Our Honeymoon Journal
     Entry 1 - 21 August 2000
Brisbane, LA, SF. Brisbane: Sunny, Auckland: too dark to see, LA was it cloud or smog?, SF: some cloud
  The flight from Brisbane to San Francisco

Chris Take-off - maybe... The first sign of impending disaster was when we arrived at the Brisbane International Airport. Vanessa noticed that our flight departure time was 1300, not 1120 as we expected. We asked at the check-in terminal what the delay was and found out that the plane was still in Sydney while the engineers tried to get a winky light (warning indicator) to go out. It was a mechanical problem that we can't remember the details of - we think it had something to do with the fuel system.
Waiting at the airport. (2 photos) We spent a boring couple of hours waiting in the departure lounge, then our hearts sank further when there was another announcement that the plane was now scheduled to leave at 1400. Qantas kindly gave out some meal vouchers to the waiting passengers. We had already bought some lunch before this, so we used our vouchers to stock up on junk food, water, scones and for me, the necessary coffee injection. A good while later, there was another announcement saying that the plane was cleared and had left Sydney. The revised time for our departure from Brisbane was now 1430. This was 3 hours and 10 minutes late! Originally, our booking had around a 4 hour wait in LA for our connecting flight to San Francisco. The delays had shortened this time considerably. We thought that we would now have about an hour or so in LA airport - this was much better than having to wait 4 hours!
Our aeroplane. (1 photo) The flight to Auckland (distance: 2,296 km) took about 3 hours. The inflight movie was "Looking for Alibrandi". I only watched portions of it, being preoccupied with the ungrateful minions who were causing troubles in Sim City on the Palm Pilot. Vanessa thought that the movie was ok, but nothing special. The inflight meal was also ok. I have noticed that the quality of the main meals on planes seems to be improving. Unfortunately, the accompanying 'extras' aren't, e.g bread, salads. Vanessa thought it could have been because the items were kept too cold and they dried out.
  We arrived in Auckland about 1920 local New Zealand time. We were scheduled to leave at 2000, but this became about 2100 when there was "Yet Another Announcement" saying that the engineers had discovered a problem in the fuel system. There was a large groan from everyone in the waiting area. We spent the time walking around the gate area, stretching our legs. Both of us drooled over some Lego Star Wars models that were on display at a toy shop.
  We left Auckland for LA (distance: 10,497 km) at 2117. The scheduled arrival was 1315 LA time, with disembarking at 1325. Our connecting flight to San Francisco was at 1450, so we thought that we would still have just enough time to comfortably clear immigration and customs and have only a short wait at the gate.
Vanessa The flight was very smooth, although Chris still believes that the serving of coffee and tea causes air turbulence, since it seems that every time it's served, his plane encounters rough air (this time it was very minor). Some stats for the trip: the highest point reached was 39,000 ft or 11,887 m; the fastest speed was over 1,000 kph, but we seemed to average about 900 kph. Chris wishes it was possible to drive to and from work at those speeds. :-)
  Our inflight movies could have been better.I slept most of the way, while Chris only got about 2 hours shuteye. Movies on the flight were: "28 Days", "Me, Myself, I" and "Centre Stage". There was also an episode of the "Vicar of Dibley". Neither of us watched "28 Days" fully, although Chris watched small portions while taking breaks from Sim City (his minions were still causing problems). Chris watched "Me, Myself, I" and thought that it was okay (the premise was interesting). I watched "Centre Stage" and thought it was predictable and typical of its genre.
Chris Nothing to see here, move along...We landed in LA around 1350 and disembarked the plane after it was towed to its terminal at around 1420. By this time, we were getting concerned about making our connecting flight. The long wait in the queue for immigration was the final straw that blew any chance of our reaching the plane on time. Baggage claim was straight forward and we had no problems with customs. (Vanessa was surprised at how quickly we went through customs.) It was exactly 1450, the time our connecting flight was due to leave, when we got to the Qantas counter to discover our fate. We found out that we were already scheduled on another flight - a United Shuttle leaving at 1605.
