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RTW in only 737 NG aircraft

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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:54 pm
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Join Date: Jul 2012
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Post RTW in only 737 NG aircraft

Prologue

Anno 2016, in the German equivalent of Flyer Talk, vielfliegertreff.de, there where multiple posts addressing the United Island Hopper, a flight from Honolulu (HNL) to Guam (GUM) with 4 or 5 stopps on the Marshall Islands (Mahuro Atoll, MAJ, and Kwajalein Atoll, KWA) and in Micronesia (Kosrae Island, KSA, Pohnpei, PNI, and Weno Island, Chuuk, TKK). It doesn't take long for me to love those flights. United is using a 737, departs HNL at 7:25 am and arrives in GUM 5:55 pm the next day. When booking your trips on the Island Hopper, you have to be careful with the International Date Line, so you lose a day and save the expenses for another hotel stay.

After deciding to take the Island Hopper, I asked myself, how I can combine this flight. Well, something special seems adequate. The 737 used by United is currently the most built commercial aircraft. This implies that you can meet this aircraft quite often, even around the world. United is operating a small hub at Guam and connects to Japan, Hong Kong or Manila. Those destinations are served with 737 as well, but not exclusively, since Tokyo is served with 777 occasionally. Nevertheless, crossing the Pacific Oceans in a 737 is possible.

The next question was, whether this would be possible with the Atlantic Ocean as well. Doing a search her on FT, led to a thread (among some others). Okay, so unfortunately, I am not the first one with this idea. The solution to the Atlantic question was given in post #14. WestJet offers flights between Glasgow (GLA) or Dublin (DUB) and Toronto.

But wait, there was also the longest 737 route, Stavenger (SVG) - Houston (IAH) operated by Privateair dba SAS. Unfortunately, services stopped for the winter schedule in 2015. The reason for this route? Crude oil. The information I extracted was that there is Privateair, which I looked up and the routes they are serving. Doing this I dug up flight SK 927, Copenhagen (CPH) to Boston (BOS). The bottom line is that there is more than one possibility to cross the Atlantic in a 737.

After solving the question of those two ponds, the landmass was remaining. In Europe, there are a couple of airlines operating 737s: Ryanair, Norwegian, SAS, Turkish or airBaltic. Since phasing out all Bobbies, Lufthansa is not within those airlines. Having multiple options available, Europe should be easy to cover.

In Northern America, there are two challenges: the continent itself and the connection between the The Lower 48 and Hawaii. Unites is serving HNL from San Francisco using 737 aircraft. Another option would be WestJet from Vancouver. And there is Alaska Airlines, serving HNL from e.g. San Diego or Seattle. Besides those, there is Southwest, exclusively operating 737 aircraft. The conclusion: Northern America, east coast to HNL, is possible.

This already covers most parts of the globe, but there is still a gap between Guam and Europe. Finding suitable options, one can use the Matrix and its advanced routing codes---/aircraft t:737 is the magic keyword to use in this case. All one has to do is playing around with the airports, both destinations and connecting airports. It helped to break up the route in Istanbul (SAW) as TK exclusively used 737 from there. Unfortunately, the Matrix does not list all options, it lacks some airlines, mainly low cost carriers.

Okay, from here on I take a detour: coming this far, my idea of circling the planet in only 737 aircraft was established. Having some flying experience, one knows that lots of things can happen between booking and taking a trip. Especially equipment changes happen frequently. From personal experience, United was a memorable example with frequent changes. Thus it would be wise to minimize or eliminate the risk of equipment changes. Eliminating requires that a change leads to another 737. If you cannot solve the riddle: rely on airlines exclusively operating 737 aircraft. A European example is Ryanair, while in the US, Alaska Airlines (minus Horizon) or Southwest comes to mind.

At this point I decided to extend my search tools beyond the Matrix. This involves some investigation by oneself. Using Wikipedia you can find most airports including a list of airlines serving them. On the other side, for airlines you can also find a fleet info and destinations served. So all it takes is looking up airlines serving Guam and operating 737s. Among those are two Korean LCC (JeJu Air and T'way Airlines).

Switching back to the Matrix, one often finds flydubai as an option for traveling to SAW. flydubai is another airline, exclusively operating 737 aircraft, which qualifies them for my journey. The closest destination to Guam served by flydubai is Bangkok (BKK). On the other side, both Korean LCCs are serving BKK as well. Plus they are operating 737 only fleets as well.

With all those information at hand, the conclusion was inevitable: RTWs in only 737 are possible. Plus they are possible with a low risk of equipment changes. There are quite a few airlines, solely operating 737 aircraft.

I now tired to align schedules to make this thing work. For my October 2016 holidays I already had flights booked with Turkish Airlines. Over the last years, I usually did a two weeks trip in April/May. This is another time frame I looked up. There I hit a wall, WestJet is serving Europe only seasonally. This would limit my plans to May or later in the year. The other segments are served year round, so no issues there.

Another delay was introduced by me taking another job and relocating. This would limit my financial possibilities but also bound myself in a probation period. Taking a two weeks leave would not be an option within this period. I once again hat to delay my plans.

After settling in at my new occupation, I could safely bring up the topic of my annual leave. My plans now involved of combining this RTW with my annual visit of the San Francisco Fleet Week, which takes place in October. In October, my probation time would long be over and summer holidays would also be of no issue anymore. Those are fine preconditions for an extended leave. After getting the okay from my supervisor, I started concrete planning of my trip. After relocating, my home airport changed from Dresden (DRS) to Frankfurt (FRA), making planning a bit easier. After retiring all Bobbies, Lufthansa serves Dresden with A320 family aircraft. 737 are used by charter airlines to serve typical vaction destinations. Originating from DRS would have required me to have a connecting flight on something other than 737 or using another departure city, like Berlin. Having FRA as a home base should ease things.

Instead of WestJet, I preferred the SAS flight operated by Privatair. Finding a 737 connection from FRA to CPH was a little challenging, but possible using SAS and connecting in Oslo. Other destinations in the US besides San Francisco are the main US Navy ports, namely Norfolk, San Diego, and Bremerton & Everett (Seattle). To avoid the equipment change roulette United likes to play so often, I resorted to Southwest and Alaska Airlines. Arriving and departing in OAK instead of SFO allowed for direct connections to San Diego.

Getting to GUM was obvious. Connecting in HNL would give me the US Navy port in Pearl Harbor without any detours. My plans than were using Korean LCCs to connect to Bangkok via Seoul and then onwards with flydubai. In the mean time, Turkish decided to station also A320 aircraft in SAW, making SAW a non-737 only airport. This is why I switched to Norwegian, serving Dubai to Stockholm. SAS connects Stockholm and Frankfurt with an additional bonus of the rare 737-600. With SAS also flying A319/A320 aircraft, there is a risk of an equipment change. Well, to get the 737-600 I am willing to take this risk.

In March I started booking my flights. I hade some miles with Miles&Smiles to spend, which would expire by the end of 2017. With SAS and United being members of the Star Alliance, as well as Turkish Airlines, my plan was to book those flights using miles. The Island Hopper was relatively easy, even the 5 stops were no issue. Booking SK 927 CPH - BOS on miles was a completely different story. Both callcenter agents and agents at the ticketing desk were unable to find availaibilty on those flights. And what they cannot find, they cannot book. Using the United award search, I was able to find available award seats on those flights and on the date I wanted to travel. This is when I called Miles & More, where it was easily possible to get SK 927 and the connection from FRA to CPH via OSL.

