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London, day 11: 23 September 2006

Started: 2006-09-27 19:28:11

Submitted: 2006-09-27 19:47:42

Visibility: World-readable


1735 GMT 23 September 2006

Tail number of plane used in The Da Vinci Code: G-MNSS. (Currently somewhere just south of Iceland, 35,000 feet.)

1835 GMT 23 September 2006

Now over Greenland, although all I can see out the window is trackless white below and blue sky above. (And the wing, but that should be obvious.)

This morning we packed and contemplated our options for departure. If we had been ambitious, we may have been able to go and see something before our 1200 checkout; I even thought about Geocaching, but nothing was terribly close. We checked out at 1100 and headed out. I grabbed a cup of coffee at Starbucks (and convinced the barista to charge me £1.49 for my small cup, not £1.65 for a medium) and stood, for a terrifically long time, in the queue to get our tube tickets, one way from Zone 1 to Zone 6 -- the brand new Heathrow Terminal 4 tube stop. Only two of the five automatic vending machines were running, and not everyone was as adept at figuring out what they wanted as I was. (I've been here for over a week, and I'm already starting to feel like a local. I'm complaining about the tourists while I'm a tourist -- which Kiesa tells me is a very Boulder thing to do.)

Tube tickets and coffee in hand, I grabbed Kiesa (who sat down with the bags) and we boarded the Piccadilly line to Heathrow. The train spent a longer-than-usual time waiting at the platform at Hatton Cross; the driver came on the PA several times to tell us that a delay ahead was occurring, had been cleared, the train ahead was moving; and, at length, we moved forward. (That is the section of text that is easier to read, since the train wasn't bouncing around under me as I wrote. Not that the majority of my readers will have the opportunity to read my original autograph, spelling errors and all.)

When we got to the airport, we learned that we weren't supposed to check in yet (apparently to minimize crowing inside the secured portion of the terminal), so we wandered around and eventually found a piece of wall to lean against while I wrote more about the tail end of our vacation and Kiesa read Singularity Sky, which I finished last night and convinced her to read.

Just looked out the window, as the map on the back of the fully-reclined seat in front of me tells me that we are just leaving Greenland, almost on top of the dot labeled Godthab. Unlike the entire flight since we left Scotland, the cloud cover broke up enough to show snow-covered rocky terrain far below. I think I caught a glimpse of Greenland while flying from Frankfurt to Chicago nine years ago; this makes two.

At length, we were allowed to check in. (Had we had access to a printer last night we could have printed boarding passes; as it was we were able to get seats together. (Seat Guru, my favorite website giving airline seat maps, doesn't have this BA 777 configuration with a small (three-row, if memory serves) World Traveler Plus cabin, then a small World Traveler (Economy) cabin ahead of the bulkhead (just aft of the wing), and a larger World Traveler Cabin. Seat Guru cautioned that row 36 may start to shrink due to the curvature of the plane, but I have no complaints (aside from the seat pitch) so far. At least I'm not trying to sleep this time around.)) The queue to check in was short, but moved slowly; each party seemed to take a very long time at the counter. We had no such problem; we're apparently seasoned travelers who know just what to do at each movement of the great song-and-dance.

Security was another slow queue. The main problem seemed to be that they had us put our bags onto the x-ray conveyer one at a time; the most efficient US airports I've been through provide at least several meters of linear space to pipeline the process -- there's only so much effort one can do in the queue. (I know, because I did it all. I did better than most, but not as well as I could have.)

Once we were through security, we still didn't have a gate assignment. Unlike Gatwick, the departure lounge looked more like a mall with expensive shops, with fewer obvious places to get food or sit down. We wandered and eventually found a Starbucks with a few pre-packaged sandwiches and a place to sit. I used the tmobile Internet access I paid £40 to get a month-long access pass (the best way to get an Internet connection in our hotel) to check facts for my earlier entries, and eventually rendezvoused with Kiesa at our designated gate, 8. At length we boarded, pushed back (saw an impressive line of 777s in BA livery, all with tail numbers G-YMMx, including the aircraft we flew from Denver to Heathrow last week), transmitted the passenger manifest to the TSA to compare it against the no-fly list, and eventually took off. We took off from 9R, flew east towards London, and got a great view of all the sights before turning north, passing over Luton, and catching a glimpse of what I took to be Scottish highlands before entering the cloud-covered Atlantic Ocean. Kiesa and I picked the same in-flight movie to amuse ourselves, The Da Vinci Code, which proved to be a fantastic airplane movie -- long and action-packed, plus something I might not bother to pay money to see.

It's fun to watch the in-flight situation map, which seems to re-render itself several times a second, often shifting the position of features and text. Sometimes entire labels will appear or disappear.

1930 GMT 23 September 2006

We're about to make landfall over North America, not far from a dot the map labels Iqaluit north of Ungava Bay, south-west of Davis Straight. We've been flying for a bit over four hours; the flight is about half over. We've actually been able to maintain some sort of tailwind through most of the flight, which is fairly impressive.

1900 MDT 23 September 2006

The theory is that if I sit down to write, my bags will come -- which worked! Now leaving through customs in Denver.

1915 MDT 23 September 2006

Now in the shuttle heading to Pikes Peak shuttle parking lot. The remainder of the flight was long and boring. I read Neil Gaiman's first collection of short stories and "illusions": Smoke and Mirrors and watched a bit of TV. Once we landed, we went through immigration without incident; importing 250g of tea is apparently find, although I did check "food" on the front of the customs form and itemize on the back. I managed to avoid writing Willy's customs idea -- "A greater appreciation for British history and culture: priceless" -- on the itemized list.

Our bags took a long time to show up on the pre-customs baggage claim carousel; once they all arrived (no doubt influenced by my note I sat down to write), we passed through customs without incident (Kiesa asked the customs guard if we needed to declare our tea and he asked if it was "special tea, you know, the kind you smoke"; Kiesa assured him it wasn't). Now we're in search of our car; soon we'll be home, just in time for a plausible early bedtime, Mountain time. And one day to do laundry and help recover from jet lag before going back to work on Monday. (I presume I'll show up in Boulder, not Los Angeles, but I'm not yet sure.)

that means you put everything about your personal life on the
internet for everyone to read. that's what content is
- Linknoid