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Travel to the United Kingdom

November 7, 2015

I leave early on Monday AM, so this weekend I'm mostly worrying about al the things that might go wrong. I have things in my mind that could go wrong, but that's not what worries me the most. It's the things I'm not even thinking of that worry me the most.

I fly to the United Kingdom early on Monday AM. Or is it England, or is it Britain? Just why does this country have so many names?

The flight leaves Columbus at 7AM so it means a very early start from home in Mansfield.

I will arrive at 10:30 at night their time (5:30 my time) and I have to pick up a car and then drive about an hour to the hotel. So I'll be learning to sit on the right and shift with the left hand. Should be interesting.

The hotel is Hampton Inn at Gatwick Airport. It's right at the airport, so getting into the place and finding a parking spot may be a bit of a challenge too.

November 9, 2015

The flight over wasn't bad at all. The plane had many empty seats so I had an open seat next to me. American Airlines did provide a warm dinner (chicken) and a cold snack (the sandwich was still frozen in the middle) so I didn't starve. But I was plenty hungry by breakfast time.

Getting through the border control was easy. No tough questions. I had to wait in line about 10 minutes and the interview took about 2 minutes, and I was on my way. There was no customs, unless you had something to declare. Zoom, right out to the rental car shuttle.

I'm a Hertz Gold member so they normally have the car waiting for me. Not the case this time, but I only had to wait in line a couple of minutes and then answer a few questions and I had the contract in hand and a short walk to the car. Getting in the right side of the car was very weird. I spent plenty of time, getting the navigation app set up and getting the feel for the car - the shift pattern, the mirrors etc.

I was soon enough headed to the hotel at Gatwick airport.

I had only about 1/2 mile on the airport access road until I was on M25, the outer belt that goes around London. It is four lanes in each direction, it had bright lighting the entire length I was on, and the traffic was light, so it was easy driving. Plenty of time to get accustomed to the car.

I took an exchange from M25 to M23 and here there was no lights on the road, and it had started to rain lightly. Things were getting a little more interesting. When I took the exit for Gatwick airport, this was still a divided highway, so I still had no worries about staying in the right, or I should say proper lane, the left lane. There were about 5 roundabouts to go through, but traffic was very light (11PM at night and Gatwick is a pretty small airport) so I had not problems. The roundabouts were an omen of things to come however.

There were two parking spaces left in the paring lot, both very near the door, so I parking was no issue at all. The navigation app I have on my iPad works great. The lady warns you the upcoming roundabouts and tells you which exit to take out of the round about. "In 1 mile take the third exit in the roundabout." This is a life saver. If I had to read a map and follow signs, I'm not sure how I could do it. Remember that every intersection is a roundabout. Also understand that the road signs are on the left, not the right. Also, There will be one sign, maybe two that shows a diagram of the roundabout and what routes go out of which leg of the roundabout. So you get one glimpse of this and then in a few seconds you are into the roundabout, often without stopping. It would be very difficult to comprehend the sign and take the proper exit from the roundabout.

November 10, 2015

I went to bed at 12:30 local time, and didn't really get to sleep until probably 1:30 AM (about 8:30 PM EST). I slept sporadically and woke to the alarm at 6:30. I was pretty hungry so I was glad to see a buffet breakfast. Real scrambled eggs, not the usual packaged eggs you find at Hampton Inn in the US. The bacon however was something else. It was like bacon, but large slabs of it and it was steamed, not fried. It was ok, but just ok. The port sausage was just not very good. How can you mess up pork sausage? The instant coffee from the machine was pathetic. Since when does coffee have a 1/2 inch foam head on it?

I met Wilbert at 7:30 for the drive to IBM Lennox Wood. Again, the navigation system worked great. We drove right to the location. However there were many, many roundabouts. You almost never stop.. constantan moving, and worrying about messing up. I haven't seen a single stop sign. A few of the roundabouts have stop lights. Very few. So you are constantly moving. It is nerve racking.

We loaded the equipment and drove to the Amex location, set it up and had everything pretty much done by lunch time. We messed around there until 4PM (when the traffic would be thickest) and drove back to the hotel.

Because we're staying at a hotel right at the airport, there aren't any places to eat, without getting in the car and driving back off the airport property and finding a place. I was not interested in do that, so we ate in the hotel. Nothing great but it will get us through until breakfast.

November 11, 2015

Here's a video showing the bathroom in my room. This may sound strange, but I think you'll understand once you watch it.