UA960 IAD-SJU B757 seat 9A

I haven’t been to Dulles in ages (some 25 years, in fact), but it looks just like any other older US airport: crowded and grim. I paid a rip-off price for a Nokia charger, a more reasonable price for a footlong Subway, and sequestered myself in the dark and gloomy cubicles of the business section of the Red Carpet Club until it was time to fly on.

And now a mainline UA flight, not that anything seems very different. I again lucked out with not just a Economy Plus seat, but one of the ones right in front of the door, with ludicrous legroom (but no place to stow your bags). Inflight entertainment was provided by the Flaming Latinos, a pair of, um, very intimate stewards who kept up a patter of rapidfire Spanglish with each other (“…that guy uah te digo que muy guapo and then when Juan said like oh my god voy a quitarle al mondongo un peso de encima…“) and did their best to crack each other up during any public announcements.

Drink service was the usual: OJ and pretzels. Thanks to the Great Terrorist Hunt, the seatbelt sign was kept on for 30 minutes until we were well and duly clear of the capital.

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UA1470 LAS-IAD A320 seat 10D

Despite living in the US for the better part of five years, I don’t think I really understood just how much Americans drive until I returned a rental car at LAS. I’ve seen 10-million-pax-a-year airports that are considerably smaller than the rental car depot here, complete with wings for different airlines, err, rental agencies and automated check-out machines, and the shuttle buses to the airport itself are packed despite leaving at 30-second intervals.

Once there, the agent at check-in just rolled her eyes when I asked if there was a lounge I could use. Then again, this, too, makes perfect sense when you think about it with Vegas logic — there are slot machines all the way to the gates, and not a few glassy-eyed people pumping the bandits’ arms at 7 AM in the morning.

Like my flight in, this flight was operated by Ted, and as it’s a 4.5-hour flight, he (it?) gave me two tasteless biscuits in addition to a glass of juice, and graciously allowed us the opportunity to purchase a Snack Pack. Thank you, Ted! But Ted did also give me an Economy Extra seat, and I had the foresight to stuff myself with breakfast first, so I’m not going to complain too loudly.

XM Satellite Radio’s “BPM” channel gives me the chills. I can’t believe they’re playing Detroit techno and supa-frooty trance, and OMG does it feel good after a week of solid country music, if interleaved with the occasional “Nacho Nacho” courtesy of Punjabi superstar Sarbjit Cheema. (Click the link. You know you want to.)

 

RTW2007: Phoenix to Las Vegas, the long way, wherein our notorious navigator counts cacti, lumbers over lava, quaffs a beaver, teeters on the edge of a crevice, get kitschy kicks on Route 66 and drinks away his gambling earnings.

The following week was one of those classic all-American road trips. It was my first visit to the American Southwest, and the saguaro cact, rounded rocks, parched desert and Wild West kitsch in the Old Town of Phoenix fit my preconceptions of Arizona, but as we headed north on the I-17 the cacti disappeared and were replaced by a stunning array of entirely different landscapes. From the Navajo reservation of Tuba City to the soaring cliffs of Monument Valley, some Beaver brews and black volcanoes at Flagstaff, bizarre New Age crystal healing energy vortex weirdness at Sedona, volcanoes at Sunset Crater, Indian ruins at Wupatki… and a really, really, really big hole in the ground at Grand Canyon, which we spent an entire day looking at, and I still left wishing I had the time (and the advance planning) to do the two-day hike in and out.

Cacti aplenty Three towers, Monument Valley

Tree in lava, Sunset Crater National Monument, Arizona Watchtower at Desert View, Grand Canyon

Then the 1950s time-warp of Williams and a nostalgic cruise down a particularly empty bit of Route 66, which these days seems to scrape a living solely by being Route 66, and then a stop at the self-proclaimed “semi-ghost town” of Chloride (pop. 352), home to an inn, a restaurant and, well, not very much else. After slicing through the nothingness of the Sonora Desert we almost drove past the Hoover Dam before realizing we’d done so, and then arrived in surreal Las Vegas.

