Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Journey

Having completed the grand journey from St. Louis to London, and having now settled into my accommodations in Surrey, I think it's time to present a record of the event. (I'll get back to the book reviews and such soon, don't worry.)

Thursday, 20th Januray 2011

0500 -- Wake up. Train to Chicago leaves at 0725, but we'll need to get there early to get our tickets (we reserved them online).
0511 -- Eat breakfast. Eggs and toast, prepared by my father. A very hearty meal, which I'm thankful for, as I'm not sure when the next time will be that I can eat.
0528 -- Finish packing. I had, of course, finished packing the night before. But when I woke up I remembered a few items that needed to come along, so I found a way to shove those into my suitcase as well.
0545 -- Finish packing, again. And then I remembered a few things that needed to be shoved into my backpack, so I proceeded to make space for them as well.
0547 -- Say goodbye to my brother, who was still half-asleep at the time.
0553 -- Depart for the railway station. A bit later than we would have liked, as it's about 30 mins away, but should still put us there with sufficient time before the train arrives. (The paranoia, in case you are wondering, comes from a trip I took to Chicago one other time via train. When I arrived at Union station to return home, I found that my train's departure had been moved a half-hour earlier. Fortunately, I was early.)
0620 -- Pass the statue of Robert Wadlow, the Alton Giant.
0621 -- Arrive at the train station. Naturally, we discover that the ticket booth doesn't open until 0630. So we had nothing to fear.
0633 -- Ticket in hand, waiting for the train.
0637 -- Lauren and her dad arrive. The journey will soon commence. soon as the train gets here.

0742 -- Train arrives.
0743 -- Train departs.

Yes, they really are that quick on the pickup.

1227 -- Train arrives in Chicago. Now begins the fun part. We're up in a major city, without our parents, trying to reach and navigate two of the most infamously complicated (or at least difficult to deal with) airports in the world. Yes, we're adults, but it's still scary to do it alone.
1308 -- Stop for food at McDonald's. Ritzy, I know. And you thought travelling was glamorous.
1427 -- Board subway for O'Hare. This was a bit of a surprise, and I'm disappointed that I didn't take pictures. As I said earlier, I've been to Chicago before. And for those of you who don't know, Chicago has a great public transit system. Most of this system is comprised of elevated trains, with some decent bus routes as well. This train, however, was a subway, which surprised me quite a bit. (I don't know why.) It's a good thing we asked for directions or we could have wandered for some time looking for the Blue Line.

Now the airport-shuffle begins. To give a brief overview: we needed to travel to Chicago because our flight left from there. That flight, however, did not get us to London. It got us to Copenhagen, where we had to board another flight to get into London. Why did we do this circuitous and time-consuming route?
Easy. It was cheaper this way.

1504 -- Arrive at O'Hare Airport. For those keeping track, this means we've been in travel mode for ten hours. (For those of you who don't know what travel mode is... well, I'll find a suitable metaphor at some point. For now, understand that you can be in travel mode, mentally, even if you aren't presently going anywhere, physically. It involves a sense of not having a place to belong, while also having to navigate logistics, which can be really draining mentally and emotionally [not to mention the whole "no sleep" thing]).
1541 -- Pick up tickets. A nice indication of both the size and complexity of O'Hare. Yes, it really did take us over half an hour to get from the subway to the international terminal. First we had to find our way into the main airport building, find where our flight provider (SAS [Scandinavian Air Services]) had its service desk, ride a tram around to the international terminal, and then search among the fifteen or so desks for SAS. After that, receiving our ticket was easy. We weren't even overweight on our luggage (a constant fear when we were packing).
1556 -- Stop at food court to relax. We thought about going through security, but there's no food on the other side of security. Although we weren't hungry quite yet, we knew it was a possibility, so we decided to hang out on the outside of security in case we wanted to eat something. We did. It was a lovely overpriced chicken salad and fruit smoothie.
1739 -- Walk through security. Yes, walk. We didn't have a problem at all. The most trouble Chicago's security gave me was asking me to lie my backpack on its back, instead of standing up. No problem.
1903 -- Clear credit cards for travel. Don't use credit cards while overseas. Just don't. Unless you have a really special, international-plan card or something, the fees you pay are just too expensive to use them on a regular basis (which you will need to do for any kind of travelling). The other thing is that there are a lot of smaller shops and street vendors that you'll probably be stopping at, and they probably won't accept credit, so cash is usually the best way to go.
That being said, it's good to have them for an emergency. And in order so that your company doesn't block you when it sees a domestic card being used overseas (thinking it's an identity thief or something) you'll need to call ahead and let them know when, where, and for how long you'll be travelling. Now, I'll admit, this is something I should've done days ago. I just... didn't. So I had to call from the airport.
2011 -- Plane appears at the gate. For those following along at home, this marks 15 hours in travel mode. We can feel it beginning to wear on us by now.
2108 -- Early boarding begins. This means the elderly, first class, and parents with young children. You know, the folks who are either special or take a while to get themselves situated.
2121 -- We're on the plane.

