Route 66 - Chicago to LA

Status
Not open for further replies.

clipped_wings

Established Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2016
Posts
1,158
I probably say this about every trip. "It's a dream holiday".
But this really is The Big One. We've been planning to drive the entire Route 66 - from Chicago all the way to the Santa Monica Pier in California for as long as I can remember. And all those years of research by my intrepid husband (we shall call him Mr Clipped) was about to pay off. He had amassed a comprehensive library of intel that would provide us with everything we needed to make this trip truly special.

It was easy. I was to arrange the flights and Mr Clipped took care of everything else. Sounded like a pretty good deal to me. So I booked two return Premium Saver fares SYD-LAX for $5500 and waitlisted us for J upgrades. We already had a healthy points balance. But it would take a decent hit, with 180,000 required to foot both sectors. So, I promptly set about squirreling away every Velocity point I could muster - pooling the lot, along with my Status credits to his account. He was Gold when we booked, but this trip would elevate him to Platinum once more. I was excited. Our flight was secured 11 months out. And the J cabin was empty. The odds were excellent. "Beat THAT hubby", I told myself.

I haunted the Virgin website every day, sometimes 3 times a day. But no reward seats materialised. Slowly, I watched with dismay as each and every seat in the Business Class cabin slowly evaporated. The last ones faded into oblivion 3 days out. Precisely when we should have received a Golden Ticket.

I was shattered. My husband had given me one job. And I'd failed him. Two days before we were due to fly, I gave up and decided to print off the itinerary. I didn't mention it to Mr Clipped. I reasoned if I 'fessed up at the airport - at least he wouldn't cry in public. Then I hatched an evil plan: I'd let him buy another car wreck to play with and be spared a humiliating defeat. Then came another blow. I logged on to Expert Flyer to check our Row 16A/C seats - they had disappeared and now showed as being vacant. Whaaaaat? I blinked and refreshed the screen. Gone. I called the Velocity line to check. It was 4 minutes to 8pm. To my surprise, they answered on the second ring. I blurted out that our Premium seats had been reassigned and asked if they could help. "Why yes Ma'am, I believe I can. I am pleased to advise that you've been upgraded to Business Class".

Anyone here ever laughed and cried at the same time?

So, off to Sydney we go. A delightful transfer from the Central Coast via a loyal customer (who happens to be a limousine company), followed by one night's accommodation at the Rydges Hotel in Sydney Airport. This is a pretty new establishment and is perfectly located with walking distance to the departures terminal. Rooms are tight, but modern and very clean. I spent the whole night, gazing out over the tarmac whilst plane spotting. The king bed was new, but super soft and a little to meringue-like for our tastes. But the evening flew and before we knew it, we were checked in and making our way through Customs & Immigration.

It's a glorious day to fly!
IMG_2456.JPG
 

clipped_wings

Established Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2016
Posts
1,158
Ok, some of you may know that Mr Clipped is a cyborg. He has two brand new knees. And they are made of metal. We had anticipated that he would need to declare this as we passed through Security. What we didn't factor however, was a translation issue.

We approached the line where I was swiftly moved through the X-ray tube. Mr Clipped was wearing jeans. A huge mistake. He mentioned his knees, but they sent him through the basic metal detector. And obviously - he pinged. The Customs officers were telling him to remove his belt and shoes. They sent him through the X-ray again. He pinged again. He tried in vain to let the 2 Customs personnel know he had robot parts. But let's just say English wasn't their first language. They gestured to his lower body again. Mr Clipped thought they were asking him to drop duds and reveal his surgical zippers. Sooooo, in true Aussie spirit - he opened his jeans. Security freaked out and gestured him away from the conveyor - where he was, er - wanded up and down, across and back, then up and down again. I'm stuck at the conveyor with too many bags, jackets and miscellaneous stuff to carry, so all I could do was watch. It was like a car crash. You wanted to turn away, but just couldn't help but witness it. Hubby is trying to pull his jeans down. And they are trying to pull them up. Things were going downhill very fast.

Finally, they put him in the tube and confirmed his (hmmm) deadly cargo. Heckle and Jeckle - the bumbling Customs duo, triumphantly announced to Mr Clipped that he had artificial knees.

"Well, D'uh....."

The jeans were returned to their rightful position. The crowd was spared a lunar eclipse, courtesy of my man. And we were free to go on our way.

We have decided it would be best to wear shorts on the flight home.

Onwards and upwards. We navigated our way around the maze that is Duty Free and soon found ourselves bordering the warm embrace of the Etihad First/Business Class Lounge. Inside, we were greeted by a perky Virgin receptionist, who processed our entry and ushered us into a world of calm and cappuccinos for the next hour or so. We enjoyed plane spotting from the window front lounge chairs and the quiet ambience of Etihad's hospitality, which was broken only by some rather loud phone conversations from an ill-mannered guest. I'd heartily recommend this sanctuary for its discretion, compared to other Lounges we've experienced.


