The break at home was much appreciated. Christmas and Boxing Day spent with family and an evening of fine wines and smelly cheeses with Ed felt long overdue. It even snowed (properly) on Christmas morning and left a few�inches on the ground throughout the day and�a late night snowball fight with brother and parents was made all the more fun by the challenge of seeing incoming projectiles.
The journey back was interesting to say the least. Despite a long check-in line at Manchester it proved to be an easy flight through to Chicago O'Hare. Touching down an hour late was always going to make for a challenging transfer as I was about to discover. Passing through immigration took the usual forty five minutes (we aliens get a special longer queue and have the privilege of being photographed and fingerprinted on arrival). Customs was a breeze and I made haste from Terminal 5 to Terminal 1 for a connection to Seattle. It's worth mentioning that the design of ORD puts international arrivals and gate C27 at opposite ends of the site but undeterred, I sprinted through the airport to see them shut the gate 50ft in front of me.�No problem, I'll get on standby for the next flight in a couple of hours. Hah. As the next flight rolled around, they were asking ticketed, confirmed passengers to surrender their seats due to overbooking. Those kind souls were offered a 'convenient' connection through Denver the following day. Suffice it to say, being on standby wasn't the place to be as I found out talking to others standing around - some had spent several days in the airport waiting to leave. Respect goes out to the guy who figured a sneaky connection through Juneau, Alaska when all other flights across the country were fully booked.
Living in the airport for a couple of days wasn't going to work but thankfully a plan was taking shape. I changed my flight to one of the few that wasn't fully booked in the following week - two days later on Friday evening, New Years Eve. I would rent a car and drive the 200 miles to Grand Rapids, MI to meet up with Katie who was similarly on vacation there. A $20 per day 'under 25 surcharge' later, I was behind the wheel of�a Jeep Wrangler soft top in the middle of winter. Quite how Jeep has managed to coax the masses into buying this vehicle is beyond me - the road noise is deafening, the suspension stiff (especially fun on icy bridges) and it's so light that it sways all over the road in the wind - but it did the job. Passing through yet another time zone (in the wrong direction), I got in just before eleven to stay with with Katie at her�friend Matthew's place who kindly put me up for the night. It was an unexpected surprise to be able to see Katie before she returned to Seattle and we did a whole lot of nothing for a couple of days before returning to Chicago on Friday for a trip to the Shedds Aquarium (recommended) before flying out.
The flight back was easy in first class and though an evening of celebration possibly wasn't top of my 'things I must now do' list, it seemed inevitable. Sean and I met up with Tina and Jeremy and headed to a party in Queen Anne (nice house) to see in the New Year. Standing outside around a wood fire pit added a certain rustic flavor to one's personal scent but gave plenty of opportunity for drinking. We walked home through the rain, somehow ended up eating many slices of Mario's in Pioneer Square and capped off the night with a hefty glass of Grappa. Marvellous.
Happy New Year! Bring on 2005.