When we delivered Winston, our Aussie Winnebago motorhome, to the dealership for consignment, we had driven it 31,961 kilometers (19,860 miles) around Australia, beginning and ending in Sydney. Of course, we had added many more miles on trains and planes, buses and boats, and on foot. Now, it was time to head home.
We began this journey with a quick trip on the airport shuttle from our hotel to the international terminal at Sydney Airport. We found the check-in counter for Fiji Airways and were quickly relieved of $120 for our third checked bag – ouch! We went through security without any trouble. Jon got randomly selected to go through a full-body scan. Sharon got randomly selected for an explosives survey, which turned into a gab fest with the agent about our year in OZ that ended with the oft-heard comment, “You’ve seen more of Australia than most Australians have – including me!”
About 12:20 p.m. (Sydney time) we boarded Fiji Airways Flight FJ 910 to Nadi, Fiji. We flew on an Airbus 330-200 with Fijian flight attendants. One was a big bear of a man who was just the sweetest thing: big smiles; very solicitous of the old lady on board. When Sharon took a picture of him, Jon asked, “Aren’t you going to get a picture of the pretty one, too?” So she did. We pulled away from the gate about 1:01 p.m. We learned from the seat-back propaganda about Fiji that it is made up of 333 islands and that the airport terminal in Nadi is being remodeled and added to. That was obvious when we got there!
We were served a nice meal – lunch or dinner, we were never sure which. We arrived in Nadi just about 7 p.m. Fiji time and were greeted by live Fijian music in a very dreary, decrepit, torn-up terminal. It was totally dark outside, so even if we had been able to see out a window in the terminal, it was too dark to see anything. But we can say we have been to Fiji!
About 9:15 p.m. we got on another Airbus 330-200 for the next and longest leg of the trip, Flight FJ810 from Fiji to Los Angeles. Shortly after we left Fiji, they served us a light meal – a tiny chicken sandwich – to tide us over until breakfast. Then they turned down the lights and asked everyone to close their window blinds. Sharon managed to sleep some; Jon spent the night watching all three of the Hunger Games movies.
About nine hours after we left Fiji, the sun had come up somewhere over the Pacific Ocean and window blinds could be opened to a lovely view of blue sky and white clouds. Shortly thereafter, we were served a very nice full breakfast of scrambled eggs with corn salsa, sausage, fruit, yogurt, sweet roll (with coconut so Jon wouldn’t eat it), and juice.
We landed in Los Angeles, California, about 1:20 Pacific Daylight time, a little early. However, our gate still was occupied so our plane toured the runways and taxiways for about 15 minutes until our gate emptied, making the flight arrival pretty much on time. Then the fun began! With declaration form in hand, we waited in a huge line (line #1) for customs. Rather than claiming our checked baggage first, we were funneled right into a passport check area. There each of us passed our passports through a self-serve scanner machine that asked some of the same questions on the declaration form. Then it took a picture of each of our faces and spit out receipts with those (awful) pictures on them for the next step. We moved into another line (#2), so a customs agent could look at our passport and receipt and stamp the receipt. Then we moved into a line (#3) to go to Carousel 5 and collect our baggage. Having placed our three checked bags, two backpacks, and two laptop bags on a baggage cart, we proceeded into another line (#4) where eventually another customs agent asked a couple cursory questions, glanced at our receipts with the (terrible) pictures and kept those, and sent us on down the line (#5) to deliver our checked bags to a young man at a conveyor belt who would re-check them on to Tucson.
Now we had to get ourselves to our connecting flight. Fortunately, there were very good signs pointing us to “connecting flights.” Eventually, we found the area for American Airlines where the departures board told us to go to Gate 44C. We followed all the signs toward that number and just as we determined that there was no gate between 43 and 45 (shades of “Harry Potter”), we saw signs saying we needed to go this way to catch a shuttle to Gates 44A-44L. That shuttle took us on taxiways on the tarmac to the American Airlines terminal where we found Gate 44C for our American Eagle Flight 2888 to Tucson. But first we had to go through the actual security scan (line #6). All of that took about an hour; fortunately, our layover in LA was about two and a half hours.
Then we boarded a small plane that was totally full with about 26 passengers, two pilots, and one flight attendant, and we were on our way to Tucson about 3:45 p.m. This was such a quick flight we hardly had time to realize that we were flying before we were very close to Tucson. We were a bit surprised to see how much agriculture there is west of Tucson – lots of green fields, solar farms, and nut orchards that we really don’t see from the highways. We landed at Tucson Airport about 5:10 p.m. Arizona time. Our son Jon was waiting for us at the bottom of the escalator going down to the baggage claim. Quickly, we were on our way to his house in his nice new blue Subaru Forester. We really knew we were home when we saw our old white Subaru Forester in his driveway.
We had been up over 30 hours with little or no sleep and had traveled some 7,947 miles in the air. We had traveled overnight from autumn in Sydney with threatening rain, shortening days, and cooling temperatures to spring in Tucson with bright blue skies, lengthening days, warming temperatures, and blooming cacti. It’s good to be “home”!