”exFATboy, exFATboy, where have you been?”
“I’ve been to Jamestown, to visit the Queen”
Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg have always been on my “places I want to go” list, but I’ve never gotten around to it. With all the publicity around the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, I decided it was time to go – originally I was going to go for the full-on “400th Anniversary Weekend”, but that sounded very crowded and sure to have ridiculously run-up hotel prices. So when the Palace announced the Queen’s itinerary, I decided to go while she was there and combine it with a visit to the Udvar-Hazy Center.
A quick Kayak check showed CO had an itinerary that worked great, and cost a whopping $87, round trip with taxes!
CO 2782 EWR – RIC 5/3/07
Gate: originally 104b, changed to 97
Load Factor: around 90%
Departure: scheduled 1905, actual 1940
I left for the airport straight from work – one of the few advantages (very few!) of my company, in its infinite wisdom, moving us to Jersey City is that I can get to EWR very quickly – PATH to Newark Penn, then New Jersey Transit one stop to the “AirTrain” monorail. I’d already checked in on-line, so with no bag to check went straight through Security (no difference between the CO Elite and regular lines), grabbed a burger, and then went to the gate – for some reason, I seem to pull the “underground” gates a lot.
The jungle jet’s ready:
So down we go!
Boarding started right on time, and I was first on, so I grabbed an interior shot:
I was in the “A” seat – I love those on the ERJs, both aisle and window…and unlike the CRJ, a real window you can see out of without hunching over.
Boarding finished up on time…and then we sat. And sat a little more. I’ve had bad luck getting out of New York lately, first the ice storm (almost 8 hours), then a three-hour mechanical delay on the next trip. Let’s see, the weather looks fine, I’m not seeing any mechanic types running around, so what gives here?
While we waited, I snapped a couple of pics out the window:
US’ new Nevada theme jet
“Speedbird, follow the ugly jet…” I detest TAP’s new livery. HATE.
Okay, so it wasn’t the greatest of spotting sessions.
At about 7:20, the pilot came on and told us what was going on: apparently there was a shortage of baggage loaders, and that’s what we were waiting for.
Can anyone tell me what the hell these are for?
Every gate at Newark seems to have one. It looks like there should be a hose on the round part…but connected to what?
Anyway, yellow-hose-thingie mysteries aside, a few minutes later a couple of baggage types came along and loaded the bags. We pulled back about a half-hour late, not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Taxiing by as we pulled out: L’Avion…very, very purple. I like it!
The sun sets over a flock of jungle jets
No delay at the end of the runway, we turned on and started our roll. I love the take-off in an ERJ, it’s the closest most of us will ever get to something that feels like a fighter…or a private plane.
The flight passed quickly, and was very smooth – we turned out over Staten Island, then pretty much followed the coastline of New Jersey.
(Yeah, I need to get a better camera for this sort of shot.)
We didn’t make up much of the time, landing in Richmond about a half-hour late. Very long taxi – we came in on the far end of the runway to the left in this pic from their website:
and spent about 10 minute taxiing to the terminal. As we turned to get to our gate, I could see a British Airways tail, but that’s all I could see of Her Majesty’s plane.
I was impressed by Richmond’s terminal – part of the baggage claim is still being renovated, but the terminal is very nice:
10 minutes later I had my rental car contract and my bag, and hit the road to the Historic Triangle!
Interlude: Jamestown & Colonial Williamsburg
Saturday morning, I went to the visitor’s center at Jamestown Settlement – it’s actually a reconstruction, the actual site is an archaeological dig a couple of miles away, which you can also tour. I waited a little while to see the Queen’s arrival and listen to the ceremony – Sandra Day O’Connor and the governor gave their speeches inside the walls of the camp, HM didn’t give a speech. Surprisingly, I found out that I could have come for the main event the following weekend, less than half the tickets had been sold. Ah, well, I’d rather see the Queen than Bush any day.
After the dignitaries left, I wandered through the reconstructed settlement and looked at the little boats – I don’t think I could have been a colonist, the ferry I take from Manhattan to Jersey City is almost as big as the boats they came all the way from England in! Then I wandered down to Colonial Williamsburg and checked it out – I have to admit I had mixed feelings about it. It was much larger than I expected it to be, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that many of the buildings are actually lived in…it’s not just a museum piece. On the other hand, it seemed that many of the restaurants were closed, and the re-enactors that are supposed to act out the great debates and such were just sitting around. It was a hot day, and there weren’t a lot of people there – I suspect people were afraid of security restrictions from Her Majesty’s visit. But other than stopping pedestrian traffic for a minute while the royal motorcade whipped through, there weren’t any major problems. I think part of it was also that I didn’t have one of the sticky-tickets on that showed that I’d paid for one of the admission packages. (You can walk through the town for free, but admission to most of the buildings requires a ticket.) Disappointing – I’d wanted to play around debating with one of the “patriots.”
(Have you ever considered how the American Revolution would play out today? The UN would stick its nose in, hearings, peacekeepers, gods only know what else…)
After wandering around for a while, I came to the conclusion that the town was very pretty but what I really wanted was a hamburger and a beer. So I left and had a very nice drive down the Colonial Parkway back to Jamestown – it had been closed for the royal motorcade, and had just been reopened, so I had it pretty much to myself. After that, I made a wrong turn and would up taking a two-lane highway about half the distance to Richmond, until I eventually found the Interstate, and made my way to Chantilly, right at the southeastern edge of Dulles Airport…time for a soak in the Jacuzzi tub (free room upgrades rule!), order in some Pad Thai, and rest up for Udvar-Hazy the next day!
