Well, Friday was the last day of classes before spring break at Purdue University, and after flying the long cross country flight required for my instrument rating, I was ready to go home. My trip began Saturday morning at 6:45, when I left my apartment for the Lafayette, IN Amtrak station for the ride to Chicago. All of American's flights from IND were full, so I had to get to Chicago on the train, and then try getting a flight to California. For those of you who have never ridden Amtrak, let me tell you one thing about them... they are NEVER on time! I was supposed to leave LAF at 7:20 am, but the train didn't show up until 8:45. Lest you think that this was out of the ordinary, I can tell you that the trains from Chicago to Lafayette are also delayed by a similar amount of time. Once the train finally got to LAF, I boarded for the four hour ride to Chicago (which, by the way, takes only 2 hours by car). Along the way we stopped several times for no apparent reason, but I finally got to CHI, albeit two hours late. After a quick subway ride to O'Hare, I was ready to try my luck on getting a flight out.
The first trip I attempted was a 2:55 departure to San Diego, which was FULL. I was very disheartened to see that, not only was I number 16 on the standby list, but 14 of those ahead of me were revenue standbys who were bumped off of earlier oversold flights. After it became apparent that that flight would be full, I went and checked on the 3 pm departure to LAX, a 767. It too was full. Dissappointed and hungry, I headed to the Chili's that graces Terminal 3. On my way there, I passed Gate H-4, from which a 4 o'clock flight to LAX would depart. Feeling an obligation to at least inquire about every available flight, I asked the gate agent if the flight was full. Her response was, "We're oversold to capacity (20/20 booked in First, 140/126 booked in coach), but it's worth a shot!" On that note, I gave her my ticket and waited for her to call my name. A short time later, I noticed that the flight information screen now contained the message "Stand-by List Closed," indicating that stand-by passengers could not even check in at this point and further dampening my spirits. As I watched the passengers board, I became convinced that I would not get on. After all, there had to have been 146 people who already boarded. At the last minute, the agent called me up. I assumed that she was just going to let me know that the flight was full and that I was rolled over to the standby list for the 4:30 flight, but she actually had a seat assignment for me!
As I made my way into the jetbridge, the door closed almost immediately behind me. As I proceeded toward the aircraft, I took my first look at the boarding pass. As luck would have it, the one seat left on the aircraft was 3A, the First Class bulkhead. While not my first experience in AAs new First Class seats, this was my first time up front in a 737. Before pushback we heard tge usual news... our flight was to take 3 hours and 58 minutes at an altitude of 35,000 feet. We bagan to taxi a few minutes later, and the flight attendant brought me a Coke. Along with it, she brought my dinner menu:
TO START: Warm mixed nuts to accompany your preferred Cocktail or Beverage
SALAD: A Romaine Salad with Croutons served with Caesar Dressing or Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette
BREAD BASKET: Assortment of warm Breads
SALMON TERIYAKI: Fillet of Salmon enhanced by a Pineapple Teriyaki Sauce, accompanied by stir-fried Vegatable Rice
CHICKEN MONTEREY: Tender Breast of Chicken stuffed with Monterey Jack Cheese and a flavorful blend of Jalapeno and Red Peppers, coated with Breadcumbs, complemented by Garlic-Chive Mashed Potatoes
TORTELLONI MARINARA: Tortelloni Pasta topped with a Marinara and Bechamel Sauce garnished with Parmesan Cheese
A LA CARTE VEGETABLES Please select from the following vegetables to accompany tonight's entree:
Zucchini Italiani or Asparagus, Carrot, and Bell Pepper Medley
A seasonal medley of fresh Fruit or an Ice Cream Sundae with your choice of Toppings
I had my salad with lemon wedges rather than dressing, the Chicken Monterey with the Vegetable Medley, and a Hot Fudge Sundae with whipped cream and nuts. The Chicken Monterey was probably the best thing I have ever eaten on an airplane, and among the best chicken dishes I have ever had period. It was sooo good! If first class wasn't so classy, I probably wouldv'e asked for another! The dinner service was nice, and I especially appreciated it because all I'd eaten that day was a sandwich on Amtrak at 9 in the morning, so I was pretty hungry!
After dinner, I just relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the flight. We descended into Los Angeles around sunset, and the city was lacking its typical smog layer, making for a very nice view. As we turned northbound at one point, I could see the San Clemente and Santa Catalina Islands sticking up from the beautiful Pacific, the sun setting in the distance behind them. It was really nice.
When we got to LAX, I hurried off of the plane and, not knowing how soon the next flight to San Diego left, I headed to the American Eagle terminal as quickly as possible. As luck would have it, there was a flight to San Diego only 15 minutes after I arrived and it actually had seats available! I gave my parents a quick call to let them know when to expect me, and boarded the Saab 340B for the 26 minute flight. Shortly after takeoff, the flight attendant brough around drink and pretzels for the 26 people on board, and our quick flight was just about over. We came in on a close downwind for San Diego's runway 27 and landed right on time, at about 7:50 pm. As we came in, I just couldn't stop thinking about how happy I was to be back in California. Indiana is just so FLAT this time of year... It was great to see the mountains again!
Well, that's about the extent of my trip. Next weekend I get to make an attemp at returning to Indiana, and I think it's going to be tough. That's ok, though... I got to go to San Diego, and I got to fly... what could be better?