The view from the Etihad Lounge is worth the plane ticket itself:
IMG_2482.JPG

(Drum roll please):

Here is something you fellas never get to see. The Inner Sanctum of the Ladies bathroom. Surprise surprise. It's exactly like the blokes I'm sure.
IMG_2478.JPG

IMG_2479.JPG

Boarding was an hour late, due to the incoming VA2 flight being delayed. We didn't care, because at this point, we were both relaxed and excited. Isn't it funny how one emotion, like the anxious response to a delayed departure is dulled by another emotion, such as the endorphins released when a delightful waiter serves you a magnificent coffee?

IMG_2461.JPG
 
Last edited:

clipped_wings

Established Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2016
Posts
1,158
Boarding today was a very disciplined affair. We arrived at the departure gate well after it opened. We didn't bother sauntering up to the front of the line, it was moving fast enough to join the throng and break off to the left once we were on the aerobridge. Our seats were 9D/G in the second cabin. We could have gone through the second door, but it's really cool to wander through Business Class and take it all in. We gave each other a quick kiss and settled into our suites to soak up another amazing flight across the Pacific.

The Business Class cabin looks remarkably well maintained, given its lifespan of around 3 years. We have flown in the 777 front cabin once before, as well as the A330 to Hong Kong. But the rear cabin was a bit of a mystery to me, and I was glad we had the opportunity to experience it. Cabin crew were extremely attentive, albeit a little late with the introductions. But the rear cabin must also play host to the rest of the plane, as they all pass through on their way to both Premium and Economy seats. This is both a hindrance and a help. It's not conductive to the early offer of a welcome drink. But it's a humble reminder to appreciate your real estate when everyone moves past. And you just know they are wishing they are you right now.

Marcello was my host on this flight and he was an exceptional friend throughout the journey. He stopped by on many occasions and we nagged like a pair of giggly schoolgirls. The CSM was David, another friend we made from a previous J flight to the States. This was one of David's final flights to the USA. He was moving to the Asia legs and the SYD-LAX sector will feel his absence. He remembered us and actually picked up on conversations we had from 2016. What a dedicated representative of VA.

Takeoff was smooth and uneventful. The 777 is still my favourite plane. It's big and rumbly. I actually love those loud engines, it's a comforting reminder that they are still attached to the plane. I settled in to smash a movie before the lunch service. I managed to watch 3 films on this flight, which is a record in itself. The first one finished just as Marcello came to set the table for lunch. My post-takeoff Ayala champagne had worked it's magic and I was eager to savour the delicious degustation that awaited me.

First on the menu was the signature garlic bread that Virgin is renowned for. It doesn't disappoint and I gobble it down with gusto.

IMG_2499.JPG

Marcello then appeared with a simple, yet elegant plate of parmesan & rosemary cookies, served with giant green olives stuffed with almonds.

IMG_2495.JPG


Mr Clipped in 9D was worlds away from his undignified departure experience and was now enjoying himself thoroughly by moving his seat up. And down. And up, then down. I let him be, he had deserved some quality time as reverse grownup and I was pleased he had something mechanical to play with.

For starters, I chose a salad with roasted eggplant, chickpeas and labne. It was delicious and very satisfying. I partnered it with a glass of the Houghton 2018 Pinot Grigio under Marcello's recommendation.

IMG_2504.JPG

The main was a small plate of pumpkin and goats cheese ravioli, with capsicum, asparagus and parmesan. Served with the 2017 Mud House Sauvignon Blanc.

IMG_2510.JPG


Sadly, I am not a huge fan of white wine. Try as I may to look experienced, I actually found the wine to be too sweet for my taste and I'm pretty sure I poked my tongue out in disgust. I sheepishly asked for a scotch & dry. Marcello was very obliging and removed the wines, before returning with a generous glass of my favourite spirit.

The cheese platter is my choice of dessert - it ticks all the boxes. It has cheese, cheese and more cheese. What's not to love?

