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USA

18. 25,000 Miles?


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Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Friday, November 26, 2010

My flight from Paris to Detroit, wouldn’t you know it, departed from a different terminal than the terminal from which my flight from Mauritius arrived so I had to, Guess What? That’s right: clear immigration and customs and go through security again. Oh, well, it ate up a chunk of the six plus hours layover I had to endure. The Air France Business Class Lounge was fine but I couldn’t get WiFi to work there so I didn’t do what I had intended which involved spending time catching up with the world on the internet.

As I write this portion—this final portion—of my commentary on this African Adventure, we are on Air France flight number 378 over the Ocean Atlantique traveling at 545 miles per hour at 35,000 feet nearing landfall over St. John’s, Newfoundland. It is very turbulent, more than the occasional bumps we’ve been having. The captain has just made an announcement—in French—that sent the cabin attendants scurrying to their take off and landing positions where they have just strapped themselves in. They appear to be—not concerned, actually—but irritated. Those “jump seats’ are stiff and straight and uncomfortable. I don’t know that I’ve been in this situation before (where the captain deployed the flight attendants in their formal emergency positions). I’ll let you know if anything unusual comes of it.

I was just listening to a song on the aircraft system with these lyrics:
"Now I lay me down to sleep
I pray the Lord my soul to keep
If I should die before I wake
It’s a mistake"

There are 1,865 miles to go before landing in Detroit and we’ve come 2,120 miles from Paris, according to the video screen that tracks our progress. The business class cabin on this day after Thanksgiving is virtually deserted with only seven customers filling the thirty seats. Everyone is sleeping except for me. No; wait. One guy back there isn’t asleep after all. He must be lying down watching a movie because he just laughed. Or, he could be having a wonderful dream of some sort, I suppose. Considering “destination time” (time at arrival in Kansas City) is now just before one o’clock in the afternoon, it doesn’t make sense for me to be sleeping. I won’t sleep tonight if I sleep now. So, I write.

This part of an extended journey is always melancholy. All the excitement of the adventure is in the past. The thrill is in the doing; not in the completing. There is a different kind of excitement when one is a few hours from homecoming after being gone for weeks. It is excitement in anticipation of hugs and familiar places where being comfortable and at ease comes naturally but life is more routine and less exciting.

But, there is, for me, a way around any sense of letdown. I will immediately begin planning my next journey. When I wrote in the last entry about the Baltic idea, I quickly got an email from Cianán saying he wanted to come along. If his busy life will allow for such a thing, that will provide excitement for the both of us.

Yes, the guy is watching a very funny movie. And, while the air is still rough, the FAs are up and about checking to see that all of us are well buckled.

There are about three and a half hours to go on this leg.

What have been the high points of this trip? Elephants. Lot and lots of elephants. If you know me, you know I love them. Rhinos. I saw more rhinos than I have ever seen before and these were close up rather than far away. Hippos. I saw more hippos than I have ever seen before and these, too, were close up. But the thing that will stick with me the longest is the thing that I had not known to do—had not known was
possible to do: leaping off a rock into Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls and not being swept to my death in the apparently rushing torrent of water. Lying on my stomach looking straight down? What a rush. What a memory.

The weather cooperated. Lodging was good to very good. Food was mostly fine. I got to do what I wanted to do and didn’t ever have to do anything other than that. People ask me how I can tolerate traveling alone. That’s how you tolerate it. You travel for yourself. If you want to sit someplace for two hours waiting to see if a great picture opportunity develops, you do it. If you want to walk and walk and walk even though it is too hot for that, you do it. If you want to go to bed early or get up early or eat late or skip eating altogether, you do it. You don’t have to be concerned with the happiness of another person when you travel alone. That is freeing.

That is not to say that I always want to travel alone. I don’t. Meal times when traveling alone are not fun. Eating alone at a restaurant table is one of the most unpleasant experiences I know in travel life...or home life for that matter. Not having someone to talk with (at something more than a surface level) is the definition of being alone; of isolation. You can read and you can write but not being able to talk and listen? Think about it.

The air has smoothed out and the movie guy is still laughing. The woman across the aisle to my right has awakened. She was busy trimming her finger nails before her nap so I was happy to have her unconscious. I wonder if she’ll be able to irritate me with some other borderline behavior during the next few hours. She is not American.

The meal stunk. The “pan seared hanger steak” was tough. I had three bites and gave up. The now mobile flight attendants have just brought me the “L’instant fraicheur.” It is a raspberry sorbet sort of thing. Lots of seeds, though. About five bites worth. Nice.

Later, before arrival, the business class menu says I am due to receive a “Light Meal” consisting of foie gras with apple and quince, salmon sandwich with guacamole, goat cheese tomato tortilla and a baked caramel apple with raspberry coulis. I wonder if the “L’instant fraicheur” is the same raspberry coulis?

We’ve now come 2,453 miles and, according to the map, have just made landfall over eastern Canada. We’ll be heading up the St. Lawrence Seaway to Detroit from here. Welcome to North America once again. It is good to be home.

TravelPod says I have been "read" on this blog 630 times. Wow. I hope you enjoyed it. TravelPod also says I have traveled almost 25,000 miles. Is that correct? I guess so. Also, wow.

This has been a three continent, two ocean adventure. May I recommend it, or something like it, to you? Sure.

Posted by paulej4 15:50 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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