Flight12am I went to sleep, 3am I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep, so I decided to get up, get my shower, and finish packing. I figured for my 6:55am departure, I should aim to arrive at the airport at around 5:30 to give myself enough time to figure out where to park and find the ticketing lobby and who knows what else I've never had to do before and would need to figure out for the first time.
So I was driving towards the airport and looking for signs for long-term parking. I've gone to pick up and drop off friends before, so I knew where short-term parking was, and that the entrance for long-term was in the same place, just a different lane. However, that long-term parking was in the parking garage and quite expensive. That's not what I wanted. I wanted the parking that's way out in a distant lot where I ride the shuttle back to the terminal. But I didn't see any signs for that anywhere. I end up in the lane for long-term parking at the garage, and I grab a ticket, thinking that no matter where I park now, the ticket I'm holding will be the expensive rate. So that means there's probably no way to get to the cheap, distant lot from within the expensive, close one. D'oh! Now what do I do? Well, I saw a sign that says "additional parking ->" pointing outside of the garage, so I followed it with low hopes it might take me to the cheap lot. But it didn't. It was just a little area to the side of the parking garage. So, screw it, I parked there.
I grabbed my two bags and walked into the terminal, found the United ticketing line and got my tickets processed and checked my big bag. The agent first looked at my ticket and said "you'll be flying to Albuquerque today?" I'm like, "no... Boise..." They had a little laugh and assured me I would go to Boise. I guess they were trying to crack jokes before 6am. Bad idea. They told me to board at gate A10.
So I started my short walk towards concourse A and on the way glanced at a Departures screen, and saw that it listed my flight as departing from gate A11. But didn't they just tell me A10? Hmm... I checked my boarding pass, but the gate was left blank, so all I had to go by was my short-term memory. Before 6am. I could've sworn they said A10. Oh well. I got to the security checkpoint and the line was maybe 10 minutes long. I was through and walking towards my gate and it still wasn't 6am yet. Everything was taking a lot less time than I was told it would. I was looking at nearly an hour wait. Turns out I would've had plenty of time to drive around looking for the cheap lot, but I couldn't have known that then, and it was too late now since I already went through security.
I got to the end of the concourse and looked at gates 10 and 11. Neither one were marked with my flight number, and weren't even staffed. They didn't even have computers at them like the other gate counters did, like they're not even in use. However, I saw that gate A9 had my flight number on it. I dunno, I might have the numbers wrong, but there were certainly 3 conflicting pieces of information. I sat with one group of people for a while, but they were on a different flight that departed around 6:30. Then I got up and was walking around, looking out the windows, when they called my flight number. And you know how you can never tell where the person speaking is standing, because the speakers are spread all over the place. So I walked over and it turns out we didn't board through gates 9, 10, or 11. Instead we walked out an exit door to walk across the tarmac to our little prop plane. One of those 3 gates is actually a staircase for just that, but they didn't use it. They used a separate staircase instead. Weird.
So we all get out onto the ground and I'm walking towards the plane nearby, noticing that it's a small jet, whereas I was pretty sure our plane was supposed to be a prop. I started to get worried I might be in the wrong place, but then a ground crew guy at the base of that jet directed us past it to a plane further out. That was our prop. Whew.
We boarded and I got a window seat on the side of the aisle with 2 seats (the other side has one seat). A family sat near me and their little girl was assigned to my seat, but she asked her dad to switch with her. I can't blame her. I must've looked scary. LOL... During the flight, she also changed seats with her mother and older sister like 3 times. Weird.
The plane was loud and the propellers weren't even moving yet. We're sitting there getting comfy and then some United agents boarded the plane and announced an over-booked situation, and asked if anyone would volunteer to change to a different flight. They specifically asked if anyone was heading out west, such as to California, saying they could put us on a flight to Chicago within an hour and to our destination within a short time after that. It sounded I was exactly what they were looking for, but I didn't think it was a good idea to get creative my first time flying. My parents knew my itinerary and were expecting me to arrive in Boise on a specific flight. Plus I had a checked bag and who knows if that would end up in the right place if they tried to change stuff around. So I kept my mouth shut. They worked out the situation some other way.
Finally the propellers start up and then I can't hear a thing. I saw the flight attendant hold up some items and put on an oxygen mask, but if there was anything being spoken, I sure didn't hear it.
