Portland, USA – Wednesday 15 November, 2000
Many of those leaving the tour to head off on their own have early connecting flights from Portland, a two hour drive from Astoria. A bus is organised to depart Astoria at 4.30am to suit, but Yoram, Robbie, Marian and myself prefer to share a hire car and leave at a more humane hour – 9.00am. The drive is through some very beautiful and at the same time very industrialised areas, including directly past a nuclear power station on the banks of the Columbia.
We eventually reach Portland airport (with some assistance from a kindly local garage owner who shepherded us the last mile or so onto the airport freeway), in plenty of time for our connections. Robbie and Yoram are headed for Chicago, and my New York journey starts on the same flight to O’Hare. As we enter the gate lounge, we learn that mechanical problems will cause a delay in the American Airlines flight. We eventually board an hour late, wait another hour on the tarmac, and are then off-loaded, as it seems that the problem can’t be resolved (annoying, but better to be safe than sorry!) By this time, the main TSO party has arrived. and are amused to see us still waiting.
After retrieving bags and re-queuing at check-in, it seems my only option is to hang around the airport until 10.00pm(!) and head off to New York with Delta Airlines overnight, via Atlanta – not exactly a direct rout, but it will at least get me there tomorrow without too much wasted time. To fill in my time, I wait with the TSO group and wave them goodbye, obtain a meal in the food court (with the not overly generous $9.00 voucher provided by American); purchase books at the rather nice bookshop, sit in an amazing arm cnair in a shop tr.at gives one a massage whilst seated (only US$2995 – I was sorely tempted, but it wouldn’t fit in my hand luggage); phone home, and sample some locally brewed beers at the airport tavern (not overly exciting). Not sure What happened to Yoram and Robbie.
Finally my flight leaves for my unscheduled visit to Atlanta. I arrive, fairly exhausted, in New York early on Thursday morning and head straight for my hotel near Times Square. My first day in NYC was a fairly shell-shocked business, but after a good night’s sleep. I’m feeling much better. As I write this (from one of NYC’s overpriced internet lounges). I’ve just visited the Empire State Building (horrible queuing, but fantastic views).
It has been an amazing tour. To read back over these notes and to remember the adventures we’ve had in the last three weeks (is it really only three weeks?), I feel as though I’ve aged years, but am surely better and wiser for the experience. I hope you’ve enjoyed these reports (admittedly a very personal mixture of opinion, half-remembered fact and biased reporting!) There are many more photographs available than the limited number we’ve been able to send back and publish on the website – we’ll see if we can put some more up when I return.
By this time (Friday afternoon NYC time, Saturday morning Hobart time, the tour group should be home and enjoying a much-anticipated and well-earned sleep in their own beds. I’m looking forward to same next Thursday (assuming no more unforseen airline delays).
Until then, bye from the Big Apple.