Delayed - Again
If you have read my articles from previous trips, you will know, that I have been delayed a couple of timrs, and now it happend once more.
After almost three years of drought (when it comes to US travels) with associated abstinences, it had finally become possible to travel again. Since my last visit to USA in the summer of 2019, I had not been anywhere but Denmark. In 2020 I had booked an Easter trip, but then covid-19 came and shut the world down, and it was still going on in the summer and fall of that year, but I had fortunately not booked anything then, so it was only for the Easter trip that I had to request to get my money back from the airline and the hotels - which I managed and it wasn't actually that hard. Only what I had paid for my rental car was lost as they didn't give refunds. Then I was hoping for spring of 2021 and Tim (my son) and I had planned a summer trip, a road trip in the month of July, because we figured the US would open to tourists from Europe again, but they did not! When they finally reopened in the fall, it was not possible for me to get time off from work, but Tim managed to visit friends in Oklahoma and Texas during Christmas and New Year. I was able to get a few days off in connection with Easter 2022, when the school where I teach is closed the three weekdays before Easter (in Denmark, Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are holidays). I could also get time off Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after Easter, but had to teach on Friday. In the end, I managed to get it fixed so that I could also take time off Friday before Easter. This meant that I could catch a morning flight from Copenhagen on Friday April 8, and I would then arrive in the afternoon, local time; at least according to plan. Had I not been able to travel until Saturday, there would be no morning flight, and then I would only arrive around midnight.
Business Class "lie-flat" beds on Britsh Airways.
As soon as I had made sure I could leave on Friday, I started booking airline tickets and renting a car. I got to fly with British Airways - or at least part of the way. I booked via BA, but was informed that the flights was flown by Iberia, a company that BA is in alliance with. However, I had to fly with BA from Copenhagen to London. From here I had to fly with American Airlines to New York and with the same company on to Charlotte in North Carolina, where I had to pick up my car, and then drive up to my first accommodation, the old dental office which is on the grounds of my friends Margaret and Dick on the outskirts of Lenoir in a very rural area about 15 miles from the center of town. Returning to Denmark I would fly directly from Charlotte to London with AA and onwards to Copenhagen with BA, so how Iberia came into the picture, apart from managing it all, I actually do not know. However, it was not going to go according to plan, but more on that below.
Before I left, I made various arrangements with friends and acquaintances in the area. During the spring of 2021, the Whippoorwill Academy and Village in Ferguson held an auction of various items (food, art, books, etc.) that had been donated to the cause by generous sponsors. The auction was in favor of the museum and not least in favor of the erecting of "Edith's Barn", a barn that Edith Carter, the museum's founder, had wished for before her death in 2014. The idea with the barn is that it will be used for various indoor activities at the museum, like if someone gets married in the small chapel on the site, which is very popular, the party can be moved indoors in case of bad weather. The barn itself had been donated by the original owners, as it had to be torn down to make room for something else, but it would cost many thousands of dollars to have it put up again. The building had previously been taken down in numbered parts, and had been moved to the museum in bulk, and is now waiting for enough money to be raised for it to be re-erected. It is expected that the reconstruction" will cost around $ 250,000. At this auction, I had won the bids for a weekend stay in one of Margaret and Dick Martin's Airbnbs. They currently have three houses used as such. This was in a former dental clinic, the oldest in North Carolina, which Margaret bought many years ago (over 40) and had moved to her own plot, where she and Dick have since renovated it. Here I was to stay from Friday to Monday, where I then had to move to one of their other Airbnbs; in this case, her parents' old house, which is located just behind the Whippoorwill Academy and Village museum. Here you have half a house - the other half is used as offices for the museum. I had stayed there back in 2019, and now I wanted to stay at the house again, so I had booked it via the Airbnb app. The second thing I had bought at the auction was a four-course meal for six people at something called The Thankful Goat. Here Margaret had put me in touch with the lady, Dawn Matthews, who owned the place and who had donated and was going to cook the food. After some negotiation, partly with her, partly with the guests I wanted to invite, we had agreed that it should take place on Monday night. I left the menu to her but suggested she make something with chicken or turkey as a couple of my guests are not eating pork or beef. The guests I had invited were Margaret and Dick, Charlotte and Bill Barnes, whom I have known since 2017, as well as Rob McHale, singer/songwriter, whom I also met for the first time in 2017. Since then, I have met them all several times, and they are incredibly sweet and nice people.
