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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Prolog: San Francisco to Manchester

On June 18th, Phil Sung gave us a ride to the airport in his minivan, which with some seats removed, could take the tandem without disassembly. At the airport, we tried to check-in the tandem, but the airline staff required that the bike be in the box. My original plan for the tandem was to land at the airport, assemble the bike (which would take all of 20 minutes), and ride it to the Etrop Grange Hotel. Having it in a box would require much more disassembly, and worse, I'd have to save the box for the return trip, so that scratched the plan. If I'd known that they airline would give me such a hard time, I would have prepacked the bike in multiple boxes by taking it apart with the couplers, but as it was, I had to find the guys at the airport who would supply me with boxes and pack the bike.

This was done in fairly short order, and after the rigamarole, we still had time to visit the Virgin Atlantic lounge before getting onto the plane. Once on the plane, Boen had a tough time: the plan was for him to be in first class with mommy and Bowen and I be in the economy seats (we had separate return dates, so had to book separately anyway), but Boen didn't want first class, so Bowen went to first class instead. Once he was settled Boen actually slept for much of the trip.

Upon landing, my wife dealt with the kids while I went to get the rental car. It turned out that our vendor, Europcar was over-booked that day, and there was a 2 hour wait for cars. I demonstrated my distress and they finally relented and sent a driver with me in a van to pick everyone up from Terminal 2. Along the way, they helped me drop off the bike box at Etrop Grange Hotel. The hotel manager didn't want to take the bike at first, but I told them I had 2 reservations at the hotel, and he finally relented and let me put my bike box in a container outside in the parking lot that was locked.

I upgraded to a station wagon since we actually had enough luggage to justify it. It was diesel, so the additional $10/day in rental fee would be partially offset by the fuel efficiency. After installing the car seats and everything in the car, we then faced a 2 and a half hour drive to the hotel.

When I was planning the trip, I used Google maps to determine the acceptable driving distance from the airport. Unfortunately, I had made a fatal mistake: during the planning process, it was usually  evening in California, which would have been 2:00am GMT, so all the driving time estimates were completely wrong, since there were no traffic jams at 2:00am. So while I'd planned for a 1.5 hour drive to our first hotel in the Lakes district, it ended up being 2.5 and I was exhausted when I got there, compounding jet-lag with the stress and fatigue of dealing with the car company and arguing with the hotel about bike storage.
Fortunately, the hotel we'd booked was gorgeous, and had a wide open area outside for Bowen and Boen to chase the baby ducks and play. We had a non-descript dinner, and when it was late enough, turned in and slept, but not before I'd run into a local who told us that Cathedral Cave  was a good place to take the family tomorrow.


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