29/06/13

So today the adventure begins.  After 18 months of planning we are finally leaving on the explorer belt.  7am at the airport means a very early start for some and not so early for others.  For me 6am was early enough, still 30 minutes earlier than a working day!!  Thanks to Louise we didn’t have to catch a bus so that cut some time off the journey and we arrived just after 7 to a mass of scouts in full uniform and some parent looking bewildered.   A quick check-in and a headcount to make sure we had everyone we headed up stairs towards security where we were met by Stuart, the Regional Commissioner, who presented us with our UK neckies before a team photo.  Security passed of relatively easily and everyone arrived airside with everything they started with.

Unlike the flying I’ve become used to of the last year (easyjet/BA domestic flights) this one seemed to have a lot of waiting around for reason I still can’t get my head round.  If they can load luggage onto domestic flights and passengers can get to them in an hour how can’t they do it for long-haul flights?  Anyway, that’s a question for another day. The leaders sat in the bar and had breakfast before sorting out the last of the paperwork for each group, ID tags etc.

The flight to Philadelphia was delayed by about half an hour which meant we had even more time to get to the gate than we needed.  This did not bode well for the connecting flight at the other end which was a problem for later on.

The flight it’s self was like a blast from the 90’s, the food was the standard chicken of pasta dish which had been in the oven for far too long.  I was just about edible and filled a hole but so did the Boots sandwich I bought.  The movie was on a central screen down the aisle of the plane and I have no idea what it was, I think there were 3 of them can’t remember my nose was in a book for the entire flight and my ears were paying attention to my iPod.

What was looking like a quick change in Philadelphia of less than an hour became over two hours and then got stretched even more and then a bit more for good measure.  I have never been so happy to see a delayed notice against a flight.

The confusing thing about arriving in America is that you have to collect your bags, pass through immigration then customs before returning your bag and passing through security, where I got a good searching, to get to your next gate.  Somehow I managed to get through both Glasgow and Philadelphia airports with my small Swiss army knife on my house keys, not going to complain, I quite like having it, it’s now safely stored in my hold luggage for any future flights.

After all the polava of getting through all that lot we started off at one gate, got moved to another then back to the first.  Then for good measure the destination on the gate changed before we had boarded just to confuse us.

In arriving in Washington, slightly late, we picked up our extra scout who flew in from the west coast to meet us and lost a sleeping bag off of the outside of someone’s rucksack, an advert for always packing things inside bags when flying if ever there was one.  It was later found attached to someone else’s bag, it must have come off and some nice baggage handle attached it to a bag which obviously belonged to the same group.

We got picked up by 2 buses and take to our youth hostel in the centre of Washington about 5 blocks from the White House.  After settling into our home for the next couple of nights we went off to explore the area as a group.  A walk past the White House for a group photos opportunity then down past the Vietnam memorial wall, reflecting pool and on to the Lincoln Memorial for some night shots.

The trip back to the youth hostel via a 24 hour McDonalds for a very late dinner before bed was very uneventful.

Overall the evening gave the participants a chance to find out what it was like walking in the temperatures they would have to get used to over the next 12 days and confirmed to the leaders that they are glad they don’t have to walk anywhere.