Margaret had written to me asking if I would participate in their "Easter program", which was to have an "egg hunt" for children at the museum on Saturday afternoon and the eggs to be hidden on Friday afternoon. I had agreed to attend both events. On Easter Sunday there would be a short sunrise service in the church they belong to (Beaver Creek Advent Christian Church) followed by breakfast in the community center; then Easter service in the church and finally I was invited to have Easter lunch at Margaret and Dick's house with Margaret's daughter, Maggie and her boyfriend and children and also a couple of cousins. I said yes thanks to the sunrise service, breakfast and Easter lunch, but chose to skip the Easter service - one service a day is plenty enough for me. In addition, during the holidays I was to meet Steve Hill of the Statesville Historical Collection, John Hawkins, retired director of the Caldwell Historic Museum, and Carl White , host of the TV show Life in the Carolinas, but I had not made prior arrangements with them. I had also planned to poke my nose inside the Iredell Museums in Statesville and say "hello" to Emily Baker, who is the director there - and who graces the cover of my book, "Who Killed Laura Foster?" (available through Amazon - sorry about the ad). So I had many plans already before I left Denmark. And most of them would come through even if some didn't due to unforseen circumstances.
Friday came and as I did not want to burden family members with having to get up early to drive me to the airport, I had booked a taxi to pick me up at 4.30 in the morning, so I had the alarm clock set to 3.30. The taxi arrived already at 4.15, and as soon as my suitcases were in place in the car, we headed for Copenhagen Airport, where we were already at 4.35. At that time, the BA check-in counter was not yet open, but as I was not the only one to be early, I lined up in the short line in front of the counter and just waited for it to open. While I was waiting, I got all my my documentss out of my backpack. That is, airline ticket, ESTA approval, certificate that I was vaccinated at least twice against covid, proof that I had had a negative test taken the day before and finally a document to the US authorities that everything I said about my covid situation was correct. When the counter opened, I presented the relevant papers and then I would never use them again, which was fortunate as I misplaced them somewhere along the way. Some places in the US you have to show proof of vaccination, but not any of the places I visited (and I had my vaccination certificate stored digitally on my phone, just in case). I quickly got through the security checkpoint and was able to go to the duty free shop where I bought a lotion that my ex-wife, Dorte, had asked for and some aftershave balm for myself. When I arrived at the lounge, I was informed that my departure was delaYed two hours from 7.10 to 9.20, and that did not sit well with me, but there was nothing I could do about it. It turned out later that the plane had arrived late in Copenhagen the night before, and the crew was not allowed to fly on until they had had at least a 10½ hour break. When it did bother me, it was because my flight onwards from London to New York was to depart at 8.45 London time, which would be 9.45 Danish time, and I was pretty sure that we could not fly from Copenhagen to London in 25 minutes - there should also be time to get through security and find the next gate. I used the time in the lounge to eat breakfast, drink coffee and via SMS and social media tell the everybody at home about my problems - even though at that time, approx. at 5 am, everyone was most likely still sound asleep.
At 8.30 we boarded and it was only 9.30 when the plane took off. The captain apologized, but he had to adhere to his rest period so there was nothing he could have done. Later on the trip across the North Sea, we were told that if a possible connecting flight had departed when we reached London, we should contact the transit checkin. Besides that, the flight was just as uneventful as usual. We landed, as BA probably always does, in Terminal 5, in A-Gates, where the baggage arrives for those who do not have to continue their travel, and where you also find transit checkin and the security check. At the transit checkin they were very helpful and the man who served me quickly discovered that they could not get me to New York in time for my flight to Charlotte, even though there had originally been a few hours of waiting in JFK. The poor man searched his systems and concluded that the fastest way for me would be if he put me on a BA plane (instead of AA) to Dallas-Fort Worth and from there to Charlotte-Douglas Airport with AA. Then I would be able to be in Charlotte around 7.30 pm local North Carolina time, just four hours later than originally planned. Once I had my boarding passes for both planes, I walked through the security checkpoint (where strangely enough I should not remove my PC, tablet or other electronic devices from the hand luggage), and continued to the BA Lounge which is located at A Gates (there is also a lounge at B Gates, but at that time, I did not know which gate I should leave from and the lounge at A is far larger than the one at B). I spent about 4-5 hours in the lounge, which I had to get to know even better on the way home (if I had not known it beforehand from our previous travels), but that story will come later. When the flight number came up on the board I could see that I was going to leave from a C Gate, so in good time before boarding I left the lounge and took the little "subway train" from A to C gates. At the specific gate I found a seat where I could then wait for boarding. The trip across the Atlantic and half the US went smoothly and my "lie-flat" seat on Business Class meant that I actually got to sleep about 4-5 hours on the trip to Texas. The only annoying thing was that there were requirements for face masks in planes and US airports; not in Copenhagen and not on the plane to London or in Heathrow.
