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FNT-PNH (ie a long, long, way...)

FNT-PNH (ie a long, long, way...)

Old Dec 26, 10, 8:40 am
  #1  
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FNT-PNH (ie a long, long, way...)

This could well end in tears.

In a previous report, I posted about travelling home for Xmas. Not my home. My wife's family. Near De-Friggin-Troit.

Now, after ingesting some horrible food and as much beer as I could possibly fit in over the last 36-hours, I have to head back to Asia to work.

My routing, for those of you who want to know, takes me from Flint, Michigan to Phnom Penh, in Cambodia.

When I went to the TSA screening area in FNT, there was absolutely no-one ahead of me, apart from the 9 TSA agents. They asked me where I was travelling to. So I told them. I'm convinced half of them thought I was swearing in another language.

I am waiting in the departure gate area at Flint airport, waiting to catch a CO puddle jumper (actually puddle jumper would be too kind a description) to somewhere called Cleveland, OH.

Never been to Cleveland before, but I once had a neighbour who got beaten up there. Maybe that was Milwaukee.

Anyway.

I then wait a bit and catch a bigger puddle jumper to LGA.

From LGA I have to hoof it around to JFK, where I jump on one of Emirates flying porpoises (ie the A380) and head to Dubai, wait 5-hours, then another Bling-Air flight to Singapore (home), wait another 2-hours, have a decent wash, and then jump on a SilkAir flight to Cambodia.

It's Sunday morning now as I write this. I think I reach Cambodia sometime in 2011. Or something like that.

When I checked in at Flint, the CO check-in machine started spitting obscenities at me and put me on a VDB list, as apparently the bigger puddle jumper out of Ohio is full to the bream and they are looking for volunteers.

Even in Cleveland, it is against the law to strap people to the wings of a small plane. Even if you are from Michigan.

To be honest, I agreed to it. I've never been bumped before and I want to see how much compensation might be on offer. Probably a beef burrito and a beer which tastes like it got filtered through a jock-strap.

Since I am not departing JFK until 11pm east coast time, I thought - "well, I have all day, how hard could it possibly be...?"

It's a long journey. But I'm on my favourite airline (EK) for the long-hauls and I'm told that both the JFK-DXB and then DXB to SIN flights are up the wazoo overbooked, so here's hoping my humble Gold status does something as far as op-ups go.

Never been on EK's big bird before...

I wonder how much you have to drink before they kick you out of the onboard bar?

We shall see.

Standby. More to come.
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Last edited by eightblack; Jan 1, 11 at 12:36 pm
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Old Dec 26, 10, 10:06 am
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You do know that there's meant to be a blizzard in NYC today?
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Old Dec 26, 10, 2:05 pm
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
You do know that there [currently is a massive] blizzard in NYC today?
corrected ..and good luck OP, you might consider rerouting.
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Old Dec 27, 10, 1:14 am
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after that hilarious first report..can't wait for the rest of this one.
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Old Dec 27, 10, 1:59 am
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Now i can't wait to see how this one turns out. And hear about the "talk" with number one son.
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Old Dec 27, 10, 9:21 am
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Oh, this couldn't have gone off nicely, even the birds had to train it out of JFK last night (that is, until the train services stopped too). Hopefully your Big Bird got into JFK at least so that you'll have a seat to be in tonight when the airport, supposedly, opens up again. Then again, chances are you're still in CLE. Try not to get beaten up.
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Old Dec 27, 10, 10:54 am
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Update: FNT Airport, Sunday, 9.07am

I don't even know where to begin.

I am going to write this report retrospectively, given that I have now been awake for 30-hours straight. The details are still a bit fuzzy, and given that I am now safely tucked into the cocoon of the Emirates Lounge, they may become fuzzier still.

It all started innocently enough.

I checked into the little Bishop International Airport (FNT) with plenty of time to spare.

Incidentally, why on earth do the people who name regional airports always have to insert the word "international" in them. Do they really think think they're impressing anyone.

And what, prey tell, do they handle internationally? Maybe a couple of drunk Mexicans. Or in my case, a drunk Aussie.

Anyway.

My plan was to head from Flint to Cleveland, wait an hour, then Cleveland to La Guardia. All straight-forward stuff. I'd work out a creative way to get from LGA to JFK when I got there. Then check-in for my EK flight and as we say downunder "Bob's your Uncle".

Which loosely means, in American, "bada-bing, bada-boom". Or something like that.

Except someone forgot to check the weather.

Er, that would be me. My logic was that it wasn't snowing outside in Michigan when we left, so why would it be snowing anywhere else?

