Day 1: In Transit

Oslo – Heathrow – LAX

The truth is that the worst day of the trip is usually the first. Travel fever ensures you don’t sleep too well. You’re excited, you worry whether you have packed all you need, or if your alarm will sound when it’s supposed to, or if you’ve remembered that one important travel document that will keep you out of Gitmo, or if you’ll find yourself stranded by the roadside in Death Valley as a result of forgetting that one gizmo you were supposed to have kept by your side at all times.

Secondly, there is no inherent romance in traveling by plane, unlike, say, when you travel by rail. You’re squeezed into a giant cylinder with hundreds of others, you can barely move, and you’re 30.000 feet up in the air, far above anything else on the planet that can fly, a plain fact that will keep the thought “hey, what if there really are gremlins living in the engine, like in that Twilight Zone episode?” locked in the back of your head, as you stare at cloud formations and try to not succumb to cabin fever.

It should be pointed out that our carrier, Air New Zealand, was fine as far as airlines go, and kept us in refreshments for the duration of the flight. They had also installed media centers in the back of the chairs, so you could watch a number of movies and sitcoms and thus keep your mind on a less taxing level for the duration of the flight. After 3 below-average comedies, my brain decided enough was enough and I fell asleep out for an hour or so. Long hauls are always boring, and this was the longest flight I’d been on in quite a while. I’ve flown directly from London to San Francisco once before, so at least I knew what I was in for, and on the plus side, it’s still far better than flying to Australia. (Trust me, that’s a long-ass flight!)

Going through customs was the usual slog, and as always Stig and I ended up in the slowest-moving queue. We were among the first off the plane and among the last to collect out luggage. These days, they take your fingerprints and photograph you, and have for many years, but for all this information, they can never tell that you’ve been there before. We went through the whole “What’s your purpose here? Been here before? etc” spiel, but since I’ve bitched about that on every single occasion I’ve traveled to (or in) the US since 2002, I’ll spare you.

Still, having picked up the rental car, we made it to the hotel without a hitch, thanks to Stig’s GPS unit, which I suspect will be most beneficial for us on the remainder of the journey. We ate a quick meal and had a few beers at Denny’s, then headed to bed and had a good night’s sleep. The fun part of the trip would start the following day.