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US,Nov'13-2: Winds/Sands of Time..Windy City-Sandy Ego!

 
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sumantra
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Posts: 4485
Location: New Delhi

PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2015 7:53 am    Post subject: US,Nov'13-2: Winds/Sands of Time..Windy City-Sandy Ego! Reply with quote

US,Nov'13-2: Winds/Sands of Time..Windy City-Sandy Ego!


This is the second part of my Nov'13 US trip. The first part
dealt with the planning for the US trip, and the first part of
the journey by air, from Delhi to Chicago O'Hare.
73. US,Nov'13-1: Tailwinds to the Windy City!
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic14179.html

This is the second part, and covers the part from the point I
headed out of the aircraft, to my reaching San Diego, all on 05 Nov'13.
This part of the report can be found at the following URL:
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic14198.html

74.1 Introduction, starting with the weird title

Yes, this part of the trip report will describe my travels and
travails, from the Windy City Chicago, through to Sandy San
Diego, with the terrible egotistical pun on the phonetics of the
name of the city `San Diego' matching with the sands on its
lovely beaches. It also had something to do with The Wife's
brother, who was settled in the city for some time. He is a sweet,
and completely down-to-earth person, in spite of being extremely
talented in many fields. San Diego residents proudly called their
city, `America's Finest City', and were proud of the
architecture, and the beaches...the sand.
This could be their ego speaking.
As I told him (his nickname is `Andy'),
there is a Sandy Ego, but no Andy Ego!

If the start of this part of the trip report could not be more
ominous, so was the start of events described in this part of the
trip report. At around 06:15 am Chicago time, I entered the tail
of the Immigration line. The line snaked through the fairly large
hall, with only 4 active counters for two flight before us, and a
heavily loaded B77W from Hyderabad and Delhi. We were soon joined
by a plane-load of passengers from Narita, Japan on ANA. The
hall was now completely jam-packed, and the line moved ahead very
slowly, indeed. The entire procedure, till I got my bags, and got
the kerb, took an excruciating two-and-a-half hours.
I came out to the kerb, where I was supposed to take a Coach USA
O'Hare-Midway airport bus. It was about 10 degrees Celcius
outside, and I watched the Indian national flag fluttering
proudly among the flags of a few other nations, in the small
park, outside. 08:50 am came and went, and there was no sign of
the bus, whatsoever. I waited 15 minutes more, and at 09:05 am, I
went in to ask, since I noticed a man now at the Information counter.
He told me that yes, it could be late, and...what was that bus
standing at the kerb now? At 09:15 am, the Coach USA bus from
Chicago O'Hare airport, started off, with me as the sole
passenger from the start, poorer by $24, the trip fare.
The estimated time of the bus was supposed to be about an hour,
but there would be an intermediate stop, where I would have to
transfer to another bus, which would take me to the Midway
airport. By now, I was bored, though I did not have to wait at
the intermediate stop for more than 5 minutes, before the other
bus came in. It was dark and overcast outside, and the driver
announced that we would reach our destination at around 10:30 am.

A few months before my trip, forum member and prominent trip
writer Ameya too had taken a trip between the two Chicago airports on
a Coach USA bus, with van Galder written on the bus. There seems
to be some history to this, since Sam van Galder's bus service
had operated buses on a few prominent routes in the past, such as the
O'Hare to the University of Wisconsin, Madison service (and back), a
particularly convenient service that I had availed of, in 2007. I
had come to the US for a conference in Minneapolis, and had come
via Chicago O'Hare (on Air India, as usual). I had visited my
Uncle and Aunt at Madison - the same Uncle and Aunt who would now
be at their elder daughter's place, who was now settled in Chicago.
Yes, I would visit their place this time.
Some bus services are announced as being operated by the
van Galder-Coach USA company, said Ameya. I replied, asking if
this was something like the Northwest-Delta merger.

Southwest allows passengers to perform a web check-in 24 hours
before the flight. There was no way I could have done this
personally, since my flight from India had left well outside the
24 hour window, which would fall within the flight time. Of
course, I could request someone to do this on my behalf, to get a
`nice' boarding group. The reader may remember that Southwest has
a free seating policy. Unless one pays up, there is no way one
can get a pre-reserved seat. Indians may remember the days of Air
Deccan, which had a similar policy. I had a similar experience on
one of Europe's prime low-cost carriers, EasyJet. It was
interesting to see the stiff-upper lipped British bustling for
space, and trying to get a seat of their choice. On two flights
on EasyJet, I was able to get my favourite window seat only once.
The other time, I got the worst possible option: a middle seat.

