So the morning of...

The kids wanted me to wake them up at 3 with me so they would make sure they didn't miss the bus. Believe it or not, they actually got up pretty easily. We all uneventfully got dressed and sat in front of the TV together for what may be the last time. 3:45 rolled around, so we all started to head to the cars. Jeremy and Rhyon had stayed up all night since we only had like 6hr after we got home from La Hacienda before we were going to be getting up. We got my bags and bike loaded into Jeremy's Jeep, and started to head out. I did finally get a hold of Wes after a few calls to wake him up so he could be there . /hugz, Wes! Jeremy and I had to turn around to go grab my Stormcase, because it just wouldn't be a Reeves trip if we didn't forget something . I think at this point, I had the most anxiety about having to pay enough for the bags to buy a new transmitter for my dive watch; I could totally use another one of those for my tech kit. Anyway, Jeremy and I got to the airport, with everyone else heading to Steak 'N Shake for breakfast. The idea was that I would drop my bags off and we would meet them to have a nice meal together. Well checking in the bags took longer than expected, and Steak 'N Shake turned out to be closed rather than 24hr like their site and Google Maps says. Well they all ended up at Whataburger, so I got my last Chicken Butter Biscuit <drool>. We all sat down in a place not dissimilar to where we all sat when I was leaving for the cruise ships; basically a small waiting area outside the secure gate. We did our hugs and pictures. Wes agreed to take over my position as I.T. Manager of the Reeves household. And we all just joked and had a good ole time. The kids played games on the iDevices until it was all time for me to go. I went in at 6:30 because I had to be at the gate by 7:45, and I thought they were going to make me empty my bags. (I travel with a lot of wires for those of you who don't know me) Unexpectedly, I breezed through security and got straight to the gate. Since I had some time to spare, I figured I'd activate my Admiral's Club membership for the day and relax in peace. But those of you who do know me know that can't happen when somebody's trying to figured out a new electronic toy they just bought. So this couple had just bought a new Canon Rebel XTI3 or what not, so I was answering questions and giving photography advice...nice couple. They ended up mentioning that their flight leaves in 15mins, so they had to go. This finally registered with me that I should probably go to my gate as well.

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The flight to LAX wasn't too bad, I tried to sleep since it was the middle of the night Sydney time (trying to adjust early); I think I did a pretty good job. Upon landing at LAX I noticed 2 things; the Rocky Mountains look awesome, and there really is a visible layer of crap floating over Las Angeles. It's disgusting. When i walked into the terminal, it was like a wall of smells I've never experienced before (Wes warned me). Also, this had to be the most diverse group of people in a 100sq ft area I've ever seen; Business men, Families, homeless-looking people, gang-looking people...all in the same place. I didn't know what to think. Thankfully, the Admiral's Club wasn't far from the gate. I got in and looked around. Had a small snack and some water. I did go ahead and print off my bus ticket for when I arrived in Sydney since they apparently are still on paper. Once I was all done with the to-do list, I found a comfy chair and relaxed for a bit (still trying to rest as it was EARLY morning in Sydney). After a bit, I went to the front counter to ask what all of the amenities were and find out about the foot and activities at LAX, as I had a 13hr layover. The agent at the counter suggested going over to the Tom Landry International Terminal as it is more like Terminal D at DFW. Unlike DFW, LAX doesn't have the train to take you from terminal to terminal...you have to leave the secure areas to get around. So I left Terminal 4 and headed over to Tom's terminal only to find out that my AA app won't generate a boarding pass, my AA arrival boarding pass won't get me anywhere (including back into Terminal 4), and Qantas doesn't open until 4pm (it's 11AM at this point). So now I'm stuck in Las Angeles, with no car, no free rental coupon (because it was sitting on my desk in Dallas), not wanting to spend any money (since my bags cost me $400 that morning), and no way to get back in. I called Qantas and tried to get them to let me check in on their app, but they said they couldn't because it was an AA ticket and AA said they couldn't generate a boarding pass because it was a Qantas flight. A bit pissed at this point (tired, hungry, and stuck in Las Angeles), I went over to the AA Customer Service counter for missed flights and connections. After a bit of a wait, Bianca Ramirez was able to work with her co-workers to get me a pass back into Terminal 4. Thanks Bianca! Once I got back to the Admiral's Club, I had a bite to eat and worked a bit on the Towers Tap House website. I got all that finished, went and set up shop in a quiet area, and took a nap; I felt relatively safe considering the cost of the membership to the club. All went well, and around 4:30 I had a shower and made my way back over to Tom's terminal. Check out the shower:

