30 Hours to the Wilderness of Wyoming:

It takes a hell of a long time to get there.

September 6, 2018

Flight USA
I'm on my way - 30 hours of traveling ahead
One day I bought a book for $1 at a flea market. It was called "It takes a hell of a long time to get there." That book sucked really bad. That's why I now call the story about my flight from Düsseldorf to Billings (USA) the same. Because this trip isn't really fun, to be honest. I'm on three different planes for 22 hours. Plus all the time it takes you to get to and from the damn airports. Let's just say 30 hours in total to arrive at a smooth sum that you can get more angry about.
But why am I doing this anyway? And where the hell is Billings? Even the Americans themselves don't know that.
To cut a long story short: Billings is a few hours drive from Yellowstone National Park, where I met a very special person (his name is Paladin) last year on my four-month trip through the USA. We have written every week since my departure in July 2017. Not just e-mails but novels without an end. About life, death and everything in between. In spring he wanted to come to Berlin to visit me. Unfortunately this didn't work out in the end because he got sick. So I threw my young and crunchy bones into the travel agency and booked this crazy flight to him into the wilderness of Wyoming. Because I only live once and we always end up regretting what we didn't do.

My new Hobby: Getting up early...

Flight from Düsseldorf to Atlanta
On my way to Atlanta
Sunday, 11pm: Wanted to go to sleep earlier today, because the alarm clock goes at half past seven. Worked out great.
Sunday, 11.59pm: I'm still awake. My eyes are burning and I panic because of the short transfer time between my arrival in Atlanta and my connection to Salt Lake City. Two hours for immigration, security and finding the gate at one of the largest airports in the world. That's not really much ...
Monday, 0.14am: Sometimes problems and doubts cannot be solved by thinking about them. I turn off the light and set the alarm to 5:28am because I think it's funnier than 5:30am.
Monday, 3.34am: I'm awake and relieved that I didn't miss the flight when I looked at my mobile phone.
Monday, 4.22am: I'm awake and relieved that I didn't miss the flight when I looked at my mobile phone.
Monday, 5.02am: It's getting annoying. And in a few minutes, the alarm is ringing anyway.
Monday, 5.28am: Don't find the time sounds one bit funny.

Monday, 5.43am: Make a terrible selfie in our bathroom and send it to Paladin as proof that I am not a "morning person".
Monday, 6. 30am: We're leaving. My boyfriend Alex takes me from Recklinghausen to the train station in Oberhausen. From there I take the train to Düsseldorf Airport because the motorways are terribly crowded at this time of the day and would give the trip the rest right from the beginning. Then on the other hand I wouldn't have any more problems with the short changeover time in Atlanta...
Monday, 7:20am: Freeze my ass off at the picturesque main station of Oberhausen. The first ticket vending machine is also on the fritz.
Monday, 7. 34am: I'm on the train with 200 other people and listening to some nonsense from a girl dance group. If they dance the way they blaspheme, they'll probably win some world championship soon.
Monday, 8.15am: A nice lady from Delta Airlines asks me at the check-in about my trip, my job and my gold hamster. This is of course all for the record and typical for a trip to the US. I know that and I think it's okay because I have nothing to hide but a suppressed monster yawn. But when she suddenly inquires (apparently as a trick question) where I live again, I briefly think about whether I really look so done yet.

On a long-range missile to Atlanta

La La Land - there we go again!
La La Land - there we go again!

Monday, 9.00am: I only travel with carry-on baggage to save time with my transfers (especially as my luggage would not be checked through) and to prove how extremely minimalistic I can be. My mini-creams and even my nail scissors go through the security check without a hitch. I have to unpack 2 million things (laptop, mobile phone, camera, belt, jackets,. . . ) and block the whole line. I always have as many full plastic baskets at airports as a large Russian family because of all my electronic scrap. But if they want me to clear everything out, they have to deal with it. Then I throw my belt across the hall - just for fun. I sweat like a bear and stuff my winter jacket into the suitcase, which hardly closes afterwards. Fuck minimalism!

 

Monday, 9.07am: Must still buy water.

 

Monday, 9.11am: Have memory like a sieve. Bought no water and am already through the border control at the gate, where there are no more shops.

 

Monday, 9.13am: Discover vending machines where you can buy water for $2. With coins only, though. I'm looking at my $20-banknote and my credit card. I'm annoyed. And thirsty.

 

Monday, 9:30am: Use the old trick and get my aluminium bottle out of the suitcase to fill in water from the restrooms. From the sink, guys! You can do that in Germany without any problems. Avoids the senseless new purchase of drinks for $7 after the security check and also plastic waste.

