Day Seven – Time to Go Home
We got up at 04:30 to get the bags packed in the car and headed for the airport. Outside the front doors, Catrina and I said our goodbyes to Duyen and started our long journeys for home. On all three of my flights home, I had aisle seats, so getting any photos was impossible. I did manage to snap a few when we got off the plane at Narita airport in Tokyo. This was the first time I had ever exited a plane and not gone directly into the terminal.
We left the plane on a set of stairs, got into buses, and were then driven a half-mile or so to the terminal. I had time in Narita to get a good meal of beef and rice (no cilantro this time), and a clear diet Coke. It was an odd beverage, but it went well with my meal. I loaded onto the next plane and started the long flight from Narita to Chicago O’Hare. From the time I boarded the plane until I exited, it was about 13 hours again.
I managed to get about 4 hours of sleep on this flight and shared my row of seats with a 3 and a half-year-old little girl and her mom. Both were excellent seatmates, and made traveling home a treat! As we got off the plane, they wished me safe travels and I went on my way.
As I walked into the monstrosity known as O’Hare airport, I was a little overwhelmed – this was the largest airport I had seen! Because I was returning from an international location, I had to go through customs, but this time, I was going through customs with close to a thousand other travelers at the same time. I had to claim my checked bag, walk through a few doors, and then recheck the bag for the final flight to Minneapolis.
With my bag rechecked, I boarded a train to my terminal. I stood in line for what seemed like an eternity to go through security again, as they had limited X-Ray machines in use. It was the equivalent of the grocery store having 20 checkout lines available and only using three on a busy day! I finally made it to the X-Ray machine with only 20 minutes until my flight was to start boarding. At this point, the security guards decided my carry on bags needed to be turned inside out. When they were satisfied that I didn’t have anything illegal or dangerous, I was allowed to repack my bags and hurry on to catch my flight.
Thankfully, the flight was a few minutes behind schedule, and I made it! The final hour of flying was about to begin – and then we waited… After a 30 minute delay, we finally took off and headed for Minneapolis! On the ground in Minnesota, I had never been so happy to be home – I picked up my checked luggage at the baggage claim and headed out the doors. My good friend Scott was waiting to pick me up outside, so I didn’t even have to wait for him!
As we drove to a local seafood restaurant for dinner, we talked about my amazing trip. Dinner was great! a large platter of Lobster tail, shrimp and even the broccoli was tasty – not to mention the enormous strawberry margarita to go with it! Back at Scott’s house, I chatted with him and his wonderful wife Cindy for an hour or so before turning in for the night. Because I had a two-hour drive yet to do in the morning, it was good to get some much-needed sleep before getting into my van to make my way home.
Tuesday morning, I woke at 08:45 so I could get home in time to see my family before they left to go visit grandma and grandpa for some fourth of July parades. Before I left Scott’s place, I had one more great meal with him – fresh omelets, coffee, and an ‘old fashioned’ doughnut! Funny – the first and last food items I ate on my trip were both a doughnut…
The final leg of my trip home was an uneventful but rainy drive. As I turned into my driveway, I was overcome with a sense of relief to finally be HOME.
My Final Thoughts
Wow! That was one awesome week! There was never a dull moment throughout the trip, even the downtime when I wasn’t busy was great! The food and the people were amazing, and I learned a few things about a culture and country that I previously knew very little. The plane rides were long and tiresome, but worth the destination.
I would like to extend my gratitude to all of the people that helped make my journey such an awesome experience! Scott and Cindy Anderson, Duyen Luu, Catrina, Mike and Janine O’Reilly at Model Flight Australia, SK Tan in Singapore, and all of Duyen’s family, friends, and employees – even the mom and little girl on my long flight home – THANK YOU! You will all be remembered for a very long time to come!