Up up and away, next stop the UK
All the arrangements made, bags packed, Wife kissed, Kids hugged, tickets in hand I sat back in the airport shuttle van Monday July 28 at 2:30 PM on my way to Dulles Airport to begin the RichardWho 2003 UK road Trip. Excited, apprehensive and a bit scared I was sure it was bound to be a time to remember.
I had a very pleasant airport check in and flight from Washington DC to Newark with a two hour layover before my flight to Gatwick. Time for a quick burger at Burger King and a cell phone call home to the wife before boarding started. With a slightly delayed take off but relatively pleasant 7-hour flight we landed at London Gatwick Tuesday morning at 8:30 to clear skies and mild temperatures, a bit late but safe. Immigration and Passport Control in the UK is a very pleasant experience, that is until you say you will be staying with people you met on the Internet. Then it turns into something similar to a FBI interrogation. “So you have never met these people before Mr. Briggs?” “No, not face to face” “Spell their last name Mr. Briggs! No! Don’t look at that paper Mr. Briggs!” “If we call the phone number you have listed on the form Mr. Briggs will someone answer?” “No they are here picking me up.” By now all the people on my flight were processed and gone. “Can I see your return ticket please Mr. Briggs?” “Sure, here you go” Just then a big whapping rubber stamp at the end of a arm swung down and smacked my passport making me jump three feet in the air. “You can go”. Phew! I’m in!
A quick pass to baggage to get my bag and out to the reception area. Simon and Matt promised to meet me there wearing bright red hats that I sent over in advance. I donned my matching red hat and out the security doors I went. Of all the people in that terminal I turned out to be the only person with a red hat on. There was however one person waving one in the air and another fumbling to put one on. That must be my ride!
After some of the polite pleasantries one exchanges with people you have just met we were off to the parking lot (car park) looking for Matt’s car. We stuff my huge suitcase in the trunk (Boot if you must) and off we go. Let me remind you here, I’ve been driving in the USA for 26 years now and you get real comfortable with the way things are. Cars on the wrong side of the road was unnerving and I found myself stomping the non-existent brake pedal in the back seat every time we passed oncoming cars or turned a corner. What’s up with these Roundabouts? Circular chaos, that’s what it is, Circular chaos. Apparently there is a whole Kingdom that thinks driving this way is normal and they won’t hear any different. We did make it to Simon’s farm without major incident except for that dent in the floorboard from my stomping the brake.
With a few hours before we picked up the rental car we filled the time racing radio controlled boats on the farm pond, looking at collection items and consuming a lavish lunch made by Simon and Sarah’s parents, Peter and Judith. I got to taste a Scotch egg and real pork pie for the first time, both very much to my liking. The car rental people picked us up at Simon’s in the afternoon so we could collect the car that we would spend the next 5 days in. The experience was a saga in itself but I will spare you the details and just say I got my four-door car with air-conditioning. A 2003 Vauxhall Vectra. Big? I guess for UK standards. New and shinny with no pep, lots of trunk space for all my souvenirs and controls that only NASA could figure out.
With all the logistical tasks done it was time for me to meet the fourth adventurer in our little trek, Sarah. She had to work the day I arrived so we took the new car on it’s maiden voyage over to Dorking to pick her up. After a welcoming hug and a quick tour of her and Matt’s beautiful home, which was built, this still amazes me, built circa 1770. Matt showed me the way to my room up the quaint staircase. Quaint in this case means steep, narrow and a bit windy. Don’t get me wrong the stairs are lovely, something you would see in a fine architectural magazine or on a “Country Homes of the UK” documentary. The population of the UK back in the 1700s was a bit smaller than I in height and width apparently, and I found the stairs a bit difficult to traverse. I would either hit my head or knock the pictures on the wall askew. Hitting my head seemed to become a recurring problem throughout the trip so I ended with a hunched posture by the end. The room I was given to sleep in at the top of the stairs was spectacular, all the old world charm of a country inn. My wife would have been in heaven.
With all the pleasantries out of the way and my bags hoisted to the bedroom, what do you do the first night in England? PUB!! I had to see a real, authentic, down-home, local pub! Mind you I don’t drink, but a pub was something I always wanted to experience. The four of us piled into the Vectra to meet Peter and Judith at the Plough pub in Rusper. Mind you I had been without sleep for 22 hours at this point so my memory is a bit clouded but I definitely remember hitting my head several times on the low hanging beams and eating a rather tasty Steak and kidney Pie. (Check that off the list of things to do while in the UK) It was important to Peter that I try British beer and I not really a drinker, it made for some lively conversation. I agreed to a half of whatever beer, stout, ale or lager he thought was the best they had to offer at the establishment. A small glass containing a warm amber beverage topped with a thin creamy head was quickly handed to me. It definitely was not American beer! Not nearly as bad as I had imagined, not at all. I have a bit more juvenile taste buds, preferring soft drinks but another item checked off the list. We returned to Matt and Sarah’s and topped the evening off with a quick viewing of “The Android Invasion” in preparation of the upcoming day’s events.
|| Back to Planning|||||On to Day 2 ||
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