That did not look good!
I hurried inside, and the agent directed me to an automatic
check-in machine. I wanted to print both my boarding pass, as
well as check-in my baggage. Only the former worked, with an
error message, stating that bags could be checked in only 4 hours
before a flight.
Now, I wasn't quite ready for that. Where
would I go around the small land-side part of the terminal, which
did not even have enough seating area?

74.2 Spotting at Midway!

I spotted some seats at one corner of the check-in area, where I
was pleased to catch a view of some landing action, on runway 22L.
Soon, three TSA officers came up behind me, and seeing a
foreigner with a camera in hand, ostensibly struck up a
conversation with me. I told them about my hobby, what I did for
a living, where I came from, as the officers got all details they
wanted, smiled, and wished me a nice trip.
The overcast weather put paid to my spotting plans as well, as
some ghastly pictures had resulted from my efforts. This is one
of the passable ones. Yes, I caught the beacon, but the propeller
blur and the lighting around tells you why one should learn to
set some neat camera parameters, instead of letting the camera
decide, in an auto mode.



The Midway airport is officially an `International' airport, but
hardly has much traffic apart from Southwest flights coming and
going in all directions. Southwest-AirTran, Delta Connection, Porter
Airlines, Volaris, Air Canada, Frontier, and perhaps a few more
serve the airport, along with some business aviation traffic.
However, it was clear who the dominant airline at the airport was.
I would have to wait there till 01:05 pm, when I could check in
my bags, and go air-side, in the hope of capturing some
aviation-related pictures, at least.

I went to the check-in counter exactly four hours before the flight,
and lo and behold, I was able to have the baggage tag for my two
bags printed at the counter. However, my luck ran out at the
security screening, as I was selected for secondary screening yet
again. I do not think I remember a single occassion where I have
not been selected for secondary screening in the US, even in the
past. This time, I did not have to take off my belt, shoes, or
any other part of my apparel, nor did I even have to take my
laptop out. Just my mobile phones, and handkerchief, which I use
to store my bunch of keys in. I was asked to put my hands out,
as a TSA agent applied some coated paper over my hands, and said
that if the paper beeped, I would be detained further.
I was taken aback - what was this, and what had I done?
The paper beeped, and my beeper missed a beat.
The man smiled at me, and said that it was a bit random.
What, the beeping of the paper, or my heart?

I took a complete round of all gates in Concourses A, C and then
finally, B. It was Southwest country all around.



The weather was horrid, and the reflection did not come out as
well as it should have, but then, I tried, at last.



At a gate, it was a welcome change to see anything but Southwest.
The weather was quite bad: cloudy and overcast with a bit of rain
as well. It was certainly not what one would like to try his new
camera with, anyway. As I had written in the previous part of this trip report
71. US,Nov'13-1: Tailwinds to the Windy City!
http://www.airlinersindia.s4.bizhat.com/airlinersindia-ftopic14179.html
I had a new piece of photographic equipment with me, on this trip!

`International', Hmm...but whatever be the weather, this sight is beautiful!



I was the proud possessor of a new Sony CyberShot HX300, and was
going about shooting pictures like a man possessed.
I clicked a few (bad) pictures of the Douglas SBD-3 `Dauntless'
bomber, which was hung from the ceiling at a part of concourse A.





I had read about the Midway airport being Chicago's main airport,
till it had gone too small and too busy for operations,
necessitating the use of a newer airport. I mention `use', since
the `Orchard Field' airport ORD had been already constructed. At
one time, there was a neck-to-neck contest between New York's La
Guardia airport and Chicago's Midway airport, with regard to
getting the tag of the busiest airport. I have memories of a New
York city tourist book, which describes La Guardia as being the
busiest airport in the world, with a plane landing or taking off
every two-and-a-half minutes, a peak-hour statistic which went on
for most of the day. The Midway airport was renamed after the
World War II Battle of Midway. With the coming of the jet B707s,
DC-8s and Convair 880s, the operations shifted to the larger and
newer O'Hare airport (which itself was renamed from its original
name, `Orchard Field', which gave it its airport code ORD).
I find it quite ironic, that most of the traffic at the airport
today, has aircraft of the size of the original B707s, the B738.
Intriguingly, O'Hare was the world's busiest airport at one point
in time, till the mid-2000s.

Here is a Frontier Grizzly:



A Porter Airlines Q400 takes off against the backdrop of a hangar
of the most prominent player at this airport, Southwest.



Note the advertisement above the baggage area on this plane.
`Free bags, fly more'. The pick-up truck faithfully beside it:
`stick to me, and we'll go places'. All the three Southwest
planes I have shown here have the characteristic bump on planes
with live TV, and Internet on board. This is (obviously) not free,
though the moving map (thankfully) is accessible on a
WiFi-enabled mobile device.



