Monday, July 14, 2008

Flight Home and Travel Epilogue

April 30th - Flight Home

I've never been a fan of mornings, and so being up at 4 AM was no exception. We wanted to ensure that we would be sleeping on the flight, so tried to stay up as late as possible the preceding night. We ate a bit of breakfast, made some sandwiches for the flight, did a lot of last minute things about the flat, and by a little after 5 AM, we were off walking to Tower Hill.

When they talk about luggage being under your control, I have never understood that statement more as I was dragging two bags along. My green suitcase had a bum wheel, and the other bag was a little shorter than the suitcase, so my arms and back were getting tugged about. Plus, with a backpack on, I was fairly weighed down. But all we needed to do was get to the train station, and then we had a long ride out to Heathrow.

A cab watched us tinker with our bags, and was hoping for an early morning fare, but we passed it by, and I made a vow that we would get our bags to Tower Hill no matter what. After a few minutes walk and some moments of profanity, we finally got to our Tube stop and were dragging our bags below. As with our trip into town, we'd switch at Hammersmith to the Picadilly line to then get us to the airport. The train wasn't terribly crowded, and so we were able to find seats relatively easily. Once we got to Hammersmith, we switched trains and finding seats was a bit more difficult as it was part of the commute time and there were lots of travelers on the train. We found a spot and stood near our bags, and off we went. I was trying not to fall on my ass but did have a pretty good wobble after we left a station as I unlocked my legs for a second.

We pulled into Heathrow about two hours from leaving the flat, and we immediately grabbed our bags and headed up to check in. Seriously, while I enjoyed traveling, I was really not going to miss any airports for a bit. We found the American check in and waited in line for about 45 minutes as we queued about. Lots of people were flying today, and so we waited patiently for our turn. We finally got to a person who chatted with us a bit about the trip, confirmed our flights to Dallas then Portland, and then suddenly looked at the scale when my green bag was on it and said, "Your bag is too heavy." Eeek, this wasn't something I'd planned for, even with my bag running near the top allowable weight since I left Portland. She gave me an option to find some stuff in the green bag and move it to my backpack, so I'm feverishly grabbing stuff and putting it on the scale while girl and her chatted. We finally reached the right weight, and so I loaded the things into the other wheeled bag, and we wandered to the gate.

A bit of lunch time eating sandwiches, and getting some water and juice in the terminal, we sat about and waited for our flight and entertained ourselves with the Times. The previous night, Man United had won their way into the UEFA Cup final so there was plenty of stuff to read about. We waited about an hour until the flight gate was assigned, and off we went. After walking for a bit and making a bathroom stop, we got into our gate and checked in but weren't selected for any additional security. We had gone through security without too much issue, and here in London, many times they do extra checks at the gate and we avoided a problem. This didn't prevent other problems, though, including a lot of Americans clogging the only walkway to the gate because they didn't want to sit down in the lounge. The American personnel had to ask at least 5 times for people to find a seat, but things still piled up. It was also interesting to watch people make excuses for things in their luggage with the additional screening. I felt pretty safe after all this, and soon we were wandering into the plane getting ready for takeoff and departure.

We left on time, and were soon off across the Atlantic. There was a bit of TV on initially to keep folks entertained, but in a move that I loved, the pilots asked all the passengers to close their windows and they would turn out all the lights to allow folks to sleep in an attempt to avoid jet lag. It was a brilliant move, and I was happy to not see the same episode of Old Christine for the eight time. We slept for what seemed like ever, and then we were awoken to complete our immigration and customs forms for Dallas. Since I'd done this before and had all my receipts, I tried to be as exact as I could, trying to keep below the $800 allowable limit. I came very close to it, but just under. I filled out the form for both of the bags I was dragging, so my form was a bit fuller than girl's. We landed in Dallas about 2 PM central time, and were soon off to make the long walk to immigration.

And yes, it's a long freaking walk. It seems like forever to get to the station, but we finally got there and got to go to the shorter US citizens line. We waited about 20 minutes, talked with our guy for about 2 minutes, he stamped our stuff and off we went. Nothing like some smooth sailing, especially when we got downstairs and I was offered a free cart to haul our luggage. I politely took the cart, and we waited for our luggage which arrived very quickly. We then passed through customs, I handed my card to them and we were off to additional check in. Once we got into luggage claim, the employee knew exactly where our bags needed to go. Ok, both girl and I were in Trail Blazers gear, so he immediately said "Portland to the right." We wandered up the stairs to go through security for the last time.

