To finish off the blog for this trip, I flew home from Athens on the 19th. It seemed more stressful than usual, I guess partly because flying alone isn’t as fun and easy as flying with other people. I had breakfast with a few of the guys from the trip, then ordered a taxi to go to the airport. My bike box is too big to fit in a regular taxi so the hotel desk guy ordered a big one. I got to say good-bye to a number of the riders – Peter was off to the airport in a normal sized taxi right before I left.
My driver was a funny guy and I enjoyed the 30 minute drive. He cruised at 140 kph on the expressway so we got there quickly. The airport was so crowded that I couldn’t get to the check-in counter using a cart. Luckily my bike box only weighs 17 kg and my two backpacks about 20, so I could carry everything. There was almost no waiting, but I had to bring my pack and box to the oversized check-in, far away, again not able to get a cart through the masses.
Once I got rid of the luggage, security was easy and I was at the gate with two hours to spare. The flight was delayed, then delayed more, then more. I read and had lunch and finally we started boarding. One of the two runways was having maintenance so they had to share one runway for all take-offs and landings. Basically all flights were delayed. That keeps a perfect record for me and my European trips this summer: 100% of my flights had luggage issues and/or delays.
As the wheels touched down in Munich my phone immediately connected and told me “Flight to SFO leaves in 1 minute.” We had to taxi a long way, then it took forever to get out from the back of the plane. Then (as happens a lot when I’m in airports in Germany), I had a bit of a run from K18 to L21, luckily in the same terminal. I had to go through passport control too. There was a long line but then I saw a side line for passports on a list which included USA – an automated system that worked in a few seconds. That was great. The terminal was deserted but there was one lonely woman at gate L21. “Did I make it?” She said, “Yes! But your baggage probably won’t.” They held with plane about 40 minutes as there were 28 people connecting from Athens to San Francisco.
I boarded and the plane took off soon after. 11 hours in a plane is a long time but I had a window seat and got to see Iceland, Greenland and Baffin Island. I also watched the latest Jurassic Park 2022 movie plus an awesome classic, A Fish Called Wanda.
We landed only 20 minutes late and Global Entry got me through immigration in about one minute. I did have to wait at baggage claim for all the bags, mine wasn’t there, so the guy gave me the info to file a claim and they will deliver. I did another Covid test while waiting for Frannie and Chris, then they drove me home where I picked up my truck and drove the last leg home to Santa Cruz. I arrived at 10pm so door-to-door that was about 23 hours.
What did I learn from the trip? I learned I don’t want to be away from home so long again any time soon. Even with once or twice a day video calls, being away so long is just hard. I also learned some things about Covid. I had hardly been with anyone testing positive before, but on this trip about half the people caught it and most all had symptoms from kind of bad to quite bad. Nobody needed a hospital but my advice is to try hard to not get it and to try hard not to spread it if you do. I learned that non-American people’s attitudes toward Covid vary just as much as Americans do. In retrospect I guess that’s not surprising since people everywhere are just people. I learned that as I age my love for biking and riding fast has not waned at all, but my ability to climb long steep hills fast has. Luckily the joy I get from a trips like this has not diminished at all, maybe the opposite. I was happy again to have no bike issues at all – no adjustments, flats or problems. My chain and brakes are still good after all that way. One last thing I (re)learned: age is just a number. We had three SUPER strong riders on this trip age 70-73. Louis, Rien and Bob J, you guys are total supermen and inspirations to me.
Thanks to all my wonderful riding buddies especially Team Alemannia: Bob W, Sigi and Anita. And to the “Craft Beer Lovers” on the trip: Peter, Graham, Tom and Bob, I hope we can continue our search for fine beers at a later date together.