Approaching Dallas-Fort Worth Airport, I passed almost over the heands of out friends in Texas. They live in Bonham, which is not shown in the map but is just left (east) of Sherman.
When you have a stopover in the USA arriving from Europe, you have to go through immigration at the airport where you first landt which in my case was Dallas-Fort Worth. Here you must also pick up your baggage and bring it through customs, and then you must check it in again for the domestic flight. When we landed there was about an hour and 30 minutes until my next flight to Charlotte departed and it seemed like enough time. But it proved not to be, because there were 4-500 people queuing at immigration, and there were only three counters open, and although they later opened another counter, it did not help much. And when we spoke to the people at the entrance to the line and explained our problem, they couldn't care less, When leaving the plane I had chatted with a Danish family, mother and two children, who had been on the same plane as myself, and they had exactly five minutes more than me before their flight to Fort Lauderdale in Florida was to depart so they were just as f-ing annoyed as I was. When we finally got through immigration, I had five minutes and they had 10, so we rushed to the baggage claim, where their luggage was already there, so they grabbed it and hurried to the customs clearance and their next gate, while we shouted goodbye and good luck each other. I never saw them again, so I don't know if the managed to get on board. One of my suitcase had already arrived, but the other took a bit longer, even with the 75 minutes spent in line in immigration, so when it finally arrived, I grabbed both and headed towards customs, where luckily there was no customs officers to be seen and therefor no line. Not even the usual customs declaration had to be handed in - and that was probably a good thing, because we had not received one on the plane, as we usually do. From the customs I hurried 50 yards to the baggage check in, where a kind elderly uniformed gentleman, told me that he unfortunately could not receive my baggage as "the bird had flown". Then I had to find an American Airlines counter and explain my problem. Here they told me that there was only one more flight to Charlotte later in the evening, but that it was completely sold out and that the next one left at 5 am the next morning - but there would be no business class on that plane, which I had paid for. If I wanted business class, the next plane would not leave until 8.30 (ie Saturday morning). However, they offered to put me on the standby list for first departing flight, and I accepted. I did not really want to spend the night in an uncomfortable chair in a departure hall. I was told to approach the gate when it opened, so I walked to the relevant gate - quite far I found, but I was just tired. When I reached the gate I found a chair and settled down there.
When the gate was manned, I approached the lady, and explained my problem, and she found me in the system, and said that even though the plane was full, she was convinced that I would probably get a seat, but that it would most likely be in tourist class. At the time, I was pretty indifferent and I would have agreed to sit in the toilet all the way if necessary, but it did not go that wrong. I actually got on the plane, which was to depart at 9.30 and arrive two hours later + one hour due to the different time zones between Texas nd North Carolina, so at 00.30. Also this flight was pretty uneventful. I sat in a place where there were only two seats, and a folding seat next to me where the flight attendant could sit during takeoff and landing. On the other side of me sat a young Chinese lady watching movies on her tablet while working on her PC - multitasking. At one point, a (male) moron wanted to sit on the folding seat, and that was of course OK, but when he left again, the seat was pulles up by a spring, and hit him so hard (because he didn't took care and folded it slowly) hit him in the back, which made him turnv suddenly , thereby pushing my my arm while I was just taking a sip of my hot coffee. Some of the coffee ended up on mine trousers, some on the floor and some on on the Chinese lady's PC - in addition to the part that landed on and in her expensive Dior bag. He was not exactly popular, neither with me nor the lady, not least because he neither said "I'm sorry" nor apologized in any other way, but just left for his own place. We arrived in Charlotte on time, and and the baggage arrived after just a short wait, but it was also a relatively small plane. Then I just had to have get car.
At the car rental, which was withnin walking distance, there was a line for a rare change (sarcasm may be in use here), so when I had completed all the paperwork, etc., it was around 01.30. The car was parked in a parking garage just outside the office, so I found it easily enough, but discovered somewhat surprised that it was not exactly a car from the group I had ordered and paid for, but I will tell more about that in the next article. It was almost two am and I did not want at that time to drive the 85 miles, some of which were on small unlit country and gravel roads, to my accommodation with Margaret and Dick. I therefore set up Google Maps on the phone to show the way to a hotel at the airport and it found several, but I chose a Holiday Inn which was an 8-10 minutes drive. Here I got a room, and carried my backpack and the smaller of my two suitcases inside - the other was allowed to spend the night in the car. After checking in, I bought a bottle of cold water at the front desk so I had something to drink for the night, and just over 2 I was in bed - without setting the alarm clock for the next morning. After a journey of about 30 hours, I was relatively tired, even though I had slept on the plane but I had also gotten myself a cold, which plagued me most of the rest of the holiday with a cough and a runny nose.