This update on our Tuesday — departure day — comes to you appropriately enough from the Virgin Clubhouse at Logan. It very nearly wasn’t so, through no fault of ours.
I’ll fill you in over the page….
As it was the last morning, I was in no mood to get up very early, but it took me a little by surprise that my room mate hadn’t woken me as it was 08:45 when I looked. Even so, unhurried ablutions and final (ish) packing meant we were out on the road and at Pheasant Lane Mall’s Apple Store before opening at 10:00. I watched the day’s team brief take place through the glass and heard the rousing round of motivating applause as the doors were unlocked at the stroke of ten (the guy with the keys synchronising his action with his Apple Watch!)
The good news, for Paul at least, was that his iPhone SE was in stock. The tip I’d been given last night to come back first thing was spot on. The guy who served me turned out to be a craft ale nut, and as soon as he realised I was a British tourist, his first question, phrased in an incredulous manner, was “is it true you guys drink warm beer!?”. I explained about cellar temperatures and real ale being a living product etc. etc. and he seemed genuinely interested. in some respects it was a shame to break up the conversation when my purchase arrived from the stock room. I know Apple store staff are well trained to make a customer leave feeling it was a positive encounter, but this time he didn’t have to even try.
I met up back with Nick and he told me that he’d read on V-Flyer that last night’s VS12 had been cancelled due to a last minute technical issue with the aircraft — and that there were a lot of unhappy passengers who, presumably, will be squeezed onto our flight tonight. Oh well, we’re both checked in and have seats.
I then went back to Target to buy another bag. I’d squeezed all my purchases into my existing bag, but as there’s about ten bottles of beer in there, I’m concerned about the weight. As I can check-in with up to three bags, spreading the load is probably a good plan. The bag I bought is a roll-up duffle, meaning it can be easily carried in another bag on the outward leg of a future trip. Sounds like a good investment (provided I remember it next time!)
From there we retraced our steps northward to the Merrimack Premium Outlets, just past the exit for our hotel. I had a little chunter about having to pay a 50c toll to get off the Everett Turnpike at the mall exit; not about the cost (obviously) but the fact there was no warning it was a toll road until you were on it, and dire warnings on the approach demanding correct change…. All without actually telling you how much the toll was until within 100 yards of the barrier. Grrr.
Anyway, we parked up at the mall and had just headed off in separate directions, arranging to meet up in the food court, when I had a phone call. It was Virgin Atlantic telling me that our flight tonight was cancelled due to technical issues with the plane (again!?). I was told I was rebooked onto British Airways flight 202 at 22:40. I explained about Nick and that we were travelling together — especially at the other end! Although the agent I was speaking to was dealing with Upper Class passengers, she kindly found his booking and swapped him onto the same flight as well. I tried my luck and asked about an upgrade for him but no joy (no surprise!). This means we will be landing at T5 instead of the usual Terminal 3 (and also probably means no Revivals for me?)
When I found Nick I told him the news, his reaction was a shrug of the shoulders and; “It is what it is”.
Putting that news aside for the time being I had a wander round the huge MacArthur Glenn style mall. There was no doubt there were bargains to be had (and no sales tax!). I was slightly tempted by a leather jacket from Wilsons Leathers reduced from $300 to $49, but decided I didn’t need it. Nick later reported he had a similar internal monologue in the Oakley Store.
We met up as arranged in the food court and took lunch. I had a very enjoyable grilled chicken sandwich combo meal from ChickenNow while Nick had what he declared would cause the inventor of the Philly Cheesesteak to turn in his grave from another kiosk.
Having had our fill of retail thereby for now we set off from Merrimack at 12:30 heading eastwards in the general direction of the coast. I fear I may have sold Nick a crock here when I suggested this as a plan as it was quite a bit further than he had envisaged to drive. We’d continued the theme of yesterday by staying off Interstates, though to head east/west in this area the choices are several limited due to the Merrimack River. It turned out to be about 60 miles of rural, rarely straight, roads. Lovely scenery and as passenger I enjoyed every second, snapping away prodigiously. Nick as driver maybe enjoyed it a little less.
