After terrific 10 months, my stay on the central coast in San Luis Obispo (=SLO) was finally over. I had studied at Calpoly State University for 3 quarters and enjoyed this very much. I had such an awesome time, travelled pretty much and met great people (pictures and more on gjunnar.de, but all in German). Now I had to go back to my home on southern Germany where I live and go to the University of Tuebingen, very close to Stuttgart.
I had booked the round trip in May 2005 without a designated date for the flight back, the fare was 774Euros. In May 2006 I had called AA, due to lack of free seats in my cheap segments I had to take the flights on 7/2. The associate on the phone told me I had to pay a service fee of $100 or so for the "change of date" (even so I hadn't even had a date then), but talking to the AA agents at SLO airport, I somehow could avoid that fee, fortunately. On Sunday morning of July 2nd, I got up at 6 o'clock; at 7 my friend Amanda picked me up and gave me the short ride to the airport.
AA had reduced its free baggage weight limit to 50lbs, but guaranteed 70lbs to those tickets issued before last November, good for me as my suitcase and bag were stuffed like crazy. Dang - my suitcase still weighed 75.5lbs, so I had to move 2 books to my carry-on backpack to have my suitcase at 68.5lbs, my bag still was at 60lbs (but wouldn't load more or burst).
Security screening in the tiny SLO terminal was fast, but the x-rays couldn't get through the many books in my bagsack, so the TSA staff had to unload my bagsack and screen it all separately. Everything clean, and soon after the boarding for our little jump down south was ready. SLO county only has some 250000 inhabitants, but the regional airport has a pretty amazing number of flights every day: American Eagle to LAX, Skywest for United to LAX and SFO, America West/US Airways to PHX and LAS.
The flight attendant was very attentive again to make sure that all baggage was stored securely, something I don't find that strictly in larger aircrafts. We departed on time from runway 29 after a very fast start. To have a last view on my little SLOtown and Calpoly on the right, I had chosen seat 12C. I found a couple already had taken 12BC, wtf, I just took 9C which wasn't as good as the wing and the exhaust limited the view pretty much.
Still I was able to have the expected view, but soon banked to the south over the "5 cities area" with Pismo Beach and later Santa Maria.
The usual fog that makes the central coast a mild place in summer was very visible as parts of it moved a little inland.
Soon we crossed the Santa Ynez Valley and reached Santa Barbara; SBA and the beautiful campus of UCSB (in the upper right corner) could easily be seen, just as State Street and Stearn's Wharf. We turned a little East and soon approached the greater LA area over Oxnard/Ventura County and Malibu. The service was one free drink - better than nothing - the flight attendant was professional but not very kind or nice. She announced the entire list of the gates of the flight connections our plane's passengers would need (CVG, JFK, ORD, PDX, LHR...).
The seat pitch in the Saab wasn't too bad, pretty standard I guess.
After Malibu we started our decent over Santa Monica and turned south and west to have a straight shot into LAX's 24R.
Seconds before landing, I spotted the place were I would spend the following 6 hours - the famous In-n-Out. The landing was alright at 0903, but the pilots braked incredibly much so I felt like we left the runway 5 seconds after the touch down. After that we speeded to the little American Eagle satellite west of TBIT very fast, I was afraid the cops would pull us over. As soon as we were down on the ground, I felt the heat of LA - temperatures in SLO hardly ever exceed 80F.
I boarded the bus to T4 to leave the terminal as my flight to LHR would only be in 9 hours. I didn't complain too much about the huge layover as I would enjoy my last hours in Cali watching the great traffic and getting the last "SoCal tan". First I strolled through the TBIT and was amazed and a little intimidated by the crowds of particularly Asian passengers checking in for the huge number of flights departing LAX to the east every day. SLO has a population of 45000 were the word "diversity" sounds like a farce as both the town and Calpoly are very very white with less than 1% blacks and very small numbers of Asian Americans. Here in LA and especially at LAX the entire world and especially Asia is represented thus it felt so different to my time in SLO.
I picked up a timetable of ANA and watched the cops with machine guns at the EL AL check in to YYZ and TLV. I asked an airport representative if there were any lockers for my carry-on, but there were none due to security issues so I carried backpack, sleeping bag and laptop with me. Then I took the bus to parking Lot C as many times before when I had picked up guests and visitors. Today there was no car any more waiting for me but I walked over the short distance to the In-n-Out. It had just opened at 10h and since I hadn't had any breakfast so far, I ordered a cheeseburger (In-n-Out unfortunately doesn't offer breakfast). I laid down in the small park, enjoyed my burger and watched the planes on short final. The big number of 747 is simply amazing. Time didn't pass very fast though and the sun was shining very intensively so I constantly had to check my skin not to get another sunburn.
