Saturday, August 26, 2000 - Chicago, Illinois

Another long day of travel. That is the problem with visiting North America when you live in England - long travel times to just about anywhere. The co-ordination involved for such a trip is also interesting.

I had to get a friend to look into my flat while I am gone (to make sure my plants don't give up the ghost when I am gone – also check to see that no one has decided I am not around so take a fancy to my television or computer…). I had to leave relatively early to get to where I am currently working right near the airport (Gatwick) since I was able to park my car there while I am away - saves me having to take the train with luggage - only have to take a small cab ride to the airport (though, at seven pounds for a five minute drive, one does wonder…).

I am petrified about missing a plane. I never have nor do I ever plan too so I was about 3 hours early, taking my time to browse through the mall that is the airport. Truly scary – all sorts of stores and restaurants, really a mall but with prices that are not bad because of the lack of tax that you now can take advantage of when in a European airport (when travelling, of course, not just visiting the airport!). Recently there was a big hassle because they removed duty free for travel in Europe which meant that everyone buying cheap booze could no longer save as much money, the duty free shops changed tack and offered tax-free instead. Though what the practical difference is, is beyond me…

Picked up some currency, I am now doing this before I get the country I travel too since I am not always sure I will have immediate access to a bank machine, nor do I want to have to hunt around for one when I first get to a country though I do end up paying service fees from an agency at least I have the cash – another advantage is I can use the facility in England to have it directly withdrawn from my bank account instead of having to pay with cash or plastic.

We left a bit late but made up time on the 8 hour trip. The DC-10 was largely unoccupied so people took advantage of it and laid out along the rows of seats to try to get some sleep. I did not really manage it though my eyes did shut a few times – I tend to feel really bad if I sleep on the flight anyway. Really bad movies on the video screens so I skipped that as well. Amused myself by starting to read a book though it is REALLY hard going since it is a bit scientifically technical - not exactly relaxing reading either.

I am also now always taking the pasta option, if offered, as a meal on these flights, they tend to be better than the meat options since the meat is always tough, overcooked or just bad. Besides, pasta is good for you (!).

We arrived in Detroit a bit earlier than expected. After picking up my luggage I had a bit of a scare at customs. I was pretty tired at this point and I guess the officer interviewing me thought I was being evasive so he raised his voice and questioned my honesty - forcing me to go to the inspection area where they repeated the questions and, of course, let me continue on. Perhaps this other guy was just having a bad day, he was really being difficult on everyone in the line (ours was the slowest line by far). I was a bit upset, of course, it really does put you off…First time this has ever happened to me.

I grabbed a bit of American junk food (gotta have some of that! Not very often get it…) and then wandered around for a bit. The airport here is not a mall like in the UK but then in the UK they travel so much as well – it is so easy to do so they tend to buy a lot more and return home with it. It is a large airport, but not that bad, lots of moving sidewalks making the distances a bit easier to take.

I called my cousin who lives in Detroit just prior to boarding. The last time I saw him was at his wedding about 5-6 years ago, he has three kids now and a house! A real “family man”, never thought it…It is so strange to see all my friends now with families and settling down, never thought they would…Makes me feel that not being married is perhaps better in that I do not become too “sedate” and willing to work a steady job – I would think “stagnate”. Don't get me wrong - having a family I think would be fantastic but I would not want to always have to do the same job every day to make money to pay for it, I would want to have a lot of variety which is not something you seem to get with a family (other than the family crises, of course). Anyway, one of his friends which I met at the wedding is coming to Chicago to the convention as well so I will be trying to get in touch with him while I am here.

A thunderstorm delayed our trip to Chicago but once we did get off the ground, 45 minutes later we arrived at O'Hare. It was easy to catch a special van that services the main (and even not-so-main) hotels in Chicago. It was quite a trip along the Interstate into the city - the driver was quite scary, passing cars on the left and right all the time - In the UK it is illegal to pass someone on the left (which is towards the outside of the road) since they may want to move over. I don't know if it is illegal here (passing on the right, that is) but perhaps it should be. No one, of course, was observing the speed limits on the massive roads. Truly a quick experience, taking only about 1/2 hour to get to the hotel which is right close to downtown.

The room is quite nice - this is one of the cheapest hotels in the downtown area - but still expensive by my books, but, it is only once a year. It is a BIG room with air conditioning and a large number of TV channels, so what else do you need?

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