17th June 2018
All the packing is done at last. I have decided to take a small roller bag, it’s an old one I can dump after I get the bike. I am also taking the trolley I bought last time I went to the States so I can haul the bag on and off the bike when I stop at night so I don’t have to carry it. Problem is where to put it… I decide to strap it to the back of the roller bag using a couple of cable ties and a suitcase strap, it works fine.
Next morning it’s finally time to get the flight over to Oakland and start the latest adventure. I have to leave home about 9.30am to get to the tube station. Glo very kindly gives me a lift and I have a smooth journey all the way to Gatwick airport. Once there I am expecting the usual queues etc. however I am delighted that it all is very straight forward for once and I don’t even set off the alarms going through security.
As with most airports these days you have to negotiate the duty free area to get into the departure lounge and on to the departure gates. Now normally I am pretty good at not stopping, but because I have sailed through I have quite a bit of time on my hands so stop briefly for a look at the smellies… oh dear, big mistake. Yep got myself a bottle of eau de toilette complete with ‘free’ deodorant stick that I won’t use! Then I spot a pair of sunglasses.. they are exactly the same Ray Bans that Freddie the pug decided to eat a few months ago and they are a pair I particularly love so can’t leave them behind.
Then a stop for coffee, naturally, and a stroll down to the departure gate. All is going swimmingly, but hey this is a Pog Tour so it can’t possibly last.
I didn’t sort out a seat so have been allocated a middle seat, which normally I would change but unfortunately have left it to the last minute so am stuck with it. I am hoping I will get two female stick insects who sleep all the way there… fingers crossed.
The plane is a ‘Dreamliner’ Boeing 787 which is very nice indeed. The seats are quite spacious with plenty of leg room… oh oh, here comes the window seat,,, quite a tall chap but slim, then aisle seat arrives… another chap, very young and thin so everything should be ok.
We are held on the ground for a short while so a bit late taking off.. I won’t bore you with the journey however young master aisle is a complete pain in the arse. The minute he sat down he put his hoodie over his head and went to sleep… great you say.. yes but he constantly fidgets, leans over towards me, hogs the armrest and everytime I try to sleep he nudges me and wakes me up. I did consider saying something, but when I woke him and asked to be let out for the loo he obviously didn’t understand a word I said, so it would be a bit pointless trying to get him to stop being so irritating.
After about 8 hours I have to get up, the constant sitting is causing a serious pain in my lower back… I wake up Bridget fidget and he lets me out. I try walking up and down for a bit and find an area near the middle galley to stop and stand for a while, then return to my seat. For the next 3 hours I am in pain and the final half an hour is almost unbearable. I don’t have any painkillers on me but think to myself at least we will be getting off soon…. seriously not!
The plane lands and most people stand up.. I almost jump up and am waiting in the queue to get off… then there is an announcement, apparently Oakland is a very small airport and they cannot deal with more than one aircraft at once, so we have to wait while they embark a flight headed for Barcelona.. half an hour later and there is another announcement, its going to be another 15-20 minutes… my back is killing me, I cannot sit and now I’m finding it very hard to stand.. I need to walk, but there is nowhere to go. Eventually we are able to disembark.. oh that’s better.
I am dying for the loo, so I go as soon as I can and then join the queue for the border checks. As I have been to the States before I know this is going to take some time, but actually it is an automated system and fairly quick. However, when I follow the signs I then find myself in front of a customs man. He doesn’t smile… and asks me 100’s of questions. Am I travelling alone, how am I travelling, where am I staying, how long am I staying, do I have proof of return flight, etc. When I answer that I am touring on a motorcycle he asks me what sort of bike, so I tell him a Harley, he then says:
CM – ‘you are travelling alone you say’
ME – ‘yes all alone’
CM – ‘you’re not riding with a group or anything’
ME – ‘No I prefer alone, less hassle’ (I don’t feel like mentioning Dykes on Bikes… don’t think it will play well)
CM – ‘Have you done this before”
ME – ‘Yes, two years ago I rode round the States alone’
CM – ‘You are 62 right’
ME – ‘Yes that’s right’
CM – ‘Where did you enter last time?’
ME – ‘Washington DC’
CM – ‘Where did you go”
ME – ‘Oh all over, Route 66 to LA then New Orleans and Florida Keys up the east coast to…’
CM – ‘Alone’
ME – ‘Yes always… most of western europe and …’
By this point I am convinced he is not going to let me in… the next thing I am expecting is for him to say what about this outstanding warrant for a traffic violation in San Bernadino County, but no, what he actually says is
CM – ‘Well, I am very impressed”
ME – ‘Oh! Oh thank you’
CM – ‘Yes, very impressed’
ME – ‘Oh, well I’m used to riding alone’
CM – ‘I’m more impressed with the Harley’
I laugh and he says – ‘Have a great time and keep safe’, ‘I will’ says I ‘and thank you’
Whew… what a relief!!
The next bum ache is the wait for the luggage.. the carousel suddenly stops and there is an announcement that it will be a further 15-20 minutes wait for the luggage, but happy fathers day!!
I am sure I have a touch of cystitis because I keep needing to go to the loo.. am walking around as much as I can to ease the back ache and eventually, after almost an hour, I retrieve my overnight bag… it seems to have survived the journey intact.
Out of the airport terminal and I spot a sign for a hotel shuttle bus service. I make my way over and wait, but after about 15 minutes no one else is there and no buses have come.
I am freezing so decide to get a taxi. The taxi driver asks where I am going and when I say the Radisson at the airport he says there is a free bus service, just give your hotel a call. I thought that was very decent of him, he could have taken me there and I would have paid being none the wiser so am very impressed. I call the hotel and they say someone will be there to pick me up in 15 minutes… 30 minutes later I call them again and then 10 minutes after that a small bus arrives and whisks me off to the hotel.
I am shattered so as soon as I get checked in and find my room I unpack a few bits and flop into bed, it’s 8.30pm here and 3.30am in the UK so I have been awake now for 20 hours straight, yawn!