At about 3, I ordered a double-o-double combo, my last In-n-Out burger for a long time =(. I was delicious as always and I really used the bottomless soda, it was so warm outside. Shortly before 4, I left and walked back to Lot C to take the bus to T4 where AA's flights leave. Security screening was no problem and I would pass the time remaining till boarding at the very tip of the terminal watching the traffic on the southern runways 25. Therefore I was late with boarding so when I entered the plane on gate 41, I was one of the last passengers, thus I could witness a full plane in C and Y, apparently mainly leisure travellers.
On aa.com, I had picked seat 42A as I love the windows. My neighbor was 17 year old Jew Daniel who flew to Israel. We spent hours chatting about Judaism, Israel, the life there, his Waldorf high school, Germany...Our flight left on time on 25R without having to wait. As expected the 777 once more provided a powerful take off and after 45s we had lifted of the runway.
Soon we banked to the left and passed the airport again on our way to the east, to Las Vegas (where I spotted one of the huge outlet centers where I had bought cheap stuff). The very friendly captain announced the flight route, and soon the quite friendly f/a served the first beverages.
The flight over the Mojave Dessert was very bumpy and rough, and lots of clouds as well as the evening sun obstructed the view to the ground. Oddly there we still clouds above us even though we were at 33000ft. We proceeded a little south of Salt Lake City over the Wasatch Plateau, last spots of snow could be seen here and on the Uinta Mountains next to Wyoming.
Salt Lake City (?)
Then dinner was served - beef or chicken? Beef for me, and it was pretty good even though I would have liked more to eat.
After dinner, the blinds were turned down, I tried to sleep but couldn't; on the flight to LA in September, the seat pitch was amazingly great, but since MRTC had been removed now the pitch was clearly less, still decent, but not enough to enable me to fall asleep. I took little naps but didn't really sleep, so I spent my time watching the flight map, talking to Daniel and zapping through the 10 TV channels that only offered a crappy selection. Most of the time I just listened to radio channel 4, the rock one. I didn't leave my seat once, didn't even need a restroom.
Our route was far more south than in September, over Lake Superior and central Ontario, in ETOPS areas south of Greenland and Iceland. Eventually, we approached Ireland over Shannon, but all covered under thick clouds.
We were offered "breakfast", which consisted of one croissant and yoghurt, really not very much. As soon as we were over Wales and England, the clouds were gone and one could see the typical English countryside, quaint towns and green fields.
Bridge near Bristol
We then started our approach, and the airplane slowed down significantly, sometimes it felt like we weren't moving at all any more; soon I was able to spot the well-known shape of LHR and while we passed the airport on the southern side, I believed we would start our approach over the city on the 27.
I was wrong and we were just going for the usual holdings for which we used the area between LHR and LGW, so I also got a great view of Gatwick, too.
Another view of LHR
After a loop and a half, we flew westwards again and started our final approach on runway 9L.
Just before our landing, we passed Windsor Castle (amongst many other castles that I saw over England) and finally at 1205h touched down as smoothly as I had never had it before - some in the rear of the cabin even started clapping, haha. We left the runway in no time and taxied around the entire complex of T1, 2 and 3 clockwise until we had reached our final stand on Gate 17 at the T-pier of T3. Even sitting in the airplane, I could feel the enormous heat in London.
Deboarding went fast and soon I found myself in the bus to T1, with many other sweatin passengers from all over the world. Our little tour over the apron was very nice indeed, after which the central security screening in the flight connection center took place; again loads of people, but it didn't take too long. I went down to the central waiting area in T1 to watch the traffic, especially the departing planes on 9R, which only a very short time after take off would bank to the right or left, obviously to prevent flying over the city. Soon I found myself chatting with another waiting passenger, Lee from the southwestern tip of Illinois who was going to fly to Romania. We talked about soccer, German vs. American beer (what a classical topic!), diversity in the US...very nice conversation. At about 1440 the gate for my final leg to Stuttgart was announced - Gate 40. I said goodbye to Lee and walked down the aisle to the modern pier at the eastern end of T1. Next to our flight, BA to Duesseldorf was going to board at Gate 46, not too many passengers there; different to STR, as we only have 3 flights a day (compared to 7 to DUS), so our load appeared to be slightly higher, a sound mix of business and leisure passengers. British newspapers were offered before entering the jetway, but I didn't want one.
