Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Wee Camping Trip In The Highlands: Part 1 - It Begins

The plan was for an epic journey to Scotland, finding the sweet spot between the cold winter and the emergence of the Scottish "Midges", the notorious insect that seems to be closely related to the 'no-see-ums' in Florida. This is the kind of tiny insect that attacks in clouds and makes you sorry to be alive when outdoors.
The plan was a good one and would have worked perfectly except we forgot that the weather can be whatever it wants to be in Scotland. In this case, instead of beautiful flowers blooming on the side of the road, we were greeted with bare-limbed trees and the promise of snow on the ground the day after we landed.
Originally, I was excited about the prospect of following surfing and paddling in the cold north country, but as my planning and research progressed, it became obvious that I was dealing with 'polar bears', the people that see putting a paddleboard in a lake or river when the temperature is below freezing as an extreme sport...and in my mind, they are correct.
As the forecast turned colder and colder, our packing morphed into less hiking gear, and more gear to keep us alive in the highlands when it could drop below 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

When it became the time to leave for the airport, we were excited with suitcases laden with cold gear and sleeping bags. I was my usual nervous self. I was going to a friendly country where English was spoken, but I was to be driving a Sprinter-sized motorhome on the left side of the road and looking at wet and snowy conditions.

The day we were to leave, I opened the newspaper to a front page article decrying that today was to be the busiest day in airport history. I already had a thing about dealing with homeland security and the whole baggage thing at our large busy airport, and now we were to wade right into the craziest day of the year....and then it wasn't. In the end, it wasn't so hard to understand. The airport was busy with people coming and going for Easter vacation, but they weren't coming and going to Scotland...and they especially were not going TO Scotland.
I tried to figure everything out beforehand on the internet, but still managed to find us standing in the airport with our bags with that deer-in-the-headlights look, while Pam looked around for help. The very first gentleman she found turned out to be a representative from Virgin Atlantic Airlines and quickly our bags were checked in and we were on our way to TSA. There was a giant mess of people there, but thankfully, we were Pre_check and went through in short order, except that I was pulled over for a frisking. I seem to be randomly picked for that every time I fly.
Once we got on the plane, I saw how this might be one of the better experiences ever.
The giant airliner was a Boeing Jumbo Jet, which has two levels of passenger seating. The big old 747 only had to carry 67 passengers on this trip, which meant Pam and I each had a whole row of seats to stretch out on. The food, the flight attendants, the whole trip on Virgin Atlantic was beyond my wildest dreams and Scotland was beginning to look like the trip of a lifetime.
In typical Perkins fashion, it was the special trip I hoped it would be, but if I knew what was coming for us, I might have turned around and gone right back home.....

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