Well my nine weeks working as a Camp Counselor at a Summer Camp in the USA with Camp America had come to and end and it was time to begin the seven day trip back home with two stop overs in LA and Hawaii.
My time in Michigan was an awesome one. The roads in Michigan, LA and Hawaii were a real eye opener. I thought some of New Zealands roads were bad but some roads in the USA takes the cake. Some country roads with a speed limit of 60mph (100km/h) were so bad that you couldn’t do more then 30mph (50km/h) without slowly loosing control of your vehicle. Quite a bit of the roads looked like they were made of concrete slabs. I’ve now made heaps of American friends and even got a new American family after one of co-counselors parents took me in as one of their own kids. I’ve never had so many fizzy drinks (pop) in nine weeks. Dr Peper is now my favorite, as well as the Cherry flavored drinks by Coke and Pepsi. American food took a while to get used to, but I found American milk more nicer then milk back home.
At 7.30am one of the Camp staff arrived at the camp office to load my bags into one of the camp vehicles so we could begin the long trip to DTW for my United Airlines flights to LAX via ORD. During the drive to DTW we encounted a few road works. Michigan has two seasons, winter and construction season (summer) and the road works that I’ve seen over the nine weeks in Michigan totally supported this. We called in at McDonalds on the way and grabbed some breakfast. After clearing all the road works we finally hit the Freeway and had a nice fast run to DTW. After unloading my bags and saying our goodbyes I headed inside to the UA check-in. Handed over my passport as ID, NZ air points card and received back two boarding passes to LAX. After doing a bit of exploring I decided to proceed throu security and head to the gate. There was no line at the TSA point so a fast run throu there considering it was rush hour. After finding the gate I did a bit more exploring and walked down the end of the terminal concourse to the SW gates. Headed back to the UA gate that my flight was departing from. I was originally scheduled to be on UA727 but that flight number was withdrawn.
Date: August 7th
Airline: United Airlines
Photo © Brian Bartlett
Boarding was announced with the usual business class first etc. After the door was closed the usual safety briefing was given and we were off towards the runway. Channel 9 was on so I tuned in to listen. Take off was given and off we went into a nice blue sky on a direct path for ORD. I tried to count all the lakes again but quickly gave up. Meal service was started and no surprise at all, I had pepsi and the usual nuts snack that UA hand out. I decided to read the UA in-flight mag and read an article about New Zealand which was obviously interesting to me. After reading the mag and having another Pepsi and nuts the landing announcement was made and my eyes went from reading a mag to looking out the window full time. Landing was smooth and we landed on the other side of the airport, so the long taxi to the UA terminal began. De-boarding was a bit slow but I finally managed to get off about 10 minutes after arriving at the gate.
I started the exploring the terminal process again and looking for anything interesting. After about 1 hour of exploring and walking the full length of concourse B twice it was time to head to concourse C for my flight to LAX. Walking throu the walkway connecting the B and C concourse is really awesome with all the colorful lights throu the whole walkway.
Photo © Jason Alpine
Date: August 7th
Airline: United Airlines
Photo © Tom Turner
This was my first B752 flight, so I was obviously looking at the aircraft with interest, even thou I’ve seen the RNZAF B752s taking off and landing at WLG and flying over my work many times before I was still amazed at its very sleek lines and nice engine design. I found my seat and quickly got settled in. About 10 minutes before the doors closed, a girl I think aged about 12-13 and her dad sat in the two seats beside me. There instantly went my hopes of at least having one seat free beside me. Two younger girls and a mum sitting in the row in front of me were obviously family because of how many times they talked to the girl and the dad beside me during the flight. Channel 9 was again on offer so I tuned in from push back and listened for basically the whole flight. The snack service was again offered and again I had a few cans of pepsi and nuts, I only had pepsi because UA doesn’t offer Coke or Dr Pepper. Mid-flight I got up and had a little walk around the aircraft. When I got back to my seat the father asked me what the Camp America logo on my vest meant, so I explained to him that I’ve just spent the last nine weeks working at a summer camp in Michigan. About One hour before landing I heard on Channel nine, a Jetblue pilot asking LAX control for permission to drop altitude and go a little off route and do a scenic fly-over of the Grand Canyon for the passengers. Permission was granted and about five minutes later the Jetblue pilot informed LAX that he is going back on course. The smog over LA was real thick on this day. Landing was smooth, with a nice landing. After dis-embarking and getting my bags it was off to the Super Shuttle Customer Service Agent and to wait for the Shuttle to take me to Hollywood.
