There's nothing much to say about that day. I was supposed to leave to San Francisco on a 06:20 flight from Dulles. Upon arrival, I was greeted by huge queues and a horrible mess with check-in counters. After spending 40 minutes in a queue, I was told that my flight (and, in fact, the next one to SF) were canceled and I was to go to a queue ironically enough labeled "additional services". After spending almost an hour on that queue I was told that there was absolutely no way I was going to SF that day. There were waiting lists, but nothing was certain. After making various loud noises and pointing out that I was absolutely not spending another day in Washington the man behind the counter looked closer and went "oh". Turned out, that as my flight was originally going to be a business class one, somebody had already re-booked me to SF. Through Chicago. On a flight that was leaving in the afternoon Having no alternatives, I took the chance and spent next 9 hours watching movies and working. Finally at the gate, I was upgraded to first class (a first time for me) without any explanation. Unfortunately the flight only takes less than two hours and the plane was a battered old 767 so no bar, no massage, no flat-folding seats.
Landing in Chicago is truly magnificent: You can see the whole town with a tiny island of skyscrapers on one end and the rest is just a featureless checker board of suburbs as far as the eye can see. Scary. If you step out of the plane, you immediately sense the difference from the Dulles airport. Where the latter is a fairly dark, gloomy and joyless place the former surprises with light, room and happy people. The biggest difference, though, is food. In Dulles you can't find anything better to eat than hamburgers and sweet mass-produced pastry. In Chicago, there is a outlet selling apples, bananas, yogurt and such after every 50 meters. Very nice. After spending three more hours in that relative weight-watchers paradise, I was finally off to San Francisco where we landed 4 hours later. Then, after waiting for my bag for an hour (some idiot had put a set of random bags aside in a far corner behind the carousel) I rented a car, drove to the hotel and immediately fell asleep. From hotel to hotel, the total trip duration was 22 hours. Usually, it takes roughly 19-20 hours from Tallinn to SF via Frankfurt!
Ah, car rental. Decided to choose Hertz over Avis this time as the Avis GPS thing (its sort of a mobile phone with GPS inside that talks to a server that calculates routes) really sucks whereas Hertz Neverlost thing is a decent big-screen Magellan unit that actually works and has a usable interface. Turned out that besides this, Hertz has a very nice selection of cars, too. In the parking lot, there was a nice row of Z350s, a Corvette, some Volvo S80s and nice Caddies. Next time I'm here I'll pay the difference and take a 350. Wheeee! Not this time, though. Have to do with a Mazda 6 which is a huge improvement over the Jeep monstrosity we drove last time. It has decent suspension that actually stops wobbling after you leave the steering alone (not so the Focus I once drove) and a smooth 6-speed auto (as opposed to hideous 4-speeders American cars usually get). The steering is strangely over-amplified and feels very artificial. Could that be a US-thing as Brits have gave Mazda6 very high grades for the whole drivetrain.
One more thing I have to get off my chest. It's the Dulles airport. I just can't figure it out. The thing is that you travel between planes and the terminal and between terminals using very strange buses that are short, wide and can be risen up to the second floor level. So to go to terminal C, you step into this thing, it is lowered to ground level, driven around the airport and then risen up. Didn't it ever occur to the designers of this thing that if they built the whole terminal on _ground_ level, they could make do with standard buses and not these undoubtedly expensive custom developments?