Day 45 – The Voyage Home

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

I was awake early, so that I was able to catch the 6:38 am train to the Sydney International Airport. It was very warm outside and even with the air conditioning on the train, I never really cooled off until I got to the airport an hour later.

I had to wait at the airport because the Delta Airlines check-in didn’t open up until 8 am, however, I was the first person in line, which, of course, meant that my bag would be at the bottom of the pile in the plane and it would be the last one to be taken off. I was able to breeze through security, have a little breakfast and wait for my gate to open.

Just after 10 am, we started to board and we were on our way, without any delays. The flight was a little bumpy at times, but that might be due to the significant tailwind, which helped us get into Los Angeles at 5:35 am, 30 minutes early. The only problem with this, was that Customs was not yet open, so we had to wait on the plane until 6 am.

When we were finally allowed to leave the plane, clearing customs went very quickly for me, because I had my NEXUS border, crossing card and I was considered a ” Trusted Traveller “. The NEXUS program has worked out very well for me. All I had to do was walk up to one of the kiosks, scan my passport, have my picture taken, scan my fingerprints, answer a few electronic questions to indicate that I wasn’t bringing in any forbidden items into the US and then present the printed card to the security agent at the gate on my way out.

Because I was coming in on an international flight, I also had to pick up my checked baggage, clear the ” baggage check “, check it in again for my flights to Buffalo, walk to the Domestic Terminal, print out my boarding passes and then clear security again. This also went very quickly because I was TSE pre-approved because of my NEXUS card and I was at the gate shortly after 7 am.

I had almost 6 hours before my next flight which was scheduled to leave at 12:50 pm for Minneapolis, where I would catch my flight to Buffalo after a 1 hour lay-over in Minneapolis. I used the time in LA to switch the SIM card in my phone back to my Rogers SIM card so I could check my emails and voicemails. I was immediately informed by several people at home, that a significant winter storm was supposed to hit the Buffalo area at 9 pm, a couple of hours before I was to arrive there. I checked to see if I could get an earlier flight, however, I was on the earliest flight to Buffalo.

My sister was scheduled to pick me up, however, I had a few other people offer to pick me up as well. I would rather stay in Buffalo that risk someone getting injured in an accident, so I suggested to my sister that she could pick me up on Wednesday morning. It wouldn’t be the first time I have spent the night in an airport, but she said it would depend on how bad the weather was when she was ready to leave.

My flight left at 12:50 pm from Los Angeles, as scheduled, and we made good time, so that we arrived early in Minneapolis. The pilot informed us that they had changed our gate, however, when we got there we had to wait 30 minutes to deplane because an international flight was at the gate next to ours and Customs had secured the area for them to deplane. Fortunately, when we were finally allowed to leave the plane, I still had 50 minutes to make it to the other end of the airport to reach the gate for my flight to Buffalo.

I checked Peace Bridge cameras online, at the Canadian border where we would be crossing, to see if there was any snow or a lot of traffic, but everything was clear, so I sent a text to my sister to let her know when the flight was ready to leave. I also told her that she shouldn’t come if the weather was bad. My nephew Herb drove her to the airport to pick me up and they arrived there shortly before I did. As soon as we landed I checked the bridge cameras again and everything was clear. We left the airport shortly after 11 pm and there was a light rain that was starting to freeze.

I realize that probably 70% of the Buffalo Sabre’s hockey fans come from Ontario, however, I never thought about checking to see if there was a game in Buffalo on the night that I was scheduling my flight back home. Well, guess what? The Sabres had a game that night and it was over at the same time that my flight was landing. When we left the Airport, I checked that cameras again and to my surprise the border had two lanes of traffic backed up over the bridge trying to get into Canada. I should have suggested that we go to one of the other bridges, but that’s hindsight. By the way, Conner McDavid, the new hockey sensation, scored 2 goals for Edmonton as they defeated the Sabres 2-1.

We got into the lineup to get across the bridge to Canada, at 11:45 pm and it took us 40 minutes to reach the Customs booth. The traffic was stop-and-go ( mostly stop ), starting from the US side of the bridge and all the way to the Canadian border. Two lanes of traffic filled the bridge and there were only 4 booths open. By the time we reached the Canadian side of the bridge, they closed one of the booths and they were squeezing two rows into one Guess who was in that row?

I must say that Herb did an excellent job of driving. He is very patient and it also helped that he had his 4×4 truck with snow tires on it. When we finally reached the Customs booth, it only took a minute to get through, however, as soon as we got into Canada, the road conditions got worse. The rain had changed to snow and in some cases, packed icy, snow. It was quite slippery and the amount of snow seemed to increase, the closer we got to my house, which is unusual. Herb drove safely and dropped me off at home, just after 1 am. I had experienced a wonderful adventure, but it was also good to be back home, again.

So ends this adventure. No more tenting or intentionally driving on the left side of the road, at least not for a while!