IMG_2515.JPG

After dinner, Mr Clipped and watched another movie, before meeting up at the in flight bar. Within a couple of hours we were warming a bar stool and ordering a nice can of beer. Our bartender was Darren and we were genuinely pleased to learn he was a Central Coast local who lived not far from us. There was plenty to discuss about issues that mattered to all of us so the conversation flowed as fast as the beer. Before too long, we were joined by a couple of young blokes on their annual overseas sabbatical. Tim and Dan proved to be energetic and charismatic men who entertained us with stories of their travels across America. Laughter and comical anecdotes dominated the evening as more passengers permeated the bar. We managed to churn through numerous cans of Carlton Blonde beer, one bottle of Talisker Scotch, 3 cabin crew and 6 hours as we cruised across the Pacific. I cannot believe how the time flew. Blame it on the altitude. Or blame the Scotch. I sure felt dopey when I fell into bed a whole 4 hours out from landing. I literally had a 2 hour doze before they woke us for breakfast. My head ached and my breath smelled like formaldehyde. But a hearty morning meal of eggs/bacon/hash browns and mushrooms hit the spot and I bounced back like the trouper I was.
 

ausfox

Member
Joined
Dec 20, 2012
Posts
344
Excellent work CL. We overnighted in Williams,the most Western town on 66. Stupidly we walked into town from our hotel which apparently attracted them attention of the local police. They drove past and cased us 4 times in the space of about 1k. A kitch but fun town. Please continue you TR and safe travels.
 

clipped_wings

Established Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2016
Posts
1,158
We descended into LA and softly bounced on a cushion of air to a graceful landing on the pale grey runway. The sun was persisting from a hazy horizon as we touched down 25 minutes late, which was a pretty good feat considering our late departure from Sydney.

IMG_6727.JPG

Due to the current state of development at LAX, our plane was instructed to taxi far away from the terminal, so we were met with a small flotilla of buses that transported us across to TBIT. Once we alighted, we made a short walk to the Immigration Area. Which, today was mostly closed.

There had been a strike the day before and I'm pretty sure the closure of every single self-serve kiosk was a domino effect of that dispute. The line to Immigration was huge and it snaked all the way back and forth 9 times. Staff had set up temporary line guides, but the sheer crowd of 4-5 planeloads of passengers exceeded any measure they implemented. The area was swiftly consumed with people who had just eaten breakfast and were now seeking relief in the form of a bathroom break. The air was hot and humid - perfect conditions for anyone with a hint of a hangover. I felt nauseous. My only consolation was knowing Mr Clipped, Tim and Dan felt the same way.

After 90 minutes, staff decided that maybe 3 counters was not enough to serve over 1000 people and they finally opened the avenue of kiosks for passengers to check in. The line distilled in a matter of moments for people to pass though seamlessly. Our connecting flight to Salt Lake City was in 40 minutes, so we made a quick dash to Terminal 3 and the Delta SkyClub for a soda and some Panadol.

Now we've holidayed in America enough times to know our way around the western states. But Chicago is a different story. Never been, never seen. So getting domestic connecting flights that would correspond to our incoming VA1 was an exercise in patience and tenacity. Delta doesn't fly direct to Chicago apparently, so we had to settle for a short layover in Salt Lake City. The tired old B737-800 was in direct contrast to our beautiful VA B777. Even First Class seats didn't compensate. The interior was drab and dull - much like our cabin crew, who ignored most of the passengers throughout our short 1.5 hour flight.

The only good thing about this Delta flight was the view. Taken as we glided over towards Salt Lake City in Utah.

IMG_2534.JPG

Conversely, the 3 hour hop SLC-ORD on a CRJ-90 was exceptional. The First Class FA worked tirelessly to ensure we were looked after and she was an incredible host.

The plating may be immature and awkward. But our chicken salad was crunchy, fresh and delicious.

IMG_6728.JPG


We touched down at Chicago O'Hare at approximately 17:30, early thanks to a generous headwind. After all those hours in the air, we were finally ready to meet the Windy City. She greeted us with a glowing sunset in a dark blue sky. Her brilliant and blinding welcome mat made us scramble for our sunnies and regret leaving the good camera at home in Oz.

Rather than keep moving towards the CBD, we had decided to spend the first night close to the airport. The Crown Plaza made sense. We are IHG Platinum Elite and there is a convenient double bonus point incentive right now.

A short 5 minute transfer in an aging shuttle bus saw us entering Room 1142 at 7pm, within an hour of landing.

IMG_6743.JPG

And as always, the last 24 hours and 16,000km taps you on the shoulder. Your body automatically needs to power down. So we climbed into bed and slept until 8am the next morning.
 

beaglex

Junior Member
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Posts
24
Thank you CL, thoroughly enjoyed your report so far and really look forward to the main part - Route 66 Chicago to Santa Monica Pier (this is on my bucket list to do).
 

clipped_wings

Established Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2016
Posts
1,158
I am a smart traveller. I don't pack everything I need. That is because I like to shop. So when the new day dawned and the weather was predictably cold, I pleaded with hubby to take me shopping for a new jacket. My scam worked and I was soon the proud new owner of a delightfully snug faux suede number that is my new favourite accessory (besides Mr Clipped of course).

