And so this journey comes to an end. We wake up and drive through a hazy Jordanian morning, two hours to Aqaba. The guide stops the bus at a panoramic view and we struggle to see the shredded landscape of Petra through the fog, smoke and dust. Were it clear, we would see one of the most spectacular sandstone canyon systems anywhere. Another Colorado Plateau look alike! In spite of the haze, I am pleased.
We've seen a lot of bad air on this trip. With the exception of South Africa, all of our destinations were shrouded in haze, smoke, dust and just plain old bad air. The next time someone complains to me about "government regulations" regarding clean air, I am gong to remind them what the alternative is. Thank goodness for the air we breathe in the USA and the laws and rules that have turned our skies into inspirational messages to us, visible each day.
Our jet circles around to the south so as not to prickle Israeli sensitivities about jets originating in Arabian nations. They certainly have reason to feel prickly as their neighbors have been petulant about their return. But they said yes when offered a chance to settle in their ancestral homeland, in spite of the fact that the others had stolen it from them fair and square and were now ensconced there with their own families. I wonder if some them now wish they had said 'thanks but no thanks' to the offer, and had asked for a piece of Jordan instead (or maybe Maryland?). It's amazing what some humans will do to soothe ancient roots, that serve at the same time to also incite present terror.
And then I recall the lion kill we observed in South Africa. I had just given my second lecture the day before, "Africa, The Cradle of Human Evolution", and visions of early humans descending from the trees onto grassy plains rife with lions and leopards filled my head. Climate change had prompted that descent from the trees and somehow, enough of us survived the lions but not the "scare". I wondered if we still fight wars in the 21st century because of some ancient fear that a lion lurks behind every clump of grass? Probably.
We got a few nice views of snow-covered Macedonia and the town of Graz in Austria. And then a cloud covered all of the rest of Europe. Over Bavaria, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Amsterdam. As we descended into London, the cloud still stretched to the western horizon towards Ireland and who knows how much farther (Omaha?). Europe sure does clouds!
These are the thoughts that go through my mind in the early AM hours in London - when I should be sleeping to prepare for a 21-hour, coach class, flight marathon. I'll be trashed when I get home but my sweetie will be there waiting for me in Phoenix. I have missed her so much, so it is very appropriate for this trip to come to an end.
The pilots of our 757 gave us the final statistics for the trip. In all, we flew 41 hours and 41 minutes on our private jet and traveled 19,936 miles (statute). With the 11,000 miles I racked up on commercial flights, I traveled 31,000 miles in the air - one and one-quarter times around the globe! Amazing. Our jet consumed 48,776 gallons of jet fuel in 24 days, making for an average of 2.5 miles per gallon. Not too bad considering our heaviest take-off weight was 235,430 lbs. and there were 72 people on board. We used only 1.5 quarts of engine oil. In all of this travel, the jet's engineer replaced one air conditioning valve, while carrying 3,500 lbs. of spare parts. The jet and crew was fabulous!
We've seen amazing things, all too fast of course, but what a trip of this kind lacks in 'hours on the ground', is more than made up for with education and learning. It's been a seminar really. Each stop with knowledgeable guides sharing their expertise. Thank you one and all.
And thank you for reading this blog. After my "recovery" from flying home, I'll be exploring more of North America and the Southwest and you can check back here to see what I am up to and what there is to see on this wonderful planet.