Sunday 18 May 2014 75 °F
Today was the final day of our World Tour 2013-14.
We arrived in England eight days ago, and at that time, after eating a single bun for breakfast each day for the previous two weeks, when the waitress offered “Full English Breakfast,” we were thrilled! Plump sausages, fried ham, crispy hashed brown, roasted tomato and mushroom, poached eggs, large crockery of baked beans, crispy toast, and unlimited coffee. Heaven on a plate.
Fast forward to this morning, and the thought of another Full English Breakfast (in our family, known as a Fully-Anglicized Rotisserie Toast, or F. A. R. T.) makes us run from the table screaming. Dave woke up saying that if we eat more baked beans, we’ll have enough fuel to power the airplane back home to Chicago.
This morning our attempts to beg the waitress for less food failed. Each of us ordered scrambled eggs and toast—as in one egg, one piece of toast. Brought to each of us (including Pearl) were hungry-man’s portions of four scrambled eggs and four pieces of toast. Not that we’re complaining about the generosity of the British, it’s just that we’re ready for a little less generosity and a little more exercise. Our limited travel wardrobe is starting to feel a little snug around the waistband.
Our flight home departed at 3pm, and not being someone to waste a free moment, Sue scheduled an early morning visit to the Avebury Stone Circles. In many ways, the stone circles at Avebury were more compelling than Stonehenge. First of all, admission was free. Secondly, much less of a crowd. In fact, there might have been more sheep than people. And finally, at Avebury, one can walk right to the stones and touch them. Or as our waitress the previous evening said, “Being psychic, I highly recommend that you go to the Avebury Stone Circles. Go right up and hug the stones. Listen to what they say to you.” [Cue music from Twilight Zone here]
The main thing that the stones were saying to us was, “Watch out for sheep droppings.” The stones must not have spoken to Dave and Henry, because by the end of our hike around the perimeter, both boys needed to use the handy boot scraper and Dave even changed his jeans.
We made it to Heathrow in plenty of time to get to our gate. After a quick goodbye to Uncle John-E (as in excellent!), we headed to the check-in desk. All went very smoothly: no line at check-in, easy passport control, no line at security.
And that’s where our troubles started.
Both Henry and Pearl’s backpacks were tagged as security risks and set aside for further inspection by the one grumpy security inspectress. Each bag in the “at risk" line-up took at least 10 minutes to review, and Henry’s and Pearl’s bags were number 3 and 4 in the line-up. Inexplicably, someone moved their backpacks to an out-of-sight location where they were promptly forgotten. Luckily at this point, it was time for the grumpy guard to take a break, and along came Happy Security Gal. Thank goodness. She grabbed Henry’s bag first and figured out that it was his calculator causing the alarm. At this point, Henry shot an annoyed glance at Mom for making him bring the much-hated scientific device in the first place.
Then the security agent grabbed Pearl’s backpack. First, you need to understand that Pearl is a packrat. In her adult life, she might be the star of a reality show about hoarders. But there is a beauty to Pearl’s packrat lifestyle; in every piece of trash, Pearl sees potential for art or something useful. Throughout the trip, Pearl has been collecting every subway pass, museum receipt, and pop can tab in order to make something beautiful. She has been known to create a clarinet out of a paper towel tube with soda can tab keys, so we were giggling as the security gal innocently opened Pearl’s bag. First out of the backpack was Pearl’s Daisydog (saved from the previous day’s plunge out the window). Daisy was dressed in a collar made of an old sandwich baggie and had a long piece of fabric attached to her tail in order to pull her "carry-on bag” (a discarded make-up pouch stuffed with receipts). Next out of the bag were three empty water bottles that were saved in order to make bird feeders once we arrive at home. Next were the endless pieces of paper, trinkets, and passes. At this point, everyone was laughing and the security guard gave up and handed Pearl her bag back.
After all that, we ran to our gate, the final gate about a mile away from security, just in time to board the plane.
As we take our final flight home, it’s time to make sense of this fantastic year. First of all, we need to say a big thank you to many people who helped make this trip happen: Grandma and neighbors Amy, Cate, Katie, Beth, and Meg for watching over our house. Aunt Carol and our friend Sarah and family for taking care of the real Daisy dog. Mrs. Druckmiller for keeping Pearl up to speed and in communication with the rest of the 1st graders. Oak Park Public Library for beaming about 50 books to Pearl’s Kindle.
In fifteen weeks each of us has traveled over 64,000 miles roughly equalling 2.6 times around the world! We have visited nine countries and stayed in 45 lodgings. We’ve toured countless nature preserves, art museums, and historical sights. It took the better part of a year to plan this journey. For financing travel we used previously accumulated frequent flyer miles and credit card points to cash in on 21 free international flight segments--Never underestimate the worth of a great credit card like Chase Sapphire Preferred with its generous point system and no foreign transaction fees. We created our blog not only as a way to keep in touch with family and friends while away, but also to document our year and to give Dave and Sue something to read when sitting around in the nursing home in years to come.
More important than the facts and figures, are the ways that this trip has impacted our family. Through thick and thin we have grown closer. From the birds of Panama, the stunning fjords of New Zealand, the incredible animals of Australia, the gentle people of Bali. To our exploration of religion, language, history, and art in Europe. We have created memories to last a lifetime. Our children have impressed us with their stamina, flexibility, and senses of humor. Before our eyes, Henry has grown into a mature young adult, adding at least six inches to his height and now having the voice of a man. Pearl has enjoyed the security of spending time with her family 24/7; unexpectedly filling a bonding void that we didn’t realize existed before. We’ve seen her grow in confidence and spunk.
Thank you for following us on our journey. You have helped us feel like home was not so far away.
Stayed tuned for Gryphon Globetrotters, part II...