Day 22 – Saturday, February 18th – Return to the U.S.A.
Dinner was served soon after the delayed departure, and Allan and I both enjoyed the potato soup (accompanied by potato chips made from Chiloe Island potatoes – we sailed past this island for the Puerto Montt stop), and a good piece of beef accompanied by grilled peppers and some sort of Peruvian side-dish. The chocolate dessert was surprisingly unsatisfying.
“Fasten your seatbelts: it’s going to be a bumpy night.” would have been accurate words to describe the flight from Santiago to Los Angeles. The region around the equator seemed particularly rough, and even though we were sleeping in our flat-bed seats, the seatbelts were firmly cinched over our comforters.
I think I slept for about half of the 10.5 hour flight, which wasn’t bad. Better still, the chatty man across the aisle slept for most of the flight: I think he and his wife skipped both dinner and breakfast, which enabled longer sleep. So, it was very quiet…except for the turbulence.
When I awoke, the plane was over Guadalajara, Mexico, and I could see the warm yellow lights of Puerto Vallarta in the distance. I ditched the comforter and got up for a break. That was the cue for the flight attendant to bring my breakfast: a deconstructed omelet. I say “deconstructed” because the omelet was nothing but eggs. In the dish were cubed bacon, mushrooms, and tomatoes. I suppose if you put it together you’d have the full meal deal. Still, it was warm and tasty. There was also a croissant, fresh fruit, and a corn muffin. At least the coffee was strong and served in a large mug. We like the dishes and glasses that LATAM uses. Contemporary and classy.
Eventually Allan woke up and had his breakfast (like mine, but without the corn muffin). I had enough flight time left to watch two episodes of “Family Guy” and then the Woody Allen movie, “Café Society”, starring Jesse Eisenberg. Even though Woody only narrated this one, his voice still seemed to come out of every character’s mouth. I’d give it a B-.
The movie was ending as we were nearing the Los Angeles area (I could see Catalina through the dense clouds). They were experiencing heavy rain and an offshore flow (wind blowing toward the ocean, rather than from it). This meant that our flight would be arriving over the Pacific, rather than over downtown L.A. In all my years of living in L.A. and more years of flying there, I never experienced this kind of approach. We landed on the south complex of runways and had to taxi for a while to make it to gate 132 of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, adjacent to the gate where we’d taken our LATAM flight to Lima. We left the plane at 7:00AM, about 35 minutes later than scheduled. The 787 really does leave you feeling fresher than other aircraft, although I still needed more sleep.
I’ll say this about the updated Tom Bradley Terminal: they know how to keep people moving. Arriving passengers use an upper-level walkway to get to the middle of the building (open and airy), and then you descend long escalators to get to the Immigration and Customs area. We had plenty of company: at this hour, the multiple QANTAS wide bodies had arrived from Australia (at least two A380s), not to mention many flights arriving from Asia. But from the time we exited the plane, went through Immigration (normal channels, not Global Entry), collected our bags (which came out late for “Priority” tagging), Customs (non-existent but slow), walked to Terminal 6, re-checked the bags with Alaska Airlines and got new boarding passes, went through TSA PreCheck security, and made our way to the Board Room, was one hour. ONE HOUR. (He means that’s really good J - AFK) The airport was packed with Saturday (and holiday weekend) travelers. LAX may not be as close to Seattle as San Francisco, but it does make for great international arrivals!
We hung out in the Board Room for about ninety minutes, enjoying some more coffee and the views of the tarmac below. The change in the normal airport patterns made for a lot of traffic jams in an already busy airfield. This would eventually affect us in our departure, as our arriving aircraft was late getting to Gate 64A.
We were ensconced in our usual seats (2A and 2C) on this Alaska Airlines 737-990 (N305AS) aircraft. The plane was full, as they all seem to be these days. While we were supposed to depart at 10:00AM, it was closer to 10:45AM by the time we pushed back. It took a good 20 minutes to taxi over to the north complex (the other side of the airport) before we took off toward downtown L.A. (instead of the normal Pacific Ocean departure).
The flight was uneventful, and though “lunch” turned out to be a fruit and cheese plate, the time passed quickly. I watched the verdant Central California countryside roll below us, eventually giving way to the snowy mountains of Northern California and Oregon. And I nodded off for a while. We landed into a typical Seattle winter day: cloudy and rainy. When the plane parked at gate C18, it was 1:30PM (45 minutes late) and our 18,000-mile, 3 week journey ended.
There was some confusion at baggage cclaim (the assigned carousel numbers weren’t being shown on any monitor), and Allan paid a whopping $5 to rent a baggage cart (at LAX they were free). We took a Lyft home, unpacked, and promptly took very long naps. For the record, Mike and Chuck flew Delta back through Atlanta, and arrived home about a half-hour before we did.
Overall, we felt this was an excellent trip, with the highlights being the natural wonders we saw (Penguins! Glaciers! Latin men!) and our time spent with Mike and Chuck.
We would do it all again… - In a HEARTBEAT! ;-) - AFK