Nov 1, 2008 was the final day of deployment orientation. Around noon we were all ferried off to Denver International Airport and boarded on a United Airlines flight to Los Angeles. After a cramped 2 hour flight we arrived at LAX and spent several hours milling about the Qantas terminal waiting for our 747 to depart for Auckland, NZ. I was hungry and admit rather shamefully I spent a chunk of my meager travel money on an $8 Big Mac. Also, unlike most decent airports in this country, LAX failed to provide free wireless internet access. So, I called the wife on the temporary cell phone I’d purchased just before the trip and used up the last 10 minutes I had remaining on the prepaid card.
I boarded the 747 without issue and took up my seat in the isle, 1 row back from the main entry door. I was seated next to a pair of husky New Zealanders who were returning from a concert lighting trade show in Las Vegas. They were just as shoe-horned into the seats as I was, however they were friendly and talkative and managed to make the flight slightly more bearable. After takeoff, and to my surprise, we were fed a decent, multi-course airline meal free of charge! And if that wasn’t enough - free scotch! I took a pair of sleeping pills after dinner and spent the next 10 or so miserable hours trying to sleep in my seat - alternating between 3 uncomfortable positions.