Ascension Island Expedition — Berwick-Upon-Tweed to RAF Brize Norton
SHEFFIELD, England (Thursday, March 8, 2007) – Today began well. I had a good, though somewhat interrupted sleep. Before breakfast, I walked to the train station and learned southbound trans were operating as scheduled. I returned to the bed & breakfast for an excellent meal (egg sunny side up, English-style bacon, sausage, toast, and grapefruit.
I asked the male proprietor (I think they are a husband-and-wife team) about a bike shop nearby where I might be able to get the cart repaired. He suggested one, gave me a map, and . . . Success! The guy at the bike shop was great, as was the solution, which became obvious to me as soon as I entered the shop: training wheels.
With my cart fixed and nearly two hours to kill before my train was to leave, I headed for the walls of Berwick – a city noted for the frequency with which it changed hands between the Scots and English. The site is impressive. It is awe-inspiring, yet disturbing, to think of the amount of resources spent on military endeavors throughout human history.
While walking along the wall I was attacked by a vicious mutt (Alsatian and collie mix) with a stick. The owner and dog were walking, and the dog paused around what turned out to be a five-foot branch. I thought it was a bush until I looked back at the dog and saw it running down the path with the branch in her mouth.
She came up to me, and when I reached out to pet her, she jumped back and grabbed her stick. I knew what that meant, and the tug-of-war was on. She was not going to let me quit. When I broke off a smaller branch and tossed it to distract her with a game of fetch, she took one step toward the smaller piece, then returned to HER stick.
The last I saw her, she was attacking her mother with that same stick.
My sightseeing done, I returned to the bed & breakfast, fetched my gear, and walked back to the strain station, stopping to take more photos on the way.
Next stop, Oxford and a bus or taxi ride to RAF Brize Norton.
GEORGETOWN, Ascension Island (March 12, 2007) – The train was brutally crowded as it pulled into the Oxford station. I got my gear ready as best I could and a kid helped me carry some of it out off the train.
I pulled myself together, walked into the station and found Steve Stephenson and Tom Smith, my colleagues for the journey, waiting for me. We scrambled around the station, grabbing some last-minute food and searching for a taxi. We found one – ₤36 for a one-way ride to Brize Norton. Fortunately, we were splitting the fare three ways. While traffic was heavy, the views of the Oxfordshire countryside made the ride pleasant.
We checked in as soon as we arrived at RAF Brize Norton and were quickly approved to go through. We had to wait for a shuttle to the terminal and were rather impressed. It did not look like a military installation, but a small version of an airport. Baggage check-in was a little screwy – I was told I could not fly in shorts – but they were generous in allowing the three of us to average our allowable weight. I would have had to pay a hell of a lot of money for going over my weight limit otherwise.
After obtaining our boarding passes, we waited. We ate the sandwiches we bought at the Oxford station, hung out with some British army guys, and watched TV. I used some pay terminals to check my e-mail. We heard an announcement that the plane would depart late, but we were called to go through pre-flight security checks earlier than I thought we would. A shuttle bus took us out to our plane, a 747 operated by XL airlines. I got a window seat at an emergency exit. I made sure I knew how to operate the doors in case of an emergency.
Fortunately there were none.
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