After many medical tests determining, “Well, it’s not [that]”, the pain in my side (mostly) mysteriously relented a couple of weeks ago. I still have some back pain, which I attribute to the 40 roller coasters I rode trying to dislodge the earlier misdiagnosed kidney stone (Yes, riding roller coasters for that is really a thing). With the next round of testing not scheduled until September, I bought another plane ticket for a second touring attempt this year.
I’d worked hard at not unpacking since the failed trip in May. In the intervening two months I’d only unpacked a few things I’d needed (and the food). I needed only to quickly revalidate my exhaustive check list and replace the food; a much less stressful evening before the flight. The pedals even came off with no drama at all.
Once before a flight to London, the wrench slipped while removing the pedals, slicing open the palm of my hand (a risk you should avoid by shifting the front gear to the largest chain ring to protect the pointy bits). I hastily taped up my hand, finished packing, and boarded the plane. That arrangement was awkward enough that in the first couple of days I hit loose leaves, slid the bicycle off the road, and banged up my leg on that selfsame chain ring.
Flying to Dublin, the bicycle box would be considered my one piece of checked luggage. I booked my flight on Aer Lingus. Like most European carriers, there was no charge for the bicycle box as long as it was under the weight limit. I carefully repacked weight into the bicycle box (to ease lugging the other panniers around), but carefully not too much. Since the first leg of the flight was actually on JetBlue, I printed out the Aer Lingus luggage policy in anticipation of confusion.
Checking in, JetBlue decided that my bicycle box was too big – maximum of 62 inches. It’s the same box that came back from Portugal. I’d checked the luggage requirements on Aer Lingus (the carrier I booked the flight with), but JetBlue applies a different standard, and the attendant was unrelenting.
Having learned to anticipate some issue with the bicycle, I’d packed tape. Marnie and I stepped away and got to work. We used Marnie’s scissors to cut open the box (good because my knife was packed in with the bicycle). We used the knife to cut the box down to meet JetBlue’s more exacting standards, and applied a lot of tape.
Checking in once more, the attendant queried her coworker for the cost of a bicycle. I pulled out my handy printout from the Aer Lingus website (with highlighted sections) and handed it to her. She must have read it a half-dozen times before still radioing for help. That finally sorted out, I kissed Marnie (now late for work) goodbye.
As expected, TSA flagged my panniers for a hand search. We started with the bicycle lock (as usual) only to move on to the pedals (less usual), and then … the peanut butter. Two months ago I had packed the peanut butter in the bicycle box so it would be checked luggage; I slipped up when juggling the weight around. Peanut butter is a gel. They found both jars. The TSA agent was friendly, and asked if I wanted to recall my checked luggage. Not happening, so he took them away. I’ll miss the medium-sized plastic jars as much as the peanut butter; all of the jars in Europe tend to be glass, and I usually transfer foods into the lighter plastic jars (once empty).
I spent the flight to JFK talking to Jason, an architecture student from Jersey who is spending the end of the summer shuttling back and forth between relatives in Florida, the Outer Banks, and New York. We also discussed the political news streaming past on the monitors on the backs of the seats.
I don’t think I’ve flown into JFK before. I usually end up at Newark, which is an armpit of an airport. JFK on the other hand is bright, open, and new. The terminal at JFK isn’t very big, and I wondered how JFK is such a big deal as an airport. Then I realized I was in Terminal 5. Then I panicked that my flight would be in another terminal. Then it wasn’t.
The airport has its eccentricities. There are no chain fast-food restaurants in the terminal. I grabbed Chinese food for lunch; all of the places in the food court use iPads for ordering. Yet more jobs that aren’t coming back. Fortunately power and free Internet access are readily available. Four more hours before my flight to Dublin boards. I bought a couple of books in RDU to while away the time here and on the flight over to preserve power.
I’m only going to be in Ireland for a few days before crossing into Northern Ireland. A few days after that I plan to head to the Isle of Man (via ferry, not pool noodle), and the the west coast of England. That’s a lot of country changes in short order, so I probably won’t pick up a cell plan until I’m in England, but I expect Wi-Fi to be fairly ubiquitous most places I spend the night. My immediate plan when I arrive at 5:30 am is to gear up and find a place to stay north of Dublin to catch up on sleep.
Last night a heavy thunderstorm soaked one of my friends on the way to our Monday night board games. Last night storms raged in Durham. This morning it still rained as we packed the car. Foreshadowing.