(Post #2 on the trip to England)
“Our goal when we get there,” Nick announced, “is to stay awake as long as possible to join their schedule.”
Curse those words. Although they were wise and needed to be said, they rattled in my head the entire flight. I struggled to sleep sitting up, or leaning on Jon, trying to make sure none of my crazy sleep jolts hit my innocent neighbor. I had even bought some melatonin spray at the airport before we left. All that did was give me crazy in and out dreams thinking that I had maybe slept an hour only to find out it had been ten minutes. All I could think was how I needed to be sleeping because when the flight landed it would be 6am and the start of a new day.
Thank goodness we didn’t bring the kids. I don’t think they would have survived. And then I would have played the roll of adult instead of the ten year old, constantly checking the screen for my silent, “are we there yet?”
I don’t like flying and even more so I don’t like airports. They make you feel like criminals just for wanting to travel. You hold your breath as your things go through the scanner, even though you know you have nothing to hide, you feel almost certain that they’re going to find something incriminating about you. The customs people, especially when we were coming back into the US were extremely rude. They were 30 something men who seemed like they were tripping on the power that they can be rude and you will most likely take it. I surely didn’t want to call them on it and risk the chance of them flagging me for one reason or another. It’s like talking back to a cop that’s pulled you over for speeding. Futile. And I’m sorry, but the TSA, to me, is a complete joke.
TSA officer with Jon’s bag open, holding up the London bus and taxi purchased for Greg, “What’s this?”
“Are they made of metal?” holding the unopened package.
“I’m not sure, they appear to be.”
“What’s in this tin?”
“And is this more chocolate?”
“Ok, you’re clear to go,” shoving the disheveled suitcase to the side.
“So, uh, I guess I get to pack it all back up?” annoyed, passive-aggressive Jon replies.
“Yep” equally annoyed officer replies while trying to get Jon out of the way so he can interrogate the next person.
What did the officer expect Jon to say as he held up the cookies, “oh no sir, those aren’t chocolate cookies, they’re exploding cookies.” What’s the point in asking the passenger what each item is? Is someone who is bringing something dangerous on the plane going to be forthcoming with that information? Are they looking for discomfort or anxiousness? Because with my level of uncomfortableness, I most certainly could have been considered a criminal then. And I don’t even have one of those incriminating accents we previously discussed. It’s a joke. Ron Paul 2012. (That was for you Will)
But it’s a necessary evil, flying is, and we made it, and I’d do it again. Only I don’t like Newark airport- I’ll choose one of the other options. And Nick says flying into Gatwick is easier than Heathrow. Duly noted.
Upon arrival we took a shuttle to the car rental where Nick picks up the full-sized Volvo (full-sized is an important description word because we will find out in the trip that no “car parks” or roads in England are designed for anything described as full-sized). Getting into the car, there’s that awkward moment of who’s going to ride in the front.
I’m an annoying weirdo when it comes to being a rider. I think everyone drives too fast and brakes way later than they should. You see, when I was 15, my mom was too afraid to teach me to drive so she would close her eyes in the back seat as my 19 year old boyfriend taught me to drive. Now this guy was a crazy fast driver. Because of this I believed the interstate to be a puzzle; meant for you to weave in and out of cars in all lanes to never have to break your chosen speed (which was at the very least 10 over). Then I married Jon. He is a grandpa of a driver, believing that anything over 5 over is too fast. If the car in front of him is going slow he slows down (and doesn’t even kiss the bumper!). He uses blinkers at every turn and lane change, and waits the appropriate amount of time at stop signs (I’m not sure who taught him to drive but they did a good job). When we first dated, his driving drove me crazy. I constantly wanted to hit my foot on the gas pedal and I would find myself asking him, “aren’t you going to pass that car?” all the time. So over the years I had two choices: 1- I could be annoyed all the time and we could always fight over who was going to drive and traffic laws or 2- I could simmer down, kick back, enjoy life and sleep in a car knowing my life was more than safe in this driver’s hands. #2 seemed like the only real option to me. But that decision has come with it’s consequences. When you have the DMV poster child driving you around most of the time, EVERYONE else scares the crap out of you. My efforts to try and hide my fear fail miserably, so I usually just tell people straight up- look, everyone I ride with scares me so don’t take it personally. It’s not you; it’s me. In fact, when I drive, I scare the crap out of myself (let’s face it, when I’m late, my foundational driving lessons come out).
So you can see I’m clearly not a good choice to sit in the front seat, on the opposite side of the car that I’m used to, feeling as if every car is headed straight for me. Remember that mom I described sitting in the backseat with her eyes closed while “teaching” me to drive? Yeah, clearly she wasn’t a good choice either. So Jon being the official front seat rider of the week is almost an unspoken certainty. Now I will say, Nick is an awesomely cautious driver, but just the nature of the brain shift you have to do here makes it too much for me no matter how cautious he is. Not to mention that he spoke of being nervous to drive on the left side of the road again. When you’re driver tells you complete silence is needed for concentration, you buckle up- even in the back.
But the weirdness of driving on the left side eventually wore off and even mom eventually ventured into the front seat. This was my favorite way to travel. There’s no, let’s be there an hour early and wait or chances of late departures. You get in and enjoy the beautiful countryside. And I mean bea-uti-ful. Nick was awesome about pulling over when he could to allow us to be tourists.
Jon and I had a day of exploring London on our own. However, we didn’t really think the trip through. We were surprised that the train was going to take 2 hours one way which would leave us 3 hours in London only to make it back to the station for the 2 hour trip back; all for about $68. Maybe not the most wisely planned trip but we had fun nonetheless. The trains and stations are actually kept very nice. And I took advantage of the time to blog the previous days (of which I would never post).
The scenery was sometimes beautiful and sometimes not. Pulling in from the east side of London reminded me of times of bringing friends into Missouri via 44, East St. Louis, from Tennessee. As you come into Missouri, right there at the sign is a ton of graffiti and lots and lots of trash. You find yourself apologizing and promising that the rest of the city doesn’t look this bad. It was similar coming into London the way we did. Lots and lots of trash. But by the time we pulled into London we were welcomed by the landscape of London that is promised.
We would travel to London by train again (only this time only being an hour instead of 2 since we went via West Malling the second time around) for a day of sight seeing with Mom and Nick.
There was also a ferry trip from Dover, England to Calais, France. This was a frustrating day where the ferry was delayed causing 2 very long extra waits (without internet access…the magical iPhone quickly turned into an iPaperweight on this trip) and a trip to a very unimpressive port town. But there will be more on Calais later.
And of course there was traveling by foot.
Walking in London…
Ooooooh look some stairs!
And more walking…
Sorry. I had to take this moment to make fun of our many, many pictures of each other walking! Apparently we wanted to capture our good use of our legs on this trip. Enter 500 Miles by The Proclaimers here.