United States of America 1 - Chicago / over Greenland /Maiden Flight/The windy city

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April 28th 2001
Published: December 20th 2011
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Greenland Greenland Greenland

At 35,000 foot and 650 miles per hour
Can you believe it I have never flown before apart from a quick flight in the 1960’s with the Royal Observer Corps. For those uninitiated the Royal Observer Corps was set up to monitor radiation fall out and nuclear attacks. It sounds daft now but the threat in the 60’s was very real and we were told to make shelters under our tables and under the stairs. A network of stations were set up around the country, some little bigger than holes in the ground where information was supposed to be relayed to the command centres giving information on bombs and fall out. I volunteered for a command centre and worked there for a few years. As part of the training I found myself in RAFValley flying low over the Menai Straits. Since then I have avoided flying having developed a phobia about planes. How on earth do they take off and more frightening how on earth do they stay up there? Physics not being a strong point I could not make head nor tail of how they functioned and chose to take all my holidays firmly on the ground.

So what made me fly in 2001 and make that trip to America? Well it was just after 9/11 and I felt that air space would be safe for a while. We had found living family in Illinois, Missouri and Wisconsin and felt it might be a good idea to head off stateside for a visit. This was the first mistake as we spent far too much time with relatives rather than sightseeing. Hindsight though is a wonderful thing.

We decided to fly with British Airways from Heathrow – perhaps mistake number 2 as it meant we had to find our way from Derbyshire to London. We chose to use the express bus service and stay overnight in a hotel close to the airport. It seemed a cheaper option than getting a taxi or taking the car down with us. The bus though was late and we felt slightly out of control. Whilst it’s a cheap option it is not the best and we wouldn’t ever do it again. It was also packed and stopped at so many places on the way down to let passengers off and take on board new ones. Not a pleasant experience. The hotel was fine and we ate and
Chicago Chicago Chicago

From the 72nd Floor
slept well.

The following morning not particularly feeling refreshed we breakfasted before taking the busy Heathrow Express to the airport. We were not looking forward to the same gruelling journey home in three weeks time. Arriving early we couldn’t find our flight and realised that it was late and we spent more time wandering around the concourse trying to waste precious time. Eventually we went through passport control and were checked over with a fine tooth comb. Why is it when you are early time goes so slowly but when you are late it flies? We drank coffee and watched planes taking off and landing. We were lucky enough to see Concorde on one of its last flights. What a graceful plane and how I would have loved to have gone on her to New York.

We boarded the plane and were directed to our seats C1 and C2. Glenn had some extra leg room and I had chosen a window seat. My theory was that if I was going to be scared I may as well look out of the window through the 8 hour flight. When we got
Chicago Chicago Chicago

A frog at night
to our seats mine was taken by a large American lady all wrapped up in a blanket looking as if she was going to sleep or sleeping already. I asked her politely to move as she was in my seat and I was ignored. I tried again and was ignored again so this time a quick prod in the ribs followed. “ You are in my seat”…………. “ I got here first!” The conversation carried on and she was going nowhere. The queue was building up behind us as passengers were boarding and had nowhere to go as we were blocking the corridor. The stewardess then turned up to find out what was going on and checked my ticket and told the other passenger to move to the aisle seat which was hers. Not a happy lady!!!

Take off was a fantastic experience, despite feeling apprehensive I loved watching the ground falling away from us and seeing London below. You wouldn’t get me on a ride at AltonTowers but this was something special. Up the country heading for Scotland and then hanging a left we headed over the Atlantic. Nothing to see but green we were served with dinner. Good old BA it turned up as a three course lunch with wine. For a while there was nothing to see but the green of the sea and I found myself checking the in flight magazines or the in flight entertainment GosfordPark. Eventually we flew over Greenland – thank heavens for the small screen in the seat back which told us we were over land, flying at over 600 mph and at an altitude of 35,000 feet. Greenland looked magical – pure virgin white snow with a hingt of blue where the underground glaciers and rivers were beginning to melt.

But then back out to sea and nothing again until we reached landfall in Labrador. Afternoon was served again with wine to break the monotony of the flight. Legs were beginning to ache now and we felt very stiff. We had left London at 1.30 and it was now 11.30 American time. We were going backwards.Labrador looked exactly the same as Greenland. Pristine white with a hint of blue.

We arrived at O’Hare Airport to pouring rain which meant we saw nothing of the Great Lakes. We were met by cousin Judy and her friend Betty. Both were holding an enormous banner welcoming us to the USA. How embarrassing!!!!! They drove us to our hotel a Best Western (very good value and a good location on the NorthShore) where we settled down for the evening. As it was midnight back home we began to feel as if our body clocks were very wrong and knew that we shouldn’t go to bed so we went for a walk and ended up in a café across the road in what seemed like that land that never sleeps. Our first encounter with American food , chips, salad, meat, fruit with much we did not recognise . Went to bed tired but fascinated to be spending time in the city which is the start of the famous route 66 and the Windy City..


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