>To the Airport
At Pisa Airport
We left Ulverston, in the Lake District, at 3:30am on Thursday 14th May 1998,
bound for Manchester Airport and finally Pisa.
had kindly agreed to transport us to the airport after we found that North West Trains
dont run any through the night services to Manchester Airport. This is a
real shame. Im sure theyd have takers for it. We used the service from
Ulverston to Manchester Airport last year for the family holiday, and it was brilliant. No
changing trains, and direct to the terminals. The other alternative would have meant
spending around 7 hours at Terminal One. Id done that before when the French Air
Traffic Controllers were on strike, and it wasnt funny. When youve seen one
Sock Shop youve seen them all.
Anyhow, the bikes were strapped on the roofrack (a
little innovation Dad had knocked together in my time-trialling days), the panniers were
in the boot, and we were off. As you can imagine, roads at this time are pretty quiet, and
we were there at 6:00am. Plenty of time for our flight which was due to leave at 8:00am.
As we approached Terminal One, we noticed a height
restriction bar of around 66". The bikes certainly wouldnt go under that,
so we had to take them off the roofrack and wheel them the last 50 yards. Luckily, when we
taped the transmission up we made sure the back wheels still turned!
Loaded the bikes and panniers onto trolleys and
set off in search of the desks for our flight. There were two desks open, and we stood
back for a few minutes trying to decide which of the girls looked friendliest, or better
still, looked like she might do a bit of cycling herself. Konrads the smooth talker
so he went first. Shed evidently dealt with his sort before, and picked up the phone
to check whether there was a charge for bikes. We told her there wasnt,
wed checked all that, but she didnt want to believe us. There was no charge
she told us, and then we went through the weighing the luggage routine. Mine
was fine, but Konrads was slightly over the 20kg limit. She gave him a
plastic bag and told him to re-distribute some things. We couldnt understand this.
It would all weigh the same wouldnt it? Konrads charm must have worked though.
She said shed put us in Row 12 the emergency exit as there was more
leg room for us. So, we thanked her, Konrad put the plastic bag in his pocket and we went
off in the direction shed indicated we would need to take the bikes and panniers, as
they couldnt go down the normal luggage chute.
We found ourselves in a very long queue, full of
people carrying golf bags, surfboards, baby buggies and the like. Just as we neared our
turn, a man came along and asked us to follow him wed been in that queue for
20 minutes or more! He put the bikes and panniers through a large detector,
and that was the last we saw of them. We went off for a bacon sandwich and a cup of coffee
and waited for our departure.
The plane left on time, and we were away (praying
the bikes were coming on the same flight!). Unfortunately there was lots of low cloud over
Britain and most of France, so we didn't see too much at first, but it cleared later and
we were rewarded with some fantastic views of the Alps (from 29,000 feet), and in no time
at all (well around 2 hours) we were touching down at Pisa Airport.