It was getting darker by the minute, as dusk was setting in.
There were some neat Bizjets around.





A whole different animal also taxied past us.



The business traffic kept me entertained for a while, as the
Southwest parade was getting boring, and monotonous. I was also
beginning to feel sleepy.



The livery on a visitor from the North caught my attention,
before I decided to settle down.



74.3 Hola, San Diego!

We were supposed to board from Gate B03.
I was in boarding group C, with a serial number of 18.
Gate B03 was boarding another flight, so I went over to a place
which was less crowded. And one which has power-ports.
The Midway airport has actually been developed quite well, with a
large number of sofas at many locations, with a pair of
power-ports in between. There were power-ports on many long
tables, with stools placed beside them. This was a welcome change
from the old and huge airports I had seen in the US in 2008 and
prior to that, where power-ports were few and far in between. As
with any US airport, there were a large number of F&B (Food and
Beverages outlets) all around the place.

By now, my biological clock was fighting the effects of sleep
deprivation over the past day or so. Just to be sure that I did
not miss my flight's announcement, I went over to Gate B-03.
I did not even realise when I fell asleep. My body had ached for
a flat bed to lie on, perhaps for the first time. I have always
been used to sleeping almost anywhere, and in almost any
position. I guess age is finally catching up with me.
When I woke up with a start, I realised that it was quite dark
outside, and we were some 45 minutes away from the start time.
Boarding began well in earnest, in zones. Those with pre-boarding
priority, A 1-15, Business, A 15-30, A 30 onwards, and so on (I
forget the exact sequence). People queued up on two sides of a
few pillars, which had the numbers printed on them.
By the time my zone came up, I realised that there was little
chance of even getting some cabin space, leave alone a good seat.
As expected, I got a middle seat, I chose one below a part in the
overhead bins, that had enough space to put in my carry-on.
Carrion. My appearance was rather like that, at this moment.
The plane was completely jam-packed, and with people loathe to
move around, I decided not to take my jacket off and put it in
the overhead bin, or take my camera out. The reading light, or
the air vent above my seat did not work. The air vent changed its
mind after a while. I had not got an opportunity to take off my
jacket, so I was looking for some cool air. Luckily, the cabin
air-conditioning was just perfect for the flight, even when the
air vent was not working. The reading light refused to budge
however. It was quite dark, so I would not be able to do any
reading, or work on my computer.

It was a very old plane, but apart from the lacunae pointed out
above, it was remarkably well-maintained. The seats were neat and
clean, the hardware was ship-shape, and there was no grime mark
visible in my vicinity. The blue faux leather looked ship-shape,
as did the plastic surfaces. This was a sharp contrast to my
BWI-DTW-SAN journey in 2005, which was on an aircraft I was
excited to fly, for the first time, a B757-200.
It was my first flight on board this type. We boarded a
Northwest B752 with fading colours. The outside of the plane
mirrored the inside, even for the first flight of the day. There
was some dirt by the side of my seat, and the seat cover of the
seat in front of me itself was torn across by a couple of inches.
The service was just as disappointing: there was just a drinks
run on each leg, where I chose my favourite Orange juice.
I had a Jet Airways JetPrivilege Account, and Northwest had
clearly stated Jet Airways as a partner airline on its website.
As I wanted to get the points for this trip on my JP account, the
check-in agent at the BWI airport simply refused to entertain my
point, or my JP card. She was quite rude to me, mocking me for
mentioning the name of an airline which sounded fishy to her.
The return trip had a horrid experience for me on board a
Northwest A320, where the red-eye flight had seen me going
thirsty on the entire flight. Repeated calls for the cabin crew
fell on deaf ears, as I did not want to disturb the two elderly
ladies seated on rows D and E (I was on F). There was very little
leg-room, to permit me to get up without disturbing the people
around. I had missed the beverage service as I had fallen asleep
en route, and the Northwest crew did not disturb a sleeping giant.
The tight connection time to the next B752 flight back to
BW had ensured that I would have to rush to the next gate at DTW.
On this flight again, there was one juice run.

I was extremely sleepy, but my ears were aching for some
interesting sound bytes. Much to my disappointment, there was no
announcement of the name of any crew member, either in the front
office, or in the cabin. The flying time was announced as close
to four hours and fifteen minutes, in the end, we would make it
at just about the 04:25 hours block flying time. Passengers were
instructed that people in the front of the cabin should not stand
up, waiting for the lavatory, nor crowd around, since this was
prohibited under the norms.

