Sunday, October 17, 2010

Airports I have Known

I have the last of my SAFF class sample knitting done, so today and tomorrow will mostly be taken up with packing, and organizing, and cooking things for The Hub that he won't eat while I'm gone, napping and trying to rest up, oh, and writing another chapter of the YA. I leave very early Tuesday morning, and should be in Asheville around 3:00pm their time.

All of this prep got me to thinking about the airports I've frequented in the last 18 months (and the fact that I'm frequenting airports so often that I can consider comparisons as Blog Fodder). I went 24 years between my first and second flights. And it wasn't until this latest spate that I ever had more than one plane trip in a year(and usually there were several in between). Things change, I guess. I'm not a world traveler, but there certainly are a few airports that I know my way around in now.

Aberdeen  Regional Airport (ABR): This is my closest local airport- 43 miles away. It's the one I use when someone else is paying my air fare, since tickets are often $100 higher than from other departure points. It's a nice little airport, only 1 gate, and the planes are usually on time. I've never flown anything from there except the puddle jumper that connects to Minneapolis/St Paul. The jet is small, noisy, and usually cold (even in the summer). Since it's a short hop, the turbo prop doesn't go very high, which means that there is always turbulence. Every landing in Aberdeen is a bit of a white-knuckler- with the flight back from Greensboro last January, being the absolute worst- we landed in pure blizzard conditions. But we made it. ABR is a Delta hub.

Sioux Falls Joe Foss Field (FSD )- Joe Foss Field is 185 miles from me, down in Sioux Falls. It's not a big airport, but it does have several gates. It serves not only Delta, but United and Allegiant as well. If I'm flying Delta, I usually spend the extra bucks to go from Aberdeen or Watertown, because early flights from Sioux Falls require an overnight motel stay (there goes the $100 savings). But it's perfect for Allegiant, which flies non-stop between FSD and LAX, and several other major destinations, because Allegiant flies out in the afternoon (meaning that we can drive down before the flight) and arrives early in the evening (meaning no motel stay on that end either). Currently, FSD is undergoing a major renovation which involves long, winding, plywood-lined walkways to get from the entry door to what used to be a desk 10 feet away. But the work will be done soon, and it's going to be nice.

Watertown Regional Airport (ATY) is 75 miles from me. And I'm cheating just a bit by including it here, since I haven't flown from or through Watertown, for a long time. But I'm using it on Tuesday, because the ticket was over $100 cheaper, and 30 more driving miles isn't a big deal, especially on a familiar road. I'm sure it's much like ABR- one gate, and puddle jumper to MSP.

Minneapolis/St Paul (MSP) is huge. It's the big Delta hub, which means any time I fly out of a SD airport on Delta, I have to route through MSP even if I'm going west. It's a lovely airport, with lots of shops and restaurants, and a well-marked tram system. Since I usually fly in on a small plane, and out on a much bigger one, I always (and I do mean always) have to trek from one gate to a very far away gate for my connecting flight. Sometimes the leeway for catching those planes is tight, but I've learned that as long as I have at least 20 minutes from the time I get off one plane, until boarding the next, I can make it. At least I have on the 10 times I've been through MSP in the last 18 months.

Denver Stapleton (DEN)- I usually connect through Denver when I fly United. Stapleton looks like it was put together by insane clowns. It's all pointy circus tents on the outside. Inside, it's lovely. Denver has the only airport where I've gotten off at one gate from Sioux Falls, and boarded at another only two gates down. No schlepping across the airport- all United flights come in and go out from the same area. That's nice. No, I'm not saying that strongly enough: that's flat-out wonderful. I also had an absolutely wonderful (calorie laden,high carb, dripping with fat) pretzel dog there. I remember it fondly.

