Planes, Trains, Undergrounds, And Automobiles (Blessed Are The Flexible)

It’s midnight. King’s Cross station London. I should have been to Ilkley hours and hours ago. But I lay sprawled on a cement floor, laptop propped up on my knees while I wait for my delayed train (which was my plan C) to show.

The day, yesterday to be precise, started in Phoenix.  I checked in online in the morning. When I arrived at the airport at 6pm, for my 7:30pm flight, the British Airway check-in/bag check line was out of control. A computer glitch had everything at a standstill. I found my place in the back of the line, sat down, and watched the minutes, then hours tick away while I waited to check my bag. At some point, it dawned on me that the plane was going back to Heathrow whether those of us stranded at check in were on it or not. I packed thrifty enough that I could carry on the bag I intended to check if I just got rid of some liquids. So I gave the poor people in line a few beers, dumped my flask of whiskey and made my way through security and up to the gate. Time: 8:30pm Az. 

At the gate, I found a similar scene. People limp and irritable. The staff was just as in the dark as the passengers. No one knew when or if we’d be leaving Phoenix. I grabbed some food and few beers and waited. And waited. Finally, about 4 hours after our scheduled departure, we departed. Queue sleep.

I woke up an hour outside of London and quickly determined that I did not have enough time to make my connection to Leeds. No biggie. I can roll with the punches. Debarking the plane I was greeted with the most chaotic airport scene I’ve ever witnessed. The computer glitch was global. Numerous impossibly long lines, people screaming at any employee they could find, babies crying, more limp and irritable people. I found my place in the rebooking line and waited. And waited. The line did not move. I called BA, I called American Airlines. No one could help but I learned the next possible flight to Leeds was the following night. The line did not move.

I decided I had a small chance of getting on that next day flight and, at any rate, I needed to get out of the airport. So I left the rebooking line and got in the back of border check line, woefully and accurately described by an employee as “1,000 people long.” 

<breaking news> I’m on my train but it’s still delayed. It was supposed to leave at 11:30pm, now estimated 1am – then at least a three hour ride. And then I need to figure out how to get to my hotel 20 miles away. I estimate a 5am check in. <Back to the story>

The border check line took three hours. No water. No bathroom. Three hours of the type of line that is very slow moving but not slow enough that you could sit down. A constant annoying shuffle. Ear buds in, rock and roll on. Find that pack of gummy bears at the bottom of my backpack. OH WHAT’S THIS? Looks like someone wasn’t very diligent emptying the whiskey flask. It’s not so bad.

My plan was to see if I could find a train to Leeds. I knew one left late. But I also have a cousin in London so I figured I could I could stay with her until the AM and then ride up on the train. Either way, I needed to get to Paddington and talk to the train people.

On my way to Paddington, I received a message from a couple of very old and dear friends who happen to be in London. We decided I would book the late ticket out to Leeds and hang with them in King’s Cross station until my train left. A train ride and couple underground exchanges and just like that I’m having beers with some of my dearest friends. Isn’t life funny like that sometimes? Gut punch, side jab, unexpected surprise.

I said Farwell to my friends and lay watching the station sign flash delayed… uppercut. 

 The train is about to leave. Conductor: “Not one diversion, but three.” Blessed are the flexible, for they shall never be broken.

To Scratch Or Not To Scratch

Eleven months after my walk through the Cotswolds, I eased into a pleasant and familiar reminiscence of my English walkabout. Such episodes have become a regular occurrence during the past year. When it’s quiet and I’m alone, I slip back into a lantern-lit village or replay the scene of a doe and fawn bounding through a remote wheat field amidst a downpour. Generally, these episodes resolve into a feeling of contented satisfaction that can only come from accomplishing a long-held goal. This episode, however, was punctuated by an intense longing to go back; a nagging mental and emotional itch. The fantasy was immediately checked by its impracticality. The itch persisted.


In an attempt to quell this impulse, I peeked at the airfare rates to the UK. To my astonishment, I found a remarkably cheap ticket (the price as already nearly tripled). Then, after the realization that the pound is at historic lows and a conversation with a giving and supportive spouse (albeit understandably jealous), a trip didn’t seem so absurd.  A few days later, after a slew of emails and early morning international phone calls, I had everything in place. Time to scratch an itch.

An early September walking tour alone through the North of England. The trail is called the Dales Way. The Dales Way is an 84-mile footpath that passes through two National Parks: the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Lake District National Park. The first half of the walk follows the River Wharfe upstream to the main watershed of northern England. The second half follows several river valleys to descend to the lake town of Bowness-On-Windermere. Of course, charming little villages, complete with charming little pubs, dot the path.


So far, planning is a pure joy. The pubs along the route look promising.

The trail is not quite as difficult as the hilly Cotswolds. There are fewer villages along the path and the villages are smaller than those on the Cotswolds Way. My shortest and longest stretch will be 9 miles and 20 miles, respectively, with most around 15 miles

I’ll be updating this blog daily during my walk – and hopefully, during future walks (annually if I can manage). I’ve also written a few real ale and walking tour informational posts that I will publish here periodically. I will try to periscope or use facebook live posts from a pub or three if I can find a reliable wifi signal. Follow me on twitter and periscope @bucolicaholic for periscope notifications.

If your September is slow, walk along with me through the riverlands. I’ll be on the lookout for Lady Stoneheart.