The Wind Blew, the Snow Flew, and Home We Came
It was very weird. We were descending through seemingly endless clouds; it was so thick that we could barely see the light on the wing. Then ... the clouds broke and we were over the runway, with the lights from the airport coming up out of the dark. About ten seconds later, we plunked onto the ground. The runway was completely snow-covered, which was rather ... disturbing. I always assumed they cleared the snow before allowing planes to land.
The flight was pretty good, although there was understandably some turbulence. Right in the middle of the tea/coffee service, the plane started jostling up and down enough that my still-very-hot cup of tea started sloshing all over, which was not good.
My inlaws came to pick us up from the airport. We had originally purchased tickets to return on New Year's Day to Baltimore-Washington International, which is the nearest airport to us; a day after we bought our tickets, that flight was cancelled and we were rebooked on a next-day flight to *cue ominous music* Dulles International Airport. Washington, DC, has three local airports. Travel tip from a local: If at all possible, fly into BWI or Reagan. Dulles sucks. It's like it exists in a self-contained pocket of gray existential sadness. It looks like a warehouse, everyone who works there is pissy or miserable or both, and as a result, it is ridiculously inefficient. The nicest people we dealt with were the Border Patrol agents and the British Airways representative. Even the Christmas decorations looked sad as shit.
My sister--who has also had negative experiences at Dulles--told me that you start out in a moving room to get from terminal to terminal. I was like o.O, but she was right: The shuttles are not buses in the usual sense; they are large boxes--yes, as big as a midsized room--and if you thought something that large would be more stabilized and offer a smoother, more comfortable ride, then you would be wrong, because you are at Dulles, and nothing is smooth or comfortable there. After being herded into one of these boxes by an unsmiling and irritable Dulles employee, we were shuttled across the snow-covered tarmac while the driver blared the horn all the while (because, apparently, the people who drive the little luggage trains and such wouldn't otherwise see the giant, rolling box careening towards them) and I clung to a pole inside for dear life. At the baggage claim, when half of the luggage was unloaded, the conveyor belts suddenly stopped and apparently there was no one downstairs to fix them, so the employee who was exuberantly slamming suitcases from laying flat to laying on their sides crawled down the conveyor belt, was missing for a few minutes, and then crawled back up. Of course, no one was told what was happening, so a bunch of us who hadn't received all of our luggage came to the conclusion that it was lost and reported to the BA desk, at which point we were given the comforting news that, no, our luggage made it just fine, it was just that no one could find the people who were supposed to be in the baggage loading area to do things like fix the conveyor belt, so the people who had been hired to slam luggage from one position to another had to do it instead.
When we finally left the airport, it was snowing something fierce. Driving on the Capitol Beltway is harrowing under the best of conditions--a recent study by Allstate insurance found that DC drivers get into accidents at roughly twice the rate of the national average--and was super-fun in heavy snow. By now it was about 10ish--our flight having arrived at 8:15--and my brain was telling me that it was 3 AM. It is about an hour's drive from Dulles to my inlaws' house, but it took quite a bit longer. The roads were in awful shape, even the major highways. It was about midnight by the time we arrived at my inlaws' house, and Bobby and I decided that a middle-of-the-night journey an hour further northward through the dark, unplowed country roads of Carroll County was not a wise course of action, so we spent the night at my inlaws' and drove home early this morning.
Despite not getting into bed until after midnight, we were both wide awake by 6 AM--oh, the wonders of traveling east to west! Getting up early is briefly and blissfully easy! We were both due to go back to work, but by 6 AM, the good news was already posted: Schools were closed for the day! We both very much needed the extra day off. Bobby said tonight that he didn't know how we'd lucked out so well. The best he could think of is that we got on Jesus's good side for visiting so many cathedrals and old churches in England and France.
By the time we drove home to Manchester this morning, the highways were clear but the side roads were touch-and-go. The streets in our neighborhood had been plowed but not salted; in fact, our street still looks pretty crappy and is mostly still snow-covered. We only got about 4 inches/10 cm out of this storm, so I'm not sure why it was so hard to clear when I've seen twice that amount cleared out by early afternoon.
We are expected to have the lowest temperatures we've had since 1994 (which I remember well, since I was in seventh grade and the school where I went made us stand outside for 20 minutes every morning before letting us in, and I remember my bones just aching relentlessly that year). Right now, it is 10F/-12C outside; we have a fire roaring in the woodstove, but my hands are freezing and feel like they've been all day. We're also expected to get more snow in the week to come.
I have pictures and travelogues to post from our excursions around England, and I hope to get those posted this weekend.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!