As the reader may have guessed, as soon as the plane reached
cruising altitude, the thoughts in my mind did not relate to how
well-maintained the plane was. I was mortally afraid of falling
asleep, since on US airlines, the cabin crew do not disturb
passengers who are sleeping. This is related to
disturbance-related legal matters, as well as, from my point of
view, saving on the meagre catering costs that US airlines incur.
The cheerful cabin crew went around, taking food requests.
`I'll have the signature pretzels with an OJ,''
I remarked with a gush of emotions, that gave away my joy at
holding back my sleepiness just enough to be able to go in for
the requests. The lady smiled, and told me that this round was
only to take drink orders, she would remember by request for the
pretzels. The snack options were, at the time of the trip,
standard on Southwest airlines: pretzels, or peanuts. On some
flights, the Southwest brochure screamed at me in the nearly-dark
environment, there could be an additional item. My eyes lit up,
in the darkness. They shut soon after, in the midst of spurts of
eye-shut and sudden wake-ups, but luckily for me, it did not
interfere with the snack service. Yes, the lady remembered my OJ
request, and when the three ladies went around the B737 with the
cardboard boxes in their hands, asked passengers for a choice
between a dry cheese snack (crackers?), Oreo cookies, and a third
item, which did not sound that interesting to my sleepy mind. I
was rather pleased that she remembered my request for the
pretzels, which were nice. My choice with regard to the second
offering (made in less than a second), was the second in the
above list, since with regard to filling up an empty belly and
being sinful, the white-cream-and-chocolate Oreo cookies/biscuits
were second to none. Secondly, there were four of them in the
small packet. Was I flying on a US carrier?

74.4 Landing (up at/in) San Diego

I was drifting in and out of sleep most of the while, as the
descent was announced. The Captain made an extremely smooth
landing, as we came in from the Eastern side, and got to our
designated gate. Since I was at the back of the plane, I was one
of the last people to get off the plane. The Captain had perhaps
left something in the cockpit, as he had come back - it was then
that I appreciated his lovely landing. He was a bit taken aback,
but gave me a sweet smile, and thanked me for my appreciation.
The plane would go onward to San Jose: I wondered if there would
be a change in the crew on this leg. Had he gone to freshen
up, and was now going back to the cockpit?

In what would be a first for me, I would do the airport-hotel
stretch on foot, in both directions. I was in this airport after
a good eight years, and Lindbergh Field looked as uninviting for
me, as it had done one June afternoon in 2005.
The small baggage hall at the Southwest terminal (Terminal 1) was
quite crowded. The baggage came in soon, and I strapped up my
emptier bag with the bigger one. Armed with the Google Maps
printout in my hand, I set out for the hotel. In the darkness, almost
everything looked similar. Since I was going along the
footpath/side-walk, I did not want to take a route which would
miss one. Taking a conservative approach, I went well past
Terminal 2, which had the International flights section, which
was serviced by British Airways and JAL, among the bigger
international visitors. British Airways had in the past, even got
a B744 to San Diego on occassion - a flight that was at one time
operated with a B772ER, regularly. I thought I had seen a B763
there that day. I wondered what JAL's standard equipment was. By
this time, I had well gone past Terminal 2, which took me to the
extreme end of the tarmac, where my question was answered: a JAL
Dream)liner stood, resplendent in the well-lit dark environment.
I took the McCain road (no, I will not use a weak pun on the
weather, with regard to McCain frozen foods, since the weather
was very pleasant, and certainly not freezing), and came to
North Harbor Drive. Google Maps had a good estimate of the walk
to my Hotel, Best Western Yacht Harbor hotel, where I was able to
check in without any ado. It was 08:30 pm, and I had to orient
myself for the conference, which would start around noon-time,
the next day. Yes, noon-time. This would give me a quick
get-away to the USS Midway Museum: one of the few sights around
San Diego which I had not seen during the course of my 2005 trip.
Stay tuned for the next part of this trip report,
75. US,Nov'13-3: Midway, from Midway, to USS Midway
---
Links to my 74 trip reports:
https://sites.google.com/site/sumantratrip/
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ameya
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Joined: 09 May 2007
Posts: 3591
Location: Pune,Maharashtra

PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2015 1:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the next set of TR sir. I did the coach USA transfer from midway to Ohare in 2013 and to my horror the bus started going in the opposite direction of where O hare is only to stop at a secluded bus station which was the exchange point for busses. Apparently the area is unsafe for non-blacks, however I was fine and so were you !

And thanks for writing about most of this in the next para !

Midway is a nice airport I got a chance to walk through it everytime I took the Chicago metro, since the metro station to bus station walk is from inside the terminal unlike any place in India !

