Mountains and Canyons. Day 1: Outbound

(Location: Manchester, UK to Denver, CO)

A lie in. Luxury for a travelling day, but our flight is not until 1340. I got up at 8am, so as to have plenty of time and not be rushing. A shower and coffee later I was able to check I had everything and pack the things I realised I had forgotten…

Despite having plenty of time, it still seems like the pressure is on and you’re dashing around when the taxi is about to arrive. Still, we sorted everything out (I hope) and opened the door at 10am on the dot to load our multiple bags into the waiting taxi. We usually travel outbound with 3 and back with 4, after shopping, but this time I decided to split the load across 4 in the first place. It means an extra bag, but I can actually lift them all myself if I have to!

We arrived at Terminal 2 at 1040, exactly 3 hours before the flight was due to depart and were checked in straight away. Security slowed things down a bit, despite there being no queue at all (!) because my bag got ‘pulled’. It turned out that my spare camera lens was unidentifiable on the X-ray. 

Then it was time for food, which we had at Frankie and Benny’s; an all-day breakfast for Andrew and Avocado Smash (mashed avocado on toasted ciabatta with an egg and roasted tomatoes) for me. And a latte, of course, in my case. We were still early, so we had a short bit of waiting before it was time to board. There was no waiting at the gate, we were straight on, to our seats, sorted out and a glass of something fizzy in hand, all by 11am.

The pilot was happy to announce that, with everyone on board, we were going to set off a little early and so it was that we pushed back at 1330. And that’s when the smooth sailing ground to a halt. It seemed that we had a fault with the engine monitoring systems on the port engine, so we had to park up at a stand while an engineer came to look at it. When the pilot first announced it, he said it was an engine problem, so I was relieved to hear it was ‘only’ a monitoring fault…

Happily, 50 minutes later the pilot announced that the Airbus AA man had fixed it, was departing through the hole over the front wheel and we could be on our way. We departed at 1440, an hour late, but after an en-route climb, with 6 hours and a little over 3,000 miles still to go, we settled in at 38,000 feet and 380 knots (437 mph). Yes, for those automatically doing the arithmetic, I know that doesn’t sound right. It is also not exactly known to have an outbound (easterly) tail wind, so your guess is as good as mine! (Editor’s note: we later picked up speed and were noted as doing 555mph over the coast of Newfoundland).

It still wasn’t smooth sailing, however, or more to the point, smooth flying. As Andrew put it, at 38,000 feet and 550mph, the plane was swatted about like a shuttlecock. I have not known a flight to be that turbulent for a long time and, of course, it got bumpier every time they served food or drink. Even the cabin crew had to take their seats for a while. Nevertheless we watched a couple of movies before landing just ahead of schedule despite the delay.

A moderately long walk to immigration gave us a bit of exercise and once their we were able to use the automated counters which were very speedy, less than 10 minutes all in. Next we picked up our bags, which were amongst the first to arrive, through customs and redeposited our bags with the connection desk. We then had to go back through security for which there was a long queue, but they moved people through quickly. More walking to the furthest gate (hit my daily step target) and then a shuttle bus (the JFK Jifney) to Terminal 2. 

All of this and we still had time to have a coffee at the gate before boarding, while watching the sunset.

When we went to board my boarding pass was flagged red and the words “no seat” came up. Luckily it turned out that my seat was broken, but they could still get me on, sitting behind Andrew. The flight was a little late pushing back and then it joined a queue to depart not dissimilar to the end of the M67 in rush hour. As a result, we were about an hour behind when we set off. The flight was normal for the first 30 minutes or so, drinks came and dinner was served. 

Unfortunately, that’s when they made an announcement for any medical personnel on board to come forward. A full scale emergency followed and we diverted to Cleveland. The whole crew performed really well, together with two volunteers. Our subsequent delay seems a minor nuisance by comparison. There was a long wait on the ground whilst we refuelled, found new cabin crew and the brakes cooled down (we landed heavy, as a result of not having gone that far, and fast, followed by a very fast taxi directly to a gate).

We eventually rounded up the passengers who had been allowed to wander into the concourse for a walk in the meantime and got under way at around 10pm, Denver time (BST-7). No idea of the time zone in Cleveland. We are already thinking that our that our plans for tomorrow may be scaled back a little and we may make more use of the fact that check out is not until noon…then again, we may wake up on British time…!

The flight was uneventful. Woohoo! And the coffee was good….

We arrived into Denver at 0040. It was pretty much closed, and our flight were the only ones using the transit shuttle. We eventually figured out which luggage carousel to go to and then went to the Alamo shuttle stop. A bus was waiting and departed as soon as we were on board. At Alamo we chose a car, the fastest decision  making we have done in years. It truly is a beast as they upgraded us due to having run out of our car size…you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that picture!

We got to the hotel at 0145 after just a 5 minute drive. It’s -6C and they have had snow showers. 

Now 0230, showered and going to bed. Sorry if this is nearly too late for those reading over morning coffee!

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