Leaving London
Day 20

July 9, Tuesday
Night's Lodging: UAL flight from WDC-SFO
Weather: Cloudy

The wind howled through the dorm all night. I hoped, as I listened, that it wouldn't rain for Tracy's continuing journey to the continent where he would continue to cycle alone for another six weeks.

We met early in the dining room for our final cup of morning tea; and gobbled our goodies from Harrod's. In the lobby and at the front door we snapped farewell pictures. I could see in Tracy's eyes that he was nervous about getting started on the next leg of his solo journey.

At Gatwick Airport, Continental Airlines screwed up one more time. We arrived early to retrieve our bikes from the "left luggage" storage area where we had stashed them for the night, at a cost of £2.30. Boxing them would be a pain, but the practice at home and the reassembly at Victoria Station made us near-experts. We had all the tools we needed: a 6" crescent wrench for the pedals and assorted hex wrenches for the handle bars. After running around until exhaustion and at wits end yesterday, only to be promised bike boxes for today, no bike boxes were forthcoming. Earl coerced Continental into getting them from another carrier while I guarded our bikes, surrounded by other confused passengers. Once Earl obtained the boxes, there was no tape to secure them. Continental agreed to take the bikes "as is" and not to charge extra for the panniers, which then would be going as extra luggage rather than stuffed invisibly in the boxes. Rustling around getting this done was irritating. The ticket agent was wonderful, however, and booked me into exit row seats all the way through to SFO! Leg room!!

I passed through Immigration with my large squarish handlebar bag slung around my neck like a purse, a plastic bag of gifts just purchased at the duty-free shop dangling off one wrist, Rufus tucked under my right arm, my rear panniers clipped together and shoulder strapped over my right shoulder, and front panniers dangling precariously off my left shoulder. I felt like an awkward Sherpa luggage handler about to ascend K2. My passport out for inspection, I just wanted to get this over with and collapse in my seat on the airplane.

The immigration officer looked at my passport, nodded, and asked, "Where's 'is passport? 'e needs one too you know," eyeing Rufus carefully.

I panicked. With a flashing thought: "Oh my God! He doesn't have a passport! Oh no!"

The next instant I realized that I had just met English humor head on -- and lost. I smiled wanly and boarded my flight.

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