Friday, March 13, 2009

Back home!

Just a short note to say that I'm back home safe and sound. The trip to Minneapolis, like the many little expeditions I took over the last two weeks, went smoothly. I'm very thankful for health and safety during my trip. A cold, the flu, a sprained ankle or anything of the sort could have put a real damper on my time. But nothing like that happened. Sure, I had to deal with a couple of sore feet and blisters early on, but those didn't hinder me from doing what I wanted to do and seeing what I wanted to see. And they (my feet) got better as the trip progressed (plus, they were self-inflicted injuries and therefore something I could control, to some extent). Anyway, all of this is just to acknowledge thankfulness for a trip that went through the two weeks without a glitch, hitch or hindrance.

As for the final hours in London, I tried to nap between midnight and five in the morning, but wasn't very successful. Everything was packed and waiting by the door, so at five I headed down to the desk, checked out (I was told the afternoon before that the desk was always open, 24 hours a day, but I'm afraid I disturbed the slumber of the one on duty when I wanted to check out) and walked over to the Russell Square Underground station. It didn't open until 5:30 (something I hadn't been aware of before hand), so waited about twenty minutes until they opened the gates. From there is was down the lift to the platform and then off in the train for terminal 4 at Heathrow. I think it took about an hour from Russell Square to the airport, so I arrived just as I had hoped, about three hours before flight departure.

I didn't have any luggage to check so got my boarding pass, went through security, and made my way to gate 9. Along the way I spotted a coffee shop so (wanting to use some of the last of my change) I ordered a decaf and blueberry muffin. About twenty minutes later I was back to order another blueberry muffin and a chocolate twist. (My coffee mug was huge, so of course I had to have something to go with it.) Careful planning pretty much paid off; I had less than two pounds left on my Oyster card and about four pounds left in change, most of that in pound coins (that I can use the next time I come to London).

A pleasant surprise, in the person of Phil Styrlund, greeted me at the gate. Phil had been in the UK and other parts of Europe on business, giving a number of keynote addresses to various meetings. He was now on his way home. (We met through our wives; Phil's wife and mine have the exact same birthday and had taught together at Minnehaha Academy.) It was great to see him again and catch up. We both have an interest in C. S. Lewis and English pubs, among other things. He knew about one of the pubs I visited in Portsmouth.

Pretty soon our flight was called and we headed on board and to our seats. We were about ten minutes delayed from our take-off time, but made the time up in the air (cruising most of the time at 40,210 feet, plus or minus a couple of feet). During the flight I watched a couple of movies--Quantum of Solice and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen--and tried to catch a few winks. There was a bit of unexpected turbulence, but all-in-all it was a smooth flight. We had a hard touchdown in Minneapolis, but made it to our gate (G9) without problem. From there it was through Customs and then a call to Beth (who had been skiing earlier in the day with my sister) to pick me up. They were having coffee at IKEA, so it was a short wait for me before they came to get me. And then it was home, to be greeted by Grover (the pooch we've been taking care of for friends).

This was supposed to be a short note--it went on for a bit longer than that--but now I'm home. I'll be back in the office on Monday. Between now and then I'll try to take it easy, watch the high school hockey tournament on television, and try to get my body and spirit back into a new time zone. I was hoping for Spring when I returned. I'll probably get a hint of it this weekend. Yesterday, however, it was about 10 degrees F (-12 C) when we got off the plane. This has been a good old-fashioned Minnesota winter.

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