London, and bag gone AWOL

The flight out to London was great. Wow. I love British Airways — amazing service for an airline. So far above anything Air Canada could ever hope to dish out. The food alone was better than most things I’ve cooked in the last little while.

Well, except for one minor little detail. My backpack has gone missing. The bag with all my clothes, toiletries, and various supplies for the next seven weeks.

“Doh” doesn’t quite cut it.

Oddly enough, I was neither surprised nor upset that this happened. Not even annoyed, really. I just accepted that it was an inevitability, and moved on with the day. Mind you, taking the Paddington Express from Heathrow was a little surreal without my belongings.

We’re at the Hilton Metropole. It’s a pretty sweet little hotel — all 8,000 rooms of it. I thought the Chicago Hyatt was big. I think this place dwarfs it several times over. Our room is nice, not huge (though it has two queens), and hopefully comfy. Though after being up for almost 36 hours (save for a couple of cat naps on the plane), you could put me on a slab of concrete and I’d find it wonderful.

Wellington Arch

Did a completely self-guided walking tour through central London, from the Marble Arch to Piccadilly Circus to Trafalgar Square to Big Ben to the London Eye to Cleopatra’s Needle before running into Amy (who was off buying yarn) on the Tube. Same car. How freaky is that?

Trafalgar Square

One note on Big Ben… A (strange) dream come true — one I never knew I even had. I never would have imagined that simply hearning the clock strike the hour (six, as it turned out) would be so significant.

My grandmother had a wonderful grandfather clock (my aunt has it now), which plays the Westminster chime. I still can hear the sound of that clock. Today, at 18:00, I heard Big Ben play off the tune, and then strike six times. I’ve seen it before in movies and TV shows, but there’s nothing like hearing the actual strike of the big bell. You can actually feel it.

So far, I like this city. A lot. though it is a babylon, in the truest sense of the origins of the word. There are hundreds of languages, dialects, and accents here. But unlike the biblical Babylon, it seems to work here. It’s a strange, but beautiful mix.

Now if I could just figure out how to get this computer to recognize my camera…

London, Baby!!!!

So, we’re in London!

And it’s finally sinking in.

Right now, it’s 9pm local time and we just paid 1£ each for an hour of time on the internet. Yay.

But let’s back up, shall we?

So, yesterday (Friday), Sandra and I drove to SFO to meet Geoff slightly late…ahem… after he landed at 12:30. We had already returned the rental car, so the three of us bummed around the international terminal, got some potstickers, did some window shopping, etc. Shortly after 4, Sandra had to leave to check in for her flight and we were on our way. Officially. At least, that’s how it felt.

Aside from the problem with Geoff’s backpack (I’ll let him explain that part), things have gone very smoothly! We even scored nice exit row seats on the plane, having plenty of legroom. I think I managed about 3 hours of sleep over the 9.5 hour flight. So, about 2 hours more than usual. At this point, I’ve been awake since 6am PST on April 29, Friday. Roughly equivalent to 31 hours without real sleep in an Actual Bed. Oy.

That’s probably why I didn’t manage to do much this afternoon. Kerrie, a knitting friend, and I were supposed to meet up at Liberty for some light yarn shopping/browsing, but something must have happened because I never found her. Still, I had a great time window shopping. And I even bought yarn – 6 balls of Kid Silk Haze and 4 balls of Calmer to knit on the road.

I wouldn’t have done this, had I known a certain something that Sandra left on my hotel voice mail an hour ago…

One of my Interweave Knits submissions was accepted! I’m still waiting to hear which one and what I have to do, but it looks like I’m going to be working on that on the road. I’m not sure how I’m going to get the exact yarn called for. It’ll be interesting to say the least.

OK, no panicking. I just managed to work with some test knitters to do the production on my two book projects, so it’s kind of ironic.

So, after we’re done here, we’re off to find a more traditional pub than the one suggested by the Hilton. I want some Fish N Chips! Please!

Comments (sort of) fixed!

Turns out that I’d forgotten to insert the comments field in the posts.

Doh!

It’s there now, but due to this weird computer I’m using (I can’t view the HTML!!), I can’t fix the layout bugs yet. When I get to a better computer, I’ll clear that up.

Sorry ’bout that, folks!

Almost lost my bag

You know those little stickers they give you when you check bags? The ones you’re supposed to have for when the airline loses your luggage so you can find it? Never used to take much stock in those…

…until today. I left mine on my flight from Seattle. Never used ’em before, so figured why bother?

Turns out, as I was checking into my British Airways flight, I do need them, as they need to find my bag in the system. Alaska and British Airways might code share, but their luggage systems aren’t that interchangable.

