so, once in heathrow airport, the bullshit started almost immediately. i'll say right now that it's currently 6am and we're all pretty exhausted from not really sleeping after the wolverhampton show. so, keep all of this in mind as you read on.
now, we knew that our bags were likely to be overweight...they were incredibly close to the maximum weight allowance when we were flying over to germany, and now we'd added a significant amount of extra weight due to all the merch that we returned with. of course, the allowance is higher for international travel (as it damn well should be).
so we get to the counter, and the dude weighs our bag. of course, the bag is 4 kilos over the limit. so we start trying to move things around, but it's pretty clear that it's not going to work. the dude suggests that we go buy another bag so that we can split up the weight. now, of course, if we're going to carry that weight anyway, WHY it has to be split up amongst two different bags makes no fucking sense to me (when you're already lugging a suitcase, a backpack, and a guitar, one extra bag goes...where exactly?). picture me getting homicidal at 6am. so, while we wait there at the desk, da5id goes off in search of a duffel bag or something that we can use to haul the merch home. finally, he returns with a duffel bag, we move things around, and are now magically under the weight limit. as we head over towards security, i say "so, how much did that bag set us back?" da5id: "oh...you don't want to know...85 pounds..". at the current exchange rate, that means that we spent 138 dollars on a small gym bag. can you taste the excitement?!
in any case, we made it to security. now, i have to say...security screening in non-u.s. airports is a dream compared to flying within the continental u.s., whenever i fly in the u.s. i have to get secondary screening due to the amount of metal i'm wearing. it's a pain in the ass, and they go through everything in my bags, etc etc. when we were flying through munich, hamburg, and heathrow airports, i didn't have any of these types of issues and we got through security in 1/10th of the time that it usually takes us. this was a good thing. of course, at this point we were starving and had to try to figure out where our gate was, but the gate wouldn't be posted for another hour or so (we got there pretty early).
grabbed breakfast at a rather decent restaurant (actual nutrients), and discussed the tour as a whole, things we did wrong, things we did right, things we would change the next time we go on the road. all in all, a great breakfast, even if it was crazily expensive (i think it was like 60 dollars, after the exchange rate).
we boarded with little difficulty and began the eight hour flight back to chicago. i won't bore you with the details, but it was endless and sleepless (for me) for the most part. next thing i knew, we were landing in chicago...where i walked off the plane and one of the very first things i saw was a bookstore wall covered in copies of glenn beck's new book. at that point, i more or less wanted to turn around and get back on the plane, and go right back...monkey island or not! no such luck, as it turns out.
when you make an international journey, you have to go through customs on the way back into the states. so, we had to declare all of the merch that we had with us (which was something like 80 t-shirts or so, plus some cd's). they had to calculate the value, etc etc, and apparently (as we learned) if the shirts were made of cotton, the percentage they charge you is 29.6%. if it's listed as "other", its 6.7% or so. so, the woman that ran us through customs cut us a break, listed it as "other", and we made it out of there with only a 50$ customs payment necessary to bring our merch into the country (hello switzerland, is it groundhogs day again?). the woman at customs was without question the nicest official that we dealt with throughout this ordeal.
another lovely hurdle that must be passed through is going through u.s. security screening...again! basically, even though you've been trapped on a plane for 8 hours, then dealt with passport control and customs, you are forced out of the security zone, and have to go through security all over again. this makes a ton of sense. so, out we go back in again. this is where i nearly lost my mind. picture me after being mostly awake for something like 30 hours, exhausted, and standing in a capacity security line.
now picture this mutated gate troll coming over and demanding that aaron and i get out of line because we have guitars as carry-on luggage. i suppose i should offer an aside here...on every flight, we always carried the guitars on, and stowed them in the plane coat closet. this was great because a) we did not have to check our guitars and leave them to the baggage apes to destroy, b) see reason a. so, as you can imagine, on the very last leg of the entire journey, to get pulled out of line when it was _never_ a problem before...i could happily have pulled this trolls head off. so we get out of the security line (da5id got to stay), and dragged over to talk to the people who deal with checked baggage. the troll demands that we check our bag. i am too irate to say anything (i know that anything i say is going to get me in trouble, or possibly arrested at this point). aaron tells the woman at the counter that we'll be putting these into the coat closet, and that it's not been a problem on any other flight. the woman at the counter agrees, and says go ahead and board. this seems like the thing to do, but the gate troll isn't having it. she drags us to another person, who says the same thing. not to be outdone, she continues to pull us to person after person until she finds someone that backs her up. we stay firm and just say "we'll take our chances at the gate, if we can't board with the guitars we'll just gate check them". this seems to work, and we bid the gate troll a not so fond adieu...
naturally, there is zero problem getting through security, though when we get on the plane, there is a bit of a problem. the coat closet is full of stewardesses bags. to which i say "no problem" and proceed to start taking out their bags so that i can fit the guitars in. the stewardesses start making a bunch of frantic noises "oh sir you can't do that", but by then it's too late, and the guitars are in place. i'm too pissed and tired to deal with any further shit, so i just ignore them and go sit down.
fast forward another 4.5 hours and we are landing in san francisco. still haven't slept at all, so i'm really pushing the envelope on this sleep deprivation thing. aaron goes off to pick up his car so that he can drive us home, and da5id and i head down to baggage claim. now, of course, aaron has left with his baggage claim numbers. and of course, the baggage was actually shipped on an earlier flight so it's being held by baggage control. aaaand of course, we can't actually get all of the bags without aarons bag claim number. you can taste the frustration, right? i had to call aaron, have him read off the bag claim number to the baggage troll, and then they would release his bag to us. of all the times for us to not have our bags on the right flight...unbelieveable.
after all of this, we finally made it home. i took my first shower in 48 hours, and passed out into a deep, deep sleep.
thus concludes the tour. back in the united states, for better or worse. over and out.