Riviera Casino Cheesecake Factory in Caesar's Palace

Vegas is deeply, deeply weird. We stayed in a super-cheap room in Circus Circus, which pretty much fit my preconceptions of what Vegas is (fat people punching slot machines, kids running around tired-looking shops, vomit-proof carpet, listless circus acts), but a stroll down the Strip later in the evening pretty much blasted that out of the water. Places like the Wynn and the Venetian positively oozed with swank, hipness, expensive boutiques and gorgeous women. It was where the rules of capitalism were simultaneously suspended, yet red in tooth and claw: with a pull of a one-eyed bandit’s handle, anybody could suddenly be rich, but the town was expressly designed to make you spend every cent of your winnings in celebration and all those exploding volcanous, living statues and roaring lions were built with the money of the majority who gambled with dollar signs in their eyes, and whom the casinos with mathematical certainty slowly bled dry. I’ve always been an advocate of “do what thou wilt” at its most extreme, but at least now I understand why some — including many in my own Singapore — are so opposed to gambling.

And for the record: after cumulative losses of around $20, Pops hit a couple of flushes in video poker and walked away $40 richer, the winnings almost (but not quite) sufficing for coffee and pastries in Bellagio’s fancy Italian cafe.

UA1540 SFO-PHX A320 seat 4A

We were in SFO almost an hour ahead of scheduled time. Immigration was painless, and the officer even managed to make me laugh by asking why I never smile. (‘Coz you aren’t allowed to in Finnish passport photos.) After its NRT adventure, my bag was unsurprisingly among the first to come out, and I embarked on a semi-circular quest to find my check-in counter — I thought I had an America West flight codeshared as UA, a double mistake at that as “America West” turned into US Airways some time ago, but no, it turned out to be the real thing. Or at least almost: this was my first encounter with the faceless, amorphous, omnipresent entity known only as Ted. There were no earlier UA flights, although I could, theoretically, have gotten onto an HP flight that left 30 minutes earlier, in exchange for spending umpty-ump minutes trying to endorse my RTW over to them — no thanks. But with grandmotherly kindness, Ted gave me an Economy Plus seat.

It was my first visit to SFO, and while it’s heads and shoulders above LAX (which is why I routed this way), seeing signs proclaim it the best airport in the US was a little depressing: surely you could do a little better? The TSA security carnival seemed positively painless compared to LHR last year (although that bit with the shoes was still ludicrous). Only one problem now: I was dog-tired and in severe danger of falling asleep, but I had no watch, my cellphone’s battery was dead and my charger doesn’t like 110V, so I couldn’t set an alarm. The Red Carpet Club was packed to the rafters, but I managed to snag a seat and, through a minor miracle, even get free wireless thanks to some bizarre T-Mobile/Vista crosspromotion thingy, valid until the end of the month to boot — just long enough to cover the US portion of my trip, and just the distraction device I needed to keep me awake. Spiffy.

Dodging somebody else’s projectile vomit all over the men’s bathroom, I eventually headed out of the lounge to find a refugee camp assembling at the gates. Both had Ted flights, and both were late, mine by 20 minutes — but the one to Vancouver, scheduled to leave half an hour before me, was still there as we pulled back.

As expected, the plane was a museum piece, but I was again a little surprised to find an Airbus in this land of Boeings. Oppressively chirpy video announcements told me that Ted wants me to do all kinds of things, including following instructions and fasten my seatbelt. As soon as we were airborne and in the impenetrable fog, I stuck in my earbuds, put on my eyeshades, closed the windowshades and drifted off into a twilight zone of fitful, unfulfilling sleep.

 

NH8 NRT-SFO B777-300 seat 27K

 The next day, I pottered around Ueno Park and its sozzled hanami (cherry blossom viewing) celebrations and then, finally, got on the long haul out of Ueno by Keisei. Narita’s never been one of my favorite airports, but the advent of the new South Wing at T1 has certainly pushed it up a few notches in my book. While my favorite “last chance in Japan” sushi restaurant seems to have disappeared, alas, it’s been replaced by a tolerable if somewhat overpriced conveyor belt joint (on 5F) and a whole load of new shops. Check-in for Star Golds was as efficient as always, security was a breeze, immigration had the usual queue and the new ANA huge lounge in slick shades of black and white was a sight to behold. Quirky feature award goes to the free noodle bar, although I won’t be changing my NRT routine until they add in a free sushi bar as well…!

