April Fools

That title just about sums things up for us. Well not really, but we were supposed to leave for our UK Expedition on April 1st. This was originally picked rather arbitrarily as we needed a return date on our original ticket when we parked the Fuso six months ago to return home.

Foolishly we just picked the date of the 1st thinking that it sounded good. Later we realized that it was the Thursday before Easter weekend – how dumb, and then even later we found ourselves in the thick of things when the cabin crew union of British Airways decided that March was the perfect time to go on strike.

So now you’re thinking like me (Don) that if the strike, called in advance with the scheduled end date of March 30th would mean that it couldn’t affect us, right? Hah! As it turned out, flights were affected all the way through till April 3rd.

So that pretty much messed up our plans, and since we didn’t want to take a flight with stops or changes (BA flies non-stop) we decided to delay our departure until after Easter.

This actually wasn’t a bad decision as it gave us enough extra time to make sure we didn’t forget anything – so far it seems to have worked.

So how was the flight? Pretty good, considering it was delayed for more than an hour. What was different this time was that I drew the lucky straw and was the one that the TSA decided to search. What was strange about this was that one of my carry on bags triggered security and got extra attention at the x-ray machine. This wasn’t surprising considering that since we go back and forth a lot, we carry a lot of "weird" things in our luggage.

Like what – well there was the camera, the ipod, the computer, the hard drive, plus CDs, cables and batteries. Oh yes, and this time I even had a replacement cable for our Fuso starting batteries. OK, so if you fly often enough you’ll have a greater likelihood of being searched, or your flight delayed.

But what was odd, was that after we arrived at the gate, we noticed a higher level of TSA security patrolling around – something we hadn’t noticed on other flights. Not to feel paranoid but it almost seemed like they were looking for someone, me maybe – no that’s just crazy.

SO, when it came time to board the flight, there were, like a dozen, TSA officers all over the place. They were doing extra checks on our boarding passes and our passports, even though the airline people were doing the same thing. Strange. Then as I approached the gate – so here I am being paranoid – they all went into action and singled me out of line. Basically I got the full treatment, minus the strip search!

What do you think, maybe because I triggered the first extra search, and with all the cables and electronics, they thought I was next underwear bomber? I don’t know, I just kept my cool and was Mr. Cooperative. No problem. I passed the test and here we are in England.

This is our second night back on the road. Last night we stayed at a farm campground close to where we had stored our Fuso in Bedfordshire. Now, people are always asking if we have trouble driving our left-hand drive truck on the right-hand drive roads in England. No. Actually I have more of a difficult time driving a right-hand drive, manual shift compact car here than I do driving our nearly 8 ft wide truck. I don’t know why, but I kept drifting too far to the left side. In our Fuso, we are already on the left side, so we only drive as close to the edge of the road as we want (and no closer). And believe me, with these narrow roads we drive as far over as we can.

Today was mostly drizzle as we ran errands. First we wanted to buy a MiFi wireless modem so that we could both work on our computers on a single broadband connection at the same time. Having brilliantly downloaded the coordinates of the mobile shop before we left home, I thought all would go wonderfully. It did, sort of. We found our way easily into town, and right to the parking lot of the shop, only to find there was no parking for the Fuso – always too large.

So around and around we went, before deciding to give up and find an office in another town. But then we found parking about a mile away, so we parked and took the rental back into town and bought our modem. On our way out of town, Kim in the Fuso got stuck at a red light, and I in the rental car had no where to stop. I had to make a turn and Kim couldn’t see where I went. So off she went on the wrong road, and realizing that I was gone, pulled into the first open road. Fortunately there was lots of room to turn around and wait for me to come and find her. It made lots of sense for her to stop because the Fuso is much easier to spot than the little silver rental that looks like every other car on the road!

We finally got into Cambridge, parked at a supermarket (near the rental car return) where Kim was able to stock up and I went to top off the fuel tank and return the rental. All went just fine and we were glad to be done with the rental.

Then we drove across town to our camping spot at the Camping and Caravan Club (very original name don’t you think) and set up camp for the next couple of days so that we could unpack and get everything sorted before beginning our UK Expedition. This is the same site where we camped at the end of our last expedition 6 months ago. The site hosts were very accommodating, didn’t mind if we did some work on the Fuso and even let us use their hoses and water supply to give our truck one last wash before storage.

So we had high hopes when we returned, and we were not disappointed. Everyone was nice and the pitch (campsite) was great. We had reserved two nights so that we could get unpacked and ready for the rode again.

You know though, it is amazing how fast time flies when you have things to do. The two days were gone in an instant. Not to bore you with details, but we had to unpack and find room for all the supplies we brought back, we had to unload the bikes from our "garage" and get them set up for riding again, and we installed a silencer – also known as a muffler for our heater exhaust for our interior air-heater. We thought that since it was more than likely that we’d be spending time in campgrounds, we didn’t want to wake our neighbors to the sound of our heater exhaust, which sounds strangely familiar – like a 747 jet taking off. Not the kind of thing you want to be awakened by in the middle of the night.

We also noted that one of our headlights was out, but the screws holding the lamp in were so seriously rusted that they stripped rather than unscrew. So at some point we’ll have to stop at a mechanic and hire them to change the light for us. Not a serious matter as we typically don’t drive at night anyway.

Oh and that wireless modem? Well it works pretty well. Like a cell phone – referred to as "mobiles" here - it does get a bit finicky but the service works. We’ve already tested it out with emails, looked at websites and more importantly, we can use Skype. Our next "honey-do" is wiring up and connecting our signal booster that we received from our newest sponsor – Wilson Electronics. Between the antennae and the signal booster, we should eliminate any poor reception as the system is supposed to increase our signal strength exponentially. Stay tuned, we’ll let you know.

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