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Taking the Bus to Houston?!

Texas has me back again! On Friday afternoon, after a 10-and-a-half-hour flight, I landed in Houston safe and sound.

The trip in detail:

It meant getting up fairly early, as I had booked the 06:11 train [ICE] from Siegburg to Frankfurt. I always want to have plenty of time in reserve, so that, if something should go wrong, I won’t miss the plane. And thus I had decided on the earlier train, even if the 07:11 one would have been absolutely ok. Thank goodness, though, I didn’t have to get up too early, since Gabi Koch had sacrificed herself and kindly volunteered to take me to the airport by car. That meant we only had to leave at around 05:30. Otherwise – and that had been my original planning – I would have had to take the first bus [# 604] from Hersel at 04:49, to catch the 05:20 tram [# 66] from the “Stadthaus” to the station in Siegburg. And to do that I would have had to get up at around 03:30. The way it turned out thanks to Gabi’s kind offer, I could sleep for one more hour. Still a very unchristian hour, but whatever: that’s something you just have to do.

Well then: got up at 04:30 a.m., shaved, showered, dressed, and then went downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast [coffee plus two sweet bread rolls with salami]. After that quickly carried the suitcases downstairs and loaded them up, and off we drove. At that time of the day there wasn’t much traffic and we were in Siegburg at the station in about 20 minutes, so that I had plenty of time till the departure of the train, especially as it was 5 minutes late. On the platform there was quite a draught and it was cold, too, 32 Fahrenheit, and so I went to the entrance hall for a few minutes. It wasn’t very much warmer there at all, but at least there was no draught.

As announced, the train arrived a few minutes late. But that wasn’t a problem. After a fast ride of 50 minutes we arrived in the long-distance part of the station at Frankfurt airport and I could go to the check-in without having had to rush. There weren’t many customers at the check-in and thus I was able to get rid of my luggage quickly, before 07:30 even, and could sit down and enjoy a coffee. After that I used the restrooms to give myself the usual anti-thrombosis shot as I would certainly not have been able to get the syringe through security. There weren’t many travellers at security either and I could get through without having to wait in a line. And thus I was at my gate [Z 17] at shortly after 8 in the morning, more than 2 hours before the scheduled departure [10:25].

Talking of the gate or Frankfurt airport respectively: They have been remodelling and modernizing the place for years by now and now they want to rename the former terminal “A” into “Z”. Allegedly this is supposed to help passengers find their way. But why that’s supposed to be is beyond my understanding. I would have considered it much more important to have plenty and moreover big enough restrooms. They are – not only in the new terminal Z but all over the airport – too few and too small by far. Well, maybe there’s a purpose behind it as with restrooms you can’t – contrary to shops – not make money. What I’d also consider a good service are -as I’m used to everywhere in airports here in the US – plugs for computers. But no: Germany is not that customer friendly.

At the gate – as I had plenty of time there – I read a lot and, besides, walked around some since I wanted to have some leg-movement before being confined to my seat on that long flight to Houston. When sitting at the gate and looking out of the window I was quite surprised to see a plane docking there that seemed a tad small for a flight across the big pond. It was a two-engine Airbus, and seemed somewhat strange to me as Lufthansa normally only flies 4-engined planes across the Atlantic. [This, btw, is one of the reasons [the other being accumulating my frequent flyer miles] why I prefer Lufthansa and not an American airline: to me it’s an aspect of safety, since a 4-egine aircraft only loses 25% of its power, should one engine fail, and there are 2 more left, if another one should fail. But with a two-engine aircraft, 50% of the power are lost if one engine fails, and, should the remaining engine fail, it immediately turns into a glider – with fairly poor gliding characteristics. Be it as it may, I could not imagine that this was to be our plane. And soon we heard an announcement solving the riddle: passengers for a Lufthansa flight to Munich were asked to come to gate Z 17, whereas we, the passengers for Houston, were informed that – as it happens sometimes in Frankfurt – our plane was parked not at the gate but further out on the tarmac and that we would be taken there by bus. And after we had walked down the stairs and saw the bus, it actually showed “Houston” as its destination! I was really tempted to ask how long that would take and which route they had planned! ;) Well, the bus took us across half of the airport, as it seemed, to the plane: a Jumbo [Boeing 747], as usual on this route with Lufthansa.

