August 16, 2001

New Hampshire Journal - Day 1: The Trip

-Friday, July 20, 2001-

11:45 a.m. PDT

I’m in the plane, waiting to take off. After waiting for so long, the countdown has finally—well—counted down. I’m actually going to fly several thousand miles across the country, and by tonight I will be in New Hampshire with Sam and Leen.

I narrowly avoided a tragedy this morning when I overslept, but the telephone woke me with plenty of time to spare. Yes, the adventure has begun.

11:50 a.m.

Captain Abernathy just welcomed us aboard the plane. His voice has a bit of a Southern twang, and he sounds like a man who enjoys life. From lift-off to touch-down, the flight will take four hours.

“And if you’ll give me five minutes to taxi down the runway when we reach Atlanta,” the captain said in a relaxed voice, “the total time will be four hours, five minutes.”

12 p.m.

We’re moving! Going in reverse but moving.

12:20 p.m.

Yes, we’re in the air now, and the world is starting to get into a different perspective. I knew Sacramento had bad air, but I only just noticed it when we rose above the layer of brown.

12:27 p.m.

The scenery below me is fascinating. I thought we were crossing flat land, but then I saw a river with tall mountains around it. No, it really isn’t flat down there. Now I see mountain ranges with bits of snow on them. Considering the season, though, that’s probably not snow, but glaciers instead.

A couple of minutes ago we passed some perfectly round, green crops. I instantly thought of crop circles and “The X-Files,” and wondered why the crops would be in round fields. What happens to the part between one circle and the next?

I wish I hadn’t forgotten my water bottle in the refrigerator. Oh well. If that’s the only thing I forgot, I’m doing quite well. The stewardesses must have read my mind; they’re coming by with the drink carts.

Four more circular crops, each one exactly half brown and half green. They are in stark contrast to the seemingly desolate, brown area all around them. One long road stands out, and I wonder where it goes.

12:55 p.m.

We just passed a cluster of 29 more circular crops. It must be very common, and I just never knew about it. Maybe it’s easier to use tractors in a circular motion, rather than in straight rows within squares or rectangles. If that’s the case, do the tractor tires need to be rotated frequently in order to prevent uneven wearing? See, at this point, I would really like to have an Internet connection. Not only could I probably find the answers to my questions, but I could also go find some of my Internet friends who wouldn’t laugh at my odd thoughts. Somehow, I don’t think the girl sitting next to me would be very interested.

2:15 p.m.

Note to self: Look into getting a vegetarian meal on the way back. They had a choice of “steak and potatoes” or “pasta.” The stewardess got to the row in front of mine and then ran out of pasta. Needless to say, I did not touch the brown lump referred to by the faithful Delta employees as “steak.” The miniature lumps of mashed potato were tolerable, but they tasted of strong onions. The salad wasn’t bad, but the dessert was atrocious. Pudding-topped lemon “cake” isn’t my idea of dessert.

3:31 p.m.

My mom and my sister Madalynn dropped me off at the airport but didn’t stay to see me off. I suggested that, and Mom had a lot of other things to do, since she flies off to Illinois tomorrow. I was checking in when my cell phone rang. It was Madalynn; Mom was freaking out.

I called them back when I was done checking in, and Mom was just worrying. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned earlier that my roommate was worried about me. Here I am, traveling across the country to spend two weeks with people I’ve never met. My roommate uses less than three hours of her AOL service a month and doesn’t surf the Internet at all. She asked me to call within a couple of days, just to let her know that I was okay.

That part didn’t bother Mom a lot, although she did say that maybe she should be more worried. Mom talks to people online, and she understands for the most part. However, we had a conversation in the car on the way to the airport, and I think that’s when she must have stopped understanding and instead became my typically worried mother. She said I had talked to Sam and Leen on the phone, right? Yes, I told her, then without thinking, I corrected myself and said that, no, I’ve only talked to Sam, as Leen hates talking on the phone.

That conversation in the car was fine, but I guess Mom started thinking some more afterward. When she called later, she was worried that Sam didn’t really have a wife at all.

“Mom, I’ve talked to her online quite a bit!” I protested.

She was not convinced, but then I remembered that Darleen had shouted a greeting to me once when I was talking to Sam.

Mom was a bit relieved. “And she didn’t sound like she was muffled and being forced to say that?”

“NO, Mom!” Yes, my mother has an active imagination.

Mom told me that if I got there and was uncomfortable, to check into a motel, and she and Grandma would take care of everything. I know that will not happen, but I said that I understood, and left it at that.

