Friday, January 8, 2016

The Journey to Aruba...

My journey to Aruba wasn't really what you would call smooth.  It actually got so comical by Saturday morning in Houston that I decided I needed to document it. Imagine that. ;)

It started off easy enough with my flight Friday afternoon from Kansas City to Dallas.  I got everything packed and ready to go for an undetermined amount of time in the Caribbean -- fanny pack included!   (Judge all you want, I'm going to make the fanny pack cool again.  It's the most handy thing to travel with!)

I got to the airport early and was at my gate in a matter of minutes, even with checking a bag.  It's small and carry-on eligible, but it was so heavy (40 pounds of clothes and shoes!) that I decided to just check it to not have the hassle. Normally I would be adamantly against checking anything, but my back has already been bothering me and the thought of carrying all of that just sounded awful.  So instead, I checked the suitcase ... And loaded up another smaller backpack with almost 30 pounds of food.  No joke.  Pretty much the worst job of packing I've ever done. 

Yes, that is 70.5 pounds of luggage.  Completely absurd.  (The suitcase alone was 40.5 pounds.)

Anywyas, on time departure from Kansas City and arrival in Dallas. 
Taking off, in the air, and landing in Dallas pictures ^^

We landed smoothly right around 4pm. I checked the monitor as soon as I got off and noticed there was another flight heading to Houston at 4:30, just a couple of gates down, and decided I would try for it.  I was too late, but there was another one leaving at 5 I thought I would get on.  (My departure wasn't until 6.)  But I checked that d@%n I would have to wait at the airport in Houston for it anyways.  I decided to just wait it out in Dallas.

I was planning on dinner in Houston with Stephen and Elizabeth, so I just went to Jason's Delli and grabbed a small bag of chips to hold me over until I got there.  We boarded on time and were on the runway, literally getting ready to take off when they said, "There is just a slight delay, 10 minutes or so, and then we'll be on our way. We'll update you soon."


TWO.HOURS.LATER. We were still on the runway.  They gave us very little in the way of an update, and I actually discovered on my own (through googling) that there was large hail in Houston and the airport was shut down.  So back to the gate we went.  Finally.  They kicked us all of and said they would give us another update at 8:15.  I had already waited in a giant long line to talk to an agent to see about getting on one of the two later flights, or even one tomorrow morning.  AND I called Southwest while I was in line.  I've been through enough flight delays and cancellations that I know you have to make every possible effort to beat the other people on the flight if you want to get to your destination.  But after talking to people about renting a car and driving and debating over weather maps, I decided to wait it out - again - to see what happened with my flight.

I went to Jason's Delli and grabbed a cup of soup...and more chips.  The same girls was working and was like, "You're back for more chips?"  Yeah lady, don't talk to me right now.  Just give me the chips. ;)
 Waiting it out turned out to be the right call.  We finally boarded again, and actually took off this time! I felt so bad for a handful of people who had literally just decided about 10 minutes prior to rent a car and drive.  They were not about to miss the Chiefs game in Houston tomorrow and didn't want to wait around!  (Also, two other Chiefs fans got drunk and Chilis during our break and got kicked off the plane before we took off!  They are NOT going to be happy about that decision when they sober up!)

So the flight to Houston.  The one I thought would never come!  It was about an hour long and I slept the whole time.  We landed around 10:30.  Great.  BUT -- we didn't have a gate.  The airport was a complete disaster from being shut down and everything was screwy.  Planes trying to get in and out everywhere and we were stuck.  On the runway.  Again.

And all this time -- since 7pm -- Elizabeth had been sitting at the airport waiting for me.  To say I felt awful about that is an understatement.

I was so anxious to get my bag (and so mad that I checked it) because I knew she was waiting.  But the next disaster for the day was baggage claim.  Again, with the airport being shut down and then everything happening at once...they were behind.  Like, way behind.  And I mean, it's not their fault.  They kept apologizing over the loud speaker and just can't saying we're really behind...but I stood there walking fro carousel to carousel for ... Another hour and a half.  They couldn't keep which flights were on which carousel so everyone was angry and stomping around and pushing their way to the front of whichever one moved.  It took over an HOUR!  I still can't believe it.  Poor Elizabeth.  We finally left the airport at almost midnight for the 45 minute drive back to their house.  Ugh.

