All the Saints, Peters, Charles and Louis

So I arrived at Lambert International Airport slightly dazed and not quite conscious after two days travel of which 16-ish hours were spent on airplanes. I did however manage some small naps in Oakland (CA) on my 14 hour layover.

I hear you cry out in shock at what must seem like poor planning on my part. It was however a conscious decision, my flights was not on the same itinerary. I had one for BGO -> OAK (via LGW) Which was the international part of my trip and then a seperate one for my US domestic flights. So the layover was so that I had a buffer for any potential delays on the first leg of the trip.

So I land, and as with any travel by airplane the first question is, did my luggage go on its own adventure or did it decide that mine was sufficiently exciting and follow as planned. It had, I picked up my backpack stuffed my shoulder bag in it as well just for practicality.

I had arrived in Saint Louis, now to get hold of the awesome people there, some of which had, very nicely, offered to pick me up at the airport. It was quite practical since I was also going to stay with him. The person in question is Brian, I call… it goes through to voice mail, call again… same thing. repeat two more times and I call the other person I am visiting here… Olivia, she picks up. We talk, she is excited that I’ve finally arrived, as am I, although in my current sleep dreprived state am less capable to express it.

I had Brians’ address, worst comes to worst… I’d just catch a Lyft (similar but not the same as an Uber, check the news for why I will not use Uber) as I hang up on Olivia, she was at work at the time so I figured it was best to let her get back to it, Brian calls me and says “Did I just miss four calls from you!” I make a very audible sigh as way of an affirmative answer.

It turns out he has been sitting in the car park for about an hour, working from his car and thus not payed attention to his non-work cellphone.

A few minutes later he shows up at the pickup spot that I am at, greetings and hugs ensue… I get in the car, which is, thanks to the marvel of air conditioning, cool. As I sit down… Brian hands me a beer, Busch… which is like Budweisers’ cousin in flavor and reputation, but I had been standing outside in sweltering heat and so this was secondary to it being a COLD beer. It disappeared quickly.

We drove off, discusssing what to do next. Food was high on my priority since I’d been living in airplanes and airports for the past two days. I call Olivia to discuss, Brian suggest a place called Lue Ellen… Olivia agrees and would meet us there. I have no idea of what anything is here so I trust them both, as we arrive I discover that the place is not called Lue Ellens but rather Llywelyn’s … a welsh themed pub / restaurant. So my first day in the US and we go to a WELSH place. I have nothing against Wales or the Welsh, it was just that it struck me as somewhat funny since I’ve lived there for about 18 months.
However, we were there and Oliva showed up, we squeed and hugged and promptly sat down careful of using too much of what little energy I had left.

I ordered a burger w/ chips and a blue cheese dip. What I got was a burger w/ crisps and blue cheese dip, now I knew of the fries / chips / crisps dilemma but this was a WELSH place, they should know better. Now, this was all quite forgivable and would have been forgotten immediately had it not been for the fact that I then asked what they served their Fish n’ Chips with… and the waitress said that while they did offer it with chips aka fries it was normally served with crisps aka chips. Fish n’ Chips is sacrosanct, I was however sleep deprived and since I had not noticed any other British persons about that might join in a revolt at this silliness I found it best to let it go.

Food both and conversations were had, and after a bit of both Brian had a game to go to, which was how I ended up in Olivia’s car, headed to her parents house for a shower and a chat. This would have been even more brilliant had we remembered that my backpack with all my things in it, except for my shoulder bag, was in Brians car and transferred it along with me into Olivia’s car.

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say, but we arrived Cobb residence a few moments later and I found myself in Saint Peters following Olivia into the back door in the garage, when she suddenly stopped, causing my synapses to reluctantly signal my legs to halt and re-adjust balance. “My dad likes to receive guest through the front door”

Easy enough, we knock, the door opens and I am pulled into a bear hug by Mr. Cobb, after a few minutes of cursory chat me and Olivia inform him of our mission here, namely to get me into a shower so I can get the travel grime rinsed off me, he offers to lend me a shirt which after a bit of thought I happily accept. It is a Cardinals shirt, I have immediately been claimed as a Cardinals fan. A quick shower later and the chatting continues for a fair bit and I get introduced to Olivia’s brother, Gabriel and her mother Mrs Cobb whom which I exchange phone numbers with for coordinating whatever might ensue for the next few days, including the dinner I had been invited to the next day, not only that, I had also been drafted as an assistant chef.

Brian shows up, a bit more chatting happens and by now everything is catching up to me, I was running on fumes when I landed, I have no idea how I was still awake, much less able to form complete sentences. Me and Brian make our excuses, very valid ones and we drive to his place, which is how I found myself in Saint Charles.

