Day 9
Back to America

The day had to come
It was inevitable
The last day of the trip

I awoke after a restless sleep and began what would be a very trying day. Sarah had to return to work this morning also, so I did my best to stay out of her way while she prepared to leave. Sarah and I said our goodbyes as she dashed out the door to reenter the daily grind. Only moments later Matt was up sipping his tea and offering assistance with my comically large amount of luggage. Together we wrangled all the bags into the car and we sped off to pick up Simon.

At the farm we found Simon ready to go, looking more rested then he had in quite a few days. I said my goodbyes to his parents, patted the cat and let the dogs sniff me for the last time. The three of us piled into the car and with hands waving out the windows, we zoomed down the one lane road toward Gatwick Airport. Arriving with little effort I insisted it was ok to drop me off at the terminal but Matt and Simon wouldn't hear of it, parking the car and escorting me to the check in. They stood in line with me until airline personnel pointed out that only travelers could be in this location. Matt and Simon reluctantly move to a distant waiting area while I completed the check in process and relieved myself of the bulky baggage. We wandered about the terminal to kill time, eventually making our way to the security area. We exchanged our final farewells as I slipped into the crowd of people waiting to be scanned, scrutinized and x-rayed.

The plane boarded right on time (11:50am) but they had trouble with the potable water system (drinking water and sinks), which took an hour and a half to fix. THEN one of the passengers decided they no longer wanted to go on the flight. Sighting the delayed takeoff would make them miss their connecting flight in America. Because of recently established laws and security regulations, officials were required to let the person off the plane but their baggage had to be removed first. In came the ground crew who began removing all the baggage from the plane. I and another two passengers (Americans oddly) expressed our displeasure with the departing passenger personally while we watched our luggage being slung about the tarmac. "Assh@le" and "Jerk" were heavily featured words in the conversation as we pointed out that his inability to deal with a delay is going to make everyone miss their connections.

We finally took off at 3:00 pm to cheers from the already weary passengers. There was an air of unrest as you could hear mumblings from every direction expressing concerns about missing connecting flights. The senior flight attendant announced over the PA system that when we reached Newark there would be Airline representatives to meet us at the plane with information on our new connecting flights. They would be making the reservation changes for us while we were in flight. It calmed everyone down (apparently why they said it) and we went back to the task of finding a comfortable position in the airplane seats.

When we arrived in America we had to circle the Newark airport for twenty minutes because of rain and lightning. Once on the ground, they again announced that after we finished processing in Immigration, Baggage claim and Customs the airlines connection assistance would be right out side customs. Comforting.

There were three vary large escalators UP from the plane to immigration, all not working! Swiftly through immigration to baggage claim carousel 11. One bag pops out and everything comes to a screeching stop. No more bags, no moving carousel, no movement at all. After many tense minutes an announcement is heard on the public address system "Passengers from flight 29 (me) expecting baggage, there will be a slight delay due to a JAM in the equipment. Maintenance personnel have been notified". Another 20-minute delay but my bag did arrive. Now to find out what flight they booked me on to get to Washington DC.

The announced airline representatives that would be waiting for us turned out to be simply the ticket reservations and check-in counters. No one really rebooked us in flight as they claimed. They just made that up to calm us down. Now with several hundred passengers queuing in a single line, all realizing they had been lied to, it quickly turned into an angry and very vocal mob. There was one memorable old person in a wheelchair that rolled up asking for head of the line privileges and everyone reluctantly acquiesced. When he STOOD UP and started pushing the chair to the counter there was a great roar from the line. I yelled "Push that chair back to the end of this queue before you can't get out of it again without assistance". There was ear-shattering reinforcement from the crowd. The now not so old looking man made his way back to the end of the line at a surprisingly quick pace while fielding a barrage of verbal abuse from the mob. Miraculously with out the aid of his wheel chair.

My turn in line... "Yes Mister Briggs the last flight to DC has one seat left, do you want it?" "Yes of course I do!" (You ninny!!!) "How many bags to check?" "The only one in front of you." (You buffoon!) "Your booked on flight 2561 leaving gate 88 at…" Just then on the public address system… "Final boarding call for Flight 2561 to DC leaving from gate 88". "Where is gate 88" I ask. "Up the stairs and to the left." "Where am I now?" I ask. "Near gate 3" is the reply. (Do the math). "Crap" I shriek.

Running, Huffing and puffing (not a pretty sight I assure you) I get to security. Short line, "Good" I think. Metal detector. Don't beep. Please don't beep! BEEEEP!!! Crap!!!!! Pat down... OK! Metal Detector wand... Arms GOOD, legs GOOD, Feet, BEEEEP!!! Crap!!! "Shoes off please", into the ex-ray machine they go.... GOOD. "Take your belt off please." "Off?" I query. "OFF" is repeated. Into the ex-ray it went... "Here are your shoes and belt, you can go".

The plane is now 5 minutes to leaving and I'm at gate 52 trying to get to gate 88. Now you have to picture me running as fast as I can (I'm a very big boy), in one hand a briefcase, a black carry on bag, my shoes, belt and boarding pass. My other hand is holding up my pants. I find gate 87 and it is the last gate in the terminal. Frustrated I yell as loud as I can "Where is gate 88?" "Down the stairs" I hear from somewhere. There it is gate 88. I see the counter as the door that leads to the plane starts closing. Sprint man Sprint!!! I stuck my boarding pass in the remaining gap in the door, which opens wide, and a smiling attendant takes my ticket and says, "You must hurry". I'm directed to the boarding tunnel, which ended at another set of stairs down to the tarmac, which was wet from the rain. (I'm just in socks remember) Twenty yards of sopping concrete and up the stairs into the plane. Safely aboard now, pouring with sweat, so out of breath I could not talk, pants falling off, trying to stuff myself in one of those little airplane seats. The little old lady seated next to me looked terrified. I however was immensely relieved that I was going to get home that day after all.

It took all of the hour flight for me to recover from the Newark airport run. I don't think my breathing returned to normal until the landing instructions were announced. (You really need to work out man) The Plane arrived at Dulles airport landing without incident. My checked bag did arrive as well so there was one good point! After a $100 taxi ride I was home. My family was all still up when I finally arrived home and we had a grand reunion talking for hours about my adventures. It was good to be home.

After twenty years in the U.S. Navy and visiting many countries in that time, this trip to the United Kingdom has been without a doubt my greatest adventure. I've been to places I didn't think I would ever see. Done things I have always dreamed of doing. I have met the most interesting characters and enjoyed the hospitality of wonderful people. I learned many things on this trip. Like, the English really do talk incessantly about the weather and drink gallons of tea. I always thought that was just an American made up stereotype. The trip even generated it's own collectibles. Did you get your button?

All the memories, which I will cherish for the rest of my live, came directly from the hospitality of my hosts and fellow adventures. Matt and Sarah opened their beautiful home to me and went out of their way to make sure I was comfortable. Simon, Peter and Judith made sure I wanted for nothing. I will always fondly remember our time on the farm. All the planning and sacrifices Matt, Sarah and Simon put into arranging the trip and working out the logistics for fourteen filming location visits is just remarkable. "Thanks" seem so minuscule a word to express my gratitude in comparison to their efforts. But "Thank you" is offered with the amplitude fitting their monumental labors.

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