hacker emblem
jaegerfesting
Search | Tags | Photos | Flights | Gas Mileage

Arctic

Started: 2016-12-09 10:36:15

Submitted: 2016-12-09 16:11:41

Visibility: World-readable

Monday 24th October: In which the intrepid narrator returns home after a week and change in the UK

After a week working in London, and both weekends playing tourist, it was time to head home. I went for a morning run along the Thames when I woke up, then ate breakfast, finished packing, and checked out of my hotel in Pimlico.

Roundel at Pimlico Underground Station
Roundel at Pimlico Underground Station

There are three airlines that offer direct a total of six daily flights between San Francisco and London -- British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and United. On United I had the choice of a late-morning flight on a 747-400, or a mid-afternoon flight on a 777-200. I picked the mid-afternoon flight since the 777's seats were an inch wider, but this meant I had extra time in the morning before I left. I decided to drop by my employer's new office in London, located a block from King's Cross Station, to get coffee and check my e-mail before heading to the airport.

I took the Victoria line from Pimlico to the massive King's Cross station complex, connecting six Underground lines* plus two mainline rail stations. I found my employer's office, nestled between King's Cross and St. Pancras International mainline rail stations, complete with a roof-top terrace with a commanding view of the new forecourt built in front of King's Cross, and the elaborate Victorian facade of St. Pancras, with the City of London in the haze in the distance.

View of Kings Cross and St. Pancras from 6PS
View of Kings Cross and St. Pancras from 6PS

[* This counts the three subsurface lines that serve King's Cross separately, though they're interlined on the same track at that station.]

I took the subsurface Underground lines west to Paddington Station to catch the Heathrow Express train to the airport. By the time I made it to Brunel's station I didn't have much time to look around to find his statue, or the Paddington Bear statue I thought I'd seen ten years ago, but I did find a Paddington Bear sales kiosk offering "Paddington for Baby" -- a plush Paddington Bear without the dangling pieces that could be pried off and swallowed that made other dolls inappropriate for children under the age of three. I bought it for Julian.

I caught the Heathrow Express to the airport, checked into my flight home, answered the security-profiling questions, passed through the physical security checkpoint, grabbed a hurried lunch at a shop in the terminal, looked briefly at souvenirs without being inspired, found my gate, and settled in to wait. My aircraft had been delayed on its outbound flight, so the crew needed a bit more time to prepare the aircraft for my flight home.

N224UA at Heathrow
N224UA at Heathrow

At length we boarded and I found myself in a window seat at the back of the Economy Plus cabin, in an otherwise-entirely-empty row. I had enough space to spread out, but I couldn't help but regret that I couldn't really take full advantage of the space.

Jaeger in an empty row on a 777
Jaeger in an empty row on a 777

We took off and ended up flying north of the Great Circle route home. I spent the flight watching my in-flight map and saw that we were flying just north of Iceland, to the point where I thought I might be able to see the island nation from the port windows. I was sitting on the right side of the plane, so I got up to use the lavatory and checked the view from the other side of the plane but was disappointed to see that it was overcast.

Lake somewhere in Greenland
Lake somewhere in Greenland

I did get to see Greenland several hours later, first the massive ice caps, then the fjords on the west coast, followed by the massive expanse of sea ice filling Baffin Bay.

Sea ice in Baffin Bay
Sea ice in Baffin Bay

I paid for Internet access on the flight, to keep me amused and occupied, and when it was working well (when we weren't over Greenland) I checked that Baffin Bay does count as part of the Arctic Ocean, so I can claim that my flight took me over three oceans -- Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific -- but only to the extent that the serpentine landing pattern in San Francisco took me over the Pacific Ocean.

Cliffs on Baffin Island
Cliffs on Baffin Island

We made landfall over North America over Baffin Island, then continued the long south-west flight over the Canadian shield. We flew right over Touchet (between Walla Walla and Pasco), though the cloud cover prevented me from seeing anything on the ground. I tracked my flight online and saw a British Airways A380 flying along the same route -- Heathrow to San Francisco -- then spotted the contrail ahead and to our right, glinting in the late-afternoon sunlight. As we approached San Francisco we fell in behind the heavy. We made a large s-curve over the Pacific Ocean*, then flew across the city and lined up for our approach over Oakland. We landed without further incident and I was happy to be on the ground after my last long-haul flight of the year.

[* Maps call the part of the ocean immediately in front of the Golden Gate the "Gulf of the Farallones" but I don't think I've heard anyone actually refer to it as such.]

We sat on the tarmac for fifteen or twenty minutes waiting to get to our arrival gate. It was a little after 18:00 Pacific time; I tried not to do the time-zone conversion to see what time it was back in London. We disembarked at the very end of the international concourse and walked to the center of the airport for the border formalities. I found a short queue at the Global Entry kiosk but breezed through; the border agent who checked my printout from the kiosk wished me a desultory "welcome home", which made me wonder if they'd taken to heart the criticism that frequent travelers still wanted a human to wish them "welcome home". I claimed my bag, declared nothing at customs, and stepped out of customs into the lower level of the international terminal less than fifteen minutes after walking off my plane -- which is probably a record.

I caught BART back home. Julian seemed somewhat indifferent to my return until I handed him Paddington for Baby, at which point his face lit up and he grabbed and hugged the toy. I realized that I'd neglected to get any trinkets for Calvin, and figured I should try to find something on my next trip. I stayed up barely later than my kids, then went to bed at my own plausible early bedtime, beginning to readjust my body clock to my new time zone.

It's probably a mistake to let filmmakers talk about their films.
- James Cameron, _The Abyss_ Special Edition