I said goodbye to my favorite London hotel, the Holiday Inn Camden, and set off for the airport, having slept in a bit on my last day of the trip, but having also intentionally planned for an afternoon flight to give me time to do so.
A first draft plan to get to Heathrow was to take the Underground out the Piccadilly Line, although it was apt to be crowded through Central London, to avoid the extra transfer and expense; however, an announcement of a service disruption on the Piccadilly Line meant taking the Northern Line from Camden Town to Kings Cross/St. Pancras, then transferring not to the Piccadilly Line, but to the Hammersmith & City line and taking that to Paddington. There, it was Heathrow Express. I might have been able to manage a Heathrow Connect (cheaper), but I hadn't bought a ticket in advance, Connect takes longer, and if I'd missed it there would be a 30 minute wait for the next one. Express is absurdly expensive for the length of the trip, but it's non-stop and runs every 15 minutes, and I was starting to fret over time.
On the other hand, I did stop to take this picture of High Speed Train power car 43002 Sir Kenneth Grange sitting at a nearby platform. This is the first production HST power car, and was recently repainted into its original paint scheme and named for the designer of the iconic train's nose cone. I'd read about this in Rail magazine and am glad I got to see it in person.
With the HX zipping along non-stop, I got to Heathrow almost exactly two hours before flight time, and check-in went smoothly, although I caused a delay by forgetting to put my coat into my checked bag before going up to the counter. There was some confusion as I opened my luggage to put it away, and I somehow managed to lose the small plastic cover that I put over the dials on the combination lock on the bag to protect it while doing so. But this seemed mostly harmless, and I wasn't actually holding up anyone else in line, for which I'm grateful.
After clearing Terrorization, I saw that my flight was already in "Go to Gate" status, so I headed out to what appears to be the most remote gate in Terminal 2. Boarding was just starting, though, so again, no harm done. OTOH, I missed out on being able to use my United Club pass here. (I get two of them per year, and I used one at SFO on the way out.)
The flight was pretty spacious. The back of the plane had hardly anyone in it. I had the middle three seats in the third-to-last row to myself, with nobody in the row ahead of or behind me. However, unlike the trip east, I did not sleep, nor did I try to do so. Based on my planned arrival time in San Francisco, I decided it would be in my own best interest to simply stay awake. So it was coffee and caffeinated drinks for the next few hours, and that made it doubly good that I was in a seat convenient to the lavatory. I did a lot of reading on the flight, and while I could lean back without worrying about the person behind me, I can't say I was totally comfortable. The seat itself simply doesn't fit me that well. But I had lots of elbow room.
The flight had periodic bumpy bits, but we must have had a good tail wind because we got there more than 30 minutes early. Immigration was my first experience with the electronic check-in machines, and I did it wrong, I think, because I had to go to the counter anyway. I think I got too close to the camera. However, there was no significant delay, and I found myself with my luggage on BART before my flight's originally scheduled landing time.
My plan was to take BART to Oakland Coliseum, then walk over to the Amtrak station and take a Capitol to Fremont, because I figured if BART was on time, I'd have about ten minutes to get between the two stations. When we got to Coliseum BART, I exited the station without looking at the time, not realizing that we'd been delayed, and I missed the Capitol Corridor train by one minute.
Walking back to BART, I realized that the train that I'd exited was still on the platform. I then saw that everyone was getting off the train. When the ten-car train emptied, the now-empty train reversed back toward San Francisco. Re-entering the station (and cursing the extra fare), I heard the announcement: a stalled train between Coliseum and San Leandro meant that they were single-tracking trains around the problem, causing major delays. This explained why they had short-turned the train on which I had been riding.
After a while, an eight-car BART train for Fremont arrived, already full of people. Trying to pour a full ten-car train's worth of passengers into an already-full eight-car train wasn't a pretty sight. Even though BART trains are huge (you could fit the rolling stock of a London Underground Northern Line train inside a BART train with room for standees outside the Tube train, I think), it was still Sardine City. I didn't even try boarding. The guy with the bicycle shouldn't have tried, but he did, got stuck in the door, and didn't back out until the station agent started yelling at him over the loudspeaker.
After a while, another Fremont train arrived, relatively slowly due to having to change tracks on account of the single-tracking going on. This one was also full and I again didn't even try to board. A couple of Richmond and San Francisco-bound trains squeezed through on the single track, and then finally a Fremont train arrived on the "normal" platform that seemed to have enough room for me and my luggage. By the time I got on BART, the Capitol I'd originally targeted had just made its Fremont/Centerville station stop.
BART had managed to clear the stalled train, so after waiting for traffic to clear in front of us, normal service resumed for the BART trip to Fremont. There I decided to skip saving money because I'd been awake for way too long and was getting very hungry. (My earlier plans had been to eat dinner at SFO and ride an off-peak BART train to Coliseum to catch a later Capitol. When the flight arrived early, I revised my plans, but I wasn't going to wait for three hours at Coliseum for the next Capitol train.) I caught a taxi at the BART station for the $15 cab ride over to my mechanic's shop.
As it happens, Cory, my mechanic, was still there, closing up for the night. He said he had the RV fixed and gave me the spare keys. He was heading off to vote and didn't have my bill toted up yet, so I'll come by on Friday afternoon and settle up with him. Grateful to no longer be toting heavy luggage, I drove away, got dinner, refueled both tanks of the Rolling Stone and headed for my normal overnight location.
When I got the RV parked for the night, I made to unpack my luggage. Which wouldn't open. The combination I normally use wouldn't open the lock. This might have been related to my having lost the cover; I'm not sure. I spent an anxious time trying various things. I didn't want to break the lock, but I needed my things. I was just about ready to try all 1000 possible combinations when I thought to try all of the one-digit-away combinations on each dial first, and to my relief, one of them worked. (I presumably accidentally reset it when I rushed the packing of my coat at Heathrow. As usual, when I hurry, I make mistakes, which is why I try to leave extra time and let the people in a hurry get out in front of me.)
After unloading my luggage and making out the bed in the RV, I called Lisa, who I'd briefly contacted when I got to SFO, to reassure her that I was okay, albeit running a couple of hours later than I wanted to be. Then, just short of 24 hours since I'd gotten up in London, I lay down and was asleep, I think, within seconds.