In April and May I book the domestic US flights---Southwest and Alaska Airlines it was. With Northern Korea becoming more and more aggressive in their foreign politics, I started to get nervous about connecting in Seoul. The second best option was United connecting from Guam to Hong Kong. Additional research led to a routing with Malindo and flydubai vial Kuala Lumpur (KUL) and Colombo, Sri Lanka (CMB). United's award search showed saver award availability for UA 159 GUM - HKG, which is why I called Miles&Smiles again. Reserving this flight was easily possible.

Having the reservation to HKG, I booked flights with Malindo Air to Colombo and from there onwards to Dubai with flydubai. Furthermore, I booked the connection on Norwegian and SAS. Unfortunately, there were some ticketing issues for flight UA 159. To ticket a reservation done with Miles&Smiles on a Star Alliance carrier other than Turkish, you have to visit a ticketing desk. Only they are able to calculate the taxes and take your money. At the airport, the agent was unable to ticket my reservation. Re-booking the flight was also impossible, because there was no award availability. I did observe UA 159 award availability for some time and saw that it was available on some days and unavailable some days later. This was w.r.t. to the time of booking, the flight and date I was looking at was always the same one. At least I knew that there would be a chance, when availability was given and I was able to get to a ticketing desk shortly after calling to make the reservation. Ideally, this would be at the same day. As luck would have it, at one day I saw availability and knew I would be at the airport anyways, arriving from another flight. This is when I started another and this time successful approach.

Mid June and doing my regular check of my bookings, I found that there was change with my SAS SK 927 booking. Starting September 2017, SAS would be operating SK 927 by themselves instead od Privatair. Plus the flight would be on an A330 and not possible on my originally booked day. This is when I had to look for an alternative. Fortunately, there is WestJet. I found a suitable flight from Glasgow to New York LaGuardia (LGA) via Halifax and Toronto. Too bad, I already had booked my onward connection from BOS. Before writing off this ticket, I played around with the Southwest website and found a possibility to change a ticket. To my surprise, I was able to completly change the ticket, including origin. The only thing I had to pay would be a fare difference. Compared to European standards, this is quite a service.

I could easily cancel the Ticket for SK 927. Because of being a victim of a flight cancellation, the €50 fee was waived. However, I now had a gap in my itinerary between Frankfurt and Glasgow. Consulting the Matrix, I only found crazy routes, mainly due to the Matrix not knowing all airlines. I once again had to resort to detective work. Looking at Ryanair's destinations, I discovered that they would serve FRA from GLA, starting in September 2017. Quiet a perfect match. This was another reason for routing via GLA instead of DUB, as DUB is not directly served from FRA by Ryanair. With my first Ryanair booking, I was able to close the gap.

Ryanair was also the first airline, where I could complete online check. Exactly 60 days out---Aug. 1---I completed online check-in, resulting in sequence number 1 on my boarding pass. In the mean time, tensions were raising on the opposite side of the globe. Two childs wanted to start a pissing contest, which boosted Guam right in the middle of the conflict. Being far out from both main lands makes interesting for both parties. For me this meant looking for a potential backup. After putting some thoughts into it, I decided against a flexible backup. I wanted to do the Island Hopper. Plus it was over two months out, which would give me enough time for searching a backup in case this was turing into an issue.

Meanwhile and with all destinations known, I booked all hotels. One could expect another promo for the last part of the year, which surfaced in August. Most of my bookings had been completed by then already, but mostly flexible ones. The main advantage of such flexible bookings is that you can get a lower price afterwards. You just need to regularly check your dates and in case of lower rates, just modify the booking. This worked out for Norfolk, San Diego, Honolulu, and Guam. In Glasgow I switched from my Hampton-Inn reservation to a non-Hilton aiport hotel. This was for two reasons: I had booked a side-trip to Barra, and my best buddy would be in the area at the same time.

Three weeks out, I also booked the rental cars. I would need one in Norfolk, San Diego, Seattle, Guam and for a day on Oahu. I checked three sites, Alamo via Germanwho (giving up to 20% discount), Avis via Miles and More and directly on rentalcars.com. 4 out of 5 bookings where placed with Alamo, where a midsize was equally priced as a compact or smaller on all other sites. Only on Guam I went with Avis, earning me some additional Miles & More milage.

With everything booked, I only had to wait for my first day off. With plenty of stuff to do at work, time flew.

Originally Posted by PremEx2000 View Post
"But I agree--talk about self-abuse"

Hey, I didn't say I wanted to do it. In fact, it seems like a miserable thing to do. I'm just wondering if it's possible. It would be pretty wild if it were.
Okay, I'm in.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:55 pm
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September 30, 2017

Finally the day is here, the first day of my annual leave. With my last real vacation one year ago, it was highly required. The first day of my vacation, and also the first day of travel, did include a bunch of firsts for me.

It started in the afternoon with a trip with the S-Bahn towards Frankfurt Airport. When I arrived, I bought a bottle of water in the Tegut super market. Although I had plenty of time back at home, I somewhat left in a rush and missed drinking some water. After that, the first first for my trip:


This is best reached via the Skyline
,

which offers quite nice views of the tarmac. Seen here is a Latam A350 dba Qatar.


After arriving at Terminal 2, I searched for the check-in desks. Of course, the right one was for me so I lined up as the first one in the queue.


It only took seconds to drop my bag. The lady told me the directly go to the gate, which would close 50 minutes later. So I started the long journey to gate D52. On my way, I captured some T2 impressions---I rarely depart/arrive at T2.


Security took some time, despite three open lines. It was quite noticeable that there were less frequent flies, not in the know of the procedures. After I arrived at the gate, boarding started immediately, so no photo op there.

Havin a bus gate in FRA is a common for me, flying to my previous home, DRS, I often had to the the bus to get to the aircraft. There have also been long bus trips, at least so I thought. The bus trip that day was the longest I ever took, driving past by Zeppelinheim. I hadn't known that there are apron positions in front of the future Terminal 3. Well, with such a long bus tour, it became obvious why the gate closes 30 minutes before departure.

Arriving at the aircraft, I enjoyed the enormous legroom. To celebrate the occasion, I also received a shower. Unfortunately, it wasn't champagne but drizzle. With seat 1A you are exposed to the weather as long as the door is open.


Departure was on time and the first item on the agenda was a crossing of runyway 25L/7R. This was unusual for me, usually aircraft taxi around the runways in FRA. Departure was from RWY 25C and clouds were reached near Rüsselsheim. It took until the coast of the North Sea until there were openings in the cloud cover. Unfortunately, the windows were anything but clean and the sun was already sitting low, so good photos were impossible. The final sunset over Scotland was quite nice though.


Service on FR is similar to other airlines, with the little exception that everything has to be paid for---even water. Well, on short and medium haul flights, others copied this concept already. For inflight entertainment, there was a lottery, where you had to buy scratch tickets if you wanted to participate. Other than that, there also was inflight shopping offered, including samples of the perfumes on offer. My fear was that I would be smelling like I had visited an adult entertainment establishment. Originally, two 14 year old girls were supposed to sit next to me, who received seats in row 1. The Italian flight attendants realized that the girls were young and asked their ages. With 14 being less the the required minimum of 16, they had to swap their seats with more suitably aged ladies. And they excessively made use of the offered perfume samples, hence my fear.

After arriving in Glasgow, I took the photo opp of the aircraft with mood light.


The flight's facts: 30.09.2017, FR 1532 FRA - GLA, airtime 18:36 - 19:12 (scheduled 18:25 - 19:30), B737-800 EI-DYV.

