Stretch DC-8 vs. Boeing 787-9

IMG_1588We’ve Come a Long Way From the Stretch-8

My first international flight was on June 13, 1980 from Los Angeles to Okinawa, Japan. I remember it vividly. I was on a Military Airlift Command (MAC) flight that originated at March Air Force Base and after picking up a large group in Los Angeles it’s route, known as the “milk run”, went first to Midway Island, then Yakota Air Base near Tokyo, and on to Okinawa where I was joining Naval Mobile Construction Battalion THREE (Gold Team) who was already deployed.

The plane was a DC-8 or a Stretch 8 as this airframe’s variants were known. It was long and narrow with a single narrow aisle, three seats in a row port and starboard. The plane was built from 1958 to 1972 by Douglas Aircraft to compete with the Boeing 707. The hallmark of the stretch 8 was supposedly a fuselage that reportedly flexed in flight, although I don’t recall seeing it do this. Although this plane was flying a MAC mission it was charters by the military and had civilian pilots and flight crew or stewardesses as they were then known.

The stewardesses then gave safety instructions. Now corny videos are played on the tv on the back of the seat in front of you.

Then there was a non-smoking section, which was interesting because in this smoke filled tube it didn’t really matter which section you sat in. Now, no smoking anywhere.

Then in-flight entertainment was a magazine or newspaper and maybe a movie played on a single screen perhaps thirty feet from your seat. Now, a smorgashboard of movies from nearly every genre, sports and news and television programs, music of every type, games, destination guidebooks, sky map show you where you are, seat-to-seat texting in case the person sitting in 27C catches your interest. Best of all now there’s in-flight internet. For a nominal fee or free on some carriers you can be attached to your electronic leash as you were at home. And on my Virgin Atlantic flight I can plug into a USB port to keep my devices charged all the way from Los Angeles to South Africa. Maybe I didn’t actually need to pack those two pickup battery mophies.

The the engine noise was inescapable. Now I have noise cancelling headphones and I can’t hear the engines at all.

Then the food was really bad. “Would you like the chicken or the beef?” Now the food may be better. But some flights now don’t use carts. This is great news for those of us who have had an elbow or shoulder plowed into by one of these tanks. Now, you may on some carriers order form you own in-flight entertainment center when and if you want something and it’s simple brought to you. Today I have an actual paper menu on nice folded card stock. The main meal includes Man n Cheese, Korean Chicken or BBQ Pulled Pork.

Then there was really just coach and First Class. Now there is economy and premium economy and business class and first class, depending on who you’re flying with. For a price, or points, you can improve your flying experience exponentially. I like to fly Premium Economy when the price is right.

The seats are far better now on long haul flights again depending on the carrier. I recommend going to seatguru.com for the actual details on every seat in the fleet.

Back in 1980 flying seemed a little more exclusive. The airports weren’t near as congested as they are today. My limited research on this topic indicate the amount of commercial passengers between 1980 and today has increased five or six fold annually. The shear volume of people moving through the airports in the United States, Europe and China is mind boggling.

The biggest difference between then and now for me is the reason I was/am traveling. Then it was all business. It was exciting. My first time out of the country. I was going to go do some real construction work in an exotic place for the Navy SEABEES. And it was exciting. Now, I travel mostly for pleasure. I like all of these amenities, but I miss some of the old school service and mystery of air travel.

This Boeing 787-9 is no DC-8.

Vacation Eve

Well, we’ve got this down to a science. Not! It’s vacation eve and its after midnight and I’m still up. I love to tinker with things that many folks might overlook, like optimizing packing, but no matter how much I tinker I still find a way to be up late thinking of how I can lighten my load, reduce my footprint, and ease my shoulder pain. Hauling camera gear presents a challenge because its just heavy. I marvel at the tourists dragging suitcases the size of a Smart Car over cobblestones in Europe. There’s a better way. I can usually manage out of a hand carry and a backpack for 2-3 weeks. Here are a few tips that I’ve adopted for trips ranging from one to three weeks:

Shoes: One paid on my feet and one paid in the bag. The one in the bag is usually flip flops depending on the time of the year and destination. If I can go casual and comfortable I’ll err on the side of leaving the dress shoes behind. They’re heavy.

Clothing: “They” say the average woman packs 6 outfits she never wears for a two week long vacation that she never wears. The average man three to four. I like to pack lightweight wash and wear clothes that can be easily packed and more importantly easily washed and hung to dry in my hotel. If you can ladies (heaven forbid) wear the same outfit more than once you can lighten your load considerably. Jeans are out unless I wear a pair for the flight. Too heavy and take forever to dry.

Toiletries: I guarentee that the local convenience store at your destination will have 90% of the stuff you pack, so don’t pack it. Just get it when you arrive.

Heavy Layers: Wear it or carry it on the plane. Once boarded stuff it in the overhead with you small carryon.

Method: To roll or not to roll. To compress or not to compress. To fold or ……,. experiment and figure out what works best for you, not only as you pack, but as you unpack and start looking for that favorite concert t-shirt.