At the gate, the boarding pass reader said “boop” and I was taken aside. My RTW was issued as five physical paper tickets and I’d only shown the first at check-in, so could I show my connecting flight onward from the US? Well, I pointed out, it’s a RTW ticket (see the little “YRWSTAR1” notation there?) and the itinerary is shown in computerese at the bottom: starting in BKK, then TYOSFOPHX, out later via NASYYZYOWYVRCDG and eventually back to BKK. The gate agent was convinced and let me through… but came back a few minutes later: the US immigration authorities, she said, wouldn’t let me in without a return ticket (a valid theoretical point, I’ll admit, although I’ve never been asked), so they’d dug up my baggage from the hold and wanted me to get my ticket. Err, OK — my bag was truly procured, I demonstrated to everyone’s satisfaction that my RTW does, indeed, exit the US at some point, and I was allowed back in, this time with ticket in hand.

I had tried to get a Star Alliance upgrade for this flight, unsuccessfully — I was told that Friday’s a very popular day to fly out, and hence biz was always full. Needless to say, once on board it became clear that at least half the seats in C were actually empty… and I’d already mentally composed half my angry letter blasting KrisFlyer, ANA and Star Alliance for their intolerable incompetence when it dawned on me that, due to the aforementioned Int’l Date Line muddle, I’d been requesting the upgrade for the wrong day. D’oh! (That would also explain why they had some problems finding my booking, although KF never actually confessed that they couldn’t actually find it.)

My consolations were that flight time was just 8 hours (vs a scheduled 9:30) and that there was nobody in the middle seat, allowing me to stretch out a little. This was my first taste of long-haul NH in eco, and I quite liked the on-demand video-and-more system, which had a pretty good selection of J-pop and allowed me to finally watch 2001 from beginning to end (definitely a movie best sampled in the middle of the night at 33,000 feet over a moonlit Pacific).

The Japanese food, though, was surprisingly terrible, especially considering the excellence of NH’s biz fare. For dinner, it was gluey rice with soggy breaded whitefish, and for breakfast, it was a morbidly fatty chunk of bacon coupled with a rice patty topped with salsa (…?). Other flight amenities were nonexistent: no shades, no socks, no earplugs, no toothbrush, not even a shared bottle of moisturizer in the loo. The control box for the AV system, under the middle seat, was huge and prevented me from stretching out from my window seat; I would be chewing my legs off if I had to sit there! Fortunately I was prepared with all the essentials, and thanks to my new laptop’s 8-hr battery capacity killing time on non-sleepy pursuits wasn’t an issue.

In other good news, my threshold for pain seems to have gone higher. Four hours in economy used to be the point at which I started getting antsy, but half a year of commuting between Singapore and Delhi has pushed that up to six. On this flight, though, I experimentally determined that over seven hours is still unpleasant. Fortunately I’ve timed every other flight remaining on this trip to avoid this situation… except the last. Time to pay for an upgrade?

RTW2007: Tokyo, wherein our cloistered computer nerd tops up his lap in Akihabara and trips all over the International Date Line.

Yodobashi Akiba

Just a week before my arrival, the Tokyo Monorail had eliminated my last minor quibble with it by introducing a non-stop express service and, being headed for Ueno, I decided to give it a spin. I’d forgotten how much fun riding this thing is: swooping up and down, around buildings and warehouses, and now without any stops at Cargo Warehousing Center or Off-Center Catering Complex to spoil the fun. And, like so many other things in Japan, the Monorail just works: trains leave every few minutes and zip past each other in a synchronized symphony of scheduling.

Fruitopia for every geek, Akihabara, Tokyo

After a crushed commute on the Yamanote, I dumped my bag at Tsukuba Hotel and headed straight off down the Ginza Line to Akihabara to buy a very specific laptop unobtainable outside Japan. (Panasonic “Let’s Note” CF-R6, thank you for asking, and no, you can’t have one.) Akihabara, until recently a low-rent district of cheapo electronics stores inhabited solely by geeks with taped-up glasses, had changed beyond recognition in a few years — high-rises of glass and steel had sprung up all around the new Tsukuba Express station, more were franctically under construction, and half the shops were now devoted to a phenomenon that had pushed its way out of the margins: anime and manga were now everywhere, with big cartoon eyes, giant cartoon cleavage and squeaky cartoon voices competing for your attention in every shop. Girls in maid uniforms were soliciting customers to be served with tea, coffee or a selection of very, very personal services, and now the great unwashed with taped-up glasses and shaggy hair included a great many foreigners out to get their manga fix.