 

Monday, 10.35am: Sitting in the central corridor of a fat long-range missile, uh, long-haul aircraft, in the center of the row. I don't care, I hate flying anyway and I don't need a view of something I hate. Ready for take-off? Never.

 

Monday, 10:45am: We've taken off. I'm surprised again that this hell-machine doesn't just fall straight from of the sky. But I used to prefer to sleep in physics than to listen to my teacher.

 

Monday, 10.57am: I'd like to sleep now. But it doesn't work because of physics.

 

Monday, 11.04am: To my left is sitting an American guy from Florida, who went to Germany for the Oktoberfest and a soccer match of Bayern München. We talk about soccer for half an hour although my times as a soccer fan are about 10 years ago. To my right sits a German who has a stick up his butt and doesn't speak a word. I remember again why I had a culture shock last year when I came back from the US after four months. Oh and just for your information: The flight time to Atlanta is about 10 hours.

 

Monday, 12.03pm: It's still 9 hours. Long-haul flights are like chewing gum under your feet. Does the junker move at all?

Joke! I'm flying with Delta Airlines for the first time and am totally positively surprised. The service is extremely good and so is the food. I unfold my neck pillow and enjoy some pretzel and warm cookies with chocolate pieces while the sun shines through the windows.

 

Monday, 2.00pm: Just had gnocci with fresh tomatoes and salad. Even in a tapas bar in Andalusia the food was worse. Decide to watch the movie La La Land. Funny story.


Gotta take a break. Writing this report just on the plane to Salt Lake City and suddenly clouds shot over the wing outside. Thought the turbine was on fire for a moment. Nah, it's not funny with that fear of flying. In contrast, even the German with his stick up his ass is more funny.


On to the next plane!
On to the next plane!

Actually, I hate musicals and movies where people sing. But before I flew to the States last year, a friend of mine was visiting Washington DC and told me that she had seen the movie La La Land on the plane and I absolutely had to see it. That's what I did on my way to New York and I was just completely thrilled. What a fabulously sad and beautiful story! A few months later I flew to Japan and watched the film again. And now I have the feeling that I can only see it when I am up in the air.

 

Monday, 4.10pm: La La Land is over. I put on my eye mask and listen to jazz for three hours, finally falling asleep a little.

 

Monday, 7.12pm: Suddenly there is not a lot of time left. Delta Airlines is sending out a round of ice cream. Awesome! I feel relaxed and have the feeling that I have flown only 2 hours instead of 10. To celebrate this, I spill half of my Coke over my pants. I scream silently and remain sitting frozen, which is why I have completely wet pants only seconds later. I try to get it dry again with a napkin and suddenly the bourgeois German hands me his own napkin (without comment of course).

Of course, all this happens half an hour before our arrival. Fab, I look like a complete dumbass!

 

Monday, 7.32pm: I tied my sweater around and waited in line in front of the restroom. I don't realy need it. But I want to wash my sticky hands and look at the dilemma in the mirror.

 

Monday, 7.38pm: Still standing in line. The used cabin air is on my side and has already dried something away.

 

Monday, 7.45pm: I'm finally in the restroom. At this moment the descent begins and the plane sinks a few lovely feet. I wash my hands and find that the situation with my pants is less bad than I expected.


Monday, 2.15pm: We arrived earlier than planned. It's noon in Atlanta due to time difference. I'm standing in the aisle of the plane, as only idiots usually do. But this time I just have to get out right now because of the time pressure. The American soccer fan says goodbye and gives me some advice on how to find my way around the airport. The German is not looking back at all. He didn't want any ice cream either. Really?!

 

Monday, 2.45pm: I'm running kind of through the immigration as if I were on a Sunday walk. The nice lady hardly asks any questions and is enthusiastic that I am so enthusiastic about the USA. In a few minutes I am through the border control and customs with my B2 visa (which I wouldn't need this time because I'm only here for two weeks - but it's valid for 10 years for several entries of up to 6 months, which is very convenient). I rush to security, where I have to unpack my 2 million "items" and "devices" again. A small child throws up. I quickly push my bag a few inches away. Five minutes later I also went without trouble through security check and immidiately find the gate for my flight to Salt Lake City. The airport of Atlanta is huge but very well organized.

 

Monday, 3.00pm: Three quarters of an hour left until boarding. What exactly was I worrying about last night?

Salt Lake City: Nobody needs wings

This wing does not look quiet well...
This wing does not look quiet well...