  Pushing a trolley full of luggage from point A to point B at high speed, high stress, low sleep, is not fun.You would think that having over an hour before the flight would be ample time to get to the boarding gate. Of course not! We had to walk from terminal 3 to terminal 7 to check-in. Terminal 7 was miles away, or so it seemed to us at the time. To make matters worse, the domestic flight check-in procedure was utterly stupid. First, we got our boarding pass. That was easy. Then we had to get our luggage scanned again. We noticed a sign warning about high-powered X rays damaging film (normally, airport scanners didn't damage film) and so we had to sort and rearrange our luggage to remove the many rolls of film we had from the bags that were to be scanned. We dropped the bags at the start of the scanning machine and went to another counter to get baggage tickets. When the suitcases came through the machine (after a longish delay to reboot the computer controlling it - probably running Windoze), we had to indicate to the counter staff which were ours. By the time this little escapade was completed, we had about 10 minutes to catch our flight. After yet another mad dash (Vanessa still managed to find the necessary few moments to 'experience' her first American style toilet - she was not impressed), we got to the gate and boarded the plane.
  It was a 'small' plane, a 737. We were in the first row of cattle class, which was a bonus because it meant there was extra leg room. Vanessa had the window seat with a view to the inland and spent most of the flight rubbernecking. We got to about 20,000 ft during the flight, which took about an hour.
Vanessa In our journal notes, Chris described the mountainous landscape below our plane as like a piece of paper that had been crumpled into a ball and then half flattened out again. The colouring was mostly grey-green with patches of very dark blue water (lakes, etc). There also were occasional sandy areas. The sky was a reddish-brown - perhaps this was due to smog or smoke from the recent bushfires that country had been suffering? We did see some large, blackened areas that might have been from fires.
Chris Where's the luggage???We landed in San Francisco at about 1710, feeling very tired by this time - especially me, who had less sleep. Everything went fine with our disembarking until we got to the carousel where our luggage was due to appear. Time passed. No luggage. Vanessa noticed that the display had changed and no longer indicated that baggage from our flight was destined for this carousel. After frantically checking the other carousels, we went back to our original, having decided that someone had just screwed up the display, typing the flight number as "2058" instead of "2050". Just as we got back, our luggage appeared.
  It was now off to catch an airport shuttle-bus to the hotel. I knew where to find them. When we got to the concrete waiting platform which divides the road, there were no buses or transport organisers in sight. Thinking that something might have changed since my last visit, we went back inside the terminal and asked a friendly information person for directions. The shuttle area was exactly where I had thought it was, and lo! when we got back, there was someone there! In the short time we'd been away, the bus had been packed with a full load of passengers and luggage. Although our driver couldn't speak English very well, he was quite friendly and gave us a sometimes hair-raising ride through the San Francisco traffic. As we were the last to be dropped off, we saw a number of areas in the downtown region of the city.
The Royal Pacific Motor Inn.(3 photos) Chicken and Avocado pizza is delicious! Check-in to our motel, the Royal Pacific Motor Inn, was painless as I had pre-booked the accommodation via the net well before travelling. The inn is located in Chinatown, near the edge of Little Italy (North Beach). The room was ok, although it was perhaps a little small. Fortunately, the shower was good and was very much appreciated. After freshening up, we wandered out to get some food. Vanessa was feeling nervous, being overtired and in a strange place. We did not want to go far, so we found a little Italian restaurant in Columbus Ave, the next block. It was a pizza place called "Pizzelle". The garlic bread was delicious little knots of bread. We ordered a 12 inch pizza with chicken and avocado topping. Yum. Vanessa experienced her first restaurant tipping and then decided to leave tipping to me as it was too much maths for her. (Total cost: $13.02 plus tip of $1.98)
The Transamerica Pyramid.(2 photos) After eating our fill, we staggered back to our room. We watched a bit of TV to unwind, mostly the Cartoon Network. The programs we saw were a part of a show called "Gundam Wing" and an episode of "DragonballZ". The view from just outside our door included the famous Transamerica Pyramid, so our cameras were whipped out and a few shots were taken before we collapsed into bed.