Travelogue Part 2: Heathrow To Detroit To Toledo

img_1403Thursday 16th February

I am a fan of double glazing when it comes to hotel windows within spitting distance of an airport. I barely heard engine noise at all. This doesn’t mean I slept particularly well: nerves and excitement ambushed me and reduced my not awake time to maybe four hours. I expect to snooze some in flight.

I’m already on board with about twenty five minutes to go until take off. Checking in was slightly easier than last year but maybe that’s because it was more familiar to me this time. Not only have I done this trip ten months ago but in August last year I had to negotiate customs at St Pancras before setting off to Paris on the Eurostar. After too many years without leaving Britain I’m now reacquainting myself with the bureaucracy and security stuff.

Waiting to take off last year was a terrifying time at Heathrow. Coming back I was only mildly thrown out of kilter by the actual leaving of the ground rather than being scared for hours ahead of even boarding. This is a bit more like that return trip. I know I don’t love flying but I also know that there will be plenty to keep me occupied up in the air. And in eight hours or so I will be in Detroit and won’t have to worry about aeroplanes for a fortnight.

…It’s getting close to being halfway across the Atlantic now, just a few miles in it and then the remainder of the journey will take less time than the time already travelled. In terms of time left in the air that’s about three and three quarter hours. My coach trip to Heathrow took about that long yesterday so it’s not really a big deal. Aside from being 40,000 feet above ground level.

Some of the mental battle with longer haul flights is not fear but boredom. I started watching Doctor Strange which I saw in the cinema last December. It’s good but not grabbed me fully. I did enjoy Suicide Squad earlier though, a film I’ve not seen before so it was fresh and violent enough to distract me for a couple of hours.

It’s faintly amusing now that having spent so long utterly petrified of the mere thought of flying I am already recognising some of the commonplace and more dull aspects to the experience. Oh to be overflowing with money so that I could travel the world far more widely and frequently and get to a point when planes are just like trains and coaches to me except for the bit about them cutting through the air.

And now, the handy flight tracker tells me, I am close to Detroit than I am to London. I’ve not got a window seat this time around; I’m in the central aisle so can’t really see what’s outside. Probably just cloud below us right now but I know that at some stage in the near future we will be over land again – Canada for a bit I think, then Michigan and the lakes and flat, flat land stretching out for miles and miles. Last year I was greatly reassured by that flat terrain as it made fears of emergency landing less scary: with all that flat earth and largely empty stretches of road to head for a controlled if unscheduled descent is surely much less unlikely end in tragedy.

I’ve just found another screen on the flight tracker and apparently we’re not quite over Canadian land yet but it’s coming up soon. Most of the overland flying is indeed above Canada with maybe the last forty minutes over Michigan. I don’t necessarily need this information any more than you do but sometimes the human mind is ridiculously reassured by a sense of knowing where the body it lives in is located.

Friday 17th February

And this is America. I’m fond of this place. And I’m super fond of the folks I’m staying with. Last night was mostly about chilling and catching up and feeling so fortunate to be able to be here again.

Today the sun has been shining and the temperature pretty mild for mid-February in Ohio. America must love me as last year it was predominantly sunny and warm too. Put-In Bay was freaking cold though. Fun, but cold.

Immigration was straightforward enough at Detroit airport. Routine questions about where I’m staying who I’m staying with but they’re weren’t really that interested in me. That’s cool, I don’t need to feel like I’m royalty at the airport, nor do I want to feel like I’m a potential terrorist threat. Standard treatment and then being waved on my way is all good in my book.

You know when people say America is a big country, well obviously it’s a large land mass and anyone who bothers to look at an atlas or google maps will know this. But I’d forgotten that the expanse of the sky stretching on and on uninterrupted adds to the sense of vastness. For some reason this open sky makes me imagine I am freer and more full of opportunities than back home. Unless that’s just a holiday feeling. Didn’t get quite the same sense of freedom in Paris last year, though, despite loving that city. Paris brings out the bohemian in me; Ohio somehow sets me free. Both are good.

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