the hassle of other people around us manoeuvring themselves into their seats, which was nice.

This Boeing 777 is quite spacious and comfortable enough. It’s a fourteen-hour flight so I don’t know just how comfortable we’ll feel by the end of it all, but we’ll take it one step at a time. There are USB charging ports on the backs of the seats in front of us and these are surprisingly good at charging all the iPhones and iPads. Not so much with the laptop, on the other hand. In writing this blog, I’ve gone from 36% to 19% despite being plugged in.

I’ve since taken in a couple of movies, played a couple of games and otherwise explored what the in-seat entertainment system has to offer. I’ve also managed a couple of cat-naps, which I think is about as much as I can expect to get but time will tell.

I’ll leave it there for now and will probably come back with another update during our five-hour layover in LA. I’m hoping that’s enough time for us to nip out of the airport in a taxi to find a Waffle House for breakfast. We’ll see.