US Road Trip Travelog: 14th April 2005

You may have sensed a certain detachment setting-in over the last week or so. Yes, it's been a difficult time, but I can actually now tell you that a certain someone is on the shortlist for a current job vacancy. When you see the white smoke over a small city near Italy then that'll be the car overheating again (if it's black then we're burning a bit too much oil). Obviously I can't say too much more but I have a feeling that pilgrims bringing replacement hoses and water seals may find themselves moved towards the front of the queue, and a reconditioned radiator could lead to a nice well paid job with some fancy robes and a big hat.

Flags on Navy Pier, Chicago
Flags on Navy Pier, Chicago. Home is about 4000 miles west.

The truth is that for the last week or so I've been sulking like a petulant child because I don't want the road trip to end. I tried to change my flight to a later one but found that I couldn't - one of the disadvantages of booking a discount ticket I suppose. Nothing for it, then but to head to the El train (though the blue line is actually underground and not elevated for a lot of the way) to O'Hare airport.

The journey out to O'Hare takes about 45 minutes or so. Another reason I'd chosen the Holiday Inn is that it's easy walking distance to a blue line station, which is just as well as I'm feeling like a packhorse by now. Once at O'Hare I head for the British Airways terminal, which involves a lot of walking and a train ride, only to find that as my flight is actually being run by American Airlines (though the ticket has a BA flight number) I need to head back to a different terminal.

Once there I check-in my suitcases and then watch them go through the (inevitable) searches at the x-ray machines. Strangely enough they choose to search the suitcase containing just books and CD's but ignore the one with the computer bits, mobile phone etc. in it. It all seems a bit disorganised for a major airport, with the x-ray machines plonked in the middle of the terminal and the expectation that you'll just leave your bags there, where they could easily be picked-up by someone walking past. I'm not the only one who waits around to see their baggage safely on the other side.

The queue to get through security is a long one and I'm glad I allowed plenty of time for this. They have plenty of signs around saying that no matches or lighters are allowed either in baggage for the hold or on your person but I forget about the Bic in my coat and it just gets ignored. They did, though, make most of us take our shoes off and put them on the trays which is the first time I've encountered that one.

After a wait in the bar (overpriced, naturally) the flight back is uneventful. This is the first overnight flight back from the US that I've done and, with the big time difference, there seems to be a short gap between the evening meal and breakfast. Arriving in Manchester in the morning with no sleep is not fun and there's still a train ride to the city, a tram ride across it, and another train ride the other side to endure. In contrast to the Chicago side there's very little helpful advice for train passengers in Manchester airport. I do feel especially sorry for those who don't speak English fluently as the garbled train announcements are difficult enough to understand for those of us born here.

Why is the last mile the hardest mile? The train and tram journeys are really quite easy but pulling the suitcases up the (relatively small, it has to be said) hill to my house is just about it for me. I think I may sleep all weekend.

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