But I found the shop I was looking for, Yodobashi’s new 9-story Akiba monolith, and walked out 15 minutes later (10 minutes of that spent waiting for credit card clearance) with a spanking new laptop. After a murderously strong espresso, I burrowed back to my hotel room and hacked until morning.

The next day, Friday, I was supposed to head out of Tokyo, but around 2 AM a sneaky suspicion crept up on me. I’d booked my flight to arrive at 10 AM in San Francisco, and it was departing at 6 PM, so I’d naturally assumed it was departing on the previous day and that the International Date Line just meant that the flight time of 10 hours actual would be transformed into 18 hours virtual. I’d written it thus on the itinerary I asked my travel agent to book, and he didn’t say a peep, but closer examination of my ticket revealed that I was booked to leave on 6 PM on Saturday — 8 hours after my flight arrived in SFO. Initially I boggled, but when I factored in the International Date Line it all suddenly made sense: actual flight time 8 hours, timezone displacement 8 hours, IDL -24, so relative arrival time would be -8 hours. I now had an extra day in Tokyo!

I extended my hotel stay by a day and set off on a leisurely tour of landmarks old and new. First to Omote-sando Hills, the painfully hip twin development to Roppongi Hills, which had exactly the same kind of pretentiously fancy shops and restaurants, but did finally succeed in making the area partly worth its overused epithet, “the Champs-Elysees of Tokyo”. Harajuku, next door, had grown up from its pre-teen Hello Kitty and sugary crepes phase into an angsty teenager, all Gothic lace push-up bras, black lipstick and dodgy-looking Nigerian dudes hanging out. LaForet, the place to be back when I lived near Shibuya, was looking distinctly scuffed these days. Has it really been ten years!?

The cherry blossom police, Tokyo Midtown

Up the escalator, Tokyo Midtown

Then to Ebisu and the evergreen Tokyo Photography Museum, where I picked the cheapest exhibition (a strategy that has yet to fail me) and goggled at the winners of this year’s Japan Commercial Photography Awards, an intriguing mix of out-and-out advertisements and personal projects by ad photographers. And then onto Roppongi and its just-opened humongous Midtown development, which took a leaf out of Roppongi Hills’ book with huge steel-and-glass towers and one-upped it by adding some much-needed greenery and natural wood paneling to the mix. The sakura in full blossom in the park outside were gorgeous, and I peeked into Fujifilm’s headquarters for their free show of Japan’s 200 best photographers (how they’d picked ’em wasn’t disclosed though). This time much of it was unbearably corny — snowy mountains! cherry blossoms! — but there were a couple of real gems in there. I rued the lack of a decent photography scene in Singapore: the few shows that make an appearance tend to be either arty to the point of incomprehensibility, or hopelessly amateur, a category I already inhabit and hence visit shows to grow out of. Sigh.

NH748 NTQ-HND A320 seat 2F

Noto Airport is among Japan’s newest airports, and certainly amongst its most obscure — it took a little poking around until I realized that the Star Alliance schedule lists it under “Wajima/JP”, and it also made history by being the first airport I’ve been to that wasn’t listed in the usually all-knowing Great Circle database. (Rest assured, this grievous defect has since been corrected.) Under an innovative profit guarantee cooked by the fine businessmen of Noto, ANA operates two flights to it daily from Tokyo, so that ANA is paid if occupancy falls below a minimum threshold, and Noto is paid if the threshold is exceeded. (So far, both sides have been making money.) Given this level of traffic, though, the airport is rather absurdly oversized: it’s a grand four-story edifice complete with a fancy information display system showing a week’s worth of the same two flights to Tokyo, and two aerobridges which are unlikely to ever be used simultaneously… but at least the airstrip hosts an aviation academy, where students can practice without too much danger of colliding into passenger jets.

 

As I sat in the gate lounge, I realized I hadn’t seen a single foreigner since I left Kanazawa, and I have a sneaky suspicion I’m the first Finn ever to use this airport. I think I prefer this record to my previous one of being the last one to use Gaza’s airport…

Boarding produced a small surprise — whoah nelly, since when does ANA own or fly any Airbuses? Somebody give Boeing a call. (Later research indicated that ANA in fact owns no less than 32 of these little beasties, and 737s are in fact a distinct minority. I wonder how I’ve managed to avoid them ’till now?)

