Day 21 | Heading home

Last morning in the US. We got up just in time for breakfast and it was very busy. Usually we got there at six or seven but this time it was nine so we saw how many people were in the hotel.

We had our kettle and toaster, our attempt to keep food costs down, to get rid of. We also had a stash of food that we had stopped eating because we had grown bored with it. We left a tip and a note for the housekeeper to either keep the lot or pass it on to someone she knew might use it all.

After spending the evening trying to fit everything into the cases and evenly distribute the weight about them all – we did it and had some room to spare so decided to make one more shopping stop. You know in case we had missed anything.

Our pick was Glendale Mall as it was closeish and fairly large. Would you believe that the entrance we chose to stop at was the one with the Lane Bryant shop and they were having a sale. There was also a Sears which we had a discount brochure for, it was like the planets were lining up. So much for having the suit cases all settled. Got a few additional things including some more shoes for Rosie, because you can never have too many shoes, right.

On the way back to Inglewood, where the Alamo car hire place is, we still needed to cross many a suburb via the many free-, high- and park- ways and we had left it late enough that at 4.00pm we are approaching the rush hour and needing to cross the CBD area. This was going to be a bit of a drag. Angus had left the fuel to go down, rationalising that regardless we had undertaken to have the car returned with a full fuel tank so putting fuel in seemed like unnecessary. Then it happened. The car was stopped in the six lanes of traffic and the dashboard started chiming and warning that the fuel was running out. We were stuck in the CBD area and even the GPS wasn’t hopeful about a close servo. Fingers crossed as Angus scrolled through the inboard computer expected mileage range (that’s right miles) of about 40 miles and the destination was only 20 miles away. Easy. Except that mileage was based on us moving, and we weren’t.

Finally we found a servo, not too far out of the way in Culver City (adjacent to Inglewood). Angus bravely went in to prepay and tried out his Spanish as it was his last day. They not-so-bravely answered in more-than-competent English with a raised eyebrow. After fueling to full he went back in to pay. The guy there said he’d never seen a Suburban take so much fuel, crazy to let it get so low. Angus told him the warning was chiming on the 405 (highway) and the guy just whistles. It obviously doesn’t do to run out of fuel here.

We returned the car to Alamo, and it was a bit of a relief but I think we’ll all miss that behemoth Suburban. It was a comfortable car and served us well and handing it back marked the end of the journey which was a road-trip of the west coast. Very sad. With only a 30 seconds walk around and they said we could go. We got our eight suit cases and our numerous jackets and hand luggage and started loading the Courtesy bus to LAX. We were travelling on Delta and this goes from terminal 5 (of a possible six). We were now really going home.

Checking in four hours early saves on the queue but it also means that the systems aren’t in place. We tried to check-in to Brisbane (rather than Sydney, our first Australian stop) but by the time we mentioned this some of the bags had gone and it seemed very difficult to do anything about that but the check-in lady did try very hard and undertook to go and yell at the baggage handlers who weren’t responding the way she wanted them to. By the way, trolleys are $5 each and you don’t get a refund.

We had our first exposure to the new security measures which include those body scanners that have been in the news. You stand with your hands above your head while inside an xray machine but the operators don’t say anything to assist you like “thanks” or “stop” or anything. It was very disconcerting. I think everyone here has done it so often they don’t bother saying what to do.

After a quick trip to our last US McDonald and a Duty Free store we were ready to go. The flight promised to be very full and it was odd to hear so many Australian accents. We chatted to a lady who worked in Sydney but was originally from Christchurch. She travels to the US quite often and loves shopping. She had sent home boxes of clothes she had bought and sent some home for her Mum in NZ. Her Mum had been affected by the earthquake and had endured some time without water and power but had thankfully not lost her home or got injured. She was proud to say that her mum was visiting Pak-N-Save in a genuine Gucci track-suit. Hilarious.

Sure enough when we boarded we were packed in. It was past 10.00pm, the scheduled time for take-off. We were already concerned about missing our connecting flight from Sydney to Brisbane as it took a long time to get from domestic to international on the way out. We were seated in two groups of two so O’Regan and McKay sat together and Rosie and Angus sat together across the aisle as the seat configuration was 3-3-3. The seat next to McKay and O’Regan was a lady, who started an animated conversation with O’Regan who was pleased to have someone other than us three to talk to.

Landing in Sydney came quickly, the night flight ensuring that everyone had some sleep at least. The Immigration, Customs and AQIS processes efficiently made us do a search for the salad dressing we were attempting to take home. Apparently egg in foods can harbour agricultural disease. The dry salad dressing (Good Seasons) was okay. We knew it was possible that due to the delay we had probably missed our connecting flight.  Going through to the Virgin transfer area they confirmed we had missed the 60 minute cut-off for the 9.00am flight (needed to be there by 8.00am and it was 8:05am).  But thankfully they put us on the 10.00am flight at no charge. I know it wasn’t our fault we were late (apart from the Ranch Dressing search) but it was not Virgin’s fault either, so, thanks Virgin.

The flight was good but it was one of those budget things so even the in-flight entertainment system was pay-per-view. A quick nap saw the final destination come up from below. Working our eight suitcases and copious hand-luggage out to the taxi area was no mean feat. By the way, trolleys are $4 and you don’t get a refund (but this is the domestic terminal they are free at the International Terminal). We needed two, overloaded to move this much stuff. Funnily enough Brisbane is more characterised by NZ accents so it was no surprise that a Kiwi accent announced “no worries, bro, you need a maxi-, go to the end I’ll send one over”. Welcome to Brisbane.

Ayesha had looked after the house beautifully and we were so grateful to make it home, but we were also already missing our new-found love of the US. To paraphrase the famous Governor “We’ll be back!”

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