Allyson Johnson

Pieces of my Mind

Archive for the category “Airports”

Freeway Free: Flying First Class!

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My father used to say “It only costs a little more to go First Class.” But that was back when a first-class upgrade set you back only about $20, and sometimes you could get one just by flirting with the ticket agent.

When I had a day job, I did quite a bit of international traveling in Business class and amassed enough Frequent Flyer points to gain access to United’s Red Carpet Club and other elite airport venues. More recently, I have had to join the hoi polloi in Coach class and in the ordinary waiting areas of airport terminals, so it was a real treat when we were upgraded to Business class on our flight to Great Britain.

The first surprise was our access to the Polaris Club Business Class lounge, which United now shares with Lufthansa and Continental. Wow! The old Red Carpet Club gave you coffee, tea, and pre-packaged cheese slices and crackers to tide you over while you waited for your flight. If you were lucky, they might not be out of apples or bananas. The Polaris Club is several levels of comfort and cuisine apart.

Not only are there espresso machines, but also several open bars with serve-yourself beer and wine as well as available mixed drinks. Food stations include German-style cold cuts and sausages for make-your-own sandwiches; a breakfast station with bagels, French pastries, hot and cold cereals, fruit, and yogurt; and a steam table offering hot miso soup, steamed rice, potstickers, ramen, and sushi.

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Tucked away next to the restrooms and private laptop cubicles were showers! United has apparently picked up some classy tips from its European and Asian partners.

Once we were on board, we found seats that could be stretched out to lie flat, with pillows, blankets, big screens for on-screen movies, lots of storage for carryon luggage,  plugs for our laptops and Nicholas, an assiduous purser to answer any question. In Frankfurt the Polaris Lounge was equally well equipped as at SFO, and even on the small plane to Manchester we were served quite a creditable Salad Nicoise with wine. It’s been quite a while since I felt so pampered by an airline. A great start to our British adventure!20180715_151353doc

Next week: From Top of the Castle to Down in the Pits in Wales

Freeway-Free in Colorado: Boulder Beyond the Rocks

The Flat Irons above Boulder

If you’ve heard of Boulder, CO at all, you probably know that it is one of the hippest college towns in the country, surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, and with a tech-savvy population. (89% of households have broadband access, the highest rate in the country.)

But you might not know that Boulder  also boasts an I.M.Pei-designed National Center for Atmospheric Research, that it is home to one of the original Chatauqua Institutes (established, oddly enough, by a group of Texans who felt that the weather in their home state was just too oppressive to host conferences), and that its Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art had one of the largest private collections of Western-themed art in the country [Note: Unfortunately, this Hidden Gem closed in August 2017, soon after my visit. And it is also the headquarters of the Celestial Seasonings tea company.

Boulder is a wonderfully walkable town, once you get there, and happily, you can get there without having to drive.  If you fly into the Denver Airport, you can get to Boulder by bus for less than it would cost to pay the tolls on the E-470 tollway just outside the airport. 

When you land, grab your baggage and head for the whale’s-tail shaped Westin Hotel  at the east end of the lobby.  Instead of going up the escalator to the Westin lobby, hang a U-turn at the ATMs and you will find yourself in the  RTD Transportation Center. The SkyRide bus for Boulder costs $9 for a 70 minute ride to downtown Boulder, and leaves from Gate 8 at least once an hour beginning at 4:25 AM and ending at 12:55 AM.  The bus will be full of UC – Boulder students no matter what time of day or night you get on, so be sure to purchase your ticket right away and stand in line for the next bus.

Once you are in Boulder, you can take advantage of the many whimsically-painted and whimsically – named  (HOP, SKIP, JUMP, DASH, STAMPEDE…) Community Transportation buses to get just about anywhere in and around town.

Next: What to see when you get to Boulder

Security in our Nation’s Capital – 3 Vignettes

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TSA Precheck

My husband D and I applied for TSA pre-check privileges two weeks ago.  We had to do it in person at an H&R Block office in Santa Clara, with finger printing, passports and $85. each.   My ‘Known Traveler’ ID number showed up the next day on the TSA web site so my husband entered it for all the flights I am taking this summer, including ours to D.C.   I’ll have TSA Pre at all airport check-ins. My husband’s “KT” number, however, is still in processing.  He called TSA and was told by a friendly fellow that this is typical, implying that most terrorists are men and thus they take longer to check out.  He did say that there were no red flags on my husband’s profile.    So this morning we got our boarding passes for tomorrow and  –  Whee  –  we are both TSA Pre-Check.  Go figure.  Maybe because he had been this category on all his flights for the past few years.  Maybe because he is a distinguished WASP senior citizen.   Maybe because we are flying first class.  Maybe because it’s Tuesday.    Whatever, he will enjoy, at 5 am, NOT  having to shed his shoes and belt nor remove his laptop.

