Return to the Red Rocks. Day 1: 23 Hours in Transit.

(Home, UK – Las Vegas, USA)

24 November 2022

[Editor’s note: regular readers will know this but, as usual for outbound travel days when I’ve nothing better to do, this entry has become quite long, so settle in with a nice cup of tea/coffee/beverage of your choices, and I’ll begin.]

0633 (27 mins ahead of schedule). I had woken up a few minutes before, but eventually I decided to check the time to see if it was with me putting some effort in to going back to sleep. It wasn’t. I lay there thinking, though, that I’d really like another couple of hours in bed.

0700 (on schedule). The first alarm clock went off. I turned it off.

0705 (on schedule). The second alarm clock went off. It was Alexa, and Andrew told her to stop. She did.

0714 (1 minutes ahead of schedule). I turned off the third alarm clock and gave in to the reality that, if I wanted to go away, I had to get up.

0800 (on schedule). By now we’d both showered and eaten breakfast number one of overnight oats. I emptied the few remaining items from the fridge and washed up. Andrew brought the suitcases downstairs.

0820 (10 mins ahead of schedule). The taxi pulled up outside. We were just about ready, and we loaded our cases in and were ready to go right on time.

0912 (10 minutes ahead of schedule). The traffic was bad. It was rush hour. But it wasn’t quite as bad as I’d thought it would be after we got past Stockport. We entered the terminal building, took the lift to departures and made our way to the British Airways check in. The desks didn’t officially open for another ten minutes, but there were a couple of staff starting to process people. The queue moved slowly, as they seemed to have particularly complicated issues. In advance of our flight, I had followed Virgin’s link and filled in all the Covid information, done the attestations, completed our contact details for the US and thought our paperwork was complete. However, when I went to check in on line, it said I needed to check in with BA, as they are running out first flight. Ok…. Unfortunately, this meant filling all of that information in again. A nuisance, but do-able, I thought. However, this time, Andrew‘s Covid status didn’t clear, despite using the same information, so we had to check in at the desk. When we got there it seemed it had cleared after all and so, when we got to the front of the queue, it didn’t take long to drop our suitcases and get out tickets.

1012 (on schedule). There was a long but very efficient queue at security. Andrew forgot to take the charging cables out of his bag, which subsequently got pulled for inspection, but there wasn’t a queue and, one chemical swab later, he was through. After stopping to buy chocolate (never travel without emergency rations!), we made our way to some seats in a quiet section of T3, a terminal I know well from many flights to Norwich. It hasn’t changed at all in the last three years.

1112 (13 mins ahead of schedule). The departure board said go to gate 143. We did. We were near the back of the line. Then the gate changed to 142, which was just behind us. Everyone turned around. We were now near the front. Then they announced we would be boarding by group number. 1-3 to stand one side of the corridor, everyone else on the other. Only no one could tell which side was which. After a few minutes of shuffling, everyone has chosen sides, although I doubted very much that everyone has chosen the right side. More announcements were made about our prospects for boarding. No actual boarding, though.

1149 (24 mins behind schedule). Boarding commenced theoretically by group 1, which in practice seemed to be pretty much everyone in groups 1-3. Then group 4, resulting in people randomly leaving the line in the other side…you get the idea. I’m not convinced that this really sped anything up, but we dutifully filed through as part of group 7, down some steps and out to the rear of the aircraft. It took about five minutes to board, and it was very windy and cold, but luckily not raining. I was the only one stood there in a t-shirt, though…

1219 (24 mins behind schedule). Push back! The plane departed with a bit of a lurch due to the high crosswind, but we were soon on our way south towards Heathrow, where we spent a lovely ten or so minutes circling so that we could all see the very pretty clouds.

1320 (25 mins behind schedule). We landed smoothly, after the kind of approach that encourages nerves…sideways on final approach to the runway, with all the controls crossed to counter the wind. Once off the plane we made our way to the connections bus for Terminal 3. I recently bought some Apple AirTags and put one in each case. If these can connect to anyone’s blue-tooth, they will tell you where in the world they are. I took a look at my phone and was delighted to see that they, too, were now in London. So far, so good for the luggage.

1440 (25 mins behind schedule). A swift bus service took us to T3, but once there we had to go through security again. I don’t know why. I’m sure it makes sense to someone. Anyway, we eventually got through to the restaurants where we picked one, The Curator, for breakfast number two. I was hoping they would be speedy, as we now had less time than envisaged.