Hartsfield/Jackson Atlanta (ATL)- I spent a very interesting 8 hours in Atlanta last January, when I was bumped from my flight to Greensboro due to overbooking (I got a $400 flight voucher for my trouble, so it was worth the wait). Atlanta is a lovely, big airport- I believe the flight magazine said it was the busiest airport in the country (though that sounds wrong to me, I'll bet O'Hare tops it). The trams are the fastest I've ever been on. I'll be flying through ATL on my way to Asheville next week (I route back through Detroit), and I'm looking forward to it.

Seattle Tacoma (SEA)- I flew from SeaTac on my very first flight (when I moved to South Dakota, barely 18 years old, all by myself). It's changed a lot since then. It's a gorgeous airport, and if you are very lucky, you can get a fantastic view of Mt. Rainier from the terminal. The Security people are extremely fast and efficient, and yet they manage to smile and make you feel comfortable too, which is a pretty amazing feat.

Los Angeles (LAX)- LAX can be overwhelming. It's huge, and the traffic to and from it complicates every visit. But we generally come in on Allegiant, which has its own door, and security, and we've never had any trouble getting either in or out of LAX, or through Security (who are civil though maybe a bit curt, which is understandable given the volume of people they deal with on a daily basis, a large percentage of whom are doofuses- including the lady in front of us who truly could not understand why she was not allowed to take her 15oz aerosol can of hair spray on board). My only complaint about our flight out in September was that our gate changed several times and I had a very hard time understanding the loud speakers, but that was probably my exhaustion (and the fact that our flight was delayed by over 90 minutes, so I was getting cranky).

Portland (PDX)- Portland's airport is smaller than SeaTac, but it's plenty big just the same (I flew out at 6:00am, and barely gave myself enough time to get through security and to my gate. I won't underestimate how busy it is again). If you're lucky, you get a fantastic view of Mt. Hood as you arrive and leave. PDX also has some wonderful stores- I could spend time there shopping.

Salt Lake City (SLC)- Salt Lake City has one of those airports that I thought would be small, but wasn't. We had only 45 minutes between flights, and we were hard pressed to get off our plane and on the other in time. There was a lovely view of the Great Salt Lake on the way in, and the mountains too.

Detroit Metro (DTW)- I don't know when Detroit's airport was renovated, but they did a fantastic job. There are fountains and sculptures, and lovely art, elevated trams, and a very cool psychedelic speed walkway. There are also very good food booths out on the fringes for those of us flying out to, or coming back from smaller cities. Not all airports have as good a selection in the boonies (I'm looking at you, MSP). I'll be routing back from Asheville, through Detroit (skipping ATL altogether), and I'm looking forward to it.

Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX)- Phoenix had the only airport in all of my recent travels, that flummoxed me. I didn't think it was very well marked, and I had to ask a harried desk clerk where to go next. I had to exit the airport and ride a bus about a mile, to my connecting flight to Yuma. That also meant that I had to go through security again. I was in a hurry, with not a lot of time to look around, so I can't report on much except that the bookstore sold lollipops with embedded scorpions.

Yuma (YUM)- Yuma has a small airport, but it's international just the same (many connecting flights to Mexico). The United attendant made me check my carry-on bag (the one I've taken on every single flight so far, with nary a peep from anyone official, including on the flight to Yuma a few days earlier), because she said it was too big. Cost me $25. grumble, whine.

Piedmont Triad International (GSO): The airport serving Greensboro, NC is a lot bigger than I expected it to be. I flew a good-sized jet from there, to Detroit, last January. It was nice. Otherwise, nothing much stuck in my head about this airport, except that it was the destination that was overbooked that caused me to dally 8 hours in Atlanta.

Asheville Hendersonville (AVL): Finally, Asheville. NC. It's a small airport, but it has a nice little bookshop and cafe, and good vending machines, and the Delta clerk shuffled people around so that my sister and I could fly back to Atlanta on the same plane last October. It's just a 20 minute hop from Atlanta, but it's a smooth flight (unlike the hop from MSP to ABR). I am very much looking forward to landing in Asheville on Tuesday.

Itinerary: ATY-MSP-ATL-AVL

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