About 20 hours, two planes and one helicopter into what will be a 36-hour day on the road with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, here's what goes through my mind as I try to dictate a story from a wind-whipped tarmac: Three cups of coffee and no bathroom in sight.
Rice travels with a stable of about a dozen reporters, who pay something like first-class rates to sit in the back of her government plane and ride in vans at the end of her motorcade as it zips through foreign capitals. It's a weird way to see the world.
Rice is one of the busiest diplomats in recent U.S. history, with more than 200,000 miles flown to 47 countries by the beginning of December.
She packs her schedule on the road, often visiting two, three, even four countries in a single day. Rice doesn't go in for sightseeing or shopping -- especially after she was hectored for stopping by a New York shoe store during the height of the Hurricane Katrina crisis.
For reporters who must write stories after the day's events are done, a week on the road with Rice often means three or four hours of sleep a night, and occasionally none at all.
There is coffee, but we've already reviewed the perils of that.
If the first rule of this job is use a bathroom whenever you can (because you never know how long it'll be until the next one), the second rule is: Be prepared.
That means carrying a lot of gear, including a laptop, phone and Internet cables, converter plugs for different international electrical systems and one or more international cell phones. Sometimes, as in Iraq, I also carry a bulky satellite phone.
This trip began with a 5 a.m. "bag call" outside the State Department -- the last time I saw my luggage or a clean shirt for almost two days -- and an all-day flight from Washington across the Atlantic and on to Iraq. A week later we'd gone around the world, with a stop in South Korea and a flight home across the Pacific.