Planes, trains and automobiles (almost)

I hate flying! I used to get so much more excited about the prospect of going to the airport, getting on a plane and landing somewhere different and thrilling. But over the last few years it seems to be so much more of a drag: worrying about getting to check-in on time, not being stung for excess baggage, going through the x-ray and having to take all my camera gear and laptop out, cramped seats, and then dealing with foreign immigration at the other end.

Today was a trifecta of flights: Reno to Seattle, then back down to Portland, before landing in Vancouver. What a weird routing, but hey, it worked and it was cheap and pretty easy…even if Horizon Airlines have the smallest planes known to man! Reno airport and its endless slot machines is always great for a laugh, and it was funny to see how Squaw Valley USA is trying to cling to the Olympics it held 50 YEARS AGO! Get over it, Squallywood. It was bright and sunny in reno-Tahoe (of course) and of course, it was raining and miserable in both Seattle, Portland, and Vancouver. Luckily I took my 3CS puffer jacket with me to ward of the drizzle out on the tarmac.

 And it can be interesting who you end up chatting to on the plane. Today I had a woman from Anchorage, Alaska who gets her hair done at the same salon as Sarah Palin (and didn’t vote for her, thankfully) and whose husband once had to shoot a big black bear charging him out in the woods. Yogi now sits above their fireplace with a stunned grin on his face…kinda makes me think of the South Park episode: “That baby deer is attacking me! Quick, shoot it!” On the next flight my neighbour was an ex-colllege footballer who now sold fertilizer – he surprisingly had a lot of interesting things to say.

The strangest neighbour I’ve experienced was on a flight I took into Chicago from Europe. I was on United, but the older gent next to me didn’t quite look like the typical African-American that I assumed at first glance – he was a little more refined, a little darker, and the combination of haircut and clothes hinted at something else. He was full of beans and got chatting to me: he was actually from Eritrea and had been an officer in the army during the long and bloody war against Ethiopia. But at one point he’d had enough, so he used his knowledge of the sentry patrols to slip out through the garrison lines and spent 7 days crossing the Sahara desert on foot to Libya! He stayed there as a refugee, ended up working in the US embassy and was eventually given a Green Card after several years of service. He had been back visiting family. I never would have guessed he had such an interesting story to tell…but I guess it shows you should open yourself up to all sorts of new experiences and people.

I have found that one thing to help make air travel more fun is to try and find a little slice of art in amongst all the waiting lounges, terminals, planes, and out the window with the camera. Funnily enough, I’m not the only one who thinks this way, as Portland Airport had a display of air travel-inspired photography which was quite cool to check out.

And so finally, I am here in Vancouver, already a couple cocktails down, getting into the Olympic spirit. I’ve only been here 6 hours so far, but my first impression is that there is a general sense of Vancouver pride, optimism, friendliness and being eager to please. It’s a nice change from the dour moods and sour faces of when I was here 12 months ago. And Granville St has had a slight makeover…but it’s still full of enough homeless bums and drug-addled angry-looking freaks to stake its claim for the sketchiest main street of any city in the western world. Well, I’d better get back to the $6.50 double Long Island Iced Teas and continue the Olympic spirit…at the very least they will make Granville Street look a lot more attractive later tonight.