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New York 2022

Started: 2022-07-22 18:44:42

Submitted: 2022-07-22 19:51:47

Visibility: World-readable

Flying across the country

All four of my family's passports expired this year, and by the time I managed to renew them all, it was too late to plan any sort of big overseas trip this summer to celebrate the end of the pandemic (and, to be fair, the pandemic isn't really over anyway). Instead I looked closer to home and remembered that I haven't visited my sister Bethany in New York City for several years (since 2013 when Calvin was four years old), so we found some time in July to visit. Bethany still lives in the same apartment building that I took Calvin to visit in 2013, but she's moved up one floor into a larger unit and now has an office/spare bedroom to receive guests. Kiesa preferred to stay in Santa Cruz while I took the boys across the country.

We left Santa Cruz on Thursday morning, the 14th of July, to drive across Highway 17 up to SFO. There are a number of airlines offering direct flights between the Bay Area and New York; I ended up picking an Alaska flight from SFO to JFK. We arrived at SFO with plenty of time to spare (especially because our flight was delayed by half an hour), giving us plenty of time to sit at the gate waiting to board. We took a trip to an airport newsstand for snacks to bring on the plane, because we would be flying during lunch-time (and the only food I could get on the plane was a snack box anyway, so I might as well pick up my own snacks and carry them on the plane).

Julian reviews the safety information card of this A321 neo aircraft
Julian reviews the safety information card of this A321 neo aircraft

By the time I booked the tickets there were no available rows with three adjacent seats, so I ended up putting Julian and I on the left side of the plane (seats A and B, in the A321 neo) and Calvin as close as I could get him, one row ahead on the window seat on the other side of the plane (seat F; though in practice the rows across the aisle were offset by a half increment so he was really a half-row ahead and I could look all the way across the plane and see him). The other four seats in my row were occupied by a family with two young children (between toddler-aged and preschool-aged) and a pregnant mother who, half-way through the flight, pulled out a brand-new paperback copy of Oh Crap! Potty Training and started reading it from the beginning. There were a surprising number of young children at the airport and in the plane, and I was happy my kids were older.

Julian had run out of screen time on his iPad before we left the house, and I neglected to figure out how to extend his time before we were in the air; but it turned out that my plane offered Alaska's free tier of messaging-only Internet access, and iMessage was on the list of supported platforms. (Their in-flight portal suggested that Google Hangouts was also on that list, but the Hangouts on my phone took that very moment to make me pay the Google Messaging Strategy Tax and demand that I download and install the new Google Chat app instead. Which I couldn't do because I was in the air and didn't want to pay for Internet access on my phone just so I could get to the app store.) By the time I messaged Kiesa to get the PIN to override the screen time limits, I had already set up Julian watching a movie via the bring-your-own-device in-flight entertainment, streaming to my own iPad Mini. (The seats on the A321 neo had a tiny padded shelf at eye level that folded down to provide a perch for a tablet, along with a lever that popped up at the right height to grab the tablet from above to keep it from falling down. This was a nice touch but somehow I kept banging my head on the tiny shelf while I leaned over to rummage around for stuff that had fallen on the floor.)

The flight was long and uneventful across the western United States right up until the half-way point of the flight, somewhere over South Dakota or Minnesota, when I noticed some commotion across the aisle and looked up to see that Calvin had gotten air-sick and had vomited into his mask, which was sitting on his tray table and had almost completely contained the mess. The mask was the KF-94 masks we standardized on early this year, so it had enough structure to hold itself open and keep from collapsing on itself. (An hour earlier, in a bit of foreshadowing, I had found the air-sickness bag in my own seat pocket and pointed it out to Julian; but I wasn't close enough to Calvin to advise him of the same thing or to intervene in advance.)

I jumped up and hurried across the aisle to try to assist Calvin. He was sitting in the window seat, and the middle seat next to him was empty, leaving just one person sitting in the aisle seat. Calvin's seat neighbor had already gotten up to make room (and found another open seat a few rows back and sat there for the rest of the flight; we were in the back of the plane and there were maybe four or five total open seats). Just as I was trying to figure out what to do the flight attendants arrived with a sturdy plastic trash bag and paper towels (both wet and dry) and sterilizing wipes and I was able to dump the mask into the trash bag and clean up the tray and Calvin and his seat. They brought Calvin ginger ale and water and I sat with him to try to offer reassuring words until he said I could go back to my own seat.

Flying over Milwaukee
Flying over Milwaukee

After that excitement, the rest of the flight was nicely boring. I pointed out to Julian the Great Lakes as we flew over them, but I'm not entirely sure he understood what made the lakes different from any other body of water he's seen before.

Flying over Detroit
Flying over Detroit

As we passed Detroit we crossed the Detroit River and flew over the southernmost bit of Ontario for a couple of minutes before returning to US airspace.

Clouds over Manhattan
Clouds over Manhattan

As we descended towards JFK I squinted out my window and thought I could just barely make out the outline of Manhattan hidden under the clouds; then seconds later, the clouds parted and I could see all of Midtown and Central Park and the Upper East and West Sides laid out below me. Somewhere in this picture, in Midtown East, is Bethany's apartment building, probably visible only as a couple of pixels.

Midtown Manhattan and Central Park from above
Midtown Manhattan and Central Park from above

The approach path took us through a cloud bank above the Atlantic Ocean in front of Queens; then we descended through the clouds on our approach, past the barrier islands and then onward over Nassau County before finally landing at JFK on runway 22L.

A321 wing descends towards JFK
A321 wing descends towards JFK

Landing on 22L put us on the wrong side of the evening departure rush on 22R; we waited for multiple planes to depart before we finally crossed the runway and taxied all the way to terminal 7. Once we were parked at the gate (and when Calvin found his missing earbud, lost during the mid-continent air-sickness incident, safely nestled in his jacket pocket) we disembarked, claimed our suitcase, and found Bethany waiting for us in the terminal.

If our flight had been on time, the best way to get to Midtown would have been to catch the subway; but by the time we finally emerged traffic had cleared enough that it would be easier to get a taxi. We joined the taxi queue and caught a ride to Midtown.

By this point it was after 22:00 Eastern time, but we still hadn't eaten supper. My brother-in-law Josh had pizza delivered; it arrived shortly after we did, letting us eat a late supper before I got Julian into bed and reviewed the plan for our first real day of sightseeing.

(As a slightly-amusing footnote, my flight from SFO to JFK was my longest intra-continental flight, but not my longest domestic flight: it turns out that Seattle to Maui is slightly further than SFO to JFK.)

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