Saturday, April 24, 2010

Travel Time - Tuesday, April 6, 2010

We awoke this morning, got our things together, and headed out the door to Korea. Everything was organized and ready to go, so the morning went smoothly.

We met our neighbor and good friend Carlos out front, loaded our bags into his car, and he drove us to the airport. Good friends like this are hard to come by.

We arrived at the airport about three hours and twenty minutes early for our flight, but there was already a line to check in at the Korean Air counter. The line moved pretty quickly, so we got our bags checked, and our boarding passes, then proceeded to the security check-point. For once, there was no line, and we were able to get through with no problems, quick and easy.

On the secure side, we had time to kill. We had breakfast, used the restroom, then headed to the gate to wait. I'd remembered to bring a book with me, so I dug it out and started to read. The book was "Water For Elephants", by Sara Gruen. It's a very good book, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Between the hour or so we had to wait to board, and the thirteen hours in flight, I was able to finish the book before we landed. I just wish I had another one to read on the way back.

The plane started boarding at 10:20, and we were in the air on time at 11:00. The flight is approximately thirteen and a half hours, and you chase the sun the whole way. The aircraft can not quite keep up with the sun, and so falls behind a little bit the whole way. Since the sun never sets on the aircraft during the flight, it seems like just one very long afternoon spent flying. When we finally land, it's 2:30 in the afternoon local time in Incheon, but it's the next day, Wednesday, April 7. We crossed the international date line going over the Bering Sea.

I was fortunate enough to get a window seat for the flight, and so spent a good bit of time looking out at the passing scenery. We had good, almost cloud-free weather the whole way, so I was able to see a lot. The flight takes what aviators call "the great circle route". This follows a great arc up north, through the Artic, and then back south again to the destination. It seems crazy when you look at it on a flat map, but seen on a globe it makes perfect sense. It's actually the shortest distance, because a great circle route, extrapolated around the globe, would be the largest perfect circle you could make around the globe, dividing the Earth exactly in half, right down through the center.

So, this great circle takes us from Dallas/Fort Worth up through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, into Western Canada, barely skirting by Juneau in the lower panhandle of Alaska, across the southern coast and on to the west coast of Alaska near Nome, across the Bering Sea and into Russian Siberia. The route starts it's southwest curve around here, heading out over the Sea of Okhotsk behind the Kamchatka Peninsula, over the western part of Sakhalin Island, over the sea east of the Russian city of Vladivostok, and over the Sea Of Japan (the Koreans call this "The East Sea"), keeping plenty of space between us and North Korea. We finally cross over the east coast of Korea just south of our final destination, Gangneung City. We had to keep on flying, though, on over to the west coast of the Korean Peninsula, to the port city of Incheon. This is where Seoul's international airport lies, about thirty miles from downtown.

We breezed through Immigration and Customs, and caught an express bus to Seoul's Express Bus Terminal. We bought our tickets for the next bus to Gangneung City, and had about thirty minutes to wait 'till it pulled out at five o'clock. A three hour bus ride back across the Korean Peninsula to the east coast put us in the Gangneung Express Bus Terminal at eight o'clock. A fifteen minute, fifteen dollar taxi ride deposited us at Mrs. Kim's front door. Rest at last, after a very long day spent traveling.

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