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in which various Transportation Centers are negotiated, and a Realization happens.

Thursday 02 July 1998 - Phoenix to L.A.

I depart Phoenix, tearfully, and two hours late, for Los Angeles on a plane that, unbelievably, is also transporting two armed bounty hunters and their handcuffed charge. This seems ominous, although nothing untoward happened, to my amazement. I travel at the perpetual mercy of the capricious Travel Gods, who like to poke fun.

Friday, 03 July 1998 - London and bits of English countryside

I arrive, courtesy of Virgin Atlantic, in London.

I am so brain-fragged that even when, a hour later, it becomes apparent that my luggage elected not to make the trip with me, I am barely fazed. This little mishap turns into quite the blessing as I navigate three flights of stairs to change tubes at Leicester Square, unencumbered by three hundred pounds[1] of baggage, including a carburetor for our plane.

I manage to get on the right train to Milton Keynes. I've always loved trains, and this one flew through some amazingly green countryside. Once we get out of London, buildings and motorways and crowds give way to fields and your actual hedges and cows.

This is a gorgeous place.

An hour (I hardly believe it) later, I find myself dumped at the station at Milton Keynes.

I have come armed with various Granny Weatherwax quotes on 'forn parts', and I hardly need them. Not even when two small girls approach me outside the station and beg for a fag[2].

Captain CrankyEventually, my ride shows up. Captain Frank (seen at right in a French newspaper looking goofier than I've ever seen him) is pretty relieved to see me -- now I get to do half his job. The ride to Cranfield is enlivened by a call to the Virgin luggage counter, who inform me that my bags will be dropped at my hotel sometime this afternoon. Bless Virgin!

Well, before I'm even allowed to pass out -- it's something like 2am by my deeply confused internal clock -- we have to go see the plane. Evidently, the crew thought I'd feel better seeing her. I submit to having my photo taken. I look pretty dreadful.

I wander back to the hotel, call Loki, then collapse.

Saturday, 04 July 1998 - Cranfield, England

It's pretty bizarre to spend Independence Day in the country from which we declared this independence. The crew endures some gentle ribbing on this account, and I'm reminded of the 4th of July scene in The Great Escape[3]. It's cold and grey and drizzly today ... I am deeply impressed with the weather here.

Sadly, it was 105° when I left the desert. It's now 18° -- that's about 64° for the metrically challenged -- and I've a suitcase loaded with shorts. I huddle into my jacket and remind myself that this is my favorite weather.

I'm supposed to call some net friends who live close to here, but we are working from dawn to dark (and 'dark' happens around 10pm in these parts) and in any event I have no transport and neither do they. I feel pretty bad about that.

Sunday, 05 July 1998 - Cranfield, England

I finally wake up in time to eat breakfast with the crew. It's basically a huge fry-up, with sausages, bacon, mushrooms, bread and eggs submitting to the hot oil. I opt for muesli. Pretty festive stuff.

I get to see a small plane crash taking off into some pretty strong winds (the pilot was ok), and endure Day One of Anne Callahan, Travelling Volunteer, 75-year-old former Pan Am stewardess and Professional Cheerful Person. Absolutely nothing can depress this woman, and it's going to piss me off, I can tell. We wind up with dinner in a pub (with --finally!-- hard cider!! woo!!) and foul jokes told by our current co-pilot, Roger, a Brit with scatological taste in funny stories.

let's move on

[1] This is absolutely true.
[2] Being well-read has its advantages.
[3] 'How are you getting on over there?' 'Pretty well, thanks.'