Passports: Make a copy of your passport and stick its in each of your bags. While you’re at it take a picture of your passport on your SmartPhone and retain it. Never know when you might need that.

Paper: If you’re packing maps, paper itineraries or paper anything (including books), DON’T! They’re heavy. If you can, use your phone or tablet to photocopy or access important documents, including Rx labels, and your eBooks. I understand some folks love to turn pages and I get that.

International Data: Call your cellular carrier and let them know you’ll be traveling. If you plan to use your device while you’re gone especially for data (gps, internet remote of wifi, checking in at the cool statue you discovered, etc.) you’re going to want to buy an international data plan. Each provider has several options so call them to discuss. They may sound a little pricey, but they beat a $2K phone bill in your mailbox awaiting your return.

Where I go heavy besides my camera gear: Electronic stuff. I can’t help it. I have the phone, the iPad, the Bose nice cancelling headphones (which BTW completely drown out the engine and screaming babies noise). I also have international power adapters (two) with you AC and USB plug ins, Mophie backup power, and spare camera batteries, and a 600 lumens flashlight used for both emergencies and throwing some artificial light at night scenes with slow shutter speeds.

I think that’s all for now. I just need to find my compression socks. More on that later.

In the Beginning – Fiji

fijiWelcome to Getting Lost. My wife Mercy and I are empty nesters with a mutual love of people and places, cultures and architecture, art and music, landscapes and wildlife, and food and photography. We love to travel. It’s our one mutual hobby. While I’ll occasionally write about various topics here that are of interest to me this blog is primarily about travel. I hope to share the experiences and tips that I’ve had and learned as I’ve begun to scratch the surface of my quest to see the world.

Twelve years ago when our youngest son went off to college we booked our first trip together overseas. Previously we had taken our three boys twice to Hawaii and Mercy’s motherland, the Philippines, but most of our travel was via mini-van to places such as Disney World and D.C. and NYC and Hershey Park and Montreal, etc.

Going to Fiji was our first trip together, just the two of us. After an 11 1/2 hour non-stop flight from Los Angeles we arrived in Nadi very early in the morning. We were shuttled off to breakfast while awaiting the launch of our boat to Malolo Island. The first thing I learned in Fiji was that the people (ethnic Fijians) were among the friendliest I’ve ever met. Malolo is as rustic and it is beautiful and unlike many of the resorts in the South pacific it is 100% owned by a local Fijian family, many of whom greeted us on the pier with traditional music on well-played instruments as we arrived. There are no distractions of modern conveniences. How could we possibly survive? Once I saw our bure (hut, cottage?) accommodations just steps from where the South Pacific’s gentle surf rolls onto the white sand I soon forgot about televisions and phones and computers. The bure is authentic Fiji inside and out with a hammock slung between two coconut palms just outside the front door. Note: Always check overhead for coconuts when walking in Fiji. This was a great place to wind down for a few days. Between the wonderful staff and the treetop restaurant and freshly caught fish served at a table for two on the beach without another soul in sight, Malolo is a great destination for couples and families.

From Malolo we cast off on the Blue Lagoon Cruises boutique ship, Fiji Princess for a 7 day cruise of the Yasawa Islands. The Fiji Princess is “small enough to tie off to a coconut tree”. She accommodates only 68 passengers and can access bays and islands impossible to reach by a large ship. The service is amazing and friendly. I knew everyone, passenger and crew within 48 hours and you are immediately adapting to Fiji time. What time is it? Who cares! The crew to passenger ratio is 2 to 1, everything is casual, the seas are calm and there are no crowds. We had amazing sugar white sand beaches virtually to ourselves. When Mercy scheduled her massage they offered her a choice of having it on board or ashore. She chose to have it on one of the many islands we visited. She got to choose the spot and decided on a remote corner of a small island where over a 180 degree panoramic horizon the beautiful beyond description blue water was interrupted by countless white sand islets with tufts of green palms. Talk about serene. That was one of our many amazing experiences in the Yasawa’s. We visited villages and schools where the innocence of the children made be soften myself to this simpler life that seems to make so many things so less complicated. Villages still communicate major events, such as births and deaths, by drumming on a hollowed out tree trunk. How quiet is a place where ancient percussion could be heard across miles? This was an experience of a lifetime and one I wouldn’t mind repeating if only it can get to the top of THE LIST. I’ll refer frequently in future writings to THE LIST. It’s the cause and product of many day dreams.

After our cruise we spent a few days on the Coral Coast of Viti Levu at the Hideaway Resort. Another beautiful slice of heaven on earth. One of the questions I’m commonly asked is “What has been your favorite destinations?” This is the most difficult question to answer. One reason is that contrary to what some think we haven’t been nearly everywhere. If I can narrow the question down to country with the best architecture, or best food, or best music or art, or ……. then I can subjectively answer that question. As for Fiji, if there’s a country with friendlier people I haven’t been there yet. I suppose this was the perfect destination for our first trip together. Meeting these people and seeing the bluest water and the starriest night skies fired my dream engine and together we’ve enjoyed exploring the world, a little bit at a time.