DAY 1 – Across the pond

An unexpectedly smooth transition

May 2 2010, 5:30 am Central Europe Daylight SavingTime

After a short night which some would help to adapt to the time zones the alarm clock told me unambiguously to wake up. After the nice trip to Dresden (opera Notre Dame by Franz Schmidt in the “Semperoper”) on April 30 / May 1 I decided to take the risk of travelling with Deutsche Bahn again and went to Frankfurt Airport by train. The high-speed InterCityExpress (up to 300 km/h fast) was on time and reaches the airport from Limburg in only 20 Minutes. A web of mists covered the Goldener Grund (golden valley) embedded in the Taunus hills on this beautiful springtime morning.

Springtime morning in the Taunus region

The railway station at the airport has an impressive futuristic architecture and is currently under sonstruction to become the even more impressive Airrail Center Frankfurt. Delta Airlines departs at Terminal 2 which I reached conveniently using the SkyLine tram.

ICE train at the Airrail Center Frankfurt

Security controls and check-in went smoothly (but its is really recommended to be at the check-in at least 3 hours before departure) and I was the first person at the gate (which spot should I take? – sheldonesque decision-making was clear!). But, unfortunately, the small crowd at the gate had to leave it for another security check of this area and moved in again under boarding card control.

This is MY spot!

The flight was on time but, unfortunately, I forgot early booking of the boarding card and had to live with seat 27D – just in the central line (instead of a preferred window seat). In addition, I found my place occupied by an obese woman with her little child. But what seemed like a worst case turned suddenly into convenience as the stewardess found two free neighbouring seats for them and I moved towards the aisle having a (luxury) free spot next to me. The service of Delta was better than expected – drinks were offered frequently (I tried many different kinds starting traditionally with tomato juice) and food was offered twice – as always the “chicken or pasta?” lunch and (surprise in the afternoon) a warm “quattro formaggi” pizza snack with ice cream as desert. The entertainment system was a bit old fashioned (no individual screens) but the common screens seemed to have been modernized and did not consider aspect ratio (with no way to control this remotely like in the Westin Bellevue Dresden 😉 – on the sides and above the aisle were small 4:3 screens whereas in the centre we could enjoy a wide 40’’ flat screen. Too wide actually with the images stretched horizontally into 16:9 aspect ratio.

Though having strong headwind (up to 230 km/h – the overall flight was quite bumpy) we reached Detroit with a small delay of about 10 Minutes and immigration procedure did not take to much time. Strange questions about my “business” and whether I would get money for my colloquium talk. Fingerprints. Customs. Baggage recheck. Hurry on to the gate (did not have time to watch the nice laminar-flow fountain at Detroit Airport). Departure to Kansas City about 20 Minutes delayed – hoping that I would catch Shuttle to Manhattan there. Weather was fine but cloudy; no sight to the ground, no Chicago downtown visible this time. Further to the west it cleared up with some scattered shower and possibly thunderstorm activity (low-topped multicells). Baggage claim at KCI Airport went fast (although the wrong flight was assigned there) and I reached the KCI Roadrunner shuttle on time.

Waiting for the KCI Roadrunner at Kansas City Int'l Airport

Now the scenic drive westwards via Lawrence and Topeka on Interstate 70: landscape changes significantly while woodland becomes more and more sparse as one approaches the Flint Hills region (btw. the German term for flint is “Feuerstein”) with the Konza Prairie – an impressive untouched area of tallgrass prairie in the Midwest. Before arrival at the drop-off station in Manhattan Kansas I tried to contact my host by cell phone – it found AT&T net but no connection worked. The driver helped out – thanks a lot! After 20 hours travelling I reached my destination, enjoyed some dinner and was happy to see a bedroom.

Konza Prairie with typical Flint Hills landscape

And the evening and the morning were the first day.

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