Jun
11
Hot as heck!

After a month off from writing, I’m finding myself with some time on my hands and thought I’d post here. Elle’s right–this is tough to keep up with! I’m sitting in New Delhi where it’s 91° (but feels like 99°) at 1:40 in the morning!

Last month turned out to be busier than I expected. After operating to Paris, we had a nice 36-hour layover where we got to meet some other pilots and eat some good French food, including mille feuille. I was excited to see it because Elle and I had recently learned about it as we re-watched The Great British Bake-off from the beginning. After that first night, we had a short trip to Milan where we got some shopping and good eating accomplished. Then we went to work. One night of Milan-Frankfurt-Paris, and then 3 nights in a row Paris-Cologne-Paris. We were whipped by the end and had a good break when we got a 36-hour layover at the end before heading back to Memphis.

             The mille feuille was delicious!

After that trip I was sure my flying was done. After all, I had only 22 hours left, and everyone assured me the schedulers wouldn’t use me for a trip that paid overtime. Well, that pipe dream lasted about a day, and then they assigned me another trip that wound up giving me 15:30 of overtime. I operated to Incheon, had a short layover, flew as a passenger to Osaka, a longer layover, then operated back to Memphis.

Instead of going straight back to Charleston, I met Elle in Atlanta. I’m not going into details here, but her sister had a personal crisis, and Elle drove over to offer her support. We spent Memorial Day there, where I proceeded to make fun of the infamous “Eric overcooking incident” and then overcooked the steaks! Not all of them were bad, but my FIL wanted rare and got medium rare. I wanted medium rare and got almost well done. I was pretty stressed about the whole thing, and my FIL helped out by riding me about overcooking his steak. My MIL, SIL and sweet wife were all very complimentary about their steaks, which was nice.

We drove back to Charleston, stopping at a hole-in-the-wall place for lunch along the way. We had rain-free day to explore Charleston, and then we were off. We wound up picking Richmond for our next extended stay because I was having trouble finding a place over July 4th. I’m expecting to work over that holiday and didn’t want Elle to be stuck moving the bus.

On the way to our halfway stop, I happened to notice Pinehurst on a sign and remembered I meant to call my old friend Jonathan if we passed through. I almost didn’t because I’d waited until the last minute. Elle convinced me to contact them anyway, and I’m glad I did! Jonathan and Rebecca dropped everything they were doing, and offered to drive the longer distance to meet us. We brought the boys to a NY-style pizzeria in Spring Lake, NC and got there just after they arrived. It was so fun to reconnect with them–it was like no time had passed. We talked for more than two hours before grudgingly taking our leave to get the boys to bed. Otherwise we’d have stayed another 2 at least.

The next day we had an uneventful drive to Ashland, just north of Richmond. We normally try to drive halfway, fill up, eat lunch and then continue on. This time there were no Pilot/Flying J stations with RV lanes. After the great gas station debacle of August 2016, I try to hit an RV lane if at all possible, and since we get a 5¢/gallon discount it makes it even better. After driving about an hour I announced I was ready to push straight through, and Elle concurred. We got to the park without stopping, setup, and then went out to what turned out to be a truck stop Fuddrucker’s. The fixings bar was a little smaller than a normal Fuddrucker’s, but the burgers were delicious.

We hit the sack early and got up at about 5:30 to get me to the airport. We found the company facility fairly quickly, and I had a nice time chatting with the crew while we waited for the plane to be loaded. I got to Memphis and got some groceries before arriving at the crashpad. I might have written this before, but I really don’t care for this place. The condo itself is OK; it’s the slums outside I’d rather avoid. Anyway, I met our new roommate briefly before he had to go off to training. I didn’t hear him when I came back. I guess I’ll see him when I’m there for 3 days of training next week.

I slept longer than I ever have before one of these early flights, which was nice because we worked the first period. 12-ish hours later we landed in Narita and headed to bed. I wasn’t able to get to sleep right away, and then I had a hard time crawling out of bed for dinner. I’m glad I did because all 4 of us went out together. It was one of the usual spots, Ramen Bayashi, and as usual it was very good. We got back fairly early, and then left the next morning for a very short flight to Incheon. The drive to the hotel in Seoul was almost as long as the flight, which is why I wish we’d consider moving to Incheon proper with a much shorter drive.