Boarding was completed on time, but we waited some more minutes until we were pushed back. The German business passenger next to me on 7B complained about the air conditioning that was not as cold as he wished it was, particularly inside the terminal building. When the flight attendant explained to him that BA has no influence on the buildings which are operated by the BAA, he didn't understand the difference between the two and was just upset. The f/a told him the apu wasn't strong enough the provide for more cooling on the ground, but when we were going to be airborne, it would get cooler (it was really pretty warm in the plane).
Then we began our taxi to runway 9R and were last in line of at least 10 planes, so it took a hell of time until it was finally our turn which didn't happen till 1600h.
When we entered the runway, I could see again 9 or more planes behind us as well as 3 more planes on the south side of the runway waiting to depart.
The start was very nice again and also we would bank to the right shortly after take off, still we had a pleasant view on "downtown" London, with Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament...
After only a couple of minutes we were already over the channel were I could see an offshore wind park and several big ships. Our meal was served then, but it was pretty disappointing as I expected the all day deli pack that I had had on former BA flights.
Today it was a small can of soda and a 40g pack of nuts and seeds. Well, even BA offers 50Euro flights today, so I think it is a necessity to cut back on the service and meals. Nevertheless, that was a little minus for BA.
The seat pitch was quite alright.
Then we continued our journey as usual over Brussels where the airport is always easily identified. After that I was lost, however, because our A320 didn't have the screens and air shows, so I didn't have a clue the whole time where we actually were. I always tried to see the map in my head and looked for landmarks down there, but had a hard time finding some.
Some military airport near LUX (?)
I think I spotted HHN and the river Mosel, but am not totally sure. From the hindsight, we began our approach very early because we cruised on low altitudes for still a pretty long time. I was pretty frustrated because I couldn't identify a thing down there even though I usually have a good impression of maps and geography, but no way. Wherever we were, the world and especially Germany/Central Europe looked so beautiful from above, so green and nice.
Only when I saw the giant auto factories of Mercedes-Benz in Sindelfingen, I finally knew where we were flying, and at a little after 18h I was back in Germany again.
We taxied very slowly to the last finger gate at T1, immigration was fine and the baggage didn't take too long as well.
While I was waiting for the baggage to arrive, I already saw my mom, sister and 2 friends going crazy outside whereas I was pretty tired and stressed out after some 27h with no real sleep. Well, I caught my heavy suitcase and bag and went through the customs that didn't stop me, so I was out and welcomed by my people.
We went to my sister's car at P0 and speeded down the B27, right when we left the freeway I was being blindfolded and taken around while losing my orientation completely. Eventually we arrived somewhere and when my blindfold was taken away, I was welcomed by a great bunch of family, friends and neigbors.
Dang, what a great surprise, I was overwhelmed and very excited and happy. We had dinner and talked and had a fire until late night so I didn't hit my old bed until 1h in the morning.
All 3 flights were decent and pretty much what I had expected. They were basically the transport from A to B, without the special touch or feeling that sometimes had overcome me when flying. Service was with all flights at pretty low level, but I would not complain with such an inexpensive price. Flight attendants were pretty friendly, again particularly BA's were super while AA's were still quite ok.
On this trip, I took almost 500 photos, so I had to exclude so many nice ones of close-ups from above, several airports or stadiums. Still I think it's more than enough pictures in this report; camera is Kodak DX6490 10xZoom.
Comments, critic and questions are welcome. Hope you enjoyed my first trip report on a.net.
Nice report! It sounds like you had good flights. What a trip! LAX is a pretty amazing airport; the last time I was there I saw so many great airlines. That's great you went to In-N-Out burger. That place is the best. The Air Tahiti Nui picture you took is good! The livery is great on their A343. Looking forward to more reports!
Great report, and lots of great photos!
You can have really good conversations with the people you meet on aeroplanes and in airports eh; you will probably never see them again, but some you remember for a long time.
Great photo of the Air Tahiti Nui A343 too - love seeing "Rangiroa" et al taxi in when I pass through Auckland. Great colour scheme!
[Edited 2006-07-07 18:40:01]
MDZWTA ~ Mobile Disaster Zone When Travelling Abroad
great report, interesting pix.
Your aircraft LHR-STR was indeed G-BUSH, one of the oldsters in the fleet.
I had the same "meal" on my flight, two days earlier, but thats only on this one. I had some other BA runs with sandwich or full breakfast.