Over the last weeks, there had been some news about sub par labor conditions at FR. Nothing was noticeable from the crew. The young, all-Italian cabin crew was very relaxed, much more than more mature crews at other airlines. Nothings special happened during flight, neither in the cabin nor outside (e.g. weather). FR is a different airline than the now growing Lufthansa and some things are handled differently. But nothing you couldn't get used to. Nevertheless, I was reminded of FlyLo here and then.

The ticket I bought was in Business-tariff, so it included free seat selection beforehand, priority handling and luggage. There are no empty middle seats unless nobody is buying the seat or the flight isn't 100% full so passengers are assigned to those seats. My flight was rather full, somewhere in the higher 90s, with only very few empty seats.

After I arrived at the airport, I bought two pre-packed sandwiches and a bottle of water at Tesco. After that, I walked the very short walk to the nearby Holiday Inn Express. I only brought my luggage up to my room before I left for a short trip to the city center. My mission was to buy one of the local Hard Rock Cafe shirts for my collection.

From the airport, there is an express bus to the city. Tickets are bought with the driver. I paid 10 quids for the round trip.


I was surprised to see such a leg room and an available USB port.


Finding the HRC from the station I alighted was easy. After getting the shirt, I walked only a few steps through the city center. Following are two random shots.



In the nearby Sainsbury's, I checked the available beers and found something to my liking.


I took the bus back to the airport and hotel, typed the German version of the trip report and went to bed. I had planned some more first times for the next day (aircraft type, airport, surface material).
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:55 pm
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October 1, 2017

For the second day of my trip, I had two things planned. #2 was dependent on #1 somehow---too much delay for #1 would reduce time for #2 .

My day started with breakfast in the HIX, which was included in my rate (or in all rates).


After breakfast, I grabbed my camera and took the very long 3 minutes walk to the terminal. I immediately found the check-in counter, where I told the guy my today's routing: Barra and the direct turnaround. The lady from the next counter immediately knew what was going on: because of the landing. Correct. After receiving my boarding pass, I also check in for my next day's flight.

After passing security, I found a nearby monitor showing updates information at 11:15. At 11 am the display switched to 12 pm/noon. To kill time, I wandered the terminal and did some plane spotting: two 7X7-400.



I wasn't aware of 747 still serving GLA. Back in 1996, i had my first contact with GLA and it was in a 747. On the return flight from Canada with Air Club International we had to add a fuel stopp (my best guess) before continuing to FRA. It took another 21 years to finally get to know the terminal, the last time we had to stay on board---deplaning wasn't part of the fare.

With some rain in the area, there were some nice shoots with engines at full throttle blowing water from the runway.


In the mean time, there was an update for my flight: 1:30pm. Because of the additional delay, meal vouchers were distributed. I also inquired about cancellation chances. The reply was that the wind is the issue with blowing water to the beach and the high tide was expected back later that afternoon. They were certain to know by 1:30pm, if they could operate the flight.

With the 5 quids voucher I assembled my self a meal.


Right before 1:30pm, things changed quickly. At first there was an update of the delay to 2pm, but shortly after that, the display changed to Go to gate.


In front of the terminal, the DHC-6 Twin Otter, C-SGTS, was waiting to operate today's flight to Barra.


View to the flight deck from my seat 2A.


The female F/O did the safety briefing and for me an additional emergency exit briefing. She also informed us that there is a 30% to 40% chanced that we couldn't land in Barra. In that case, we would return to GLA.

In case somebody is interested in the safety cards (I don't collect those).



Very limited leg room for this flight.


For departure, the Twin Otter has a reverse gear, so no tug was needed. We taxied to runway 23 where we had to wait for a departing Air Lingus ATR. Right after takeoff, I took a picture of the terminal building in GLA.


Most of the flight was uneventful and with limited visibility towards the ground due to clouds. It was only close to our arrival that I could see terrain.


For the actual approach, I was sitting on the wrong side. I could only have peek through the flight deck windows.


As you can see, not much beach to see. This was more obvious to the captain, so after visibly checking the ground conditions, he decided to return to GLA. So not much to see for me of the island.


After programming the flight computer with the required information for the return and after reaching cruising altitude, the captain informed the cabin. There wasn't much beach to land on, hence the immediate turnaround. He also said that there could be a second attempt later that afternoon/eveing.

Close to GLA, clouds were clearing off and the sun was nicely illuminating the colorful landscape.


During final approach, I was able to see the second thing I originally had planned for the day (center of the picture).


That Sunday was the first day of the NATO maneuver Joint Warrior, with many ships in Glasgow harbor and Faslane. They were arriving earlier that week and departing that day. My best friend was also in the area, covering the departure. We first thought about meeting up, but he received too much rain that day, so wanted get back to his hotel early that day. We agreed on meeting for breakfast the next day.

Back at the airport, the first information was that they were checking all options. These were another attempt later that day or cancellation with another attempt the next day. When doors were opened, information was that it will be option #2 . We were asked to go to the Menzies counter in the departure hall. For me there were only limited options, my itinerary scheduled a continuation of my RTW the next day. Additional information was that cancellation of the next day's flight were likely. Weather forecast had storm warnings for the next day. So I was informed that I will get a full refund. I wasn't too happy with that option, a refund of either the outbound or inbound would have been fine with me. They have expenses to cover and I was enjoying a flight. Anyways, I have to return some day, there are some other aviation highlights available in Northern Scotland.

I again bought dinner in the airport Tesco before walking back to the hotel. I still had two bottles of beer left from the day before, so the liquid diet was covered.

The Scottish weather was tried to offer some form of conciliation.


Honestly, I wasn't too unhappy with the beach landing not working out. For my further trip I had other flights where it was important to me that they would be operated as scheduled. Furthermore, GLA is only a two hours flight from FRA, and the beautiful EDI is nearby. The only thing bothering me is not taking the flex option of my FR ticket and arriving one day earlier. There would have been much better weather the day before and I would have had a Sunday full of ship spotting.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:56 pm
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October 2, 2017
The day again started with breakfast. Afterwards I checked out and my friend and me walked to the terminal. With only OLCI working the day before, I went to the counter to get my boarding passes. I had issues with my passport not being read by the OLCI machine. Security fast lane wasn't really fast, but at least faster than the conventional lanes.

I used the waiting time for some more plane spotting, mainly ancient aircraft.



What I wasn't knowing that moment that we would outrun the Air Transat A310. My flight was operated by


Boarding started on time and in zones. With zone 1 I was able to quickly board. I couldn't wait to see my seat.


Although you don't see much, some of you may feel this is familiar. Just think about the seats Lufthansa is using for their domestic/intra-Europe cabin. This is the very same seat, with the addition of a power outlet.


My flight, WS 31 GLA - YHZ, 737-700 C-GMWJ, 09:48 - 11:52 am departed on time. It was completely full with unusually high average age of the passengers. Many of them seemed to be Canadians.

After takeoff towards the west, Barra or the Outer Hebrides wasn't visible due to the clouds. I had booked a Plus fare, which included a seat with additional legroom, included meal and free choice of beverages. With a morning flight, breakfast was served.


IFE was free of charges over wifi, if you had pre-loaded the WestJet app. I enjoyed the flight map and flight infos, where you could freely zoom and pan the flight map. Unfortunately, there wasn't much to see outside (clouds).


Clouds were only clearing off close to our arrival. This again nicely illuminated the beautiful landscape. We were also casting a shadow, well, just a very small one.


After landing in YHZ, everybody had to deplane and enter Canada. After that I directly went to the security checkpoint, because there was a second part of flight WS 31: WS 31 YHZ - YYZ, same aircraft, 13:32 - 14:27 pm. Aircraft was the same but flight and cabin crew was different.