Security guard’s view

We got into our nation’s capital a day early for our  Travel Tour, to do some stuff on our own.   One of the suggested travel-packing items our tour leader recommended was a money belt.  Uh Oh!  Shades of the guy on our Barcelona tour who had his wallet filched  within minutes of arriving En Espana   –  or the warnings when we  were at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris  from the entrance Gendarme:  Beware of pickpockets.  So D bought a stylish (Hah) money belt and packed it .  Then, after we had finished our fine breakfast at the JW Marriott in D.C. he approached a tall, imposing, black security guard in the lobby and asked him,  “Should I be concerned about pickpockets here in Washington D.C. ?”

The guard thought for a moment and said,  “No, I’ve never heard of or experienced a problem, and I’ve lived here for 14 years.  And I carry my wallet in my back pocket.”

“Right,” my husband said.  “But you also carry a gun!”   The guard did not seem amused, but the money belt stayed in his suitcase.

White house walk-by

After dinner at a café across from our hotel we walked further down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the White House.  There were Secret Service men not-so-secretly patrolling in Kelvar vests, walkie-talkies, pistols, and some with assault rifles.  One can no longer go up and press one’s face against the fence to catch a glimpse of Michele Obama’s kitchen garden – there are traffic barriers keeping onlookers 10 feet from the fence.  Of course, the SS guys are selected to be handsome, charming, and to interact with the public – the one we approached sympathized with the difference between our memory of “the last time we were here we could…”  with a warm “too bad you can’t still, but welcome back.”  We found a bench further down Pensylvania Ave. and took a rest, and on our return found the sidewalk blocked, SS men at attention, no longer interactive.  A detour to the other side of the street led us back to our hotel;  on the way we found three DC policemen chatting. “What’s going on?”  “It’s just a drill.  If it were real we wouldn’t be standing here,”

Flight Risk

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“Time to get up, “ my husband D said , his voice roughened by sleep or the lack of it.  I opened bleary eyes.  It was 3:30 AM, the time D had determined we needed to rise in order to make our 6AM plane departure from SFO.  I pushed myself out of bed and wove my way to the kitchen to start some coffee.  My cell phone lay charging in its nest on the counter.  “That’s got to go in my bag,” I thought, as I picked it up.  Then I registered the message glaring from its yellow oval:  “Your flight has been cancelled.”

Shock, amazement, distress.  Our flight has been rebooked through Houston instead of Chicago, leaving at 10:50.  What to do?  Back to bed not a good option – too much adrenaline generated by the cancellation notice.  Tried unsuccessfully to doze.  Finally ate breakfast at 6:30, arrived airport at 9, to find a delay of another hour.P1020899doc

Flight delay. Delay. Delay. Finally a lovely first class seat in a new Dreamliner. We hover over Houston, which looks impossibly green below towering white clouds like the ghosts of Bryce Canyon hoodoos.  We land.  Our connection  in Houston leaves in 20 minutes, no gate info provided.  Mad search for departure info?  Found – ugh! Terminal E, we are in A.  Where is E?  D is looking at the airport map he ripped from the flight magazine, while I flag down a jitney driver.  “How do we get to Terminal E?” “Hop on” he replies, and off we go zig-zagging down the endless corridor, turning right here, left there.  He stops.  “Are we there yet?”  No, change to another  jitney.  Our original savior continues left at the Y, we go right, then stop again with our gate in sight.  We’ve made it.  We are not even the last to get on the plane.  And there is another delay in leaving, so we are even pretty confident that our luggage made it too.  The afternoon of orienting ourselves to our hotel and surroundings is blown, the welcome champagne and a nice dinner ditto, but we are GOING TO GET THERE!

