By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 4/18/2019
Posted: 7/16/2009
Topics/Keywords: #Florida #St.Augustine #Travel #Zachary Page Views: 1770
The first day of the East Coast trip I made with Michael and Zachary.

Our first flight left early this afternoon, on US Air from Phoenix to Charlotte, North Carolina. Michael, Zach and I each crammed all our stuff into carry-ons, because our cheap tickets would require us to pay $20 for the first checked baggage for each passenger, and $25 for each additional bag. So I managed to fit into my soft travel bag, not only enough clothes for a week, but my camera, GPS, a 12v DC to 110v AC inverter, a laptop computer, a Pocket PC, and all my medicines. (Now that I am nearing 60, I find my medicines could just about require a suitcase of their own.)

I had printed our tickets the night before. Our seats were not adjacent, but the guy at the ticket counter was happy to give us new seat assignments that were.

We've all heard how the airline industry is "struggling" (despite record profits). In addition to charging for checked luggage—which simply keeps people from checking luggage—they have found new places to cut costs and gain revenue. For example, our 5+ hour flight across the country had no movie or even audio entertainment. They charged for box lunches. And the seat tray tables now bore advertising.

Zach's seat tray table doubled as an advertising device.

Oh, well. Zach sat by the window; I sat in the middle and Michael got the aisle. This was Zach's first flight in a couple of years and he was now old enough to be concerned about plane crashes and fiery deaths. Fortunately, both Michael and I were relaxed enough to show that we were not concerned; and there were no panicky travelers in our immediate vicinity. (I thought more than once about my cyberfriend, Dave White, who is going through fear-of-flying therapy right now.) I explained everything he felt, the rush of the takeoff, the changes in altitude and why they were made, how to clear his ears when they felt stuffy and why that happened.

I know several adults I wouldn't want to sit next to during a 5+ hour flight. But Zach was no problem. He was chatty, of course, marveling over the tops of the clouds and the fields down below ("I had no idea so much of the country was farmland!" he exclaimed at one point) and wondering where we were. He had brought three of his stuffed animal friends and he held them up to the window so they, too, could enjoy the view. (Yes, he knows they aren't real. But he still likes to treat them as if they are.)

Michael and I have both been following the Atkins diet for months, and with success—not only have we lost weight, but we both feel better in ways that are unrelated to our respective sizes. However, I knew that during this trip there was no point to trying to avoid refined carbohydrates. Atkins permits occasional vacations from the diet. I knew I'd put on a couple of pounds as a consequence, but I also knew I could lose it when I returned home. They say travel is broadening; I was willing to broaden a little to make this vacation more enjoyable.

However, I resented paying for boxed lunches filled with small potions of food I wouldn't normally select, dieting or not. So we had lunch before boarding, and got dinner during our 2-hour layover in Charlotte. Result: Lunch cost me $30 for pizza at Pizza Hut, pizzas too large for lunch for one person but too small to share. And dinner at Charlotte airport's Burger King was $45 freaking dollars. And at that they didn't have the chicken nuggets Zach wanted, nor the onion rings that were his second choice. (They were just about to close.)

I thought the Charlotte-to-Jacksonville leg would be two hours, but it was less than one. This time the guy at the counter—different guy at a different counter, of course—couldn't get us adjacent seats. But the lady assigned to sit between Michael and Zach was happy to trade with me, so we sat together anyway.

In Jacksonville I described how different the airport looks now compared to my first visit there in 1967. We went to the Dollar car rental desk and in minutes were seated in our prepaid rental Kia, with plenty of room for our bags and a kick-ass stereo for the custom-mix CDs I'd packed. I set up the GPS (which I didn't really need to get to my sister's house) and away we went.

As last as it was locally (after midnight) by our time it was only mid-evening. So Zach enjoyed a good look at Jacksonville as we passed through. He did fall asleep by the time we got to my sister, Louise's. Louise, always the perfect hostess, had warm apple pie ready for us. We chatted briefly with her and my brother-in-law, Mikey, before turning in. Zach was placed on the fluffy, comfortable sofa while Michael and I got the guest room. I was a little worried that Zach might be nervous about sleeping in a strange place by himself; but there was no problem at all.

The next day would include sightseeing in St. Augustine, and the first of two reunion events. I might have been too excited, myself, to sleep. But no; I was out like a light, broadening as I snored.