We eventually reached the oceanside at exactly the point where the NH/MA state line does so. This area, Salisbury, Ma, is not yet at its summer best, making Skeggy look appealing. There is a high flood wall between the road and beach but we managed to find a place we could pull right up to the top in the car and look over, American-style. At least we can say we saw the see, and I trod at least one footstep’s worth of sand back into the car footwell.
The tine was 14:00 so we set off back south. Nick has been limited to WiFi connections all trip for his data needs; like texting Sue about our rearranged schedule etc. (I’ve had unlimited data thanks to Three, but given the severely unimpressive performance of the T-Mobile 3G network over here, that’s not been completely helpful at times). So Nick could use WiFi we set a course for a certainty of such (free) provision; Target. As it happened, the nearest Target turned out to be part of the Liberty Tree Mall at Danvers. Our route took us through downtown Danvers; not the worst roads ever, nor the heaviest traffic we’ve seen, but Nick was still visibly pleased to get out of the driver’s seat once we got there.
How the once mighty are fallen. What was once a highly regarded mall, the Liberty Tree is, honestly, something of a dump now. One of its former “anchor” units is now an indoor trampoline park. Another large unit is a zombie extermination virtual reality arena. Nothing wrong with these, but it is a sad indication of the state of the US retail industry. We quickly revised our plans once Nick’s WifI and my Starbucks needs were catered-for.
It was only 18 miles back to Logan. We joined Rt 128 which was nose-to-tail but generally moving. With a minor detour to fill up (11.16 gallons @$2.179 = $24.32). It was only a hop, skip & a jump from there back to the Rental Return with a final trip reading of 226.12 miles. Thanks for doing them all, Nick!
We hopped on the shuttle and were at Terminal E just a bit before 17:00. General check in for BA202 didn’t open until 18:30 and the BA desk was a scrum as the earlier flight was in full-flow. I could probably have blagged my way in as a Upper Class ticket holder but Nick would have to join that. Instead I guarded the bags while he went to find some Virgin Atlantic staff. He returned a short while later, said something about he’d sorted it all out and to come with him. He then set off in Nick mode at 16 million miles an hour along the terminal as I trailed in his increasingly distant wake dragging my two bags in three different directions at once.
I arrived at the Virgin check-in to be told that Nick had talked us back onto the Virgin flight. It turned out that it hadn’t been cancelled at all. The London customer service centre had got the wrong end of the stick, as incredible as it sounds, in that they thought last night’s cancellation applied to tonight’s flight and started changing passengers onto BA accordingly. Nick’s conversation at the check-in desk resulted in him being offered the choice of staying on the BA flight or swapping back to Virgin… and obviously chose the latter. Then I must have cropped up in the conversation and Nick asked if I could be swapped back onto the VS flight too. I’m not sure if Nick or the check-in agent was the one having the joke, but apparently the request was somehow translated as swapping me from Upper Class to join Nick in Economy. That really would be having a laugh! It all got straightened out, and the upshot is we are back to where we started this time last night… albeit in evidently a much fuller aircraft as it will have two nights’ worth of passengers on board.
Through security and into the extremely warm welcome of the Boston Clubhouse. As I have remarked in previous holiday diaries, the manager of the Clubhouse here at Logan (and indeed his staff) is clearly a craft beer enthusiast. What has changed since my last visit, in 2013, is that there are now two fridges full of a wide variety of (mainly) New England brews. David heaven. All that and a Clubhouse burger built to my specification.
So far I’ve sampled a Sea Dog Hazelnut Porter and Shed Brewery Mountain Ale. [Update: Sea Dog (Portland, Maine) Wild Blueberry 4.6%. Undoubtedly something I’d steer clear of if I was buying a six-pack or a draft in a bar. Worth trying here, however. The blueberry was noticeable but not overpowering. Not like drinking alcoholic Ribena! Glad I tried it.]
See you back in Britain.