Flying Home

Trip Start Sep 24, 2010
Trip End Sep 28, 2010

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Flag of United States  , District of Columbia
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

It's 4:31 p.m. EDT and I am aboard the Metro Orange Line approaching Farragut West Station on the penultimate ride of my journey home from Moscow. It’s already 32 minutes into Wednesday in Moscow; no wonder I feel tired!

My trip home has been phenomenal – just like most of the rest of my long-weekend adventure to Moscow. Everything went smoothly and now I am just 15 or so minutes from getting home, where I plan to watch Sunday’s Redskins vs. Rams game on TiVo and then go to bed early – well early for Washington anyway, but very late for Moscow! This is a 32-hour day for me with the eight-hour time change. It’s been almost two years since I’ve taken a daytime westbound trans-Atlantic flight. It definitely makes for a long day and causes major jetlag. My body is obviously disoriented because the sun should have set five hours ago yet it will still be up for another 2.5 hours!

This journey home began at 7:40 a.m., when I awoke in my Moscow hotel room. (That’s 11:40 p.m. yesterday Washington time!) After breakfast in the hotel, I packed and departed precisely at 9:00 – just as I had planned. I took the Moscow subway to Paveletsky Station, where it took me a long time to figure out how to get from the subway stop to the ground-level station where the Aeroexpress train to DME departs. Thankfully I had left plenty of time to make the 10:00 train, and I arrived at the platform with 10 minutes to spare. The train departed on time and took 46 minutes to reach Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport.

I completed check-in with United Airlines at 11:15. I was told to return to the counter at 11:30 for a seat assignment. Apparently they do not allow standbys through immigration to the gate at DME, which is the third airport where I’ve encountered this procedure (the others being DXB and ICN). I wasn’t worried about getting on the flight – the load last night showed 57 open seats including all five First Class suites and 16 Business Class seats.

After returning to the counter at 11:30 as instructed, I had to wait another 14 minutes before I was issued my boarding pass for First Class Suite 1K. :-) There was only one other employee standby there – a woman who also got First. We were the only two passengers up front today. Ah, it’s like flying on a private jet! I love it.

UA Flight 965 departed DME one minute early at 12:44 p.m. It was chilly and raining as we left, with a very low ceiling. I had perfect sunny weather for my three days in Moscow, so it was perfect timing that I departed as a cold front with lots of gloom rolled in.

It stayed cloud-covered as we flew northwest from over Russia and Latvia, the Gulf of Riga, some Estonian islands, and the Baltic Sea. Then the clouds broke as we approached the east coast of Sweden and I was able to get some nice pictures of the islands near Stockholm. We then crossed Sweden and flew over Norway. It was clear as we passed over the fjords of western Norway, and I was so glad I had a window suite so I could photograph the incredible scenery! Little did I know it would get even better later in the flight.

We passed right over the middle of Iceland, but alas it was totally cloudy here and I only got to see one tiny patch of the island. Bummer.

But a little more than an hour later, we passed over one of the best views I’ve ever seen from an airplane: the glaciers of southern Greenland. It was cloudy as we approached the world’s largest island, but they began to break as we came toward shore. Then all the clouds vanished and I was rewarded with the jaw-dropping sights of Greenland – the first time I have ever flown over the icy island. I’ve seen glaciers in Alaska from land and ship before, but I’ve never flown over them. What an amazing vantage point to look out from 34,000 feet and be able to see the interior snowfields that flowed into the glaciers and then down to the inlets of Greenland’s southeast tip. Wow, wow, wow.

When I stared out at this incredible natural beauty, it made me think about the tragedy of global warming. Greenland is one of the "ground zeroes" for climate change, with glaciers melting at an alarming rate. Anyone who opposes capping greenhouse-gas emissions needs to be put on a plane to see what it is the rest of us are trying to preserve. I don’t see how anyone could view a sight such as this and not believe it is worth doing everything humanly possible to preserve.

Okay, I’ll step off my environmental soapbox now. :-)

The west coast of Greenland was hilly but not covered in ice – so boring compared to its cousin coast to the east! About 80 minutes later, we entered North America over Labrador, Canada. From there it was another 1,423 miles and 3:10 to landing at IAD.
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