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Written By: Gary on September 5, 2008 2 Comments

So I left Tamarindo with more than enough time to spare to get to the airport. That’s it. The rest of the story pretty much writes itself doesn’t it? It’s clear I don’t make my plane but why? There’s the obvious like car problems and the not so obvious like I was abducted by aliens; I wasn’t abducted but it was certainly closer to that end of the continuum.

When I left Tamarindo it was raining but everything was fine. About ten minutes into the ride I get a few cars flashing their lights at me, usually a sign of a speed trap so I slowed down. A few turns later I see there was some kind of avalanche but I’m not sure if it’s from the rain or the earthquake from last night. There are some huge items about a meter in diameter but I’m not sure if it’s rock or mud either way I drove around it. I did pass a few more mini-avalances but some I probably could have just driven through and been okay.

But as I drive I notice the water is getting deeper on the sides of the road; I hadn’t noticed much at the start but I was much closer to the ocean so it has lots of options for drainage. Then I notice the fields are flooded on both sides of the road and while I’m not certain how tall the crops are I know the backs of those tires are under at least a dozen inches of water. Then it starts covering the road! What’s really nice is the few times that I can’t see what’s under the water (hopefully road) there are other cars so i just follow them along. The worst was probably about three-hundred feet(?) long. Many shorter ones but there were a few deep dips too; these weren’t wide but I didn’t know about flash flooding coming down these roads. The flooding is worse for the homes much of them are in water that is knee deep at parts but some are waist deep (some of these homes are on cement platforms but I don’t think many were more than 18 inches and most were less than a foot). No one seems panicky and some people were relaxing on a bench on a porch, it was really sad to see.

Then I see a quantity of people walking towards me on both sides of the road and now I’m in a traffic jam and I can’t see the other end of it. What’s going on? I’m still thinking I might catch this flight so I’m trying to get around everyone and this bus seems to know what he’s doing so I’m following him; we’re in the wrong lane at this point but there is no oncoming traffic. There’s a lot more people on the road, Should I be heading into the “fire”? The a traffic cop stops us, lets the bus through but tries to explain in Spanis to me and then leaves me for some other problem; when I see he’s busy I leave and then I see the problem so merge back into stopped traffic.

GuardiabridgeThe problem is there’s a bridge ahead so there has got of be some kind of a problem with it. But there are still refugees people coming off the bridge so it’s not collapsed. By very illegally parking and then walking to the bridge (it’s two bridges: an old one and a new one) and talking to a partially-English speaking officer and some others I determined I need to ditch my rental and cross the bridge. Oh, and at this point I’m pretty sure I’m not getting on that plane today.

Because the bridge will not be open until tomorrow and maybe not until the afternoon! But I guess even though they are concerned about the lower supports it’s okay for people and not cars. Did I mention it’s only 7 kilometers (4-5 miles) to the airport at this point?

Since then I’ve done some research, I believe this was the Guardia Bridge over the Tempisque River, ‘ve read on-line (nothing official or I’d quote that) that’s it’s 50 or 100 feet down. When I was on the bridge I’d say the water was 8-12 feet below but I’m not the best guesser at those kinds of guesstimates. Notice on the map (direct link) that this is the main road to get from the Nicoya Peninsula to the Liberia Airport. Zoom out and you’ll see it’s the only road to cross the river when it has any depth of water. That’s not really try if you zoom out farther you’ll see the huge Friendship Bridge (image) but since another trapped person told me she was going to San Jose (the long way) and she was avoiding that bridge for some reason that didn’t translate but I knew it was going to add hours (4-5?) to her trip it must be a good reason. And it turns out that this Tempisque River is the same river that forms the start of the Nicoya Bay (which, with the Pacific Ocean, makes the Nicoya peninsula).Back to getting off the peninsula: I think I can get a ride on the other side but I gotta get rid of the car. I can’t find a phone that takes change and I don’t know how to use these phones since I never make local calls and I normally use the computer. I try the hardware store but they’re closed, they have no power (I assume no power in this area). As I start to try to get a person to lend (or rent) me their cell phone an American woman (who just dropped her husband off at the bridge for the same flight) takes pity on me and lets me use her mobile to call the car rental place.

The phone bounces between several people that that can’t help me and I hear them conversing between each other and I know they don’t fully understand the problem. Finally I stick to “This has had to have happened before. How can I leave this car here and have you retrieve it later?” and repeat that to someone else and I get an answer: “Leave it at the hardware store and give the keys to the shuttle driver at the airport” plus he tells me there is no charge for this retrieval! That was pretty simple! But since the hardware store is closed the gate is locked so we settle on the gas station two kilometers down the road.