Canada: the Alien Next Door – Day One – San Francisco -> Edmonton, Alberta

O CanadaCanada to me has been like one of those neighbors who lives quietly, keeps their yard neat and their picket fence painted, says “Hello” and “Good morning” when appropriate, but who has never invited me into their house.  This summer I got past the picket fence and at least caught a glimpse of the family room;  my husband and I went for a trip across the Canadian Rockies by bus and by rail.  In many ways we traveled in a bubble of luxury tourism;  still, even the part visible through the bubble was much more exotic than I had imagined.  There is a lot going on behind that picket fence.

Day One:   SFO-> Edmonton

Mt. Shasta rises above California's central valley

Mt. Shasta rises above California’s central valley

On a sparkling day we flew northeast from San Francisco, flying over Mt. Shasta – America’s Mt. Fuji – stark and snow crowned alone in the middle of the flat-for-miles-around north Central Valley.  Further north, the  Three Sisters  and lonely Mt. Bachelor edged the dry plain of eastern OregonI had never realized the extent of the mighty Columbia River – our route echoed the course of this huge waterway twining its way across Oregon and up into Canada, looking like a Great Lake in flow.

Once past the Coast Range and the semi-desert of eastern Oregon, we flew over the orderly square acres of Alberta.  The farm plots and roadways seemed to be marked off along the original homesteading lines, many with an irrigated green circle  tangentially inscribed percisely within the square of boundary roads.

Edmonton International Airport

The Edmonton Airport – vast and empty.  A young woman passed us on the moving sidewalk, asked us our business in Edmonton, envied our Rocky Mountain railroad trip, said “I’m just here for a funeral.”

“Well at least you must know the area.”

She shrugged and said dismissively, “ Edmonton is kind of like Sacramento.”  She moved past us at a more rapid clip.  I mulled over what she had said and thought: even if this is true,  that’s not such a bad thing.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the leafy parks and rose gardens of Sacramento, bicycling its river trails and enjoying its street scene – “Like Sacramento” is an ok thing for  a capital city of a thriving province to be.

I was to find out that Edmonton is not so much like Sacramento, despite having both leafy parks and rose gardens, as it is like Houston (see my earlier posts).  Something to do with oil wealth and explosive growth, neither of which I had known was a factor in Alberta.  My elementary school geography showed the map of Canada with its chief exports – Alberta featured a shock of wheat and a cow.   Now the province would be pictured with an oil derrick and a coal car – who knew?

From Russia with Mom – Day 13 – Copenhagen to San Francisco

Last day:  We stuff our sturdy luggage with everything we won’t need for 24 hours and set out for a last walkabout in Copenhagen.  Our first stop is the City Hall, and it turns out to be our last, also – there is much to see.

The most fascinating room contains Jens Olsen’s World Clock – a meticulously engineered marvel which tells the date and time world wide plus forecasting solar and lunar eclipes and  the relative positions of the planets for milleniums to come, with tolerances much closer than my Timex.  And it is beautiful, both front and back:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending a lot of time reading the fine print on how the intricate mechanism works, and strolling around the City Hall admiring the beautiful tilework, memorials, and banners, we decided to head for the Copenhagen Airport.

It’s an easy 20 minute ride, but once we arrived it was not so clear where we were to go or what we were to do.  Our taxi driver dropped us at the domestic terminal rather than the international, so we started off iwth a walk, Mom gallantly dragging her case behind her and trying to keep up as I pushed our way through the crowd and scanned the lighted signs for information about our flight and  gate. . 

By evil chance, the display which should have given that information was the one temporarily not working. I was casting about desperately for an information booth when my eyes lit on a familiar sign – “Star Alliance Gold” over a nearly empty  ticketing station.  I pulled my Gold card from my passport wallet, silently blessing my former employers and all those travel miles I booked in their service.  After one glance at my card, the kiosk attendant whirred into efficient Scandinavian action, and we were home free.

We were waved to a nearby seat, waited a few minutes, and then our wheels arrived – a wheelchair guided by the etimable Fraulein Martin.  She took charge of Mom and both our carryons and whirled away, by-passing checkpoints, dodging through “Staff Only” doors and up inconspicuous elevators, and deposited us in minutes at the head of the boarding line for our flight.

At Frankfurt, we had leisure to enjoy the luxurious Lufthansa Lounge which we had missed on the way in, complete with hors-d’oevres, a hot buffet, a dessert tower, and an open serve-yourself bar. A far cry from the packaged crackers, cheese, and cookies at the United Lounge at SFO where we passed three hours of flight delay at the beginning of our trip!