After takeoff, beverages were served and a selection from the snack menu. I opted for the tapas box.



Some time before landing, we reached Lake Ontario.


Although the weather was really nice, we turned to a northern direction much too early, so I could only get a glimpse of the Niagara Falls.


Toronto was nicely sitting in sun. If you watch closely, you can see a Porter aircraft approaching Toronto City airport. With such views, I can never understand, why somebody want's to have an aisle seat.


Toronto Pearson airport was also visible during our downwind. For some reason, the wing and engine also wanted to be part of the picture.


Arrival in Toronto was almost on time, at gate A6 in a satellite building of terminal 3. I just followed signs to US connections. With an empty security, it only took seconds to pass that. After that, GE kiosks were waiting for me. So all in all, it took 20 minutes from gate arrival to entering the US. Well, this time, GE was not much of a help, security and immigration lines were empty.

At the gate we had to wait for the inbound flight from Calgary. Unfortunately, the flight crew was coming from Calgary as well, but on a different flight. The reason for the delays was snow in Calgary. Lucky me, I wasn't going to Calgary, I hadn't packed for snow. My last flight for the day was WS 1210 YYZ - LGA, Boeing 737-800 C-GZWS, 16:47 - 17:44 pm. While waiting for this flight, I spotted the Air Transat A310, which finally also made it from GLA over the pond.

With WS 1210 being a rather short flight, meal and beverage options were limited. For me it was water with the snack.


The flight was routed over Lake Ontario with a nice view towards Toronto (I was sitting on the wrong side), Niagara Falls (wrong side), Rochester and continued to Upstate New York. Approach towards LaGuardia was from the north, so I couldn't see much of New York. The following picture shows the Throgs Neck Bridge on the left and the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge on the right. Too bad, I again was sitting on the wrong side to see Rikers Island.


Before my trip I bought a US SIM, which I put in my mobile phone during flight. I was curious to see the phone booking into the cellular network. Surprisingly, this worked smoothly, so I would have mobile data while in the US. After arriving, I called the hotel for the shuttle. Because of the bad line, my tiredness and my German accent, I was skeptical if this would work out. After some time I spotted the shuttle, so it did work out.

For the night I stayed at the Best Western Plus LaGuardia Airport. The hotel is Corona/Queens close to the 111th Street metro station.


Although I was tired, I had get one of the best burgers in town for dinner. To get there, I took the 7 and E train to Lower Manhatten, Station Canal Street. After a short time, I found my destination:


I ordered the Blue Burger with a second patty, but without the delicious Curly Fries. I had to apply some additional pressure to ensure the tower lasted until the photo was taken.


After finishing the burger, I got back to the hotel. I started typing the German trip report, but fall asleep. I woke up much too early and long before the alarm clock. Well, this could get tiresome for the remainder of the trip, with all the jumps through the various time zones.

I was curious to fly WestJet and it was one of the best options for crossing the Atlantic. If I had known beforehand that they were using the same seats as LH, I would have had doubts about my plan. Plus fares offer included checked luggage, more legroom seats and additional recline, blocked middle seat and priority/fast lane. You also get an inflight meal and open bar drinks. WS 737 aircraft don't have an oven on board, so there are only cold meal options (breakfast for early morning flights or choice of salat or sandwich). According to a flight attendant, this will change with the new 737MAX.

If you have the WS app, you get IFE with free movies and TV series. I did enjoy the flight map. You can also rent tablets on board. Seeing a power outlet for every seat is nice, something LH should offer on there aircraft as well (same seats). Well, with the A320neo or the 180 seats A320ceo, the probably would have to look for another position of the power outlet, to not further reduce seat pitch.

The flights themselves were uneventful and on time. There were no turbulences due fall winds and no weather related delays. Hence all flights completed as planned.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:56 pm
  #5
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October 3, 2017

After waking up much to early, I killed time with surfing the net (and completing the report of the previous day). In my opinion, the quality of the breakfast is below Hampton (Inn) standards, but I found something to eat. After breakfast, I finished packing my stuff and checked out. The shuttle took me back to the construction side, er LaGuardia airport. At 8am in the morning, we obviously hit traffic.

Security was quick, thanks to TSApre. So I had lots of time to enjoy LGA terminal B, which is just a long hall. With no lounge option for me that day, I found a seat in the terminal and used the free Wifi.

Boarding for my flight, WN 1167 LGA - MDW, 737-700 N443LV, 10:18 - 10:56 am started on time. With no pre-assigned seats, you should make sure to board early to get your preferred seat. With the WN system, your boarding position depends on your check-in time. There are options to improve your position: A-List (business fare, frequent flyer status or paid upgrade at the gate) and Early Bird, which gives you an A-group position. For my flights, I got Early Bird. With transfers, you only have to pay the EB fee once but get EB for all flights.

With no A-list for this flight, EB was amongst the first to board. I got seat 5F. Thansk to checking FR24 before the flight, I discovered a right hand seat would be beneficial for the MDW approach. With a less than 100% full flight, 5E remained unoccupied.

Gate departure took some time and due to congestion at departures, further delay was accumulated. Fortunately, WN did include some margin when planning the flights. Despite our late departure, we arrived 25 minutes too early.

After takeoff, we passed the Citi Field Stadium.


After a right turn towards the south, I could see Manhattan.


Soon after, we changed course towards a north western direction. With nice weather, I could enjoy the views.


With some imagination, you can spot a anteater and a dragon (or a salamander) in the next picture.


Besides free non-alcoholic drinks, you also get a snack on Southest flights. Alcoholic beverages are the only things you can buy on board, there are no food options.


When we came closer to Chicago, weather conditions deteriorated. Visibility was limited, so not much to see of downtown Chicago. An almost complete rainbow was protecting the city of Chicago.


After arriving at the gate, I took a picture of N443LV, which brought me here from LGA.


The early arrival extended my transfer time, so I walked the terminal to get an overview. There is also a place in remembrance of the battle of Midway. A Douglas SBD Dauntless is hanging from the ceiling.


After checking all options, I decided to get a burger for lunch. I got myself a True Burger in a combo with chips and drink. In my opinion, not worth the ~$19. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pizza place offering Chicago style deep dish pizza.


For eating, I found a seating spot close to my gate. Our aircraft was already parked at the gate.


Flight WN 1821 MDW - ORF, Boeing 737-800 N8658A, 14:00 - 16:44 pm already was listed with 10 minutes day. They were waiting for an inbound from Seattle with connecting passengers. In the end, we had a 30 minutes delay, but the passengers made their connection.

I guess you can guess, why there is no more picture showing Chicago.


The route lead us past Indianapolis and Cincinnati.



With an almost full flight, no free middle seat. The flight itself was quiet and uneventful. Snack was only pretzels and a can of apple juice without ice (as ordered).

For our arrival in Norfolk I had hoped for a more southern route to spot some ships. I would have had the chance to spot some ships, if I had sat on the right hand side. I could get a peek into the Norfolk Naval Yards and was disappointed to see them this empty. Just three ships in there.


After arrival, I picked up my rental. I booked a midsize car and got a Hyundai SantaFe. I declined the offered upgrade (upsell). My name was already written on the envelope with the key, that's why I guess the upgrade would have resulted in the SantaFe as well.

With the beautiful weather, I directly headed to the NAS Oceana to spot some F/A-18. With winds coming from the north, I got departing jets above me. I already saw and heard some of the from the Interstate---for them I arrived too late. However, there were also some for me to see and hear.


A C-130 Hercules was also departing.