And on a scale of security experiences, it wasn't the best but it was still Ok. My backpack was causing some issues with the scanners, so I had to be pulled aside to answer questions about what was in there. I was asked if I had any electronic devices, and I said Yes, that's about what is in there. The security guy had some issues finding the compartments in the pack, and when I attempted to help him, I got politely scolded to not touch my bag. I was finally cleared after a few minutes, and we wandered off to catch the train to our terminal. Dallas - Fort Worth Airport has 5 terminals and you have to catch trains between them, so we got to see Dallas off in the distance with its smog while we found our terminal.

We ate a quick bite at Wendy's after doing some exploration about the terminal for other restaurant options, and deciding that Taco Bell sounded good but exploding insides on a plane would be a bad thing. We soon wandered to our gate, and were happy to see Portlanders about. They were very casual about lines, kept quiet and followed instructions very well. I think Portlanders and Brits have a lot in common. We finally got on our last plane for this trip, and were soon off to Portland.

My mind wandered to the fun things we'd done and seen, and the lessons I'd learned, and I was just getting happier to be close to home. While I love traveling, it makes me appreciate home more when I return. And watching the landscape get more green and mountainous as we flew west, I knew we were getting home. I didn't even feel the touchdown, but we arrived on time in Portland, knowing that girl's mom would be waiting for us. We soon deplaned and wandered through the airport that started it all. It seemed a bit more relaxed that what it was 3 weeks earlier.

We went to baggage claim, and since they didn't offer free luggage carts here, we would have to haul them ourselves. However, girl's mom was on time and driving the Row N mobile. I almost didn't recognize it as she pulled up, but I was happy to see her. We chatted with her about the trip, and then got home about 6 pm. The cats didn't seem too interested in us at first until we brought luggage in, and then it was time for all sorts of smells. They finally warmed up to us after a bit, and soon we were unpacking and sharing stories. I was so happy to be home, I ran to Burgerville to get some food, and we just relaxed for the night. I was actually working from home tomorrow to get caught up on emails from work, so basically I didn't get much time to hit the ground running after the trip. But as I sat there and thought about the trip, I realized that this was one of the most impressive vacations I'd ever take and I got to share it with the woman of my dreams. While we'll make other trips over there, it won't be the same as the first time..


It's now 3 months later, and we just now got some of the wedding stuff sorted tonight, and still have a handful of cards for gifts to do. So if you haven't received your card yet or noticed the check you wrote us isn't cashed yet, I'm sorry but we are a bit behind. Essentially, we got back and were thrown into work, Timbers season, planning a camping trip for June, a trip to Vancouver in early June, and a bus trip to Shittle. Oh, and both of us got new jobs after we returned, as girl will be working on grant writing and I am now a business analyst for one of the bank's major databases. It's funny to think that after all of the things we'd experienced, there would be more change thrown it.

And admittedly, it was tough to adjust to some things when we got back. I was sad we missed Timber Jim's retirement, but Timber Joey has been an extremely capable mascot. Shittle bus trip was amazing, although it was very crowded and running out of beer sucked. There were a lot of new faces in the TA when we returned, and yes, that did require us to stake out our seats early now for matches. Some guys found our row rather comfortable, but at the same time, the row has great significance for girl and myself. Once girl explained our situation, we were good to go and haven't had an issue since. With the new energy there's new people who take time to learn about what happens in a match, so there's been some education but it's also been nice to meet some new folks as well.

We've also made trips to Vancouver BC and Cape Lookout since we got back, so you could say that we really have been keeping busy. But I can't think of a better person to do it with, and I can't wait for what the future holds. Hopefully, it's Timbers goals, monies for us, and good will for our family and friends.

Thanks for reading about our trip, and so now things return to normal around here. I may take a bit of time off now that I've finished the trip blog, but then again, the writing bug might strike me sooner than you think. Catch you all on the flip side.

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