I dont know more till now about that airport near LUX,
btw. I was in Tuebingen for business today, nice town, full of students!.
Awesome report! One of my favorites to this day. I liked how you concentrated more on the views outsided the window and where you were going, rather than concentrating on food 95% of the report. Great report, very descriptive and awesome pics!
Quoting COERJ145 (Reply 7):
I'm surprised the AA Saab had cloth seats, not the normal leather ones. If you want a better seat, try 3B/C, great seats right next to the prop. Also, did they do a bev. service on that flight?
excellent report!!! Just wondering, what do you major in? I know one person Simon is his first name. He as well goes to University of Tuebingen. He stayed at my college, Washington College last year, what a great person!
Your report was very good.
You take very great pictures.
The burger looked really good.
The way your family welcomed you was very sweet!
I have one question for you...
Why didn't you take LH directly to Germany wouldn't that have been faster?
Thanks to everyone that responded so far. I appreciate this a lot; and those reactions are also why we write our trip reports, aren't they?
@767747: LAX is indeed an amazing airport. Sure Southwest dominates the traffic on the 24s, but there is still so much international traffic, especially from Asia.
That day, I actually saw 3 Air Tahiti Nuis, excellent paint scheme.
@NZ8800: I love talking to people on airports and in planes, just like you said. They appear to be more interesting than the ones you meet at a concert or party.
@Continental: In-N-Out definitely was my favourite among the burger chains, even though they might have been beaten by some small diners or restaurants that serve their traditional and hand-made burgers.
@Flieger67: I have enjoyed reading your reports for a long time. It seems the German share of trip reports in this forum is dominated by the ones from STR (especially you and Ndebele)! Also a motivation for this one here.
On the flight to LHR in september, we were served the all-day deli pack, that was by far a better meal.
Tuebingen rocks, as long as students are still in town. I really like the place and the university very much.
@DLSLC: I always prefer the window over the aisle, just because there is nothing more exciting than to see the world down there; over the areas that I know I always try to find landmarks like airports that I know or have seen before on the ground.
This is also why I was really desperate to identify things between Brussels and Stuttgart and couldn't find 'em.
Actually the airmap on the 777 showed that we were passing the SLC area approximately 20mi southeast, with another lake in between our position and the great salt lake. Probably you are right with your guess, I've never been to Salt Lake City.
@B742: That really is a gorgeous bridge, looks fantastic.
@COERJ145: On the flight LAX-SBP in september, the f/a told me to take 1A as my assigned seat was 12A. Even on 1A, the prop is directly next to you, almost frightened me a bit.
I found it interesting a good that they offered a free drink, AA mainline doesn't do so on their domestic flights anymore, right?
@Planecrazy2: Oh yeah! On the flight LHR-LAX in september, we were passing Iceland and Greenland and passed right through Hudson Bay, then Winnipeg and later SLC, according to the great circle. I don't know if it was the winds/jetstreams that was responsible for such a routing now.
@STT757: Of course I have thought about possible American AFBs in the Rheinland-Pfalz area, but wasn't sure and have never seen Ramstein. I should check with the a.net-database.
@Andrej: I'm majoring in economics, unfortunately doesn't know the Simon you are talking about. As a matter of fact, particularly business and econ students participate in exchange programs with the US (and other nations) the most.
Tuebingen offers 50 different colleges and universities in the US and Canada with ~180 open seats every year!
@ThereAndBack: The burger was so good, believe me. Especially the big onion is a treat!
Of course I was overwhelmed and deeply impressed by the welcome; you can't expect such thing, but silently hope for it
Why not LH? Well, as a college student, money matters! This flight was just the cheapest I could find, there are not so many options to fly directly into SBP. Plus I don't like LH too much, especially what I hear from trip reports here and on a.de, with tiny seat pitch and no PTV.
I do not only don't like LH a lot, but furthermore do love BA and have always admired the shiny 777 from AA. Last but not least, I love Heathrow. If I could have chosen a flight disregarding the fare, I would have chosen exactly this one! As I said, it wasn't very great concerning service and food, but just imagine sitting in this huge shiny 777....*shrugs*, can't help it, I love it!
Especially since you´re a student at my hometown (I spend 2 weekends per month in Tuebingen, commuting there from my University).
Maybe we even know each other - given you´ve grown up in Tuebingen, too.
Thank you again for ther report - makes me look forward to my study abroad in Australia in 2007...