So I park there and the guy at the station speaks no english but somehow I’m truly confident he understands what I’m doing. Now I need a ride to the bridge, I can’t get a taxi or a phone to call one (or a bus) so I end up taking an illegal (which was parked near the bus stop but I didn’t know that’s what it was). The taxi driver is reading and has no idea where I’ve come from (this is important later) and knows he can’t cross the bridge so he doesn’t understand but I get him to do it for $2. So as were get to the traffic I bully him to drive around it and the traffic cop (I make it clear that he’s just “an hombre” not “a taxi”). The cop really yells at us and I can’t figure out why, but then I get realize why! I guess it’s tomorrow already because the bridge is open!!! I wasn’t going to argue about it!

So here’s the new problem, the taxi driver wants to take me across the bridge, he has no idea I have a car back there. This did no communicate so well but I finally got him to make a u-turn and take me back, we almost made it to the bridge before I convinced him. I put my stuff in my 4×4 and got across the bridge ASAP!

I’ve got six bridge photos posted (not the best I’ve ever taken) and I realized as I did it that it certainly looks significantly lower than an hour before. Wow! I’m definitely lacking in the earth sciences area so maybe that’s normal…

Wrap up – Obviously it was too late for my flight. No other flights I could find until Saturday. Delta made me pay $150 to rebook. Why doesn’t act of God ever benefit me in these circumstances? It’s the only way there!!!

I’ll tell you about Liberia and my way cute hotel later…

Written By: Gary on September 3, 2008 2 Comments

I was prepared to check in, looked at the time and tried it. But my laptop is still on Michigan time so it’s not 24 hours before the flight so I can’t check in. I guess that explains why they didn’t e-mail me about it yet. But I can change my seats so I did that while I was there.

I did manage to plant myself in a big block of empty seats on the way up to Atlanta from Liberia. Not as empty as the way down but should be not to crowded (on the way down many of us had a whole row).

Picture 18From Atlanta to Detroit I see they have this layout (see image) but right now I’m in the yellow seat. One of those double blue seats would have more room as long as no one else squeezes in. Otherwise my yellow seat seems better. Any thoughts?

They’re pretty full so for now I think I’ll wait until closer to the flight to check again…

Later: It’s time for check in, but they wouldn’t let me so I guess I’ll have to do it all at the airport.

Written By: Gary on February 6, 2008 No Comment

As reported on msnbc.com, United Airlines will charge fliers an extra $25 per bag to check more than one bag starting May 5th, 2008 (“silver” and “premier” frequent-fliers will not be charged).

It’s a bit, but it’s cheaper than paying the overages for the first bag being over the weight limit. If your itinerary includes international flights you will (may?) still be able to check the second bag for free; this will help me, probably more than half my air travel is international.

Found at DealMac.com.

Written By: Gary on April 30, 2006 No Comment

It took them over three hours to decide to finally cancel our flight. That’s three hours after it was scheduled to depart, that’s not even factoring in that they had to have some idea there would be problems before the flight was even supposed to leave . We had a plane but no pilots, you’d think that wouldn’t be so hard to keep track of and keep us informed. I know I’m a little crabby from traveling but I’ve definitely been treated better than I was with the way the system worked tonight. If they would have canceled it hours before that I’d have been fine with it but I should have been home two hours ago and I’m just finally in a hotel. They’ve got free WiFi in the lobbys/resturants which is a bonus, but I’d rather have the A/C working…

Please let me clarify: I understand things can be beyond their control, but at 7:30 when they are telling us at when the pilots land at LaGuadia around 7:45 they’ll taxi over and it takes until 10 PM to tell us they can’t get pilots they don’t really care about the customers. All they have to do was keep us informed. If they would have told me at 8 I would have gladly went over to the hotel, ate and gone to bed. They just dragged it out and the story they gave us doesn’t make sense.

We didn’t get anything but a hotel room and a $7.00 voucher for dinner (that’s about 1/2 a burger at the hotel, everything at the airport was closed). Anyone have a good number or address at Delta for me to complain to? Please let me know. (Delta, if I misheard and there’s a free round-trip ticket in the mail for me, I’ll gladly correct this post…)

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Written By: Gary on April 30, 2006 One Comment

So my 7:00 PM flight hasn’t boarded yet. The time on the display has jumped from 7 PM to 8 PM to 10 PM and none of the five employees currently standing at the counter knows why. They didn’t even notice it jumped to 10 PM until I asked. This was all within 10 minutes of them telling us we’d be boarding in five minutes…

They aren’t even sure if the pilots have left St. Louis (the plane is here). This doesn’t even factor in the fact that this gate closes at 8 PM so there shouldn’t be any way it’s actually leaving from this gate.

Wait! It just totally fell off the display now, and they can’t tell me why (“it’s okay” they said).

7:35 PM Update: So they just bumped us to another gate. They’ve got pilots going to LaGuardia (I’m at JFK) who will then shuttle over to here to fly us away. Guesstimate is about 9 PM but maybe as late as 10 PM. I’m usually pretty patient with this stuff, but I’ve been up since 9:45 PM Michigan time yesterday and we headed out to the airport at 11 PM Michigan time (maybe I slept 1.5-2 hours) and I’m beat.

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