Stormchasing the USA 2012 – Getting to America

Found a V Australia person and asked where we would be getting ticketed and was standing at the head of the queue before they got the signs out. To my left, the rather large man, who gave the impression to all around him of knowing the inside scoop was standing at the head of the queue next to the counter with a number of people behind him….I’m standing watching from the queue furthest from the counter wondering why he assumed the Economy passengers would get the queue where the First Class people usually stood……yep, he got told he was in the wrong queue and walked up to join the 200 people now behind me in the Economy line…So first through the ticket counter and then, by the time I’d got through Customs and found a cappuccino there was only half and hour to go to boarding. And there I was again first I line to board….except…..the computer had chosen Customer No 1 to go through an explosives check… I got sidelined……

Am I the only one who can see clouds???

Am I the only one who can see clouds???

The plane we are flying across the Pond in today is almost new – row 42 has lots of legroom and 2 windows…wing about 8′ from the new terminal, long walkway out to the plane, also new. Man with Fluoro wands walking under the wing tips till it cleared the building. Mid level haze across Victoria.. Flight time to be 13 hour and 25 minutes!! 901kph 570km into the flight, 9450m, -44C. Crossed the coast about 10 minutes ago well to the south of Sydney…waved to my cousin near Bateman’s Bay as we flew overhead….and settled down for the next 12 hours and 48 minutes. Lunch was butter chicken with vegetables and Basmati rice, a bread roll and cheesecake, I had brought a packet of decent shortbread biscuits with me so had those with a cup of tea..then everyone decided en masse that they needed to use the toilets after the meal and then settled down for the “night” – FFS we’re over Port Vila and I know it’s 5pm!!!!….. I’m enjoying myself watching the interaction of sea temperatures and air mass out the window when I get a tap on my shoulder from a member of the cabin crew…..would I please drop my blind as everyone is trying to get some sleep and there’s only 1 blind up in the plane, and of course that’s mine…..I’m getting daggers from the young girl in the row in front…she’s the one who dropped her seat right back in the middle of lunch and spilt the tea of the little Chinese grandfather sitting next to me….and didn’t put it up……The crew member explained that there was nothing to watch because there was only water out there….I looked him in the eye and said “I’m a storm chaser…..there’s lots happening out there and I’m watching the interaction of the clouds not the water. …… he stared at me ….didn’t have a practiced comeback for that one, did he…..I said that I’d drop the shade half way…and he finally went away….mind you the young girl is still shooting daggers at me!!! We have this same exchange with the cabin crew every single long haul flight we go on….. At 0020 am, they woke everyone up to hand out cute little cardboard boxes called “Beach Box” Tasty Treats and water……little shortbreads and wafers with peach and apricots jam…V Australia has gone a bit classy! This was while I was watching a foodies program where an architect had turned to making “gingerbread folk” ….she had to be ‘politically correct’ – they couldn’t be gingerbread men or gingerbread women…so they had to be gingerbread ‘folk’…another FFS moment!

It’s 3am LA time somewhere in the middle of the Pacific in the starry dark…..just 5 hours before I land on American soil….the first butterflies of excitement about the next 7 weeks are starting to flap their wings….long days on the road looking at the sky…following photographic opportunities….the open prairies, the Sandhills of Nebraska, the Flint Hills country around Hillsboro, the Texas Panhandle and the Big Bend country…the forests of Arkansas and Missouri, the snows of the Rockies….and we will be coming in with a Pacific storm….last heard, the forecast for LA was rain and for Denver was snow…….snow in the mountain time zone and tornadoes in the central time zone!! Catching up with the people we know again, and meeting the people we’ve not met yet but have spoken with on Facebook or have tussled over WWF…conversations across the waters…….still 2,700 miles to go……..Joe Satriani will help cover the miles as the pilot lifts us again, another load of fuel burnt off…up to 35,000’, outside temperature is -51F……not a hint of the sunrise….only been up for 15 hours…still have another 17 or 18 to go…. At 7am the sun suddenly rises over a large Pacific storm complex and the sky below us is filled with a carpet of closed stratocumulus cells with scattered clearings. There’s a pall of haze above the stratocu that we’ve been able to see since before the sun came over the horizon. We’ve finished breakfast, and have less than an hour to go to get to the gate…and then there’s Customs then walk to the next terminal for the flight to Denver, then back through security and onto the last leg of today’s journey form one side of the world to the other. Hopefully there’ll be some snow in Denver, but not too much so the plane isn’t delayed in arriving…..

As always, Customs at LAX is a nightmare….I overtook most of the people getting off the plane and still had to stand in line for 45 minutes..hate to think how long the people at the back of the line had to wait!! The US Customs people are pleasant and efficient and once you get to the head of the line you have all of your fingerprints scanned and your irises photographed…..Clyve found out last year that the state police have access to these records when we were pulled over for exceeding the speed limit, but only enough to warrant a warning….but the policeman took his Australian license and checked him out and came back with a computer readout from the Highway Patrol car that listed his height and his eye color!!!! That information came from the USA Customs!! Then it was off to collect my bag ( there was a blockage on the carousel which slowed things down….then out the front door of Terminal 5 and walk down to Terminal 6, into the lift and up to the 3rd floor to get myself not the next leg of my journey…United Airlines to Denver. Saw someone pushing a luggage trolley full of expensive looking camera boxes..on the side of one was FX3 so I asked him what he videoed….interviews with rich and famous people…..but he was interested in the cameras that we use to get our storm chasing video.

Onwards and up to security to get into the United terminal (you have to know where it is to get there – they hide Terminal 7 really well!! everything had to come off agin, then I forgot about the Australian money in my pocket, and that had to come out, after standing with feet akimbo for the X-ray machine I was politely “frisked” in the middle of the queue by a middle aged, rather large Mexican lady who apologized a lot and then had to take my money belt off as well – security in the USA has got tighter it anything, whereas Australia are getting a bit less concerned, but they still make you use plastic knives on flight out of Australia….I’m convinced it’s because I’m travelling with a 17″ ..laptop – I’ve been stopped a lot and they are always very interested in it. Finally got through, bought myself a grande (middle sized) cappuccino with no flavoring (if you don’t specify, you will get a flavored cappuccino!) and went and sat on the floor at Gate 70B while we waited for a plane from New York that was running an hour late……and ended up sitting next to someone who wanted the window seat, (I was in the middle) and promptly dropped the blind and went to sleep…….woman next to me (who is coming to Melbourne in June to judge the Irish dancing competition!!! (Michelle & Linda…pay attention here)) moved across the aisle and we at least had some space!! Grumble, utter, growl…….another FFS moment!!



In the words of J K Rowling..... ” I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. ” if you enjoy what I write, I'm delighted...if you don't...then I'm delighted..... I'm a retired business manager chasing storms and weather in Australia and the USA, photographing anything that takes my eye, and catching up on my reading from the last 23 years. I've finally got the chance to share my thoughts with the world.
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