The 13 hour flight to Dubai was an adventure all its own. I paid extra for an Economy Plus seat which meant I got about six inches more leg room and could choose my seat. Left and right was the same squished airline seat room and I sat right next to a big fellow from Wisconsin. I had the window seat because I’ve always liked to see where I’m going. My normal travel mode is to view the ground and try to determine what I am flying over. Years ago this could only be estimated by reviewing the airline magazine page that showed all the connections the airline made which at best is a farce because those perfect arcs may or may not be the actual flight path taken. Generally speaking, in the United States they are. The United flight to Dubai was not. In fact, it went completely opposite of the path of the plane. However, many years ago Boeing added a cool feature on their planes that was a screen in the back of the seat on which many entertainment options are available.
One of the modes is Map which flips through several shots showing a broad view of the flight, then either a closer in, or a really close in shot. They also tell you things like elevation, speed, outside air temperature, time and distance flown, and time and distance to destination. In many ways this made my game a little less fun, but in keeping with the spirit of it I still guess before looking at the map.For many aspects of this trip I have consulted people who have made similar trips. Some to Afghanistan, some to Iraq, some to various other places around the world. My questions and topics varied depending on the person I was talking to. Almost all of them agreed that the window seat is not the seat to get for such a long flight. They all said aisle seat is the way to go. This has never seemed right to me, perhaps it is because I don’t choose to stretch my legs into the aisle for more room believing that would get in the way of the other passengers and/or flight attendants. So, despite all the suggestions otherwise I sat in the window seat. For a trip that started at 1845 and was flying over the Atlantic Ocean it still seemed a bad choice but it was still one I made. Knowing that everyone advised against it, knowing that I would be flying at night, and knowing that a good portion of the trip would likely be over water, I still selected the seat that I believed would make me happiest along the lengthy flight. My advisors may have been right. But they were not right for me. I knew that if for no other reason than having something to lean against (the window) would still be a good choice for me. Even the guy on the aisle, who travels more than he cares and had taken this very flight a month before told me I wouldn’t see anything. Maybe some clouds, maybe some water, but nothing. He was mostly right. But when he was wrong, it was most enjoyable.
The best way I could describe the flight was Chasing the Sun. The flight path was up the east coast and over Canada, then over Great Britain and Europe. Looking at a flat map this seems the long way but I long ago experimented with masking tape, a globe, and a map to confirm that thanks to the magic of three dimensions it is much shorter. The phenomenal part of the trip was that because of the time we left the sun was setting over Nova Scotia. As we proceeded across the north Atlantic, the sky did darken but there was always a faint glow on the horizon. It got very faint for a bit and there were stars galore out. Well, what I could see beyond the glare on the window and the lights on the tip of the 777. Then the extraordinary occurred because the horizon’s glow grew.
What had been a glorious, red at night, sailor’s delight sunset to the left of the window had become a faint glow mostly concealed by the wing in the center of the window. That in turn became a beautiful promising sunrise on the right of the window. We had spent the evening chasing the sun.