What a nice welcome back. Wonderful. As to AA for the first few years their flights from London to the USA were great. The seats had about 34" of legroom and the meals were wonderful and plentiful. In the last few years it's been downhill.
@BA319-131: Well, I can't say I was impressed with AA's food, but it really was of decent quality.
The In-n-Out is like the perfect place on earth, great food and great planes ;o) It's also such a famous place among airtravel-enthusiasts, you gotta go there!
Spootter10: Unfortunately I am not directly from Tuebingen but from Pliezhausen, 10mi east of TUe on the B27.
You have fun in Australia, studying abroad is probably one of the best decisions you could ever make.
@Semsem: Yea, even in September the seat pitch on AA was incredibly huge, bummer that >More Room throughout Coach< is over ;-( The meals were ok then, nothing special.
But I would always fly with them again, just for their 777s, I'm in love with them.
@TriStar500: Indeed it took pretty long to write the text, but I've always enjoyed reading TRs here and wanted to give something back. The general quality of recent TRs here has been fabulous!
@Sabena332: You've got to hit San Luis Obispo when taking Highway #1 or #101 from LA to SF or v.v. It's a beautiful college town with a superb downtown and the great campus of Calpoly.
The airport is one of the smallest I have ever seen, but as I said: Plenty of flights every day to LAX, SFO, PHX and LAS.
Actually I've never been to Lompoc, even though I would have liked to visit Vandenberg AFC (if possible), but ran out of time. I've passed the area several times on the 101 down to Santa Barbara, but never took the little detour. But I was in Buellton and Solvang
In general, the Central Coast is a gem, very natural and little populated. I had a couple of friends and family visit me and everybody was amazed by the beauty of the area they all had never really heard of. Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, yeah, but where the heck is San Luis Obispo??? You better know, I'm telling you, it's an awesome place.
Quoting Gjunnar (Reply 20): You've got to hit San Luis Obispo when taking Highway #1 or #101 from LA to SF or v.v.
Yes, we drove from San Francisco to Lompoc on the #1 and we stopped at San Luis Obispo to get some bottles of ice cold Gatorade, it was damned hot that day and I got a nice sunburn on my arm because we had a convertible and I was wearing a t-shirt for the whole ride, so my arm got sun for 6 or 7 hours nonstop. Nevertheless, it was a nice ride which I will always remember.
Quoting Gjunnar (Reply 20): Actually I've never been to Lompoc, even though I would have liked to visit Vandenberg AFC (if possible)
We have been to Vandenberg AFB for a couple of times, usually we played bowling and had a few beers with the soldiers there. I don't know if it is possible for everyone to enter the AFB, we could enter it without problems at any time of the day because my friend's uncle is a retired Air Force officer. All of his family's cars had a small sticker on the windshield which allowed us to access the facility. It was great when when we entered the AFB, the guard at the entrance always looked for the sticker and salute at us when we passed him. Oh yes, we got also great discounts on the tickets for Magic Mountain because we bought them at the AFB.
SSSSHHHHHH!!!!!!! Quit spreading the word about SLO. As a 25 year resident, we like to keep our little sliver of California as secret as possible!
Hope you enjoyed your stay. It is quite a place, although, as you pointed out, not a lot of diversity. It was funny to hear somebody else's impression of the airport, and the jump to LAX on Eagle. I'm 6'6'' and hate getting on those planes. No matter how many times I do it, I always manage to hit my head on something. Guess I could move to a bigger city with some mainline, but it's just not worth leaving this place.
Funny that you said you majored in econ. My dad is an econ prof. at Cal Poly. Hope you didn't have him, he's pretty boring!
Thanks for the great report, and hope you're enjoying being back home. I'm headed down to Firestone Grill for a tri-tip sandwich, so gotta run... hope you didn't miss out on that during your stay.
@Sabena332/Patrick: I'd like to fly to Cali right now very bad, too!
@AA-SAN: Hehe, yeah, SLO likes to hide its attractivity, sorry for my revelation Great to hear from a SLO resident!
I am 6'2'', so the seat pitch in the Saab340 was ok, but of course the overhead bins were way too small. I also prefer flying on larger planes over the small props.
Sure I enjoyed being in SLO! What's your dad's name? I'd be very interested to know, maybe you wanna send me a private message.
Unfortunately, I always neglected my friends's advices and never had the tri-tip at Firestone. I always had the burger at Firestone, and tri-tips somewhere else, e.g. at Mother's. Plus I liked the burgers at the cork & bottles liquor store on Foothill Blvd very much