2010 TRIP TO ENGLAND, by Colin L. Miller

Intro June 10 June 11 June 12 June 13 June 14 June 15 June 16 June 17 June 18 June 19 June 20 June 21 June 22 June 23 June 24 June 25 June 26 Expense Report


Early in the morning I decided to purchase an advance train ticket online from East Coast, London to Newcastle-Upon-Tyne (KGX-NCL), departing Kings Cross station at 11:30 am, with reserved seat 71A, 103.60 ($151.04) on the credit card. From my experience traveling by rail to York last year, most seats on the train were reserved, which meant taking an empty reserved seat until the station where the traveler would then take it and I would have to find another--or go to the standing room area at the ends of the coaches where the doors and bathrooms were.

At 7:00 it was time to leave. I had a nice drive to Tucson and tried the long-term parking lot on the north side of Valencia at S. Tucson Blvd. It was supposed to be about $3.50/day, but it had been a while since I last saw the signs with the prices, and it had gone up to $3.95/day, which was the same as the lots closer in that I'd used in the past. I got a ride to the terminal from the parking shuttlevan ($2 tip). With no baggage to check, I got my boarding passes from a kiosk in the Continental area.

Getting through the security checkpoint was easy, with minimal lines and no hassles. The free Wi-Fi here at the airport really was free, with no restrictions (unlike Houston), so I did a little browsing on my 10" netbook near Gate B9. At 9:40, I was in my seat on the tiny EMB-145XR jet, tail number N11193, for Continental Flight 2156, from TUS to IAH. I got a window seat at the rear, on the left side. My large carry-on was too big for the tiny overhead compartments so I had it checked at the gate.

I was off the tiny jet with my large carry-on at 2:23 pm (CDT) at Houston (IAH). Just like last year, I rode the automated tram to Concourse E. I had almost three hours before the next flight, so I wandered around the concourse and found a Wendy's for lunch in a food court area ($7.88). Later I would continue wandering the concourse and find a much better Panda Express, but that would now have to wait until I returned from England.

At Gate E18, I watched as my next flight was getting ready. The big Boeing 777-200ER-series jet was parked with cargo doors open. Outside, ground crew were loading cargo. I watched as a large pallet of cargo wrapped in netting was backed up to the loading machine. I was amused as I could see what was about to happen. The crew struggled to slide the pallet off the vehicle and onto the pallet lift machine, but it went at a bad angle and was only partially off the vehicle. The driver decided to back up, but the pallet was unstable and didn't quite move back along with the vehicle, and ended up sliding off onto the ground.

IAH Concourse E, Gate E18

At the gate, I tried to get Internet access, but they only had paid-or-adware service, and I refused to download and install the adware for free access. I wasn't that desperate. The waiting area gradually filled up. Then, on schedule, I boarded the B-777-224, tail number N78017, for Continental Flight CO4. This year, I chose the opposite side of the plane on the hopes I'd see different things out the window, from seat 40L. It was a very cramped seat, with minimal legroom. Then they announced a delay: luggage from late-arriving transfers needed to be loaded. We backed out of the gate 25 minutes late. As we started to taxi towards the runway, they announced that they screwed up the cargo loading and Continental Operations ordered them to return to the gate to visually inspect that the luggage was correct. About 90 minutes later we were finally taking off.

With the 2-hour delay, the sun was setting. As we headed NE, we passed some small thunderstorm clouds that lit up internally with lightning. With my new Kodak Zi8, I took short videos of the cloud lighting up. On the seatback touchscreen display, the map function wasn't working, so I couldn't track our flight progress. That was very frustrating as I liked the flight details.

Intro June 10 June 11 June 12 June 13 June 14 June 15 June 16 June 17 June 18 June 19 June 20 June 21 June 22 June 23 June 24 June 25 June 26 Expense Report