May 25, 2001 (Day 79): Canterbury, England – 6.15pm
We arrived in a sunny London and stepped onto the platform at Waterloo Station. According to the clock in the main hall it was 11.33am (10.33GMT), 78 days and nine minutes after we departed.
We did it.
There was no fanfare other than what we generated ourselves. Our celebration was with a big hug and kiss near the clock that we used as our timepiece. The thought of having done it, having reached the end, put a little tear in my eye. I was often caught up in the day-to-day experience of this trip. It was another one of these moments when what we accomplished hit me. It was a mixture of excitement and a bit of sadness, knowing it is all done. We thought of calling friends and family at home but I suspect that they would have been less than excited to hear from us at 5am.
Health: Good, but tired. Very tired. I did not get much sleep last night and am not long for this world. Anna had a lovely nap on the train. Now it is my turn.
Morale: Superb. We have done it. We are on-time, under budget, and still married.
For the most part, it was a leisurely jaunt to the finish line. The familiarity of the UK is a bonus. It takes no effort to work out connections. The harbor traffic delayed our arrival a bit. This caused a slight hiccough to our ability to hail a taxi. The cabbies heard that the ship was delayed so they were seeking fares elsewhere. When word got out that the passengers were disembarking, a fleet of cabs rolled in. It was kind of interesting to watch them roll in as if on cue. As a special greeting, there was no rail strike to welcome us. Sometimes less is more. Trains were running fairly regularly so we did not rush to the station when we arrived. Perhaps we could have made an earlier train, but we were well within the comfort zone. As it was we had just less than two days’ worth of cushion to remain ahead of Fogg. It might have sounded more interesting to say 77 days, 23 hours, 32 minutes and whatever seconds. Yet 78 days, nine minutes will be easy to remember.
We posed for our completion photo at the same site where we had our departure picture taken. This time, we had a copy of the Guardian. Included in it was a rather scathing editorial hinting at what some of our allies think about our President. I guess it does prove the axiom that almost anyone can become President, regardless of abilities.
In keeping with the spirit of our trip, our celebratory lunch was at Burger King.
Today, of all days, people seemed to notice us wearing our “Around the World shirts.” Answering their queries asking how much longer we had by looking at my watch was particularly satisfying. The big question asked was: “Was there ever a moment when you didn’t think you could pull it off?” I had my biggest doubts early on when there was still so much of the trip still ahead of us, before we really had our ‘travel legs’. As the journey progressed, the trip generated its own momentum. Success led to confidence in future success.
There really was not a lot of drama in this trip. We were fortunate. We did not have narrow connections to make and we did not miss any critical trains. Strikes could have delayed us. Bad weather did, in fact, delay us getting into and out of the Twin Cities. The ferry out of Shanghai could have been an issue but we would have had enough time to make back-up plans, should that have been necessary. There was enough extra time built in such that the critical timetable could have been kept to. The unforeseen did not exist.
Thinking back, though, an argument could be made that the environment was not without its challenges. Our trip survived fires aboard the QE2, floods in the Midwest, the plague of hoof and mouth disease, a famine in Mongolia, and the storm in the Atlantic. No wars, but the US-China spy plane incident seems to have been a bit tense.
We are overnighting in Canterbury. The train down was full, but we were eventually able to get a seat for us and our stuff. Anna took advantage of the trip and managed a quick nap. The Canterbury TI helped us get a B&B not from the office. The B&B owner took pity on us when she saw our luggage and gave us a room on the ground floor, complete with bathroom. There is a fair amount of traffic, but I doubt it will bother us much.
Getting internet access at Canterbury was a bit of a challenge. There were no open slots at the library and it took a bit of wandering to find a computer shop that offered access. It was essential for me to get a note off to prove that we arrived. If need be, I guess we would have pleaded with the B&B to let us use their computer. We logged in to see a number of congratulatory emails, including one from the Canadian couple we met in Xi’an.
Canterbury has been cleaned up a bit since I was here last. It is less dingy and with many more coffee shops than I remember. It was the closest city to me when I lived at Simon working at the house in Kent. While I have been here quite a bit, Anna has not. I promised that we would come back, that I would bring her here. Sadly, I am tired and, as such, prone to ambivalence. I am not against doing anything, but my interest tends to waver. I have been up front about my condition so I hope she will go out explore the city tonight. I remember it being a pretty city at night. I hope she sees some of it and does not feel obliged to watch me sleep because that is about all I am up for.
Had a much-needed rest. That is to say, I collapsed a little after 7pm and was dead to the world. Fortunately Anna took my immobility as a chance to wander through Canterbury and sight-see. I am up for a little bit and will pop back to sleep soon.
Our room is on the ground floor, with the window facing the road. It is not trafficked much so sleeping it not a problem. I was reading when I heard a British couple pass by. Her frequent protestations of “I am not drunk, I am so not drunk,” got my attention. Moments later, there was a solid thud which I took to be her walking into the side of this building. At this moment, her male companion posited that, in his opinion, she had had too much to drink.
Excerpts from Anna’s journal includedThis entry was posted in Around the World