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  • Leah Sacks

International Interlude

If closely inspected, it may become apparent that between this post and the previous one, more than the usual two weeks have passed. During my normal posting period two weeks ago, I was instead on a journey to the United States. I'm originally from the states, so this was more of a going home than anything else, but I made some stops before I arrived at my parent's house. I decided to write my blog post this week on some of the more interesting parts of the journey, which is really just the beginning of the trip, mostly to save me from telling everyone about how the trip went. So, without further ado, here is the story.


Day 1

I set out on a brisk Sunday morning and took an Uber to the bus service that was going to drive me to the airport two and a half hours away. The final group on the bus was an interesting mix. There were only four of us, and all of us were women. A mother and her daughter, who I believe was in her late teens, and another girl, maybe 18, who was traveling alone. The small number of passengers was likely due to COVID-19, but it was still an interesting group. I spent part of the ride listening to the story of which schools the teenage daughter was thinking about, due to the presence or absence of an aviation program. At the border crossing into the United States, which was the first hurdle of my trip, we had the easiest border crossing I've ever had. I was only asked one question, which was what I was doing in London and in Canada. My response containing the name of my school prompted the mother to ask me about what program I was doing. My studies in planetary science then opened the floor for all kinds of questions about space, and I spent the rest of the ride answering with what I knew.


I reached the airport about 4 hours before my flight, simply because that is when the bus was traveling. I checked my single bag and sat down in a cafe to work until I had to go to my gate. Unfortunately, about 2 hours into my work, I got a text telling me that my flight, which was the first leg of a two flight journey, was cancelled. I spent the next hour talking with a helpful gate agent about changing my flight. However, my final destination was Santa Barbara, which is a very small airport that doesn't have many flights come in every day. At the conclusion of my time with the gate agent, I now had a new set of flights, but for the next day, and a voucher for a hotel and meal. The gate agent requested that they pull my bag and put it in the oversized luggage so that I would be able to take it to my hotel with me.


Departing from the gate area, I made my way down to the oversized luggage to wait for my bag, which should be appearing shortly.

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2 hours and several conversations with the United Airlines Baggage Services woman found me finally getting my bag and heading off for my hotel. My initial relief that they had found my bag gave way to my irritation about the length of time it took to find it and the cancellation of my flights. It was now about 7 pm, and I had set out that morning about 9 am. In order to prepare myself for my day of traveling the following morning, I spent the rest of the evening decompressing by sitting by a water feature in the hotel atrium and watching mindless TV on Netflix.


Day 1, again.

The following morning, I woke up at 4 am to get to my 6:30 am flight at the airport. I had to take the hotel shuttle and check my bag all over again. The most irritating part of the day I anticipated, was that instead of my original 2 flights, I now had 3 flights and two layovers ahead of me. My first 3 and some hour flight went to Houston, which had an hour layover. Then I flew for a little over 3 hours to San Francisco, which also had an hour layover, before my final 1 and some hour flight into Santa Barbara, California. As I reached each airport, I developed a routine for what I did during my short 1 hour layovers. As this travel was all occurring during COVID, I was refusing to remove my masks and my protective glasses whenever I was on the plane. That is too many people in one space for me to feel comfortable being anything less that double masked. Thus, whenever the plane reached an airport, I would go to the bathroom, wash my hands and sanitize my glasses, and then set off to find food. I grabbed portable food as fast as possible at each place and took it to my gate. I would find a relatively open spot and eat my food as I waited for the boarding to start. Because of the short time frame, this was usually only about ten minutes at most. So. It was off the plane, find the gate, bathroom, wash-up, food, board plane, ride plane, and repeat.


By time I arrived at my friend's house, via Uber, it was about 3 pm California time, or 6 pm in my original time zone. Current travel time on this day: 14 hours and counting. But it wasn't over yet....


See, the original reason for my trip to California was actually to help my friend Lauren move. The plan was for me to arrive on Sunday and to set out on our road trip North on Monday. But my untimely plane cancellation meant that we were setting out the same day that I arrived.


After hugs for Lauren and her girlfriend, Kazia, both of whom are friends of mine from undergrad, and a trip to the bathroom, Lauren and I climbed into her SUV (with attached U-Haul trailer) to begin driving. Unfortunately, we had 6 hours of driving still to go to reach Oakland, where we were scheduled to stay that night.


The journey was largely unremarkable other than our various incidents trying to deal with where to park the car with attached trailer. It wasn't the easiest piece of equipment to maneuver, and it needed a lot of space. But we managed it and we made it to our first stop, Kazia's mother's house, at about 10:30 and were in bed by 11:30 after settling in.


Time on the road (here equivalent to time awake) for the day: 22.5 hours...... yay.


Days 2 and 3

Lauren and I continued our journey northward from Oakland, stopping at fast food restaurants along the way as we answered an inane list of 100 get to know you questions, played car games, and listened to various musicals and our favorite songs. We eventually reached Eugene, Oregon, where our second stop was planned.


We were staying the most unusual AirBnB that I had ever been to. It was a yurt-shaped hut made largely out of copper, in the backyard of a large house. It was set up almost like a tiny cottage with beds, a TV, a welcome book and tea station, fold-out desks, flyers for local sites, and an armchair. Ask me in person to see a video of the inside of it!


The next morning, we set out for Seattle, our final destination, and we made it there by 2 pm. We spent the hours after that emptying the car and the trailer of all of Lauren's stuff and hauling it up the elevator to her new apartment. We ended the day with a reward of take-out sushi and root beer.


Seattle Time!

I spent the next several days in Seattle, but was hindered by the second heat wave of the Pacific Northwest and the continued fires. It turns out that the smoke of the forest fires messes with the air quality enough that you don't want to open the windows on certain days. This wouldn't be a problem, except that most of the graduate population, and in fact most of the population of Seattle, doesn't have air conditioning. So. No windows and no air conditioning meant that we spent a good deal of time either finding places to be in that had air conditioning or wearing frozen washcloths pressed against the backs of our necks. It was....lovely. I had a great time touching base with a couple of other friends of mine in Seattle and managed to fit in a lovely lunch at a cafe, a tour of the Burke Museum, and several hours at a paint-your-own-pottery place as part of it. Each of my friends had good ideas of how to stay out of the air and the heat while still hanging out.


Trip Home!

I finally left Seattle at 5:30 am on Sunday, one week after my original departure from Ontario. I had a quick and easy flight to Chicago, where my parent's live, and they picked me up at the airport, where there was no trouble finding my bag. I've since spent time hanging out with them and getting reacquainted with the area I grew up in. This has included trying new restaurants, getting the Thai food I get every time I'm home, taking walks around the neighborhood, catching up with my sister, and getting put to work pulling weeds on the patio. The rest of my time here will include an outdoor social gathering I'm hosting, but that won't be for a few days, so it won't be making this post!





P.S. Sneak Peak!.....I had a couple other ideas for this post, but I didn't finish my research for it in time to write this post, so you can expect that next time! It's about PASTA!



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