2019 - USA West Coast Trip - Travel Day
The alarm went off at 4am. We both jumped out of bed and quietly went about getting ready trying not to disturb Neil, and putting the last items in the car. At exactly 5am we pulled out of the drive and were on the way.
At 5.59am we stopped at Starbucks on the A11 as I had checked online that they should open at 6am. However despite the door being open they were not ‘actually’ opening until 6.30am, so we just used the toilet and carried with the journey. We were nicely on target to be at the terminal for 11.30am. The Sat Nav always takes us through Royston, down the A1 and then turns us off towards St Albans. Despite it not being as straightforward it is usually quicker and certainly less miles than the M11/25. I knew there was another Starbucks before we hit the M25 and so we nipped in. We were in there 6 minutes but by the time we came out the Sat Nav was now showing a 45 minute delay and rerouted us through Denham rather than hitting the M25. There was obviously a problem on the M25 we would have been caught up in but the drive through Denham seemed to take an age. It was indeed 8.15am before we pulled in front of T3 where Sonny was waiting for us to take our car away. After the usual conversation about how brown Karen looks before our trip and the relative fortunes of QPR & Norwich we left him and went into the terminal.
The terminal was very very full. Through using points and an offer from Virgin, our outbound flight was Premium Economy and luckily there was no queue at these desks. Within minutes we had dropped bags and went up to Security. Here it was busy and it did seem that they were using some of their contingency staff to operate the security equipment as the whole process was very slow and laborious. Karen’s handbag was selected for special attention which delayed us further.
We still had our Lounge passes and found our way to the Aspire Lounge. It is not that posh but it is quiet and the hot food and drink are reasonable and free. The time passed very quickly in there. The information board said that our gate would be known 1 hour before departure. I looked at it again 75 minutes before departure to check to find that not only was the gate was detailed but also that boarding had started. Karen went into minor panic mode. We made our way to the gate to find that they were inviting all remaining passengers too board. In my mind that was perfect timing as we just walked straight on, in Karen’s opinion this is was a nightmare. I think they were hoping to get away early the plane was fully boarded some 20 minutes before the departure time.
The flight soon passed by. There was a small child in front of us who was no trouble the whole flight. I settled down to watch Avengers - End Game, all 3 hours of it. I confess that like most of the Marvel films I didn’t understand all of it. I think you need to have copious notes to refer back to during the film. After seeing the Harry Potter shows in London last week where I described the storyline as Harry Potter does Back to the Future, I would describe End Game as Avengers does Back to the Future parts 1,2 & 3.
The service from Virgin was first class. The food was also presented and looked good but just not to my liking so I munched on my Lidl rolls I had made. The afternoon tea that was served again was excellent with hot scones and fresh cream, macarons, eclairs etc. Just a shame that I don’t eat any desserts or things like it.
We were almost first off the plane but were met with the most horrendous queues going into passport control. We were held outside in corridors as the passport control area was at bursting point. We settled for a long wait when suddenly they announced that anyone who had Global Entry could go straight through. We pushed our way through the crowd and were admitted into the USA through Global Entry within about 3 minutes. I reckon the queue would have been 90 minute plus for everyone else. Our bags were also quickly off the carousel. There was what looked like another 60 minute queue for customs but again there were signs for those with Global Entry which meant we bypassed that queue as well.
I had checked In online for our rental car and thought we would just be able to drive straight out from the airport. Disappointingly though we had to get a shuttle bus to the mass rental car facility where we were able to then walk to the Alamo lot and select our mid size SUV. I picked the largest in the row which was a Mitsubishi Outlander in silver. After setting up the Sat Nav and loading the luggage we set off on the 49 mile drive to Olympia. No soon as we hit the Interstate we ran into traffic problems caused by roadworks. This lasted over 30 miles and more than doubled the length of the journey. Not a good start.
We sorted ourselves out in the room and chilled for a while. Despite our body clocks telling us it was 1am in the morning and having been since 4am the previous day, it was only 5pm local time. We discovered there was a Red Lobster restaurant within walking distance and decided to head out to that for our evening meal. It was endless shrimp night and so we both ordered that. We both made the schoolboy error of eating far too many of the delicious hot Cheese rolls that they bring to the table whilst you are waiting for your meal. It was then I found out that there is actually a limit to how many shrimp one person can eat. I started with the Garlic Shrimp Scampi and Wood grilled skewered Shrimp. I followed this with the Breaded Shrimp and found that I had reached my shrimp limit. They were all very nice but I could not force another one down.
To try and walk off some of our stomach’s full of Shrimp we decided to walk to the nearest supermarket which was a Safeway. The fact it also had a Starbucks in it had no influence at all upon Karen suggestion. We bought some snacks and fruit, although not too much as we had to carry it back to the Hotel. It was at the checkout that I figuratively hit the wall. Tiredness completely overwhelmed me and I not was sure where I was or what I was doing. Luckily Karen realised and ushered me out of the door. It seemed a long and arduous walk back to the Hotel, but in reality it was no such thing. Back in the room I got the laptop out but fell asleep with my head on the keyboard. I was totally exhausted. Apart from less than 10 minutes doze on the plane I had now been up 23 ½ hours and it felt like it. Just before 7.30pm I was in bed and out for the night.