At this point, the next eight hours are a combination of food, sleep, and reading. So there's not much to report. In addition, we switched our clocks to match London time (which is six hours ahead of Chicago time) so from now on I'm going to list the Chicago time with the London time in parenthesis, so you can get a feel for how our internal clocks felt versus how the world needed us to feel at the time.

0356 [0956] -- Wake up from a (maybe) two-hour nap for breakfast. This airline was fantastic, by the way. They had great service, wonderful accommodations, and the served us two meals. I think we're going to try to get them for the return flight. If it's as good as this one was, then I'd definitely recommend that everyone fly SAS for their overseas journeys.
0544 [1144] -- Arrive in Copenhagen. Another fantastic feature about the airline: we were over 40 mins early. This gave us about two hours before our next flight left. Another note on the time: over 24 hours in travel mode by now.
0602 [1202] -- Find gate for London. Something that I wasn't expecting when changing flights: going through security again. I figured, since we had to go through security to get on the first plane, then we wouldn't have to worry about it when switching to another one. Apparently that's not the case in Denmark. Also, this one took us a bit longer because they were meticulous about checking our liquids. Lauren's small packages of soap and such were scrutinized, and they double-checked my alcohol from the duty-free store to make sure it was still sealed. After that... well, it was a slightly confusing trek to find the departure location for our London flight, but nothing extensive.

0731 [1331] -- Board plane to London.
0756 [1356] -- Plane takes off for London.
1007 [1607] -- Land at Heathrow Airpoart in London. Once again, about half an hour early.
1017 [1617] -- Get off the plane. Heh, one disadvantage to being early is that, sometimes, the airport isn't ready for you. So we had to wait on the runway for a few minutes while the flight ahead of us pulled away from the gate. Wasn't too bad, though.

1032 [1632] -- Through border control. Here we are. The moment we've been most anxious about since we started this journey. It doesn't matter that we've been travelling for 29 and 1/2 hours. It doesn't matter that we've made every flight and train and connection and worked out all the logistics. It doesn't even matter that we have a place to stay, really. If these guys say no, we don't get in. It's that simple.
Well, clearly, we got in. And, quite frankly, all that worry was for nothing. The man looked at our passports, asked us a couple questions about school (they sounded more like curiosity than actual inquiries) and then he sent us on our way. No paperwork; no interrogations. Nothing.
Of course, if we hadn't done all the preparation, then naturally he would have asked for some document or another that we had forgotten. That's just the way this world works.

1055 [1655] -- Arrive at bus station. Even though we've come all this way, and have been travelling for almost 30 hours, we still have to figure out how to get to Tollworth Road, Surrey. This was, probably, the most frustrating part of the whole trek. We feel like we've been going for so long and have come so far; we're so close. But there's just this last little bit of distance to cover and we can't find any good way to do it. Rather than trying to be especially smart, we just asked for help and the folks at the bus depot hooked us up with a route via bus to a train station where we could then take the train up to another station from which we could reach our destination. It seemed like a lot, but we were just a bit too tired to figure out a better solution.
1118 [1718] -- Bus to Woking station arrives.
1130 [1730] -- We board bus to Woking. Naturally, our bus had to change drivers, which only increased our impatience.
1133 [1733] -- Bus departs for Woking station. The bus made up for it, though, by being warm, leaving quickly, and having a driver that looked like Professor Benevento (always nice to see a familiar face, even if it isn't someone you know).
1148 [1748] -- Heathrow Airport is out of sight as we board the expressway.

1224 [1824] -- Arrive at Woking station.
1253 [1853] -- Train to Waterloo arrives. We board it.
1308 [1906] -- Train arrives at Surbiton.

By now, we've been in travel mode for 32 hours, and it's been about nine hours since we've had any real food. We're tired, we don't know where we are or where we're going. We spend ten minutes looking at a map before deciding that it just simply isn't worth the trouble.

1317 [1917] -- Get in taxi.
1326 [1926] -- Arrive.

End Travel Mode.


  1. It's a pity the bus driver didn't sing to us. That would have completely made my day.

  2. That's an epic journey, dude! Wow. You're really keeping detailed documentation of your trip. I'm impressed. Did you write it in a notebook as you went?

    Also, how's the jet-lag? I went to Maui, Hawaii five years ago and that's about a six hour time difference too. As I recall it only took a day or two to get over the jet-lag. But then again we were traveling the other direction so I'm guessing that's a factor.