The 2016 Holiday Blog…part 1

It’s that time again…I have returned from my summer holiday to the grand ol’ state of Oregon, USA, and that means photos for you! First though I’ve got to tell you about the RIDICULOUSLY stressful journey to get there, so holiday photos to follow in part 2…

It was a Thursday… a reasonable kind of day. My lovely friend Emma dropped me at the coach station at a quite ungodly hour (5.30am) and the journey seemed to be going fine (i.e. I lay down and went to sleep for an hour) until we got near to central London, when the coach. just. stopped. And didn’t move for about 10 minutes.

Eventually the driver got out to see what was happening, and came back to tell us that up ahead was an accident between a bus and a motorbike – and so the road was closed in all directions and traffic was being turned around. At this point, everyone who needed to transfer at Victoria Coach Station and head on to airports started to have a slight panic. Me too. Internally.

We were opposite New Cross Gate station, and the driver said our best bet of getting into London was to try and catch a train. So that’s what we did. About 6 of us, with all our luggage, annoyed the ticket man by asking the same questions, buying a £3.30 ticket to Victoria Rail Station and then darting off before sharing the info with the person behind us!

On the platform waiting for the train though, I made a new friend! We got chatting, continued chatting on the train, and then on our mad dash from the Rail station to the Coach station. It turns out that she (Sophie) is also a Christian and was going to New York (cue jealousy) to go to the wedding of a friend she met at David Wilkerson’s Bible School. [He’s quite a big deal Christian and wrote some awesome books, including The Cross and The Switchblade, which I’ve read) Sophie is now back living about 1/2 hour away from me so we’ve exchanged numbers, and I hope we’ll get to meet up soon.

Anyway, we were at Victoria Coach Station. Let’s continue, because it is NOT plain sailing from there.

I should say at this point that my flight was at 11am, and my check-in closed at 10am. With my carefully laid out plans, I should have arrived at Heathrow at 9am…

New friend Sophie and I arrived at the Coach station at, fortunately in time for her to catch her coach to Gatwick but too late for mine. The ticket person was very helpful and said I could switch to the next coach, but that wasn’t leaving until 9am. I tried not to panic, but sent several panicky Whatsapp messages to friends asking that they pray, while I tried (ultimately in vain) to do the check-in online.

Turned out, the airline had decided my name is SarahBethMis which of course I did NOT try to enter in the little box, which meant all attempts to check in failed. I just had to trust that the coach would get me to Heathrow before my check-in closed…

Well, in this journey NOTHING could run smooth. When I tried to get on the new coach, the driver said I needed a stamp on my original ticket. No-one had told me that, so I spent 3 minutes trying to find the stamp-person, only for the driver to not even LOOK at the stamped ticket when I went back to the coach. Then, the coach itself was 11 minutes late leaving the station because a family arrived last minute with about seventy gazillion suitcases to be loaded on. (Of course, they only had 14 suitcases really but that is a LOT of suitcases to just turn up with at the very last minute)

Onwards…on the coach. Still trying to check in. Failing to check in. Praying. Looking on google maps for “distance time Victoria Rail Heathrow” “how long Heathrow bus to terminal 3” (10 minutes, remember that). Praying some more. Trying again to check in. Eventually giving up. Praying even more.

Remember I said that check-in closed at 10am, and it takes 10 minutes to walk between the station and terminal? Well, I arrived at the bus station at 9.48am…

So, 12 minutes to go.

2 minutes taken up by crazy big family getting their 14 suitcases from the coach hold which were in front of mine, and then checking the departures board to make sure I actually was heading to the right terminal

2 minutes careening the luggage trolley in the direction of the lift, only to find I was actually at the stairs (not possible with a huge suitcase and a carry-on suitcase)

1 minutes careening even quicker back to where the lifts actually were, and then 1 minute waiting for the blasted thing to arrive

5 minutes running faster than I ever have run before, barely even breathing and certain I was going to pass out at the other end.

9.58am, I joined the check-in queue…………….

9.59am, I realised that the people in front of me where in no rush and in fact were being flipping awkward,

9.59 and 30 seconds, I jumped in front of the woman next to me and begged the check-in lady to do mine first, apologising profusely to the lady whose turn it was next and I think I may have called her an angel when she smiled and said “sure, you go”

10am – the amazing check-in lady confirmed I was checked in. Fastest check in I’ve ever had. Luggage sent off down the conveyer belt with a label saying “rush” (huh, no kidding). It was at this point I realised that Colin Jackson (athlete) and Suzanne Packer (his sister, an actress) were at the check-in desk just next door. If I hadn’t been so frazzled I’d have asked for an autograph but in all honesty I thought I might die so I just took my little self off through the Security checks.

The screen in security (helpfully) told me to go straight to my gate, so cue some very fast walking – blatantly ignoring all the duty free, but quickly buying a travel adapter plug (I have one, somewhere, in a safe place, but couldn’t find it when I packed!!) and rush rush rushing to my gate, where everyone else (it seemed) had already boarded.

The lovely attendant told me I had a few minutes so I bought a bottle of water, tried to calm down a bit, and then boarded…at 10.30am.

It was only at this point that I called my mum and let her know the drama, I knew she’d worry if I’d told her about it earlier on, before it was all resolved – but I figured out, I was sitting on the plane now, we were leaving in half an hour, what could happen?

Oh oh oh, what could happen.

2 and a half hours later we were finally taking off. We left the gate on time, taxi’d to the runway, and then got taxi’d back. Little murmurs went round about passengers being taken off the plane, or being added to the plane… complimentary bottles of water were brought round, the entertainment was switched on (to keep us occupied) and the pilot gave us updates every so often.

FINALLY at 12.50pm the pilot said we were cleared to go, and we actually took off at 1pm. 2 hours late.

Later when I took a wander around the plane I heard the flight attendants talking about some idiot who had snuck a cat (AN ACTUAL CAT) onto the plane, which was the cause of the delay because, did you know, you cannot take a cat on a plane!

The flight itself was fine…9 hours 55 minutes, very long, but the food service was fine, I watched lots of films, I was even reasonably comfortable (practically unheard of) – but 2 extra hours at Heathrow meant that we were late landing at Seattle, but yay for the airline they had already sorted out new connecting flights for anyone (like me) who had missed their planned one. That was nice. It still took ages to sort out, but it was a nice effort.

I was able to keep in touch with Rachel thanks to Facebook, and let them know I’d have to get a later bus from Portland to Corvallis…however, after my quick connection between Seattle and Portland, I got out to the bus terminal and my ACTUAL bus (that I’d booked onto) was only just arriving there, because it had been stuck in loads of traffic! So no drama rebooking, just hopped straight on, was given more free water by the driver (I probably looked like death) and it was onwards to Corvallis.

Lovely, sunny, relaxing, wonderful Corvallis. David picked me up from the bus stop (at a hotel) and took me back to their house, where I promptly had a cup of tea, sitting on their deck, and talked about Brexit.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the most crazy and shambolic journey I have ever had to get to my friends.

Fortunately, the two weeks that followed were wonderful – but that is a blog for another day