BrusselsSouth From Belgium, joined Aug 2001, 609 posts, RR: 5 Posted (8 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 5521 times:
Regular readers of this forum know this already: two years ago I published an analysis of transatlantic air traffic on this site, which would give me the opportunity to exchange a couple of aviation related e-mails with some fellow A.netters. Of those correspondences, the one that developped with member BNAOWB would gradually turn into one of the greatest friendships of my life. Despite the distance separating our respective home towns (Charleroi, Belgium for me, Atlanta, USA for BNAOWB), we managed to keep the spirit of our friendship alive and well through Skype and e-mails, and we finally met in person for a very successful common trip to Azerbaijan and Belarus in 2012.
Readers interested in the details of the above story can click on the following links:
Long story short, since our first trip together had been so successful, we started discussing another trip almost immediately after our return. Since I could not afford to plan anything for the long term because of specific personal constraints in 2013, we decided that we would visit each other's countries during this year, with me having the honor to start the party because I had Star miles about to expire. So, a trip from Brussels to Atlanta (via FRA) was soon booked, with the return leg starting in Chicago instead of Atlanta to allow me to experience another domestic U.S. flight. BNAOWB kindly invited me to meet his family and stay in his home near Atlanta, yet, being the travel nuts that we are, we soon decided that we should take my visit as an opportunity to explore the southern U.S. which would reduce my visit to BNAOWB's family to a one-night stay (including a very nice southern style dinner!).
We were busy discussing what could form a nice road trip itinerary and how to reach ORD from the various end points, when BNAOWB sent me a mail containing a very interesting option. I believe I won't reveal much of our private correspondence if I retranscript the following:
Here is a surprising option to CHI to consider:
PAH-ORD UA (2:59P-4:20P) $141
PAH is so small that it would be a fascinating contrast on a trip that also includes ATL, ORD, BRU, and MUC.
You could be the first Belgian to ever fly from PAH
But, while a visit to downtown Chicago would be possible, you would obviously miss the opportunity to fly WN and into MDW.
For some reason, I was so seduced by the idea of flying out of this small town I had never heard about, that it took me less than one day to make up mind and book the Paducah-Chicago option that BNAOWB suggested. All that was left to do was to design an itinerary that would be as interesting as possible from Atlanta to Paducah. Of course, I would have wanted to be in the U.S. for much longer, but work constraints had reduced my realistic time away from the office to 5 days, which was better than nothing I thought. After much discussion, we agreed on the following:
- Atlanta - Chattanooga (staying in Chattanooga).
- Chattanooga - Monteagle - Huntsville - Decatur (AL) - Muscle Shoals - Memphis (staying in Memphis).
- Memphis - Osceola (AR) - New Madrid (MO) - Cairo (IL) - Paducah (KY).
That itinerary had all it takes to get us excited: a mix of culture, scenery, history, small towns, large cities, and it would allow me to "visit" an impressive 8 states on a 5-day trip! As the icing on the cake, we would be exposed to 3 major rivers of America: Tennessee, Mississippi and Ohio.
Flight map (from the Great Circle Mapper):
Road trip map:
So, dear readers, the story of this trip begins on a Friday at the end of March 2013, somewhere on the (infamous - for its traffic jams) R0 ring road around Brussels, Belgium:
I'm driving to BRU in this cold winter morning (it's actually spring, as no one could guess):
For personal reasons, I exceptionally arrive at the airport with a rental car, so after a quick detour by the Europcar office, I enter the departure hall of Brussels Airport. A minor 10-minute delay is announced for my flight to FRA (7th line on the display) - nothing to worry about:
Note the direct flight to ATL (DL81) on the 6th line of the 3rd column (one day maybe...).
Since I have covered BRU in other reports, including in my Copenhagen report (http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/205517/), let's go straight to gate A45 for my departure to FRA. On my way I spot the following:
JetairFly B767-38EER OO-JAP leaving to Varadero, Cuba as TB501.
Parked at concourse B, Delta's ship 1502 (N152DL) would leave later that day to ATL as DL81.
