Well I made it – a total of 26 hours straight travel, from the moment I left my house, to arriving at the Hotel Monaco where I am staying. All up, a very pleasant trip, except for one notable exception.
Met a really nice young (born in 1988!) couple on the plane (Scott and Lauren (I think – sorry guys, my brain was a bit fried by the end of the flight for optimum recall!)) who were off on their overseas adventure (New York, Las Vegas, LA). (I feel sorry for them though- after what was to come, I can guarantee they will not have made their connecting flight). That was the first haul, on a Qantas A380-800. Tight space, but no worse than any other cattle-class. Very nice plane, and exceptional service. Each seat has its own screen which links into a computer entertainment system, so there were games, news, info about destinations, lots of TV shows, and a stack of movies.
Got through The Hurt Locker, Zombieland and District 9, then a bit of Carl Barron and The Young Ones.
The coastline of California is unbelievable from the air – rugged, mountains next to the sea, then the flat expanse of LA. I’ve been here there a few times, but it’s always interesting to see things afresh. Caught a sight of the Hollywood sign, still advertising Hollywood Heights as a real-estate ploy to generate sales (and then adopted to be a more permanent fixture).
LAX – what can I say? Immigration was ok, considering the size of the airline (550 passengers), and I happened to get bumped to a short queue -right place, right time. Customs was non-existent compared to Australia – I was absolutely amazed. I know they have to process 1000s of people, but such a minimal border security?
Domestic travel is another matter entirely. United out of LAX is worse (a lot worse) than all those shows about budget airlines. 100s of people queuing up to use 30+ self-service terminals (no manned check-in) and 3 or so completely disinterested people walking up and down the line processing someone every now and again (at least the young girl in my section was like that – I don’t know how to adequately express the level of customer disservice – seriously unbelievable).
I ended up (after trying myself, getting confirmed, but not having the machine print a boarding pass or baggage check-in barcode) getting myself to a ‘special needs’ line. This one took about 1hr to process 1 person. By the time I actually managed to check in, and get a boarding pass, my ‘allowance’ of 3 hours had 10 minutes remaining before I would have not been able to check in at all. I really started to think I would be stuck in LAX, waiting to Wednesday for my flight back to Oz – it is that bad. People were missing flights left, right and centre, all because of a complete and total failure of customer service. I honestly feel pity for anyone who has to use this service in future. Personally, if I never return to LAX, (specifically to transfer to another airline), I will not be disappointed. I do have to return through there, but that will be (hopefully) different, going in the other direction.
Security was next, and another unbelievably long queue moving impossibly slowly. Security themselves are very good, and the front person deserves a lot of kudos. They are completely under-resourced for the number of people they are expected to process.
So finally, having negotiated what would easily be my worst airport experience ever (thanks United), I got to Denver, and surprisingly, my bag arrived as well.
Denver airport is also huge, and at first impression, very efficiently arranged, with a train taking people around, including to baggage handling.
Where you board the train, there is an astronaut (statue) to greet you – we are definitely in the USA!
You know you are near the Rockies, and a major ski centre when the airport has a dedicated ski carousel!
Got to the hotel (Hotel Monaco), very nice room/experience so far, and after that amount of travel, the shower was mandatory!
Headed out for a wander around at dusk, just as some flakes of snow fell – tick that box (although I want MORE!) Beautiful city so far. Very clean and well presented – the buildings are really nicely illuminated at night, and use quite a bit of red, which is quite different from what I’ve seen elsewhere.
Didn’t get any non-blurry shots (yet). And manholes pouring steam out into the street that the cars drive though – such an amazing scene – you see it on the movies, but it is another thing entirely standing next to a manhole with steam bellowing out (-2C around here).
So that is the first part of the journey – tomorrow I meet up with some from Cool Tools and we head over to where the filming will happen on Tuesday so I can assemble the Torque Workcentre.
Oh, and I managed to tick another box, after 10 long years, I got to have another meal at Taco Bell, and it was good 🙂