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the beginning of the adventure

Written on: Saturday August 4th, 2007

A journal entry from: Best of the West

6:30 am and I have to get ready. Today is the day. I can't believe it, I'm finally going to America!
I try not to think of all the things that could go wrong (loose my luggage, miss my connection in Washington, not being admitted in the States - why did I cut my hair? I don't look at all like the picture in my passport! - and the classical one, a plane crash...). No, I'm going to focus on all the things I'm going to do and see and live!

My parents accompany me to the airport. To my utter amazement, my mother begins to cry, which she never does. It's quite flattering, but also strangely unsettling... and now I get teary eyes too!
Anyway, around noon, it's time to board the plane. I give a last hug to my parents and bravely make my way to No Man's Land. This is it! I don't feel sad for what I'm leaving behind, but  happy and excited for the things to come. I did it!

While I'm waiting for the boarding sign, I have a brief chat with a Dutch girl who studies in Leuven and is going to follow a summer course at UCLA, for 6 weeks.
She is lucky; she has an Economy Plus ticket. I on the other hand get to sit in the back with cramped leg-space. Still, it?s nice to "know" someone on the plane.

After some taxiing around the airport and the indispensable security guidelines, the engines start to roar. I try to sit back in my chair, relax and  go with the flow. It?s exceptionally hot in Brussels so the take-off is rather bumpy. I close my eyes but can?t resist to peek out of the window, over my neighbour. Oh my, we are already up so high!! I?m flying!

Around 4pm local time (8 hours of flight), we arrive in Washington, on the same moment as three other international flights. Long waiting lines for passport control (the people at passport control really must be payed to be this grumpy!), reclaim of luggage, customs. Crying children, cheaters who go ahead of the line, bumping, a quick goodbye to the Dutch girl and then? America, well, strictly speaking ?No Man?s Land America?, but the fast food joints (McDonald's! Wendy?s!) and Star bucks all look pretty American to me!!

I have about 20 minutes to get to my next flight, this one to San Francisco (yay, now in Economy Plus, at the window)! A storm is right ahead in our take-off path so we get delayed for almost an hour. We fly so close to the clouds, it feels like I can almost touch them. Big, white and fluffy. Amazing.

From the sky, America looks really geometrical. Straight roads, round oval somethings (pools, lakes, fields, ??). Gradually, the landscape becomes more dry. Am I now flying over things I will see up close and personal in a couple of days from now? Perhaps...

When we enter the San Francisco-area, I?m astonished by two things.
First, it?s only about 8h30 pm and it?s already getting seriously dark! Then I remember San Francisco lies a lot closer to the Equator than Belgium? Damn, I had hoped/expected to enter the city by light (seems more ?safe?), and that means that tomorrow, I will have to get back to my hotel rather early (according to several guides I bought, the location of my hotel isn?t the safest in the city, especially after dark..).
Secondly, are my eyes deceiving me? The sea seems to crash into the land like a waterfall, which is quite impossible of course, as my brain keeps reminding me. But look, big dark somethings are crashing onto the land. And then I get it. This must be the infamous San Francisco mist. No understatement here!

After a very smooth landing, gliding over the water (I could see the reflection of the plane on the water, almost magical!) and a journey of about 20 hours, I?m finally where I have to be. San Francisco is the starting point of the Footloose trek I will join, ?Best of the West?, which will depart the day after tomorrow.
Now I just need to get to the hotel?

After some time looking around (SFO is rather deserted at 9pm), I find a Shuttle service which will take me for $18 to my hotel. There?s another couple with me, visiting San Francisco for some days. Nice, conversational people.

By 10 pm, I arrive at the hotel. My tiredness is starting to kick in. I check in and go up to ?my" room? (for the next 2 days, anyway). There I meet my roommate for the night, an Italian lady of about 50. She is already a couple of days in San Fran, and unfortunately, got her mobile phone nicked. Tomorrow, she will depart with another Footloose-tour (Western Contrasts).

A quick shower and I?m ready for bed. But tired or not, when you have someone in your room who snores really loudly, you just can?t fall asleep. I toss and turn, but alas! Grumblingly, I unpack a sleeping pill (my mum, who herself has camped before and did get some first hand experience in the "snoring" matter, had given me these "just in case") and after a while, I finally manage to get some rest.

It?s hard to imagine but I?m here, in a hotel room, at the other end of the world!