And then we were on the plane.  And then we were home. The ever-shifting kaleidoscope of countries, cultures, cuisines, and cruise events and excursions was finally laid to rest. It has taken me almost four months to sort out the impression, notes, and photographs from this trip.  I hope you enjoyed taking the journey with Mom and me.

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Next: A couple of brief visits to interesting spots, then my next Adventure  with a different means of transport and a different travel partner. Hope you stay tuned!

To Russia with Mom: Useful Equipment for Elderly Travelers

Here is a checklist of useful equipment and supplies.  Much of this should be in the zippable tote bag you carry on to the plane or train.

  1. A foldable cane.  Not only will this provide extra balance and security on uneven pavement or cobblestones, but it sends a signal to surrounding people that this person may be moving slowly, may not respond quickly to the unexpected, may not be stable, and they will give you wider passage, a helping hand, more consideration.
  2. A head lamp/lantern/flashlight. Lighting in hotel rooms may be inadequate for visually handicapped travelers – a bright LED headlamp is great for late-night reading or early-morning packing.

In one otherwise excellent Russian hotel, we were told that there would be no electricity between 6AM and 10AM the following morning (thus disabling the elevator, the bathroom lights, and the coffee machine in the breakfast room).  We were lucky that we did not need to bring our suitcases down from our second floor room any earlier than 10AM.  Wearing my headlamp I descended the steep, dark stairs and retrieved a cold breakfast and thermos of tea for us.   My head lamp features an attachment that converts it into a lantern;  this was a vital accessory in an electricity-deprived, windowless bathroom.

3. Noise-cancelling headphones.  These are really good on airplanes to enable hearing-impaired to enjoy the audio and movie channels more fully. (Tip:  if you have an old set of Bose earphones, you can trade them in at a Bose store to purchase a new set at a hefty discount.)

4. An ample supply of adult diapers (If there is any possibility of incontinence)

5. A packet of pop-up wipes such as are used for babies – handy for cleaning hands, spills, surfaces as well as any toilet accidents.

6. Energy bars for snacks.

7. A blow-up neck pillow – make sure it is easy to inflate and deflate, and has a comfortable cover.  Older old can fall asleep at the drop of a hat, but also wake up with stiff joints.

8. Travel sox – it is nice to take off shoes if you are on a long flight.

9. A shoe horn in your carry-on – to get those shoes back on after they have swollen in flight.

10. A couple of packets of plastic utensils (very useful in eating that cold breakfast)  Nab a couple of extra packets from the airline meal trolley – these are perfect!

11. Extra batteries for flashlight, hearing aids, noise-cancelling headphones

12. Medications pre-loaded in pillboxes marked for each day of the week.

To Russia with Mom – Tips for traveling with the Oldest Old

Wouldn’t you like to jump this queue at the Frankfurt Airport? Here’s how!

Traveling with the truly aged has both challenges and benefits. The pace will be slow, but there are advantages that come with age.
For example, friends had warned me how difficult it would be to enjoy the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, with all the Asian tourists jostling and elbowing to get to the front of the crowd and take their obligatory pictures. But I was traveling with my 91-year-old mother, who had reluctantly agreed to use a wheelchair for the Museum tour. The large group of Japanese tourists who were part of our tour bowed deferentially to this silver-haired lady in a wheelchair, beckoned us to the front of the crowd to see each of the important pictures, made sure Mom could hear the guides commentary, and even insisted we go to the front of the line in the loo for access to the handicapped stall – It is good to be a dowager! (I shared all the privileges as the designated pusher.)

Look at the body language in the Queue at the Hermitage! This is a vacation?

As the trip evolved, there were a number of ideas that worked well to smooth Mom’s journey. Here are some top tips:
First cardinal rule: Take all the help you can get!
Traveling with an elderly companion requires extra alertness, awareness of hazards, and forethought. Tour operators and airline personnel have lots of experience on how to make an older person safe and comfortable – don’t hesitate to ask for help and take advantage of their knowledge.

  • If you are flying, be sure to request wheelchair assistance at every airport.
Mom at secret elevator with the estimable FTA agent in Frankfurt

Mom objected to using a wheelchair at first – “I’m not THAT old!” but when she realized how many lines she could avoid standing in, and how many short cuts between terminals would be opened, she relaxed and played the queen enthroned with gusto.

