Friday, February 22, 2013

Bucket trip – Day One (well – sorta!)

Don’t expect a day-by-day accounting; I may be having so much fun that I’ll forget to blog. I’m not sure where to start, but there was some other guy from Swansea who once wrote: “To begin at the beginning. I was moonless . . . “.  That, folks, is where the similarity ends!

Wednesday February 20th. 1:00 pm CST

I am at home in St Louis, fixing lunch and listening to the weather forecast for Thursday 21st – the date on which I am scheduled to begin this 6-week ‘Bucket-List Trip’ to the UK. I hear – ‘SEVERE  weather warning! At least 6” of snow, sleet, freezing rain’. Stop already! I think. This is St. Louis – Our airport, Lambert Field, is going to have problems and even if I can get out of there, I may have problems getting to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport – and beyond. Panic!  What if I miss the 45-minute connection; what if I can’t even get to Lambert Field - if it is even open? My flight is for 4:00 pm tomorrow. Quick call to American Airlines: “Don’t s’pose there’s any chance I can change this ticket to get out today is there?”   

An hour or so (a few phone calls) later, I’m on my way to the airport – I got my ticketing switched to a 5:45 pm flight today – a full day ahead of this pending storm! Yeehah! Panic over! Oh!  Better call my brother in the UK – I’ll need him to pick me up a day earlier than he was expecting me.

OK – on board the plane to Chicago now, “Our flying time to Chicago today will be a short 45 minutes”, the captain announces. Thank God for that I think – I just HATE those LONG 45 minute flights - the SHORT 45-minute ones are so much better!  A quick into trip to McDonald’s at O’Hare and I’m set for the wait until my 9:30 pm departure for Heathrow.

An hour into the flight and here comes a nice, ‘picture-perfect’ meal – in a 3” x 5” box: beef, mashed potato, carrots, broccoli, squash, salad, cheese wedge, crackers, roll, brownie and coffee. A meal fit for a king, but the only ‘royalty’ onboard is me! Lights out, movie on; UK, here I come! No tail wind tonight, so ETA is 20 minutes later than scheduled.

Arrive at Heathrow about 11:50 am – just about as the snow starts to hit St. Louis (it is 5:50 am there and without my flight change, I’d be panicking as there’d be ½ a foot of snow accumulation yet to come). Through customs and immigration, no problem – British passport, no packets of white powder in my bags, easy-peasy! Then out to the Central Coach Station to get the coach to Woking where my brother was to pick me up.  Of course, he knew I was arriving a day early in the UK, but not which of the ‘every-half-hour’ coaches I’d be on. No problem, we’d discussed that I’d text him as soon as I knew which one I’d be on; good planning is a must, you see.  Well, not all plans go ‘right’ – as I discovered when I pulled out my well-charged cell phone (I think you call them ‘mobiles’ in the UK) – I see that horrifying message in the top left corner – ‘No service’! Bugger me; what now?  Fortunately, the nice lady who was directing people onto the correct coaches, took me back to her desk and allowed me to use her desk-phone to call my bro’.

‘Long story, short’ – if not too late already – I’m in his house an hour later, drinking a very-welcome Carlsberg lager. A little later – about 4 pm in St Louis - I emailed my likely-snowed-in family in St Louis to say ‘Got here fine – my blydi cell-phone won’t work; find out why. How much snow have you got yet?  Talk later’.

What a day!  Two days, I guess. It started about 7 pm (UK-time) Wednesday when I was rushing my lunch while talking to American Airlines (I know – it is rude to talk with your mouth full), and ended when I hit the sack about 11:30 pm (UK) after getting an email telling me ‘We’ve had 6” of snow so far (with attached photo of grandson number 9 sledding); more on the way; no idea why your cell won’t work! Have fun!

Then, as that other Swansea man said – in another story – “Then, I turned out the light and slept”.

To be continued



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