L.A. to Chicago on the Chief – Part One

The view from my room on the 16th floor of the LAX Hilton was spectacular, but sobering. For almost twenty minutes, I watched planes landing non-stop—one every 90 seconds. And that was just one runway. Planes were taking off from another runway at the same rate–one every 90 seconds.  

It’s the same 400 miles up the California coast in San Fransisco and pretty much the same in Dallas and Chicago and Atlanta and Charlotte. Washington and New York each have three major airports.

The previous Spring I had seen the same kind of activity at both London’s Heathrow and DeGaulle in Paris: a landing every 90 seconds; a take-off the same.

Commercial aviation is a great sprawling entity almost every-where on the globe and there is damn little pleasure in any of it.

Just sit down in a middle seat on any of the big commercial jets. If you’re taller than 5’ 7”, your knees are touching the seat back in front of you and your seat back will only recline three inches. Now sit there for four or five hours.

As a longtime resident of Hawaii, any out-of-state trip I take necessarily begins with a flight of at least five hours. But once I reach the West Coast—whether Los Angeles or Sacramento or Oakland or Portland or Seattle—I continue on to almost anywhere to the East on one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains. Yes, of course it takes a day or two longer, but I allow for that when planning any trip, whether for business or pleasure.

This trip was a combination of both, the pleasure starting with meeting a former client for lunch at one of the great Mexican restaurants on Olivera Street, just a couple of blocks from Los Angeles Union Station.

By late afternoon, I was at the station and comfortably settled in Amtrak’s first-class lounge, reviewing emails until time to board Train #4, the eastbound Southwest Chief

(to be continued)