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November 9th, 2013 - Christchurch, NZ

College Station to Dallas to Los Angeles to Sydney to Christchurch

by Mary Tilton

Tilton Head Shot

What a set of flights! The flight from College Station to Dallas was brief, as was expected and pretty uneventful (thank goodness). I am a nervous/anxious flyer who also gets motion sickness, so to say I was worried about the upcoming trips would be an understatement. Thirty short minutes after takeoff, we landed at Dallas/Fort Worth airport (DFW) and proceeded to the Admiral’s Club to wait out our short layover. We met Terry there, had some food and drink, and then were off to board our next flight: Los Angeles (LAX).

Andrew & Steve
Andrew and Steve waiting at Easterwood Airport

After boarding, our captain announced that there was a problem with a sensor during pre-flight checks and the part needed to be ordered so they could replace it. This delayed our flight by about forty-five minutes and there was some grumbling amongst some passengers worried about connecting flights, but the part was eventually replaced and we were off to LAX (albeit a little late). The flight itself went smoothly, and upon approach to LAX (around 6 p.m.) I saw the glittering, winking lights of the Los Angeles metropolitan area. It was mesmerizing! The major freeways were lit up as far as the eye could see with rush hour traffic in both directions—white lights coming up the left side, red lights of varying intensities going down the right. After disembarking, we found our way to the Admiral’s club again and relaxed for about three hours while we awaited our next flight: a Qantas A230 Airbus to Sydney. By this time I already wanted a shower, and the strain of flight-hopping started to wear on me. We had some snacks, did some catching up on work, and enjoyed the comforts and amenities of the club.

Three Amigos
Steve, Andrew and Terry chat in the Dallas Admirals Club after meeting for the first time in many months

We boarded our Airbus to Sydney after a brief shuttle trip to another terminal, and settled in for the 14+ hour flight. I was seated in the second-to-last row (the 85th) on the plane, so it was quite a trip down the aisle to get there. Despite the cramped quarters, the flight was very pleasant. Dinner was served about a half hour after takeoff, and after eating I swiftly fell asleep. The lights were dimmed, the flight attendants handed out snack packs, and all was quiet for several hours. There was some turbulence as we traveled through the jet stream, but the flight was very pleasant overall. Breakfast was served about two hours before landing and upon approach to Sydney, I could see parts of the beautiful Australian coastline through my window. When we landed, there was sort of a whirlwind of events where we disembarked, walked down a series of hallways and then ended up in a TSA security line for international connecting flights. Once through security, we went to the Emirates lounge (as our connecting flight to Christchurch was an Emirates flight). I was thoroughly impressed by the lounge and its amenities! The varieties of foods and the quality of food were fantastic. I have never had the pleasure to partake in such luxury before and felt completely spoiled.

Airbus 380
The Qantas Airbus 380 that carried us from Los Angles to Sydney

A few of us were fortunate enough to be booked in Business Class on the Emirates flight to Christchurch, which continued my spoiling. I loved every minute and actually found myself wishing that flight was longer so I would have had more time to enjoy it. After going through the long customs lines and baggage x-rays, we finally got to meet with other USAP participants and personnel. We received instructions for what to do the next day, where to go, and then sent on our way to our respective hotels.
Ten minutes in a taxi saw us to our hotel (The Ibis), in the heart of what is left of the central business district of Christchurch. What a shock to see the ruins of such a gorgeous city after an earthquake! It’s clear that residents have tremendous hope that their city will be restored to some semblance of its former beauty. We walked around the city a little after cleaning and resting up, ate some dinner outside in the frosty, blustery weather, then headed back to the hotel for the evening to catch up on sleep and other obligations. Tomorrow: heading to the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) for our cold weather gear and some training.

Christchurch
Finally we arrived in Christchurch!