An account of the first stage of our GUFF trip, from Airlie Beach to Boston. Written by Eric with interjections and editing by Jean. Last updated 4 October 2001.
When booking the international flights for our GUFF trip, we found that the cheapest fare was on United, going through the USA both ways. (We ended up with a slightly higher fare, for our own convenience, but we paid the extra ourselves.) So we went to the UK by way of Boston for Corflu.
Monday 26 March 2001
We had to leave from Proserpine two days before our international flight. Slow season for tourists where we live, so Flight West unexpectedly cancelled all but two flights each week when we were intending to leave. The remaining flights were naturally not at a convenient time for us. Full service resumes, naturally, just after we were due to depart. The good news was a seriously reduced cost for a one-way ticket to Brisbane, more than enough to cover the cost of an extra night in a motel.
We even had a phone call from the airline, asking whether we were really travelling on that day as their plane was full. Flight West must have really been full, as they used their 90 seat Fokker, the largest plane they have, and they only have two of that model. It is, of course, horribly cramped in the seats.
This slow departure gave us an evening in Brisbane, to catch up on sleep, and a chance of a meal at Sizzlers at the Toombul shopping centre, walking distance from the motel.
Unfortunately, as we were leaving home, I had discovered the pull up handle on my bag must have been destroyed by a previous trip, so we spent some time when we reached the shopping centre inspecting travel bags. This was hastened by the way the old smaller bag bulged with winter coats, and copies of fanzines and flyers and items for GUFF auctions. Remember GUFF? This is a GUFF report, brought to you almost live on the web.
Tuesday 27 March 2001
Mostly when we stay in Brisbane we encounter rain and usually have only an overnight stop before departing early for the airport. This time we had a whole day for shopping, and the weather was good, so we caught a bus to the city centre and shopping areas.
GUFF items were on our mind. Small furry animals for GUFF. Chocolates for GUFF. No chance of finding that sort of thing in Airlie Beach where we live. Lots of tourist items there, but not Australian made ones such as we wanted. There was certainly no chance of finding good chocolate in Airlie. We would have discovered that long ago had it existed.
Ron Serdiuk's SF and mystery shop Pulp Fiction was in the general area, so after the chocolate shopping we searched for it. Had a great time over lunch talking with Ron, whom we had not seen since the madhouse that was Aussiecon Three. At least his bookshop seems to be managing to continue, despite the GST and the latest drop in value in the Australian dollar. It appears that Brisbane will not be afflicted by a category killer store like Borders, now established in Melbourne, and I believe contemplating opening in Sydney.
Back to Toombul for a second feed at Sizzlers. We were sticking to breakfast and a very late lunch as our only meals each day to start the trip, in anticipation of US food quantities. I sometimes think our prime purpose in stopping in Brisbane is to eat at Sizzlers.
There appeared to be a rock (music, not geology) group at the Toombul shopping centre, surrounded by a screaming crowd. We retreated in some haste. They had a typically memorable rock type name, so naturally I can't remember. Brain Damage, or Silent Shouting, or Noise Level or something. They could have been Deaf Mutes for all the luck they would have had being heard over the screaming.
Wednesday 28 March 2001
Our seat allocation on Ansett was a bit mucked up. They couldn't give us our international boarding passes, only the one to Sydney. (Jean's comment: the last time this happened to me, the flight from Sydney (to San Francisco) turned out to be cancelled and all the passengers were put onto the flight to Los Angeles, causing severe crowding and rescheduling of connecting flights, so we were apprehensive. Not that there was anything we could do about it.)
They did tag our luggage through, although we had misgivings regarding that. Despite it being just after dawn, we noted they did put the correct city codes on the bags. We have caught a wrong tag once before at an equally early hour, and always check. Unfortunately we then failed to check our seat numbers against each other, and were in widely different parts of the plane for the short flight to Sydney.
We were scheduled on UA862 to San Francisco at midday, and had asked our travel agent to allow longer than usual between flights. We thus had plenty of time to exit the secure area, get our correct boarding passes, and go through Customs. We even had time to visit the Duty Free and pick up some Bundaberg overproof rum to help fans at Eastercon remember us as the GUFF winners. Most people remember the Bundaberg, especially the overproof. This tends to be a rum to lay down and avoid, especially if taken neat as we insist is traditional.
