Travel day from Hell followed by bliss

I was able to take some much needed mental health time over the past week by attending the 2007 Junction Kite Makers Retreat and had a BLAST. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t start that way though – as indicated by the title of this post, I had the travel day from Hell. In fact, I can’t ever remember a trip that started out so badly (and I’ve traveled a lot over the years). Specifically, my flight was supposed to leave Orange County (on American Airlines) at 3 PM on Thursday. As I was anxious to leave, I almost tried to get an earlier flight on standby. Thank God that I did NOT do that! When I arrived at the airport (shortly after noon), I found that there was a HORRIBLE line at the American Airlines counter – it looked as if there must have been a thousand people in it! As it turned out, ALL of the American Airlines flights to Dallas/Fort Worth (were I was supposed to catch a connecting flight to San Antonio) had been canceled that morning due to bad weather  and everyone was scrambling to catch a later flight. Allegedly, my flight was the first that had not been canceled. I was able to check my luggage on the street (where American charged me an outlandish $5 per bag to avoid waiting in the huge line at their counter) and I entered the terminal with the hope that my flight would leave on time. That dream; however, soon dissipated as American started announcing as seemingly endless number of delays. At one point, they pushed the departure time to 8 PM (ugh)! After sitting at the terminal for what seemed to be a few years American announced that one plane was finally going to depart but they didn’t know which scheduled flight was supposed to get it – mine or one that was supposed to depart after mine. The confusion was the result of the fact that American had already sent some of their flight crews home – the flight was originally supposed to belong to the group after mine but, when the flight crew for my plane showed up first, American finally decided to let my group take it: we took off around 7 PM (four hours late).

After that miserable experience, I had hoped that everything would be okay for the rest of the journey – little did I know just how HORRIBLE things were to become. We managed to land in Dallas just as my connecting flight was boarding (it had also been delayed by the weather) – the only problem was, American hadn’t bothered to give my flight any updated information as to what was going on and we were instructed to find one of American’s idiot employees at our arrival gate in order to find out where our connections were. As it turned out, the moron from American was hidden off to the side of the gate (instead of standing right in front of it as other airlines normally do) and when I finally got my turn to find out my gate, it IDIOT told me the WRONG terminal and gate! (He told me that I was to depart from gate A39 which is at the FAR end of that terminal.) Not only did I confirm that information but others behind me also heard him provide that information (I learned of this later when they showed up at that same gate for a different flight). I bolted to that gate as fast as I could (because the flight was already boarding) only to find out at that time that American Airlines had LIED to me – the flight I was supposed to be on was located in a completely different terminal (I believe it was Gate C25). As a result, I had to make a mad dash to catch the train for the correct terminal and managed to catch my flight at the last possible moment.

End of problems? NOT! As it turned out, my flight appears to have been the only one to leave Dallas that day (I was told that seven previous flights had been canceled) for San Antonio. Upon our arrival (at San Antonio), we learned that three American flights had arrived within minutes of each other but, because American had already sent their airport crews home for the day, all three flights had to disembark at the same gate. Naturally, our flight was last. So. . . we sat forever on the tarmac while the other planes unloaded their passengers first.

Okay, so everything was now going to be just fine. . .right?! Hell NO! Not only did all three flights have to disembark at the same gate but American only had one baggage claim terminal operational AND they couldn’t give us any idea, at all, as to which flights baggage would arrive first (or if they were going to be mixed up with the others). By this time, a few million passengers were gathered around the one, very small, carousel, the few American Airlines employees were as confused (if not more so) than we were and, by this time, the bus loads of stranded passengers were beginning to arrive from Dallas. As American had canceled so many flights (seven) from Dallas, they put those poor folks on buses for the SEVEN HOUR trip to San Antonio. Obviously, they were not happy either. Finally, at 1:30 AM (yes, it was now getting very late), American told everyone to leave as no more luggage would be unloaded that night (morning). Okay, by now, I was starting to get REALLY ticked off but I can handle it, right? American promised to have our missing luggage sent out first thing later that day.

So. . .I tried to get information as to how to get to my rental car. Again, thank God that I had made a reservation (many folks had not). But. . .because it was so late, many of the car rental places had shut down for the night. Again, I lucked out (it was about time) – Avis was still open and I was able to get my car (after running to the rental car tram in the pouring rain) and took off for Junction, approximately 122 miles away. I finally arrived at Junction at 4 AM – it was a miserable drive as it poured the entire way. I was too tired to go on to the retreat site (and didn’t feel that I should wake everyone up at that time) so I found a hotel. I promptly checked in and passed out.

The next day turned out to be rather beautiful and I drove the five or so remaining miles to the retreat center. As I hadn’t heard anything from American Airlines, I made the first (of MANY) phone calls to their baggage claim morons. The first idiot I spoke with promised that my bags would be delivered later that day (around 6 PM). That, of course, was the first of MANY lies that American Airlines would tell me – over the next several DAYS. I called again, around 9:30 PM only to be told that my luggage had not been found but that a rush would be placed on them and delivered the next morning – another lie. On Saturday morning, I had to call several more times (because even American’s baggage morons couldn’t get through to the San Antonio airport) only to be given more of a run around. By this time, I was very RIPE as I had no clean clothes, toiletries – NOTHING. One of American’s morons finally agreed to give me a $50 allowance to pick up a few things. As Junction is a VERY small town, I wasn’t able to buy much. I also received more assurances that my bags would be delivered – another lie. Much later on Saturday afternoon – still no bags and more phone calls to American. This time, they claimed that my luggage was set to be picked up at the airport, around 8 PM) and delivered to me – again, another lie. So, hours later, I give up and go to bed.