The skies below were cloudy, but every now and then a gap opened up to reveal snowy mountains below. April isn’t spring quite yet in many parts of Japan…

RTW2007: Noto Peninsula and Wakura Onsen, wherein our sybaritic sojourner examines earthquake damage and repeatedly plunges into nearly boiling water.

After two days of Kanazawa, I took the Noto line local clunker up into Nanao, the end of the JR line. You can always tell you’re in the Japanese countryside when little “Jesus loves you” signs start appearing on houses, local banks adopt vegetables as their logos (for example, Notoshu Bank’s is a carrot) and the biggest building around is the local JA, a mysterious institution whose primary function seems to be converting taxpayer dollars into the world’s most expensive rice.

My destination for the day, Wakura Onsen, has a good claim to being among the oldest hot spring towns in Japan, with 1200 years of recorded history. It’s hence home to some of Japan’s most illustrious ryokan including Kagaya, which now occupies a high-rise complex larger than most major hotels and still charges up to 50,000 yen per person for a stay. However, one week previous to my arrival there had been a major earthquake in the northern part of the peninsula, which had flattened the better part of 1000 houses. Down south, aside from the occasional cracked pavement, Nanao and Wakura weren’t significantly affected, but it was clear that tourists were staying away in droves — there were few guests in hotels, most restaurants and gift shops were closed, Wakura’s solitary museum (dedicated to an intriguing combination of lacquerware and confectionery) was closed for damage checks, and the only industry that appeared to be booming was construction. I found a solitary sushi restaurant open, where I was the only guest, and had a mediocre nigiri set coupled with some really great tuna. (I asked for maguro, the cheapest, but the chef gave me chu-toro, a cut above, for the same price. No complaints.)

It was a balmy 20 C in Fukuoka when I arrived, but the weather had been getting colder and colder, and soon after I’d checked into my ryokan there was a sudden hail of snow that left an inch of slush on the roof. While most of Wakura Onsen is aggressively ugly, all charmless concrete and rusty rebar, Togetsuan, the “Hermitage of the Passing Moon”, was designed as a faithful replica of a 1920s Taisho-era inn complete with cedar shipped in from Yakushima, and I dedicated the afternoon to sampling all the baths in it and its sister operation Hosenkaku. In every single one I was alone, and I contemplated that there are far worse ways to spend a bitterly cold weekday on the roaring Japan Sea coast.

I booked a shared taxi the next morning to take me out to the airport, and the garrulous minibus driver (a very rare species in Japan) quizzed both me and my four fellow passengers. In addition to me and a local lady on her way to Tokyo for reasons undisclosed, the only others on board were three insurance agent salarymen dressed in appropriately drab dark suits, assessing the damage caused by the quake. Indeed, the driver confirmed, business had been completely dead ever since the quake: the day after it struck, the news agencies chartered out 20 cabs for the full day, but that was that. The drive up the twisty road from Wakura through Anamizu was rather charming, although (as I’d correctly guessed) Anamizu turned out to be a thoroughly mundane fishing town of more concrete and rusty corrugated iron that not even the fetchingly named “Iwashi-no-Yu” (Sardine Baths) could rescue.

 

RTW2007: Kanazawa, wherein our curious culinarist eats metal, is unintentionally insulted by his geriatric innkeeper and narrowly avoids committing electoral violence.

I really like Kanazawa. Much of it is modern and funky: you’ve got brand-new buildings, hordes of university students dressed up in the latest Shibuya-kei fashions, fancy shopping malls tucked full of Louis Vuitton and Gucci. But the station sets the tone: it’s a concoction of glass and steel, but the entrance is built as an ancient Japanese wooden temple gate.

Unlike Tokyo or Kyoto, where you have to hunt to discover even a single old building, Kanazawa, spared the devastation of the war, has invested a huge amount of energy into preserving places like the Higashi-chayamachi geisha district, which is probably Japan’s single best-preserved Edo-era area. I had a cup of ceremonial matcha green tea in the Shima geisha house (chaya), gawped at the countless bizarre uses of gold leaf in the restored shops (“say, why don’t we eat it?”), and strolled along the riverbank watching the cherry trees just about to burst into full blossom. I was just one week too early for the cherry blossom festival, but this was a blessing in disguise — the town was not yet inundated with tourists, so finding lodging was not a problem, and both Kenroku-en Garden and the (remains of) Kanazawa Castle were already lit up and open at night, yet not overrun with crowds.