A magnificent sunset was responsible for the nice mood lighting.


Before getting to the hotel, I stopped at the nearby Trader Joe's to get some dinner. Since I had a burger for lunch already, I just got a salad and a wrap. After that I drove to the Hampton Inn Norfolk/Virginia Beach. The hotel is conveniently located at the I64/I264 intersection. I never stayed at this Hampton before, but was the cheapest option this time. After finishing my salad and wrap, I almost instantaneously fall asleep.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:57 pm
  #6
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October 4, 2017

Again, I woke in the middle of the night so I again surfed the net to kill time before breakfast. The breakfast itself was typical Hampton fare, which is so good, no picture could ever do it justice. This is also why I didn't bother to take any pictures.

A day in Norfolk means I have certain itinerary. This time I slightly modified my usual order since I could start early. My first stop was at Little Creek, the Marine Corps base in the area. There I was able to peek into the future. Moored at the pier was the USNS Guam, one of the former Hawaiian Super Ferries. If you cannot guess, what is meant by future, just continue reading this report.


After that, I drove to Portsmouth. From Portsmouth, one has a good view over the BAE Systems Norfolk Ship Repair facility. As I was able to see it being empty the day before, there wasn't much to see. Laid up in dry dock is the USS San Antonio.


Next stop was the Elizabeth River Park at the Jordan Bridge. The bridge is perfect for views into Norfolk Naval Shipyard. You can easily see the aircraft carrier, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.


To my surprise, there was also a submarine in the yard. This is one of the very large Ohio class subs. Those are carrying the ballistic missiles, the smaller subs of the Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virgina classes are only carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles. Subs in general are very difficult to identify---the Navy hardly ever publishes infos on their locations. There was an exception in this case. The Navy was proud to complete the refueling of this sub within 217 days (a new record), so there are reports about it. Those reports led me to believe that this is the USS Rhode Island.


Action in the air.


After that stop, I drove to downtown Norfolk. With some time until the harbor cruise departs, I searched for lunch options. With a warm and sunny day, ice cream was a valid option.


Taking a harbor cruise around the largest naval base in the world, you are guaranteed to see ships. I'll present only a small selection.

A cruise, the USS Gettysburg.


A submarine of the Los Angeles class (don't know which one)


A destroyer, the USS Truxtun.


A fleet oiler, the USNS Laramie.


The highlight of the day was the PCU Washington (Pre-Commissioning Unit). It is the newest ship of the Virginia class, which was commissioned three days later.


For many, the highlight of the harbor cruise is/are the aircraft carrier/s. That day, two of them were in port.


To the left is the USS George H. W. Bush and to the right is the USS Harry S. Truman. The Bush is still in the same bad shape as it was three month ago when it visited Portsmouth UK.

After the harbor cruise, I again drove to the NAS Oceana. Once again, I wanted to watch F/A-18s.


Another highlight were two Air Force C-17 Globemaster departing (picture shows one of them).


In comparison, the C-130 Hercules is small.


There were also plenty F/A-18s. There takeoffs sometimes were low and pleasantly loud. This spot is also known to other locals, at times six cars were present.


Now was also the right time to take a picture of the car.


For dinner, I was checking the nearby Target. After finding nothing to my liking, I returned to the Trader Joe's. With a microwave in the hotel room, I bought some meats and a salad.

I had one more item on my agenda: doing laundry. A three week's round the world with only carry ons is impossible without doing laundry. The hotel offered a coin laundry that I could use. Spending the whole day outside, I again fall asleep way too early.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:58 pm
  #7
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October 5, 2017

Again, I woke up much too early, so no sleeping in. Jet lag...

A reader of my German report asked me to take a picture of the trunk of the SantaFe, which I happily did. You can also see half of my carry on luggage in the pictures. As you can see, the SantaFe did only offer limited space for my needs.






After loading everything into the car, I drove to Newport News. There two more aircraft carriers would be waiting for me. At first the decommissioned USS Enterprise, which is currently being dismantled/scrapped.


Secondly, there's supposed to be the USS George Washington in the yard. This is the only current aircraft carrier I haven't really seen so far. At first, I wasn't able to find her. She is not sitting directly behind the Enterprise, there is no second island visible. I know some other spots in Newport News, which I got to. The only thing I found are the first parts of the future USS John F. Kennedy.


After checking the yard, I couldn't find another aircraft carrier, so I decided to cross the James River Bridge to check out the yard from the other waterside. This is how I found the missing aircraft carrier.


With the knowledge, where to look, I again crossed the bridge. Unfortunately, the George Washington is laid up at a position you can hardly see from the outside. This is why I couldn't take any pictures of her. With the carrier being overhauled, she will be in Newport News for some more time, so I will get her another time.

From Newport News, I drove to Yorktown to see, if there were any ships at the ammunition depot. There was the USS Leyte Gulf, which I already visited one year before during the Baltimore Fleet Week.


My last destination was the Langley Air Force Base where I hopped to see some F-22 jets. Unfortunately, there were none, just one C-17 Globemaster was departing.


After spending some time waiting for nothing to happen, I slowly made my way back to the airport. Before returning the car, I had to refill the tank. At the airport, the return parking lot was totally packed with cars and more returns coming in.

The airport in Norfolk is rather small and not much to do there. With a late afternoon departure, I played it safe to avoid hitting traffic. I killed time by watching my aircraft arrive that will take me back to Chicago.


This 737-800, N8673F, served flight WN 102 ORF - MDW, 17:16 - 18:07 air time. Unfortunately for me, Southwest was operating a brand new 737-8MAX on the exact same route the day before. The only day for me in Norfolk that I didn't spend in the air.

With a departure to the south, I selected a seat on the right hand side. I then was able to get a nice view over Norfolk and Portsmouth after takeoff.


After that, we continued far south of Newport News. The bridge in the center of the picture is the previously mentioned James River Bridge.


After arrival in Chicago, I once again checked the available food options, but again took the burger. I again found a seat near the gate for my next flight. I was connecting to the west coast on flight WN578 MDW - OAK, Boeing 737-700 N772SW, 21:03 - 23:33. Unfortunately, no empty middle seat this time. Snacks on this flight were salty things (pretzels) and waffles with cheese, as well as drinks. The somewhat tight pitch made me feel slightly uncomfortable, but I nevertheless dozed off for some time.

Upon arrival in Oakland, I was able to get the last train of the new Oakland Airport Connector. The first and only stop is Coliseum BART station. The last OAK airport connector train to make downtown San Francisco connection departs OAK at 3 minutes past midnight. With a ten minutes scheduled buffer, there is plenty of time to make the connection to the downtown train. I alighted at Embarcadero station and walked to the Hilton Financial District. This would be my home for the next days.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:58 pm
  #8
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October 6, 2017

Breakfast was served in the hotel's restaurant. As a Gold member, the continental option was free of charge for me (MyWay benefit). Hot options were available at $10. Since the hotel is in Chinatown, there were also hot Chinese options available. At the first day, I decided that the continental option would be sufficient for me.

After breakfast, I started my walk to Ft. Mason. Since some years, I have my Friday San Francisco Fleet Week spot there. You are close to the action with a nice view and magnificent backgrounds. You can get a glimpse of that in the first picture already.

That Friday started with the Parade of Ships---the Navy ships entering the Bay for Fleet Week. The first ship was the USS Essex at 11 am. USS Essex is am amphibious assault ship. As mentioned, magnificent backgrounds.


USS Essex in side view.


USS Essex was followed by USS Champion, a mine countermeasure boat.


And there also was the Canadian frigate HMCS Winnipeg.


