L.A. stopover and home

We arrived into Los Angeles about 6.30 pm after travelling all day from Columbus Ohio via Baltimore Maryland.  Still can’t quite work out why we had to fly from the Midwest to the east coast to get to the west coast but never mind.  After all our flying experience we were totally prepared for a long day of travel with all gadgets recharged; water bottles ready and a supply of healthy snacks to last the distance.  I was given the book ‘The Help’ by my friend Sara and whilst I had every intention of saving it for the flight home, I couldn’t help but start reading it.  Once my head was in it then I couldn’t put it down and by the time we touched down into L.A. I had nearly finished it.  Thanks Sara – it was a great read.

We managed to get all 8 of our checked bags successfully to the shuttle bus stop so we could get a ride to the depot to pick up our hire car; our 7th hire car for the year.  This time we only were hiring the car for a couple of days to get ourselves to and from the airport hotel.  This was a cheaper option than a paid shuttle service for the 4 of us and all our gear, plus it gave us greater flexibility in our comings and goings. 

Upon arrival at the hotel we quickly checked in and then headed across the street to the local mall.  I had stayed at this hotel two years earlier so I was familiar with the layout of the mall and knew just where to go to get us dinner – the food court on the third level.  Chinese for dinner and then a quick trip into Target to stock up on some breakfast and snack foods.  Back to the hotel to bed and ready for a day of last minute shopping in L.A.

Harris and I hit the mall the next morning whilst Patrick and Steve hung out.  We had a list of things to acquire and set about finding them; nothing exciting just necessary e.g. a white shirt and black pants for the school band Harris will join this coming school year.  The boys had a coolish swim in the hotel pool whilst Steve tried out the gym.  I headed back to the mall in the afternoon for some lovely quiet shopping.  All of us went back in the evening for dinner and enjoyed burgers and fries from ‘Five Guys’.

Monday morning we went back to the mall as Steve, once again, broke his sunglasses.  This was the 5th pair for the year – no I’m not kidding. This time he was under strict instructions to buy a good pair of sunnies and also a case to put them in!  We found a few more last minute things to add to our bags to bring home and then back to the hotel to check out.

Now checked out and homeless, we had 12 hours to fill in before our flight to Australia.  We had no desire to go to another mall so we found a park just down the road.  What a perfect place to relax for a few hours.  Only 10 minutes into our park time we noticed another mother and two boys turn up.  I told Harris to find out why they weren’t at school.  He came back to tell me that they were home-schooled.  Ok, so I went up to their mum and said hello and introduced myself.  She thought that we were there to meet up with the L.A. home school group that was meeting there that day!  What a great day to pick that park and that time in the whole of L.A.  Very soon I was chatting with other mums who home school their kids and my boys were overrun with kids to hang out with. 

After chatting for a few hours it was time for us to move on and think about finding some dinner before heading to the hire car office and airport.  We farewelled our new home school friends –thanks to you all for welcoming me to the group!  Not far from the park was a small shopping and restaurant area.  The burger restaurant had a ‘Kids Eat Free’ session on Mondays so whoopee – burgers for dinner again.  We enjoyed our last meal in America before choofing off to offload our hire car.  Yep, we could have driven all over L.A. to see the sites but we had seen them before and to be honest, I had no interest in getting out into L.A. traffic.  After listening to the local mums talk, even they hate the traffic in their own city. 

All went well at the airport.  We mastered the art of moving so many bags and people and checked in early to avoid any hassles.  Even though American customs and security is generally a nightmare, we made it through the process relatively smoothly and then had nearly 5 hours to chill and wait.  Our flight was fully booked but luckily they were very accommodating with allowing families with kids to board first.  I’d also had trouble trying to book the special meals for children on the Qantas website but after mentioning it at check in and then again to the flight attendant, the boys did receive the children’s meal – excellent. Much easier to have them fed before our food arrives.

We had the four centre row seats on the plane and it was squeezy.  Flying long distance is the only time I am truly glad to be short.  I don’t know how anyone bigger and taller than me copes stuck in those tiny seats for a 15 hour flight.  Even though it was midnight when we boarded, we couldn’t go straight to sleep; airlines love to feed you so we had to stay awake for food.  I was happily watching the movie ‘Red Dog’ from the moment we got on the plane and the boys were engrossed in other movies which kept them awake long enough to eat.  Once we’d eaten and our trays were gone then we could finally get ready for bed.  Patrick didn’t need any rocking at all and was asleep in no time. Harris took awhile to settle but finally the magic little sleeping pills kicked in and Steve, Harris and I all slept. 

Amazingly I think I slept 6 hours; an absolute miracle given the circumstances.  In fact I can’t remember ever sleeping so well in all the trans-Pacific crosses I’ve done.  By the time we ate breakfast, lunch and watched more tv/movies we were preparing to land. Hooray.  We landed safely although a little bumpily in Melbourne.  Making it through customs and security in our own country was easy but I have to say very disorganised which was very surprising.  After waiting forever to collect our 8 bags off the carousel we were seriously rushing to get our domestic flight to Brisbane and no one seemed to care.  I was frantically looking for our boarding passes and couldn’t see them for looking.  Finally found them in time to tell the Qantas staff member that we had a close connecting flight.  Close is an understatement because we had less than 15 minutes to check our bags to the domestic flight, go through security and get to our gate. 

Moving as fast as we could after already having travelled for so long, we made it through to our gate, the boys hit the bathrooms and whilst they were gone our flight was called to board!  That was cutting it fine.  I was just so happy that we made our flight because the thought of having to catch a later flight some other time that day was not a happy thought.

Lunch was served on the plane which was a bonus and after only being in the air for 1 hour 40 minutes we arrived into Brisbane (nearly home).  My parents were using two cars to pick us up so we called to let them know we had arrived and then again when we were standing in the 35C heat ready with our bags.  The plan was that they would drive by and load us all up, however my Dad trusted his GPS and ended up in the wrong direction; back over the Gateway Bridge and then had to turn around and drive all the way back to the airport.  Luckily for us we had missed the two seriously hot and humid days before this day so standing outside with a slight breeze blowing wasn’t too unbearable.  We had also planned ahead and changed out of our ‘winter’ clothes into shorts, t-shirts and sandals – a very smart move.

Finally my parents arrived and we were reunited.  A couple of hours later we were reunited with our dear dog Karlee, who had visibly aged and was certainly harder of hearing than before.  We were also greeted by the new dog of the house, Sarsha, a lovely Collie Coolie cross.  Harris and Sarsha took a liking to each other and had a wonderful time playing ‘You chase me I’ll chase you’. 

Over the next few days we acclimatised; made important phone calls; starting thinking about we needed to do to return to our regular lives again and caught up with more family.  My parents’ had looked after a good number of boxes and ‘stuff’ for us whilst we were away so we starting gathering everything ready for the drive home.  Five nights after arriving back into Australia we were able to move back to our own home … but that’s another blog!


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