Day 20. Homeward bound.
1530 hours, Chicago. The day has been mostly unexciting other than the usual stresses of getting from there to here. We took a taxi to the airport, spending some of our remaining Euro on the fare. European departures are more chaotic than the U.S. because there are people pushing and shoving to get in before everyone else, but they are more relaxed on many of the silly rules that TSA puts in place, ostensibly to keep us safe.
The Atlantic leg went well, no turbulence to speak of. It was just long. The flight was 8 hours, but we had good seats. Because of the way the aircraft is made, Elijah had no seat in front of him, so he could stretch out. I was across the aisle and ended up chatting with the guy next to me for a while and then settled in to watch a few movies on the in-flight system and my tablet.
Getting through the international terminal and security was a process, but again, not too difficult. All four of us have the Global Entry passes that let us skip the long queues at Immigration and Customs and just use a machine. Once we collected our bags and put them back in the system for a domestic flight, it was just a matter of getting through security.
Something we forgot to do a couple years ago, that Jackie thankfully remembered this time, was to move our liquids from our carry-on bags that we had purchased at Duty Free in Paris. I had a bottle of calvados (apple brandy) and Jackie had several bottles of perfume that would have caused us a problem at security.
The security line was short, thanks to pre-check on our boarding passes. The only problem was Jackie had her iPod inside a pocket and it kept setting off the metal detector. Then, her water bottle was full of water, so I took it back outside the security line and chugged 24 oz. (75 cl) of water in about 15 seconds. See, college was good for something.
Lunch at Chili's in the terminal and then to the United Club, which sits right across from our gate to OKC. Jackie is dozing quietly in the comfy chair across from me. Beau is watching the airplanes take off at the window and Elijah is listening to his audio book and trying not to fall asleep.
Saturday morning. Both Elijah and Beau were interactive with adults we've met who asked them about the things they enjoyed on this trip. It's funny how random strangers will start a conversation with a traveling family. I had thought to put the keyboard in their hands and let them give a narrative while we spent 4 hours in the United Club. Beau managed barely a paragraph and Elijah claimed writers block. Then he decided he could start a blog on his own and I told him that was a great idea.
Although our trip was fun it was also exhausting. I personally felt that London, and Paris were overwhelming, Amsterdam felt more "homey". My "go to" food was a croque monsuer or as we call it a ham and cheese samwitch (the cheese is on top of the bread). My all time favorite thing to do on the Paris double decker bus was to do clandestine drawings of people. I dont have much more to say soo... Peace Out!
There you have it. So I'll go back to narrating.
The final leg of the trip, at least on airplanes, was delayed a bit. There were some storms going through Chicago, as often happens in the summer. I have no idea why one of the nation's busiest airports is located where both winter and summer weather can wreak such havoc. Added to that is the 7PM-9PM time slot is when all the eastward-bound European flights take off for early-morning arrivals, so we were stuck behind a bunch of 777's and 767's with their slow taxiing.
I was upgraded to first class because of all my travel. I offered the more comfortable seat on this tiny aircraft to my wife who readily accepted it. The kids and I went to our assigned seats, where we were joined by 40 retired folks from Norman, returning from a tour of Ireland. It was a pretty merry environment, although boarding and deplaning took a bit longer. I chatted with my neighbor who was returning from a 3 week work trip and was looking forward to a long motorcycle ride this weekend. I hear you, brother.
Landing was easy, albeit about 45 minutes later than planned. We got our bags and all the liquids inside were still inside the bottles. Sometimes that goes a different way, for all the planning and "Fragile" stickers on the suitcase. Parking at USA Park (the former Whinery's) on Meridian was $105. My co-workers in California would laugh as that's 4 days parking at San Francisco airport.
The last 50 miles were made easier with a bit of caffeine from Starbucks. Jackie and I chatted about anything and nothing to stay awake. Beau slept and Elijah maintained a thousand-yard stare while listening to his audiobook. We pulled into the driveway about 11:30 PM, 20 days and 8 hours after leaving. The kids immediately crashed when they got home.
Faolan was ecstatic about seeing us again. I'm sure he was confused about all the friends and family who stopped by the last few weeks. We played for a while and he bounced around like he was a puppy again. One of the cats greeted us quickly, but the other remained aloof until Saturday morning.
Thanks, so much, to Rachel and Payton Smith for looking after the critters while we were gone. My sister Michelle also for stopping by and sending us status updates that our furry family members were doing alright, as well and Randy Sweeney for stopping by to let Faolan play with Roscoe.
Step tally, for all the sitting in airplane seats, was 12,200. Granted, yesterday was a 31 hour day, accounting for timezone changes.
Everyone woke early Saturday. That's to be expected with traveling halfway around the world. It will take a day or two for our bodies to revert to Central Time. Unfortunately, I head to California on Monday and Elijah goes off to church camp. Jackie is already working on things at the church and trying to get Elijah ready for college. The world never stops moving.
Tomorrow, I'll wrap up with some thoughts on our trip. Thanks for following along on our adventure.