After some brief introductions to Mary, Brians mother, both me and Brian headed to bed… I don’t think a timing devices has been invented that could have measured the minuscule amount of time it took from when my head hit the pillow to when I fell asleep.

Then I awoke to Thursday, I had no plans save for the dinner at the Cobbs and Brian was not yet off work so he had stuff to do in the day, I slumbered a bit and then succumbed to adventure and caught a Lyft into St. Charles and Main Street in search of adventure… and coffee. I did a fair bit of walking around popping my head in shops and walking in the park and grabbed a coffee at Picasso’s then I hit my threshold for heat and continued to explore the streets darting from store to store seeking shelter in their air conditioned buildings, like a desert animal darting from shadow to shadow trying to avoid the worst of the heat. I half expecting to hear Sir. Attenborough himself starting to narrate my journey…

(Edit, this was actually Friday, Thursday I went to hang out with the cool kids at the mall…. and then had the dinner at the Cobbs place…. Friday I spent the early hours walking around town…. and then we left for our adventure)

After that I met Brian for a “light” lunch at a place called Trailhead, where I got, on the recommendation from the bartender, got the burger and a nice light pilsner which was brewed on the premises. Me and Brian coordinated with the Cobbs and headed over there after a while to prepare for the dinner.

The head chef plying his trade and patiently teaching me about how to cook a gumbo with Ocra, dinner was made, served and devoured and in between I was telling Camino stories and answering questions as best I could. All in all a very nice dinner with excellent conversations, after dessert a game of table tennis ensued and that lasted until me and Brian headed home to prepare us for the surprise adventure that Brian and Olivia had planned for the weekend, which I was still in the dark about. 

Morning followed, and all I had been told was to bring swimming trunks and other basics, which I had… A rapid packing ensued I stuffed all the things I imagined I’d need in my smaller backpack.. it was done in a few minutes since I’d yet to unpack most of my things and as such all my items were confined to a small space, namely my big backpack.

Me and Brian lazed about for a bit and not really being in a rush, we stashed all our additional supplies in the car, like two coolers full of beer and enough ice to keep them namely that, cool. 

We left and made our way to pickup fellow adventurers, as we made our way to wherever we where going I was eventually filled in, the old adage about the only way two people can keep a secret is if one of them is dead kind of thing.. and now there were four people in the car. This was a camping and float-trip adventure… float trip is basically river rafting without the whitewater stuff, as the name suggests you float down a river lazily while drinking beer and having fun. That was however not before Saturday morning, tonight was just getting to the campsite and having fun. Which we did…

Olivia and Kevin, the latter being the formers boyfriend, also showed up a bit later. Introductions ensued and then drinking and fun, Kevin enjoyed a few Margaritas until he became a bit more tipsy than he expected and then in conversation with Olivia was informed that the Margarita mix was indeed already mixed with tequila, which was news to Kevin, who had up to this point been adding tequila to it. We all had a laugh at that, especially Olivia. Schadenfreude! Thy name is Olivia! 

The party dwindled down and a few people stayed up to about 2am, myself included a few funny things happened none of which I will share here…. keywords are, Park Ranger, rude joke, alcohol.

After the entire trip Olivia shared one conversation she had had with Kevin, she had informed him, on learning that he would be sharing a tent with me and Brian, that he should be prepared for snoring, and he then looked quizzical as to how she had acquired this knowledge, the answer is of course the Camino.

Morning arrived and breakfast was made, scrambled eggs and sausages… and we made ready for departure for the float trip, we had to show up at 08:50 according to Brian, we left at tquarter to. At which point Brian admitted he had fibbed we didn’t need to be there before 09:30, he knew the people that he had to herd and corral so he had left a safety margin.

We arrived at the grounds only to discover that the Park officials that we where renting from also had added their own safety margin, our bus was not departing until 10:00..

This gave us time to find lifejackets and grab a beer while we waited, some of course spend the extra time in other ways… 

As it got closer to departure all of us decided to leave all electronic devices in the cars for safe keeping since we would probably get wet whether we wanted to or not, so of the actual float trip there are no pictures…


…. 8 hours later…. 

We had an awesome time, it involved a beer rescue, throwing people into the river… swimming, floating, throwning a frisbee while floating / swimming.. all these stories are available as paid DLCs all you need to do is meet me in person and buy me a beer. If I were to type up the awesomeness that was the float trip I would spend the the rest of my time here in San Francisco doing that and nothing else. Perhaps I will make it a seperate blog post when I get back home, but don’t hold your breath.

A huge thank you to Brian and Olivia and all others involved too…  for the awesome float trip, we had more adventures as well which I will share here, but that will be a seperate entry… Now it is time for me to go explore San Francisco some more… 

Safe travels wherever you are.