We taxied out and found our runway, then the props revved up to full power and they actually got quieter. Some mechanical engineer could probably explain why. But it's probably something simple, like the vibrations at higher RPMs are of a higher frequency that doesn't shake the plane like lower frequencies do.
Anyway, we're zooming down the runway, and I feel the nose go up, and then there I was, airborne for the first time in 24 years. For all practical purposes, it was my first time flying. And it was great! :)
I had my neck craned into the window nearly the whole time. I tried to find landmarks I'd recognize, but we didn't fly over RIT or anything. And then pretty soon we were surrounded by clouds so it was pointless, but I still looked. It was such a great feeling.
The flight attendant came around taking our orders for drinks, then started carrying our stuff to us from the front of the plane. No service cart on this little thing. But ironically, this was the only plane of the 5 I flew on that had both a tray table AND a cup holder. The rest just had tray tables. Maybe because the smaller planes tend not to be as smooth of a ride. But this one was perfectly smooth.
As we descended into the D.C. area, I tried to find opalcat's house, but didn't recognize a single thing I was looking at. :) We landed and deplaned at one concourse, but my next flight was departing from another concourse, so I followed the signs and ended up on one of their Mobile Lounge vehicles that took me across the tarmac to the next concourse. Then I had to walk all the way to the end of that concourse to find my gate. They were boarding first class spiffy people through door A and the rest of us peons through door B. I got pulled aside for a screening and the guy inspected my shoes and wanded the bottoms of my feet for powder and looked through my bag. Fun times.
I got on the plane, and this was a big one - a 777. Two aisles, separating rows of 2, 5, and 2 seats. I was in the aisle seat of a side section. A younger guy had the window seat and seemed content, so I didn't beat him up for it. This plane was decked out, lemme tell you. My seat had a neatly folded blanked and blue germ-repellant pillow on it when I got there. There were LCD video screens on the back of every seat and a number of video sources to choose from so every passenger can watch whatever they want. One source was a map of the flight that provided live information about the plane's orientation, position, altitude, speed, outside temperature, and time to destination, as well as maps at multiple zoom levels showing the cities and land features around the plane's current position. Talk about high-tech! A flight attendant came around passing out headphones sealed in plastic bags. Wow.
There was a bit of a delay getting out of Dulles. Congestion on the runways I guess. We sat for 20 minutes and taxied for 10 more before finally taking off. Then shortly after that the flight crew came around to give us our "continental breakfast." It was a muffin with egg, ham, and something I guess they would call cheese, but I ate it and it didn't harm me. They also gave me a banana, which was good except that it was refrigerated and therefore not as deliciously mushy. Then the movies started. There was a selection of like 4 movies, but one of them was Monsters, Inc. so the others didn't stand a chance. :) I sat there watching the movie and enjoying my complimentary airplane food, but for some reason I just felt like shit. Total muscular discomfort, lack of sleep, strange food in my stomach, and the inability to fall asleep. It was torture, even though I was watching a movie I love. After it ended, I switched to the map view and tuned the audio to the channel where I could hear the pilot's radio. It was cool to hear a little dialog with a control tower mentioning my flight number and a change of heading, then I'd notice the plane turn and the icon on the map would follow along. I was so entertained, but still uncomfortable.
We finally got to Denver and came in for our landing. There must have been a crosswind or something because I noticed that after touchdown, the plane changed orientation a bit until the wheels found the direction of the plane's movement. That has to be a scary thing for pilots to get used to when they're learning.
I couldn't have been happier to be up and walking around. But I walked off the plane about 2 minutes after my connecting flight's scheduled departure time from a gate at the other end of the super-long concourse. Crap crappety crap crap crap. So I'm walking, I'm walking, I find one of those moving walkway things and give it a try... nearly fell on my ass the first time, but got the hang of it for the next one. I got to the gate and saw a bunch of people sitting around, but wasn't sure if they were with my flight or not. So I asked at the counter if my flight had boarded yet, and they said no, because the flight crew wasn't all there yet. Whew.
So after a little wait, I got on the plane and settled into my window seat. This one was a 737-300 with one aisle and 3 seats on each side. As we taxied around we got to the end of a row and turned, and I could see 10 other planes that were behind us in line. We finally took off and I was enjoying the view. But there wasn't a personal video screen or map on this plane so I didn't know where I was. It was a shorter flight so there wasn't a movie or meal, just a beverage. While flying over the area I noticed all these green circles everywhere. I figured they had to be farms with radial sprinkler systems, but why? Back home I've seen sprinkler systems on wheels that would roll along the length of a rectangular field. What's the advantage of a radial system that would make it worth the loss of usable land at the corners of the square plot? Any horticulture experts out there wanna "field" this one? :)
We made our approach to Boise and looking out the window, I was able to see the Lucky Peak Dam. I hadn't been there in 20 years but I still remembered it. It says "KEEP YOUR FORESTS GREEN" on the side but I couldn't make out "FORESTS" from the air and couldn't remember what it said. But I found out later in my trip when we visited it.