We checked out of the Crowne Plaza with no regret, except the fact that we stayed there. It is comfortable and convenient, but very dated. I noticed the demographic of patrons was more in the 50plus age bracket.

....................(Cue crickets audio)

Ok let's state the obvious: YOU'RE OVER FIFTY, CLIPPED WINGS..

People, I am well aware of how old I am. I just don't necessarily wish to cavort with old people like me all the time. The Golden Girls might love this place. In fact I am sure I saw their dopplegangers on our shuttle. But there is stiff competition from many newer, more upscale and hip joints nearby. Unlike the Crowne Plaza, they have no cracks filled with putty. Neither does their customers. Those words are going to bite me on the bum further into this report, because I've just seen my photos. And I am really old. Bummer.

Anyhoo, we picked up our chariot from Thrifty and made our way towards Chicago CBD. We got a Toyota 4Runner. Not the Jeep we had paid for. But it oozed street cred with a well worn black exterior, massive front grill and chunky 4x4 tyres.

We navigated through some really beautiful residential streets, lined with rows of brownstone terraces and graceful, mature trees. Some were already turning a deep shade of crimson. But it's early Fall and we'll probably miss the gorgeous display of Autumn foliage that Illinois is famous for.

IMG_6773.JPG IMG_2546.JPG IMG_2544.JPG IMG_2558.JPG IMG_2571.JPG IMG_2595.JPG

Chicago is a beautiful city. No doubt of that. It has been thoughtfully designed to allow maximum exposure to the sun and it was a pleasure to wander the streets each day we were there. We couldn't believe the concentration of a very obvious police presence. They were gathered in large numbers on every street corner, at every park, outside every major building. We wandered past the local courthouse and found a massive TV contingent and a very large mob of protesters. All was explained when we tried to enter a H&M clothing store and they were shutting doors in anticipation of the verdict of a very high profile murder case, involving a local policeman and a young black man. Most of the shops in the courthouse vicinity were closing as well.
Now, I know I said I was a smart traveller. However, I was oblivious to the potential for a riot - H&M is my favourite store and I was looking forward to an hour of retail therapy. But Mr Clipped gently took my arm and led me away.

We decided to make our way back to the hotel for a break as we didn't want to get caught up in something political. The shops would have to wait another day. My credit card breathed a sigh of relief and I'm sure my bank manager did too.

There was no riot. End of story.

Lots of walking, thousands of photos and breathtaking memories. Absolutely loved Chicago with it's funky bean chrome sculpture, quirky elevated trains and speakeasy bars. The people we met were warm and friendly. A highlight was dinner at Tutto Italiano Restaurant and Bar on our last night there. We enjoyed a priceless evening in an intimate converted rail car. The food was outstanding and the service was old fashioned class. My Pasta Primavera was the best I've ever tasted. If you're ever in this district, you absolutely must dine at this gem.

IMG_2651.JPG

Our 3 day stay in Chicago was courtesy of The Buckingham Hotel, which is located on the 40th floor of the CBOE building. It boasts a commanding view of Lake Michigan and towards the south. It's a hidden gem, very discreet and exclusive. You rise to the 39th floor and your room key provides access to a private dark golden elevator that ascends to the extra floor. The Hotel entry is subdued - it lies behind a single dark cobalt door that lacks any pretension or pomp. There is a total of 21 rooms and this makes it one of the most unusual places for people seeking something a little different.

IMG_2541.JPG

Rooms are expensive, but you are paying for uninterrupted views and total exclusion from mainstream hotel experiences.

I was sad to see that the decor and creatures comforts are a little tired for the money we paid. I would have expected real glasses and coffee cups with cutlery. Instead, there are the tacky Motel 6 style foam numbers and (ugh) powdered creamer.
My biggest disappointment was the toilet paper. America - I am looking at YOU here and I have 2 words to say: 3 ply.

After a whirlwind three days, it was time to farewell The Windy City. So we packed up and officially commenced our Route 66 journey at West Adams Street.

IMG_2626.JPG


The weather calmed as we made our way to the city outskirts. We were excited and scared for what the next 3 weeks held. But we had a tank full of fuel and enough pork rinds to feed a small town. I hope some of you can stay awake long enough to share our journey.

Santa Monica - HERE WE COME!

IMG_6942.JPG
 
Status
Not open for further replies.

Enhance your AFF viewing experience!

From just $6 we'll remove all advertisements so that you can enjoy a cleaner and uninterupted viewing experience.

And you'll be supporting us so that we can continue to provide this valuable resource :)


Sample AFF with no advertisements? More..
Top