Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Leaving the UK - The Last Few Stumbling Blocks

Location: Manchester Airport (MAN), Manchester M90 1QX, UK
So in the last few days before flying out we encountered a few problems.  The first was that on Sunday, 5 days before our flight we went to do the online passenger registration thing you need to do to and couldn't find our passports.  I was absolutely adamant that they were in my handlebar bag in Rhys's basement.  I would have put money on it, I'd have put ALL our money on it.  But when Tom went down to fetch them they weren't there.  I went down to check.  It was pretty ridiculous of me not to trust Tom to be able to find the passports in the handlebar bag as a handlebar bag is about 6 x 4 x 4 inches and basically a little box, but I was so sure that that is where they were that I couldn't believe they weren't there.  But they weren't.  Now bearing in mind that we had spent the previous 2 weeks touring around the country from Scotland to Cornwall, depositing various stuff with family and friends the fact that the passports weren't there meant thy could be literally anywhere and we had no idea where we would find them.  About 20 minutes of panic ensued with us check my handbag and various other bags in the hope we would stumble upon them, but nothing.  Until Tom remembered he'd spied a couple of passports on Rhys's shelves next to his DVDs and lo and behold there they were.  Cue long sigh of relief.  I had completely lost from my memory the fact that just over a week before I had asked Rhys to send me photos of them as I needed the details for our Drivers License address change.  Rhys had dutifully got them out of my handlebar bag in the basement and emailed the pics before telling me where he had stashed them for when we turned up at his house the following week.

The other major problem we had was that the bike boxes we had kindly been given by Sheffield's Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative didn't fit our bikes - we could only just fit one wheel in each box, leaving the other wheels without anywhere to go and Tom's stem stuck up over the top - not a great situation and despite planning to pack up the bikes a few days in advance due to other things cropping up and Tom being unwell we had left it to the day that my Uncle Bri was coming to pick us up that afternoon.  We did our best having run out of time, knowing that we had Thursday at Aunty Gin & Uncle Bri's to figure it out properly.  Thursday morning I gave High Peak Cycles in Glossop a ring to ask if they had any wheel boxes, they didn't but they had spare bike boxes we could use to try to fashion a box for the wheels and he would show me how the bikes came packed which may help us figure out a better way to do it ourselves.  So I went down had a look and picked up a box.  The type of bike they had in the box was short enough that they only had to take the front wheel off.  Ours, being touring bikes, have a longer frame and so were too long to fit without taking both wheels off.  But, wonderfully, amazingly, joyously the box from High Peak Cycles was bigger overall and I managed to fit my bike and both wheel in without any trouble.  So I high-tailed my way back to the shop for another box and we sorted Tom's out in no time too.  By Thursday afternoon we felt like we were winning.

Our flight left at 12:40 but due to not wanting to be sat stressing in rush hour traffic we left just after 7am and got the the airport at about 8am.  We sat around waiting for check in to open and toyed with the idea of buying a flight from Toronto to Mexico, but decided against it.  Once check in opened we joined the short queue. The check in lady had some issue as the ESTA thing on her computer wouldn't let her print out boarding passes for Stockholm to Oakland but her supervisor just came over & overrode it & said we'd just need to get our boarding passes in Stockholm & this was fine & normal. It was not fine & normal.

When we got to Stockholm no one knew what to do with us & we ended up having to go through border control to enter Sweden before checking back in again (massive queue) where we were told we couldn't board the plane as we didn't have a return ticket out the US.  We were advised we should buy a totally flexible (expensive ticket) from US to UK just to be able to check in & then cancel it at later date. So 13,000 Swedish Kroner lighter (about £1100) we finally managed to check in & pass through security.  The flight was great; nice plane, lots of films to choose from and we were sharing our row of seats with a really nice German girl.  But we were mega stressed about getting a grilling at the other end by US border control. After landing and spending nearly 2 hours fretting in a very long queue at Oakland, we were let through without any problem. The border guard just teased Tom, suggesting we should get married in Vegas since we're here. Phew.

By this point it was gone 10pm local time & Tom & I had been awake for over 25 hours (barring a couple of minutes of sleep snatched on the flight). Our Warm Showers host came and picked us up and we managed to get all our stuff and us in his car and arrived at his lovely home to find that we had a bed all made up. We hit they hay right away and were asleep in no time.


  1. Wow what a journey, glad you are both safe x
    Look forward to hearing the next installment :)

    1. Thank Lizzie! The saga continues & we'll fill you in with another post soon. But all is well & we are fine :)

  2. I wrote you a poem! Love Mummy

    For Sophie and Tom

    My dears,
    You will not make this journey:
    This journey will make you.
    Detours and wrong turns will reveal the right road;
    Hard days will become fine memories.
    As you face into the sun, and wind, and rain,
    Flat desert heat,
    Steep mountain cold,
    Help will come when you least expect it;
    Hope will revive when it’s all but gone;
    And kindness will flower in the smiles of strangers.
    Your plans will be subject to change with no warning,
    And you will embrace those changes:
    From them emerge the journey’s deepest meanings.
    Everything will be your teacher, if you wish to learn.
    You will understand, then,
    That you do not make this journey:
    This journey makes you.

    1. We love it Mum! Thank you! Wise words & beautiful xxx

    2. Wow that's a beautiful poem!

  3. That's a brilliant start to the trip. I can't believe you guys and the passports.

    What films were on the flights though? People demand to know.

    1. Nothing that new Rhys, as in we'd seen most of them, but in someways that was good as we were knackered & not entirely engaged. We watched Live, Die, Repeat, Crazy Stupid Love (well I did) & The Prestige (well actually I napped through a lot of that). But they had a pretty decent varied selection including TV shows & documentaries. And a lot of albums to listen to. Sorry that only half answers the question, but I can't remember everything that was available! xxx