  • Many airlines reserve easy-access seats on the airplane for handicapped passengers and their escorts. Mom and I had the benefit of this allowance which twice gave us a trio of seats to share between the two of us in the extra-leg-room section of the plane.
  • Shamelessly use any other perk available.  My United Gold card got us into the Star Alliance Lounge in both San  Francisco and Frankfurt.  SFO’s United Club enabled us to get through an  unexpected 3 hour flight delay without too much pain;  in Frankfurt we enjoyed a varied and delicious lunch buffet in the Lufthansa Lounge between flights.

Mom eyeing apple cake at Lufthansa’s dessert buffet

  • Many bus tour companies reserve the front seats of the bus for handicapped passengers.
  • Many bus tour companies offer “kneeling” buses for easier access.
  • Most museums, even in ancient churches and public buildings, have some sort of elevator or ramp access. Don’t shy about asking, as your tour guide may not think of it or may not want to be bothered finding out if the “lift” is currently in operation.
  • If you are part of a tour group, insist that the “sweep” stay with you, even though your pace may be slow. This will prevent your being lost from the group if they make a sudden left turn and you miss it by lagging (as happened to us in Stockholm as we navigated through the labyrinthine City Hall).
  • Schedule some break time for the support team.

Walking at a slower-than-normal pace with an arm crooked to offer support can be as exhausting as power-walking, and being constantly alert for hazards and obstacles is wearing on the brain. Let your older companion take a nap and use the time to stretch and exercise your body, move fast, take in a few extra sights and sounds of the exotic place you are in. You’ll feel great – and grateful for all you are able to do. Trust me, your older fellow traveler will be happy to vicariously share any independent adventures over the dinner table.

To Russia with Mom – Day 2 -Frankfurt -> St. Petersburg

In-flight (10 hours). We are in a new 777 with on-demand movie, TV, audio, and game channels – hundreds of selections! Is this cool or what?

In fact, there is a lot less here than meets the eye – a choice of  12 “current release”  movies is not thrilling if they are all unwatchable.  I took a look at  “Journey 2: the Mysterious Island” –  the Teletubbies have better visual effects than this.  I go back to my 19th century media – back issues of  Science News Digest and the New Yorker.

Mom was excited at first also, but a choice of hundreds of media options is not very useful to a visually impaired nonagenarian if the choices are unreadable –  small light blue type on a medium blue touchscreen just doesn’t cut it.  I try to pick a movie she will like and she settles in with “As Good As It Gets”, struggling to make the audio phones fit over her hearing aids.  Fortunately, she is able to sleep.

In-flight meal – I get lucky – there is an extra vegetarian meal in the galley – a nice spicy curry of corn, peas, and chickpeas over rice.  I set aside the triple brownie for future need. Mom gets the chicken and eats a good bit of the chicken, rice, and salad.  I snag her brownie also.

“Breakfast” is a disgrace” – a “croissant” as fluffy as a baseball bat, six small chunks of unripe melon, half inedible.  I blush for United, imagining the feelings of the passengers used to the amenities on Lufthansa and other state-sponsored airlines.

We land in Frankfut at 12:32 local time.  Our connecting flight leaves at 1:25.  The stewardess  assures me that we can make it.  Despite some nervous moments,  and thanks to the kindness of strangers who yielded prority seats on the bus and offered many helping hands, we do.

A special commendaton to the harried service staff for Lufthansa at Frankfurt, faced with a plane-load of slow-moving seniors and families with tight connections to various vacation places. They maintained patience, order, and control over the anxious horde, several electric carts, and assorted wheelchairs.  A special shout out to Eilika Williams, our personal chair navigator, who wormed us through secret passageways, forbidden gates, and past long security lines, all the while maintaining a cheerful stream of chatter and a wide smile to allay Mom’s anxiety.

Through the Frankfurt maze!

We are aboard the Lufthansa flight to St. Petersburg.  At first we are seated far apart, but the kind gentleman in the aisle seat moves up one row, which allows Mom to move up, and we have a whole row of three seats to ourselves!  They serve a hot meal.  I finish a Smithsonian magazine, play a few rounds of solitaire, think, write a little.

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The St. Petersburg Airport –  Arrival.  Chaos.  No wheelchair here, no magic card or helpful genie to speed us through the queue.  Actuall, “queue” is a misnomer, implying some sort of order or sequence.  We simply merge into a tidal wave.

