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Wheels Up!

Ok, so 2100Z or 0000 Local time seems like a good place to start Saturday on the plane ride. Had a salmon dinner with potato cubes and cran-apple juice. I'd forgotten how good salmon tastes, and this was good despite being airline food. It basically disappeared, even though I wasn't hungry...but the food was really good.

Landed at Budapest around 0120Z, but like the trip over, we couldn't deplane. There's snow on the ground, but in the dim light it looks like sand and rock. Airborne again an hour later. Eyelids growing heavy. Arrived at Frankfurt an hour after that. The terminal was so generic you'd never know you were outside the States. Only German product (got some Eiswein) betrayed the location. Re-boarded around 0600Z. Took off a little later, with the same sunrise following us for hours. Breakfast was a crepe with cherry compote.

Watched the movie "Taxi" and "Elf" while chowing down on an assortment of snacks. Unfortunately, nothing I did could warm up my feet. They feel like they're on the verge of frost bite. We blocked some of the vents with blankets and the flight engineer is working on the problem. Watched "Shark Tale," again. I can feel my hands and toes again. We touched down at BWI around 9:30 Eastern. It took around 19 hours to get back to the US.

Picked up our bags, went through customs, checked in for our domestic legs. One of our group got picked out for being a criminal because he had a very common name. Did the whole "shoes through the X-ray" pat down search thing. Then got lunch around 11. Taco Bell. Oh, so good. I know, that sounds weird, but it's amazing what you miss when you're away. I was eating scraps with a fork. Probably could have eaten more (3 supremes and a bean burrito) but I'm pacing myself. I haven't shaved in days and probably look pretty rough.

On the plane around 11:30. Because of tight quarters, our carry-on bags were checked too. Most people had books, I had an over-pressurized minibag of pretzels that I turned into a sumo wrestler with a stick of jucy fruit (the foil became its loincloth).

Arrived at Memphis around 1:30 CT, on the plane to Fort Walton Beach at 2:25 CT. On the ground at 3:45pm, after enduring an hour-long conversation behind me involving a very positive woman who kept talking about absolutely nothing. Even Seinfeld would have been like "What is this?"

Met Tim and Gina at the baggage claim where they gave me back the keys to my car and house. I was on my way home around 4pm...The hardest part was remembering how to drive my car. When I got home, it looked like I had never left, but cleaner. Tim must have videotaped my house and put everything back accordingly. You really couldn't tell they'd been living there since Ivan wrecked their house.

Went to base to get my cell phone from the office. My base pass was expired, but since it's the weekend I was let on. Phone was still fully charged, since I'd pulled the battery before I left. Stopped at Jin-Jin for dinner. As soon as I walked in, the owner said "Long time, no see!" which was cool (but probably just a great marketing trick). General Tso's chicken never tasted so good. It was even better because they gave me the order immediately after I placed it--someone else had phoned in but wasn't there yet. Same food, but mine was still hot.

Went home and sorted some mail (nearly a foot thick, yet only one personal letter that contained a recent photo and "Merry Christmas." Went to sleep. Journey's over.

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