Day 11
May 23, 2005
London, England

Uncle Phil coddled me up around 8am today.  About Town Bike Rentals opens at 10am, and we planned on checking the bikes in as soon as possible.  We had plenty of time before our flight, but we wanted to give ourselves time in case something unforeseen comes up, like getting on the wrong bus for Heathrow.

Breakfast was once again toast and jelly sans peanut butter.  I was feeling better because I ran 48 hours ago, and by tomorrow afternoon I'd be back to training.  I was concerned I'd come back feeling like a slug, but so far so good.  I had some bad days at the table, but I had some good ones to.  

The Brewers had some excellent croissant things that were really good with grape jam spread.

After breakfast we went back to the room and finished packing, from there we went downstairs to the bikes, and prepared for the short ride to the shop.  My riding gear was packed except for my helmet.  Surely, after all I'd been through this week, I could ride 3 blocks without a mishap.

We rolled into About Town right on time, and Mike finished our paperwork.  Including debiting the 6 THOUSAND dollar deposit Uncle Phil had placed on the bikes.  He had to cover my deposit, with HIS Visa, when we learned About Town does NOT carry American Express.  My other cards are a Visa check card, and a Visa bank card with a 0 balance, but only a 1k limit; by design.  I'm RETIRED don't need to be in debt.  I keep the card for emergencies, so far never had to use it.  My only other option was finding a PC and switching some money to my checking account, but we had no idea how long it would take the transfer to credit over, and letting me have the funds.

Oh well, all that was history, we were safely back in the shop, and I told Uncle Phil to make sure he got a copy of the transaction.  It would be chaos trying to sort things out from Nashville.  About Town was very professional, I just wish they took American Express.

Mike inspected the bikes and all was in order.  We chatted a few moments, and wanted to stay longer.  I can recommend About Town for renting bikes in the UK. 

With that finished we went back to hotel to secure our stuff and to check out. 
We took a short walk to the bus stop, and connected to the underground for a train to Heathrow.  We only made a few bobbles, but we quickly corrected and made it to the airport right on time.

Hotel to Heathrow took about 60 minutes.

I was dreading the long flight to Chicago.  Stuck in a plane for 8 hours is no fun for a true Long Rider.  We are use to the open spaces, and being in control.

We cleared customs without a hitch, and boarded the airplane.  Our seats were in the middle, near the rest rooms.  Again, Uncle Phil and I chatted about motorcycles and touring.  He told me about his ride last year.  That joker went to Alaska, dropped down to California and home in less than 2 weeks.  His ride home was not bad, but the ride to Alaska and then the Bay Area was a grind of 700 mile days.  He told me he wouldn't want to do it again.

We talked about doing the ride together when we were in the Blue Ridge the previous fall.  I wanted to do it in 3 weeks, but he said he only had 2, I had to let him go.  Later on, I became more interested in British Columbia and Western Canada on the Yellowhead and Icefields Parkway, and that's what I did, but I know Uncle Phil.  He wanted that Alaska state sign, even if he had to do the ride in three days, he was was not going to be denied.

Listening to his stories about that ride soothed the long flight.  I watched a couple of movies, and some pre recorded TV.  After 7 hours of sitting next to me, I met a young Irish couple (newlyweds) on their way to Vegas then Miami.  "Dang baby, you're makin sure you get to some place warm ain't ya?"  "Yes, I want some sun."  "Well you won't be disappointed."  Her fair skinned Irish complexion would be no match for the 10+ UV rays of Vegas and Miami.  I didn't want to sound like a know it all, so just advised her to be careful.

"So ye were in London on business yes?'  "Not hardly sweetie, on a motorcycle tour.  I'm retired, and right now were just a couple of southern boys tryin to get home."  They were a nice couple, early 20s, and totally naive about many things.  She asked many questions about my travels in America.  I was sure the lights of Vegas were going to glaze her over.
We were served 2 meals on the plane, and they were surprisingly good.  

The flight went quicker then expected and we touched down in Chicago.  USA!  A rude baggage lady herded us through customs, my passport got me back in and we were off for something to eat.  After walking around with 50 bucks all week, and no place to spend it in the UK, (not that 50 dollars buys very much in the UK) I felt like a rich man.

I was back home, so I blew it out.  I bought a 6 inch pizza, large drink, and a BIG muffin, even at inflated airport prices, all of it came in for 6 bucks.  In the UK same meal takes you down for at least 5 lbs. (10 dollars)

Uncle Phil said it was time to head for the gate and the flight to Nashville.  I got in line to have my 2 carry ons scanned.  First ok, the 2nd fails.  They try again, same thing, red light fires off.  Time for hand search.  They open my small duffel, and ask what my PDA charger does.  I show him.  They open a small pouch on the inside and find a small metal nail clipper.  I didn't even know I had it.  I checked this bag on the flight over, and it passed in London.  But we ain't going NOWHERE in Chicago.  "You KNOW you can't have ANYTHING metal."  "Yeah, I didn't even know it was in there."  Dang, I'm going to jail I thought.  The guy was nice enough and said.  "Well you can't take it on board, someone you can give it to on the other side?"  "Look it cost 50 cents, just throw it away."  "Ok, be on your way."  It was good to see they were on the job.
I helped a lady put her carry on in the overhead bin, she was using a walker.

A late evening sun filtered through the windows of the plane as we flew south.  I recall looking out the window at how far between cities it can be in America.  And after the UK, how big everything seemed.  I gazed out the windows of the ribbons of highway below, the headlights of the cars moving painfully slow, compared to the 500 mph we were doing.  I kept wondering if I had ever had traveled on a few down there on one of my Hondas.  I've ridden so many roads the last few years, I'm sure I flew over dozens on our way south. 

Uncle Phil took a short nap, and I was alone with my thoughts.  

The airplane touched down a little after 9 and we taxied to the gates.  The entire time I was thinking I'd soon be back on the 1300 and riding south.  I was looking forward to the next day's ride.  Almost home.

The lady I helped in Chicago was once again struggling.  Because of a knee operation she was using a walker thing with wheels, at the same time she was trying to pull her carry on, and had a duffel draped over the handles of her walker.  She was moving slow and having a hard time.  People just scooted around her and kept going, no one offered to help.  Everybody watched her as she pulled and wheeled to get on the long ramp you walk down to get in the gate.  Where have manners gone these days?  Finally, Uncle Phil and I caught up to her, and carried her luggage, and escorted her to her daughters, that were waiting near the baggage claim.  They thanked us for helping their mom, and for looking after her.  Uncle Phil said,  "No problem m'am, I'd want someone to do the same for my mother."

After picking up our stuff at the carousel, Uncle Phil went for the truck, while I guarded the bags.  I called Debbie and Chris to let them know the situation.  "Yes, I'll be home around lunch time tomorrow."

The streets of Nashville were quiet as we headed back to the holler.  Uncle Phil pointed out the routes I needed to take to get escape the city in the morning.  We pulled in the Phil's driveway about 10, my tour almost over.

Uncle Phil threw the river bags down in the garage, "I'll worry about that stuff in the morning."  The 1300 was right where I left it, waiting patiently for my return.  I hoped he wasn't too pissed at me for riding the VFR.  He had no need to worry, I had no thoughts of replacing him with the more sporty sport-tourer.

We were both tired and in bed 15 minutes after we hit the door.  I told Uncle Phil to wake me when he got up for work, I wanted a early start the next day.

Next: a super ride back to Prattville and home