Up, up and away

Damn, 2:30 am comes awfully early when you’ve had less than 4 hours sleep. But that was the price to be paid to be at the Red Deer Airport for a 5:40 am flight. I might of slept more if I wasn’t excited about my flight. It’s Sunday, September 27th and it’s the start of my Beijing, China odyssey .

When I pondered where to go for my yearly getaway, I asked for suggestions on FaceBook and got a bunch of answers but nothing wowed me. My sister, Lucille Moffat, suggested visiting her  in Beijing. I knew I could not afford to do that so I dismissed it out of hand. Fast forward a couple of months and she messaged me to say that her husband, Curtis, would use his Airmiles if I wanted to go see them. The idea excited me but I also felt guilty about going that far with out Lynda and I didn’t want Curtis to waste his miles on me. She pointed out the “use em or lose em” argument and I changed my tune soon enough.

I never in a million years thought I’d be spending my 50th birthday so far away from home. I mean, I go away every year for my birthday but it’s usually just a road trip somewhere. It would be about 13 hours of flying time to get there but the stops along the way were going to make it a long day. The 14 hour time difference would make it a very loooooooooooong day.

Lynda and I arrived at the airport around 4:30 am and began the “hurry up and wait” portion of the trip. We sat around for about 1/2 an hour before I had to check in and clear security.

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I felt very safe with a stalker just outside the glass.

It was time to board the Beechcraft 1900D, an 18 seat twin prop beauty for the 40 minute flight to Calgary. Everybody gets a window seat on this flight. Soon the engines were fired up and after quite a long time and deicing  it was time to taxi out to the runway. We sat on the apron for a while, turned around, sat longer and taxied back to the terminal. Apparently one of the back up systems for night flying was malfunctioning. After we deplaned, we were told that we could either wait for a new system to come, or just take off once it got lighter out. Since I had some time before my connecting flight it made no difference to me, but quite a few of the other passengers were a bit antsy about waiting too long.

It’s approaching 7:00 am when we get to re-board the aircraft. It was a lot quicker starting up and leaving this time. Sunrise was very nice, even thorough the crappy airplane window.

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Sunrise was the nicest part of that flight as it was the roughest ride I’ve ever had on an airplane and I’ve been up in a 2 seat Cessna 150. Once we landed in Calgary I stayed out of the way as people ran to make their connection to parts beyond.

Because I wouldn’t have to clear customs until Beijing, I had no reason to wait for my suitcase like the lady in Red Deer told me. A nice fellow in Calgary pointed that out to me and another guy flying overseas. Makes sense when you think about it, but not being an international traveler, I hadn’t thought about that.

After only about an hour’s wait it was time to board the Embraer E190. I had a window seat again and was soon watching the ground get farther and farther away. There was mixed clouds over the mountains and I was suddenly sleepy. I couldn’t sleep and never took my camera out so I stared glassy eyed out the window. Just 8 minutes after we left Calgary we landed in Vancouver according to the clock. Ah, Pacific time.

I had a long enough layover to have some lunch, walk around the airport and read my book before the 11 hour flight. I was pretty excited about having another window seat on the Boeing 777. That soon changed when I boarded and realized I had the bulkhead instead of a window. The seats ahead of me had 2 windows that they pulled the blinds down on as soon as we were airborne. The only good thing about my location was I had the only occupied seat in my row so as least I could stretch. I watched movies, read my book and listened to music and tried to get some sleep along the way. I napped on and off for about 2 hours and felt a bit groggy by the time we landed in Beijing at about 2:30 pm on Tuesday, September 28th. It was a day and a half since I got up. This might be harder than I thought.

After we deplaned we walked quite a ways to the immigration line. The line moved pretty fast and I was through in less than 1/2 an hour. I don’t want to say that the Beijing airport is big, but it was the first time I had to take a train to go get to my luggage and customs.

Having nothing to declare, customs was done in about 5 minutes. I went out into the masses of people and found my sister found me quickly enough.

We walked out to wait for the car they hired to come and get me. Soon I was introduced to Beijing traffic. It was interesting to say the least.

We got to Lucille and Curtis’s apartment and waited for Curtis to get home from work. I was so tired but realized if I could stay up till night time I should get used to the time change a lot sooner.

Thankfully, it wasn’t long till we could go out for supper. We walked over to Tiago Italian Restaurant and I honestly don’t remember which way we had to go to get there. All I really recall is I had spaghetti and meat sauce and the sauce was really greasy and not all that flavourful. This was my introduction to the very average food I would have over the next 2 weeks.

I can’t remember the walk back to the apartment, all I know is I went to bed at 8:00 o’clock to get ready for what tomorrow will bring.

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