Pictures of Jamestown and Williamsburg are here.
Interlude the Second – Udvar-Hazy
A very grey, overcast sky greeted me as I drove the couple of miles from the hotel to the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center. The Center is huge, and still only contains part of the Smithsonian’s collection of larger aircraft.
Here’s the pics (94 of them, and that’s after heavy editing!)
Overall impression? It’s impressive and well done, but as someone who’s interests lean more toward civil aviation…well, I hate to say it, but I will admit I was a little disappointed. I’d expected more of a balance between the three different aspects the Center is supposed to cover: commercial aviation, military aviation, and space travel. It was heavily weighted to military aviation. The commercial aviation wing is cluttered with gilders, hang-gliders (I mean, really, who cares? You’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all) and racing planes.
And none of the commercial aircraft were accessible – I can understand not having the Dash 80 open, there’s really nothing to see inside. But why can’t we go inside Concorde? (With protection on the seats & such, of course?) And while I understand wanting to keep their mint-condition example that way, why not have a second Junkers tri-motor that we can go inside and see what flying was like then? I thought that the Imperial War Museum field at Duxford did a much better job of presenting commercial airliners – you could go in a Comet 4, for example, and the Concorde prototype. (That was 8 years ago, I’m not sure you still can.)
But it was still great fun.
After the U-H tour, it was time to go back home, so I drove the few miles to the terminal, dropped off the rental car, and took the Thrifty rent-a-car shuttle to the terminal just as it started to rain.
I couldn’t get a good shot of the exterior of the famous Dulles Airport groundside terminal designed by Eero Saarinen, but here’s the interior:
The terminal is showing a little age – the signage on the baggage claim/ground transport level is decidedly ‘70s. And the ticketing/check-in area is very cramped by modern standards.
CO 1278 IAD- EWR 5/5/07
Load Factor: 100%
Departure: scheduled 1700, departed on time
Check-in was a breeze, and the CSR who tagged my bag asked me if I wanted to stand by on the earlier flight. But since I wanted to check the bag (not TSA-liquid-moronity compliant), and wasn’t sure the bag and I would stay together, I decided to relax and just stay with my itinerary.
Security was efficient – no Elite line, but it didn’t matter, only took 5 minutes anyway! After security, I started to wait for one of the hated mobile lounges, but noticed a sign telling me I could get to the “B” gates by walking. So I did...
Building the new train system – I believe it’s scheduled to be completed in 2009
The walkway to Terminal B – bit of a jaunt, but nothing major
The “B” gates
With a couple of hours to kill before my flight, I decided to get a late lunch – Udvar-Hazy is a little deficient in that area, only having a McDonald’s “McCafe.” Terminal B could also stand an upgrade in the food department – there are lots of shops, but relatively few restaurants. I really wanted – for some bizarre reason - meat loaf, but no joy. So I opted for the Mexican restaurant, where the first words from the waitress were “sorry, we’re out of the mango margarita mix.” Which, of course, is what I wanted. I settled for strawberry, and then sat for 15 minutes while the bartender whistled annoyingly while filling every drink order except mine. The waitress never came back to take my food order, or even bring me water. So I left, and had to settle for an overcooked hamburger at Fuddrucker’s. Sigh.
After eating, I did a little plane photography:
Lots of JetBlue A320s flitting around
What is it about JetBlue gates and basketball hoops? I’ve noticed them in Tampa too
Virgin Atlantic A340 Diana
A vast array of varied RJs…
…and their big brothers
(and yeah, the mobile lounges like to get in almost every shot, like the weird uncle at a family reunion!)
(cue music) One…of these…is not like…the others…
An oldie but a goodie
Caddyshack and the National Lampoon Vacation movies apparently paid off better than I would have thought - he has his own bank!
4:30 arrived, and we started boarding the ERJ-135, a new plane for my list! Once again, through the grace of Elite Access and pacing impatiently, I was first on board! And you know what that means…interior shot!
Yep, looks just like its bigger sibling, just fewer rows.
We pushed back on time (I seem to have few problems getting back to New York!), and I continued the photo-fest while we taxied:
Construction all over the frackin’ place!
Star Alliance – SAS
And another Star Allliance – Austrian
The Queen of the Skies, representin’ Deutschland!
(for non-Americans, that’s a reference to a VW commercial we had over here with a German engineer talking like a rapper..”Vee-dub!”, a very strange and most un-German series of commercials…yet funny.)
And another Queen, from the realm of the Queen
Finally, after much taxiing, we’re outta here!
Breaking through the clouds
My favorite drink on Continental…
I went with nature’s IFE today
Continental Arena, appropriate!
And Giants Stadium
I can see my building from here! (well, until they finish the new condos across the street, that is)
What some people think all of New Jersey looks like
We landed right on time
I know I’m home when I see Ikea! You can do some great spotting while eating cheap meatballs over there!
Aaaggghhhh! More TAP ugliness. At least I can console myself with the traditional Alitalia 767, gotta love the Snoopy nose!
My day for Star Alliance livery! LOT this time!
And thus ends another trip…all in all, a good trip, although the “there aren’t enough baggage handlers” excuse was a first, and pretty lame if you ask me.
Had two more trips in May – first a golf school in Orlando (no TR for that one, it was very plain vanilla), followed by a visit to a friend in Wisconsin! I’m flying Midwest, it’s all about the cookies! TR on that one soon!