Kenrokuen, being one of Japan’s Top Three Gardens, is to some extent a victim of its own success — what were once meditative footpaths are now wide, roped-off thoroughfares, and souvenir shops dot the park itself. But in the evenings of cherry blossom week there was a nice row of food stalls outside, selling festival fare like great corn on the cob doused with soy abd really bad okonomiyaki. But Hokuriku’s forte is seafood, and indeed, the conveyor belt sushi I had atop the department store next to the station was among the greatest meals I’ve had in a long time: why, oh why, is it that sushi just doesn’t taste the same outside the country?

I spent three nights at the wonderful Shibaya Ryokan, which despite the name is actually a Japanese-style business hotel (4200 yen/night) in a modern house not far from the train station. The owners were a doddering elderly pair who’d actually visited Singapore (as, seemingly, had everybody else I talked with in Kanazawa), but couldn’t rememeber a single thing about it. (After a lengthy scratch of his bald head, hubby opined: “I think we went to some place with flowers?”.) The lady, more talkative of the two, addressed me as otaku, the first time I’d ever run into this — the word literally means “honorable home” and used to be a polite word for “you”, but after serial child killer Tsutomu Miyazaki’s misadventures is now a rather rude term for “obsessive geek” — but evidently meant no harm by it.

At the other side of town from Higashi (“East”) was the inevitable if rather less impressive Nishi (“West”) geisha district and, not too far away, the Nagamachi samurai district, which — unusually for resolutely egalitarian middle-class Japan — preserved and documented the ornate caste system of Japan’s feudal era. The full-fledged samurai at the top of the heap lived in giant palaces full of art, gardens and altars, theirashigaru footsoldiers lived in modest three-room houses, and their chugen petty retainers, tasked with handing over their Lord’s sandals or feeding his horses, lived in drafty one-room shacks.

Cherry blossoms in Kenrokuen

In addition to being cherry blossom season, it was also election season, conducted in uniquely Japanese style: driving around trucks outfitted with loudspeakers, female voices literally shrieking out the same message in repeat: “Tanaka Taro desu! I’m Tanaka Taro! Mina-san no tame ni ganbattemasu! I will try my best for everybody! Douzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu! Thank you!” One particularly obnoxious dipshit called Yachi Something, may he rot in Hell, was so incessant and loud (grannies in the vicinity were covering their ears) that I seriously regretted not having a spare shoe to fling at them, as I’d previously done to a Japanese Communist Party candidate blasting through my ‘hood in Tokyo at 8 AM on a Sunday. (They stopped for about 5 seconds as the shoe went “bonk” onto the van’s roof, then continued unperturbed. Next time I’ll aim better.)

Every time I go to Japan, I’m a little shocked at what has changed, and a lot more shocked to realize that it’s been ten years since I set foot there for the first time (as an adult). Things that caught my attention this time:

  • Non-smoking has caught on in a big way. Taxis, trains, airports, even streets like all of Higashi — unhappy-looking smokers are confined into little smoky boxes. It’s about time!
  • Facilities for the disabled are now ubiquitous. Of course, the real reason is not that the Japanese care any more about the disabled than previously (they’re still locked away out of sight), but that the population is getting old fast and the elderly vote.
  • “Jet towels” for drying your hands. Mitsubishi must be making millions off these things: I don’t think I saw a single paper towel anywhere in Kanazawa.

NH318 FUK-KMQ 737-800 “Super Dolphin” seat 2F

I headed back to T1 and got there with an hour to spare. While the international side of FUK is pretty slick, T1, which only caters to small planes to obscure domestic destinations, is a bit worn around the edges. After half a year in cricket-crazy India, though, I did like the way that the gate entrances were termed “Wickets” in the English signage. (Bowled for a duck, wot wot?) And then it was time to end this maiden visit and wave buh-bye to Kyushu; I’ll be back.

Sometimes the sheer dedication of Japanese to their job amazes me. As the aircraft rolled out of the gate, they all lined up in front of the gate, waved goodbye to the plane and its passengers, and then bowed deeply. Maybe it was just jet lag and lack of sleep, but I swear I had to wipe away a tear just watching it.

This zippy little dolphin, which can take barely 100 pax, is one-class and as cramped as a cheap can of tuna. But it’s only an hour’s flight to KMQ, so I’ll manage…