The airshow started at noon. Friday is scheduled as a practice day, although the whole show is presented. Opening act were the US Navy Seals Leap Frogs with their parachute jumps.


Following is the demonstration of the US Coast Guard. USCG is operating the smaller version of the C-130, the HC-27.


Typically, there is also a fighter jet demonstration. F-16 Fighting Falcon had the honors this year. Very much pronounced are the shock diamonds (Mach's diamonds).


Besides the Blue Angles there is at least one more jet demonstration team. This year, the Canadian Snowbirds participated.


This one was not part of the agenda but caught everybody's attention. A DIY hoover craft.


Next up and this year for the very last time was United's 747 demonstration. The main question was: will a 747 be shown? I have already seen 777 or even a 757 doing the United demonstration. Well, for the very last time, only the Queen herself was on display.

Entering the scene.


Dirty Low Pass


Two more flyovers and another pass in between (High Speed Pass).










The Queen of the Skies will be missed next year...

For many spectators, the Blue Angels are the highlight of the show. I quickly realized that they will be flying the exact same show as every year. Since Friday is practice day, they also used the two-seaters (tail #7 ), with both guest seats occupied. Usually, reporters or other local VIPs are invited for a ride with the Blue Angels, but I am not sure, whether they are also invited to join for the whole practice show.


If you are in the know what happens next, you are prepared. Here is also another example of the backgrounds only San Francisco offers.


I was a little disappointed that there were only two US Navy ships. Originally, USS Dewey was supposed to join as well, but was canceled last minute. I heard they had some engine/oil spill issues and returned to San Diego. Besides the two Navy ships, there was also one supply ship having Open Ship on Saturday, which I planned to visit that day. Other than that, the C-130 of the Blue Angels, Fat Albert, was also missing.

After the air show, I walked back to the hotel and thought about dinner options. I opted for Asian/Chinese, as it was so close to the hotel. On my way back to the hotel I came across Burgermeister on Columbus Ave., and for a blink of an eye I had to struggle with my decision. I stayed strong, so Chinese it was. From my hotel room, I orded pick-up at Z & Y Restaurant. Food was very delicious and I can totally understand the crowds that waited in line in front of the restaurant.

Another evening ended with me falling asleep way too early...
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:59 pm
  #9
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October 7, 2017

That Saturday, breakfast was much more disturbed than the day before. The restaurant was full and at times, all tables were occupied. So I decided to hurry up to start early with the ships. After packing everything and applying a layer of sunscreen, I started my walk.

On my way to Pier 50 I inevitably came by Pier 30/32 and I changed plans to start with the USS Boxer. Because of all the back light, I skipped on getting any pictures from the queue.

Again, lots of back light for the first picture from the flight deck of a CH-53 Super Stallion.


One of the various vehicles aboard. This is a AAV = Amphibious Assault Vehicle.


The island if the USS Essex.


View of the rear part of the flight deck.


The guided tour came by the sick bay, which I have never seen before. Shown is a part of the ICU..


Of course, we had to stop at the well deck. This deck can be flooded to disembark the various amphibious vessels and vehicles.


This time, the tour was so-so. Usually, on ships that size, they offer guide yourself tours in some spaces. At numerous stations, e.g. weapons, vehicles, or aircraft, you have personal you can bomb with questions or enjoy a quick demo from. This time it was a guided tour with 20 persons and only in some very limited areas. The only new thing for me was the sick bay.

After visiting USS Essex, I continued my walk towards Pier 50. There was the MV Cape Horn, a vehicle transport ship (or vehicle cargo ship) and is build as a roll-on/roll-off ship. Although having a Navy designation, they are manned by civilian personal.

The upper deck, with every thing being usable for parking cars or storing cargo.


A view of the ramp. Since it can be folded sideways, vehicles can drive aboard if the ship is moored alongside the pier.


After visiting the ship, I walked back towards downtown San Francisco. Next to AT&T Park is the 3rd Street Drawbridge. Here I voluntarily enjoyed a demonstration of its drawing capabilities, as bars were closing and bells ringing.

Bridge closed


and open.


As it was around lunch time and I cut my breakfast short, I stopped by Sushirrito. Yummy


With the location being close to my hotel, I had a short break up in my room, especially to get some liquids. You are not allowed to carry any foods or drinks aboard the ships...

After that I again started for a walk. I walked Kearny St. until it wasn't going any further. I made a right turn and ended up at Coit Tower. From there I watched the air show. Although you have a very nice scenery from there, you have to cope with back light and most of the action being very far away. This is why you quite noticeable see the dust of mist. On the bright side, sometimes the jets are passing by very low and close.




On my way back, I did enjoy the views from the elevated vantage point. Right in the center, right to the Transamerica Pyramid, the Hilton FiDi can be seen.




On my way back, I walked through Chinatown and passed by Yee Restaurant. The different meat options on display looked quite mouthwatering. I passed that option that day, because I still was stuffed from lunch. Maybe I'll try it another day.

For lunch I raided a 7-Eleven and bought some sandwiches from LSG Sky Chefs and a salad. Being back in the hotel early, I was able to finish the trip report on the actual day. It wouldn't necessarily mean I would be sleeping in the next day.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 4:59 pm
  #10
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October 8, 2017

My idea to have breakfast at 6:30 sharp and enjoy the silence was sabotaged. The restaurant was already full, Sunday at 6:30 am. If people could sleep in at least once a week... It emptied out a bit at 7 am and became more quite. Again only the continental option for me, but more then the day before. My plan was to skip lunch and have some more food for dinner.

At 8:20 am I started my walk from the hotel towards Pier 35. Both the Coast Guard ship and the second Navy ship were moored at that pier. Tours were supposed to start at 9 am, but actually started at 9:15. At the entrance, you were asked for your preference, Coast Guard or Navy ship. Navy ship it was for me and I received a green wristband. I now had to go through a security checkpoint and then a couple more minutes of waiting before boarding the ship.


First stop was the Forecastle oder Fo'c'sle.


View towards the superstructure.


Next stop was the quarterdeck. Lots of mine hunting and mine countermeasure equipment stored there. To help their task, the ship has a wooden hull, to avoid setting off mines.


One of the pieces of equipment is a remote controlled robot.


A small ship results in a short tour. I then continued towards Pier 15/17, where the Canadian ship was moored. View from the Forecastle.


The heraldic animal is a bison and there quite a few of them on board.






Very close view from the pier of the ship. A wide angle lens helps in picturing the ship completely.


I then walked back to the hotel. I had completed all my must-see's. At the hotel, I refueled on liquids and grabbed my telephoto lens. My plan was to climb Telegraph Hill again and get some better close-ups of the airshow. Unfortunately, oftentimes I was to slow adjusting the focal length for real good close-up. Truth be told, the sound of roaring jet engines is much nicer than the views anyways.

Nevertheless, I managed to take some pictures. The Canadian Snowbirds are operating the CT-114 Tutor aircraft, which cannot break the sound barrier.




Two days before, the demonstration of the privately owned Patriots Jet Acrobatic Demonstration Team was missing. They performed on Saturday and Sunday, though, and are operating 6 Czech build L-39.


Last day for the United 747 over the San Francisco Bay.


Bye bye Jumbo-Jet


And just for the record, a picture of the Blue Angels. Fat Albert was still thick and not participating in this year's San Francisco Fleet Week airshow.


With the airshow over, dinner was my next item on the agenda. I did some more research on the net and came across some 2014 reports of health issues at some restaurants in San Francisco and Yee was one of them. So I had doubts and looked for alternatives. The one I picked was Brandy Ho's restaurant. There I ordered deep fried dumplings, beef with green onions in wine sauce, Jasmine rice and a piece of chocolate cake for desert for pick-up.


