Tuesday, April 5

California Here We Come

No need to hurry this morning, so we meet at 9AM for the shuttle to the airport. But for some reason we take a looooong time to get in the air, it is 11 before we blast off. In the meantime, it is the loveliest of mornings. Clear blue sky, cool temps, the wind has stopped. As we are running the engines up, three fighter jets taxi by after landing. As they pass, each young pilot swivels in his seat and salutes our grand old lady....Peggy and I tear up.

After take off, she and I are instantly hungry and get into the snacks. Gene comes back to check on us and gets into the food too. We never know when our next meal will be and sure enough it is nine hours later. We are going to fly high today to check our engine performance at high altitude and so we nestle in under our blankets as it gets colder in the cabin. The terrain is different today. The color scheme is beige, taupe and black with occasional white salt deposits. Once I saw an area of blue tinge. Again very dry and more mountains. And even fewer signs of human habitation.
As soon as we cross into California, there is a lot more green, even on the mountains. We go over Palm Springs and see many golf courses. There are also snow capped mountains. Then we are in wall to wall humanity. Ick~ sure wouldn't want to live here.

Zane offers one of us a seat in the cockpit for landing and I send Peggy. Dave Buffington is in the left seat.
Then the fun begins. Steve calls L.A. a logic free zone. There are a series of odd maneuvers that I do not understand. Steep descents, climbs and a circle over the ocean before finally landing. I find out that air traffic control brought us in way, way too high and a missed approach was declared. They again demanded the same altitude but the plane was unable to get that high that quickly before the next approach and so we go in 1000 feet lower, but still too high. It is a strain on the old plane and on the engines. And the guys are all upset about the very odd instructions from Air Traffic control that caused the missed approach. We taxi to the old American Airlines hanger where the plane will be kept overnight.

Meanwhile a contingent of American managerial types and ground crew have gathered around the plane. And after some finagling, we get backed partially into a hanger. We have been assigned a TSA agent to watch us...we are told that if one of us goes anywhere then all must go as we all must be within her sight at all times. The baggage is unloaded and the cleaning begins. Peggy and I work on the interior, stowing things out of sight, putting the display pictures out and generally spiffing, while the men seriously work on the outside. They are all over the plane, cleaning, buffing and polishing. We are told that the Chancellor of China will be on hand tomorrow, maybe the CEO of American, the mayor, maybe the governor.

We then load up again and are driven to a gate where we enter and then exit the terminal and catch a bus to our hotel. On the way we stop at an airline gate and pick up Zane's wife, Deanna and her sister, Mary who will continue on to San Francisco with us. American Airlines is putting us up at the Embassy Suites where they overnight their crews. The hotel is mission style, beautifully landscaped on the exterior. The entrance is all tile and decor and flowers. The atrium is the same but with the addition of falling water and fish ponds filled with fish, turtles and ducks. Our rooms are true suites with living and sleeping areas. A sink and vanity in the room as well as the bath. A door to the atrium and a balcony on the other side. Really, nice..

The gang meets for happy hour and then for dinner in the restaurant. Tonight is Gene and Sheryl's wedding anniversary and Steve orders champagne for the occasion. The dinner is delicious and we have excellent service. We know we are getting road weary as when Deanna and Mary ask questions about the trip, we cannot remember. Where are we, how did we get here, what day is it? Somehow the subject of the Seven Dwarfs come up and we can only name six. Zane finally nails it: "Bashful!"
Pick up is not until 10 on Tuesday. This is quite a relief for us. The hotel has an excellent hot breakfast. The tension of the day is whether we will have to go through airport security to get back to the plane as we all have non regulation things in our bags. We are told that it will be handled and hope this is correct. So now it is SHOWTIME.

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