Wednesday 21 June

An early morning start for four of us today. It’s going to be a long one. The check-in at Delta airlines in Düsseldorf felt like we were in a pick-up bar. Two friendly ladies in airline uniforms chatting us up almost as if they were flirting – an odd charade as an exercise in passenger profiling. Disconcerting, but hey, if that’s the price we have to pay to travel safely, then I don’t mind talking to strangers about submarines!

After a long bumpy airplane ride to Atlanta, we get our first experience of Trump’s America. US Customs and Border Control has never been an inspiring experience, but now they’ve redefined inefficiency. An hour and a half later we’re going through Security again. Airport strip-tease is the new sport of the day. Then sprint across the jungle of Atlanta airport to the connecting flight. Hopefully our luggage had an easier time in Customs.

A short flight on an ancient airplane, and voila. Washington. Dulles Airport. Smooth. Team reunion at baggage reclaim, and off to the rental car company. Here we were in for a shock. I’d forgotten how sparing North American car rental companies are with truth in advertising. The $400 price I’d agreed to online for a two-week booking turned into $1500 by the time they were done adding the minimum insurance and taxes! Too tired and too surprised to care anymore, I begrudgingly traded my long-suffering credit card for the keys to a nondescript Virginia-plated Something-or-Another with wheels.

After that it got better. The motorway was clear in to town (a minor miracle in Washington DC), the hotel was clean (if a little run-down), and dinner at “Social Burger” was excellent, including the Bitburger Radler! Email checked – the submarine is in Washington! All is good.