Tomato Travel Report
As travel writers it’s painful for us to report that nearly two years have passed since our last significant trip. Like many folks, we had lots of cancelled plans—to Greece, Italy, and a gardener’s cottage in the UK…sigh. A benign but real impact of the global pandemic for travel writers: no travel, no writing.
So, when at last we headed cross-country we decided to write about it. Fully vaccinated, masked up, and prepared to dodge wildfire smoke, we took off to visit family in California and Colorado. Not without some trepidation, we flew virtually incident free. No flight cancellations, no passengers with air rage issues, and plenty of rental cars at the airports.
When it was time to fly back to the East Coast, our daughter in Denver handed us a small container of homegrown veg from her garden. Tomatoes (appropriately enough) to squeeze into our luggage. At that moment we decided to delegate this brief travel report to one lucky tomato with a seat in first class. (Isn’t that where all tomatoes wish to fly?)
With a wink and a grin, we hope you enjoy this report…
A clean tomato is a ready-for-travel tomato. And the shower at the excellent Westin hotel right inside Denver Airport was just the thing to prepare for crowded check-in counters and TSA lines.
And sure enough, the Denver airport was moderately crowded. Luckily the check-in and security lines moved adequately. I noticed more than a few unseasoned tomato travelers stumbling through the airport, clearly out of practice. For some, the basics of air travel seemed too difficult to manage. But honestly, even a simple little tomato knows a full water bottle cannot go through the TSA checkpoint!
At Denver airport you cannot walk to your terminal. So, a ride on the airport shuttle train is obligatory. Although most everyone was masked, crowded airports leave no room for successful social distancing. I tried to avoid busy corridors and waiting areas with varying success.
One of the supposed perks of a first class ticket is priority boarding. But this lucky first class tomato decided to board last. Why? Fewer fellow passengers filing past you and a tiny bit less potential disease exposure. That was my theory.
One distinct advantage of flying in the front cabin was the legroom on my first flight segment in an updated 757. Granted, tomatoes require minimal legroom. Okay, zero legroom to be honest. But the flight from Denver to Chicago was full, so the extra space was appreciated.
No seatback entertainment system on this flight, even in first class. Instead, I enjoyed simply looking out the window. It’s always a thrill to gaze down at the irrigated farmland while flying high above the central US and wonder, “Are any of my relatives growing down there?”
After a rough year of cutbacks and limitations, some airlines have only recently restored in-flight meal service in first class. It was time for lunch on our flight. What’s on the menu? Oh noooooo!
If you can overlook—gulp—the tomato murder, our meal was standard, pre-pandemic, domestic first class airline fare. (A bit like extra salty school cafeteria meals.) Also, it was mildly disconcerting to see fellow passengers in close proximity eagerly removing their masks to eat and drink on the plane.
Chicago’s O’Hare airport is legendary. Before COVID-19, it was one of the nation’s busiest airports. As we navigated from our arrival gate to our next flight, we noted the crowds in O’Hare had returned. We had to hustle to catch our short-haul regional connection.
Ah, the small regional jet. We boarded the weary old single-class Canadian Regional flight and tried hard not to think about germs. Forget food service…or any cabin service. And forget legroom. I risked becoming a crushed tomato on this flight!
After two long and cramped hours, we landed. And as you can see, my friends who traveled baggage class didn’t get lost or damaged. But I definitely had more fun!
Final score for this trip? No cancellations, no major delays, no air rage, no mask protests. Minimal COVID anxiety. Plenty of crowds, forgettable food, and some clueless fellow travelers.
Sadly, it was almost like flying before the pandemic. But with masks, of course.
Your Traveling Tomato Reporter