“I don’t always travel to Bali, but when I do I enjoy drinking a Bintang beer from a frosty Bali Hai mug. Poolside of course.”
If ignorance truly is bliss, the airlines must be laughing hysterically.
As I mentioned in an earlier post at some point during my lengthy from fair America, domestic airlines started charging fees to check bags. Of course, the consequence of this misguided policy should have been readily apparent–people would stop checking bags, at least whenever possible.
On every leg of this trip the airline has requested volunteers to check bags at the gate due to space in the overhead for carry-on luggage. At no charge of course. So, what have the saved or how have the profited by charging to check bags in the first place?
Anyway, having figured how the game is played, we bought two small carry-on size bags and consolidated all that stuff (rice cooker, stove, etc.) knowing full well we’d get to check them at the gate for free. Sweet!
Man, it’s been a long time since I did domestic travel. Things are worse than ever. That crappy airline food they used to give away free (and it was overpriced even then), you now have to pay for. And that luggage you brought along with the price of the ticket now comes with an extra charge. Just more crap in the pain in the ass that modern air travel has become. Here’s the story of my getting to Las Vegas.
I mentioned to Jee Yeun that we’d have to pay the baggage surcharge so she somehow managed to get EVERYTHING in one bag (not counting our jammed carry-on backpacks). So, I paid US Airways twenty-five bucks for the privilege of actually checking a bag and put that sucker proudly on the scale. It was 58 pounds, eight pounds over the limit. “That will be $90.00 unless you can lose 8 pounds” the counter person said brusquely. Being properly motivated, I opened the bag and transferred the kimchi and portable cook stove (two items Jee Yeun won’t travel without) to a carry on sack and that brought us down to 49.5 pounds. Mission accomplished!
I asked the counter person about getting me and Jee Yeun seats together and she asked if we could do the exit row. WooHoo! More leg room methinks. But apparently there was a problem, so she gets on the phone, then comes back to explain that the exit row is only available from Charlotte to Phoenix. “Phoenix?” I ask incredulously. “I thought it was direct to Las Vegas!” She then explained that indeed my flight was going to Las Vegas, but it was making a stop in Phoenix first. OK, well I don’t remember seeing that on the itinerary when I bought the ticket, but whatever. She said she could put us in a different exit row from Phoenix to Las Vegas, we’d just have to move upon landing. Alright, fine. I can do that.
Upon landing in Charlotte I noticed that I didn’t have a boarding pass for the CLT-PHX leg, just a “reboarding pass” to my new seats to Las Vegas. No big deal, the counter person fixed me up and we settled in to wait for take off. Presently, they announced the flight was full and they wanted folks to check any bag that wouldn’t fit under the seat (no charge of course). We were going to be waiting for the one bag we checked anyway, so being the nice guy that I am I volunteered. I asked Jee Yeun’s daughter Sohee (who speaks very little English) to bring me the small suitcase she carried on the plane. She said the man took it from her when we boarded the small commuter jet in Columbia. OH SHIT! She gate checked the bag and didn’t pick up when we landed in Charlotte!
I go back to the counter and explained to the man there what had happened. He gave me a look that said “you are so screwed!” and told me my only option was to go back to the gate where we landed and see if it was still there. Problem was, we landed at “E” terminal and were departing for “B” terminal. If you happen to be familiar with Charlotte’s airport, you know those two points are as far apart as east is from west. Plus, the were boarding my flight to PHX-LAV which gave me about twenty minutes tops to retrieve the wayward bag and haul ass back to “B” terminal.
So, I did the OJ Simpson run through the airport and when I arrived back in “E” terminal I realized I wasn’t exactly sure which gate we had arrived at. E-3 looked kinda familiar so I started there. No dice I was told. Try E-6. Then I got sent to E-4 where a ground crew guy took pity on me and looked it up to confirm I had arrived at E-6. He said not to get my hopes up because if no one picks up the bag, they send it to baggage claim. Which would mean me exiting the terminal and going back through security. I definitely did not have time for that! As luck would have it, my bag was indeed still waiting at E-6. And I now had less than 10 minutes to get back to “B” terminal. When I told the ground guy what time my plane left he gave me that same “man, are you screwed” look and suggested that I “run”. So, run I did and made it back as the last of the passengers were boarding.
