On our final night in New Zealand, we received a frustrating phone call from the airline. The flight we had booked from Auckland to Melbourne would not, as originally scheduled, be non-stop. Instead, we were informed, there would be a "brief" stopover on the moon.
We were not looking forward to this detour; the moon was over 200,000 miles out of our way, and we had a schedule to keep. We shopped around for alternate carriers, but the only available direct flight would have required us to sit in one of those stupid exit rows where the seats don't recline. So we bought a couple magazines and tried to make the best of things.
Now, you'd think that on a 193-hour flight, there would be some kind of a hot meal, but no, all they had were pretzels and almond biscotti. At least we weren't bored, though; the in-flight movie was Star Trek I through IX and the first four seasons of Dallas.
Upon landing, we were asked to remain in our seats while the plane refueled. 15 minutes became 30, 30 became 45, and everyone started getting antsy. Eventually the captain came on and announced that, due to a storm system over the Sea of Tranquility (oh, the irony), we weren't going anywhere until further notice.
Long story short, the flight was canceled and we were all bumped to one the following afternoon. We tried to get them to put us up at the Holiday Inn in Mare Imbrium — which I hear has a nice business center — but they were only willing to spring for the Vallis Tycho Best Western. We arrived there before 10:00 p.m., but were nonetheless exhausted due to the 732-hour time difference.
The next morning we went for a hike at Jackie Gleason Interplanetary Park. The New York Times travel section did a piece on it just a few weeks ago, so we were worried that it would be packed with a million tourists, but it was actually pretty bucolic.
We walked amongst the craters, admired the view down from the rims, and tried — in vain — to ignore all the golf balls strewn about the countryside. (Thanks a lot, Alan Freaking Shepard.)
There were signs at the edge of the park warning us to stay away, as the moon was in a waning phase, but we snuck under the ropes and got this fantastic picture of a chunk breaking off as the moon transitioned from half full to a quarter full.
Plan your lunar visit to coincide with a full moon, so that the entire surface is available. Beware discount travel agents who lure you with seemingly too-good-to-true moon vacation deals — check your phases to make sure you're not showing up during a new moon. There won't even be a place to land!
Contrary to popular belief, the moon is not in fact made of green cheese. The cheese that the moon's made out of actually comes in all colors and varieties; it only turns green after it's been sitting around for a while.
In the afternoon we visited the Curd Lode, one of the largest cheese mines on the face of the moon and principal supplier to Kraft Foods and Domino's Pizza. Worked for the last 50 years, the tunnels if laid end-to-end would stretch all the way to the Earth. It's considered by many to be one of the seven wonders of the moon.
We saw men with axes and shovels chipping away at the raw lunar rock, filling up carts of cheese ore, and wheeling them to the nearby refinery. From there, the ore gets smelted, processed, and pressed into rounds.
The gift shop had a few varieties of classic green for sale, but I would not eat green moon-mined cheese — so do not even ask me, please. I would not eat it on the moon, I would not eat it with a spoon.
We did buy some of the delicious local jams, though. They're still made using traditional lunar recipes.
And that was pretty much it. Sorry for the relative lack of pictures this time; we would have taken more but our camera battery was low and we didn't have the right adapter to plug in the charger.
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