So yeah, kind of a bust of a night.  I wanted to go out for Mexican and catch up and tell stories.  Instead I fell in bed at 1am, and wasn't too pumped at all when the alarm went off at 6:30am.  But I got  up, quickly showered, put the same clothes back on, and was out the door by 7am, back to the airport.  

Things were looking up when I got to enjoy this beautiful sunrise on the drive:

Stephen drove me back and we had the most interesting conversation about land conservation and sustainable farming.  He's a brilliant guy and has big ideas that I'm excited to watch play out!  He dropped me off at the airport at 7:30am...plenty early for my 10am departure for Aruba.

But wait, this is where the story gets better.  And by better, I mean worse.

They had kiosks with short-ish lines to tag your own bag.  I waited in line for one of these, hoping I could get away with avoiding the long line for full-service.  But once I got up there, no luck.  International flight.  Had to go wait in a different line.  (I mean I knew that, but wanted to try anyways.)

So off I went...but not to the regular full service line, there was a separate International line that was even longer.  Awesome.  And after standing there for almost 15 minutes and literally not moving, I started looking around to the front of the line.  Southwest had ONE lady checking people in for International departures.  ONE.  On a Saturday morning when there were lots of international departures.  WTF.

They eventually realized they were screwed and got 4 more people over there to check in.  I made it to the front 40 minutes later.  Should be smooth sailing.  Here's my bag, it's under 50 pounds.  And here's my passport.  Done.  Right?


"Oh, you're going to Aruba.  I see here you have to have a return flight booked before I can give you a boarding pass." 

Say whaaaaat?

Are you serious?  Look lady, I don't know when I'm coming home!  A few months maybe?  So she calls somebody else over.  They call someone else over, too.  I'm arguing (nicely) with them, telling them my situation.  Not happening.  The system literally would not let them issue my boarding pass without a departing flight from Aruba. 

Talk about holding up the line...  No big deal.  Sure, just let me plan out the next couple of weeks and book a flight in .5 seconds while I stand here and hold up the line.  Not that I really cared about that by that point.  So, F Aruba.  I booked a flight out to Bonaire for Wednesday.  Basically, I have three days in Aruba, and I think that's all I'll need to see what I want to see.  I have a feeling it's going to be super touristy and that's not my style.  At all.  I'll spend more time on the less touristy neighboring island.  (But if I do want to stay longer in Aruba, it's only $25 to change my flight, so really not a big deal.)

I showed them my booking on my phone, and they were like, "Yeah, this might work.  Sometimes you have to have it printed out."  I swear I would have jumped across the booth and strangled her if she made me go try and find a printer for a freaking online booking after all that...  But it worked.  I got my boarding pass.

Moving on.  That had to be the worst of it, right?

No.  I turned a corner and saw the longest security line I've ever seen.  Literally.  And I've seen some monsters.  I guess it was all a disaster because so many flights got cancelled last night and everyone was trying to get out this morning.

I mean couldn't even see the end of the line at this point.  And when I eventually did get up to what I thought was the actually looped around not two times, not four times...SIX times it zig zagged back and forth.  For another 40 minutes, I drag and/or kick a 30 pound backpack up and down the security line.  

I talked to two different agent asking if I could skip the line and go to the Pre-check line.  I have TSA pre-check and a Global Entry card, but no.  Apparently that doesn't work at this airport for international flights.  Ugghh.  I had plenty of time still, thank goodness I got there so early, but still, I was getting madder by the minute. (I know, madder isn't a word.  I don't care.)

I finally got up to the front, so annoyed that I had to take my shoes off and all of that jazz.  I'm used to just breezing through the line with pre-check.  I did remember to take my laptop out, but sure enough, my bag got pulled off the belt to be searched.  Along with 6 other bags ahead of mine and the slowest old lady searching them. 

