A Bad Day in Houston

Modern air travel is an extraordinary complex system. The endless series of arrivals and departures at any large airport is a carefully choreographed dance. Unfortunately this system can be easily snarled when the process is disturbed.

Houston Airport Concourse
Gate seating, where to spend far too many hours in the Houston airport
The first sign of trouble was our aircrew securing the cabin for arrival early. They stopped the last beverage service and hurriedly gathered the trash long before we began descent. The reason quickly became apparent as towering thunderheads appeared all around us and the aircraft began to bounce and shudder in the unstable winds. Despite the promise of worse our landing in Houston proceeded without issue. Rolling down a wet runway and noting the pools of water covering the grass between the taxiways, clearly the airport had been visited by the heavy rains of those thunderstorms.

Next problem? No gate was available and we spend 45 minutes sitting on a taxiway waiting our turn at a gate for disembarking. I have plenty of time to observe that puddled water and the low slung engines of a 737 can create fascinating little vortexes of swirling water just below the engine intake. We were not worried, we had a five hour layover in our schedule and being late to the gate was not an issue. Many of our fellow passengers were not quite so relaxed, fretting about tight connections and missed flights.

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Autumn colors in fallen leaves on a Portland street
There is something going on in Portland… For some reason the leaves on many of the trees are turning yellow or red and dropping from the trees. Fallen leaves litter the streets and lawns of the cities neighborhoods. Some trees already appear to be dead, skeletal and leafless.

Local residents seem to take little notice of this ongoing environmental disaster, going about their business. They even stop and take photos of the fallen leaves. The effect is admittedly quite pretty, with striking colors.

Oregon in 1986

Another pick from the slides I am busily digitizing. After basic training and tech school with the USAF and before deployment to England, I took a month’s leave. Much of this was spent visiting favorite places around Portland in the late fall of 1986…

Back Home

It is pretty. It is a view I have spent all too much time staring at lately. Four times from the islands to the mainland in a bit over a month. Four times I have run the route from Kona, to Seattle, to Portland. Six times I have bounced through SeaTac airport when I add the run from Portland to Juneau and back.

I am back home for a while. Still dealing with the slightly disconnected feeling I often get after a long vacation. Living in a totally different world for a few weeks changes the definition of normal. It is back to work tomorrow and a resumption of the normal routine of life.

Pacific Wing
Looking out from the window of Alaska flight 843 from Seattle to Kona, 8Sep2013

Another Hop Across The Pond

It is always a little wierd… I am just starting a vacation, in a plane of folks who are ending theirs. Thus is the strangeness of living in Hawai’i. Talking in the gate with fellow passengers I get asked how was my vacation, “Don’t know yet, I am just starting out”. The reaction is always the same, a little surprise and a little envy, “Oh! you live here!” A good way to start a conversation, we all have little else to do but kill time.

Alaska flight 804 eastbound over the Pacific, bound for Seattle.
One part I never look forward to is the first part of the trip, the five hour hop to the mainland. This will make the third time in a month counting last months trip to visit family and attend Oregon Star Party. Four times in two months, then I stay home for a while.

The flight does not start well, a loud thud and a lurch are all we get when we should be rolling back from the gate. It seems the ground crew has broken a tow-bar. The delay turns the pilot’s promise of an early departure into a fifteen minute delay as they inspect the nose landing gear for possible damage.

This time I remebered to pack a water bottle and some munchies. A bag of cajun spiced trail mix keeps hunger at bay. At least until I can get a quick dinner in the terminal at SeaTac. That will have to do, arrival in Portland will not occur until a bit before midnight.

Overnight in Portland, a chance to have breakfast with my mother before heading to the airport and another flight. This time the destination is Juneau, flying with my Father to pick up the boat.

The tickets were booked far enough ahead that I had my choice of seats. A window seat as usual, I do enjoy the view. This time we went right over the cauldera of Haleakula. I set up the GoPro to do a timelapse using a suction cup mount in the window, it should be a nice bit of video. I hope to use the GoPro in a little creative fun, inspired by some of Mark’s latest projects.

Five hours to Seattle. Three of those hours are now gone as I write this. Two more hours in this seat. At least the inevitable crying baby is far enough forward that the screams are muffled. I look up from typing at a seemingly endless expanse of water and clouds. Pretty, but the sight of land and the end of this flight will be welcome.