Heading Home

Betty (Bryan’s cat) seemed oddly unwilling to wish us farewell as, at 8:25 AM, Bets drove us to Petaluma to board the 9:00 AM Airporter bus to San Francisco International airport. Betty was certainly very pleased to have Bryan back but she seemed to have become quite used to us, if not overtly fond of us.

The Airporter ride takes 1½hrs and costs $32 each ($30 each for seniors – huge discount), plus tip, of course. It’s a good service and certainly beats anyone else having to deal with the San Francisco commute traffic southbound through Marin. Our flight wasn’t due to leave until 2:05 PM so we could have caught the later bus but then we’d have been thumb-twiddling in Tomales. We were as well removing any time pressure, leaving Bets and Bryan to return to a normal life, and thumb-twiddling in the American Airlines Admiral’s Club lounge.

At 10:45 AM we arrived at the airport, tipped the jolly driver, then checked in. Flashing our posh first class boarding passes, we invaded the Admiral’s Club lounge to await our first flight and, after a suitable delay for appearances, begin the day’s alcohol intake with, in my case, gin & tonic #1.

At 2:05 PM we took flight AA1472 to Chicago’s O’Hare Field airport. This was, as far as I can remember, the first time I had flown across such a route in clear weather and daylight. We crossed Sacramento and then Lake Tahoe in about the first 30 minutes. That got us out of California after which we seemed to fly over desert landscapes for about two hours as we crossed the apparently very sparsely populated wildernesses of Nevada and Utah.

After 3½ hours and gin & tonics #2, #3, #4 and #5 (terrific stewardess), darkness had fallen and we were putting Carol’s watch on 2 hours for our landing at Chicago. A homeward journey is great ‘cos the bags are checked straight through to London so all we had to do was change gates for our second flight which was due to leave from the same terminal in about 1½ hours. The timing gave us time to invade the Chicago Admiral’s Club lounge so we flashed our posh business class boarding passes and got on with gin & tonic #6.

Our lightly loaded flight AA98 pushed back on time at 9:50 PM Chicago time but then sat twiddling its turbines for about 20 minutes waiting for a take-off slot. For some unexplained reason, O’Hare had decided to use a single runway, interleaving both arriving and departing flights. Curious. Eventually there seemed to be a gap and ‘t was our turn whereupon the twiddling turbines became roaring turbines and we were finally off on the last leg of our journey. Passage was eased by an initial glass of bubbly and gin & tonic #7. I watched a movie (Bonnie and Clyde) and then settled down in the hope that my aforementioned gin & tonics #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #6 and #7 would combine forces and send me to sleep but, alas, any sleep was fitful, even in my beautifully reclining posh business class seat.

Ignoring Ireland [space for reader’s own joke], we made landfall at Anglesey and 30 minutes later were smacking our wheels onto the tarmac at London’s Heathrow airport. Blink and you could easily have missed Wales [space for reader’s own joke]. On our previous leg we’d been flying over practically empty desert scenery for two of the 3½ hours between San Francisco and Chicago and here we were having crossed our entire country in a mere 30 minutes, including overshooting London to turn back and land to the west. No surprise, I know, but for some reason this trip seemed to hammer the scale home to me. Maybe it was because I saw more.

Not only did both Betty and Bets and Bryan’s house survive, but we’ve had a most enjoyable trip renewing several old and valued friendships. Mission successful, I think.

Time for some more jet lag.

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