Day 22: The Home Stretch


London – Atlanta – Charlotte – Knoxville

June 15, 2019

Our day started extremely early this morning. Emily’s phone went off an hour earlier than desired because her clock was set manually (and off the cellular network since she didn’t have an international plan on her line) and didn’t pick up the time change. So she woke up at 4:10 AM and started getting ready! Still half asleep, I was able to barely say enough to say we still had an hour left.  After getting a bit more sleep, we got ready and met our taxi at 5:45 AM. It was interesting how light it was that early…apparently the sunrise was at 5:22 AM. It seemed like about 9:00 AM or so based on the lighting. One nice thing about leaving so early was that there was so little traffic! Our taxi driver zipped around town with ease. He even gave us a tiny driving tour where we could see the Tower Bridge, St. James Park, Hyde Park, and Buckingham Palace! The Palace was not quite as huge as I had imagined. It was surrounded by a gold-accented iron gate and looked like a typical renaissance-style building. Amazing to think the queen was inside somewhere!  We were glad we could see the palace and the parks since we didn’t make it over there when we explored London earlier in the trip. We made it to the airport and paid our driver. The price was a sneaky £61…it made me wonder if they charge that exact price so people will be inclined to just give £70 and say to keep the change.

Buckingham Palace
Driving by Buckingham Palace on our way to the airport

We eventually found the Virgin Atlantic check-in desk and checked in. We had to go through an initial boarding pass check which seemed similar to how we do it in the US when the TSA scans the boarding pass before entering security, except with this way, we scanned our pass at a turnstile, similar to a subway’s entry system.

Next came security.  We entered the queue and all seemed as normal. We passed some stations where passengers were putting their liquids in designated bags. There were no instructions nearby, so I wasn’t really sure what to do. We went ahead and proceeded to the main scanning area. We were instructed by the attendant to take out all our liquids and place them in a single 8” x 8” bag.  ALL liquids. Each passenger gets only one bag. And that was a problem for me. I had bought Dad a bottle of limoncello and for myself I bought a bottle of chocolate liqueur back in Rome. They were both under 100ml (3 ounces), so I knew they would be small enough amounts for carry-on luggage. However, I was not aware of the bag rule. Because the containers had an extended neck which made an overall length of about 10 inches, I could fit only one of these containers in the bag diagonally. I tried and tried to get both to fit.  The attendant said I should “probably” throw one of them away when I asked. Emily had already gotten through security so we couldn’t toss some of her bottles instead of one of my souvenirs. I wanted to give Dad his limoncello since this happened to him before, and he had to toss his much larger bottle in the trash as well! In much frustration, I gave up my chocolate liqueur and a couple other toiletries that wouldn’t fit in that one bag. In retrospect, I probably should have pleaded with the attendant more and made a bit more of a stand for keeping both. I also could have asked Emily to come back through security to look in her bag to see if we could have put it in hers. We had about 3 hours to kill before our flight so time wasn’t an issue.  Oh well. It was at this point that I was very glad I didn’t end up getting the 4 pack the lady was trying to sell me back in Rome! I was tempted to, but Emily talked me off the edge thankfully!! I guess just like Dad’s situation with the limoncello, the next person who goes to Italy has to get me some chocolate liqueur!! Next time maybe I’ll check a bag…

I was upset for quite a while after this, but eventually things started to come into perspective. That was really the biggest snafu of the entire trip, which really is a great thing. We never lost anything, had anything stolen, got lost, overslept, missed the bus, missed a flight, came down with illness, got injured, or had terrible weather. We were really blessed on this trip and everything really had gone so smoothly. A big blessing!  

We got a good breakfast in the airport while we waited for the airport to post our gate. I had some great pancakes with bacon (more like ham). At Heathrow, like many other European airports, the gate for your airplane is not posted until 45-90 minutes before your departure. That meant we could only sit in the common area near the shops while we waited for our gate to appear. It eventually appeared, and we made our way to our gate.  At the gate, we waited for a while, even past our official boarding time. We were eventually informed that the First Officer had recently been reassigned to our flight and was still stuck in traffic! We finally were able to board the plane and make our way back to the United States of America!

My strategy for the flight was to sleep as long as physically possible, since when we would get back to our car, our bodies would think it’s about 1:00 AM, and with a four our drive home, our arrival at home would seem about 5:00 AM for our bodies. So, sleeping now would definitely help us get home. I really didn’t want to have to spend the night in another hotel…I wanted to get home!! So, after take-off I took some ZZZ-Quil gummies to help get some sleep.  I slept off-and-on for probably the first 5 hours of the flight. I conveniently woke up for beverage and food services. Lunch was a pretty decent chili con carne with rice. We even got some afternoon tea which included a sandwich, a scone with cream, and some tea! That was probably the highlight of the flight for me…so good! I pictured myself back at the Savoy back in London. The next part of the flight I couldn’t really sleep any more, so I watched the movie Aquaman. 

On our way to the United States via Virgin Atlantic Airlines

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally landed in Atlanta!  We had about a 3 hour layover here. We made our way through customs, thankful that we were US citizens, since the foreigner line was super long!  We declared our cheese and made it through just fine. Our flight left from concourse C, but we made a stop in concourse D to grab some Chipotle! We had really been craving Mexican food for about half of our trip! While walking to our gate, we saw a flight headed for Knoxville, and we really wanted to get on that one! But alas, our car was in Charlotte. After the gates randomly changed twice on us (fortunately just down the hall), we finally boarded our plane to Charlotte. 

We arrived in pretty good time, around 7:30 or so. After a caffeine stop at Starbucks, we were ready to hit the road. Though we had to ride the shuttle to long term parking first. Fortunately I wrote down where I parked–so glad I did because neither of us could remember where we parked! We finally found our car and hit the road!  Driving was pretty tough. I really had to fight the fatigue during the last hour of driving. We had even made another caffeine stop around Asheville, and also got some food. I’m glad I had the food as well because it perked me up just as much or even more than the coffee did. Pushing through the final hour of the trek, we finally made it home!! We arrived to see a big ole’ American flag hanging in front, and lots of small American flags decorating our inside. Mom even made us two banners welcoming us back home. Man it felt so good to be back home, and back in the United States of America! 

Welcome home decorations!
Welcome home decorations!


Welcome home decorations!
Welcome home decorations!



Home, sweet home.


Step Metrics: 6,480 steps; 3 miles; 285 cal; 1h 5m time


Self Q&A

Q: When did planes get updated tail cones? There used to be an exhaust port in the tail but now they’re all capped off. 

A: The APU is a small jet engine which is normally located in the tail cone of the aircraft but, in some cases, is located in an engine nacelle or in the wheel well.  (To directly answer the question, I was likely seeing planes with the APU in the wheel well instead of the tail cone.) The APU can be started utilizing only the aircraft battery(s) and, once running, will provide electrical power to aircraft systems as well as bleed air for air conditioning and for engine start.

The APU allows an aircraft to operate autonomously without reliance on ground support equipment such as a ground power unit, an external air-conditioning unit or a high pressure air start cart.

When the APU is certified for use in flight, the APU can be used, as required, to provide an additional source of electrical power in the event of the loss of an engine generator. It can also be used as a source of bleed air for starter assist for an inflight engine relight or to power the air-conditioning packs in the event conditions or company policy dictate that the takeoff be conducted with the engine bleed turned off. (from SKYbrary)

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