The flight must have been uneventful, as we have no notes about it. We had paid extra (from our own money, not GUFF's, to get upgradable seats so we could use our Mileage Plus points to get into Business Class again. Therefore the food was good (and plentiful), the drinks were in real glasses, not plastic, and the seats were reasonably comfortable. Well, nothing is comfortable if you're stuck in it for 14 hours, but these weren't bad.
At San Francisco we encountered the new United Terminal, at which the delay getting through US Customs seemed interminable but was really only a half hour. Jean was through well before me via the US citizens line and had already grabbed the luggage, as the foreign line is always much slower. We turned in the luggage again and set off to find our connecting flight to Boston.
We had allowed as much time as possible for this change of flight, and thus reached the distant gate in plenty of time. Why does your connecting flight always depart from the most distant gate? Is it some plot to ensure airline passengers get plenty of exercise? At least in San Francisco the weather was such that we didn't need to find our cold weather gear. The worst aspect of San Francisco was that the monitors showing domestic flights were inside the security barrier, and we were uncertain whether the terminals were split into multiple separate sections or not. They were not, but it certainly felt like bad communications, since we didn't know from which terminal our flight would depart.
On our upgraded tickets, we were in First Class on the flight to Boston. This means complementary alcoholic beverages, not a good idea for breakfast, especially when you think it is dinner time. Eric tried to get a bourbon and coke, and Jean reacted with great rapidity to cancel that suggestion.
At Boston's Logan Airport we had to find the bus to Framingham, at a time when we were not in great shape. We nominally had been travelling for a day, from taking a 6:20 a.m. taxi from the Brisbane motel, and catching this bus around 6 p.m. the same day, however there is a nine hour time change in there. Luckily the Logan Express bus was pretty easy to spot, and cheap for airport transport at $14 for the return ticket. It also thankfully had considerable luggage storage under the bus.
Ron Salomon and Lori Gillen collected us at the bus station a few minutes after 7:00, and took us to their nearby home. I thought we would probably fall asleep quickly, but we managed to stay up talking until fairly late. Had a take away pizza for dinner, which was a real treat as we never eat pizza at home. What never? Well hardly ever.
Thursday 29 March 2001
We weren't up until close to midday, as the flight caught up with us. We walked down the road to Kinko's so Jean could order copies of her fanzine printed. Then through an open air strip mall in search of a place to get breakfast, or maybe lunch makings. Found Office Max on the way (with cheaper copying costs), but had trouble telling which places might have what we wanted.
Eric always has problems remembering that US light switches go up to turn on, unlike Australia, which go down to turn on. Likewise the technology of US faucets keeps him confused and amused, except when he gets burnt. This time one knob controlled the temperature, and a lever changed whether the water emerged from shower head or bath taps. The same lever also controlled the water flow, something he didn't realise initially. "Well, I also don't normally wear my reading glasses in the shower (insufficient waterproof books available), so I do have a slight excuse."
That evening we dined at Appleby's, walking distance away. That had pretty healthy food. Young Aaron had his heart set on another location, at Jordan's Furniture. Ron, the children and Eric went there afterwards and it was certainly impressive. We were each given a string of beads as we entered, to get us into New Orleans Mardi Gras mood. The entrance ceiling was done like the night sky, somewhat akin to some casinos in Las Vegas.
The show had a shadow projection of movie highlights on a upstairs window. This became a movie screen, with a newscast of a disruption to the Mardi Gras. The blockage was the store owners as the Blues Brothers, sitting in leather lounges mid street. They escaped the hostile crowd in a police car, and drove away with police in hot pursuit. Then as they went out of control, an animatronics version crashed out the steps of one of the buildings, and the rest of the show started.
There were animatronics characters doing a light show of New Orleans jazz and various popular music. Eric noticed animatronics of Louis Armstrong, the Supremes, Village People, and the Beatles. A helicopter image went overhead, and a giant clown emerged from one building.
I bought the kids some ice cream, which the store kindly produced despite the ice cream stall closing up. I was very taken by the sketching photo booth, and after a struggle, we managed to get a drawing of Aaron. I am astonished that this sort of photo booth is not more visible. As well as classic pencil sketches, the photo rendering software can also produce charactatures.
And so to bed, as a previous diarist was wont to put it.
Continue to the Corflu report page.