Thursday, April 10, 2014

this land

I wonder how many people picked up on the news item that announced that in the last year, the number of complaints about air travel in this country had sharply declined. The cynic will say that the traveler is simply reconciled to a never ending stream of inconveniences. That we've grown used to the delays, poor service, discomfort. That it's like the ugly carpet that comes with the house you just purchased: you can't wait to replace it when you move in, but then you sort of forget about it. After a while, you don't even notice it.

But I have to say, I surely have had a string of good -- no, let me up that a bit: great flights.

Yes, I've been lucky. Weather delays and cancelled flights can sour your mood, so that what may have been fine quickly morphs into one big disappointment. You know it's not the airline's fault, but still, here you are, stuck for days in Atlanta and while you recognize that some people may love Atlanta, it's not home and you just want to be out of that nightmare hub asap. Yes, that can sour your travel mood and I seem to have been incredibly fortunate these months: no cancellations, not many delays either.

But I want to say a good word, too, not only about timely connections and comfortable planes and wonderful staff (for what it's worth, in this country I mostly fly Delta), but also about the privileged view you have of the landscape as you fly over it.

It is fantastic to take off in Madison, where the lakes are still frozen in the middle:

to Albuquerque-1.jpg cross the mighty Mississippi (or the clearer but still iced over St Croix, about to become the muddy Mississippi):

to Albuquerque-3.jpg

...and land in Minneapolis, where you can see from up high the layout of the city that is now your daughter's home:

to Albuquerque-4.jpg

No stop over now. Catch the second flight and head south -- and here I could go hog wild with fantastic birds-eye views of vast deserts and plateaus, but I'll just give you one photo -- of where the mountains meet the arid landscape of New Mexico:

to Albuquerque-8.jpg

...and finally, anyone approaching Albuquerque from the air will tell you how splendid that flight is, especially if you're a northerner who just isn't used to this kind of landscape. At dusk, the colors are particularly disarming:

to Albuquerque-9.jpg

So yes, I know the tribulations. I've lived through them: planes that have malfunctioned, been diverted, cancelled, delayed, with broken seats, broken toilets, broken everything but (you hope) the engine that gets you up and back down again. But let me just remember this day of timely, peaceful flights over a magnificent and ever-changing landscape. You truly appreciate the beauty of this place when you fly over it on a more or less clear day and you look down at what's below.