Now, if you’ve seen me you know I’m not in as good of shape as I once was. And a brisk walk is about as fast as I ever go these days. After running from one end of the Charlotte airport to the other I was sucking wind. When I sat down in my seat I was convinced I was having a heart attack. I could almost hear that tired workhorse in my chest pounding, I was sweating like crazy, and really breathing hard. I was hoping there was a doctor on board just in case I conked out at 30,000 feet. I am happy to report I didn’t. But I might have.
Oh, and those exit row seats I’d scored in Columbia? They were not the “good” exit row seats where you have about 6 feet of leg room. It was the row behind that one. I’m not sure why it’s even considered an exit row. You get no additional leg room, and given my belated boarding, I had to put my overstuffed backpack under the seat in front of me, leaving next to no space to stretch my tired legs. And my seat didn’t even recline! Suffice to say I had an uncomfortable ride to the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. Which has got to be the coolest name for an airport I ever did hear. Although the airport itself is old, outdated, and overcrowded.
The rest of the journey went pretty much without incident. Both the big and the wayward bags found themselves together on the baggage carousel and after a short cab ride we arrived at the Tuscany Suites hotel right around noontime not much worse for the wear. Check-in time was 3:00 p.m. but I was told that for a mere $12.00 (plus tax) I could get an early check-in. I said “Let me get this straight. You have a room that I’ve paid ready and waiting for me, but I can’t use it unless I give you another twelve dollars?” The clerk nodded affirmatively. At first I said fuck it, check me in. But then it occurred to me that this was a matter of principle and I declined to pay the surcharge.
When I told Jee Yeun and the kids what I had done, they were not happy campers (an no one does “unhappy camper” like a Korean. We had started our day at 0400 and everyone was tired (although I was the only one who had done wind sprints). Admitting defeat, I went back up to the check-in counter and announced to a nice young man named Ernest that I had reconsidered I would indeed take the early check-in. I told him again how ridiculous I thought the charge was. He gave me a conspiratorial look and almost whispered “I’ll waive it for you”. Alright! Now you’re talking! When the paperwork was complete I congratulated him on his customer service skills and said “that’s the importance of being earnest!” He looked at me like that was first time he’d heard that witticism. Today. Ah well. Sometimes I can’t help but go a little Wilde.
Turns out, what the Tuscany gives, it takes away. Wireless internet is twelve bucks a day. Per device! Bastards.
At 0530 I’ll be boarding my flight at Columbia’s small but efficient Metropolitan Airport. Over the course of the weekend I expect I’ll see such sights as the Eiffel Tower, the canals of Venice, the Great Pyramid, and the New York skyline. I’ll be lodging in Tuscany.
That’s right, Sin City. Where day is night and night is day. The bright lights, glitz and faux glamor that all come together in that quaint desert village we like to call Las Vegas.
South Carolina recognizes common law marriage. Immigration and the IRS do not, so I’ll be making everything legal and tidy and hopefully completely to the satisfaction of my dear old Uncle Sam.
I’ll also be participating in the New World Dart Series event, sanctioned by the North American Professional Darts Association. Hey, if you can’t throw like a pro, you may as well get beat by some. Or so my thinking goes. It will be a good experience, especially given my fondness for harsh mistresses.
And that’s about it from here.
I spent the weekend in Virginia Beach getting my ass kicked in darts. It’s hard work being the tournament patsy and I did develop quite the appetite. After all, man does not live by low carb beer alone. They had a great snack bar set up for the tourney participants. Unfortunately, the selections were all rich in carbohydrates. Which led me to the hotel’s seaside restaurant in search of something healthy to eat. The best choice for me seemed to be the surf and turf salad and I ordered one up. After quite the wait, the server brought me a plate of leaves covered in strawberries. I said “what’s this?” and she told me it was the surf and turf salad I’d ordered. Well I took my fork and demonstrated for her that this particular salad was lacking in both the surf and the turf. “Oh” she replied, “we only serve the surf and turf on Sunday, so the kitchen must have gotten confused.” Apparently. After another long wait I got what I ordered, a tasty salad with some strips of steak and some small shrimps.
It ain’t easy keeping to this diet when I travel, although my sweetie did her best to keep me supplied with healthy snacks. And if this week’s weigh-in is any indication, the sacrifices seem to be paying off. I’ve even noticed a slight change appearance-wise. I’m still a big bellied MFer, but when poked my stomach now has some give. It used to be as hard as a watermelon. So, there’s that.