My flight to FRA today, LH1005, would have had all the characteristics of a pretty standard European flight on LH, if it wasn't for a small detail that would make it somehow special:
Can't see what I'm talking about? Look closer, the wing tip:
Yes! Not only is D-AIZQ Lufthansa's most recently delivered A320 (delivered just two weeks ago!), it's also one of the few, and LH's second only, A320 to be equipped with the so-called "sharklets"! Of course, this only matters to A.netters, other passengers couldn't care less. Here's a brief tour of BRU as we taxi to runway 07R for departure (believe it or not, out of 20 departures from BRU, it's only the second time that I take off to the East!):
Brussels Airlines' Avros remain a common sight at BRU, but this should change eventually.
D-AKNM departing to STR as 4U2161.
OO-SFV is being prepared for her next service to Africa, after her arrival from JFK. SN's African flights depart from the tip of concourse A.
Two views of the currently unused old "satellite" (concourse C) and concourse B to the right:
But wait, what do I see here? Zoom in, please:
A Jet Airways (Konnect) 737? Sure, BRU is a mini-hub for 9W, but a 737? Now that one is a mystery to me. Planespotters.net has her "stored" at GWO (Greenwood, USA) since March 25th, so perhaps I was just lucky and saw her during a fuel stop on her way to the U.S.? Any info would be appreciated. OK, time for take off now:
Not long after departure, we fly over Liège, Belgium:
Note two iconic landmarks, the red stadium of "Standard Liège" in Sclessin, and the impressive new station of Liège-Guillemins designed by famous architect Santiago Calatrava:
And an almost overhead shot of LGG airport:
Our route then takes us over western Germany. This is Mainz on River Rhine:
And near by Wiesbaden:
As we line up with FRA's runway 07R, we get to see Flörsheim am Main (the "Main" river in the foreground is FRA's namesake):
A quarry as we're close to touch down:
Almost there, this is runway 18:
A Thai A380 as a nice welcome:
N48127 departing as UA118 to Newark:
We disembarked at a remote stand which was a good opportunity to emulate Markus (Flieger67)'s trademark "Under the wing, you know" shots, with the "sharklet" in all its splendor:
Now as you all know, FRA is LH heaven, just don't go if you don't line blue cranes in yellow circles. Here are some highlights:
A380-800 D-AIMH being pushed back for her service to Houston as LH440:
D-ABYD is the first B747-8i that I spot in person. She'll depart to LAX as LH456:
Detail of the 747-8's engine and raked wingtip, as B737-500 D-ABIC Krefeld passes by, ready for another domestic hop within Germany:
Now look at this:
The 744 is N179UA arriving from SFO as UA900. The A330-300 in the foreground is D-AIKG, and she will take me to ATL:
Gates Z68 and Z66 as boarding time approaches (I'm getting very excited now):
Once on board, I take my seat 46K, on the very last row. I am soon joined by a very nice German lady whom I would chat with for a good part of the flight:
Our neighbor is D-AIKC, about to fly into another DL hub, DTW:
Great line up of LH heavies as we push back. From left to right: A380-800 D-AIMG to NRT, B747-400 D-ABVR to MEX, A340-600 D-AIHX to NGO and D-AIHD to MCO:
Bye bye, FRA:
One for Phil aka Wilco737 (not sure he still flies those beauties, though):
A fine example of failed photo framing, but interesting metal in the background nonetheless:
LH Regional apron:
Austrian Arrows F100 OE-LVO to Salzburg:
There's not much to see out of the window after take off. Clouds everywhere. Lunch is served 45 minutes into the flight and chicken is proposed to me so nicely that I just can't refuse:
I start chatting with my seat mate who happens to be a very interesting German lady on a leisure trip to Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Conversation makes time fly, and we're soon halfway to America:
I give the onboard Wifi feature a try. It works as intended, but it's pricey and slow. I send live pictures from the flight to my wife, BNAOWB and a few friends just for the fun of it (as it turns out, BNAOWB would only see the picture days later...). Before I know it, we've reached another continent:
Out of pure luck, the thick cloud cover that has been hiding the ground for most of the flight magically clears as we fly near Montreal, Canada, treating me with fantastic views that bring back beautiful memories of my time there in 2009 (albeit it was in much warmer weather):
Can you spot YUL?
