So this will be a little unusual for me. L and I just got back from London last night, and I have a few posts queued up. But this time, rather than going in order, you are going to get the flight back first. Why? Because I don't have any pictures from that day so I can write and post it without importing photos into my computer, deleting the ones I don't like, color correcting and cropping the ones I do, choosing which ones make it onto the blog, positioning them within the post so they look just right etc etc etc. Does anyone else remember the days when you dropped a roll of film off at the drugstore and got it back with double prints in an hour? OK, so I know they looked like crap, and no-one ever saw them, unless you took the time to put them all in a album, which basically took longer than what I was complaining about earlier. So maybe photos are just hard. Maybe no-one has really come up with the ideal flow for them yet. Just yet another example of how there is so much more to being a photographer than just taking the pictures. In any case, back to the flight home.
L and I had spent 10 days in London with our great friends Sean and Stef who recently moved there. You can check out their blog at 12DunworthMews btw. Monday was our flight home. We got up at 8:00am to wish Sean well as he left for work, and I headed down the street to Coffee Plant to get L a Flat White (you can learn more about London and coffee in a post she did for NiceCuppa). We then gave a quick nod to the Patron Saint of Packing (although I guess there actually isn't one of those) and managed to get all of our stuff back in our bags. Given we brought back significantly more than we left behind, that was no mean feat. At 9:30am we left the flat and headed to the Tube station to go to the airport.
From there on everything was relatively painless - other than finding out when we got to Paddington that I had accidentally thrown out our return tickets for the train to Heathrow so we had to buy new ones. We got to Heathrow in plenty of time, got checked in etc. and had a relatively smooth flight to Vancouver. Getting on the plane the stewardess gave L a little crap for wearing shoes with an open top, since it was "snowing" in Vancouver, but we didn't really think too much of it.
Until we got to Vancouver. It had been snowing there for 2 days. There was probably 6 inches of snow on the ground - more of it on cars etc. It was icy, slushy, and ugly. All the while it was also really pretty. Oh yeah - now would be a good time to mention that we had flown Air Canada to London, through Vancouver - better to earn miles and cheaper than BA. So we went through US customs in Vancouver and waited for our luggage. I waited in line to find out from Ellen Degeneres (not really her, but looked and sounded like her) that our flight to Seattle hadn't been cancelled. Unlike almost every other flight to Seattle that day that had, with the one exception of the 9:00am horizon flight that finally left at 4:00pm. This was good news! At this point it was around 3:30pm, our flight to Seattle was due to leave at 6:05pm, so we headed up to the gate to hang out, have a snack etc.
Now, there wouldn't be much point to this post if we had actually gotten on that flight right? So yeah, at about 5:00pm they cancel the flight. No real word about it, it just disappears from the board. No announcement, nothing. But we were prepared for this, so we headed out of the gate area. On the way out we saw the AC people heading to the gate, and found out we had to go back with them so that we could go out a different way so that we could go through customs. See at this point we were technically in the US since we had cleared US customs, so we had to go through Canadian customs to enter Canada. If it sounds confusing, don't worry, if you are lucky you will never have to go through this.
After clearing Canadian customs we waited for our bags again, and headed out on our own. AC hadn't provided anything - no hotel, no bus service, no ideas, not even best wishes, just a number to call to rebook the flight. Which I still need to do - they blame it on weather, but the reality is it is their own decision making that made it happen - other planes were getting out just fine. Anyway, then we try to find a way to Seattle. I called every rental company, and they claimed not to have any cars for one way to Seattle. No good. I call a couple of bus lines - all closed. I check the QuickX bus - the last one arrives at Vancouver at 6:30pm - woohoo - it's only 6:15pm - whoops - that one only comes on Fridays and Saturdays. Damn. I ask a limo driver - $400. Ouch.
Meanwhile L is being smart and hanging out inside the terminal. See - brr, it's cold out here - it was -7 celsius - coldest day on record in November in Vancouver. And we weren't dressed for it. L has managed to find 2 more people to go to Seattle as well - and they think there are cars available. They head to the car rental counter. Meanwhile I'm still negotiating price for a limo. I think I've got it down to $350 Canadian, but they need to call some other guy to do the driving (they've been up since 5:00am, probably not the guys I want driving me to Seattle at 8:00pm at night). In the meantime L and crew have negotiated a mini-van with 3 more people, bringing our total to 7 people to split the $400 for the minivan rental. With the limo service still sketchy, and not wanting to lose a clear way to go, we decide to rent the mini-van and go.
And off we went the 7 of us - 3 Canadians, 2 Americans, 1 Brit and 1 German. We were quite the crew. We had bags stuffed everywhere. The border was interesting. As L often says they can only deal with one strange thing at the border at any given time. Today it wasn't the 7 people in a rental van. It wasn't the 15 or so suitcases. It was the fact that the woman from Germany didn't have an I-94 card in her passport (she is working in Portland - whole different issue - she is an intern at Daimler-Chrysler and had to do a presentation at 9:00am Tuesday morning - so she had to get there that night - still not sure if she made it....) so we all had to get out of the van and go inside, talk to another agent etc. I think the most ironic part of the whole night was the conversation we had in the car on the way to the border, where people were all saying that the best thing to do at the border is only answer the questions you are asked, and then the same people were all going out of their way to tell the customs officers all sorts of extra information. Anyway. Once she got the I-94 straightened out (the airlines have this weird insistence on tearing them out, even if they say multiple entry, and then you have to go through the hassle of getting another one - which the customs guys tell you is wrong - that actually happened to me a few years ago - I fought with the airline people to not take it out, but they did, and then I had to go through special customs blah blah blah) we were away again.
The drive down was surreal - it felt a little like survivor - lots of people lost in their own thoughts, small attempts to make conversation, figuring out people's personalities and who was going to give directions, not sure where we were going to get food or a bathroom - plus a lot of concern over the roads. They were absolutely terrible. Even though I grew up driving in the snow driving in this would still have been tricky - lots of black ice, lots of ruts, no sanding, no plowing. Normally I would have drove despite this, but given that it was now about 9:00pm in Seattle, and I'd been up since the equivalent of 12:00am seattle time, it seemed prudent to let others take the wheel. But we made it. The two folks that did drive got us through - traffic was really bad just north of the city - lots of accidents and whatnot, but we made it unscathed. I had been keeping in contact with one of the women's husbands who met us at a mini-mart near our house, and at that point the band of 7 broke up - right around 11:30. It ended up taking us about 4 hours to get from the Vancouver airport to our house, a drive that normally takes 2.5.
Perhaps the strangest thing about the whole experience was that I had the exact same thing happen back in 95 - my friend Seth and I had gone to Toronto for Christmas and flown back through Vancouver. No flights from Vancouver to Seattle, so we rented a car with 2 other guys and drove back down. Frankly last night's snow was the worst I have seen in Seattle since that night.
Back home at 11:30, L and I managed to hit the hay around 12:00am. It had been 24 hours since we had woken up in London and we were finally curled up. I guess I should have called the post bed to bed in 24, but that didn't rhyme, so I hope you will forgive the "poetic license"....