Food was yummy and extra hot was pleasantly spicy. This helped in sweating out the absorbed sun screen. Since I enjoy eating hot, just a warning: extra hot does mean extra hot, so be careful.

My plans for Monday were that I didn't have any plans. Usually I use this day as a buffer. Typically, there are more than just two ships and they are open on Mondays as well. So in case I won't complete all of them on Saturday and Sunday, I still have Monday. Since I already completed my objectives, I had Monday off and time to spare. Well, I had one plan: sleep in.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 5:00 pm
  #11
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October 9, 2017

Well, sleeping in didn't work. First peek on the alarm clock at 5 am, but dozed off for another hour. That day I was in no hurry and enjoyed a more tranquil breakfast at 8 am. Back in my room, I surfed the net for some time until I left at 11 am. My first stop was Macy's, but didn't find anything. After that I went to Target, but didn't find anything either. Where the heck do you Americans buy your pens?

After that, I just walked around downtown San Francisco with no specific destination in mind. I came up with the idea of taking pictures one wouldn't guess they were taken in San Francisco. The following photos are all taken in South of Market.

At first I want to buy a B.


All-glas high-rises are growing here as well.


And even more of them are being built. In the center of the photo is the Transbay Transit Center.


One of the older buildings.


Inked wall to the right...


...and to the left. Due to work sites only incomplete photos were possible.


Other full-glass high-rises being built: Salesforce Tower to the left, 181 Fremont to the right, and Millennium Tower in the back.


New buildings but third world power lines.


Trip reports without ships? Nah, impossible...


End of my tour through SoMa.


And this is were I ended near the Baybridge.


Never knew San Francisco was a place of archeological excavations. How else would they have found a skull of a sabertooth?


Somewhat difficult to recognize, my next waypoint,


but I made a short side trip before that.


I got myself a cup of ice cream, Malted Milk Chocolate and Persian Lime & Curry inside the Ferry Terminal Building. The latter kind was somewhat unusual.

After that I returned back to the hotel. I also passed on riding the Cable Car after seeing the prices. I already checked this off my bucket list back in 2014, so no hard requirement to do so. For lunch I again opted for Chinese instead of a burger. For dinner I had rice with beef, chicken and shrimp, and steamed dumplings that day. Oh and hot sauce again.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 5:00 pm
  #12
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October 10, 2017

That day was the first day I needed the alarm clock. In my room I noticed a smell of smoke and a look outside the window revealed a hazy view. I assume that those were the effects of the bush and wild fires north of San Francisco.

I enjoyed once more breakfast at the Hilton, after which I checked out and commenced my journey to the airport. I did like the location of the hotel, which was perfect for my needs and destinations. Unfortnunately, four elevators, with only three working at times, resulted in long waiting times. And the windows could use some additional sound proofing. One could hear outside noise, although just faintly.

On my return trip to the airport, I again used BART and the Oakland Airport Connector. The day before, I topped up my BART ticket with the missing 40 cents and realized, the Airport Connector comes at a $6 premimum one way.

At the airport security checkpoint, I was randomly chosen for an additional smear test. But only my laptop computer and mobile were tested. Nobody cared about my camera, where also nothing would have been found. I then walked to the gate and found a seat to wait until it was time to board the next flight. Before that, the aircraft had to arrive at the gate as well.


My flight was WN 4218 OAK - SAN, 10:34 - 11:43 am, Boeing 737-700 N759GS. I chose a left hand side windows seat on purpose. This allowed for good views during take off and hopefully interesting views on arrival. Right after take off, a beautiful view over San Francisco was possible. You can even see USS Essex departing.


The flight route was along the coast line and Highway #1 . The missing part of the highway was clearly visible.


Downtown Los Angeles:


A nice view of MCAS Miramar, a.k.a. Fightertown U.S.A.


On arrival, I was able to identify an fleet oiler and aircraft carrier in port. After arrival, I picked-up my rental and drove to Coronado. Since I'm regularly visiting San Diego, I easily navigated without the help of any GPS.

For lunch I had apple pie in Coronado.


Unfortunately, on arrival, I could also see a destroyer departing. I was afraid that this would be all of the action for the day. At least there was action above in the sky: a C-2 Greyhound.


Luckily, there was something going on on the water as well. Two tugs were approaching the USS Henry J. Kaiser to pull her out of port.


The aircraft carrier is the USS Carl Vinson.


Later that afternoon, I drove to my hotel for the following nights. I immediately realized that next time, I'll be looking for another accommodation. Parking in San Diego usually comes at a premium, typically I paid something like $20 a night at the Hampton Inn Downtown. When I arrived they only offered Valet Parking at ridiculous $35/night. When I did the booking, it was $25/night for self parking. I can find a parking spot for my rental myself and don't need anybody to do it for me. With Valet being the only option, next time in San Diego it will be a different hotel.

For dinner there was no choice: Burger Lounge. I ordered a Husky with large fries for pick-up.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 5:01 pm
  #13
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October 11, 2017

The Hampton Inn did have it's pros. I had a room with a decent view. After breakfast I peeked out of the window and noticed a ship passing by. It's the USS Gabrielle Giffords, a litoral combat ship.


After I left the hotel, I bought a ticket for the harbor cruise. As always, I asked to split the cruise. I wanted to do part one before noon and part two in the afternoon. I had to wait over an hour until the cruise would start, which I spend with waiting for activity in the bay. Besides that I also enjoyed the nature.


At the beginning of the cruise, our attention was pointed towards a departing ship. More on that in a few moments. The tour's route is along the northern coast of the bay towards the Pacific. Of less interest to me were the hotels, yacht harbors and fishing piers---with every cruise, they are always the same. Much more interesting was the Sea Hunter, a drone ship used for anti submarine missions.


Apropos submarines, there was the USS Alexandria in port at Naval Base Point Loma.


Shortly after that we did a U-turn and followed along North Island towards downtown San Diego. At the end of the first part of the cruise, we arrived at the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. One of the downsides of the early tour is the back light at the carrier piers.


Carl Vinson's island zoomed in.


The departing ship I mentioned before didn't exactly depart. It moored at Broadway Pier. It's the USS Anchorage.


Usually, the pier is occupied by cruise ships, but not for San Diego Fleet Week. I totally missed that one when I did my trip planning. Public tours were scheduled starting Friday but my plans were to leave on Thursday night already.

After the first part of the harbor cruise, I went back to the hotel. I wanted to check my possibilities to change my bookings. Unfortunately, all options were north of the $500 mark, so I disappointingly decided to skip any tours of the USS Anchorage. If I had checked that before, I would have swapped San Diego with my next destination.

After I resigned to the fact to stick to my itinerary, I had my car pull out of the garage and drove to Coronado. That day I had frozen cheesecake for lunch.


I spend the time until the second part of the harbor tour with waiting for passing ships. Unfortunately, nothing happened on the water. Somewhat disappointed, I drove back and went to take the harbor cruise part two. As always, there was much to see and I'll only present a small collection of pictures.

USS Makin Island laid up in dry dock.


That is how an amphibious transport dock looks like if it is not partly hidden by a pier. The USS Somerset is a younger sister of the USS Anchorage.


On the next picture, you can learn how to distinguish a cruiser on the left (USS Chosin) from a destroyer on the right (USS Russell). The bridge in the background connects San Diego and Coronado.