With that somewhat more laborious process of boarding it took us a while longer till the plane was ready to taxi. And then we were chauffeured across about three quarters of the airfield again, to the Runway West, where we had to wait again for some time since, as the pilots informed us, the spacing of the planes had to be somewhat further apart because of the fog. Thus it was with about 40 minutes of delay that we left Frankfurt. And we never made up for this initial delay since – when crossing Greenland – we met with fairly strong headwinds and – across the continental US – the pilots reduced speed a tad because of turbulences.

Talking of “crossing Greenland”: judging from my experience it is quite rare for a flight from Frankfurt to Houston to fly that far north. We started off across the North Sea even to the east of England and past the northern tip of Scotland, and then our path took us across Iceland and Greenland [and there not just the southern tip but further north and inland] towards Canada. There  we came in via James bay, and then flew nearly directly south towards Houston.

On board everything was quite fine – except for the legroom. There – but I of course knew that – is not much of it in the “wood class” ["Holzklasse", as we sometimes jokingly call economy class in German]. And my row, with the galley in the back, had the additional disadvantage that I could not move the backrest of my seat to a reclining position. The flight, btw, was very smooth, except for a somewhat rougher ride because of turbulences in the last 3 hours, flying above the USA. The food [I had chicken with broccoli and mashed potatoes first and then, as the second cooked meal, vegetarian tortellini] was tasty and, contrary to my experience on the flight from Houston to Frankfurt, really hot and not lukewarm only. I didn’t really watch the entertainment programme but read a lot and also had a nice nap for a while.

We arrived in Houston about 35 minutes late and not, as scheduled, at 2:20 p.m. local time. Immigration was unusually fast for me: present passport, customs declaration and green card, answer just one question [how long I had been outside the US], leave my fingerprints [this time my right hand only, and even without my thumb], and then I got the required stamps and a “Welcome back”. [What did slow the process down though was a family in line before me that took about 10 minutes to process - with plenty of forms to fill in. Even after they had left the booth the officer was busy for some time filling in and stamping forms.] At the baggage claim I didn’t have to wait too long either for my duffel to appear. After that – as nearly usual with me coming in – I only had to hand in my customs declaration: no inspection of my luggage. And thus I was through everything and out in the hall, where Mary was already waiting for me, at around 3:15 p.m.

There [Terminal D, International Arrivals] I got myself some coffee at Starbucks, and then we started back home. On our way we found a gas station with quite a reasonable price [$ 3.039, which for us, with our Chevron credit card means $ 2.939] for regular and filled up our gas tank there. And later, when the tow of us got hungry, we stopped at a Subways and got ourselves a Subway sandwich each. We arrived safe and sound back here in Karnes City at around 8:30 p.m. and were greeted by a very happy Sally.

I got accustomed to being back “home on the range” here n Texas really fast, especially as the temperatures in Germany had been below 50 Fahrenheit for the last week and now, upon arrival in Houston, it was 77. But now, since Saturday night, it’s much colder here, too, with daytime highs in the upper 40s, and even a tad below 32 at nighttime. Well, that calls for a nice crackling fire in the fireplace: really comfy!

Um diesen Eintrag in Deutsch zu lesen, hier klicken.

Read about my flight to Germany here: Have Arrived Safely …

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3 responses to “Taking the Bus to Houston?!

  1. Thanks for the comment at my place.

    St.Louis is a soccer town, more than football,though baseball reigns supreme. My prior soccer posts here,here and a photo of my daughter (upper left, No. 17) here.

    Yes, I brag about my kids shamelessly.

    Cheers.

  2. Sounds like a pleasant enough trip as long flights go. It’s been years since I flew into Frankfurt. Since Munich started accepting flights, i.e. Lufthansa/United codeshares from Chicago, that’s been my destination of choice. It saves the three hour drive up the A-3 in the wee hours to get there (Frankfurt) on time.

    Cheers.

    • Hi Randall,
      For me, going to a suburb of Bonn, Frankfurt and the ICE from there to Siegburg are the obvious choices. I can understand your concern re the A3, especially as there frequently are traffic jams.
      Best regards,
      Pit

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