02 August 2007

August 1: Des Moines to Frankfurt

Alan took me to the airport and I had no trouble or delays getting my tickets. There was no line at the ticket counter and I got through easily.

As we were walking toward the security gate, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t worn or packed a watch. Most airports have time displays everywhere but not having a watch would make it tough to keep track of the in-flight time and flight schedules.

I was going to pick up a cheap watch somewhere along the way, but Alan took off his watch and gave it to me for the trip. I didn’t really want to take his watch, since that would leave him without one, too. But he insisted and, in a sort of sentimental, newly-engaged sort of way, I liked the idea of having his watch for the trip.

So I put it on, we said our goodbyes, and I headed through security.

At the gate, I filled the water bottle I brought. Travel tip #1: always carry a water bottle (empty) to the airport. The air on planes is always so dry and flight attendants give you a little cup but then generally can’t get back all that often. I always like to have some with me. Corollary to tip #1, a regular cheap plastic water bottle or pop bottle will work but I prefer something with a wide mouth (easier to fill from airport water fountains), a carabiner (to clip it to something so you don’t have to hang onto it), and a spout of some sort that allows drinking without having to unscrew the lid.

I staked out a seat at the gate and started reading. It always tough, deciding what book(s) to bring on a trip and how many. Yesterday, I sorted through my pile of books-waiting-to-be-read and finally decided on 2…one for the trip there and one for the trip back.

I started with Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood. It’s a fictionalized telling of Grace Marks, a woman who was accused in the killing of a man and a woman in 1840’s Canada when she was barely 16. At the time the story takes place, she’s been in a penitentiary for 15 years. She was originally sentenced to be hanged but the sentence was commuted because of her youth and the fact that she had no memory of the actual events. It was a quite sensational and well-known case at the time but I had never heard of it.

The story mostly surrounds a doctor who is not so concerned with whether she is guilty or innocent as he is in her amnesia. As with so many “based on actual events” tales, I’m not sure where the known facts end and the speculation begins. But it’s classic Margaret Atwood; well written and a good read.

When boarding starts, I slip the book into one of the leg pockets on my cargo pants and the water bottle into the other. Travel tip #2: Cargo pants! Back when they were more “in” it was easier to find them and I picked up this pair of cotton-blend pants on a clearance rack somewhere. When I got them, I had no idea how wonderful they’d be for travel. These have gotten rather worn but I’ve not been able to find another pair that fit and work so well for me.

I can find cargo pants but they’re generally nylon rather than cotton. Nylon is quick-dry, extremely durable, and doesn’t wrinkle so much as cotton but it’s neither warm in cool weather nor cool in warm weather. Especially headed to Egypt where I could expect temps at or above 100 degrees, cotton is the only way to go.

Cargo pants are great for traveling because you can put all kinds of stuff in the pockets where they’re kept at hand but you don’t have to hang onto a bag or hold them or retrieve a carry on to get to them. I like the kind of pockets that have button or snap flaps to help keep smaller items corralled.

The trip to Cairo went fairly uneventfully.

In Chicago I indulged in my traditional flying-through-Chicago custom. When in Chicago, you have to have a Chicago Dog…the all-beef hot dog on a poppy-seed bun with onions, ketchup, mustard, pickle spear, that day-glow green pickle relish and a jalapeno pepper. It’s been a long time since I had one. It wasn’t as good as I remembered it…