The next morning we deadheaded to Hong Kong and then New Delhi. The security at Incheon was slower than normal, leaving us less than an hour before boarding. The captain really wanted som bibimbap before leaving, but I just wanted to get away from the crowds. I went over to the shared lounge which was smallish, but good enough for me. They had Bombay Sapphire on hand, and I helped myself to a couple of gin and tonics. About 10 minutes before boarding I trudged over to the gate, only to have them immediately announce the flight was delayed. I met the captain there, and we chatted a few minutes before getting on the plane. It was an Airbus A350, and the business class service was pretty good. My favorite thing about the layout is all the seats are angled units where nobody has to step over anyone to get to the bathrooms. The seat was pretty uncomfortable when laid out as a bed because it put a lot of pressure on my ankles. I didn’t sleep too well on the flight to Hong Kong, but I made up for it later.

In HK the captain was saying we should just run straight to the gate, and I initially agreed because it looked like we didn’t have a lot of time. Then we both realized HK was an hour behind Seoul, and we had more than an hour to kill. Since Cathay is based in HK, they have plenty of lounges and don’t share them with other airlines as far as I could tell. The lounge we picked was right by our gate, and it was huge. The first room had desserts and plenty of buffet options, the second was a huge full bar, the third was a huge noodle restaurant, and there was a fourth room I didn’t get to look at to classify. The thing I didn’t like was nearly everything was served by them instead of self serve. When it’s little buffet-style snacks, I’d much rather take a plate and serve myself. As it turned out, it didn’t matter because I was still full from the flight over. Also, 2 gin & tonics in the lounge and 2 on the flight had me a little dehydrated, although I had tried to take in some water too. I wound up having a couple of coke zeros and a few glasses of water to get me over my slight headache.

This time the flight was on time, and we got on board and on the road fairly quickly. They served a meal shortly after takeoff, so I stayed awake watching The Equalizer. There were other movies available I hadn’t seen yet, but I knew I’d fall asleep and didn’t want to watch something new. Sure enough, shortly after they cleared my table, I nodded off and woke up to the finished movie screen. I turned off the screen, laid the seat down, and went back to bed. This seat was more comfortable than the other one, and I got a good long nap. I woke up to use the restroom and was sure the little handset controller said 2:30 left until Delhi. I decided to turn on a little TV to get me back to sleep again, and then the captain came on announcing our descent. Apparently it said “00:30 left,” and my weary eyes saw it wrong. Getting through immigration and picking up our bags went pretty smoothly, but then there wasn’t a driver waiting for us. We walked around and around looking for him, and then one of the other drivers (from the Holiday Inn, I think) noticed us having trouble and called our hotel for us. Apparently somebody dropped the ball, and we weren’t on the list to be picked up. The hotel arranged a cab for us, and we got in our rooms finally about 2 hours after landing.

We intended to meet up at some point, but I told the captain I knew I was going to sleep a lot and she shouldn’t count on me. Turns out that was a good call. I stayed up until about 4 am, and then started a cycle of sleep-wake-sleep that lasted until 8 pm! Now, I didn’t sleep 16 straight hours, there were solid hours of reading FB, chatting with Elle, etc in there, but I didn’t get out of bed for 16 hours. I felt a lot better, even though I know the CA was counting on meeting me for dinner.

I decided to order food online. Prices are very cheap here compared to everywhere we go, but the hotel food is still about 5 times as much as local restaurants. My whole meal came out to less than $13, but then it got a little more expensive when my credit card wouldn’t process. I had to exchange cash at the front desk–a first in India for me since we usually don’t stay long enough to use cash. That effectively made my cost go up to $20 because I got a worse exchange rate and am left with Rupees I’ll almost never use. Anyway, $20 is still cheap for eating out in a major international capital, so I’m not too worried about it.

That’s about all my excitement for now. It’s 2:25 in the morning Indian time, about 4:56 EDT the day before, and I have about 12 hours until my wakeup call. I’ll mess around on the internet and watching TV, and then try to get at least 6 solid hours of sleep for the first time this trip. Tomorrow we’re off to Guangzhou for a relatively short layover.