Are you looking for the bathroom? the young flight attendant asks me. It is just the kind of question that I could expect on any airline, but I quickly gather her subtext.
Let me back up. For a third January in a row, Hannah and I are taking to the airways for California to escape Maine’s single digit morning lows, the dark that comes with 415P sunsets, and the snow without end Amen.
Flying from Logan Airport in Boston, we have a six hour non-stop flight to LAX (Los Angeles) for our nearly two weeks in the Golden State. Packed into a tight space on our Virgin America flight, we are in the air for about the time it will take to play today’s two NFL wild card games.
Before we take off, the head flight attendant informs us that the front bathroom is for first class (two rows with eight people total) and the two back bathrooms are for those in coach (eighteen rows x six across equaling 108 people). A crimson velvet theater rope protects first class passengers from the unwashed behind them.
Some people wear compression stockings to improve their circulation when flying cross-country. Others pay the $100 extra for seats with more leg room. Hannah and I always get aisle seats across from each other so we can stretch out our legs. Another cost saving, leg saving measure is that I walk the aisles of the plane each hour. Hence it is during one such walk heading towards first class that the flight attendant discreetly and sweetly asks her question.
Oh no, I’m just walking the aisle, I say as a relieved expression comes to her face. Whoa. I just think how important it is to maintain the sanctity of first class on Richard Branson’s Virgin America Airlines. That said, they are paying $610 per flight more than we are!
When we fly cross country from East to West we like to leave early in the morning so we land before noon Pacific Time and have the afternoon in the Golden State’s sunshine. That way, non-larcenously, we steal an afternoon of vacation on this travel day. To do all this, we awoke at 230A for our 720A flight from Boston, a 62 mile drive to our south. My friend Bill emails that that “sounds awful.” Maybe so, but what sounds awful to us is driving 3000 miles in winter to get to California from the East Coast.
On this still very dark Saturday, light snow falls as we head out Chases Pond Road.
Arriving at Park, Ride, and Fly in Revere, MA, three miles from the airport we park my Hyundai Elantra and wait, and then wait some more for their shuttle to the airport. One couple grows restless as 5A turns into 525A and no shuttle appears for their 615A flight to the Caribbean. Hannah and I still have two hours to our Virgin America flight but do wonder where the shuttle is.
Among the ten of us waiting, a thirty-something professional woman says, I’m getting a Uber ride if anyone wants to join me. I jump at the chance and think I’ve got to get with it and get my Uber on. While we wait for her Uber the eleven person shuttle arrives with its driver, a wise-cracking combination Matt Damon/Ben Affleck (think Good Will Hunting) Southie driver. He takes nothing personally about the delays, encourages us all, and good-naturedly jokes. Though we had to wait, I tip him enthusiastically in my little effort to support the joyful among us.
With two hours til flight time, Hannah and I celebrate in the predawn Terminal B thanks to Molly and Tip and our friend Mandy. You see Molly and Tip bought us a $5 Dunkin’ Donuts gift card while Mandy dropped off morning glory muffins from Beach Pea in Kittery, Maine. In the predawn dark we munch and sip regally.
Once seated in row 18, I have a first world problem. No ESPN on the seat back TV. A true soldier of the sky, I somehow survive. We love us our non-stop flights. In the past, we have “saved” money flying flights with connections and ended up in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport for hours! Though drinks are all they offer for free, my orange juice goes well with my homemade peanut butter and raspberry jam sandwiches.
I settle into flipping between MSNBC, CNN, and TBS with Seinfeld reruns. Two hours into our flight I check the video map of the flight. We are flying at 450 mph over Michigan at 36,000’ at -78 degrees. Thanks to the prevailing Westerlies, we will fly 582 mph when coming from West to East at the end of our trip.
Heading to southern California, we will have 50 more minutes of daylight than we do on a comparable winter day in Maine.
Our plan once we arrive at LAX near 11A PT is to get our Fox Rent-A-Car and drive 100 miles north on the coast on the 101 to our first night’s lodging at the Quality Inn in Santa Barbara. Immediately we notice the difference in gas prices from the East Coast. This morning in Maine gas cost $1.97/gallon. With gas prices often a dollar more in California we learn that the refinery in California that produces the less polluting gas California requires is working at less than full capacity. Hence the higher prices. You go California!
But there is more than bluff hiking and winter escaping on our minds. We are looking to see if renting a house through VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) in nearby Summerland, CA (four miles south of Santa Barbara) for the month of February in 2017 is in the cards. Our plan is to rent a home so family and friends can visit for a long weekend or a school vacation week.
After two previous January trips to California, we are hooked on its bluff trails, its mountains, and its sunshine as we start a fortnight of California Dreamin’.