After completing the harbor cruise, I made up my mind regarding dinner. Little Italy was near by, so I thought about Italian. Well, I did remember that San Diego is known for its craft beer scene. And in Little Italy I found the Bolt Brewery, which I went with.


Out of the various types of beer, I opted for the sampler of four. If you can read my handwriting, you know which flavors I decided for (1 to 4 is from left to right). #1 and #4 were my favorites.


I went with a burger as my side dish: the Double Double Double. With ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise as options, I enhanced my fries to Pommes Schranke (bars at railroad crossings in Germany are typically stripes of red and white). The burger was very tasty, even without any garnishing sauces.


Back at the hotel, I grabbed my camera and went for taking additional pictures. With Fleet Week imminent, the ships were nicely decorated with lots of chains of light. Especially at night, this makes for a nice theme.

USS Anchorage.


US Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Midgett wasn't hidden behind any buildings.


Across the bay moored at North Island was the USS Carl Vinson.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 5:01 pm
  #14
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October 12, 2017

Same procedure every day, shower, breakfast, peeking out of the window after breakfast. That day I again was rewarded. I grabbed my camera and off I went to the shore. My objective was the USS Rushmore, a dock landing ship. To my surprise, she entered Naval Base North Island. This one is usually reserved for carriers and tankers.


After the spectacle was over, I went back to the hotel room. I spend the morning in the cool shade of the room and regularly checked the activities in the bay. Nothing happened there until noon when I checked out. I then drove to Coronado again to get the USS Rushmore head on.


For lunch I bought a salad and a sandwich in the nearby supermarket. I didn't want to have ice cream again, although temperatures would have been perfect. My lunch was interrupted by activities. At some point they realized that they had put the USS Rushmore in the wrong port. Now they had to correct that. Well, actually something was offloaded there.


Sometimes a view towards the sky is worthwhile. Not every SH/MH-60 is all gray, some of them have colorful smudges. Like this MH-60 of th Scorpions.


Don't be distracted by the helicopter for too long, otherwise you could miss the ships. USS Rushmore was now on her way to Naval Base San Diego, with some nice backgrounds on the way.


And in front of the San Diego Coronado Bridge.


Not much happened later that afternoon, so at some point I drove over to Point Loma. Later in the day you have a nice view over the bay. My hopes were that USS Essex would return on Thursday. She left San Francisco Tuesday morning, and I hoped she would immediately return back home. Luckily I was right.




When it dawn was beginning, I slowly started my journey back to the airport. I did make two pit stops, one for the car to fill up gas and the second one for me. I got dinner at Smashburger, which as far as I remember was my first visit to any of their locations. It was tasty, but compared to the last burger, it was rather small.


I filled up the tank for less than $10 and returned the rental car. At the airport, security screening took some time, although there was no rush that night. At the gate, my aircraft was already waiting for me.


That 737-700, registration N664AS, would take me from San Diego nonstop to Seattle, operating as flight AS 317. Time in the air was 8:40 - 11:07 pm and on time. I pre-booked seat 17A at $15 and was rewarded with infinite legroom.


I also had a free middle seat, but utilization was at 74/112, as was displayed on the gate monitor. The flight itself was uneventful, sometimes a little shaky, but much to less to be exciting.

I arrived in freezing Seattle (49F, light rain) and was shuttled to the rental car center. There I got a Hyundai Elentra. A short drive later, I arrived ad the Hampton Inn Southcenter, where my bed was already waiting for me. The front desk agent told me that I received a mini-upgrade: king size bed instead of queen size.
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Old Dec 6, 17, 5:02 pm
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Join Date: Jul 2012
Location: Germany
Programs: Miles & More
Posts: 42
October 13, 2017

Although I almost settled in in the current time zone, I was awake before the alarm went off. Spoiler alert: so many more reasons to change the time zone once again sooner than later.

I went for breakfest and also found out that the coin laundry would be available after 9 am. My first thought: oops, kinda late. I then shuffled my plans and right after breakfast, I drove to Everett. I there wanted to spot the ships in the Naval Base.

My welcome committee was a bald eagle. Unfortunately, it was all gray skies and rainy weather, which is why the image turned out mediocre at best.


Two destroyers were in port, USS Gridley und USS Mommsen, depicted:


I then drove back to the hotel and did my laundry. After that was finished, I checked out at noon and programmed the satnav to direct me to Bremerton. At the WA-16 intersection, I took the wrong lane and had to drive a small diversion. After that, I crossed the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, the New version. The first one had lost a fight with wind.

My destination was Port Orchard and the southern coast of the Sinclair Inlet. From there you have a nice view towards the naval base. Among other decommissioned ships, the former USS Kitty Hawk is also moored there.


Because of the season, some trees were really colorful. With mostly pinewoods, I guess there won't be much of an Indian Summer in that area, but there are some scattered colorful smudges.




There was also a passenger ferry operating between Port Orchard and Bremerton. I used the opportunity to get some more pictures. In the naval base USS John C. Stennis, another aircraft carrier, was in port.


At Bremerton, I got a preview of my next vehicle. In my opinion, one of the musts in the area. More on that shortly.


For lunch I bought a salad, cookies, and drinks from the local 7-Eleven in Port Orchard. My Gold benefit at the Hampton Inn was a snack and I selected the chips, which I still had left and completed my meal. This was accompanied by the views of the ships in port.

I then drove over to the other side of the inlet to get another view of the USS John C. Stennis. There is a chance from a hill, which gives another vantage point from above.


I then continued to the ferry to Seattle. This ferry ride is one of the highlights in the area and highly recommended. Especially in the afternoon, you can enjoy nice views of Seattle with the right light for pictures.




Mt. Rainier unfortunately was a little camera shy and had himself hidden behind clouds. I saw it later that day when I was back at the airport. I cannot remember one visit to Seattle and not having seen Mt. Rainier, so this time was no exception.

When I arrived in Seattle, I programmed the GPS to a gas station near the airport. I picked one north of the airport, google maps told me it would be cheaper than directly at the airport. After that I returned the rental and was shuttled over to the terminal.

Thanks to TSApre, security was a breeze. Since I had known before that there won't be any free food options in flight, I had dinner at the airport. At one of the delis I got a salad and a sandwich, which I ate near my departure gate.

Alaska Airlines is advertising on their website those Recaro Leather Seats. Those should have been a warning sign to me, not be surprised when boarding the aircraft. It again was the highly appreciated seats that also Lufthansa is using, but again with a power outlet.


Some weeks before the flight during my regular checks for unannounced schedule changes, I discovered Premium Plus. A more legroom seat, priority and free booze was offered at $59---a bargain for the long flight. It turned out that also a free snack was offered, which was different to the conventional economy class.


Besides a G&T for the first round, I had a Kona Longboard beer for my second round. The Liquid Aloha was okay, but nothing special.

After arrival I took the chance for the photo op---without any obstructing windows.


This 737-900 was operating the SEA to HNL flight AS 145, airtime 7:58 pm - 10:21 pm. In my opinion, the seats aren't that comfortable, which is why I was happy to change my posture after landing.

After arrival, I proceeded to baggage claim to find my shuttle. I was awaited with a name tag. I had pre-booked a transfer with Roberts Hawaii. I was also thinking of using public transport, which would still have operated at that time. In hindsight, I was happy not to do so, the shuttle was quick and convenient. I arrived at the hotel at 11:15 pm.

For the first two nights I had booked the Hilton Waikiki Beach. I was welcomed with an upgrade to the 28th floor and beach view. The upgrade also gave me lounge access, where I could get breakfast starting at 7 am. I planned on being their at 7 am to get started early in the day.
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