This week’s weight (still using my unreliable scale) is 263.5, down an amazing 3.5 pounds from last week and an incredible 15 pounds from the 278.5 I weighed on February 19. I pray to Buddha that I will continue to look less like him with each passing week.
My girth has dropped to 49″, down from last week’s 50.5″ and 2.5″ from my 51.5″ starting point.
Yes, I am pleased. I still have a long, long way to go to reach my target of around 220 pounds. That’s still on the high side according to the experts who claim my healthy weight to be 180 (I’m 6′ 1″ tall). I haven’t been that skinny since high school and I don’t expect, or really want, to be that thin again in this lifetime.
I’m thinking this week’s results are likely an outlier, but I’m obviously pleased to be heading in the right direction.
Although my dart game was in the toilet all weekend, I did meet some folks with a Korea connection. They had been living down Songtan way, a place I visit for darts only a couple of times a year. But we knew some of the same people and it was nice to encounter some fellow lovers of Korea. They really got a kick out of my Walrus dart jersey.
…Virginia Beach to be precise.
Here for a rather large annual dart tournament, the aptly named Virginia Beach Dart Classic. An interesting ride getting out here. From an amazing sunrise in South Carolina to a surprising heavy snowstorm in Virginia. The sun was quite beautiful until it began frying my retinas. Driving blind is not as much fun as it sounds. It’s 36 degrees Fahrenheit, so at least the snow wasn’t sticking. There is, however, an icy wind a blowing that makes standing on the 6th floor balcony quite painful.
Oh, the reason I was up before the sun this morning was to make the 6 hour drive and arrive in time for the two o’clock start of the Pro Cricket qualifying event. Having arrived at just prior to one, I was feeling rather pleased with myself. Right up until I noticed the start time is four o’clock. Duh! In my defense, the actual Pro Cricket event does start at two tomorrow. So you can see how I might have been confused.
Speaking of Pros, I see from the sign-up list that some of the top darters in the country have turned out. That should make the punishment that will shortly be coming my way all the more delicious.
Ah well, there’s always the view…
Anyone up for a road trip to the
Leaving the traffic of Seoul behind and heading out to the country on Highway 6.
Most of the trip is two lane blacktop which is the way I prefer to roll.
You don’t so much go over the mountains as you do going through them.
A rest area where Jee Yeun refreshes herself with noodles and kimchi.
More tunnels. I swear the Korean people must be descended from Tolkien’s dwarves.
The long and winding road that leads me to your door…
…well, our beachfront hotel room door anyway.
A room with a view for about forty bucks thanks to Jee Yeun’s well developed negotiating skills.
One view from the room…
What do you do with a rainy day at the beach? Find a coffee shop of course.
Here’s one of the reasons Jee Yeun is so special. Most folks would be disappointed that it was raining at the beach. Jee Yeun said “isn’t it great to sit here and smell the coffee and watching it rain!” Even the butterfly (moth?) seemed to agree.
Me contemplating the wisdom of Jee Yeun’s words.
Like the Morton salt girl, when it rains it pours. But that’s alright.
As they say in old Mexico: sometimes life’s a beach.
Remembering one of the highlights of my Bali excursion. The dance told the story of the Hindus, or at least one of the stories. It was chock full of good and evil, damsels in distress, and heroism. Me, I like watching the exotic dancers.
…has led me to my first trip to Japan. Well, outside the confines of an airport anyway. We are in Osaka for a couple of days. It seems like a pretty nice city so far. I’m in a Japanese-sized hotel room (small but efficient) in a pretty classy looking hotel.
And it has this feature I’ve never seen in a hotel before–a built-in wedding chapel. Sure, lots of hotels have wedding halls. This is a frickin’ chapel!
Anyway, gonna doing some exploring tonight. Maybe some darts later. Tomorrow a tour of nearby Kyoto.
More to come!
Just back from a long drive to Enid, Oklahoma and Memphis, Tennessee. Family reunion with the Foltz (maternal) side of the family and deposited dad’s ashes in the Mississippi river so he could begin his long journey back to the sea. Pictures and commentary to follow.
I did encounter this old pioneer protecting his claim from the 1893 land rush in the Cherokee Strip.
Smack dab in the middle of Manhattan is a small Koreatown. I came upon it quite by accident while wondering the streets one day. Suddenly there were familiar banks, signs in Hangul, and a fair selection of Korean restaurants.
…but I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. If you ear what I’m saying.
Sweet eats on the beach in Bali.
Places I Go
John McCrarey: That's the plan. It