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  • Writer's pictureJane Ritzenthaler

Back to the Northern Hemisphere

Tuesday I bid farewell to Australia. Halfway around the world, it was an adventure in more ways than one. As it turned out, my challenges to get there were replicated in getting home!

But first a few glimpses of my last full day. On Sunday, we drove up the coast to a park dedicated to Lawrence Hargrave, 1850-1916, a pioneer researcher in aeronautics. My grandson, Justin, who is majoring in aeronautical engineering at ASU may be familiar with him. But that's not why we were there. The bluff overlooking the ocean is a spot where hangliders jump off the cliff and soar over the shore, landing (depending on their skill) back on the bluff or into the ocean. Unfortunately, they weren't there that day.

But before we left to find lunch, we were fortunate enough to spot some humpback whales breaching!

Monday morning I logged onto the American Airlines retiree site to check in for my Tuesday flight. A few days before, I had made the decision to switch from my originally planned flight on Wednesday since it was getting dangerously full. Tuesday still had over 90 seats available.

But my attempt to check in was a repeat of what I experienced on my flight to Sydney. And what was so frustrating was that this time I hadn't even tried for the vacation pass - with so many seats available, predominately in the main cabin, I just listed using my usual D2R priority. I decided my only option was to try and check in at the ticket counter that evening. Since my flight left at 9:15 in the morning, and it was slightly over an hour train ride to the airport, I had made a reservation for Monday night at Aerotel Sydney, located on the arrival level of the airport.

When I arrived at the international terminal that afternoon, I discovered that they did things here a bit differently than at home. There were no airline ticket counters. Instead, there were long queues, labeled A thru K, for the flights leaving in the next few hours. Since the American flight wasn't until the next morning, they weren't there. Resigning myself to having to wait, I checked into the hotel.

It was perfectly designed for the traveler; compact, but having all the necessities. Nick, the young Asian man that checked me in, told me about the lounge that offered snacks and beverages until 6:00 pm, and breakfast (at an additional cost of $25 Australian, or $16.53 US).

Since the room rate was already pricey, I decided to pass. But five minutes later, he was at the door...with a plate of cheese, crackers, salami, fresh and dried fruits, and a glass of champagne! He also gave me a voucher for breakfast. Maybe this was be-kind-to-old-ladies night, but regardless, I was very grateful! I changed into my jammies, dug out my kindle, and snuggled down on the very comfortable bed. The next morning, I took advantage of the voucher and enjoyed a light breakfast and latte.

I then went upstairs to the Departure level, and as expected, there was a queue for the American Airlines flight. I approached the appropriate counter, where an agent had a trainee at her elbow. I explained I hadn't been able to check in online, and she proceeded to swipe my passport in her device. And frowned. "Do you have another passport?" "Uh, no..." I thought it was going to go downhill from there, but she tried a few more things, and finally it worked. Thank you, Lord! She sent me down to the supervisors desk to complete the process, then I brought my bag back to have it checked. After a couple more hiccups, I finally had a boarding pass! With a seat assignment! Yes, in the main cabin, but at that point I wouldn't have cared if I was seated on the wing. I actually had a pretty good seat - on the aisle in the second row with only two seats, and the window seat was unoccupied. This flight was "only" a little over 14 hours due to a tailwind, so I was able to curl up on both seats and doze off for probably 3 hours.

We arrived at LAX about 5:45 AM local time, but had to wait on the plane until customs opened at 6:00. Breezed through that process, and went to find my connection to Phoenix.

There was a four hour+ layover, so I settled down at the gate and watched flights leave for Maui and Mexico City. Just as a precaution, I logged onto the retiree site to check the priority list, and discovered the plane was delayed a half hour. Groan. More waiting! And the worst part was that the new arrival time was 2 minutes after my airport shuttle pickup time in Phoenix! Thanking the Lord that I had bought that local SIM card, I called and got it bumped to the next slot. After a while, a thought occurred, and I went back on the retiree site, suspecting there might be a gate change. Yep. And in a different terminal. Not that there was any notice, of course. I found my way there, and was met with total chaos. People sitting all over the place, and then the gate agent announced a minor maintenance issue with the plane, and yet another delay. Bad weather in the south and southeast was creating havoc with schedules.

Finally boarding the plane, we began the 58 minute flight to Phoenix, which was scheduled to arrive at about 1:15. My new shuttle pickup time was now 1:50. A bit close for my comfort, but as I was hustling through the airport to baggage claim, I acknowledged that the Lord was in control, and if He had a reason for my getting bumped yet again to a later trip, so be it. I wanted what He wanted. It seemed to take an eternity for the bags to arrive, and it was 1:48 when I finally spied my yellow suitcase. I snatched it off the carousel and headed out Door 5 and darted across to the center island. The shuttle driver was just about to close the van door when he spotted me.

By the time Mike picked me up at the Chevron station in Camp Verde at 3:15, I was running on fumes. I was so tempted to flop on my comfortable bed when we got home, but I resisted. Unpacked, threw in a load of laundry, made a grocery list for the next day, fixed PB&J for supper, and managed to stay up until 8:00. Needless to say, I slept very soundly! This morning I went in to the office at Calvary Chapel, a day earlier than expected.

As amazing as my trip was, it's certainly good to be back home. Until the next time the traveling bug hits, that is.

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May 30

Absolutely wonderful trip. So many diverse landscapes. But no kangaroo's. Maybe next time.

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