Crossing the Pond
That Is, the Atlantic Ocean
Bittersweet love burst in my chest as I said farewell to my family and cats this morning—a morning that was now a continent ago. I’m exhausted, but thankfully I only have two hours left until I am officially allowed to pass out. In order to synchronize my brain with the new time zone that I have placed myself in, I must stay awake until nightfall; that way, hopefully, my jet lag will go away faster. So far, I believe that I am doing better with that then I did last time, but we’ll see how dumb I am tomorrow. I was pretty clueless last time.
It’s still sinking in that I’ve successfully made it to the United Kingdom and it was every bit a long of a haul as I believed that it would be. First, at the very last hour, I switched my synthetic Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Flame sleeping bag for my down Rab Mystic 400, having decided irritably the night before that the Hyperlamina was too bulky to take along. (Despite it being only slightly more so than the Mystic; a down bag is a risk in a soggy country like Scotland but I figure that I’ll just have to have good weather. Besides, I also figure that I can use my pack liner to sheathe the end of my bag against the damp brush of my tent.) I also grabbed my nearly forgotten windbreaker.
The First Flight
Breaking the rules, my mom came with me into the airport to say goodbye, and she helped me through the process of figuring out how to put my barcode-laden silly luggage sticker tag on. After a tearful goodbye, we reluctantly parted and I breezed through security with no problems—until a airport staffer came to find me because I had forgotten to declare my Pocket Rocket. Having never had to do so in the past, declaring it and having it ready for inspection were not even inklings in my head but the staffer was very kind about it. We bonded over our shared love of Nongshim kimchi ramen and good clean water, then I confused the security guys by going through their checks once more. Waiting for that flight seemed to take forever, but actually it was not too bad. Sedative took the edge off of my body’s usual silly initial panic response to flying and I discovered a profound advantage of flying in a DeHavilland Q400 Dash-8 turboprop aircraft: with the engines so loud, nobody can hear you fart.
Let’s Get Intercontinental
After another longer wait and a lot of pacing involving my connecting airport’s speedy moving walkways later, I easily boarded my intercontinental steed. A half hour later we soared powerfully skyward, every passenger with a row to themselves (unless they had small humans with them.) As I dined on a weird lasagna thing featuring what I suspected was eggplant with peculiar pearled pasta I gazed down on the jagged, twisted mountains of British Columbia’s coast. Gem drop lakes in tones of turquoise, emerald and azure shone silvery below in secret nooks, fed by glaciers located far from any road. Crossing over the Rockies, we flew right over Alberta’s infamous tar sands and although I had always heard from the media that there was environmental devastation there aplenty, I saw nought but a single long plume of thick smoke.
We rose up through a cloud and one of the crew members sneakily dimmed the windows. Just in case you are unfamiliar with that feature of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, let me explain: instead of the sliding shutters on most passenger aircraft, which the flight attendants would nag you to shut, Dreamliners have windows that dim. It’s a cool feature because it means that you can still kind of see through them when they are dimmed all the way, but I resented the airline pretty much telling me to go to bed. Stabbing the window controls, I managed to get the dimming to go away and for about an hour I enjoyed watching the Arctic sunset turn the north’s thousands of lakes into shimmering spatters of metallic gold.
I Spent the Rest of the Flight in a Stupor
The rest of the flight after the crew stealthily dimmed the windows again and we flew into true night was a vague blur. I watched a movie, then an episode of a television show, sleep stalking me the entire time like a grinning smilodon. I dozed, managing broken rest, and when I awoke to find a plastic container containing my breakfast beside me, I pounced. Peach-mango yogurt and a generously fat croissant disappeared into my jaws; I liked them better than the odd lasagna thing.
Landed in London
Despite having spent months dreading customs in the UK, they were a simple breeze. A machine scanned my passport, I walked through a gate, and exactly just like that, it was over. Surprised to find myself so suddenly free after having expected much more rigamarole, I found myself being directed by a friendly Londoner onto the Underground. Long, very listless minutes dragged on the train and I felt more confused than excited by my surroundings. It seemed very suddenly that I stepped out onto a busy London street, and following directions from an app, I tried to get to my Airbnb by bus.
After taking the bus the app had prescribed in both directions without success, all the while fighting off my body’s strong desire to pass out, I fell to wandering, attempting to follow the navigation advice of kind locals. (As a whole, except for the bus driver who yelled me off of his bus when I accidentally fell asleep, London seems a very friendly place so far.) Several hours of vaguely strategic walking at last planted me on the right street and now here I sit, in the safe quiet of my Airbnb quarantine location. My exhausted brain keeps whispering about sleep, of which it will have plenty soon. My quarantine is the final hurdle between me and Scotland.
Hopefully I don’t go crazy.
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