To be honest, I had a bad feeling about this day as soon as I got up. And since were friends, and it's just you and me talking, I'll let you in on another small secret.

I hate small planes.

And the plane which Continental wheeled out of the hangar to fly us to Cleveland from Flint, was about the size of a matchbox. It would be lucky to fit half a dozen oompah-loompah's in it.

I could sense the 2 agents working the gate were under the pump. Then the VDB call came out.

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we may be looking for volunteers today. If you would like a $250 travel voucher and a guaranteed seat on the next flight out, please approach the podium".

Boom.

That had my name written all over it. I thought what could possibly go wrong. I had but the whole day to get to New York to catch my connecting flight and it was only 9am now.

So I wait patiently for everyone else to board. There was only me and another angry looking women left. Her divorce had obviously not ended well. She was also clearly well educated in the whole VDB process. Instead of saying "I'd be happy to volunteer", she barked "what's the compensation?".

The gate agents, after much arm-waving and screen peering, had decided at this point that they didn't need us to volunteer after all. They tell us to board.

So we head out into the bracing weather and walk to the plane. Although, this was the most pathetic looking mode of transport that I had ever seen in my life.

I was the second last to board. When I walked up the stairs and into the aircraft, it was like I had stepped into a fishbowl. I had all these eyes looking at me.

I find my exit seat. Beside me is a hippie, listening to his iPod, blissfully unaware that this may very well be the first and last commercial flight in his life.

Apparently, this was a Dash aircraft. But I can tell you from looking at it, there was no Dash to it.

Then my luck changed. One of the gate agents came onboard, handed the pilots the standard paperwork and then he turned to me and said "Do you still want to go later...?".

I bolted at the chance.

The angry woman was fit to be tied. She was like a sheep dog trying to get to the door over all the seated passengers.

But it was to no avail. I was already down the stairs...

Our bambini CO flight was evidently "overweight". By 247 pounds. Without getting too personal here, I can categorically state that I don't weigh that. Even with my luggage.

Ok, I may have eaten poorly over the past few days. But not that much.

I decided not to argue the point.

They padlock the door shut to the little Dash aircraft, the 2 ramp guys give the thing a good kick in the guts and it spits to life. More like wheezes.

Now, it was just me. And the 2 agents who worked the flight. They were contract staff. Actually, they worked for American Eagle. But they had recently picked up the contract to handle all of CO's work out of FNT.

The guy, Rob, started to punch away at my flight options. At this stage, I wasn't too worried. But as the minutes wore on, and Rob started to do the "agent frown" into the computer terminal, that bad feeling in my gut started to rear its ugly head.

He then invited me to have a look at his screen.

Fellow FT'ers, whenever a gate agent invites you to look at the hieroglyphics that they see, you know that your day has, in fact, turned to custard. Your only option is to drink heavily.

He was surprisingly, a lovely guy. And he did everything in his power to help me. He had no way of knowing that the mother of all storms was half way through it's onslaught and had already dealt the east coast a stiff uppercut.

All the flights later were either full. Or cancelled. And actually, it wouldn't have made any difference at all if I had been on my original flight to Ohio because as I found out later, all the onward flights out of Cleveland were nixed as well.

In the end, I was given $300 bucks for my troubles and a 50% refund against my ticket (I still had the use of the return leg).

There were absolutely zero flight options. As the situation was now desparate (in my mind anyway), I had my own laptop out and was looking at actual land based distances between cities.

Because, dear reader, at this point, I had already made up my mind to drive. All the way to New York.

Rob looked at me like I just slept with his sister.

"Are you nuts?", he politely enquired.
"Most definitely" I responded.

I then proceeded to call my wife, as she had the rental SUV. I summonsed her to the airport. She had, decided, that I was now completely certifiable and as we said our good byes, I told her to tell the children that I did in fact, care for them a great deal.

As an Aussie, I am used to long-haul driving. What was in front of me, was 750-miles of some of the best highway system in the world.

Or so I thought...

More to come.
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Last edited by eightblack; Jan 1, 11 at 8:21 pm Reason: typo.
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Old Dec 27, 10, 4:03 pm
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Wait a minute, where's "the boy"? How did "the talk" go?

I'm loving your work, and quite glad I have no travel booked for the next two weeks. DO keep us posted!
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Old Dec 27, 10, 4:35 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Weean View Post
Wait a minute, where's "the boy"? How did "the talk" go?

I'm loving your work, and quite glad I have no travel booked for the next two weeks. DO keep us posted!
Weean,

Don't stress. The trip with "the boy" is only half way done. I am due back in the US on the 10th to collect him. I promise to have "the talk" with him on the way home.

