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Daily Journal

June 20 – Departures and Arrivals
Norfolk, Virginia to Washington D.C.

My journey began at Norfolk International Airport in Virginia. How they (whoever "they" are, they sure get around) get away with calling Norfolk an international airport I'll never know. I think they must have a flight to Cancun or somewhere of the like, because they certainly don't have any flights to the UK. My itinerary took me from Norfolk to Washington DC to Philadelphia and then on to Manchester via US Airways.

I flew out of Norfolk at 2PM on a puddle-jumper (complete with propellers) to Washington DC. This was the first time I'd been anywhere except to visit my parents in eighteen years, and my first flight in over ten years. I was nervous and excited. It all seemed like a dream - as if it was happening to someone else. I looked at my wristwatch often, mentally adding the hours – it's 7:30 in England; it's 7:35 in England; it's 8:15 in England and in twelve hours I'll be there.

My mind whirled with speculation. Would I find Robin and Dana easily? Would my checked bag arrive? Would my carry-on (which held four days worth of clothing in case my checked bag didn't arrive) fit in the overhead compartment? I must have verified the exact location of my passport and plane tickets in my 'mutant purse from hell', an oversized shoulder bag, a half dozen times before boarding that first flight. And once aboard, I was so excited that I turned down the complimentary peanuts and soft drink I was offered, an action I regretted later.

The flight paralleled the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Puffy white clouds dotted the sky over the Atlantic Ocean bringing to mind grazing sheep meandering upon a grassy hillside. The Eastern Shore of Virginia was scalloped with a narrow border of golden sand. Wispy low-lying clouds turned the barrier islands into snow-capped mountaintops. I smiled to myself and began to relax. Craning my neck for a faraway look at the horizon I would meet overnight, I admired how the water and sky met in an almost indiscernible line.

Land ho! Over land we flew; a patchwork of so many shades of green with ribbons of gold, tan and brown woven through it. Flying over Washington DC was like being magically transported into a SimCity 2000 game; the high-rise apartment complexes with their glimmering rooftop pools, the eight-lane highways with cloverleaf interchanges and the Potomac River winding sinuously, like a brown water snake, through it all.

We flew directly over the Pentagon and as we taxied up to our gate the Capitol building and Rotunda were visible out of my porthole. I sat at Gate 39, awaiting the departure of my next flight, with a man in a Marine uniform on my right and three men in Army uniforms on my left. I gazed wondrously out of a huge window at the Washington Monument.

Two hours later the view was not nearly as captivating. Excitement had kept me from eating or sleeping much in the previous 48 hours and now my head nodded and my stomach was making its displeasure well known with a chorus of grumbles and rumbles. I vowed not to pass up any proffered food or drink on my next flight.

(FYI to fellow smokers: You can't smoke in Washington Reagan Airport. There's not even one of those inferno-like smoking rooms. My neighbor, who traveled to Ireland last year, warned me of this. He also warned me not to go outside to smoke. Seems once you exit the building you must walk through a maze of parking areas to the other side of the complex to gain access to the terminal again. I stayed safely inside and told my nerves to hush: It was good practice for all of those smoke-free bed and breakfasts where I would be staying.)

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