After spending three days in Hollywood and not really being impressed with Hollywood as I thought it wasn’t what its lived up to be. Went to Disneyland and had the time of my life and having fun acting like a kid and going on an LA City Tour it was time to head back to LAX for the third time in under three months and fly to HNL. The night before I watched on the News about the Terror plot in the UK and thought tomorrows flying could be interesting, but didn’t think it would basically be a mission to get throu LAX and to get to the gates. A few hours later I was waking up and on the Super Shuttle heading to LAX. One of the passengers on the bus received a phone call informing him of the security changes so the passenger informed everyone else on the bus, which was nice as it gave me time to re-pack my bags while I waited to check-in. As the bus was arriving there was rows and rows of LAPD squard cars with officers holding big guns and bomb detectors and mirrors and randimly stopping cars. Just seeing all the LAPD officers holding all their guns was a real eye opener and a massive cultural shock because the New Zealand Police don’t carry guns on them, only unit in the NZ Police that carry guns is the AOS (Armed Offenders Squard) and they are really called out each year. New Zealand is considered the safest place in the world. The New Zealand Police is the only Police force in the world who don’t carry guns. Driving past the terminals there were lines of News trucks parked with their Live TV aerials up. Check-in took about two hours due to the massive lines stretching outside the two UA terminals. Terminal 1 was worse off then UAs terminals due to their waiting lines. Finally managed to get checked-in and then instantly proceeded towards the TSA lines which only took about 5 minutes to clear which was way nicer then waiting in-line to check-in for nearly two hours. Took of my shoes and put them on the x-ray machine and walked throu the x-ray. Past the screening with flying colours and got my backpack and travel documents and put on my shoes again and continued on towards the gates. Stopped by at a few shops and purchased some t-shirts before grabbing some water and having another explore of the terminals session, even thou I had explored the two UA terminals well in June during my nine hour stop over. Coffee shops, bookshops and gift shops that sold drinks were having a booming trade with boxes and boxes of water being delivered all the time to all the shops on the golf carts that UA use in the terminals. Found the gate that my flight was departing from and noticed no aircraft was parked there so off I walked down to the end of the pier that I was departing from. Found an internet station and logged on to clear any e-mails that I had received within a few hours of clearing e-mails before leaving for LAX.
Date: August 10th
Airline: United Airlines
Photo © Dan Rabolt
Boarding started with the usual business class and parents with young kids boarding first before the back rows of Economy started to board. Once on board I found my seat and settled in. Within a few minutes of sitting down two girls aged around my age sat down in the two seats beside me with their friends in the other two seats beside their seats. Due to a lack of sleep the previous night with phone calls from home on my cellphone I decided that I would catch up on sleep on this flight. I asked the FA for a blanket and the FA kindly got a wrapped blanket for me. Push back was on time with the pilot announcing channel nine will be switched on so I tuned in for the flight. The pilot during taxi came back on the PA with the flight details for the flight for the usual UA competition on all HNL flights. I wasn’t going to take part in the competition so I didn’t really pay any attention to the info. We waited for about 15 minutes before taking off. Meal service was started about 30 minutes into the flight. On this flight UA offered a salad service for $5 also, as well as the usual $5 snack bags. When the FAs arrived at my seat my preference for the salad snack had gone so I went with the spinach salad. The $5 was really worth it considering how nice the salad was. I thought $5 was way to cheap for that type of salad with all the extras included in it. The sauce in the salad was really good. I also had the usual Pepsi, but would have preferred Coke or Dr Pepper. I was planning on buying some coke or Dr Pepper at the airport and bringing it on the flight but obviously couldn’t because of the Terror scare. After eating a very filling salad I wrapped myself up in the blanket and got about 3 hours sleep. Flying over the Corals in Hawaii was awesome. The pilot made a few turns which helped the passengers sitting in the center rows to also have a good look. The first thing that struck me was the very blue seas. The pilot was always pointing out points of interest while flying over Hawaii and pointed out Pearl Harbour. When the flight landed and the passengers were dis-embarking both pilots were at the door thanking us for flying UA and both pilots had Hawaiian Flower necklaces around their necks. After walking the long 5 minute odd walk to the baggage claim in very hot weather with a nice wind breeze to keep the hotness away I found the Sun Islands uniformed Customer Service Agent who was meeting me at HNL. I received an Hawaiian Flower Necklace and an envelope with info about my stay and when I was being picked up for the trip back to the airport. I got my bags and another Sun Islands agent took my bags out to the waiting bus. I was really enjoying the VIP treatment by now.
