. . . And Back Again

I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
. . .
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from “Ulysses”

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Departure day! We had no plans for this day except to pack up, clean up, and return “Big Bertha,” our campervan, to the Britz headquarters in Auckland. We slept in (by our standards), somewhat unsuccessfully. We meant to wake up at 7 AM, but all had to go pee at 6:40. Ah well! We really had made a rhythm to all of our days on this trip.

We had our last campervan breakfast of toast and peanut butter and kiwis, along with the last of our instant coffee and tea.

We used the Wi-Fi at our Miranda campground to call home one last time. Papa had came home from work early, and the parents are excited to pick us up in Chicago “tonight”—which means tomorrow for them. It’s still such a weird time warp to think that, if all our flights went as planned, Lord willing, we’ll extend our September 16 for a long time, and it will be as if only 2 hours passed since we left Auckland.

Mama and Papa had planned on stopping over at our friend Jeanne M.’s house for dinner on their way to O’Hare. Jeanne was also our back-up overnight host in case our flight was delayed or we had to catch another one. Or, if we all decided to wait till morning to drive back to Grand Rapids after all. The parents said they were going to get groceries to restock the house; hamburgers are on the menu when we get home! We said our “see-you-soons” and then departed our Miranda campground shortly thereafter.

Auckland to Los Angeles to Chicago

The drive into the Auckland Airport area was only an hour and went by quickly. We first found where Britz Auckland was located, then wanted to find a nearby park where we could relax until it was closer to our drop-off time. William saw Ambury Regional Park in our GPS and remembered coming across the name in our trip research, so we decided to go there. It was about 10 minutes away and turned out to be a nice park to sit for awhile, enjoying our lunch next to a sheep pasture and watching school children, who seem to have been on a field trip to the park that day.

We then wiped down our campervan one last time using hand sanitizer and wet wipes as cleaner (we didn’t have any substantial cleaning supplies). We shook out the mats and double-checked every nook and cranny to make sure we weren’t forgetting anything or leaving behind any personal belongings. We first filled up the diesel, as required by our rental agreement, at a self-serve Pak ‘N’ Save. We then drove down back to Britz to return the vehicle.

The return process was as easy as can be. The woman who checked in our campervan took less than a minute. We got our full $250 deposit returned for having no damage. (She didn’t even notice our slight bumper dent, but there was pre-existing dents in that corner anyway.) It was not 15 minutes later when the shuttle for the airport arrived. We chilled in the international terminal, a little more than six hours before our departure flight. Since we were super early, we are checked out the gift shops and got some last-minute T-shirts and gifts. We would have perhaps done more with our morning, but as mentioned earlier, we didn’t want to risk behind late on anything the last day and miss our important flights home.

Our Auckland flight left on time and arrived in Los Angeles 11 hours and 20 minutes later. On flight, we watched a few movies (we all watched one called Aloha) Our meals were chicken and rice and scrambled eggs. We all rested and slept a little, though less than our first Pacific Ocean flight.

In LAX, we accidentally didn’t get off the shuttle at terminal 7/8 for United, thinking there would be separate drop-offs for 7 and 8, that made for a more nerve-wracking time getting to security for our Chicago flight. Our layover was already only 2 hours, so we were already cutting it a bit short for such a busy international airport, and so we had to ride the shuttler all the way around the booneys of the LAX parking lots and all the way through drop-off points 1 through 6 to get back to the 7/8 stop. We should’ve just walked in the end.

Customs had been fine, but security took longer because both Philip and Jessica were singled out for extra checks. Funnily enough, the Roaming Gnome gave Jessica problems because the sharp point of the hat was detected on the scanner, and the security guard thought it was a sharp object. We don’t know why Philip had been selected; just random extra screenings perhaps. But the guards were just doing their jobs, no matter how aggravating airport security can be sometimes.

Home “sweet as” home

Our final flight was speedy. We arrived in Chicago an hour early, thus we slightly beat the parents to O’Hare. We didn’t stick around too long before Papa drove us back 3+ hours to our home in Wyoming, Michigan. We shared many stories on our drive back and relaxed all Thursday continuing our saga.

We were back to our regularly scheduled lives, at least for a time. Who knows what adventure we’ll go on next, but we made it there and back again: Overbeeke siblings-style!

The end.

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