All airplane flights are not created equal

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After my last plane trip to San Jose, I swore I wouldn’t do it again. I’d go by car, train, boat or on a donkey, but not in an airplane. Ha. Last week, I was up in the air again. Same flight, same plane, same cheesy cracker snacks. But all flights are not created equal.

Flying was the only way I could get down there on a Monday night and be back in Oregon on Wednesday night, spending two whole days with my father in-between. Tuesday was his big meeting with the orthopedic surgeon that would determine whether he could start trying to walk again—or not. At 95, a broken leg heals mighty slowly. The doctor said yes, “go for it.” What the bones won’t do, the metal plate and screws holding his leg together will. So, at the moment you read this, he may be roaming the halls of Somerset Senior Living with his walker. He says people there were surprised that he was so tall; they had only seen him sitting in a wheelchair. They probably look short to him now.

So, cautious optimism for Dad. The doctor also said he could go home as soon as he’s comfortable walking. That’s a lot of motivation for laps around the complex (And a lot of worry for his kids).

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From above, Oregon is all green fields and trees
Back to the plane. Having done the same route before, I knew where to go and what to expect. It’s a long journey, even by airplane. I left home at 10:21 a.m. to take Annie to the Alsea River kennel in Tidewater on Highway 34 because, less than three weeks after her knee surgery, she needed to be restricted, medicated and watched over just like Dad. I ate lunch in Florence, where I discovered Clawson’s Wheelhouse. Good food, good people. Killer French dip. Then it was over the river and through the woods via Highway 126 to Eugene to check in at 2 p.m. for a 4 p.m. flight.

Locals fly out of the Eugene airport if they can because it’s smaller than the average big-city airport. You can park in a lot just outside the terminal. It only takes a few minutes to get through security and to the gate. At the gate, there’s a lounge area where you can plug in your laptop or relax in a rocking chair watching the action on the tarmac through the big windows.

The actual flight from Eugene to San Jose was not so mellow for me. I have this condition called Restless Leg Syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease. Essentially it’s a feeling of needing to move one’s legs or die. I get crawling sensations and involuntary spasms. It doesn’t happen all the time, but put me in a confined space with no way to get out, and boom, I’m miserable. Thus it was on the way to San Jose. Alaska Airlines assigned me a window seat in the second to last row. The views were spectacular, but I was wedged in by a non-communicative man wearing sunglasses and reading the Bible. Mark, Chapter 6. Beside him, I squirmed the whole trip, my left leg spasming about once a minute. I tried to distract myself by reading, writing, and taking pictures. I drank the complimentary beer. No good. I even started praying the Rosary without the actual beads. I quickly lost track of my Hail Marys. I was never so glad to see San Francisco Bay down below.

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San Francisco Bay was a welcome sight. Note  fog creeping in.
The temperature was near 100 in San Jose, and Dad’s house was no cooler. But I was so glad to be walking out of that plane. Free at last! I dreaded the return trip two days later.

 

This time, Alaska assigned me a window seat in the very last row. When I saw it, I thought I was doomed. But God was with me big-time. The flight was half empty, and nobody sat in the other seat. I had the best plane ride ever. The back seat felt cushy and comfortable. I had room to spread out. I read and wrote and enjoyed the view. I guzzled a glass of pinot grigio. I was surprised when the flight attendant told me to put my computer away because we were beginning our descent into Eugene. Already? By the time we landed, I felt so mellow I wanted to hug all those pale-skinned Oregonians.

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San Jose’s freeways look like a carnival ride from above
It was the day after the summer solstice. Getting off the plane at 9:30 p.m., I towed my suitcase toward the sunset, delighted to be up and walking on my two strong legs. I promptly got lost on my way to the motel where I was spending the night before the long drive home, but who cares? I was on the ground.

I wonder if it would be kosher to buy two seats so I don’t get penned in. Nah. Next time, I’m driving.

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I don’t usually talk about my restless legs (RLS). It’s embarrassing. Does anybody else have this problem? I’m working on an article about it. How does it affect you, and how do you deal with it?

