Well we’re here :-) and after all the panic about transporting the bike things have all turned out pretty well.
After packing, repacking and repacking again we weighed my bike box and it was over weight so everything came out except for the bike, wheels and saddle. Tools, tyres, tubes, bottles, gels etc etc etc all got bagged up and put in with the other luggage – such a dreadful waste of space really.
The original plan was to only take the bike box and two other bags but we soon realised that the new weight regulations meant that suitcases became overweight a long time before they became full so an extra bag was called for.
On Saturday morning we headed up to Wolves to see the family and drop Rosie off at my parents for the week. No doubt she’ll be even more spoilt when she leaves there than she is already. After visiting a few folks and getting more than my fair share of quizzical glances and comments about the now fading haircut we headed out to Manchester Airport for our overnight stay at the Hilton Hotel. More strange looks followed as the Hilton is far to posh (and expensive) for us and a bloke with freaky hair is secretly probably less than welcome in their restaurant, about as welcome infact as their bill was in my bank account. Still it was very nice as a one off experience and their gym machines came in handy for me to knock out a swift 45min bike/15min run brick session.
Sunday morning came and we made sure we got to Check-In with plenty of time to spare for any of the expected problems…….. What can I say other than it was fine. After reading horror stories about flying Delta and reading totally separate horror stories about flying from Manchester Airport the whole experience was great. The woman at Check-In was very friendly which immediately made us feel a whole lot better about the situation. The bags were weighed and even with just bike and wheels my case was 22.8kg, just 0.2kg below the new limit. The girl on the oversize/squishy bag gate was also very friendly, we even started having a laugh and a joke when I appeared at her gate for the 3rd time. After getting the bags away there was a long old queue to get through passport control and into the Departure Areas which had plenty of people around us grumbling but we had plenty of time to kill so that wasn’t even a problem.
There’s no way really to describe the 9hr+ flight from Manchester to Atlanta other than it’s loooooong. 1st time we went it was a novelty and we were on a nice new 777 where you had your own personal TV’s and plenty of channels to choose from, 2nd time we had the terrible twins screaming and a wailing to keep us ‘amused’. This time though it was just long, the films weren’t much good and with it being a daytime flight there was no way I’d just be able to sleep through it.
Once at Atlanta we ONLY had to wait 4hrs for our connecting flight. By the time you’ve cleared customs and baggage that’s down to 3hrs though and the Airline changing your flight to a totally different Terminal also helps to kill a bit of time. There’s no escaping it though you can tell you’re in America almost instantly because there are some HUGE folks here. We’d hardly got off the plane before we saw the first man mountain walking towards us. I genuinely looked at some people strolling through the airport and wondered how they would fit in their planes seats. It’s really got to be seen to be believed.
Flying from Atlanta to PCB was short and sweet. 250miles, 45mins and one time zone which meant that we actually landed before we took off ;-) and finally 20hrs after checking in at Manchester Airport we were at Panama City Airport along with ALL of our luggage and our MEDIUM sized car which like everything else here is HUGE. Looking like a LandRover Freelander on steroids with a hulking great V6 engine, Leather, Climate Control etc etc etc the steering wheel on the wrong side and no clutch pedal (damn automatics). Americans must get a real shock when they come to the UK and a medium car is a Ford Focus diesel. A quick trip to the never shutting Walmart to get milk, bread and other necessary goodies before hitting the apartment to empty the bags, find out what was broken and ‘finally’ sleep.
Damage Report – On one of our suitcases a solid plastic sheet that form the sides of the case has been totally destroyed leaving small bits of plastic over the contents and the bigger broken pieces just lying about inside the fabric. My bike box has taken a beating (as always). One of the 4 clasps that fasten the sides has broken off, one of the wheels has been smacked so hard that it’s totally seized up and it’s generally scuffed to bits. It’s done its job though and the bike is still in one piece, so that makes all the hassle and worry about whether it would get on the plane worth it. Looking at the beating the box has taken I’m not sure a bike bag would have offered the same protection and as for packing it in cardboard as Delta recommend – nooooo thanks.
This morning I went for a walk on the beach with Shelly before taking the bike out for a spin. It’s damn windy here today, far windier than it was in 2004 when people were panicking about the swim, the sea has a good chop on it but it’s more like a flat day at Croyde than a tough day at Perranporth. I was getting blown all over the place on the bike ride though and even took a small off road excursion at one point which could have been very embarrassing but I held the bike upright and made it back onto the road without any problems. Tuesday and Wednesday are both forecast to be on the ‘blustery’ side of things. If it stays this way until the weekend it’ll make for an interesting race that will suit the strong riders – that’s me stuffed then.
At the daily trip to Walmart this afternoon we played ‘Spot the Triathlete’, it’s not really that hard a game to play, there were plenty of Oakleys, tanned and toned bodies and shaved legs wandering about, there’s none of that with me though of course :-).
Until next time. From a sunny but rather windy PCB.