Another 10 minutes of standing and waiting.  I told her it was probably the food in the bottom of my backpack and she seemed so annoyed that she had to unpack it all.  Yeah, tell me about it.  I'm annoyed, too!

So she pulls out the big green bag of food and starts emptying it.  Bars and trail mix and little Justin's almond butter packets and organiz chia seed/fruit squeezer packets.  Aahhh those were the item.  She said they were liquid.  I argued.  Come on, how can you call that a liquid?  And the peanut butter?  That is SO not a liquid!

The best I could talk her in to was letting me keep 4 chia packets and all the peanut butter.  Because no one can argue that that is NOT a liquid!  I was still pretty angry.  I just bought four boxes of those things at Target, to the tune of about $40.  And now?  Gone.  She just tossed them all in the trash can.  I asked her if she could keep them and eat them herself or give them away and she said no and she tossed them one at a time.  So. Not. Happy.

And then she just handed me my now emptied backpack in two bins and said have a nice day.  If it was feasible at all, I would have went back and checked them, but there was no way with time I could go back through either of those lines, and my bag was long gone by then anyways.  What a waste. 

Moving. On.  (And I'm pissed by now.)

I look for some place to get some food and just relax.  I made it through everything.  Just have to get on the flight now and enjoy vacation.  I spot a Starbucks and get in line for my usual:  blueberry muffin, oatmeal, and a Strawberry smoothie.

I order, and they don't have oatmeal at this location.  Fine.  I'll take the other two.  I pay for it, and then go wait to the side.  Almost immediately someone comes up to me and says they are out of bananas (for the smoothie) but they can put more strawberries or protein powder in or something.  No.  You can't tell me there aren't any bananas in this place.  I'll wait.  Go find a banana.  10 minutes later, a dude comes in with bananas.  Thank you.

Oh wait, just kidding.  AND turns out they're out of strawberries, too.  You have got to be kidding me.  How is this even possible?

So they send someone "downstairs" again to find strawberries and he comes back with some sort of mango something.  NO.  I do not like mango.  Unbelievable.  And no oatmeal.  Period.  And they forgot my muffin.

I was beyond the upset point by this and was honestly just laughing.  At some point it just turns to that.  I laughed and was like, look, just give my muffin (sent it back to have it warmed up), give me a Naked drink and a banana and we'll call it good.  They threw in two free drink coupons for good measure.  That was another 20 minute ordeal at Starbucks.   

I really was calm and over the stress by now.  Sat down at my gate and the texts started coming in.  Delayed.  

25 minute then 40 minute delay.  HA!  Literally comical by this point.  Maybe Aruba just wasn't meant to be today?? ;)

OH - and I know this is TMI for a blog, but I also started my period and brilliantly left my tampons in my checked bag.  So smart. 

ROUGH. START.  That's all I'll say, hahaha!

I don't mean to sound completely negative, but it had to be one of the worst starts to a trip I've been on!  I know it could have been worse, but my trips usually go pretty smoothly so this was a lot to deal with.

Thankfully, my luck turned around. The flight wasn't delayed too much more, and I arranged an airpot pick up in Aruba while I waited.  Outside of sitting on the plan for 35 minutes before we finally took off, the flight itself was smooth and I slept some.  Which I needed.  Badly. 

{I also wrote a Thank You card to Stephen and Elizabeth, and bribed a Southwest flight attendant to mail it back in the US for me with my two free Starbucks drink coupons.}  

We landed in Oranjastead, Aruba, around 5pm local time, which was 3pm back home in Kansas.  Almost 24 hours of basically nothing but travel time.  Apart from the 5 hours in a bed Saturday night, I've either been in a car, in an airport, or on an airplane.  It was supposed to be such a short and easy trip!  How did this happen!? The blast of warm air when I stepped off the airplane made it all worth it though.  

Aaahhh.  87 and humid never felt so good.

Immigration was quick and easy, my bag came right away, and there was free wifi at the airport to let my arranged ride know I was there.

Now off to explore Aruba!  I'll update more in the next few days..

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