Most of my friends on Twitter and Facebook have been following my little adventures, but a few people only follow me here, so I thought I'd provide an update.
Rebecca came to Port Lavaca on Thursday to help me pack, make sure she can cover for me while I'm gone, and go over some of the ExxonMobil project updates. In other words, in many ways, she's going to be me for a while. We had a good time together, and on Friday morning, she gave me a ride. Our first stop was the post office, where on a wing and a prayer, I posted two packages to be sent to PNG. The first one contained my school books, a couple of novels (for friends) and a couple of children's books (to give away). The second package contained my old [beloved] laptop, with a handful of keys missing...the one that I use to conduct ExxonMobil business. We think we can expect them to show up in a week, but the guy at the post office made no promises.
With only one more stop at Taco Bell for a delicious "last Texas meal" we headed straight for the airport where I was dropped off. Thankfully, my 2 packed suitcases made it just barely under the weight limit and I was checked in. I caught my flight to Dallas (DFW) with no trouble.
In Dallas, I had a long layover. While the Dallas airport is really nice, even the ticket agent I talked to told me to watch carefully for a gate change. She was right. My first gate was one of the A gates, but within a few minutes of my arrival, it was changed to C24. After sitting there a bit, I checked the board and confirmed with the agent that yes, my gate was now moved to D20. I ate supper at TGIFridays (yum!) and sat around D20 for an hour or so. One more look at the board and a confirmation with an agent, and off I was again, back to gate C24. Now if you haven't been to DFW, getting around the airport is relatively easy, but it still takes time. The distance between C and D terminals is big, requiring you to go up and down escalators, catch trams, and the like. So DFW offered no rest for me.
Next arrival was at Los Angeles (LAX). I have to admit that I don't remember much about passing through there. Our flight from DFW was delayed, so all of the International passengers were allowed to disembark first. When I reached my gate, loading had started.
We were flying on a 747-400, although it was not totally full (like the other flights had been). It took a long time to get loaded and take off. I was trying, largely unsuccessfully, to prepare for the 14-hour flight. About 2 hours into it, the pilot came over the intercom to explain that we had a little problem with the plane that could not be fixed mid-air and we would be returning to LAX. We sat in the plane for about half an hour while the engineers took a look at the situation. It turned out to be damage to the outer starboard wing flap. Because they could not retract the flap, the drag it was causing on the plane meant we would not have enough fuel to continue the flight, which is why the pilot brought us back. We were taken off the plane, loaded into buses, and shipped to Doubletree hotel. That is where I sit no as I write this.
I went to bed sometime this morning between 4am and 5am and got some good sleep. Up at 9:30, I called the airlines to find out our plane is scheduled to leave LAX tonight at 10:30. We will now be flying to Sydney, and will board another plane for Brisbane. Oh, and the flights together will take 16 hours. (Have I mentioned how much I do NOT like commercial flying?)
Anyway...that's where things stand now. It's 4pm here and I think I'm going to leave my room for the first time today. While I have gotten some sleep, it was not very restful so I feel a little worn out. Still, Doubletree is a heck of a lot better than being stuck at the airport or worse yet, sitting in the Pacific ocean, so I think I'm going to be fine. I appreciate the good thoughts coming my way for you guys and hope to follow up with good news soon.