Greetings from Arizona, where I'm spending the 4th with my parents. The flights out were amazingly uneventful. Amazing to me, at least, after I almost got stranded overnight in Minneapolis -- or Chicago -- a couple of weeks ago.
My flight from BWI to O'Hare went fine. The plane was full -- I guess a lot of leisure travelers, like me, are taking advantage of the holiday to get in an extra day of vacation without using up annual leave at work. The flight took off on time, and landed with half an hour to go before boarding was supposed to begin for the flight to Phoenix.
When about 45 minutes passed, I was a little nervous. But then they started to board. I was able to get on right away, by virtue of an upgrade to First Class. United gives its Premier frequent fliers 4 500-mile upgrade coupons for every 10000 miles we fly. You redeem enough coupons to cover your flight and hope there are seats left. As "Bill" has pointed out, that means that if you play your cards right, you fly in first class roughly 1 out of every 5 flights. Playing your cards right, for me, meant not being willing to use 1000 upgrade miles for the 621 mile flight from Baltimore to Chicago, but using 1500 miles for the 1440 mile trip from Chicago to Phoenix. Apparently, a mere Premier member often has difficulty using the upgrades, but I think most of the high-miles road warrior were at home for the holiday.
When I sat down in 1st class, it was next to an 11-ish-year-old boy. Pretty soon a woman came up to me and asked if I would change seats so they could sit together. Ordinary, I'm extremely accomodating to such requests but I looked at my window seat, and the aisle seat she was offering me. I said that I'd really had my heart set on the window seat, but if she couldn't find somebody else, I'd make the switch. She soon came back to tell the boy that the guy next to her was willing to trade seats with him. At this point, however, he decided that life was good where he was, so he stayed put. Which made me all the happier I hadn't agreed to switch.
On the way out here, I read In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson. I'm planning to be in Australia a year from now for a conference, so I've decide to start learning more about the Land Down Under in order to plan my stay there. I'll probably take a week or so off before or after the conference to travel around, and a travelogue seemed more promising a way of learning what parts of this vast country are worth visiting than merely perusing a guidebook. This book certainly helped me get a feel for the country and its sights. Bryson's writing style is interesting...wry and thoughtful.