Now you can:
Sure looks cold down there:
As we're getting close to our destination, a hot pre-arrival snack is served. I choose a German style sausage sandwich while my seat mate tries a vegetarian mini-pizza:
I spend the remainder of the flight watching scenery, before we enter into the clouds again. I did not manage to identify that town, somewhere in West Virginia:
New River Gorge (WV):
Beckley (WV) and its airport (BKW):
As we approach the Atlanta area, air traffic becomes more dense:
Since our approach into Atlanta is from the Northeast, we fly close to Lake Lanier, Georgia (thanks BNAOWB for the pre-flight briefing!):
Finally, we make a long circuit around Atlanta to land from the West. Here are some typical residential neighborhoods in Douglasville (West of Atlanta) as we're flying the base leg of the approach:
Final approach over ATL's remote car parks, with the Georgia International Convention Center visible:
Touching down on runway 08L...
... and racing with an FL 717 taking off from 08R:
Famous "Fly Delta Jets" sign:
ATL scenes during taxi:
No question as to who's the dominant airline here:
Yet, a few other airlines do coexist peacefully, like Silver Airways, operating Saab 340's to regional destinations, or the odd GeorgiaSkies 9-seater Cessna 208B's (operated by Pacific Wings) flying EAS (Essential Air Service) hops to nearby Macon, GA:
DL heavies at terminal E (the sole international terminal until last year):
Finally coming to a full stop at the new international terminal (terminal F, aka Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal), next to an AirTran 737-700:
Despite the relatively short lines, it takes me a good while (about 45 minutes indeed) to disembark, pass immigration and reclaim my bag. Terminal F is modern and pleasant and certainly offers an adequate welcome to Atlanta to foreign visitors.
BNAOWB is waiting for me in the public area of the terminal. He directs me to a window from where I can see the LH plane I have just arrived on:
Before we head to his home, he takes me on a nice tour of the airport, making me visit the domestic terminal (both outside and inside!):
And showing me the DL headquarters on the north side of the airport:
He shares lots of interesting information about the airport, before we head to the city for a brief overview (I'll visit in more detail tomorrow):
We stop at the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site where we visit MLK's tomb:
And the Ebenezer Baptist Church where he pastored:
We continue on North Avenue:
Where we see the impressive Bank of America Plaza, which is the tallest building in the United States outside Chicago and NYC:
Since I've never driven a real American pick-up truck, BNAOWB offers me to stop at his workplace to let me test his Dodge Ram 2500:
Neat experience! As we leave his workplace, he shows me a precise spot where there's apparently nothing special:
Except that the Eastern Continental Divide runs right through this street at this very location! After some additional sightseeing, we eventually reach BNAOWB's home where I meet his beautiful kids and wife (who has just cooked a southern-themed meal for us!). We spend the remainder of the evening chatting around the delicious meal until we call it a night. A neat room has been prepared for me:
On the next morning, we wake up early to meet BNAOWB's parents and have breakfast at their place:
Despite the threatening clouds, we decide to climb atop Stone Mountain, an impressive granite mountain in the eastern suburbs of Atlanta. And sure enough, slaloming between the lightning bolts in the middle of the storm, we're soaked to the bones as we reach the top:
It takes more than rain and lightning discharges to scare A.netters. Since we couldn't get more wet than we currently are, we might as well continue the visit of Stone Mountain. If you look very carefully between the tree to the left and the flag, you'll see the famous giant carvings of confederate leaders on the mountain side. The mountain is now a giant waterfall, that's how bad it's raining:
So, after this unusual visit, BNAOWB drops me off at the Avondale MARTA station. I have planned to visit Atlanta on my own since he couldn't get a day off today, but we'll meet again at 3pm to start our road trip, so it will be a short day at work for him anyway:
I get off the train in front of the Georgia State Capitol and its golden dome:
Rain hasn't stopped and it starts to worry me a bit:
Across the street is Atlanta's Central Presbyterian Church, built in 1885:
Not knowing where to go to escape the rain, I go down into Atlanta's belly and visit Underground Atlanta before I get on a train to North Avenue. As it turns out, rain has finally stopped as I emerge from the station in front of the Fox Theater:
I have a look at the Georgian Terrace Hotel across the street:
Continuing along North Avenue, I reach a icon of Atlanta, the Varsity restaurant (the tower in the back is part of the Coca-Cola world headquarters):
Looking back into North Avenue:
To my right is the Georgia Tech campus:
The focal point of the campus is the Tech Tower. Students have stolen the letter "T" several times:
These decayed buildings remind me that I've gone too far West. Before I walk back to safer places, let me try to confer them a bit of brightness by accentuating their otherwise faded colors:
Back into downtown, I wander around the 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park, built as part of the infrastructure improvements for the 1996 Summer Olympics:
I'm supposed to have lunch at the Sun Dial restaurant, located atop the Westin Peachtree Plaza. The clouds surrounding the restaurant windows make me believe that I should still explore the city before trying my luck there:
Lovely Broad Street:
Peachtree Street and Hooters:
Georgia-Pacific Tower in Peachtree Street:
Around the Sun-Trust Tower:
At 1pm I become hungry so I go to the Sun Dial restaurant for a lunch with a view:
Can you spot the Georgia State Capitol and its golden dome here?
