Day 36+ – DC to Dulles to Dallas to home

This entry is being written well after some of the events because there was not a lot of opportunity on the day itself. Our main business for Sunday was to get ourselves to Dulles airport, return the rental car, and catch our fight to Dallas and thence to Brisbane and home.

The flight was scheduled for 3:40 pm so I had 1:00 pm as the planned time to drop the rental car. We had no need to hurry out of bed for that, the weather was predicted to be cool and wet, and we did not expect to find the flight to Brisbane conducive to sleep so we lingered in bed thinking to build up sleep credit. We were up shortly after 7:30 am, showered, walked across the street to CVS (billed as a pharmacy but convenience store as well) to procure cereal (in ready to eat bowls) and yoghurt, picked up coffee in the hotel lobby, and ate breakfast in our room.

I cleared some email messages and moved some files to the iPad so that I could work along the way. We were packed and out by 10:00 am which we expected would allow us plenty of time to pick up the fabric that Majella had been chasing and to try for Hannah’s last minute shopping request, Talk Block, which she thought should be available from Walmart. I had located a couple of Walmart stores in the Alexandria area, in Virginia south of DC and a little closer to the airport, so we headed in that direction.

The first Walmart store was small and had neither the fabric Majella wanted nor the blocks for Hannah. We drove on to the second Walmart, which yielded fabric but no blocks. I found WiFi from a nearby McDonalds and used that to do some more checks that revealed that the blocks were not available from Walmart at the time. The manufacturer’s website suggested a couple of Barnes and Noble stores and a learning materials store in the general area so I noted those. On the map it looked as though they might not be far out of our way so we planned to check them on the way to the airport.

By then it was approaching noon and we decided we should eat lunch before heading past the stores to the airport. Majella was keen to eat at Applebee’s, one of her favoured restaurant chains at which we had not yet eaten on this trip, but the GPS could not locate one in our vicinity. It did have a Ruby Tuesday which Majella identified as an acceptable substitute so we headed there to eat lunch. She had the Shrimp Fondue and I had the brunch steak and eggs.

After lunch we drove for the Barnes and Noble I had identified. They had Talk Blocks listed in their computer stock list but they were not in stock. We drove on to Lakeshore Learning, which was some distance but a little closer to the airport, and had no luck there either. We headed for the airport as quickly as we could intending to fill the tank on the way. Not far up the road we entered the motorway, which was faster but would require us to exit for fuel. Our first attempt at that was prompted by a sign that promised food and fuel but when we eventually found food but no fuel a couple of km off the motorway we turned and went back. The second attempt, still about 30 km from the airport, was successful.

We made it to the Avis depot around 2:30 pm, a tighter margin than I would have preferred, and had a short delay in finalising our rental because the computer system flagged us as having excess mileage. Given that our prepaid contract specified unlimited mileage that was not ultimately a problem but it did mean we had to wait for the next shuttle.

Fortunately checkin at the airport was reasonably quick. We used the automated system, dropped our bags, cleared security (belt & shoes removed, pockets empty, full body scan), and were at the gate in time for Majella to do some last minute shopping. The flight was full and a mixup on landing delayed our exit. I had used some of the time to skim read 15 or so journal submissions and note what might be needed. Our time in Dallas was more relaxed. Once we identified the departure gate we took the train from C to D terminal, found the Admiral’s Club, and waited the couple of hours there with drinks and nibbles. I even managed to clear the review assignments for the journal while we waited.

The 16 hour flight from Dallas to Brisbane was not heavily loaded. I had selected 2 seats on the aisle in the middle block but we had no neighbours so once we were in the air Majella commandeered 3 seats in the block of 4, where she eventually stretched out and went to sleep after watching a movie or two. I watched a couple of movies (Prometheus and The Five Year Engagement, the latter on Majella’s recommendation) before doing the best I could to sleep on the remaining seat from the block of 4. I managed several hours of broken sleep before waking to watch another couple of movies (Snow White and the Huntsman & Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – I usually use flights to catch movies that I would not be able to persuade Majella to see) before and over breakfast. I even did a little more work on my iPad before we landed.

Despite being 30 minutes late (5:30 am rather than 5:00 am) our flight was still the first and only at that hour so we cleared Immigration and Customs quickly. Margie, our house sitter, had come to Brisbane the previous night to visit her mother and collected us soon after we emerged. We were home soon after 8:00 am. The only drama was a flat battery on the car when we tried to start it – should have had it turned over occasionally – but the RACQ soon fixed that. The rest of the day was spent on sorting out at home, catching up with Mum and Dad, laundry and the like.

I managed to compile the tracking files that I had generated along the way into a single KML file that I used to generate the map shown here. I coloured the tracks with red and blue on alternate days to provide some visual separation. For those interested in more detail the KML file can be downloaded and used in Google Earth or Google Maps to show the track recorded by my iPhone. According to the tracking software we traveled about 9800 km on the ground in the USA. Most of that we drove ourselves though some corresponds to local tours driven by others or to a boat cruise, subway, or walking. We took about 2500 photographs (2400 or so of those were mine) and a selection of photos can be found on Flickr where there is also a slideshow.

I have not done a total word count on these posts but they are probably approaching 35000 words – near enough to 1000 words a day seems typical. That’s more than I’ve written in a while and it’s time to take a rest from this and do some of the reading and writing that I need to do for work. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve seen some fascinating places and hope the writing and photos have been of interest to some.

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