The landing was amazingly smooth, and the flight attendant on the intercom acknowledged it. As I walked off, I felt like my bladder was going to burst. I didn't see any bathrooms in the concourse, so I kept going towards the terminal and there stood my parents, waiting outside the security checkpoint. They had just gotten into town an hour or two earlier by car. Boise was just one stop in their road trip around the country. They'd left home 2 weeks earlier so I hadn't seen them for a while. It was nice to see a familiar face.
Well we headed toward the baggage claim but I had to piss like a racehorse so I found a bathroom first. I came out and my mom showed me a screen they were watching that showed them a radar map of all the flights coming into the airport and she thought it was slick shit until I told her about the map on the personal video screen on the 777. :)
So we went to find my bag, and just like me, it was the last one off the plane. But at least it made it. And so did I! :)
BoiseSo my parents took me to their car and drove me from the airport. I was kinda hungry, so we were looking for a place to find me something to eat before going to Mumsy & Pop Pop's (my mom's parents). We drove around and around... at one point I saw a street named "Opal St." I wanted to take a picture but didn't have my camera out. Sorry, Opal! :) We ended up finding a burger king and drove thru. I got a Whopper meal and wanted a frozen Coke, but they were out, so I got frozen lemonade instead. After my dad orders the Whopper, the cashier asks, "Fries or onion rings?" Without even asking me, he says "No." She asks again, "Fries or onion rings?" He says again, "No, thanks." She asks again, "Fries or onion rings?" I told him it's either/or and I'll take the fries. So he says "Fries." Dang that was amusing. Idaho people are funny. :) The frozen lemonade sounded good to my mom and dad so they both got one, too. It turns out they're carbonated though. That was weird. We wouldn't have gotten them if we knew that, but they were at least tolerable.
We meandered over to Mumsy & Pop Pop's... They live in a 4-story, 3-building complex for seniors, equipped for "complete electric living", whatever that means. To me it seems like a normal apartment building. Their place has 1 master bedroom and bath, one guest bedroom, another bathroom, kitchen/dining room, living room, and balcony. The only aspect of assisted living I noticed was that I think the place is kept clean by the complex. Forgive me, M&P if you clean it yourself. :) I also saw that they drop off breakfast in the morning at the door in a bag. Other than that, it seems like any other apartment.
So I walked in the door and Mumsy says "stay RIGHT THERE" and comes over and plants a kiss on my cheek before I even have a chance to put down my two bags and Burger King stuff. Pop Pop settles for a handshake. So we shot the shit for a little while and I finished my BK, then we sat around and talked, but my mom noticed my eyes seemed a bit heavy and said I could take a nap if I needed to, so I did that. And did I ever need it! I got woken up for dinner. We had corn on the cob and chicken and other goodies. Yum!
After that we headed over to Dave & Peachy's... my uncle and aunt. Dave is one of my mom's 3 brothers. It's about a 10 minute drive to get there. They live on the end of a road just as it starts to go up a mountain. It's a very neat little house and Peachy keeps it that way. The lawn is immaculate, bordered by curvy lines transitioning into a tiered garden. For the area, it's a big lawn, but really only big enough for a game of badminton.
Well we got there and said hi to everyone. My cousin Dennis was there but his brother Neil wasn't. I hadn't seen them in 20 years, so it was like meeting strangers. In fact even Dave and Peachy only looked vaguely familiar, and that's probably only from my mom's photos on the wall at home. Well soon enough, Pop Pop ordered me to go play some piano for him. So I pulled out my Jon Schmidt. :) They seemed to like that. And I was sure glad to have my fingers on a piano again. It's like a pacifier for me or something. Hehehe
Well my parents and grandparents left a little after that to go pick up my brother Rick at the airport after his flight in from Phoenix that night. They all spent the night at M&P's. I stayed at D&P's and spent the night there. They had a nice hide-a-bed upstairs for me. My brother was content sleeping on a couch at the other place.