It’s a high school prom
It’s a Springsteen song
It’s a ride in a Chevrolet
It’s a man on the moon
And fireflies in June
And kids sellin’ lemonade
It’s cities and farms
It’s open arms
One nation under God
– Rodney Atkins
Wednesday 17 August
Three years and three months. That’s roughly – give or take a few weeks – it’s been since I was last on American soil. Back in June 2019, of course no one had even the slightest inkling of what was to come with the COVID-19 pandemic, and if you’d told me then that I wouldn’t be back for three years, I’d have laughed. Seemed impossible. Yet here we are.
It doesn’t feel like it’s been three years. Probably because none of us have really done much in the interim. But it has been that long, and I’ve missed the people and places I love over here. It’s great to be back and I am really looking forward to seeing some of my favourite people across the next three-and-bit weeks, during which time we’ll spend time in St Louis, Boise, Chicago and Indianapolis, as well as a few smaller map dots on the road between St Louis and Boise.
This American trip started out like all the others – a dozen of them between 2006 and 2019, with two visits in 2017 – with an early morning arrival to Sydney’s Kingsford-Smith Airport for a long flight across the Pacific Ocean to Los Angeles.
The first few times, the flight seemed unending, but I have worked out that breaking it down into smaller blocks makes it go much quicker. Of course, entertainment options are much better now than they were in 2006, so that helps. As does me getting up at 2:00am Wednesday morning to make sure I was at least a little tired when it was ‘night’ on the plane, because we would be on the move all day once we made it to Los Angeles. It worked decently, aided by a few red wines. I got enough snatches of sleep to not be a total zombie when we landed in California.
Now, it’s evening and I am writing to you from
St Louis, Missouri – our loft apartment is just a stone’s throw from the Gateway Arch and the banks of the Mississippi River. For many of America’s formative years, St Louis was the last major population centre before the long westward journey to California and other fledgling west coast settlements. Now it is a mid-sized city in the heart of the Midwest, and Illinois is just across the other side of the Mississippi.
So, to our travel day.
We were late out of Sydney, an hour’s worth of delay thanks to a catering problem and also the need for an engineer to look at some seats, a decision that I think no one waiting to board would be disappointed by. A dodgy seat at the front end of a thirteen hour flight wouldn’t be any fun at all.
It was a pretty good flight. I probably got about 4 hours sleep in bunches. Strangely, I didn’t watch one movie or TV show from the in-flight entertainment. It was a pretty meagre selection, and I didn’t even find one episode of Law and Order: SVU. That was a surprise, because watching SVU episodes whilst going either way across the Pacific has been one constant of the Sydney-LA or LA-Sydney flight since the first one I took back on 2006. Instead, I read my book(s) and watched some stuff of my iPad. Just as well I had that.
With the delay into Los Angeles, we didn’t make it in time to get our 9:00am connector through to Dallas-Fort Worth. The American Airlines staff at LAX were fantastic. We were moved onto a 10:44am flight instead, and given a later flight for the third leg, from Dallas-Fort Worth into St Louis. The delay actually probably helped, as it gave us a chance to go up to the Admiral’s Lounge and have something to eat whilst checking emails and messages on Wi-Fi.
A 2.5-hour flight through to Dallas-Fort Worth (I had an exit row and therefore plenty of additional leg room, which was super) was followed by a brisk walk to the driverless train that took us to the terminal for our St Louis connection. We arrived at the gate with three minutes to go before boarding started.
Ninety minutes later, we landed in St Louis, very glad that our long day of travel was done, and very glad, also, to realise we wouldn’t have another flight for 11 days.
Dinner at an excellent Japanese restaurant down below our apartment that we ate at the last time we were here (2018) and now a long sleep to come.