Tuesday, April 03, 2007

DAY 1, TUCSON EXPERIENCE.

As usual, when packing to leave for anywhere, it is a mad scramble to decide what to take. If I didn't mention it before, I'll mention it now, whererever I have gone over the past 4 years, regardless of what the weather is supposed to be, cold weather follows me. That pretty much is one reason I don't put too much stock in the global warming debate. :) To be safe, then, I packed jackets and winter gear, running and otherwise.

We had a mid-morning flight, which would bring us into Tucson around 3:15 pm. I figured that this would get us there just about the time Fe-Lady would be out of work, so we would be able to go straight from the airport to her house.

I have flown quite a bit over the last 4 years, but the whole airport experience is just getting worse, in my opinion. While I am glad that more precautions are taken to screen passengers, in an attempt to make it safer for all of us, the whole procedure gets a little annoying, and I figure it is only a matter of time before they--whoever "they" are--figure out something else we need to be afraid of.

The Grand Rapids airport is small by most standards--we only have 3 luggage carousels if that's any indication of size. But they take their TSA duties seriously! The security here is almost ridiculous compared to some larger cities I have been in. For example, don't even think of stopping your vehicle at the curb for more than a few seconds, just long enough to hop out and throw your luggage to the curb. The security guys are ready and waiting to scare you off if you even hesitate! The other thing is the new rules about carry on items, specifically "gels, lotions, and aerosols." Everything has to be 3.4 ounces or less. I couldn't remember what the size rule was, but was careful about packing things in see-through bags or putting them in my checked luggage. I made a couple of mistakes, however, because I had a half-used tube of toothpaste, in a clear baggie, which probably only had 2 ounces of toothpaste left. I had forgotten to get a travel size so threw that in at the last minute. Wrong move! The tube said "4.6 ounces" even though, like I said, probably only 2 ounces were left. Had to throw that out. Then, in the screening process, I got stopped again because I had an unbagged "liquid" in my carry-on backpack. Since I hadn't used that since last summer, I totally forgot about a small, liquid bug spray container that was in a side pocket. That, however, was under the 3.4 ounce limit, so I was allowed to keep that, but had to put it into a clear bag. It would seem to me a partially used tube of toothpaste would be less of a threat than bug spray, but who am I to decide that??

The flight from GR to Houston, our layover destination, was uneventful, other than the usual trauma to my eardrums. Arriving in Houston, it was sunny, 75, and HUMID! We decided to get something to eat before heading to our departure gate, since it was now about noon our time, and we had an almost 2 hour layover. Our departure gate seemed like it was almost a mile from where the terminal was we were droppped off in. While we sat there waiting for the flight, we both noticed a line of shuttle busses, too many to count. And they were all running. So much for the environment, right? It occurred to me then that we would be shuttled to our plane, wherever that was. So, let me get this straight: they drop you off in one spot, make you walk a country mile to the next departure gate, and then shuttle you back to your plane. Yeah, that makes perfect sense.

We finally got our call for boarding, and headed onto the shuttle bus. Because I had missed a last chance for a bathroom break before we boarded the plane, I decided to head straight for the plane bathroom, so I wouldn't have to get up during the flight. The first thing I encountered was no light in the bathroom. I opened and shut the door a couple of times before it finally came on. Then I discovered the toilet did not flush and there was no running water in the sink. Hmm. Houston, we have a problem!

Going back to my seat, I also found that the overhead light didn't work, and the woman I was sitting next to had the shade drawn, so it was hard for me to see to read. After waiting to take off for several minutes past the scheduled departure time, some of the passengers were moving to empty seats, so I asked to move to a single seat on the opposite side of the plane so I had a window to see by. I no sooner got comfortable in my seat than the pilot said we would be switching planes because apparently something had been left running from an earlier flight, and now there was no battery power in the plane. Don later commented that he didn't realize planes ran by battery power! Whatever the problem, we now had to deboard, get back on shuttles, and wait for another plane. This experience, again, left something to be desired. I noticed Don was getting on a different bus than I, so decided to get on his bus. Again, wrong move! The woman bus driver barked at me to get back on my bus. When I tried to explain what my motive was, she again barked at me there was no room and to get back on my bus. Whatever! Did it make any difference whether I stood on one bus or the other??

By this time, I was getting irritable. I just have so much tolerance for this kind of stuff and wanted to be done with the whole flight. It was hot on the plane too. We were already late by over an hour leaving, and we still had another 2+ hours to Tucson. At this point, I figured we would be arriving later than expected, and was worried about not being able to let anyone know. But, as usually happens, they make up for lost time somehow, and we arrived only about 20 minutes late.

Tucson! We were here! It was a beautiful day, but windy. The view from the plane windows was so welcoming: sunshine, blue skies, mountains. We deboarded, got our luggage, and then started the long hike to the rental cars, only to find out our car rental location was off site. We had to take a shuttle to get a car. By this time, it was about 4 pm, and I attempted to call Fe-Lady to tell her we had arrived late but were getting the car and would be there soon. I went over the directions I had printed out ahead of time, and told her we would be there soon. Since she is located only about 20 minutes from the airport, I figured it would be soon.

Wrong! Not knowing which direction was which, and not really understanding the consequences of one wrong move in trying to follow the directions, we found ourselves way off track. After driving for almost 30 minutes, I knew we had to call and reverify our directions. By now, it was almost 5 pm. I knew there were people waiting for us, and I get edgy about this. We got some further instruction on how to get to her house, but again, without knowing direction--north/south or east/west--we were guessing. Fortunately we guessed correctly, but still continued off track trying to find our way. After another 30 minutes, I called again, and after that we just winged it until we finally figured out where we were! It probably was after 6 pm when we finally arrived, much to everyone's relief, I'm sure.

And here we were! I finally got to meet Fe-Lady! We both felt as if we had known each other for a long time. She and her husband were very warm and hospitable, and showed us the guest house we would be staying in. It was so cute and comfortable looking! Almost like a hotel room in size.

The weather by now had gotten quite windy, and it had cooled down. We went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner, and then headed back to their place for some talk. It was getting late when we finally headed to bed, and it wasn't long before I was zonked out for the night. It was after midnight our time, so we were beat. Tomorrow would be another day.

2 comments:

Fe-lady said...

Blah...WHY did you post that pix!!??? Oh, I know..YOU look good in it...I look pretty awful! :-(

Lisa - Slow & Steady said...

air travel can be a pain in the neck!! but you got there eventually and it sounds like you had a really nice time. YAY!!