Speaking of domes, here's the Georgia Dome:
And here, the CNN headquarters:
Looking North to the Downtown Connector and the Bank of America Tower:
Some last views of downtown:
Before I head to Decatur, GA, to meet BNAOWB in front of the DeKalb County Courthouse:
We're now ready to start our road trip through rural America. Before we go, BNAOWB still wants to show me the street where his childhood home was located:
So, after a last bit of sighseeing around Atlanta, we leave the Capital of the South, headed North toward Tennessee:
After a relatively short drive, we reach Chattanooga:
But before we enter the city proper, we first climb atop Lookout Mountain to enjoy the view on the Tennessee River and the city of Chattanooga:
BrusselsSouth From Belgium, joined Aug 2001, 609 posts, RR: 5 Reply 1, posted (8 months 1 week 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 5517 times:
In Chattanooga, we have decided to stay at the historic Choo Choo Hotel, whose lobby is installed in a former railway station grand hall:
To make it even more historic, we opt for a stay in authentic old Victorian train cars converted into hotel rooms:
After we've dropped our bags, we go out for a bit of city exploration and a nice dinner:
On the next morning, we get on the road again and follow Interstate 24 for a very short incursion back into Georgia:
Before entering Tennessee again and climbing the infamous section of I-24 near Monteagle, in low clouds:
Our first stop of the day is the lovely small town of Sewanee, best known for being home to the University of the South, and whose location on the edge of the Cumberland Plateau offers great lookout points on the surrounding rural areas:
Soon after, we stop at the Railroad Park in the sleepy little town of Cowan:
Then continue on US Highway 41A...
... to Winchester, Tennessee:
And after another stop at the Falls Mill in Belvidere:
We leave Tennessee...
... and enter Alabama:
Our first stop in the Yellowhammer State is for coffee at a local gas station:
And soon we find ourselves entering Huntsville:
"Big Spring" is the original water source that the city of Huntsville was built around:
On the edge of Huntsville...
... we pay a visit to the U.S. Space & Rocket Museum, a must see museum for anyone in the area, presenting the history of American rockets (Huntsville was a major center in the development of rockets), including the famous Saturn V:
And a model of the now retired Space Shuttle:
As we drive away from the museum after our visit...
...what do we see?
It looks like a Delta Mad Dog about to land. It doesn't take more than this for BNAOWB to leave the highway in the direction of the ambitiously named "Huntsville International Airport", for a slow drive-by:
To our surprise, there's even someone dropping off relatives here from... Alaska (well, that's what the license plate says, at least...):
One crossing of the Tennessee River later, we land in the pleasant town of Decatur, Alabama:
Near Decatur is one out of two facilities of United Launch Alliance (ULA)'s manufacturing, assembly and integration process for its Atlas and Delta space launchers:
Courtland, Alabama, is a sleepy little town a couple of miles after Decatur. I liked its somewhat decadent atmosphere but I must admit that it's a tad bit too much on the quiet side for me to consider it as my new home town:
Upon leaving Courtland, we drive on secondary county road to the historic Goode-Hall plantation house near the town of Town Creek, where we are litterally attacked by watch dogs:
It doesn't take a far stretched imagination to think that I could have been one of the only Belgians to ever set foot here. For lunch, we stop at a "Ruby Tuesday" in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Thank you BNAOWB for the heads up, I had never heard of that chain before and enjoyed the meal (oh, and now I'm aware that restaurants in Muscle Shoals do not serve alcohol on Sundays...):
The very small town of Cherokee, Alabama, could have remained an insignificant name on our itinerary map, if we hadn't somehow become aware that this is where I beat my former "westernmost record", that is, the westernmost point I have ever travelled to. Because, believe it or not, Cherokee, Alabama, is located at the same longitude as Chicago's O'Hare airport, my former westernmost "record"!
