- Waiheke, New Zealand
- 9,083 miles flown
- 36°48′S 175°06′E
- Temp: 73 deg
- Day 1
Day 1 // Dec 31. It is not lost on me that I am starting this epic journey with one toe in 2017 and the remaining steps leading into a completely new year. Fun fact: I also happen to be ringing in the new year in the very first major city and country to do so anywhere in the world. A resolution revolution that will set the tone for the year(+). All of this symbolic, but unplanned.
If you’re reading this then you know me well, and if you know me well then you know I’m a planner, an organizer of things, a doer of tasks, a list maker, a list checker. Yet, I resisted the compulsory urge to PLAN or even Plan this trip, opting instead for simply a plan. Don’t get me wrong, there were still spreadsheets with formulas and color coding (you can take the girl out of the office, but…) but they served the sole purpose of plotting dots and drawing lines that would be colored-in real time. I know where I’m going, I know where I’m resting my head, beyond that the destination will dictate my day.
So remind me on day 57, that 57 days ago I set out in pursuit of the unplanned and unexpected with anticipation and energy — not yet sick of fully reclining seats, crisp hotel sheets or ordering off a menu instead of preheating my skillet. The results of this unplanned plan shall unfold here. And not a moment too soon…
Act 1: The Unplanned, a Drama too Unreal to be Real
** This is a longer post than I would normally write, but I assure you, it’s worth cuddling up in front of the fire with to make yourself feel better about your day.
I like to think of myself as a bit of a travel warrior — someone who can get herself heading in the right direction despite the travel industry’s plot against me. If you know me well, then you also know I don’t have great travel luck. Today was no different.
Let’s set the scene. The flight I was due to take from DTW >> SFO prior to catching my connection to NZ gave me a two hour layover window to work with. With single digit temperatures and several snowy days in Detroit, I had been monitoring the arrival of my planned flight earlier in the week to see how risky that 2 hour window was (as any good warrior would do.) After several days of 2-hour delays that would have meant missing my connection, I emailed my Crack Team (pause. what’s that you ask? I basically have a bat phone/email to a special Lufthansa Around the World travel team who will respond and rebook me at no charge within minutes of my request. To say this is handy is an understatement. Unpause.) and inquired about other travel options to SFO. They put me on a 7:30am flight via ORD to SFO that would get me in at 12:45pm, giving me a 10 hour layover and plenty of safety time (or so I thought.) Begrudgingly I rebooked and prepared myself for an early wake up call, repeating the mantra “better safe than sorry.”
Act 1: Scene 1
Fast forward to Friday 6:30am when I go to check-in at the United counter only to be told they can’t print my ticket. Huh? They pull up my reservation and inform me that because I have no return ticket and will be staying indefinitely in New Zealand I need a visa and the ticket can’t be printed without one. Of course everything about this is wrong, but this is the airline and they’re part of the plot. I show them my full reservation (which they should have as my entire around the world ticket is under a single reservation number,) evidence that I’m only staying a week in NZ which does not require a visa, as well as my flight reservation from NZ to Bangkok. Regardless of all this information, United’s systems are apparently not hooked into this and the agent is prevented from printing my ticket until she can run a manual override. Which takes an hour. I miss my flight.
I keep my cool, it is after-all only 7:30am and I have an entire day to solve this. Post-manual override she books me on a flight at 8:59am via Houston to SFO. Super, just enough time to visit the lounge, make sure my bag makes the flight and still arrive by 2:30 PST for an 8 hour visit to Oakland with friends. Or so I think.
Act 1: Scene 2
We board the flight on time, everything seems to be going swimmingly until we taxi out to de-ice the plane. We sit and we sit and we sit, all while watching what must be 20 de-icing trucks driving circles around all the planes lined up next to us. Not one of them seems to want to take aim at us. After about 45 minutes of waiting, the captain announces “our truck has run out of fluid and the hose is frozen.” Ok, what about the other trucks? “Unfortunately, those are a different de-icing company and can’t spray our plane.” Huh? That’s real? Very much so. After about 1.5 hours of waiting and no other trucks willing to service us, we have to turn back to the gate to refuel and figure out a solution. I don’t understand this, what sort of union system are they running that a plane can’t get de-iced in a city that is no stranger to winter. Is there really only one truck assigned to one plane? The result of this snafu #2? I’m going to miss my connection in Houston to SFO. Time to email the Crack Team AGAIN.
Christian from my Crack Team promptly tells me he’s put me on a 2:20pm connection from Houston as well as the 4:45pm connection to be safe, but that he can’t actually issue the ticket because I’m on the plane and technically booked on a flight to SFO even though I’m going to miss the 12:30 connection. He advises that I’ll have to visit a United counter when I finally arrive in Houston to get the new leg reissued, but I *should* be ok unless United yanks my held seat for someone else. I don’t trust United, panic sets in.
When we arrive back at the gate to refuel the captain says they’ve also secured a new de-icing truck and that as soon as the gas tank is full we’ll head immediately back out. That being said, he’s going to open the door and we’re at liberty to leave the plane, but advises we don’t go far as we’re minutes from leaving. The plane collectively groans and there are threats from other passengers that if anyone gets off and further delays us, they’ll kill them. I get off. I have Christian on the phone in one ear and make a run for the counter to get my new connection ticket issued. It takes 2 minutes, I’m back on the plane, the door closes and we’re back to taxiing for de-icing round two. +1pt for me.
Act 1: Scene 3
Ok, so this fine little drama is nearing it’s end. We land at 1:45. We get to the gate at 1:55. Boarding for my connection ends at 2:05. I’m in Houston, where everything is huge and the airport is no different. I ask if I can be the first one off the plane. The flight attendant yells at me because the fastened seat belt sign hasn’t turned off. At which point it does. The door opens, I run and I run and I run…because, yes, C3 is actually a mile from C41. I board the plane as one of the last passengers and the gate closes. I promptly order a glass of champagne and toast the fact that I made it, even though my luggage surely won’t.
In the end, the drama was worth it. My original 7pm flight departed DTW 1.5 hrs late and I would have missed my connection. A bet that paid off. Bonus: I had 4 hrs in SF with my dear family-friends, Angela and Ryan, and ate some pig ear at Cockscomb for good luck. And, yes, my bag arrived, as did I in sunny, glorious Auckland. Happy New Year, friends!