Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sightseeing in a hurry

This second flight, from Denver to Santa Ana, promises to be at least a little more interesting out the window.
Ah, mountains. How I’ve missed you living in Texas. I grew up on the west side of Denver, right at the base of the mountains, and it’s a thrill seeing them again. I didn’t get much chance to enjoy you on the ground in our mad dash across the terminal – plus DEN is way too far out on the plains anyway – but I’m enjoying the view from my seat onboard as we climb out and head southwest.
We approach and crest the treeless peaks of the continental divide, still sporting snow in July. To the north is the cluster of tall mountains comprising Rocky Mountain National Park. I find myself wishing to visit them at ground level again. Maybe someday.
I took the time yesterday to get on Microsoft Flight Simulator and have it chart a high-altitude airway course from DEN to SNA. No guarantee that this United flight will follow it, of course, but I can use it as a guide to guesstimate our position.
My parents and aunt are all arriving in Anaheim today, also, but they’re driving. They left a week ago, with stops at the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas along the way. (We joked that they really just headed straight for Vegas and spent three straight days gambling, which is funnier if you know what straightlaced Baptists we all are.) My parents will have been married for 50 years in August, and this trip is their present to themselves.
If my route info is correct, we may just get a view of the Grand Canyon ourselves en route. It would be my second time to see it, and ironically, the first and only other time was also from the air, 28 years ago.
Sure enough, just at the time I predicted, the canyon comes into view. Man, the place is beautiful and awe-inspiring, even from six miles up. I’d love to see it up close some day. And it is enormous – at our jet’s speed we spend a full ten minutes or more passing it by. Wow.
The video system is not functioning on this plane, so we have to entertain ourselves. Becky works a puzzle book and then takes a nap. Benjamin, once he’s seen the start of the Grand Canyon, also naps. That kid can get comfortable on an airline seat tray more than anyone else I’ve ever seen! I plug in the headphones, tune to the 80’s channel, and watch the scenery change under us.
Just before landing in Santa Ana, I recognize the city of San Bernadino, and locate the mountain where the Arrowhead Springs resort is. I was there for a week and a half back in 1981 for rehearsal camp for the Continental Singers before touring the U.S. and Canada all summer. And now another singing group brings me back! Ah, memories.
Palm trees! We have palm trees in sight! And there’s smog! Now I just have to spot a traffic jam and a celebrity to know we’re really in L.A. Hey, there’s a (very minor) traffic backup! I’ll have to look for a celebrity later.
We’re on the ground in California at 12:50 (Pacific time!), and have no delay getting to the gate.

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