I woke up Thursday morning after a rough night sleep of tossing and turning which has become the norm now before a big trip. I am actually surprised that I am able to sleep at all! But by now, I guess I’ve become sort of a veteran at taking these crazy, adventurous trips. All the normal worries and anxieties pass through my restless head. Will the kids do ok while I’m away? Will everything run smoothly at home for my list of helpers while I’m away? Will I get everything done before I have to catch my flight? Will the plane ride be smooth? Will I like where I’m going? And the list goes on.
I always find morning flights to be the best. You are stressed the moment you wake up and hop out of bed, yet then after you arrive at the airport and check in, you can sit back and relax. Afternoon and evening flights are the worst. Then you have the entire day to stress out about it and it pretty much feels like a wasted day. You can’t do much since of course you’ve already packed. Then your mind keeps going and going and a mixture of emotions race through your blood all day long, ranging from anxiety, stress, nervousness to excitement and joy. When you through in the fact you are leaving your family to go half way around the world, it feels even worse and then the guilt and worry come along to mess your stomach up even more. The nerves are the hardest part.
By 3:15, the familiar maroon-colored minivan taxi showed up outside my door. I promised myself I wouldn’t cry or lose it. I had to remember to be strong for my kids. I gave them both multiple hugs and kisses, trying to keep my emotions at bay, and then a final hug and kiss to my husband who had come home early to watch the kids while I left. The kids stood waving in the distance and blowing me kisses. They’ll be fine, I sighed. Thank God they weren’t crying; otherwise I’d be a real wreck. I turned and waved one last goodbye and felt relieved that I could finally leave and get on with the trip. Once I’m in the cab, I’m on my way. I’m always fine and relieved to be past the “saying goodbye” thing which in my opinion is the hardest part about leaving.
I arrived at the airport ready to get out of the cab. Once again, I had a chatty cabbie who talked my ear off about the state of the Minnesota economy. I went through security feeling proud that everything had gone so smoothly until I heard the security agent remind us to take out all our lotions and gels. I opened my backpack to realize I mistakenly packed my bathroom bag with everything inside. My toothbrush, deodorant, sleep aids, etc. Oh well. My first mistake. I’d survive.
I headed over to the place I’d be dreaming about all day, the Surdyk’s Wine Bar and Cafe, an awesome little spot tucked away inside all the mayhem of the airport. I discovered this great spot on a previous trip and couldn’t wait to come back. It is fantastic! I ordered up a wine flight of “adventurous whites” (which was probably a little too much to start out with) and a cheese trio plate that was delightful and fully-eaten. I finally let out a breath of air and let the tension drift out of my neck and shoulders. I knew I had two flights and 15 hours of air travel ahead of me, so the nice alcohol-induced relaxation did me well.
The flight to Chicago was uneventful. It is short and sweet. I arrived at 7 pm to find my traveling partner, my smiling Dad, waiting right outside the gate. We headed right for the lounge where we had another glass of wine together and talked about our trip.
I was flying high and in style. For the first time in my life, I was flying overseas First Class. My dad, being an avid traveler, knows how to work the deals and somehow managed to use miles to snag us two first-class roundtrip tickets to China. I know, this sounds completely spoiling, and I must admit, it is. But since I’m not independently wealthy or famous, to me flying up in the front of the 777 was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done! For once in my life, I couldn’t wait to board that 13 hour flight. I would get to check out what it was like to be one of those people!!!!! Plus of course, it would be a great blog post for my fellow travelers to give them a bird’s eye view of what it is like to be at the nose of the plane.
When I saw my seat, all I could think about was that Fergie’s song, “Glamorous”. I can’t seem to get the words out of my head…
“G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S, yeah G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S
We flying the first class
Up in the sky
Livin’ the life
In the fast lane
And I won’t change
By the Glamorous, oh the flossy flossy”
We boarded our American Airlines non-stop flight to Beijing at 8:30 pm, and this time we got to get on first. I had never been up here before so was excited to check out my home for the next 13 hours. There are four enormous rows along the windows with one seat each, which turns completely flat into a nice, cozy bed. Then there are four rows of two seats running down the middle of the plane which are flatbeds as well. Thus, there are 16 first class seats on the plane and only about half of them were taken. Apparently four of the seats are reserved for the crew to take their breaks. (As I type there are two of the pilots sleeping directly in front of me. It is a strange sight to see! But at least you know they are taking a break).
The flight path is very interesting. Basically the plane takes off and heads directly north over Wisconsin, Minnesota, Canada and travels directly over the North Pole and down into China. Since you leave so late at night, it is pitch black out the entire time. It is so strange to not see the sun for so long, especially when you wake up. Your body is telling you it is morning yet there is no sunlight and you are being served pizza! This whole time change thing is quite bizarre.
My dad and I enjoyed our service with pleasure. We were served wonderful wine, a three-course meal and even dessert. By 11:30 pm, I was utterly exhausted. I could hardly keep my eyes open and probably had a little too much of that free wine. I put on my “free” pair of American Airlines pajamas, turned my seat into a bed and waited graciously while the flight attendant performed a turn down service. They actually put a thin mattress over the seat, a nice warm blanket and even gave me a pair of slippers for the restroom! Wow, it is no wonder these seats cost a fortune! Yet I thoroughly enjoyed this luxury knowing very well that it is most likely a once in a lifetime opportunity. I certainly won’t be flying this way again and know very well that next time I’ll be back there like the rest of the passengers, crammed into a tiny, miserably uncomfortable sardine can like seat for thirteen hours while listening to screaming babies and not sleeping a wink. So, I will enjoy this moment of being spoiled and remember it painfully next time I’m flying in coach.
Note: I’m having difficulty using wordpress here so I may not do too many posts.