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December 5, 2021 / Jim Fenton

Sussex Day 11: Padding(ton) Home

Sunday, November 14, 2021

We got an early start, said good-bye to Celeste (who got to stay in the room a little longer), and headed for Paddington Station about 7 am to catch the Heathrow Express. We bought our tickets, got out on the platform, and were greeted with a message board saying that there were delays on the line and that some trains had been canceled. This made us a little nervous, but the Network Rail application on my phone reassured us that there would, in fact, be a train soon. Although we had a bit more than the usual wait for Heathrow Express, the train proceeded normally and was not excessively crowded.

After the usual long walk, we reached the ticket counter and checked in. They were thorough in checking our vaccination and COVID testing status, although not to the point of actually checking the QR codes associated with each. After checking bags, there was another long walk to the vicinity of the gate. United’s lounge in London is still closed, but in the meantime they have an arrangement with Singapore Airlines for the use of their lounge where we were able to get breakfast.

At the gate, Kenna was diverted for extra security screening because the “SSSS” designation was printed on her boarding pass. Following that inconvenience, our flight departed on time, which given that we have only a 2-hour layover in Chicago (including customs and immigration) we appreciated. However, our arrival gate was occupied by another plane, resulting in about a 30 minute delay which made us understandably nervous.

Greenland from the air

Having seen US Customs signs back in San Francisco promoting the Mobile Passport immigration application for our phones, we entered our passport information and customs declaration. But after racing to the immigration hall, we were told, “We don’t use that any more. Get in line.” More nervousness about the time. After getting through Customs (which left us outside security), we took the tram to Terminal 1 for our flight to San Francisco.

Here we noticed that Kenna didn’t have the TSA Precheck designation on her boarding card, probably as a result of the SSSS designation earlier. It may not have mattered; there were signs saying precheck was closed and the people checking boarding passes didn’t seem to know. So we both went through the “slow line”, and unfortunately Kenna set something off and had to go through some extra screening. Apparently they thought there was something about one of her shoes, which they ran through the X-ray machine again; more delay. It was interesting that there were a number of women having their shoes rechecked at the same time.

We raced to our gate, nearly the furthest from the security checkpoint, and made it in enough time, but with not much to spare. The ride to San Francisco was unremarkable, and we collected our bags and caught our ride home, according to plan.

Epilogue

Arriving home we were severely jet lagged as expected, but tried to stay up as late as we could manage. After a few hours of sleep, I awoke about 2 am. I could hear some water dripping, which I attributed to a downspout being clogged with leaves following some recent rainfall. So I got up to investigate, and instead discovered that there was a substantial amount of water dripping from the ceiling into our guest room. It turns out that a hot water pipe in the attic had developed a pinhole leak and over time had soaked one wall. So we now have a new project.


This article is the final installment in a series about our recent travels to southern England. To see the introductory article in the series, click here.

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