1520 (on schedule). The food was both tasty and speedy. We left the restaurant and made our way via a three mile hike (ok, slight exaggeration, but you get the idea) to Gate 20. The holding pen was getting full, but we found a couple of seats, which was just as well as they hadn’t actually started boarding yet.

1555 (35 mins behind schedule). Boarding! We are now getting closer to America!

[Editor’s note: are you still with me? I realise that we haven’t even left the UK yet, and you’ve probably already finished your first drink. Time for a second cup/glass? Get yourself settled and then I’ll continue.]

1623 (3 mins behind schedule). After a very speedy boarding process, quicker than the BA flight, we pushed back almost on time. Wheels up was at 1645. Just 5,338 miles to go now then!

2146 (estimated 20 mins ahead of schedule). The early part of the flight was accompanied by a strong tailwind (the same one that made the landing so much fun). As a result, the flight time is expected to be a speedy 9 hours and 38 minutes. We’re now over half way there, having had dinner and watched a movie (just one, but it was three hours long!). Back in our seats after a long leg stretch and some exercises in the galley area, now to decide what to watch next. Meanwhile, we’re cruising at 40,000 feet age doing 466 knots. We spent most of the flight chasing the edge of darkness, and as we turned south over the North American continent, we saw sunset from our window. It lasted for about five hours all the way until we were just 700 miles north of Vegas, when we finally lost the chase.

2320 (30 mins ahead of schedule). We’d had another break and poured ourselves more drinks in the galley. There was the start of possible turbulence so we took them back to our seats. We set them down on the arm rest drink area and, as Andrew went to sit down, he leaned on the arm rest which set off a minor earthquake to the table, resulting in his water launching in my direction. In an attempt to catch his cup, I not only hit his water back at him, but managed to launch my orange juice too. We were now both wet, mostly with the water, and our seats contained a juice and water mix. After five minutes of mopping up, Andrew got us fresh drinks and we sat down. I decided to drink mine fairly quickly, especially as the ‘fasten seat belts’ Sun has come on due to bumpy air. Andrew’s drink remained until 30 minutes later, when he managed to knock that one over too. Luckily, by this time, we both just found it funny. After hundreds of flights, including some very turbulent weather, we’d never spilled a drink. Now we’d done it twice in twenty minutes. As well.

0223/1823 (42 mins ahead of schedule). Touch down! And Andrew’s trousers had just about dried out. Our pilot advised that the plane pulling up next to us was the BA flight, so if we didn’t want to be at the back of a long queue, we should make best speed to the immigration hall.

1834 (41 mins ahead of schedule). We disembarked and duly hustled to immigration.

1844 (71 mins ahead of schedule). It worked, as we were in the first 30 or so people, and were quickly allocated a desk. I glanced around to see the queue was not only weaving around the hall, it was out of the door. That hustle meant that within 10 minutes of disembarking, we had cleared immigration!

1850 (80 mins ahead of schedule). The luggage belt was already moving and two cases appeared. The second one was ours. Then a few more followed it. Our three cases were amongst the first three of the plane! No more luggage seemed to be appearing. We happily departed leaving everyone else to it. We headed outside and soon we were on a shuttle to the car rental centre where, after completing some paperwork, we went to the car park. This is where we usually spend half an hour walking up and down the aisle choosing which one to take.

1934 (90 mins ahead of schedule). It’s Thanksgiving, and it seems like they’re doing the minimum they can, with as few staff as possible, which is fair enough. They’d prepared one car for us, which meant our choice was already made. We have a Jeep something…now nicknamed Pamela. More on her tomorrow.

2025 (90 mins ahead of schedule). Andrew decided he could do with something else to eat, so he drove and I navigated from memory to a 24 hour Denny’s diner. We’re make a good team. It meant we also got to see the Strip at night.

2105 (30 mins ahead of schedule). We left Denny’s and headed to our hotel, which I chosen in North Las Vegas, as it is in the right direction for our onward travel. We figured out the car’s sat nav and it took us right there.

2125 (30 mins ahead of schedule). We arrived at the hotel. 23 hours in transit

2155 And that’s it. Day one, and I’m off yo bed.

[Editor’s note: I promise to be more succinct and, hopefully, more exciting tomorrow!]

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