Sunday, 30 November 2008

Charleston – somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean (November 29)

Day 76

It had rained all night and continued all day. However, there was to be no more bike-riding and my hosts generously ferried me back and forth. We took in the heady delights of an IHOP (International House of Pancakes) except I only had bacon, eggs & toast. Kathy told me about the pranksters (or maybe anti-consumerists) who had gummed up all the North Charleston shops' locks with glue guns during the night preceding Black Friday. Then Peter hit upon the excellent idea of Kathy and himself posing for a photo in front of their house with a pitchfork, American Gothic style, and I wished I'd done it with everyone I'd stayed with. Bit of a hairy moment when Peter drove to a bike shop and his pick up started spluttering and making kangaroo hops, because it was almost out of gas – on the Interstate of all places. Luckily he was able to make it to a petrol station in time. They didn't have any boxes big enough and the next bike shop was too far to make it in time for my flight... Yes, I should have planned ahead. Fortunately we found a UPS store, where they sold me a sheet of cardboard for the princely sum of $21. Unable to remove the peddles with my meager adjustable spanner this time around, so we took it back to the shop, where the one guy there took the whole thing apart and packaged it all up securely for me in a few minutes. He said, “Usually I charge $35 to box a bike...” and he paused as if he there was going to be a sugary “...but...” No such luck. It was a good thing there hadn't been time to buy any souvenirs or presents. At Charleston Airport, which we reached with plenty of time to spare, we put the bike box and panniers (wrapped in black bags) in a trolley. Warmly shook Peter's hand, and metaphorically the whole of America.

A porter wheeled the trolley to the check-in desk literally 100 yards away, then asked for a tip! Evelyn, the slowest, densest check-in desk assistant in the history of the known universe, posed further problems. She tried to charge me $175 for the transportation of the bicycle in addition to a further $150 oversize allowance. Fortunately I was able to get through to her that one cancelled the other out. She wanted to phone British Airways to see what they charged for bikes (for my remaining two flights) but she couldn't find the number, and again I eventually rammed it home that a good old British company wouldn't charge anything for environmentalists such as myself. In the restroom, a toilet bore the sticker : 7'4”/520 lb max.

It was a good thing someone was sitting in my seat on the plane, because that might have been the only way I would have found out it was bound for Cincinnati. In my defence, the two planes were side by side and boarded simultaneously. Once on the right plane, I would have liked to be in a different seat because the man next to me was so fat he overlapped the armrests. It was only a short internal flight and I busied myself with the in-flight shopping catalogue. Wouldn't it be maddening if you had to choose between the 10 minute marinating machine for $149.99, or the Fling-arama-String Cat Toy, which flicked a piece of string through the air? Or how about the Nutcracker Suite March Porcelain Musical Egg? Or maybe the Time-Telling Drinkware is more to your taste? Or the Electronic Feng Shui Compass, a snip at $399.99? Well, surely I could interest you in The Night Sweat Alarm? No? Now even you must be tempted by the Square Root Clock, depicting the square of each number? What's the time? Why, it's the-square-root-of-121-O'clock. No, me neither. The Delta service was poor and there wasn't a smiling face on leaving the plane – or any face at all.

In Atlanta, or rather 'Atlan'a', the display screens showed details of a million flights, including a couple to Gatwick; neither were mine. My plane took off from Terminal N the print-out informed, but according to an attendant, they only lettered A-E. He said it would probably be E and that I should catch the train there. Luckily I had a couple of hours to spare in case he was wrong. No, he was right. It was here that I realised the pepper spray I had carried in my bum bag since Wyoming, might not be such a good idea if I was searched going on to an international flight, and discarded it.

No poor service with British Airways, although the flight to London was delayed by over an hour due to poor visibility; meaning no views until the city lights of the NE Seaboard. Maybe I'd be amongst them on my next bisection of the States... Had three seats to myself, which meant I could stretch out, but still only amassed a couple of hours sleep.


John Spangler said...

So you are back on terra firma in the mother country! And already thinking about your next bisection of the States! :-) Come back soon, Adrian; it was great reading about your adventure on your blog and being a part of it here in central Kentucky.

Adrian said...

Thanks again John. Had a look at your blog. What a memory for Scrabble you have!