After spending three days in Hawaii and visiting the Dole Plantation, USS Arizona Memorial, Polynesian Adventure Tour around the Island, doing heaps of shopping and exploring it was time to say goodbye to America and Hawaii and head to the airport for my final journey back home. The VIP vehicle picked me up from outside my hotel and I was at HNL in no time and waiting in-line to check-in. After 10 minutes waiting I was being checked-in. I held my breath as my bags were weighed due to all the clothes and presents I purchased during my 10 weeks in Michigan, LA and Hawaii. My bags came in 2kgs lighter then the allowed free allowance. I finally started breathing when I saw how much my bags weighed. After clearing the TSA I started to explore the shops there. I was shocked to see that at HNL in the walkway between the boarding gate lounges that there is basically no windows or walls which can produce bad photos when shooting from inside. The wind was flowing freely throu the terminal which was VERY nice. I found the shuttle that runs from the roof between the terminals and got a nice view of the roof of a CO B764 parked at the gate.
Date: August 13th
Airline: Air New Zealand
Photo © Colin Hunter
Photo © Jason Alpine
Photo © Jason Alpine
When I booked the trip to the USA in March after finding out what Camp and which state I was heading to I was originally booked on a night time B744 flight from HNL-AKL on August 13th but NZ stopped the HNL night time departure flights, so I was re-booked on the morning NZ11 flight and on a B763. After arriving at the departure gate and clearing the ‘passport control’ which was manned by an NZ employee I found a seat right in front of the windows with an excellent view of the aircraft
Photo © Jason Alpine
Once on-board I started to enjoy the Kiwi life style on sitting back and relaxing which I had missed for 10 weeks. The FAs came around the cabin doing their checks and their kiwi attitude really made me feel at home which was nice. The NZ safety video came on, on the over head screens. Push back was quick and in no time we were heading towards the runway. -NCO blasted off down the runway that’s on the other side of the airport and fired into the clear blue skys of Hawaii. We had a right hand turn out over the South Pacific Ocean and I took a pic of the coral reef down below. The arrival cards for AKL was shortly handed out and I had the card filled in, in about 5 minutes. About 15 minutes later the in-flight movie started and I tuned in and out of this several times while the different movies were played. Meal service began and the FA that served me said to me “oh you’ve just been to Camp America have you?” My reply was “yip, just been on an awesome adventure” After enjoying the NZ meal I decided to try and get some sleep but didn’t get much sleep. Within half way throu the flight I was already starting to get bored due to no IFE that I had really enjoyed on the AKL-LAX B744 flight. I’ve now learnt that if I’m on a non IFE aircraft on a 3 hour plus flight to bring a book or something to do to keep my board levels down…….if only I could send txt messages on the flight. I could have easily sent at least 500 txts during the flight. We past throu a few bad patches over the Pacific Islands and got a nice look at a few Islands way down below. As I caught the first glimpses of home I focused on looking out the windows and counting down till we touched down. When the pilot announced the weather conditions at AKL, the person sitting next to me and me both agreed that we are on the wrong flight and we should be heading towards mainland USA because it was only 10 degrees in AKL with very strong winds which could make the landing interesting. When flying over Botany Downs I found my Auntie and Uncles home with their nice view over Auckland, but I knew there wouldn’t be much of a view due to the weather in AKL. Landing was bumpy but with a good touch down. We arrived 20 minutes early at 4.10pm. I got throu Passport control and MAF Quarantine in record time for me. 10 minutes and 23 seconds in total. I would have been throu quicker if I hadn’t been