Saturday, August 20
It was raining as I left home on Saturday morning. It seemed fitting, in a way. The world crying openly while I try not to cry inside. Everyone tells me this is an exciting adventure and they are right. But I'm still leaving home, family, and friends behind. Once again I find myself traveling alone. I'll have people to travel with in China, I'll make new friends, and have awesome experiences, but that doesn't make today any easier.
My parents pick me up in their new blue Ford Fussion to take me up to the airport. I'm glad to see them one last time before I leave. We put my four bags in the trunk. It's less than 100 pounds of clothing, amenities, and technology, but it's a little unwieldily. My "personal item" is a small backpack that's filled to the brim with technology. Camera, batteries, keyboard, mouse, drawing tablet, power plug adapters, fitbit, hard drives, and travel binoculars. Do I need it all? No. Do I feel better taking it? Yes. Did I leave some tech at home? Definitely.
A small weekend duffle bag, the one I got from KwikTrip, serves as my carry-on luggage. I have two pair of shoes in it, which is probably two too many, and a change of clothes. It also contains my travel amenities. I have two checked bags, each weighing around 30 pounds and full of clothes. Half of the clothing is stuff I can toss or leave behind. The other half is clothing I can't imagine not wearing for year.
I know I'm probably taking too much, but I don't know what I'm preparing for. I don't know how much traveling I'm going to do while in China. I don't know what climates I should be preparing for. On the other hand, I'm not taking a lot of dress clothing. Some people said I needed some, others said I wouldn't need any. Sorry China, but if I'm living out of two suitcases, business casual-ish is the best I'm bringing along. I'll buy new clothes in Hong Kong if I really need something nicer.
United Airlines is my method of transport from Minnesota to Los Angeles. I check my bags using the United kiosk. I can't decide if this helps streamline the opperation or if this just allows United to make us to do their job for them.
First stop after security is for coffee, obviously. Today it's time for Starbucks because I've heard good things about their iced coconut-milk mocha macchiato. A lady in front of me complains that her drink was made with water. It looked like it was half ice, but the poor employees remade the drink without water for her.
The coconut milk drink is cool and refreshing. I sip it slowly while waiting at the gate. I'm in loading zone five, in the last row of seats on the plane. The only downside with waiting until last is if they run out of space in the overheads. This time they still had room, though.
When I booked my flight back in May, I picked the option with a short layover in Denver, CO. I've never been through the Denver Airport and I wanted to try two shorter flights to get to LA rather than a single long one.
I exit the plane about half an hour before my next flight begins to board. I find myself in a wide concourse with four lanes of moving walkways. It's 1:00 in the afternoon, local time, and I'm ready for food. I see some signs for a Chinese place which looks really good, but it doesn't look close by... and I'm kinda headed to China. If I was with other people I'd likely advocate to visit one of the fancier looking places to eat or at least look for something intersting. Instead I find myself near a small food court. A Market Fresh cafe promises farm fresh food, but it's located next to a small McDonalds. I opt for a two cheeseburger combo meal. I scarf down the food at a small table before heading to my gate.
The view from my terminal is not great. Lots of brown grass and small hills, I can't see much in any direction. Really wanted to see mountains, forests, and wild animals. True, it's very unlikely to have any of those things near an airport, but I still think it would be cool.
The plane lands at LAX a little ahead of schedule. I forgo my usual "hopped of the plane at LAX" text message and instead text my sister to let her know I'm on the ground.
Walking to the baggage carousel at Terminal 7 takes me down a unfinished hallway. Wires and air ducts dangle from the high ceilings. It feels like we shouldn't be allowed here, but this is the way to go.
My luggage shows up after a little wait and minutes later I'm waiting for my sister outside. The weather is beautiful. I can't remember the last time I was in LA and it felt good. Usually it's scorching hot, or at very least slightly uncomfortable. Today the breeze is cool and the temperature is nearly perfect.
Ruth shows up and I throw my four bags in the back of her car. Traffic is light at the airport today and it doesn't take us long to make our way to her apartment.
We decide to go for a walk, it's only a little after 4pm and none of us are hungry yet. I pull out my phone and hunt for Pokemon as we go down the street. There's a lot of pokestops and I see and catch several new species of Pokemon.
I told my sister I'd like pizza so we're now walking to Bella Vista: Brazilian Gourmet Pizza. It's all you can eat for $18. You tell them what kind of pizza you want and they make it. They take the pizzas around to all the tables and give you a slice, two slices if you ask for it. It's a great way to sample a number of different pizzas.
The pizza crust is thin, almost to cracker or chip level. It's crispy and delicious. Pizza toppings include beef stroganoff, zucchini, and chicken, as well as the usual pepperoni, canadian bacon, and pineapple. We eat until we can't eat anymore, I haven't felt this full in months, if not years. They bring out three dessert pizzas which we also need to sample.
Outside is almost cold as we walk back. It's been a good day and a great start to my newest adventure.