Across Continents

Ken's Blog

Into the Twilight Zone

August 30th, 2011

Brief stop-over in Hawaii complete, I was bound for Alaska. The Twilight Zone. During the summer months almost perpetual daylight. That’d already begun to diminish by five minutes or so each day, just as the relatively mild weather conditions would start to ebb away shortly. Knew I’d need to press on out of Anchorage just as soon as I was ready. Not a moment to loose.

Shuttle bus back to the airport I’d left the previous day. Agricultural inspection. Free carriage of thirty pounds of approved pineapples was an irresistible offer that proved to be very resistible. Check in with Alaskan Airlines swift, no quibbling over the half pound I was over on the baggage limit.

All terribly polite and efficient. And as yet no utterance of "Have a nice day". Only criticism I’d have, and it is a minor one, is that full body scanners are probably not best suited to airports in warm climates. Gets your attention. So to speak. And the alternative they offer, full body pat down, didn’t strike me as having much less scope for, shall we say, embarrassment. If you’re male and facing a similar dilemma, imagine Sarah Palin riding a moose. Worked for me. Nice horns.

[At the time of writing the author was partially sleep deprived and riding on a sea of caffeine. So probably not as his best. Humble apologies. But do look out for more Sarah Palin jokes. And remember, people must have voted for her]

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Groundhog day

August 29th, 2011

Bill Murray I may not be, but "Groundhog Day" it was. Monday. Twice. Well, pretty much so. Consequence of crossing the International Dateline en route from Australia to Hawaii. I’d taken off shortly after 9 pm from Sydney, only to arrive ten or so hours later in Honolulu a little after 11 in the morning. The same day.

In truth, I’d seen more of the first than the second stab at Monday. My efforts to stay awake frustrated by the humidity in Honolulu. By early afternoon, despite the lack of air conditioning in the cheap hostel I’d found, I’d succumbed. Dreams the only place I’d be likely to encounter Andie MacDowall.

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Welcome to the USA

August 29th, 2011

It took longer to walk from the Gate to Immigrations and Customs than it did for the formalities. Even at a brisk pace. Professional but friendly, cutting a very good first impression. The usual questions. Purpose of visit. The conversation more of a chat. Why did I have a visa rather than the usual waiver? Quickly explaining three months would be simply be not enough to ride across North America, and to rush would be missing the point. Adding I’d come to meet people, to see places, rather than just pound the highway. The lady smiled. Six months entry.

USentstamp

Customs was a cursory check of my declaration card and directions to the exit. Stumbling out into the bright Hawaiian sunshine. Off to find the shuttle bus to my hostel for the night’s stop-over. Tired, but pleased my preparations had paid off, this far at least. Welcomed into the US.

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Curious euphemisms

August 29th, 2011

Long flights and a curious mind are a dangerous thing. International into the US, Sydney to Honolulu, and a national carrier. Wondering whether there’s a plain clothes armed security officer onboard, concealed amongst the passengers. Deliberately choosing to use the toilets furthest away, at the rear of the aircraft. Find myself glancing unobtrusively at anyone who leaps out as being, well, non-descript.

No joy. Or at least, no obvious candidates. Instead settling for a conversation with a fellow passenger. Said she worked for the US Department of Justice, visiting Australia on business. We chatted for a while. Where she’d been, who’d she’d met. Something didn’t quite add up. My curiosity barely concealed, she explained that she was actually a FBI Special Agent.

I’d always meant to ask one if there was such a thing as a plain Agent. I didn’t because it soon became clear that to join you needed to be a cut above. She was sharp, had a forensic science background, been to law school, spent a couple of years as an ordinary police officer. I thought Scully from the TV series the "X-Files". But that I definitely kept to myself.

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Aloha Hawaii

August 27th, 2011

Bit taken aback. Was sure my Dad had told me to get laid in Hawaii. Admittedly been on the road for almost two years, but Honolulu was only ever meant to be a one night stop-over, not stand. A simple misunderstanding. Lei being those flowery garlands worn on the islands. Popular, it strikes me, because most of the women around here have, well, pretty much nothing else to wear.

But far more outrageous though were the shirts worn by the Hawaiian Airlines cabin crew. Quick to say "I want one" as I boarded. "Come and work for us!" the response. It was attire that suited the in-flight entertainment. Settling on 70s Disco hits in my headphones. It was that or Korean pop music. Dozing off dreaming of Spandex and wondering if "Get Dancin’" (by the fabulously titled Disco Tex and The Sex-O-Letters) was indeed the inspiration for the theme tune for the "Muppets".

In truth, I was just happy to finally embark. I’d been up since five to get the bus to Melbourne airport. Greeted by chaos, glad I’d given myself my usual pessimistic margin for delays. Short hop to Sydney. Too lethargic to venture out of the terminal, instead eking out the last of my Australia dollars on strong coffee. Catching up on the blog. A few e-mails. Waiting for check-in.

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