Go Great Circle

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Go Great Circle: Part 1

GGC: Kirk Jordan

What is it and why?

Over the last weeks or year, you may have heard me whisper of my forthcoming trip, something we call “The Great Circle.”  Then I blush with pleasure.

Truth is, I have tried not to talk of it too much, cause every time I do I feel like I am boasting, and then I remember the Lords’ specific injunction about declaring our future with the certainty that we control it.

            Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.
(James 4:13-17 ESV)

So… with that stern warning in mind, I want to tell you what is on my plate (Lord willing) and how such a idea has come about.

On December 3rd. I intend to leave Conway Arkansas, with my daughter Kayla in tow, fly to New York City, meet up with my sister-in-law Carlin and her husband Ray/Reza (hereafter, sister and brother) then, over the course of the next month circumnavigate the globe.  From there we will hit seven major cities around the world, and return to the USA one month later.   We plan stops in Milan, Istanbul, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Melbourne,  and Auckland.  (Followed by a stateside visit with my first Dad in Lincoln, Oregon.)

The idea is that of my Father-in-Law, Charles McGinn, also known as Dad, or McDad.

The idea behind the Great circle has been percolating in McDad’s brain for some years; He has personally traveled much of the globe, some for pleasure, and some while in service of the USA, donning the uniform of Air Force pilot.

As is, McDad is not new to promoting travel.   In the late seventies he loaded up his two oldest kids on Greyhound bus, and sent them on a transcontinental tour of the lower 48 states, spanning a summer. He arranged that they would set foot in each state, and stay with families as they traveled.   He created a letter, then sent it by way of churches or civic groups until he found people who would pick up the pair, show them around for a day, then put them back on the bus the next day.  I am not sure just how many families the two stayed with, but it was a massive undertaking in universe devoid of email, mobile phones, or texting.

As providence would have it, that trip had no small effect on the two travelers.  They gained confidence in meeting and engaging with strangers.  They learned their geography.  And  they learned the power of an idea.  Both are now leaders in their certain realms.
The idea that people should travel, learn their maps, and meet their neighbors has never left the thinking of Charles McGinn.  He has been promoting  the idea of the Great Circle for a decade at least.   It just took till now, till a group of us were ready to take him up on his dream.   Funny.  His dream.  His bucks.  But he is not going.  Rather he is fulfilling one of his dreams by working a great good in our lives.  We had not been prone to take him up on his generosity.  But now, dad is experiencing some health issues.  We figured now would be the time to take the trip when he could fully enjoy the fruit of our travel – And the DVD that he has commissioned of our trip.

So what exactly is a Great Circle?

A great circle is any trip around the globe in which you circle the whole thing at its greatest width, and make stops along the way.   The path of travel itself should truly approximate a circle.  Or as Dad says:  “This is the Great Circle, not the Great Zig Zag.” The circle itself cannot be shorter than the circumference of the Earth.  That means the trip must at minimum of  24,901 miles or 40,075 km.  As it is, the minimum distance really is an impossibility… Unless you could simply skim the globe at surface level, without thought of land, sea, city or obstacle of any kind.  On the other hand, the definition preludes the idea that you could just circle the globe just staying in one hemisphere.  If you circle takes you thirty degrees north on one side of the globe, it should take you thirty degrees south on the other.

There are literally are hundreds or thousands of potential great circle trips.  Nothing says you couldn’t wrap your trip over the poles, going from pole to pole.  On the other hand, real life ports and stopping places make for some real challenges in creating a true “Great Circle” trip.

As is, our own great circle is maybe not as circlish as it could be.  We spent months trying to come up with a route that would fit into our time framework and  meet McDad’s criteria… and be affordable.  One of the reasons that Dad promoted the Great Circle as a circle is that, ostensibly, it should be cheaper to travel around the globe if the distance around the globe itself is shorter.  And you can’t get any shorter (for a true around the world trip, than a circle.)

But reality doesn’t always work that way.  We found pretty quick in the course of planning, that when it comes to using planes, it is much cheaper and faster to fly from major city to major city than it is to fly from shortest distance to shortest distance.  We found that some cities serve as hubs, and even should you wish to avoid them, you go to them, while other cities, even major cities take some effort.   For example.  Our original plan was to fly to Jakarta.  But all our lower priced flights out of Jakarta flew us back to Singapore before commencing East.  Found out the same about Mexico.  Seems like if you want to go to Mexico from the south Pacific, you have to go to Los Angles first. Beyond that, the Pacific Ocean is big and pretty landless.   We had the options of visiting some small islands, but in the end, the cost and time worked against it.   So, the shape of our travel is more like that bent Hula Hoop.  Finally, our schedules required some shortcuts to get us back to work on time.

So.  If you want.  Grab a rubber band.  Stretch it around the globe.  Check out our circle.  It’s a little wonky.  But Great.

Next time:  Why?

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