Sunday, June 19, 2011

Post-Travelog Day 1: Getting there

I'm back, tanned (maybe partially burned), and not ready to face the "real world" tomorrow. Our Caribbean vacation was incredible and I'm still trying to come to terms with the fact that it really happened. Big thanks to Big Sid who made it happen! One of my brothers-in-law had the great idea of writing a travelog as the trip happened. I didn't have the foresight (and later on I realized that I probably wouldn't have had the stomach) to write one, so I'll try to relay our trip to you one day at a time.

Before I take you to the airport in Chicago where we began our adventure, I have to preface our vacation story with a little tale about my bad travel luck. Almost without fail, any airplane travel I embark on is rife with difficulties, layovers, and cancellations. Last Friday was no exception.

Zach and I had the day off, so we tied up loose ends, bought our last few things, and drove to Chicago. After stopping off at my sister's condo, we took a cab to O'Hare. We checked our bag in, got our boarding passes, and had a light dinner while speculating about what the ensuing week would bring. At one point, our flight looked like it was delayed by 15 minutes. No sweat. We checked back 30 minutes later and our flight was suddenly delayed by 2 hours. Uh-oh. With only a 1-hour layover in Houston, a 2-hour flight delay in Chicago wasn't going to work. Strike 1.

Luckily, we got on a flight that was due to arrive in Houston 1 hour after our originally scheduled flight was supposed to land. It was going to be a tight squeeze, but there was the possibility that we could land in Houston, run to our next gate, and get on our connecting 12:00 am flight to San Juan. With nothing to lose, we took that chance.

The flight to Houston was smooth and made a little sweeter by a sympathetic steward who tried to help our cause by announcing that we needed to make a connecting flight and could everyone please let us off the plane first. Most people obliged except for the majority of first-class travelers, and once we got into the concourse I took off running, with Z behind me asking, "Are we really doing this?" My quick steps answered him in the affirmative and we rounded the corner to the gate of our connecting flight. Z made it there before me, and I saw his shoulders slump and heard the words, "We missed it?" echo off the mostly-empty concourse. I stopped running and asked him to repeat himself. Even though our plane to San Juan was sitting just outside the gate doors, we missed the boarding call and weren't allowed to get on. Strike 2.

After that, our only other convoluted option was to catch a flight to Newark, NJ at 6 in the morning and from there catch a flight to San Juan. Besides this obvious hitch in our plans, add to that the fact that I'm 6-months pregnant and hungry and the airport is basically closed until 5 am; we were in a bad way. I called Continental by phone to see if there was anything else they could do for us - no. We wandered around for somewhere to get food - everything was closed. So we finally settled by one of the gates and got a few poor hours of sleep before the airport reopened.

In the morning, we grabbed breakfast and boarded our flight for Newark. That flight left later than planned, so we made another mad dash for our connecting flight from Newark to San Juan. We landed in San Juan somewhat relieved but without a flight to our final destination: Tortola. It was ok though, because we made it the majority of the way there. As we walked away from our gate, we saw a true sight for sore eyes: Zach's dad in full vacation attire - Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and flip flops - smiling and welcoming us to Puerto Rico.

From there, everything looked up; we got 2 seats on a 10-seater flight to Tortola in just a few hours, we had time to eat sitting down, and we saw the smiling, relaxed faces of family. Our flight to Tortola was scheduled to arrive just an hour after Z's family's flight, so we asked for them to wait for us at the airport. When we got there we went through customs, picked up our bags, and headed around the corner to see Z's dad and brothers tossing back some cold ones, laughing and ready to start the vacation of a lifetime. We made it!

All of the travel pains we endured melted away and we felt their good cheer seep into our travel-weary bones. The hot, humid air of the British Virgin Islands made our faces bead with sweat and we were happy for it. We had endured an adventure already, but the real adventure was just getting ready to begin.

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