Did your airport hotel at San diego not offer a free shuttle ?

Would look forward to the next . .
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 04, 2015 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
I did the coach USA transfer from midway to Ohare in 2013 and to my horror the bus started going in the opposite direction of where O hare is only to stop at a secluded bus station which was the exchange point for busses. Apparently the area is unsafe for non-blacks, however I was fine and so were you!
Sir, trust you to do a good bit of study on the route, the places, and the people around. I was too sleepy for words, and did not check out the route of the bus at all, and nothing about the exchange point at all. I was aware that there would be an interchange, and I got off the bus and moved a bit around as well - for all of five minutes, though. As an aside, I am quite dark-complexioned Smile
ameya wrote:
And thanks for writing about most of this in the next para!
Sir, thanks for all your inputs, and all the notes comparison. I also remember you missing San Diego by a few hundred kilometres: though you got an exotic small airport!
ameya wrote:
Midway is a nice airport I got a chance to walk through it everytime I took the Chicago metro, since the metro station to bus station walk is from inside the terminal unlike any place in India!
Sir, trust you to know all this. Does one also get to see a bit of the tarmac/runway action form the connecting path as well? That would be a delight!
ameya wrote:
Did your airport hotel at San Diego not offer a free shuttle?
Nice point, Sir:the shuttles were for decent timings. I arrived at San Diego well past those decent timings, and set out well before the decent time window started. I had stayed at the Best Western Yacht Harbor hotel, which gave me a decent deal on expedia, which shockingly fit into my budget. Usually, I have to look for completely el cheapo dorms and shared accommodation, to fit my budget. I was excited however, at having a hotel within walking distance of the airport! It was a great walk, given the weather, and the sights around, even in the dark.
ameya wrote:
Would look forward to the next . .
Thank you Sir, for the detailed read, and the comments!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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jbalonso777
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for a great continuation, sir!

This certainly is a unique TR - from an Indian POV, a 4hr long domestic flight is quite a scary prospect! And especially because that is on a narrow body. But that's just me!

Great pictures and info - of both your previous experiences (TSA is scary!) and the history of the airport(s).

Southwest is surely an interesting experience. I look forward to what my plans would be in the next few months, its down to Southwest vs Alaska Airlines at the moment.

Looking forward to the third part Smile

Regards
Jish
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 06, 2015 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the detailed read, and your comments, Sir!
jbalonso777 wrote:
...from an Indian POV, a 4hr long domestic flight is quite a scary prospect! And especially because that is on a narrow body.
True Smile
jbalonso777 wrote:
...down to Southwest vs Alaska Airlines at the moment.
We look forward to hearing more on that, Sir!
Thank you, once again.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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sri_bom
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A great ending to your Amrika trip report and aptly called Sandy Ego. Its been a while that I have been to the USA so nice to see the photos from US airports.

So when the TSA officers ticked you off were you nervous? The challenge is sometimes people dont understand plane spotting as a hobby so difficult to explain.

I have never been ticked off but every time I have checked in my luggage I know for sure that TSA has opened it as my TSA locks goes missing 

The Chicago Midway International Airport if it was not written it would have passed for a pretty little garden good shot.

The Douglas, Southwest and Frontier were nice shots, although the bring thing about US airports is unless you are at a very international busy airport you tend to see the same livery.

Thanks for posting the report.

Sri_Bom
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Sat Feb 14, 2015 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sri_bom wrote:
A great ending to your Amrika trip report
Srinivas: no, it hasn't ended as yet! This was part 2 of a 5-part presentation. I have posted the third part, and am trying to work on part 4 right now. Part 5 will conclude the exercise.
I really appreciate your kind words, Srinivas, and hope to interest you in the remaining parts as well.
sri_bom wrote:
So when the TSA officers ticked you off were you nervous? The challenge is sometimes people dont understand plane spotting as a hobby so difficult to explain.
I have been through this before as well: at MSP in 2007. I was going all around the terminal, clicking pictures, when an officer came to me, and asked about me (in a friendly manner, again). I gave him much more information that he had asked for: I showed him my passport, visa, told him what I did for a living, and told him that plane-spotting was a hobby, and I was particularly interested in some types that we do not see in India, such as the Saab-2000, the B753 etc. He was understanding, and we parted amicably.
sri_bom wrote:
I have never been ticked off but every time I have checked in my luggage I know for sure that TSA has opened it as my TSA locks goes missing
Oops: they have almost always broken open non-TSA locks, when the latter were hard to find around.
Thank you for the detailed read, once again, Srinivas!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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