The last day had arrived. I knew what to expect as I’d been through this process before. Lots of people (though some were staying on) sitting around, waiting for their lifts to the airport, feeling sad that they were having to leave. The reviews that say the worst things about the place is leaving remain true and being one of the last to leave, I discovered, didn’t make it any easier.
With it being a day off for the horses, some of those that were staying on were taking the opportunity to visit other nearby places like Tombstone. This meant relatively early farewells as they were unlikely to return before I was due to leave.
One of the nice things about the ranch is their consideration for those who have later departure flights. While check out is 11, if your room isn’t being used the following week, then often check out will be when you are collected by the transfer minibus. Sadly my room was being used and therefore needed to empty at the normal check in time. However this did not mean that I had to sit around for a number of hours waiting. I had full use of the pool and gym and could use the showers there to get changed and ready for the journey home.
It was nice to enjoy a final few hours by the pool, finishing off the book I was reading and thinking about all the fun of the previous seven days and all the new friends that I’d made. There were also wonderful conversations with those still at the ranch still to be had that even now still make my mind boggle!
Leaving the ranch was different this time. I knew it wouldn’t be too long before returning, and I think that possibly that is the key to leaving. Knowing you will be back to this place enables one to have something to look forward to.
Tucson International Airport is not the largest of airports and doesn’t really have a lot there to pass the time if there are long delays or you have a wait before your scheduled departure. In truth it’s not really an international airport. When it was built it was going to be, with flights to and from Mexico. Apparently just before opening, the carrier decided not to run the flights, so it remains, with the exception of governmental flights, a purely domestic airport, with the facilities of a domestic airport.
For obvious reasons I was dropped off at the airport earlier than needed due to my flight falling at the back end of a group of flights that were being transferred together, so would have longer at the airport than most. Thankfully this is less of a problem with free Wi-Fi (increasingly common at US airports) and this was going to help pass the time, though in the end, not quite as I had intended!
The others that had come from the ranch had a problem upon arriving at the airport. They already had a delay meaning that a 90 minute connection time was now down to 15 minutes. At Dallas, to be boarding an international flight, this was going to be tight in the extreme, despite what the staff at the gate were saying. (On arriving at home I found out that the international flight was, in the end, delayed by even longer due to bad weather, so they will have made their connection ok in the end, but whether they will have found that this would be the case while on the flight I don’t know). At this point I was feeling quite happy that there were no delays showing for my flight. I was due to have 4 hours turnaround time at LAX and was quite unconcerned.
I should have known better. The board changed, the time was moved back, but not by much, so with the copious amount of time I had to play with I wasn’t worried. Then it changed again, and again and again! This is where the internet is wonderful for passengers, and probably less so for airline staff. Not only was our plane running late, but at the point that it should have been landing at LAX with us on board, it still hadn’t left LAX to head to Tucson. (Thankfully it’s only an hour journey). In the end, I knew the plane was in the air before the gate staff. We had, by that time, become a group as travellers and cheers when up when we were able to pass on the information that the plane was on its way. (Technical faults had been the issue). While it was now going to be tight, I would still have a chance of making my connection. Others were going to be less fortunate!
In the end I didn’t have to worry too much. I arrived at LAX with just over an hour to spare, though connecting between two terminals that were next to each other on the map seemed to take forever! I was allowed into the fast queue for security and in the end even had enough time to get some duty free. All that was left of the trip was another new experience for me that I had been looking forward to, as much as anyone can look forward to heading home after a holiday. This would be my first flight on the A380 and I was on the upper deck.
The set up is different from a 747 in that you board at the higher level as well, so there is no staircase to go up once in the place, even though one does exist. The upper deck is also a mix of classes as well, rather than just the first class that you get on the jumbo. An advantage of being on the upper deck is that there are fewer seats going across the width of the plane. Undoubtedly this is because the plane is narrower on the upper deck, but probably not by as much as a chairs width. Also nice was that even in the economy class, the leg room was better than the 777 I had outbound and this bode well for getting some sleep. The 380 is described as being a very quiet plane and this is very true. While it would be wrong to say that you can’t hear the engines, when plugged into a film, they are almost unnoticeable and for once, I actually slept quite well on the plane, getting about 4 hours, something I don’t think I have ever achieved before.
Waking up somewhere over the Atlantic, I figured (correctly) that I had time for one more film before landing so I settled down again to watch that. This time in the flight is where you’re going to get interruptions during the film, and it’s just a given that you will get these information calls. One though was certainly one that I could have done without, and that was the weather conditions back at Heathrow. Having left Tucson with clear blue skies and a temperature of 30 plus, at Heathrow it was 12C and chucking it down, in fact it was raining for the entire journey home. If ever I needed a reminder that the holiday was over and I was back, this was it.