A collection of travel experiences

After the tournament, Randi and I took a trip with her parents to Iguazu Falls. We took a taxi straight from the fields to the airport.  After Randi prompted the driver, I had a great conversation with him for the 30 minute ride to the airport. We talked about everything from Ultimate, to the global recession’s affect on the US, to the area we were driving through and the history of it. It turned out he was a long distance cyclist; he competed in a number of century races. As we approached the airport, he also told us that the entire area the airport is on was filled in from the river. It was a really interesting cab ride and a great start to the trip!

After getting to the airport, we checked in quickly and got through security line very quickly. Security here was about like pre-9/11 levels in the US. It was nice to be in a place where people aren’t subject to so much Security Theatre. When we boarded the plane there were no boarding zones everyone just makes lines up and files in. Since there’s no charge for checking a bag you don’t find people battling for overhead compartments with their overstuffed bags. Although we boarded about 10 minutes before departure, everyone was comfortably seated and we pulled back from the gate right on time. Randi and I slept through the whole trip but apparently for the quick 1:45 minute flight they handed out little meal boxes with a sandwich and some snacks. The flight on the way back from Iguazu, connected in Buenos Aires on the way to Montevideo. Most of the travel was a very similar experience with the quick, efficient security lines and boarding.

We had one little hiccup on the way home. We got in the wrong security line in Buenos Aires. A little explanation is due. There are two airports in Buenos Aires and we flew through the small one, serving mostly regional flights. There are 14 gates with one line for 1-12 and another for 13-14. There’s no signage that we saw saying what the difference is and flights don’t get gate assignments until they are close to boarding. So, when we saw a long line for 1-12 we just followed the crowd. That’s also the line we went through on the way to Iguazu so it was familiar if quite a bit longer. Even with over 150 people ahead of us in line (Dick counted), it only took about 15 minutes to make it to the front. Once there, the ticket checker let us know that since we were taking an international flight we would be leaving out of 13-14. Oops. There was absolutely no line through customs on the other side of the airport and Buquebus had already filled out our exit paperwork so Randi and I quickly made it through the checkpoint. Followed closely by her parents, we navigated the duty free shop and waited for the last leg of our journey. Again the plane boarded in about 10 minutes with very empty overhead bins. When we touched down in Montevideo, I had an unexpected sensation of arriving home. I guess I’m beginning to settle in here.

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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: Our Journey to Monetvideo

The day started off exactly as planned; with the alarm ringing at 5:15 AM. All of us, grandma included, piled into the prius with all our stuff and drove to the train station where we took the obligatory picture of us with all our stuff. I’m sure it’ll make the holiday card next year.

The "before" picture

The train was on time, as it should be at the start of the route, but is hardly ever true for the rest of the stops. We said our goodbyes and waved and blew kisses (well I did) from the train window and we were off. After collapsing into an early morning nap for about an hour, we woke up to the ocean and dolphins. The Pacific Surfliner is definitely best when experienced from the west side of the train, as it hugs the coastline between Lompoc and Oxnard. The train ride was uneventful just as we had hoped and we even arrived at Union Station in Los Angeles on time. We managed to find the baggage claim. “Past the Subway sign” the Amtrak worker told us. We were really confused until we saw the sandwich shop.

This brought us to the part where I (along with many others) broke Asa’s bag (see his previous post). The baggage claim at Union Station happens to be at one end of the station and the FlyAway Bus (to LAX) at the other. The Station isn’t big but has a very European feel to it and it was big enough for us to just miss the FlyAway bus. Luckily they run every 30 min. Neat, efficient, and cheap (only $7) system they have. Would recommend it to anyone traveling from Union Station to LAX. Out of curiosity, we estimated their profit before overhead to be somewhere in the ballpark of $7000 a day just for their Union Station location.

We made it to LAX after an uneventful ride on the FlyAway bus. We found our way to the departures and the hotel shuttles. Hotels in the LAX area have banded together in an effort to reduce pollution and now shuttles service multiple hotels. Super idea! We found ourselves at the hotel and checked into our room by 2 PM. We grabbed some food and went to find Asa a new suitcase. Fun!

The next day, Jan 31 was our big travel day. LAX to Miami to Montevideo and about 18 hours of travel time. I think we set a new record that morning by making it from our hotel room to our gate at the airport in under 30 min. We had planned on giving ourselves some time in case it was busy, so we ended up sitting at the gate for a long time. Better than the alternative.

The flights were generally uneventful. We walked the entire length of the Miami airport during our 3 hour layover and saw some interesting oceanic sculptures.

Cool fish sculptures at the airport in Miami.

After a 9 hour flight we arrived at the airport in Montevideo. We spent almost an hour getting through customs. All flights coming into the airport are international and there isn’t a separate line for Uruguayan nationals. Everyone has to wait. So we waited. When we got to the customs desk the woman said “hola” and went right on bobbing her head and dancing to the radio she had. She ran our passports and said “adios”. She didn’t ask us any questions all all. We’ll go find the immigration office later to extend our visitor’s visas another 90 days.

We met Asa’s friend Nacho and his brother-in-law Sebastian in the airport. Sebastian owns a car. A special car; a bright orange hatch-back with fold down front seats as entry into the back. The shocks were shot, the radio was pulled out and the gas gauge was on perpetual empty. So we hopped in and had to put some of the bags on our lap because they wouldn’t fit in the trunk. After some confusion about how to get out of the parking lot (one too many “salida” or “exit” signs) we were on our way. Lane lines in Uruguay are just a suggestion which I’m sure will have it’s own post in the future. We took the Ramblas (the street that runs along the water) most of the way. We passed what looked to be nice beaches, but we’ll find out in the future I’m sure.

We got to our house and knocked on the door. A little boy answered and we asked for Raul Locatelli, our host. The boy didn’t speak english and got his older brother (maybe?) who spoke some english. He had never heard of a Raul Locatelli and no he did not live at that address. Well, had he heard of Maria, the other person in the housing complex? Well yeah. Maria owned the building and no she wasn’t there, but we could call her. Luckily Nacho took care of this phone call for us. He also tried calling the number we had for Raul Locatelli without any success. Maria has never heard of a Raul Locatelli and she only has a house full of Uruguayan students and does not cater to U.S. people. She says to try the hostel down the street.

Well Shit! Yep, Shit hit the fan… a really high fan!

Again, thank goodness Nacho and Sebastian were with us. We were able to call AirBNB (the company we rented through) and they got a hold of Raul Locatelli on his cell phone (we later learned that the number we had was his house phone) and connected us. Yes he did exist and just down the street a couple blocks from where we were. The address was just wrong on the website.

So we drove to the new address and sure enough, there was Raul Locatelli standing in the street waiting for us!