A long journey

Getting up at 04:30(am) is not something most would enjoy I imagine. Much less so if one finds oneself with barely 2 hours of sleep before the alarm clock starts its unforgiving wailing cry. Now I would, of course, be even less happy if it did not perform its assigned task.
So up at 0430, everything was packed the evening before, even breakfast… grab and go. Arriving at the train station which is the first mode of transport for me whenever I go travelling anywhere. The journey was calm, not many people out travelling at 0500 in the morning, save for the commuters I was the odd one out with my 100L backpack and a small bag.
The train ride went without much fuss, I managed a blissful twenty minute nap which invigorated me enough and allowed me to form trains of though longer than “me tired, me sleep” Arriving at Bergen I walked the short distance to the light rail, which lets be honest, is just another fancy word for tram. 

Again, since it was still quite early, it was not crammed with people headed to work and the airport. An uneventful 45 minutes later I found myself at Bergen International Airport, Flesland. 

*insert intensifying dramatic music here*

First I get a text message from my airline welcoming me to my flight and informing me that I’ve yet to check in, I head to the nearest check-in machine, print by boarding passes and luggage tag….
Tangent… I wish I had Rincewind’s Luggage…. it would make me feel so much comfortable (if you have no clue, read “The Colour of Magic”) 

Back on track, having checked in and sent my big backpack off on its own adventure, I head through security without any fuss. As I clear through, however, another message ticks in… “Your flight has been delayed…” crap… slight panic … made slightly less slight by the fact that the airline in question has been in the news lately due to it has cancelled a bunch of flights due to manpower issues.

I first grab some food and coffee, pull out my notepad and call the airline… fully expecting to be put through a holding pattern in the eternal customer service “Please hold, your call is important to us…” cycle. I call, get the standard greeting of “We are currently experiencing a higher than normal number of calls….” gaaaah… then I am interrupter ….”there is currently a shorter waiting period on out English speaking service desk press 1 to switch” I press 1 faster than a horny teenager gets an erection at the sight of nudity… suddenly within seconds I am greeted by an actual person.
I explain what is going on and ask how this affects my connecting flight on the same itinerary… confusion at the other end… “Sir, it is the London to Oakland flight that is delayed, not the Bergen to London flight. You should be fine” … I quickly re-read the text message… and find that that is exactly what it says.

I make my apologies for bothering them with such a stupid question and wish them a happy day… and continue to munch on my second breakfast and coffee, eventually making my way through outgoing passport control and find myself at the gate and before long I find my self in the familiar surroundings of Gatwick airport. I go through the transfer gate after having my passport, and ESTA checked and then wait. I already know the flight has been delayed by close to an hour, and gate information would be forthcoming soon. The hour approaches and as I suspected the time at which the gate information should be presented to us in bold letters on the departure board no shush thing happens, instead we are presented with a new time for gate info… this happens a few times, and I am getting a bit impatient and frustrated. But after a while, we get the gate info, and I rush to it. Not because I have to but because I found myself so elated that I finally knew where the gate was, forgetting completely to get supplies for the 11-hour flight.

So now I find myself on a Dreamliner headed for Oakland, US. Current distance, as I am writing this sentence, to destination 8080km (5018mi) 
The flight was pleasant, much aided by the company of the two Brits sitting next to me, my book and a few select tunes on my phone. Even so the flight did not exactly feel like it passed quickly, but eventually, I found myself on the ground at Oakland airport, and after 40 minutes of queuing I got through passport control and customs without issue. Now it was only the question of the 15-hour layover at the airport. The temptation to find a hotel grew exponentially as the only options seemed to be, floor, uncomfortable chairs or hotel. 

Before I decided I went for a little walkabout and I found the lounge proper with a few chairs and couches which already had a few people napping on them. So I decided to stay at the airport. I got some quality naps in, but after more than a full 24 hours of travel now on little sleep I, that was what I needed sleep, but airports are not conducive to such frivolous activities. I stayed, just napping along.

At 7 in the morning I checked my bags in and found a small breakfast, the clerk at the shop, and I chatted a bit about travel and Katzenjammer, of which he was a big fan. After that, I went through security for my domestic flight, again without any issues.
Second breakfast was procured at Starbucks along with some coffee, and now I am waiting at the gate for my final two flights before I meet up with Olivia and Brian in St. Louis. Oakland -> Salt Lake -> St. Louis… then a week of madness and fun before I head back to Oakland and San Francisco and continue my US adventure there… my travelling is coming to an end soon.. but the adventure lies before me

Flight DL4477… A Bombardier CRJ900 takes me on the final leg of my journey to St. Louis… 20 minutes remaining…. 

Taken out of context I must seem so strange -Ani