talking to the MAF person about my camp experience. Got my bags transferred at the NZ domestic transfer desk in the International terminal and slowly began the walk towards the Domestic terminal. Stopped by the model plane shop and looked at the models but decided not to purchase any more models intill I decide to install some more shelves in my room. Havn’t a clue when that will be, could be in the next 3 weeks or the next year even. Once I walked outside the freezing weather hit me like a fully laden freight train slamming into me. I quickly got inside but knew I had to go outside to get to the terminal. I decided I would still walk as I needed to exercise after sitting down for so long on the aircraft. During the walk I said so many swear words about the freezing weather, it was so not funny.
After arriving at the NZ domestic terminal and still txting like a hot cake, I quickly walked to the café beside the Aviation Security X-ray point and grabbed a nice hot drink before looking around the terminal that is currently under going a massive make over before a new domestic terminal is built connected to the international terminal. About 10 minutes before boarding was due to start I went throu Security and proceeded towards the gate where my flight was departing from.
Date: August 14th
Airline: Air New Zealand
While waiting in the departure lounge for the boarding announcement I noticed an advert beside the aerobridge that was advertising NZs new main truck service, a bar service on selected B733 flights. Beer from $5 and snacks from $1.50. Once onboard I quickly knew this was going to be a very light load due to the FAs were closing the doors about 5 minutes after boarding first started. The lady sitting in the aisle row in 13D quickly moved to the Exit row in front of me. An FA moved an Asian couple who were seated in 13A and B into the Emergency Exit row in front of them. The Asian couple were very happy with the extra leg room and didn’t stop thanking the FA for moving them. Just as push back started the heavens opened up and the rain bucketed down. I watched a QF B763 take off before us and the water display was very impressive. Once we got air borne we quickly made a left hand turn towards WLG. I took this pic during turbulence of the nice orange lighting over the Tasman
Photo © Jason Alpine
A few minutes later the FAs came around with the meal service and the new bar service. A kiwi beer was very tempting but I was driving my car home from WLG so didn’t purchase one. About 10 minutes before landing while flying over my home area while the aircraft was descending, all off a suden the engines roared to life and we shot towards the sky which took me by surprise as I was busy looking over my home area. When the weather report came over the PA and it was announced as 8 degrees with rain, I didn’t want to get off the aircraft as I was nice and warm. When the aircraft starting flying over Wellington Harbour the aircraft really started to get throwen about. As we were approaching Evans Bay I noticed we were going way to fast and way to high. Touch down happened and I’ve never heard the brakes work so hard. The rain on the runway would have really helped to cool down the brakes thou. As I got off the cold weather hit me and I quickly knew that I was in the wrong country due to the freezing weather. Got my bags and was meet by my family who handed over my car keys. My family arrived in two cars incase my bags couldn’t fit in my boot and I’m glad they arrived in two cars because of all the stuff that’s in my boot. The sound my trusty 1997 Mitsi Galant makes when the engine starts was nice, as well as the big bore exhaust sound. Driving on New Zealands roads was very weird after being use to and driving on Americas roads.
While I was enjoying the coldest Summer in Michgian, 27 degrees plus each day, New Zealand was being battered by its worst winter since the 1970s with heavy rain, heavy snow, heavy flooding and homes destroyed due to landslipes, including multi-million dollar apartments in Central Wellington after a bad slip.
Some photos from America as promised in part one