I had a difficult Winter and Spring at work, and I was too rattled and too tired to organize a dream trip for this Summer. Therefore, Bangladesh, Suriname, or Colombian Amazonia would have to wait.
By now, time was up, however. It's use it or lose it, you know. So where would I find captivating history, overwhelming nature, and tragic racial diversity with a few weeks' notice? Way down South, of course, a region I only crossed quickly once, in the dead of Winter 25 years ago.
I am lucky that CO, where I have some miles, joined Star Alliance: For 25,000 miles and $10, I could reach a variety of Southern gateways on US Airways metal. I chose to fly down to Montgomery, because it seemed more interesting than Nashville, Memphis or Birmingham, and because I could fly late at night. Arriving in deep, steamy Dixie at midnight... how intriguing. I investigated an open jaw, but while the flights were fine, the price of the rental car would more than double, so MGM would be the start and the finish of my 9 day Southern odyssey. (The plane ticket would have cost somewhere around $350 retail.)
US Airways Express 2641 MDT 08:04PM to CLT 09:31PM (Mesa Airlines)
US Airways Express 2583 CLT 10:35PM to MGM 10:57PM (PSA Airlines)
My son drove me to Harrisburg so that he could enjoy the use of my car while I was away instead of having it stay in the parking lot. As always in sleepy MDT, the security check was a breeze. The C gates area at MDT is very quiet, and pretty soon, The CRJ900 arrived at gate C3.
Boarding was done in zones, but not seating zones, more like honor zones, with elite flyers and mothers first. Flyers who had checked in on line - like me - were designated as zone 3, one step up from the "general boarding." I had my bigger bag tagged with a yellow label as it is too big for CRJ overhead compartments.
The CRJ 900 was about 2/3 full. You could tell from the bulkhead and from the seat covers that this particular CRJ was an adopted child of US Air Express (notice the America West logo). The safety announcements were done "mime style" to a recorded announcement. There were two flight attendants.
I don't recall ever taking off toward the South (towards York) from MDT, but this time, we did. We taxied all the way to the Northern end of the runway, and took off smoothly, and on time.
There was a drink service (with the option of light snacks for a charge). I enjoyed the sight of beautiful cloud formations.
In about 70 minutes, we were in Charlotte, a city which - to my shame - I couldn't place very accurately on a map. To US Airways, however, Charlotte seems to be the very center of the universe.
It is always such a joy to deplane via steps, be it in CLT or in LIM. The noise, the smell, the sights...
CLT must be the most homogeneous airport. Does anyone else fly there? And who are all these people? Who flies to New Bern NC?
Not the most glamorous boarding area, but soon it was time for the second flight, also right on time.
Same drill, but with only one flight attendant in this half-full CRJ 200. He was very jovial and helpful, especially to the lovely United Express ladies who were repositioning on this flight as passengers. This was another short and smooth flight over city lights and highways, and pretty soon we descended and landed at MGM.
MGM at 11:00PM is a very quiet airport, especially compared to bustling Charlotte. The following picture was taken the following morning, when I picked up my rental car. Not exactly busy in the daytime either, pretty much like MDT.
Now, since I've got you captive, here is a brief tour of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, the way I did it (I put 1,600 miles on that Corolla).
US Airways Express 2344 MGM 06:10AM to CLT 08:41AM (PSA Airlines)
US Airways Express 2217 CLT 09:50AM to MDT 11:31AM (Mesa Airlines)
Security at MGM at 5:00AM is also pretty quick. As dawn started breaking, we boarded the CRJ200.
This time, the flight was about 2/3 full. There was a coffee and drink pass when we reached cruising altitude.
After landing, the lone flight attendant asked us to lower the shades to keep the aircraft cool.
Charlotte was packed on this Sunday morning. Long lines stretched in front of all breakfast vendors. But at least, compared to my recent experience in FRA, there were enough restrooms to satisfy the crowds.
Ah, the romance of flight...
Not much to declare about the fourth flight, aboard a CRJ 701. This one was almost full, and there are jetways at MDT, of course.
For what it offers, US Airways Express is beyond reproach. The CRJs are a little worn, but the leg room is generous. Besides, four flights in a row which all left on time and all arrived early: who else can claim this? It would have been more fun to take Etihad or Qatar to Dhaka, but you can't compare a sky bus service with long range luxury.
The South was a wonderful destination. My goal was to get a better understanding of the Civil Rights movement, and to hike near swamps. Mission accomplished. Thank you for reading.