Our plane to England

The lovely Penelope helped me, and the bag issue has been sorted out. (I hope.)

I will never misplace those tags again!

Waiting sucks

Trapped at San Francisco airport. Food’s good, though typically pricey (it is an airport).

At least the computer at the CNBC store is free.

Amy should be here soon, though it’s still over six hours until we leave.

Winging my way to San Francisco

First entry on the road

There’s nothing quite like the emotional rollercoaster of waking up at 4:45am (I don’t know why I set that so late — bad move on my part), rushing to get ready to leave, driving out to the airport as if Alex and I were doing something on a regular basis, and suddenly realizing that there was likely to be a line-up from Hell at the check-in desk, US Customs, and the security lines.

Which, of course, there were. Thankfully, sort of, the line for Horizon Air (my first leg to Seattle) was non-existent. As was the ding-bat clerk who closed her desk, waving me off because she “had to be at the gate”. Well what the heck am I supposed to do, then, lady?!

Next hill of the coaster: stress of missing the first flight.

Luckily, the nice person at the Alaska counter signed me in right away (about five minute before the flight closed). Alex and I trotted very quickly to the US Customs door, where we’d be separated. This was the part I was dreading most. I didn’t know how this would go. I feared something ugly — both of us breaking down completely. But it wasn’t. Teary, yes, but we didn’t experience the “break”. There’s certainty in my return. There’s no “what if” — just “what will”. It’s comforting, even though the time apart will be hard.

Customs was relatively easy, even managed to joke with one of the officers. A nice touch. Calgary has opened a new security desk — a single, solitary desk — that I got routed to along with a few dozen others. It’s not a fast line. It figured that at 6:00, when the flight was to start boarding, passengers were being paged for final boarding on my flight.

Jerks.

I butted line. A few people grumbled, but I seemed to go quickly (knock on wood — I have yet to have a serious problem at the security line). I ran down the all to the gate. They were paging me by name, now. Despite the urgency of the paging (which was about every 30 seconds, and no, I’m not kidding), the flight left at its prescribed time.

Never been to SeaTac airport before. It’s big. Had to take a train to find this computer in N terminal. Won’t be here long, another couple of hours and I’m off to San Francisco to meet up with Amy.

The odyssey has begun. It just doesn’t quite feel like it yet…

on hold…

Wow, I don’t think I slept more than 4 hours last night. Sandra and I are staying at the Villa Florence near Union Square for my last night in San Francisco. I’m not complaining too much, because it was a Priceline find, but last night we had pipes clanking, the fire escape scraping against the building, a steel drum player, and this morning, something that sounded like a million wine bottles clanging together for about an hour. Even with earplugs, I slept fitfully at best.

So it’s now 7am and I’m in the hotel lobby bar, which is thankfully closed this early in the morning.

I have to finish off that one pattern and then finish packing the previously unpackables – glasses and contacts.

But right now, I’m on hold with British Airways to see if we can get on that earlier flight.

(See how tired I look? I know Geoff had to get up at probably 4am to make his 6:30 flight, so we’ll be in the same boat.)

8 minutes later, no dice. There is no standby for economy and any official changes have to be booked and paid for through the award reservations line.

Ah well, it was a nice though.

So, in 12 hours, we’ll be winging our way across North America. Weird. It’s hard to believe today is already here. I had that moment of panic last night where I pretty much had myself convinced that this is the stupidest idea that ever occurred to man. I mean, 7 weeks? 7 weeks would be great to lounge around various islands in SE Asia, or get a rail pass and see a lot of Western Europe. Or stay home with the girl and the kitties who I already miss desperately. (The baby cats!!!!)

I don’t really mean that. I’ve wanted to do this trip since I took that summer Russian language course in Junior High. (It’s just too bad I don’t remember more of the language.)

It’s just hard to think of leaving.

On the other hand, boy do I need a vacation! It’s been nearly 4 years since I took a vacation longer than a weekend, aside from holidays like Christmas with my family. Can that be right? Wow.

So, now it’s 7:32 and I’ve successfully procrastinated enough that I should now finish sizing this pattern and maybe go find a Starbucks. Mmmmm. Vanilla Latte….

A “final” re-pack

The really great thing about leaving a week early to go work in California is that, aside from getting a last chance to feel completely and utterly overwhelmed by work, I have ample opportunity to reconsider my packing strategy without having to ship or ditch stuff in another continent.

So, I repacked. Again.

But this time I have the excuse of four nifty new “layering tees” from Gap. They are brightly colored and weigh less than a tiny ball of yarn. Just the thing for building in some variety without adding any weight. To compensate, I removed my black tank top, which weighed MORE than these four tees! Go figure.

