Friday, April 8

City of Angels

We are fortunate to have the American Airlines people pick us up in vans and bring us to the Flagship via the employee route. We clear TSA security there and we are rather amazed when they look under the hood of the van. They then open the back, take one look at the mountain of luggage and after verifying who we are and what we are carrying, they slam it shut!
The pilots are off to attend to the plane and the escort of the ladies takes us on a little tour of the tower, this is an American Airlines ramp tower, where they monitor the traffic at the gate area. He then takes us to the Admiral's Club for awhile. We are waiting for a 777 to leave for Japan so that the Flagship can be brought up to that gate. In the Admiral's club we enjoy refreshments and chat. We have a good vantage point looking down on "our" gate and see the Japan plane leave and the Flagship arrive right behind it. We then go down to the gate and get escorted to the plane (we always have to have an escort to go out on the ramp and to return to the building from the ramp) Our escorts are very nice and very patient people.
For the next few hours we enjoy having the American employees tour the plane, they are very excited about it. This makes it so much fun for us. There is one American employee who has her father's log book and shows us an entry where he flew this very plane in 1945. WOW! Once the dignitaries have arrived, we close the plane and go back to the terminal to observe.

The whole gate area is decorated with flowers, balloons and Japanese lanterns, the dignitaries are making speeches in English and Chinese, and there is Chinese musical entertainment taking place. There is also a buffet set up and a view of the Flagship just beyond it. The gate area is crowded with passengers, onlookers and the press. Zane and Peggy are getting a lot of attention in their vintage-style uniforms. People in the crowd approach to ask us if they can tour the plane (they know us by our Flagship shirts), so we go down and open it up again. Suddenly a little after 2PM we are given a hurry up signal to get ready for departure as we will taxi our behind the 777 to Shanghai which leaves at 3. So we all start readying while still touring people through. One group of handsome fellows are the Los Angeles Firefighters who will form an arch of water over the 777 as it taxis out.

Steve Jacobson has spent a lot of hours on flight planning and done an excellent job for this leg and the one preceding it. Zane Lemon is on the phone constantly as a liaison between us and the American Airlines people. American is generously paying for our hotel rooms and gas for the plane to have us here.
Then, off we go again...out to wait departure between two jumbo jets. As we pull out, we notice the two gate balconies crowded with AA employees waving and clapping for us. As we go down the taxi way, it is lined with ramp vehicles all stopped while the drivers are cheering us and taking pictures. We are really feeling so good about L.A. These folks have made us welcome and appreciated this ship we love.

The trip north along the coast is a breathtaking one. Dave Buffington is from Santa Barbara and he plays tour guide, telling us where we are. There are three tiers of mountain ranges on the land side, so green, so beautiful. There are homes nestled in the hills. This is our most scenic leg of the journey to date. The wonderful thing about flying the DC-3 is that we are low and slow, affording one a great view of the ground below. When we get to the San Francisco area, traffic is stacked up and we circle several times over the bay, but do not see the Golden Gate.

We taxied to the old terminal where we were met by our guide, Sailesh Narain, who proves to be invaluable. We had been leaving some luggage and merchandise on board, but this time we had to completely empty the airplane, so it took some time. But now we have four females and the task goes more quickly...we form a bucket brigade and pass things down the aisle. The men then pick it up at the door and load it. Sailesh suggests that he take the luggage through to the baggage carousel but the former American people do not trust that system. The wind is whipping like a gale and cutting through our thin clothes. Just as we think we are leaving the area, the gas truck comes and the men start fueling the plane. The women beg to be taken somewhere out of the wind and we are led on a lengthy walk with all the luggage in tow that ends in the baggage claim area where we are finally warm and out of the wind. After the men come, we all gather luggage again and go out the front of the terminal again into the cold wind to await a shuttle to our hotel. The wait seems awfully long, but right at 8PM it shows and ferries us to the Hilton. Buff remarks that this is our last "bag drag" for four days, we cheer.

We have been receiving texts since we landed from David Gorrell, who has arrived with his wife, Jane, from Utah. Jane is still working as a flight attendant, but also has a vintage style uniform in blue that she made. When we go into the hotel lobby, the Gorrells are there to greet us. Due to the late hour and the cold wind, we decide to eat in the hotel. There are ten of us now. After the meal, Zane presents Mary with her Lifetime Membership plaque and there are toasts. There is always at least one toast at each meal we share. And I might note here, that like a close family, there is usually sharing of food and drink with folks sampling each other's fare. The food on this trip has been wonderful! We have a 7AM departure so no one lingers long after dinner.

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