Since there's not much to do in Cherokee (no offense to my numerous readers from there...):
BNAOWB suggests that I take this opportunity to visit the local post office, which is, according to him, very typical of those small towns:
Inside, I am amazed by the ornate P.O. boxes:
But, the police is never far away in Cherokee:
So, we decide to leave and continue our journey, soon joining the Natchez Trace Parkway:
Until the "Colbert Ferry" site on the Tennessee River (again) where we stop for a photo break:
Tomskii From Belgium, joined May 2011, 461 posts, RR: 0 Reply 4, posted (8 months 1 week 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 4161 times:
Great TR! If I saw it well and recognized my own dashboard you were driving a Ford (Focus?) to the airport isn't it? .
I'm looking forward to the next parts of the TR! As for the JetKonnect 737 I suppose it is cheaper for 9W to bring transport them via BRU for a fuel stop as they already have contracts there. I've seen several 9W planes there on regular basis on their way to the US or India, makes for some intresting spotting locations
BNAOWB From United States of America, joined Dec 2009, 378 posts, RR: 1 Reply 5, posted (8 months 1 week 3 days 15 hours ago) and read 4149 times:
Thank you for the fantastic trip report! This is "BNAOWB" / Nick, the traveling companion of "Brussels South" on this exciting journey. It was an incredible honor to welcome my dear Belgian friend to Atlanta (where I have lived for the last 38 years) and to explore a huge variety of places (in a short period of time) in those 8 states. In the not too distant past, I would have worried that there would be little of interest for a visiting European in this part of the United States. So, it was quite satisfying to realize that this is absolutely not the case.
An extended road trip between a lifelong American and a lifelong Belgian results in many interesting discussions about (often trivial) differences between our countries. A small sample of the sort of observations that we discussed:
1) American traffic lights are typically positioned directly above or just past the intersection that they control while Belgian traffic lights are typically positioned just before the intersection that they control.
2) "Right turn on red" is normally permitted in the U.S. unless otherwise posted while in Belgium it is normally not permitted unless posted otherwise.
3) Road signs announcing city limits in the U.S. often display that city's population or elevation. This is apparently never done in Belgium.
4) American parking spaces normally have painted lines on three sides while Belgian parking spaces normally have painted lines on all four sides.
5) Americans, in general, may be more accepting of the idea of being served beer/cola in the bottle at a restaurant (with no separate glass) than their Belgian counterparts.
6) An American man, in general, may have a slightly lower "bar" set for him regarding the sort of restaurant that would be acceptable to his wife/girlfriend than his Belgian counterpart (perhaps because of Belgium's higher percentage of independent restaurants).
Now for some comments related to the trip......
Quoting BrusselsSouth (Thread starter): Since I've never driven a real American pick-up truck, BNAOWB offers me to stop at his workplace to let me test his Dodge Ram 2500
He was such a natural at driving the pick-up truck - perhaps a monster truck career should be considered?
Quoting BrusselsSouth (Thread starter): Except that the Eastern Continental Divide runs right through this street at this very location!
Quoting BrusselsSouth (Thread starter): To make it even more historic, we opt for a stay in authentic old Victorian train cars at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo converted into hotel rooms
This was quite a unique experience. There was certainly no shortage of overhead storage space for luggage!
Quoting BrusselsSouth (Thread starter): Upon leaving Courtland, we drive on secondary county road to the historic Goode-Hall plantation house near the town of Town Creek, where we are litterally attacked by watch dogs
We surely set an all-time land speed record for A.netters as we ran away from those "attack dogs" that were in hot pursuit of us!
Quoting BrusselsSouth (Reply 7): Quoting BNAOWB (Reply 5):
This was quite a unique experience at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo "railroad car" hotel room . There was certainly no shortage of overhead storage space for luggage!
A suggestion for them though: perhaps they should install a "master switch" that would remove the need for customers to switch off (and on...) each overhead light individually?
But, don't all hotel guests prefer switching on/off 20+ light switches individually?
Good to see her too...She had been my ride from Delhi to Frankfurt in January...Let me tell you the 748i is just amazing...
Good you caught her..I now suggest you travel on her....
Thats the photo I have of her