So, here’s the ‘final’ list.

I reserve the right to repack tonight, tomorrow morning, and possibly at the airport tomorrow afternoon. But it’s final for now.

Stuff
antibacterial gel
hand lotion
reading light/mini flashlight
journal & pens
travel folder
sunglasses
DV camcorder, spare battery and charter
10 hours tape electronics
SLR with 28-200m lens, spare batteries
Approx. 60 rolls film, 100-800, colour
lip balm
small first aid kit with dramamine, claritin, advil, pepto (in pill form) and misc.
small laundry kit with detergent and laundry line
Cup O Soup insant soup packets – 8
Nalgene cantene
Starbucks thermos
Peanut butter – 1 small jar
Cutlery kit
Extra ziplock baggies
Girlie stuff (you know what I mean)
GGH yarn for Rebecca wrap top
Koigu for socks
My last project for the BGK book
toilet paper
iPod shuffle with power supply and adapters
snowboard lock misc
4 books (3 guidebooks)
permanent marker
earplugs, eyemask and Tylenol PM
travel towel
3-in-1 by Philosophy – soap, shampoo and conditioner in one
glasses and spare pairs contacts
deoderant
toothpaste & toothbrush
hair goop
sunblock – spf 30
foot lotion – from the Body Shop.
butterfly scarf toiletry kit
razor
watch with alarm and dual time zones
Money belt and Security wallet
traveller’s cheques and US$
Clothes
1 l/s tee shirt
1 s/s tee shirt
4 layering tees
1 l/s tan/green esprit zip shirt/cardigan thingy
loose black yoga pants – Lululemon
zip-off khaki pants
2 bras
Teva’s
Dankso’s
black J Crew swimsuit
Columbia jacket shell
Down jacket – compressed
black/grey wristwarmers
4 pairs socks
5 pairs underwear
long underwear bottoms
tee and shorts for PJs

Lastday

It’s 8:21am. I’m at the office I have little to do, having transferred the majority of my work to others. Twenty-four hours from now, I’ll be in Seattle.

None of it seems like it’s really going to happen.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been moving at what seems like light speed for months — moving so fast that I’ve missed details, forgotten to handle things I’d promised to others, focused too much on certain things that didn’t need as much. I suppose it’ll all seem real when I see Amy tomorrow, and realize that within a week, we’ll be standing in Red Square.

Lots of people have asked me: am I excited? To be honest, I’m not. I should be, but the excitement I should be feeling is completely overwhelmed by the apprehension of leaving Alex behind. I have pictures, and I have a phone card. But it’s just going to be hard. I’m going to miss her terribly.

It’s my last day before leaving. I blinked, and the day is almost here.

Packed and ready to roll

Amy tackled this problem a week ago. This time, it’s my turn. I decided not to do it the night before, though, since that’s a bit of a risk.

Here’s everything I’m trying to take:

Geoff's stuff to pack

Detailed as follows:

  • 1 towel
  • 3 shirts
  • 1 pairs zip-off pants
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 1 pair sandals
  • 3 pairs socks
  • 5 pairs undies
  • 1 pair long underwear
  • 1 hat
  • 7 books (5 travel books)
  • 1 deck of cards
  • 1 bottle shampoo
  • 1 bottle conditioner
  • 1 box bandaids
  • 1 toothbrush
  • 1 tube of toothpaste
  • nail clippers
  • 2 bars soap
  • 1 box Contac-C
  • laundry soap
  • dental floss
  • 2 tins mint ginger tea (for nausea)
  • ~80 bags jasmine tea
  • 1 thermos
  • 4 boxes instant soup (condensed to two boxes)
  • 1 Nalgene cantene
  • 1 flashlight
  • 1 Leatherman
  • 1 pocketknife (for the corkscrew)
  • 1 roll duct tape (the non-shiny kind)
  • 1 universal electrical adapter/transformer
  • 6 garbage bags
  • 1 extension cord (in case we need to plug more than one thing in)
  • 1 journal
  • 1 Minolta XGM 35mm SLR camera
  • 1 Minolta X370 35mm SLR camera
  • 1 50mm Minolta MD lens
  • 1 28-80mm Vivitar MD lens
  • 1 80-200mm Vivitar MD lens
  • 1 Vivitar flash
  • 2 polarizing filters
  • 1 red filter
  • 54 rolls of 200 ASA Fuji colour film
  • 11 rolls of 125 ASA Ilford black and white film

The rest, I’m wearing!

So, on my first packing, I got it all in.

First packing

And that’s everything, including my camera-cum-day pack. It can come out as well:

Backpack and daypack

I’m very curious to see how long it takes for it to start lightening up…