MVW Travels: Day 01, Phoenix and Toronto

Dateline: Toronto, Canada—28 Feb. 2017

One of our great philosophers once said, “A journey of a thousand miles starts will a single body scan.”1

Today was an air-travel day. I started out on a train and will end it during my second flight of the day. I’m also playing fast-and-loose with a definition of what “today” is. Since I’ll do most of the “night’s” sleeping on the long-haul flight to Istanbul, that will end my “day.” Plus since I’m posting this from the airport wifi in Toronto, I want it done before leaving.

Phoenix Ground Transportation

My body scan happened at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport terminal four millimeter wave scanner this morning.

Before that I took the light rail to the airport, and used the Sky Train for the first time. The Sky Train is a two-car driverless tram that shuttles between the light rail station and the airport terminals. Overall I was impressed with how seamless the experience was.

Phoenix and the surrounding cities have made major upgrades to the public transportation system in the past few years and the Sky Train is one of them.

The light rail station nearest the airport is still quite far from the airport terminals. Before the Sky Train, the city relied on buses to connect the two. Now the light rail station has an escalator up to a walkway that crosses the road and continues on to the Sky Train station. Moving walkways shorten the walking time. Up one final escalator and the glass-walled, tube-shaped station sits mostly empty. The Sky Trains run on a five-minute schedule, so there’s no time for a crowd to gather. Also, Phoenix is still a car town and most people still prefer to drive and park rather than use the trains.

Sky Train station, Phoenix, Arizona.
Sky Train station, Phoenix, Arizona.
The Sky Train rail, heading into blue sky.
The Sky Train rail, heading into blue sky.
But turn the corner and there's a storm coming.
But turn the corner and there’s a storm coming.
Within 15 minutes of exiting the light rail, I was in the security line. At 10:00 AM there. was only one person in front of me and soon I was shoeless and irradiated. Once those indignities were complete I found my gate.

Phoenix Air Transportation

The previous flight's passengers, still waiting to board.
The previous flight’s passengers, still waiting to board.
And it was full of people. The flight before mine was delayed and very full. My flight was moved back ten minutes. They were overly optimistic as the plane was being used on a turn-around trip. I was standing in the jetway, still not on the plane, when the clock ticked past the new departure time. Rain storms came and went. I counted three while waiting.

This is one of the several rain squalls that passed over Sky Harbor while I was waiting on my flight.
This is one of the several rain squalls that passed over Sky Harbor while I was waiting on my flight.
Once on board, I found that I was in the smallest airline seat I’ve ever sat in. With my tailbone pressed up against the seat back, my knees were touching the the seat in front of me. I had to remove my boots in order to move my feet around. Once I found a position that was part twisted to one side, and a second part leaned against the window I settled in and listen to some music.

We had enough turbulence for me to expect see someone leaving the restroom with a handful of teeth. There was very little of the flight where the seat belt sign was off. Once we were past the Rockies, it was cloudy all the way to Toronto.

A rare bit of blue sky as we ascended above the clouds. It wouldn't last.
A rare bit of blue sky as we ascended above the clouds. It wouldn’t last.
We made good time, the captain mentioned there was strong tailwind for most of the flight.

Toronto Pearson Airport

The terminal we landed at seemed deserted, and even most of the lights were off. I followed the arrows towards the E gates, and had to check in with the Canadian border guards. The agent was pleasant and stamped my passport as a souvenir even though it wasn’t strictly required. I just renewed it, and I’d like to collect as many stamps as I can since I paid for the extra pages. I have no idea when I might get back to Toronto.

Toronto Pearson International Airport, E Terminal.
Toronto Pearson International Airport, E Terminal.
Currently (9:00 PM, local time) I’m sitting at a cafe near the gate with two hours before the red-eye flight. I found a little bar/cafe around the corner and got a quick snack of boiled eggs and cheese that I washed down with an orange juice. The US dollar is strong right now, on exchange rate sign I saw showed 1.43 CAD to USD. This shaved $2 off my meal.

Earlier the wifi was overloaded, as there was a crowd waiting on a Paris bound flight. Once that cleared out I was able to FaceTime with family to get them an update.

MVW Update

The iPad Mini and folding keyboard fit just fine on the world’s smallest airline tray table and let me get a head start on this article. So far all of the images have been taken with my DSLR or the iPad itself. I’ve resized and watermarked them with a workflow script I came up with. I did hit one gotcha, where my watermark file wasn’t downloaded from iCloud. I had to wait until Toronto to grab the file. Then processing the images was just one click from the share sheet.

The bags didn’t get a second look, but I made sure they were under the carry on size requirement. I brought one filled fountain pen, and I kept it upright during the flight and it didn’t leak. I even used it for the customs form. Surprisingly, Canada uses decent paper and the ink didn’t feather. It’s the little things that seem to stand out the most.

What’s next?

So far I’ve been traveling for around nine hours, and still have quite a bit to go. Here’s hoping can sleep over the Atlantic. The next update will be during my seven hour layover in Istanbul. Stay tuned!


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  1. Maybe not, but the original seems lost to history.