(3:42 p.m. PDT) 6:42 p.m. EDT

We’re descending slowly into Atlanta.

8:15 p.m.

And we’re off again, bound for Manchester, New Hampshire. The flight isn’t full, so I have a seat and a half to myself. The guy in front of me seems nice, and he has three seats to himself. He’s been in Texas on a business trip but lives in Rollinsford, a small town that’s very close to where Sam and Leen live. He said I should see York Beach while I’m visiting. A little boy is behind me, sitting between his father and grandfather. (After thinking about these people later, I realized they must have been on their way to the Nascar auto event that was being held in New Hampshire that weekend.) The boy has already made me laugh several times, and we’re not even off the ground yet.

8:55 p.m.

We’re up above the clouds, watching the sun slowly set. Fluffy white clouds drift below, and….

9:10 p.m.

I was just attempting to describe the sunset while watching it, but I decided to simply watch it instead. It was a gradual sunset, and I can still see some remaining orange, red, and pink on the horizon.

And now we can see lights below us. The neon orange is lingering on the horizon, almost as if the sun doesn’t want to set. Above the orange clouds, the sky is a yellowy-blue, a stark contrast to the dark clouds below. But then the light fades to dark, leaving only a small strip of light in the dark. The darkness is gradually closing in on the lightness, and it almost seems to be getting brighter and more orange, as if to fight off the inevitable.

9:30 p.m.

I arrive in a little over an hour. Where has the time gone? I wondered if it would take an eternity to actually get to New Hampshire, but it’s actually the other way around. I’ve spent the last 40 minutes watching the sunset, and it only seemed like mere seconds.

Am I excited? Oh, yes. Words can’t really describe my excitement, so I’ve left that part to linger in my memory. However, I’ve also reveled in the little things on this trip. I enjoyed the taking off and the landing, the fascinating people around me, the endless amounts of things that bombarded each one of my senses. Even now, I am pausing between words to gaze at the lights below me. They have a beauty of their own, and it’s certainly a sight to see. The lights cluster together and form vague outlines of neighborhoods, towns, and cities. This is a refreshingly new and different perspective on the world we live in. It’s a chance to step back and see it for what it is: just a very small part of a much bigger picture.

9:55 p.m.

And now I will put away my pen and watch New Hampshire slowly come up to greet me.

[Extra part written later: The man in front of me on the plane from Atlanta to New Hampshire was extremely nice, and we chatted intermittently throughout the two-hour flight. He knew I was visiting friends, but I made no mention of the Internet. As we were getting off the plane, I was extremely impatient, and I know it was quite obvious to those around me. The man asked me how long it had been since I had last seen my friends and got a funny look on his face when I said, “Never.” I said that I talk to them all the time, and he nodded in a way that indicated he thought I was a bit crazy. After we landed and I spotted Sam and Leen, he asked if those were my friends, saw me head toward them, and told me to have a good visit. I realized then that he had been looking out for me, which I think was rather nice.]

-Saturday, July 21, 2001-

2:15 a.m.

I got off the plane, walked up the ramp, got out into the airport and heard someone yell, “Hi!” I knew it had to be Sam, just because it sounded so familiar. I saw Sam and Leen instantly, waving from behind a glass wall. I followed the other passengers until I saw how to get to the other side of the wall, and then I very quickly got around them all. (It was a bit of a blur, but I remember staring at that glass wall, and wondering almost frantically how I could get to them in the fastest way possible. Once I figured it out, I think I probably shoved ahead of people and cut them off, but for once in my life I was completely oblivious to my surroundings. I had seen Sam and Leen, and getting to them was my one and only goal.)

We got to Sam and Leen’s house, I stepped out of the car, and looked up at the stars. There were no bright Sacramento lights to drown them out, so I saw more stars than I normally see in the city. We saw the Big Dipper, the North Star, and Sam pointed out the Little Dipper, which I’ve always had trouble finding. As we were standing there, a star went shooting through the bowl of the Big Dipper and all three of us saw it. I thought that was a rather unique way to welcome me to New Hampshire.

Then we went inside the house, which is very nice and quite comfortable. I think the coolest thing was actually seeing where Sam and Leen are when I’m talking to them online. Sam has described it for me, but that’s not the same thing. Leen’s model horse collection is amazing, and I got to see two saddles she has made. They’re even more impressive in real life than in photos.

After that, Sam served Leen and me some ice cream and we sat downstairs for a while. We were tired, but we weren’t inclined to actually go to bed. Instead, we told some stories and talked.


Photo: View from the plane

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