30th – 31st August 2008

On Saturday, most of the team met up at the English XX clubhouse. The usual packing, re-packing and weighing ensued, and Baggage Master Stephen, a man of ample experience coped admirably with the task. In the evening, we ate dinner in the Surrey Clubhouse, and some team members embarrassed themselves playing darts.

Sunday morning came, and it was raining; thankfully, we were headed for warmer climes. It was John Pugsley’s birthday, and unfortunately a long day’s travelling beckoned. Whilst waiting for the coach, Jane commented that she was pleased that Emma was on the team as she would now no longer be the last to arrive. During the journey, things proved too much for James, who was to be found asleep at the back of the bus.

Having cleared customs in the usual painfully slow manner, we boarded the plane, and settled down for the 9 hour flight, which was delayed due to the weather. Before the flight took off, Nick was asked to fasten his seat belt, which he did grudgingly, and turning to his travel buddy, Holly, said “I can see we’re going to have some trouble with this one”, which caused the distraught trolley dolly to go and find a senior colleague. The distraught then proceeded to say that Nick had “accused her”, of what, she was particularly unclear. This did not have the desired effect, as her colleague, far from reprimanding the unruly judge asked whether everything was ok, to which Nick replied, looking up from his newspaper, “yes thank you, no problem here”, and carried on reading.

After flying to Denver, we split up the baggage and the main party said goodbye to those heading to Raton to stow the shooting kit (Webbie, James, Jane, and Holly). We then left for domestic departures to catch our flight to Las Vegas. At the other side of the hand luggage scanner, Andy was accosted by an officious young man for forgetting to remove some liquids from his baggage. Andy apologised, but the official was intent on trying to confiscate the items, as in his expert opinion, they looked to be over the volume limit: “Sir, we do things differently here in the US”, but on inspecting the smaller of the two items realised that it was under the limit, and that in fact, so was the larger. Tail now between legs, he sent Andy on his way.

Once we were settled into the next aeroplane, everyone was fairly tired and most slept; in England it was now 0330h. This slumber was broken by the descent, which was quite haphazard. We then bounced our way down the runway for one of the worst landings I have experienced. Upon disembarking, we noticed that the Pilot was female, a fact that some linked to the landing, although I couldn’t see the correlation.

We made it to our hotel and those who had not visited Vegas before realised that it would certainly be an interesting couple of days. We checked in and headed to our rooms and then met to plan the following day. At about 0130h, some of the team headed to the café for our first voluminous meal in America. Whilst wearing team uniform, dozens of friendly people asked us what sort of team we were, and upon hearing our response, invariably talked at length about their hunting exploits. After the meal, we went to the floor and Kelvin was in the mood for a flutter. Blackjack was his chosen game, and he sat down at a table with a very bubbly dealer. As the hands went by, the patter entertained us, and at one point Ed, standing behind was told to take his hands out of his pockets. He did this immediately, thinking that there was a rule in place. He was then told to put them back, and realised that the dealer was joking with him.

A passing blonde girl asked the dealer whether it would be allowed to put her hands in Ed’s pockets! Needless to say, Ed was quite surprised by this, but we knew that we had arrived in Vegas. Most went to bed at about 0300h (1100h in England).

Now, on to the Grand Canyon, more to follow soon.

Day 1 (Sunday) – The Journey out to USA