Saturday, 8 October 2011

Trip - part the last - honestly

I know you all thought it was all over, done and dusted, but I have this last episode to add as an end to the long saga of our trip to the USA. I realise that it seems to have gone on forever, but it has taken a great deal longer to write up than it took to happen. Many other things have taken up my time and this posting is sliding between the cracks of the rest of my life.
The final leg of our trip was the least eventful since once over the Rocky Mountains we were passing through the least interesting parts of Colorado and Kansas, both of which are flat and not very picturesque.

The road home
Cattle cooling off in a pond

A lot of farms in Kansas have a second income from oil

The new wind power dwarfs the old

An irrigation rig stretches out to the horizon

Interesting strata

We spent a few more days with the family and then made a tearful farewell at Kansas City airport.
We were flying home via Toronto having used Canada Airlines for the simple reason that we had visited family in Toronto on the way through, see part one. There are no direct flights from Kansas City to home so we always need to take a flight to another airport anyway and Toronto is as good as anywhere else on the way home. Our flight was due to board at 15:45 local time and we got there in good time.
The weather was quite warm, being in the mid 90s Fahrenheit. Inside the airport all was cool as we waited for our flight. An announcement told us our flight was delayed and we were going to have to wait another forty minutes. This was not a problem, since our connecting flight was not until 20:40 after a little over a 2 hour flight, so we had plenty of time to spare.
The little Jazz plane eventually arrived and after a further short delay we boarded and took our seats.
The aircraft then sat on the concrete for thirty minutes in the hot sunshine. It started to get warm inside and after a while we were told that the cause of the delay was that the air circulation system had packed up and the maintenance crew were on to it and we would be leaving shortly.
After a further, increasingly hotter wait, we were given the slightly disturbing announcement that we would be taking off without the air circulation system but because of this would have to fly to Toronto at a lower altitude than normal to maintain air pressure. Another thirty suffocating minutes inside the baking aircraft went by and we were asked to disembark. The flight would not be taking off until the air problem was fixed. By now we were definitely going to miss our connection, so asking the Air Canada staff what we could do about our connecting flight, we were told that we must phone Air Canada’s help desk because they only worked for the company and knew nothing.
When I go to the USA, I take an AT&T cell phone which I top up with a month’s worth of calls to use internally. This had just expired, so TBH went out through customs to the only pay phone in reach and attempted to get some sense from Air Canada. About fifteen minutes later she returned frustrated, saying we will have to do it in Toronto.

Eventually the aircraft was fixed, we were re boarded and it took off for Toronto. We arrived at that airport nearly an hour after our connecting flight had left. We now had to find out where and how we could get on a later flight. This meant passing through customs and going back into Canadian territory. We found a desk which seemed to be the right place to book which had a huge queue, potentially so long we would miss the last flight of the day, so whilst I waited in the queue to keep our place, TBH went to a nearby phone booth and was able to contact Air Canada and find out if we were doing the right thing. To give them their due, from this point on, Air Canada were very helpful and on the phone TBH got us onto the last flight of the day, which left at 22:20 that night, or 23:20PM by my Kansas set watch and my body clock. Tickets were then collected from the normal check in desk and we were able to board normally.
We arrived at Heathrow almost eight hours later just after 10AM the next day local time and now about 7:30AM by my body clock. After the slow queue through Customs and Immigration, we got to the baggage carousel, where we waited and waited for our baggage, but no baggage arrived. After seeing all the passengers from three flights retrieve their bags, I realised something had gone wrong and buttonholed an Air Canada employee who had been standing by the carousel and asked him what to do about no baggage. He too was very helpful and took a lot of trouble, checking other baggage areas around the airport to see if our bags had arrived anywhere else, but to no avail. So off we went to find the what-to-do-about-lost-baggage department and filled in a form. We were assured that the bags were probably on a later flight, probably because the flight we boarded had already had its baggage loaded before we turned up. We had caught the last flight of the day so the next flight would be the following day, so no chance it would turn up whilst we waited. Air Canada scored again in our estimation, since they then told us the baggage would be couriered to us, free of charge, as soon as they received it, probably within the next two days. We hoped they were right.
Of course, we had missed the original 10:15 coach that we had booked to take us home well before this new delay and now had to re-book on a later coach. This cost us a small re-booking fee, but we were able to obtain seats on a reasonably early coach and finally around lunch time local time, after a breakfast/lunch snack at a Café Nero, we were heading down the M4 towards our home, both utterly drained and jet lagged beyond belief.
For some reason, neither I nor TBH are able to sleep on an aircraft, so we were both quite tired and this leg of the journey seemed to take forever. The very last bit of travel was to grab a taxi and after 30 plus hours of being awake and anxious and frustrated, we were finally back home.
After unpacking the minimum necessary from our hand baggage, doing all the necessary tasks and eating a light supper, around eight PM we collapsed into bed. Over the next couple of days we gradually un-jet-lagged and started to feel more human and at the end of that time, a man arrived outside our house in a small van and unloaded our three missing suitcases from the back. He told us cheerfully that he often came to this street, since one of our neighbours travelled a lot and he was often couriering his luggage to his house and it made a change to meet new customers. Obviously delayed luggage is a regular occurrence.
So now it was really all over and all I had to do was to sort through the thousands of photos I had taken and write up our adventures for my blog.
And it is done, over and here are a few more pictures from all parts of the trip.

A seemingly endless train

Feed me Mamma!

A flying set-square

A giant's foot

Trees provide shade for hot summers for many houses in Kamsas but must add to insurance costs when in tornado country

Not Yorkshire, Canada

Special wheels allow this maintenance truck to drive along the railroad track

The rocks of Damocles, I would think twice about living there

The Rockies

Toronto must have some very small vehicles

An unusual house outside Denver
 But as a final word, I must sincerely thank both our hostesses in Canada for making that first part of our trip so interesting and TS without whose indefatigable driving, the trip through the USA would have been much shorter and considerably less interesting.


  1. Wow, snafu. you must have really downplayed the story of your return to the Uk, when you related it to me. I had no idea of the agonies you went through. Wonderful that you made it home safely and that your luggage eventually arrived unscathed. You have some fantastic photos, giving you lots of memories. It was quite a long haul, from beginning to end, but I am sure you and TBH are able to say that it was well worth it all!

    AS for me and DOTH, we were blessed to have you, and it is always great to be able to look at your own country through the eyes of another. I think we gain greater appreciation for many things we take for granted.

    You and TBH were wonderful hosts to me, also - thank you SO much! - and I need to get cracking and post about the time together from MY perspective also.

  2. And now you know why I avoid traveling any more if I can. I've had too many incidents like that and the jet lag on top of my fibromyalgia almost does me in! Great photos Snafu and fascinating commentary. Well done, it was a great illustrated narrative.

  3. A few years ago K and I did a mini US road trip and traveled with a well known tour company. I lost count of how many places we turned up who'd never heard of us, including the car rental centre. Not to mention the fact that they actually booked us into a hotel that was closed for the season. I think chaos is part of the experience. You just have to laugh, don't you?

    Glad you got back safely and your luggage arrived eventually.

  4. found you through AJ
    what a lovely blog!
    a great read! and an educational one