[*Edited to add start of trip was 11/13/09] My trip to OZ began in Santa Barbara with a quick flight to LAX; rather than fight Friday night traffic, Grant opted to pay up and save himself a four hour round trip. I got off the little plane after only 25 minutes and gathered my luggage to head to the connecting flight--which I thought was at the International Terminal. It wasn't. After 10 minutes of wandering around I asked an airport worker who directed me to the next terminal. Luckily all terminals are within easy walking distance at LAX. After a wait in line, I stepped up to the counter and presented my passport. After beginning the check in and returning my passport, the clerk asked me if I had a visa. "A what?", I asked. She told me I needed a visa to get into Australia, which I did not know. "No, no one told me I needed one", I said, turning red and getting scared. "That's okay, I can sell you one for $25", the clerk told me. At my relieved agreement, she began what seemed like 30 screens of entries but kept getting an error at the end. After about 15 minutes and three tries she said, "That's it. I'm done. I'm done." I told her, "I'm sorry you're done--because I really want to go to Australia. I made a quilt. I'm going to a wedding. I really want to go to Australia." She and the other clerks laughed and she stepped aside to let the fast fingers of Brian click away and get me my visa.
There was a long line through security but finally I was settled at the gate for a long wait for the Virgin Australia plane--along with about 200+ others! Not having travelled internationally before, I had no idea what to expect, but surely got the unexpected when everyone boarded and immediately "plugged in" to the onboard entertainment systems. It seems no one converses on planes anymore. I never spoke more than a couple words to my seat mates the entire night. It was a lonely way to fly as I did not wish to watch a movie and couldn't read my book without the light bothering my seat mates. I didn't get much sleep but dozed on and off. After about 3-4 hours of sitting I wished I'd paid to upgrade from Economy as my rear end got numb and I was constantly changing position. It was cold flying at 36,000 feet and quite bumpy with turbulence--rather like sitting on a bus. About 13.5 hours later we landed at Brisbane Airport and we all poured through the empty-at-6:30 a.m. Customs department. I then collected my luggage and after a false start, got to the transfer desk to Virgin Blue for a pass for the train to the domestic terminal 2 km away. While waiting, I saw this: