March 9th, 2016. Today we start our airplane odyssey with Virgin Australia flight 6609: Seattle SEA 4:06pm to Los Angeles LAX 6:41pm. Betsy drove us to the airport in a pelting rain. I don’t understand how she could see to drive at all, let alone zig-and-zag through traffic like a pro. She got us there in one piece and on time.
In every airport we passed through we were either standing in long lines and waiting … and waiting … and waiting …. or desperately running with our carry on baggage from one end of the terminal to the other. Not sure why, but that day the terminal was swamped with travelers waiting to be cleared for travel. Even with Pre-Flight clearance, it took more than 45 minutes to wind our way up to security clearance.
Once we got to the security check point we had to empty our things into sorted bins – electronics and keys in one, liquids (shampoo, cream rinse, etc.) in another, shoes and purse in another, and so on. While the bins and bags disappeared into a scanner the owners did the same, stepping one at a time into a contraption about the size of a phone booth. Having had the foresight not to wear any zippers or jewelry, I sailed through the scan. Bob kept having to repeat the exercise until he discovered all of the coins and other metal bits on his person.
While Bob was dancing in and out of the scanner, I went ahead to recover my baggage. Now it was my bag’s turn to be scanned again and again. Finally, a staff member took me and my bag over to a table and went through everything in my carry on. It turned out that my knitting needles were the problem. I had planned to knit on the long flights and had brought along a set of circular knitting needles, scissors, and a crochet hook. The set was advertised as approved for air travel. A TSA agent came over and approved the set, and we were good to go.
Our flight to LAX was uneventful. We arrived about 7:00 pm. First order of business- scope out where we needed to be to catch the 11:00 pm flight to Brisbane. Delta staff directed us to Gate 52B. On the way to the gate we stopped for some dinner at a restaurant called Lemonade that featured what they called “Southern California Comfort Food.” They had a good variety of unusual salads and about 16 kinds of lemonade. Terrific meal.
After dinner we walked around a bit. LAX has lots of public art: mosaics, sculpture, unusual art installations, and murals everywhere. When we arrived at Gate 52B we were told we were in the wrong place. If we were going to Brisbane, we needed to go to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). They hustled us down a ramp and onto a shuttle that took us to TBIT where we sat down to people watch while we waited for our 11:05 pm flight. Evidently there had been a yoga convention in LA earlier that week. Bob and I were seated in the middle of a group of young women who were doing extreme yoga routines, surrounded by dazed travelers watching them bend in ways that just shouldn’t be possible.
At 10:30 pm they started loading our plane. This leg of the trip was on a Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER that seats 361 passengers in a three-class configuration and is used on long-haul routes. There are 33 seats in Business Class, 40 seats in Premium Economy, and 288 seats in Economy Class, configured in rows of 9 with two aisles running the length of the aircraft. Way to close for comfort, though the service was good. The most uncomfortable thing about this 14 hour flight was the pervasive, unpleasant and inescapable smell of Vegemite, Australia’s national condiment. It came mixed in with the sausage, the pastry, the eggs — the incredible, inedible Vegemite. Bob and I passed on the meal and settled down to try to sleep.
Thus ended the second day.