Check in there all went well...Qantas has a policy regarding the weight of the carry-on bags only being 7kg (15lb), which my Stormcase was WELL over, so I was a bit worried about having to pay more baggage fees let alone letting them toss it around. I honestly didn't have the room to take my drives out and put them anywhere. Once in the TLIT, I walked around and window-shopped a bit. I found a neck pillow I liked, a Blackberry for Joy, an iPad case that was $100 difference at 2 different stores because of name brand, some hats that I can't even explain, and free wifi! I had a quick bite at Panda Express and picked up the neck pillow (It had 750 reviews on Amazon with 4.5 stars, so it must be good), and by now it was only an hour till boarding time. During this time, I had a lovely conversation with a lady from Melbourne. She got stuck at LAX with Delta basically not covering any of it, even though it was their fault. Really bad experience for her, but she was happy to be getting home. We spoke about her family, politics, Sydney vs Melbourne...all kinds of fun stuff; it helped the hour go buy pretty quick. Thanks to my CITI card, I got priority boarding so I could get on board with the first-class peeps and claim an overhead bin for my stuff. That made me feel better on both flights knowing that nobody would be moving my stuff, and that there WOULD be room for it.

So the Qantas flight started out pretty sweet. The plane is SO BIG; Even the coach seats weren't bad. I met my isle-mates, a musician from CA who played Alto Saxophone and an Aussie going home.The Aussie slept most of the flight, but the musician and I had a few good conversations. He had a friend who flew planes, so he was taking picture of everything like me. When we first got on-board they gave us a refresh pack. It had a bottle of water, some chips, a Nuitrigrain-style bar, and a few other things. Because I was in an isle seat I couldn't have my TV out during take-off, but the couple in front of us had theirs on the tail-cam so we could see the plane as we took of. I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the amount of torque the engines had, considering there were 4 of them...but man that thing has a lot of power. After take-off, I pulled out my iPad and started watching Continuum...I've been waiting all season to watch these on this flight   I got through about 2 episodes when they served dinner. I chose the chicken and potatoes. I was only going to have water, but the flight attendant recommended a wine to go with it, and it was free...so I went for it. Throughout the flight, as it progressed, they changed the mood lighting to go with the time of day in Sydney...sort of helping you get adjusted. I didn't get any pictures of the mood lighting   but I did get one of the control panel  . Anyway, after dinner I got about 2 more episodes of Continuum in before I took a Unisom and crashed. I slept pretty well considering the turbulence we ended up in...plus I used compression stockings to combat the DVT and jet lag. When we woke up for breakfast I had the "eggs" with sausage and hash browns and some coffee. All of the meals were pretty good for free plane food. After breakfast we only had about 2hrs left until we landed, so I just played with the on-board entertainment thingie. Played some games, couldn't watch anything because they split the audio signal, and I didn't have an adapter...because who does that?!? Also, another note on the compression stockings...The Aussie going home mentioned that they helped with the restless leg issue, and even though I had gotten up and stretched a few times throughout the night, I could still feel it a little. I can't imagine what the people who weren't wearing anything compression related were feeling. So if you ever do a long-haul...wear them...even if they're just the calf ones. Upon landing, the debark was uneventful. Going through immigration was WAY more efficient than U.S. immigration. If you have an e-passport (which any recent U.S. passports are) you can go through without talking to anyone for the most part. You get your e-passport ticket, go get your bags (none of mine were lost...even though they seemed to be last off the plane), stand in a quarantine line, let the dog smell your stuff, then you're done. On another note, don't exchange your money at the airport...they give you a crappy exchange rate, THEN charge commission on top of that. Never again.

I had hired a van/bus to take me from the airport to the hotel, as recommended by the hotel, but they weren't very good at it. They have you walk half way in the departure terminal only to come get you and have you walk all the way the other direction to the pickup spot. I had LOADS of stuff (2 Suitcases, Dive Gear, Bike, and my stormcase), and the lady who came and got us somehow thought I was going to manage it myself. Fortunately Qantas had provided somebody to help me through immigration, but once we were in the terminal waiting, she headed out. I had to ask the person who originally called our person to call her back to help me get my stuff to her bus. Once we got out there, we waited for another 30min before another bus company offered to take me since I had already asked a 3rd company if they could take me...I was ready to go. So I accepted this other company's offer and headed to the hotel. What they were calling traffic was like Preston mid-day. They haven't seen real traffic  . When I arrived at the hotel, it ended up being $5 cheaper than what the other company was going to charge me anyway...so good decision there. When I dragged my bike into the hotel, Devlin (the guy who I'd spoken on the phone to about early check-in) recognized me by name...nice touch. He was able to get me into my room early with no extra charges...especially considering I had reserved 2 days I didn't end up using (more on that in the next post). The hotel was actually pretty nice considering it was in downtown. Plus, they had added smart TVs to all of the rooms that weekend so I was to have WiFi for $25 for the week...good price.

Well that's it for now. Sorry for the delay as I've been in 8-10hr classes with homework, and the internet at the intern house has been in and out. More to come asap!

-Brenden