We just arrived in Houston this evening and should be heading to Buenos Aires tonight. We are sitting in a packed Pappadeaux in Concourse E of IAH, having a light snack. The major obstacles thrown into our path before departure include the angioplasty and stent surgery that Steve’s Dad had yesterday, followed by a winter storm warning that descended on the front range for late today. Fortunately, the stent replacement went well and Ed should be home by now. Also, the winter storm waited and was just descending into Denver as our flight took off.
So let’s back up a bit in our amazing travel time machine to see what happened in the past ten days before our departure. On Sunday, January 19, we took Steve’s folks Ed and Jo out to dinner at the local Pappadeaux (oh, the irony) and gave them our detailed trip itinerary, This dinner with them, delayed from New Year’s Day due to weather and other issues, was very nice. Ed and Jo looked great (they’re in their mid-eighties) and they both ate like horses. Ed mumbled something about an upcoming doctor’s appointment, but it sounded routine. On Wednesday, January 22, Steve called me at work (unusual, as we IM each other all day) to say that Ed had a heart blockage and was going in on January 29 for an angioplasty and possible stent placement. He has had this twice before. This procedure was planned ONE DAY before our long-planned departure (we actually booked this cruise in April 2012). Ok, we (or, shall I say me) resorted to a wee bit of panic, then I recalled that we had good travel insurance; we cannot overemphasize the importance of this for expensive or far away trips and our TA makes us buy it right after we make a booking, bless her heart. Of course, travel insurance does not replace all of the planning and wishes and dreams of a vacation.
So we make some adjustments, agreeing with each other to have everything ready to go before the 29th using our packing list and we worked on early preparations for Ruby (our nineteen year old kitty) and house care. We informed our travel agent of the possible issue and pressed ahead.
Steve took Ed and Jo to the hospital in Aurora at the ungodly hour of 5:30 am on Wednesday. By 8:30 am, Ed was in his own room after having a stent replaced. He was eating and walking around and feeling fine. We relaxed a bit and realized we might be able to go after all. Then I made the mistake of checking out the weather forecast on the local news station on the way home from work. The uncertain forecast all week of possible rain or snow showers on our departure day had now turned into snowpocalypse, with a major winter storm predicted to hit just around the time of our departure. Steve had also sent me a text message on Wednesday with lots of swearing in it, and after I recovered from my own cardiac event, it turned out that he had Ed’s medicines in his backpack, so we knew we had to drop those off on Thursday morning. We were very grateful to a dear friend of theirs, who agreed to take Jo home Wednesday evening and pick up Ed on Thursday and bring him home.
We went to bed very early Wednesday night, getting a blessed long night’s sleep. Thursday morning, we finished a few tasks at home, kissed Ruby, then headed to the airport, dropping off Ed’s pills on our way. The weather was still good, in the mid-forties, with some clouds starting to move in from the east (the dreaded upslope condition). We parked our car at Wally Park, got to the airport and checked in for our flight. I used miles to book our air on this trip and we have business first class seats on all flights, so that was sweet. Our flight to Houston was on a 787, our first time on the technological marvel that has also had some design difficulties. This particular aircraft is used for the nonstop from Narita (Tokyo) to Denver. After it arrives at DEN and disgorges its passengers at Concourse A for customs and immigration, it moves over to a gate at Concourse B (we will have the same situation on the way home). We had TSA pre-check for going through security from our Global Entry passes, which is fine, except the pre-check TSA line has a metal detector instead of a scanner. I requested a scanner because of my knees and got a “no problem” from our fine government representatives and headed over to another line. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a SNAFU before I got it cleared up (“Are you 75 years old? If not, why do you have your shoes on?”), but it was a pretty quick clearance through security overall.
After we got to Concourse B, we decided to have lunch at Elways. We split a delicious burger, had some yummy fries and a little Malbec, and gazed at pictures of #7 securing the victory at the Super Bowl in San Diego in 1997. We headed down to the gate nearby, then boarded the 787 to Houston. No snow yet!! The weather apparently hit after we took off, thank goodness.
Ok, I must say after this short flight to Houston that this aircraft is truly an engineering marvel. The large windows are electrochromic and adjust to lighting conditions using a control (no window shades). The seats are very comfortable, the restrooms are HUGE and the sound system and ambient lighting are lovely. The wings adjust themselves to flight conditions using hundreds of sensors (scary in a way to see that much structural movement) and the flight was very smooth. I want one for my mythical private aircraft fleet!
So we are one hour away from our ten-hour flight to Buenos Aires. The next update will hopefully occur in the next two days from this large and interesting city in Argentina. Stay tuned!
UPDATE: Ed didn’t get home until 7:00 pm because of a bomb threat at the hospital (!) and we are delayed on our flight to Buenos Aires because of a mechanical problem now.
Oh, and I forgot to say that we ran into lots of folks today heading over to Sochi for the Olympic games.
UPDATE II: We finally took off, on a different aircraft, and over an hour late. There was a big hydraulic problem on the landing gear with our original aircraft, which apparently limped in from London earlier today. There were also lots of problems with the in-flight video systems on this aircraft after we first got on board and apparently someone in economy who would not sit down allowing us to close the doors.
The first thing they handed out after we took off is the immigration and customs form for Argentina, which makes the US blue and grey card look like a piker. Apparently, unless we are only bringing in charitable used clothing and books, all items are required to be declared for duty fees and taxes (is that everything in our suitcases and all of our electronic gear??). We also have to declare our cell phones on this form! The form also asks you to note and declare any animals, meats, dairy, fruits, plants, seeds, semen, stakes, bulbs, rhizomes, bee products, etc. So good luck to all of the men on board when we arrive; hubby hopes for some exotic Argentine beauty to help with certain product declarations. Glad our cows in the hold are properly registered. Good grief! A later clarification from a flight attendant relieved our concerns, as the form is targeted at Argentine citizens who may be bringing back loads of electronics, which the government wants to tax.
Oops, dinner is coming – time to queue up a movie!
More about our flight and our arrival in Buenos Aires soon!