23 May 2010
Mindful of the extremely early Sunday train from York to Manchester I kept waking and checking the time. Finally, around 5:15 I gave in and got out of bed, washed up a bit, and packed the final few items into my bag. I took the time to unpack my old rain poncho which had proven itself so prone to soaking and left it, rolled neatly, in the room's trash bin. No need to carry any extra weight back to the US. I managed to rouse the night porter at the hotel desk so that I could check out and wheedled a bit to see if he could grab me a couple of pieces of fruit from the hotel kitchen in lieu of the breakfast I wouldn't be consuming. Thus my breakfast consisted of a couple of apples consumed at the curb while waiting for the cab which the porter had called for me. The cab got me to the train station before 6:15 which was plenty of time for me to get a another £20 from the cash machine (the cab fare pretty well wiped out my last bit of ready cash) and to grab a cup of coffee before the ever-efficient rail service whisked me off to Manchester.
The period between getting on the train and getting on the plane was pretty much of a blur. Security and boarding procedures were pretty strenuous and for the first time ever I had to go through the whole patdown and shoe inspection schtick. I don't know if I was looking especially terroristic (I was feeling pretty terrible anyway) but the powers-that-be chose me for a thorough going over anyway before I could board. I kept waiting to see if anyone would open my hermetically-sealed bag of dirty laundry but apparently nobody did -- it would surely have set off some sort of a biological warfare alarm if they had. Oh well, that's what they get for not having a laundrette anywhere I could find.
The flight to JFK was nothing short of horrendous. I was in a bad mood to start out with but being caged up with children, alternately squalling and hyperactive, for many hours in a non-reclining seat too close to the aft restrooms would have put me in one even if I had not started out that way. Even earplugs and a Xanax washed down with Heinekin (yes it did) weren't enough to get me more than an hour of rest. And then there is JFK. It is really difficult to imagine many worse places than JFK overseas arrivals. A Turkish prison might out-do them for sheer squalor but certainly not by much. In the London underground the recorded warning is "Mind the gap" delivered in a polite tone. At JFK arrivals, if they cared enough to bother, the recording surely would have been "Mind the rats" delivered in a surly snarl. It is hard to imagine how any public facility could be allowed to get into the filthy nasty state I saw. Paint cannot turn that shade in less than a decade. Had they even bothered to sweep up every week or so it might have helped. On top of that the queues to clear customs were endless and slow with the appearance that the employees were in the middle of a perpetual coffee break which they were unwilling to end.
The story of this day of the trip comes to an abrupt end and needs to be rewritten more than a bit and I will make an effort to do so. It was posted nearly a year after the actual trip and my recollections were a bit fuzzy and the extremely detailed contemporaneous notes turned out to be rather sketchy upon inspection. This last day was a pure misery as I was coming down with a world-class cold which hung on for more than a week after my return.
As it turns out while I was trying to get this story pieced together and posted I was also making plans for a similar trip to Scotland. This time I will be following the Great Glen Way much as I followed the Hadrian's Wall Path in 2010. With luck and some better better planning on my part maybe this one will work out smoothly, my notes and pictures will be better and I will do the writeup and get it posted on the site in a more timely manner. Face it, I could hardly be slower the second time around.