|September 23, 2000
|London to San Diego
We slept well, but not long enough. I thank Sarah for all her help (and her husband's). We also let her know that she's right about the walk to Horley station. Her husband's explanation is that he takes a different route. (That's quite possible, but not, I think, without crossing other people's property!)
I ask her about all the Americana in the breakfast room (a calendar with U.S. holidays, mugs with the U.S. flag, etc., etc. All tastefully done). She explains that she simply has always liked the U.S. and Americans. She would, she says, fill the B&B with Americans if she could. While paying our bill, we chat a bit about junk mail (after I spot an AOL CD-ROM on her desk). Sarah says they do get a lot of paper junk mail, but not much telephone solicitation.
The taxi (which Sarah thoughtfully scheduled for us the previous evening) arrives precisely on time -- at 9:00. Once again, the driver is pleasant and helpful. The ride costs £5 with tip.
It's another warm, sunny day in London. Huh? Warm and sunny in London in late February? Yes. It's quite odd, but we've been incredibly lucky with the weather during the entire trip. A light jacket has been all that we needed in London, and though I scoffed at Brig's having brought sunglasses the previous day -- she did indeed need them. Why, I almost deployed my wide-brim (dumb-looking) hat!
We arrive at the airport just before the requisite 2 hours prior to flight. We ask about getting an exit row assignment. The agent explains that it was difficult simply getting us seats together, but she says she has entered a comment in our computer record, asking for a change if possible.
We go through the passport/security/customs procedure, and start to wait on the line for tax-free refunds (we have a small refund waiting for us, from the damascene jewelry we purchased in Toledo). While waiting, I learn that we need to get our forms stamped back in the Customs area. I go back, prepared to show the officer our stuff. He is far too busy, and stamps the form without looking or asking questions. Rather than wait on the cash refund line, which is at a currency exchange office, I convince Brigid that it's probably better to simply mail in the form. That way, we may avoid commissions and/or wide conversion spreads.
We go to our gate early, and wait for it to open. The departure is delayed by 90 minutes. We're among the first into the gate area, and we again ask about the exit row. She looks at the computer, and silently crosses out our old assignment (the very last row of this 747-400), and fills in 28H & J. Yay! When we finally board the plane, we find a pair of seats (not a trio), with FIVE FEET of leg room. What luck!
[NOTE: The rest of this is being written three weeks after our return.]
Well, that exit row assignment came with a minor problem. Remember that on international flights, wine and beer are free, even in coach. And there's a huge amount of floor space between our seats and the bulkhead. And we are flying out of London. Think about it. We are sitting at the edge of the British Air Pub, and the bar is open! Apparently, a mixed-gender British softball team is on its way to a competition in the U.S. They set up in our "pub", and act like it's their private party room. Noisy, blocking our view of the movie, and ultimately, spilling wine on my pants. The spill was clearly an accident. A slightly tipsy female player bumped against the elbow of a male player who was holding a cup of wine. I give him a rather directed, doleful stare. "I'm sorry!" he says. "I'm sure you are." (Which is more pleasant than what I'm thinking, which is, "Yes, you're very sorry indeed.") After this, the Pub of the Air pretty much breaks up for the rest of the flight...
What did we eat? Shoot -- I don't remember any more. You'll have to survive without that trivia.
There are only two memorable events left from that day:
1. We catch the very next airport shuttle that is willing to take us home to Mira Mesa. This guy is driving and running his shuttle fleet via mobile phone -- at the same time. It's making me nervous. I'm not sure he's paying enough attention to his primary job. For instance, he tries to drop off a British couple at the wrong hotel. Then as we're making the turn from northbound Camino Ruiz to westbound Jade Coast Drive, he badly misjudges oncoming traffic, and very nearly causes us to get T-boned! When we get home, he gives me his card, telling me how he will take us to the airport for the regular shuttle price, but without waiting for other pickups along the way. I thank him. The card is in the recycle basket -- our lives are worth paying a few extra dollars to someone who is paying attention to his job!
2. We get home to find that everything is just fine, our home automation system seems to have mostly worked, and Peppermint is happy to see us.
Wondering how we did this travellog? Russ wrote 99 percent of it contemporaneously, in the evenings and or during siesta opportunities. Brig occasionally added comments, or reminded me of things to add. Rather than wear out my hand and an eraser, I used my Palm V and a GoType keyboard. This is a great combination, in that they take up very little space. There were two items that made this combination less than perfect: First of all, the Palm V uses an internal battery. Under ordinary circumstances, that battery might last me for 2 weeks. These were not ordinary circumstances, as I was using the Palm for my recreational reading and for keeping this log (and as an alarm clock). So, I needed to purchase and carry an international travel kit, in order to keep the battery charged. The second minor problem was that the keyboard is less than perfect. It would occasionally fail to register a keystroke. Very annoying. Blame all typos on the keyboard! The last, and most troubling problem: The Palm V keeps all its contents in volatile memory. In other words, if the battery did become exhausted, or if the device experienced an error and spontaneously rebooted, all of this drivel would have disappeared, instantaneously! Being a neurotic, you can imagine that this scenario was constantly niggling at the back of my mind. I didn't really feel completely comfortable until we got home and I was able to "synch" the Palm V's contents to our computer's hard disk drive.
Since returning, Russ has replaced the Palm V with a TRGPro, which has a slot for a nonvolatile compact flash memory card, and it uses replaceable AAA batteries. Before our next trip, I'll get a new (and, hopefully, better) keyboard, and all my problems will have been addressed.
Oh, the photos? I used a Canon Powershot A-50, with two compactflash memory cards (32M and 64M). This web site probably includes around 1/3 of all the photos we took. All images that you see on this web site are reduced quality JPEGS. The thumbnails are shrunk down and at "30%" quality, whatever that means. The full-size images are at full spatial resolution, but at only 70% quality. If there's an image that you would like to see at full original quality, let me know. I ought to be able to resurrect it for you.
In general, the A-50 did a good job for us. A few dust specks did seem to get into the camera's optics (I've edited out the worst examples, either by cropping or cloning). In general, though, the camera did a great job. It really was small enough, reasonably priced, and up to the task.
Thank you for bearing with me through all this drivel. Feel free to let us know what you thought about it. You can reach us at rschnapp@ACM.org. I'm particularly interested in comments, corrections and alternate interpretations. Fellow tour members, if you'd like some photos added, just email them to me. If all you have is a print, you can mail it to me and I'll scan it in. (Better include a self-addressed, stamped envelope, if you want the print back!)