Trip 3:Sunday, September 17

Up at 6:00 a.m. (yawn). We were all a bit subdued this morning. Judy and Geoff are actually sorry to see me leave!

We had toast (with Judy’s homemade gooseberry and cherry preserves) and coffee, then loaded my gear in the car and headed out. Down from the mountains and across town—a 1-1/2 hour drive—to the Melbourne airport. Judy and Geoff parked the car and came into the airport with me and, after I had checked in, we had coffee and donuts in the lounge. Then it was time to say farewell and get on the plane.

There was a nice young man in the seat next to me—Terry—and we chatted and exchanged business cards, in case he and his wife ever get to Chicago, and please look them up if I’m back in Australia, and he has relatives in New Zealand—and all that friendly, open, hospitable, Down Under stuff. Pleasant conversation made the flight go quickly.

The weather in Sydney is appropriate for departures—a bit dreary, gray, and a little drizzly. Actually, Sydney really needs the rain—it’s ending a nasty drought. So I’m pleased for Sydney. However, there is definitely a Shakespearean “weather reflects the mood” element for me, as well.

It is proving easier to go home from Melbourne. It would be much more difficult leaving from anywhere in the outback. I like Victoria tremendously, but not with the delirious passion with which I love the really “out there” places—the red rock, spinifex, ghost gums, and lizards places. So this has been a good, civilizing, “coming down” time, and I can leave relatively easily.

It’s a half hour till take off, but we’re all already boarded and settled in. There are a couple of boisterous youngsters in the row behind me, who keep kicking my seat—but at least they haven’t cancelled the flight! Actually, I’m quite pleased with my seat. It’s farther back than I like, but I’m not over the wing, so I have a great view and the possibility of taking photos if something looks great during the flight. The flight is full, but it’s still a bit nicer than the flight out, as I’m not in the middle of the center section.

The pilot just announced that it will only be 13 hours to LA! Prevailing winds are with us this time. That extra 1-1/2 hours may not seem like much, but every little bit helps.

On the ground in LA, customs was quick and friendly, as was security for the flight to Chicago. However, I’m amazed at how complicated they manage to make things. We landed at the domestic terminal, then had to take a bus across to the international terminal, for customs, then, after customs, duty, and rechecking our bags, we had to go outside and wait for another bus to take us back to domestic for the continuation of our flight (different plane for the shorter, cross-country flight, but still part of the same Sydney to Chicago ticket). Then the bus dropped us at the wrong door, we all went in, then all came out, and eventually found the outside escalator to the departure level. None of this was bad, or even really significant, but is simply symptomatic of the inability of anyone to make things easy these days.

Of course, it’s not just LA that has issues. At O’Hare in Chicago, we committed the grave sin of landing 15 minutes early, which means the plane had to sit on the tarmac for 25 minutes before they’d even think about giving us a gate assignment. There are times that it’s cool to live near the world’s busiest airport, but there are times it is merely wearying. (That said, sitting on the tarmac is still better than circling. I’ve done enough of that in my years of traveling)

The jet traffic may have been crazy, but there was no car traffic. My cab arrived in 5 minutes, and we were out of the airport with astonishing speed. The sky is blue, the sun is shining, and there’s a cool breeze.

It may be hard to believe, but I’m glad to be home.

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