My ex-colleague and now friend Maxas is waiting for us as we exit from customs(after standing in queue for nearly an hour – did I ever miss Japan!). He packs all our stuff into his snazzy red French mini-van, gives us a quick tour of the central city sights (the Bronze Horseman, the Winter Palace, the Nicholas Istatue, the Legislative buildings, the Nevsky Prospect, Dostoevsky’s house) and deposits us at our hotel, together with the baggage which requires two trips in the tiny elevator to convey to our room.

We are unwinding now in a very lovely little hotel room  at the Stony Island Hotel on Lomontoriv Prospect, just around the corner from the Russian Museum.  We change a few clothes, and check on what we have misplaced so far. (My sunglasses disappeared after the first security check… they may yet reappear and I have backups)

Arcade – Gostinyy Dvor

After our R&R we venture out, walking around a huge building which hadsbeen re-purposed into a shopping mall.  (We later discover that this is the famous Gostinyy Dvor, the oldest department store inthe world, now carved up into a series of small bourtique shops.).We make it to Nevsky Prospekt where we see lots of happy looking people in various shades of style walking, chatting, swigging beer, and  watching street performers.  We do not make it to any notable sights as hunger overtakes us.  We are surprised to be told at the little café that they did not serve anything but coffee, tea, and pastries after 10PM – it is still quite bright outside and we had no idea it was that late.  Fortunately the croissants and jam we ended with are delicious, as iss the tea we share.

We find our way back to the hotel, feeling triumphant – we have arrived!  We have explored!  We have eaten!  We are in Russia, the hidden, secret, unknown mystery of my childhood, fantasized as a place of gray, treeless, empty streets , now revealed as a bustling  place full of life and color and exhiliration.  It all seems a bit like the Emerald City of Oz.

A piece of my mind editorialized “This is not Russia – anymore than San Francisco is America!” Most of my thinking was just joyful to find a place so much better than my expectation.  How often does that happen? Can the spell last? We have three days more to spend here…

To Russia with Mom – Day one (In flight SFO->Frankfurt)

 

Our flight is scheduled to depart at 1:56 PM.  I call Mom at 8:30 AM. She is up and dressed, but there are some things she can’t find.  I go through the hedge  Explanatory [Note: I live next door to my Mom] and find what needs finding, forget about the other items that won’t be needed on the trip. We empty the fridge of everything which won’t last two weeks.  I take milk, meat, cheese, fruit through the hedge to our fridge for my husband’s survival rations.

I call Mom again at 10:30 with a 15 minute warning.  She says “I’m ready to walk out the door.”

We bring the car around at 10:45.  The door is closed and locked.  We ring the bell. No response.  We ring the bell again.  Finally Mom opens the door.  She had fallen asleep.  Well, at least she is relaxed.

We load two incredibly heavy suitcases, a jam-packed rolling tote, and an equally crammed Land’s End Tote into the trunk of the car.  I hand Mom’s passport around her neck in a little ID pouch recycled from a trade show.  I have my passport, cash, airline itinerary in a passport wallet around my neck. We are off!

1PM – At the airport:  I have a Gold card for United thanks to my business excursions in Asia last year, so we get fast processing through check in;  my mother’s silver hair gets us waved into the Priority line at Security,  and we are quickly admitted to the Red Carpet Club, where we are informed of an hour’s delay of our flight.  We have a four hour window at Frankfurt, now cut to three.  No worries.  We settle in with trail mix, raw carrots, cheese and crackers;  Mom snoozes and reads; I read and write.

Two hours later: Our plane is undergoing “aircraft servicing” and the flight time has slipped from 1:55 PM to 3PM to 4PM. We still have a two hour window to make our St Petersburg flight, but  if it slips another hour we may not make our connection.  I talk with assorted other folks using Frankfurt as a connection point to Moscow, Florence, Copenhagen, and other exotic points – many with tighter connections and fewer options.  I’m glad we added a few days in front of our cruise date in St. Petersburg; I’m getting a little worried about the Saturday matinee ballet tickets my friend Maxas secured for us.

I get online and email my husband and Maxas, more to vent than to inform, at this point.

3:30 – Boarding announcement.  We gather our scattered  resources and head for Gate 95.  Again, Mom’s silver hair is even more effective than my gold card in getting us priority seating.

4:55: finally, three hours late, in flight.  Our Frankfurt transfer window is cut to one hour.  Will we and our luggage make it?

On board and ready to fly!

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