Telling Those Little Green Lies

43624345 - green apple with water drop close upShortly after I cross the border into California, I come to an agricultural inspection station. All vehicles must stop. There’s no way around it. Back in the days of the 1989 Mediterranean fruit fly scare, I trembled at the thought. I can remember having to open up my ice chest for the inspectors, who proceeded to confiscate my produce. I remember having to throw out the vegetables my grandfather had just gifted me from his garden. I remember hurriedly eating an apple so it would be gone before I hit the border.

But when I drove to California after Dad broke his leg in March, I packed a cooler full of produce from home so I could eat it at my father’s house in San Jose. Zucchini, corn, tomatoes, apples, grapefruit. I refused to let it rot. And I did eat it, except for a golden delicious apple that I carried all the way to San Jose and back before consuming back in my own kitchen.

I hid my red and white ice chest under blankets and grocery bags in the back of my Honda Element. I held my breath and put on my most innocent smile. But it didn’t matter. The inspector neither looked nor asked if I was carrying any produce. He just wished me a nice day. Ma’am.

If he had asked, I would have lied. On other trips, I have driven through with apples in my bag on the seat beside me, smiled and said, “Nope,” when asked if I had any fresh fruits or vegetables.

Shame on me. It’s not good to lie.

But here’s the thing. I buy my produce at the grocery store. I don’t pick it off the trees or out of the fields. It does not have bugs. If it had bugs, I would not buy it. Most of it was originally grown in California anyway.

Usually, they take one look at me and wave me on. Aging white lady privilege. Or maybe it’s that I’m coming from Oregon in a relatively small car as opposed to an 18-wheeler from Texas or Tennessee. On my last trip through, I saw inspectors going through a long, low sedan driven by a group of young Mexican men. Trunk open, doors open, stuff out on the pavement. Why are they any more likely to bring contraband food across the border than I am? Racial profiling?

The California Department of Food and Agriculture website reveals some facts I didn’t know. The inspectors are looking for all plant life that might carry invasive species they don’t want in California. That includes things like firewood and hay. Also critters like ferrets and livestock. I suppose if I were carrying some of our legal marijuana that would deserve a look, too. In this article from a Las Vegas newspaper, the writer says sometimes they inspect the vehicle itself for hitchhiking bugs. Thank God Oregon is not a buggy state.

I thought the inspections started with the medfly crisis. Wrong. They’ve been inspecting vehicles at the borders since the 1920s. There are 16 inspection stations in California, located at all the major highways coming into the state. CDFA claims California’s plants are relatively bugfree and they want to keep them that way. The inspectors are not law enforcement agents; the worst they can do for you is take away your produce, but it’s still a worry for drivers passing through.

Most other states don’t have inspection stations. Florida does. Everything leaving Hawaii goes through an agricultural check. Coming into Oregon, folks bringing boats and commercial trucks have to stop, but the rest of us just ease on down the road.

Gosh I feel guilty now about lying. But I will probably continue to smuggle fruits and veggies from the J.C. Market across the border. If I start bringing hay, trees or baby goats, I’ll let them look. And if my dog joins me, she’ll be hanging out the window, ready to spill the beans. If she hasn’t already eaten them.

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Speaking of the dog, Annie’s incision is healing well and she’s walking on all four feet more often than not. Her fur has started growing back. She is scheduled to have her staples removed tomorrow afternoon. I have been counting the hours since last week. She still has to take it easy, but once the staples are gone, I can remove the inflatable collar, which will make her a lot more comfortable and allow her to go through the doggie door on her own. She will fit in her crate again. Best of all, I can leave the house without her. Hallelujah.

As for my other patient, Dad is still in the wheelchair in the nursing home and itching to get out. His doctor appointment is a week from Tuesday. At his age, healing is not guaranteed. Pray that he gets some good news.

On my next trip to California, I definitely won’t be carrying any fruit. I’m flying, and you  can’t get fruit past the security checkpoint. Wouldn’t it be nice if they served apples or strawberries on the plane instead of those bags of nutritionally worthless pretzel snacks? Come on, Alaska Airlines.

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Text copyright Sue Fagalde Lick 2017, photo copyright: klaikungwon / 123RF Stock Photo