Monday, 3.16pm: They stamped a permit in my passport until the end of March 2019. I'm tempted. I'm grinning. I'm home. Back again. Welcome to the United States. It feels great. One year after my big childhood dream I am back and everything is just great.

 

Monday 4.30pm: The plane to Salt Lake City takes off. I look at the wing right next to my window, which somehow looks like it's about to fall apart. Aren't there a couple of welds that might burst soon? I decide to write this article to stop thinking about my imminent death. In Germany it is just about 0:41am my notebook says. My stomach is tingling. Soon I will see Paladin again. The Rocky Mountains. The wild forests and wide highways. Parts of my heart that I have lost forever in this country.

 

Monday, 6.56pm in Atlanta // 4.56pm in Salt Lake City // Tuesday, 0. 56am in Germany: I'm close to fall in kind of vegetative state. My eyes are burning and the wing still looks broken. Well, if it has held up to here in this condition, it'll fit, I think, and grin. After 19 hours without a good night's sleep I really have to be very stupid to come up with such an absurdly reasonable thought. I try to calculate how many hours lie ahead but I see three different times with two eyes on four different displays and leave it.

 

Monday, 7.15pm in Atlanta // 5.15pm in Salt Lake City: Fascinating - it's getting late and the time doesn't get any older! On approach, I have a fantastic view of Salt Lake City and the unfolding brown mountains with tiny leave carpets blooming. I almost cry. Sometimes memory hits you more than a stupid air hole. The impressions from the past year collapse so violently on me that actually the oxygen mask should fall from the cabin ceiling. In the sunset we nearly touch the dusty desert ground with our wings.

Sunset and espionage

Tired but happy in Salt Lake City
Tired but happy in Salt Lake City
Monday, 6.00pm in Salt Lake City: The airport is tiny and shabby. I'm hungry and can choose between three even shabbier restaurants. First of all I send my friends totally dull messages on WhatsApp, which make me sound like I'm 103 years old and drunk. I feel exactly this way. That's how cookies feels after they went through the grinder. So who's gonna pour chocolate over me now? A suitcase carrier stares at me and escapes, even though I didn't say anything.
Monday, 7.00pm in Salt Lake City: I take a picture of the sunset over the landing field and am therefore almost suspected of espionage. Then I eat really horrible spaghetti at a pizza shed at the gates and throw half of it away. It's dark outside now. In the waiting area there is a very annoying and loud football game on the televisions. I'd like to throw myself in front of a baggage car and die. Fortunately Paladin is already in Billings to pick me up later and sends me encouraging messages. Still glad I made this trip although I am feeling like shit.
Monday, 8.33pm in Salt Lake City // Tuesday, 4.33am in Germany: Now awake for 23 hours. At 9.30pm is boarding time for my very last flight. That's probably another hour. Or three. Or fifteen. I send my best friend completely supid voicemails every 10 minutes and hope that this cow from Delta Airlines doesn't ask me again where I live. Moon.
Monday, 10.15pm: Sitting in a tiny plane, whose engines are incredibly loud even before take-off. Ice cold air from the air conditioner blows into my face. The stewardess says there's nothing she can do about it. I put on my sweater and wait for the hell-machine to start. When this happens, it feels like everything's falling apart. Normally, I'd be breaking into panic right now. But I find myself in a strange state of indifference.

 

Arrival with elk and mars

That's what you do look like after 30 hours on the run
That's what you do look like after 30 hours on the run

Monday, 10.40pm: The whole plane vibrates and trembles. Outside are darkness and storm. I put my head on the folding table in front of me, put on my headphones and close my eyes. "If it's over now, then it's over," I think like in a fever dream. That's odd. But true.

 

Monday, 11.23pm: We land. Sort of. Half-crashed. I have to smile. My head's full of cotton wool, my heart's racing, and I'm hot. I feel like I smell like five days of rock festival. I leave the plane like the Queen, sway through the arrivals hall and walk down the stairs. Then I see Paladin. With his long grey hair and his hat. I have a feeling none of this is real. We fall into each other's arms and I am about to cry, laugh and collapse at the same time. I've waited for this for so long!

 

Tuesday, 1:34am in Cody // 9:34am in Germany: After a final two-hour drive from Billings to Cody through the absolute darkness of Montana and Wyoming I stand in Paladins Apartment. There's a picture of a bison on the wall in the bathroom. On the way we saw Mars in the night sky and elk in the spotlight. Never in my life have I been so dead before. Never in my life have I done anything so worth being dead for. I almost stick my toothbrush into my left eye and fall into bed. Let the adventure begin!

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