For each day’s blog, please click ‘Timeline’ on the menu above.

Philip writing here and throughout this blog, except where specifically shown to be Rick writing:

Rick and I are now equally “pond life” insofar as we have both crossed ‘the pond’ between the U.K. and the U.S. four times to visit each other and enjoy each other’s country, culture, friends and family. For both of us, our respective countries have become increasingly “home” as we have learnt to feel at home and have become familiar and more at ease with what, one might suppose, would be essentially similar countries and cultures but are actually different in just about every, everyday, respect.

So it was that I anticipated this trip with complete ease and enthusiasm, even for the flight, having become progressively less anxious about the flight (having had some unpleasant experiences when flying in the past) and about irrational, because unknown, uncertainties about my ability to cope with the differences I might face.

My first impressions on my first trip to visit Rick and his family were that everything was, indeed, different, in just about every respect. Not just the driving on the “wrong” side of the road, even now I have to think before stepping off the pavement (“sidewalk” in the U.S.) but even the familiar-looking trees lining the highways turn out to be different species than we have in the U.K.

Now, though, it’s all familiar, and I’m at home in the U.S. of A. In particular, I’m at home with Rick’s family, and it is with great anticipation that I’m looking forward to seeing them all again.

I set my alarm for 4.00am on the day of my journey, to be ready for a taxi at 6.00am to take me to the rail station at Crewe, some 10 minutes away, to catch the train at 6.35am to the airport, some 30 minutes away, to be early for the check-in for the flight leaving at 11.00am. Each stage of this process had to go precisely to schedule and the completion of each stage felt like ‘ticking each one off’ until I was safely in the Departure Lounge waiting for boarding the aircraft.

As it was, there were some more anxieties to pass, namely whether the newly-instituted precautions against the spread of Ebola would present any problems, and whether I had any electronic equipment that would not pass the security procedures; as I was sitting in the Departure Lounge I heard American Airlines announce that anyone who had mobile phones, iPod or iPad which had batteries not fully charged would be denied travel today. I had charged my two mobile phones but I wasn’t 100% certain that the charging had worked; and I had a microphone in my carry-on case which was capable of being operated by battery but I hadn’t loaded the batteries. What a disaster it would have been to have been refused travel today.

At it was, U.S. Airways, which which I was flying, didn’t make any checks about such things, rightly or wrongly, so I boarded the plane and we left on time.

The 7hr 15mins flight went comfortably, other than some moderate turbulence for the last hour or so. We arrived in a wet and windy Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on time. I had two hours before my connecting 2hr fight to Atlanta, Georgia, plenty of time to go through Customs, have a meal and get re-acquainted with the feeling of being in America again; not the “My God, I’m in America!” feeling of my first trip, but a comfortable, familiar, welcome feeling.

My second-leg flight to Atlanta was rather more eventful, having been promised by the pilot that after the first 20 minutes, once we rose above the turbulence of the clouds, we would have a smooth sunny flight to Atlanta. It was sunny, sure enough, but unexpectedly turbulent and I frequently used my self-relaxing technique of thinking “Ride ’em cowboy!” as the aircraft flew like a bucking bronco.

At last, safe and sound, we landed at Atlanta and, having already been through Customs at Philadelphia, I was soon meeting Rick who took this photo which shows that I survived the journey like the seasoned traveler I have now, more or less, become.

Phil-Atlanta-arrival-01

It was now about 7.00pm U.S. Eastern Standard Time so we headed straight to the same Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant where we’d eaten on my second arrival in the U.S. two years ago; I hadn’t been eating much red meat lately and so I went straight for the “Asiago Peppercorn Sirloin, top sirloin perfectly seasoned and flavored with cracked peppercorns, Parmesan cream sauce, and shaved Asiago cheese”. Grilled medium-well, deeeeelicious, and one more reason to feel very much at home again.

We stayed overnight at a Best Western Hotel overlooking the airport, we were planning to head north the next day to catch some of the photographic opportunities offered by the autumn colours/fall colors in the State and National Parks in Tennessee and North Carolina, for two days, at the end of which we’d be heading to Rick’s home in Winston-Salem.

For each day’s blog, please click ‘Timeline’ on the menu above.