Of course, my cell phone battery had died and, after purchasing a car charger in Junction (I had to go to more than one store to find that), was only able to call from the rental car. I would have to drive too far to get a decent charge on my phone. On Sunday morning, I called American AGAIN and told them that my phone had now died. Again, they assured me that my bags would be delivered. After lunch, still no bags and I went to the car to see if anyone had called – this time, the delivery person (gasp – there really was such a person!) had just left a message for me that he was 50 miles away and that if he didn’t hear from me soon, he would take my bags BACK to San Antonio. He’s lucky that I called when I did as I caught him just in time – my bags were delivered more than THREE DAYS after I had checked them – on the last full day of the retreat, no less – at 2 PM! Of course I did NOT give the delivery person a tip. Just the same, I was overjoyed to get some fresh clothes and take a shower – I finally felt human again.

According to all of the idiots I spoke with at American Airlines, the best (and allegedly fastest) way to make a complaint about the HORRIBLE service I had received was to visit their web site and file a complaint there. Naturally, I did that several days ago and have yet to hear anything from them (other than a form letter stating that they had received my complaint). Oh, one last rant – according to American Airline’s brochure on lost baggage, American promises to keep the owners of such luggage apprised of the situation – during the THREE DAYS that my baggage was lost, American did not call me a single time – not ONCE! So much for that.

Oh. . . I’ve now ranted so long about American Airlines that I’ve failed to mention the wonderful time I had at the Kite Making Retreat. In fact, it was FANTASTIC. I’ll post more on that later.

Looking Northwest from Mission Bay Park

Looking Northwest
Originally uploaded by Bassoon Man.
I have been extremely fortunate in connecting with members of the San Diego Kite Club (I’m a member too). This is now the second time I’ve gone down to fly with them: the first time was their New Year’s Day Kite Festival.

This event, held on Saturday, May 12, 2007 was their monthly fly. Unfortunately, I got stuck in traffic on my way down (it’s about 75 miles from home) – the freeway was a veritable parking lot all the way from Oceanside to Rancho Santa Fe. Why? Who knows? It was just a mess. As a result, I arrived later than I had planned but that didn’t matter – it was a beautiful day (although the winds could have been a bit stronger). I managed to get my remote controlled KAP (kite aerial photography) up for a it’s first “real” voyage. The first time occurred many weeks ago at the Huntington Beach Kite Party – unfortunately, the winds were so poor that day that by the time I had launched my rig, the camera batteries were nearly spent and I only obtained a few photos. Today; however, was different – I managed to get about 200 pictures. While I have not posted the vast majority of them (they were boring), I did learn several things:

  1. I need to keep the camera pointed more parallel to the ground – I got a LOT of pictures pointing down.
  2. The KAP feather that I bought from Jones’ Airfoils works REALLY well – I was rather amazed at how few of my shots were blurred when compared with previous KAP outings.

As I’ve noted previously, the day was terrific and I was glad I made the trip.

The Quackers

The Quackers
Originally uploaded by Bassoon Man.

After the week from Hell, I was overjoyed to learn that the San Diego Kite Club was having their monthly fly today (Saturday) and decided that I just had to go. In honor of the event, I finished my flock of ducks (Yes, I really did make them myself – heck, I even used a sewing machine) and brought them to the event! Actually, I’ve got one more duckling to make (the ugly one, of course), but that won’t be too difficult. In addition to the flock, I also brought the bol I had made as my second project.

Anyway, the drive to San Diego was rather miserable today – Interstate 5 was a parking lot from Oceanside to Rancho Santa Fe. Why traffic was so bad, I really don’t know but it wasn’t too fun sitting there. Once I got through that mess, it was clear sailing (no pun intended) to Mission Bay. When I arrived, the sky was filled with all kinds of cool kites – lots of deltas, a few gazillion Revs (I brought mine but didn’t fly it), various types of things that would spin in the wind, and even the arch pictured in this photo. Of course, seeing all of the kites made the drive worth it.

I immediately connected with Dave (the person I have to blame for my kite addiction) and his wife, Iris. We spent the afternoon flying, watching all of the various kites, and chatting. Both Dave and Iris are fascinating to speak with as they can fill me in on all sorts of kite related information. There was one delta, in particular, that had a very long tube tail. Every time the kite would move in a circle, the tail would mimic the kite so that the tail almost appeared as if it were a corkscrew – very cool!

Another group of eleven people practiced flying their Rev 1.5’s – it would have been fun to join them but then again, there are only so many hours in a day – and only so many kites that one can fly at once!

I ended the afternoon by finally getting my remote-controlled KAP (kite aerial photography) rig launched. The winds weren’t too strong and I had to get a bigger kite up as a lifter. Even so, the flight was a success. Of course, that doesn’t mean I got any good photos – the fact that my rig went up was all I was after. I’ll post photos from that later.

After spending the afternoon at Mission Bay, I had the pleasure of having dinner with Dave and Iris where we chatted about all sorts of things (especially kites). Looking forward to the next time!

Be sure to double click on the photo for this post to see other pictures that were taken today.