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So the final day had arrived. It was time to be heading home. After three other trips, the ‘drill’ was familiar, and while it would still be a few hours till I actually left, the goodbyes would be taking place throughout the morning with friends flights at different times. While chatting with friends over breakfast I realised that while it was, as always, going to be a shame to be leaving, the heavy heart that I remember from my first visit was no longer there. I suspect that was more to do with the fact that I was already booked to return and any loss in enjoyment.

One feature of fun that had been introduced this year, almost by accident, was a yellow rubber duck. The ranch had been given a number of these to give away to guests. They didn’t have the ranches name on them, but were more for advertising the western ranch holiday experience in general. These had been a feature of the week, being attached to hats and other items of clothing. I saw a great opportunity for some promotion with one and the White Stallion Ranch Travelling Duck was born. The journey home became the ducks journey home and was charted through twitter (#WSRTravellingDuck) and has since taken off with others as well. While it won’t ever be a major trend on twitter, the duck has made it elsewhere, and because there are others that people own, it can travel far and wide.

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The WSR Travellig Duck Leaving the ranch

I left the ranch around about lunch time and was dropped at Tucson airport. Here is where the journey started to get interesting! The check in area was crammed full of people and it was almost impossible to work out where to go. Amid this chaos were friends from the ranch who had been caught up in this. A plane had been due to leave when it developed a fault. All the passengers had been required to disembark, collect their luggage and then try to rebook onto another flight. As you can probably imagine, over 200 people trying to be rerouted is not a fast job and tempers were starting to get short. At one point I thought that the person in front of me and the person behind because the person in front was taking ‘too long’ to use the computer. I ended up having to queue twice from being given wrong information, but what can you do. I’m sure it wasn’t intentional and in the midst of such chaos, directions and questions can be easily misunderstood.

I was going back via LA and, after a previous experience, had allowed plenty of time to change planes at LA. In fact I had 6 hours. While that may seem a long time for some and if stuck in the airport, it is, but in LA you need that sort of time if you want to go anywhere other than the airport such is the traffic heading in and out. I was going to be walking to get my break from the airport as I needed something to eat and apparently the place to go from the airport for that is the In and Out Burger bar. What makes this special is that is it more or less over the flightpath for planes landing on one of the LA runways. The burger itself was nice and just outside, on the green bank that is opposite the place, was a horde of plane spotters taking pictures of the planes as they came in overhead. I’m not sure about the safety aspect, but the planes were definitely close and loud as them went past. I doubt I’ll be repeating the experience, but I would suggest it as a one off for people if they haven’t tried it before.

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Next to the In and Out burger and by the flight path for LAX

Suitably refilled, I headed back to the airport with plenty of time in hand. In the end it was just as well as I had to check in twice. My original check in had been online and as usual I had printed out all the boarding cards and had them safely stowed. However there was an issue with my LAX to LHR one. The machine wouldn’t take it. Security sent me back to the check in desk to get a new card. This was a little bit of a drag as it was a fair walk and a few flights of stairs that I was now going to have to repeat. There was no hassle in getting the card and of course the people who had sent me back had finished their shift, so whether that would have meant I’d have got through on my old pass I don’t know. Anyway I was through and while delayed still had plenty of time.

As is always the way when you walk into a large international terminal that hosts nearly 200,000 people a day, I immediately bumped into some friends from the ranch. We caught up for a bit, I explained about the trouble at Tucson that they had missed from having a very early flight and we passed some time before their flight was called.

Having said our goodbyes (again) and what I felt would now be the last set of goodbyes I would be saying this holiday, it was time for a stroll and some shopping. If I had one criticism of the international terminal at LA, it would be that there aren’t enough ‘ordinary’ shops. That may be part of the whole LA experience, but it seemed that all the shops, apart from the duty free one, were boutiques and expensive ones that! It was strictly a look and no touch for me. I just had my duty free to order and for the first time I was thankful that I had plenty of cash as well as the credit card. Normally things are bought on the credit card as it’s a zero rated one that gives more or less a true exchange rate. Sadly the card wasn’t being accepted. What worried me was that the reason being given was there was that the limit was being exceeded. Given all I had paid for was the ranch holiday, this was a concern, but due to the time difference and the fact that I would, in about 12 hours, be back in the UK, there was nothing I could do for now. (As an aside it turns out that the card was fine and the error was with the airports machine so the worry was unfounded).

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One bird watching a slightly larger one!

My time in the US was now drawing to a close. My flight home (an A380) was comfortable enough in relation to the seat (I struggle to understand, as someone who is 6ft, how people complain so much about seats. I’ve never found them that uncomfortable. True they aren’t sofas, but I’m not sure what people expect!) The only issue I had was the discovery that the person next to me (someone who you would have hoped was old enough to know better, was yet to discover personal hygiene. While not having nose plugs, I was at least able to get some sleep on the plane and arrived at the airport feeling relatively fresh. Timing was excellent and my ride home arrived just in time for me to come out of the departures hall and the last leg of the journey home began.

I wasn’t too sad though, it would not be long before I would be returning.

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