Happy New Year...
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Old Dec 27, 10, 8:37 pm
  #10  
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You did tell us you are in an Emirates lounge. Otherwise, I would have grave concern about where you might be along that 750 mile drive. I've driven in midwest winters. There's a reason I now live in San Diego. People in Singapore will have no concept of what you have endured the last day. I do.
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Old Dec 27, 10, 8:40 pm
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Apparently, this was a Dash aircraft. But I can tell you from looking at it, there was no Dash to it.
Great report!
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Old Dec 28, 10, 2:42 am
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Originally Posted by eightblack View Post
Weean,

Don't stress. The trip with "the boy" is only half way done. I am due back in the US on the 10th to collect him. I promise to have "the talk" with him on the way home.

Happy New Year...
I'm not sure if I'm more excited to read the rest of this TR or hear about the talk

Great report, I love your writing style
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Old Dec 28, 10, 7:18 am
  #13  
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Update: On The Road, FNT to JFK (Part One)

I have no idea why I had such a bee in my bonnet about driving to JFK. Perhaps it was the eternal mantra of an FT'er in that "we shall not be beaten by weather or mechanicals…".

Or something like this.

And to be honest, I had no idea just how long this would take me.

Because I grew up with the metric system, the whole concept of miles and yards is greek to me. I don't even really know how fast 65-mph is. I mean, I can tell you how fast it is by the feeling I get in my butt, but that's about all.

I thought the trek from Flint, Michigan, to JFK Airport, New York would be but a cinch. After all what was 750-miles between friends?

I held the weather in complete contempt. As an Aussie, we always do. Mainly because we don't get extremes. We get hot. And we get wet. And we get a sort of winter. But nothing like the arctic experience here in the US. No snow. Definitely no snow.

And besides, if the weather in Australia gets too bad for the locals, they simply stop what they are doing and head for the pub. It is something that has stood the test of time for our 200+ years of existence.

So I plug the co-ordinates into the GPS - and tell it to take me to JFK. It laughs and says in an electronic voice "are you kidding?". I simply ignore it and keep pushing enter. The fact that a very large, African American woman in Detroit told me when I first rented the thing that "in no uncertain terms was this car to be taken out of the Detroit area" was another matter I would have to deal with later.

The techno gremlins in the the sat-nav finally accept my command and then it starts to tell me which interstate to head to. Basically, I was going to go south out of Flint, down to Cleveland and then eastwards on the famous I-80 all the way to Noo-Yourk. Piece of cake. Easy Peasy.

Then I started to do the calculations in my head.

Lets see, its now 11 am 'ish. I said to myself. At at average speed of 80mph, I should be there by at 9pm easy. And thats with stops for gas and pee breaks.

So I set the cruise control on my little Chevvy SUV and off we went. Except for the fact that after 5-minutes, I was bored with 80-mph and decided that I should operate "the loud pedal" myself. So I did.

That's the good thing about rental cars. They always seem to be able to be driven much faster than your own. And did you know that you don't even have to come to a complete stop before you put them in reverse.

They also seem to be extremely good at hauling an unlimited quantity of cement sheeting, bluestone rocks for your garden renovation, and you appear to be able to take as much garbage as you can fill them with to the local landfill. But I digress. And anyway, I've only ever "heard" about these things. Never done them myself mind you.

The Chevvy I had rented turned out to be "the little engine that could" for reasons which will become clear in a few posts. I decided to name him "Pepe". It was one of those crossover cars, aptly named a "Traverse". But who are GM kidding with this thing. It's probably built in Korea. No wonder the thing works. The car and I bonded like no other car I have ever had.

Anyway, back to the getting to NY part.

I decided for once, to trust the Hertz Sat-Nav and blindly go where it told me to. I sort of roughly knew where I had to go. As you look on the map, I had to go south and then east. As i said above, nothing to it really.

When you are used to driving with a metric odometer, the kilometers click over. But when you are doing everything in miles, time stands still. I was losing the will to live.

So I punched it. The gas pedal that is. Man, I was flying and thought that at this rate, I would be in The Big Apple by early afternoon. I sat on 90-mph for ever and on the odd passing maneuver, saw the wrong side of 100-mph. I thought about putting an Aussie flag in the back window with my FlyerTalk handle on it - so people could "root" for me, knowing full well I was on yet another travel crusade. But I realize that my 15-minutes of fame are well and truly over.
Interestingly, a couple of cars came along for the ride, content with me being the "sweeper".

A "sweeper" for those of you who don't know, is the brave car. Normally a big Suburban driven by a large guy, with a bumper sticker which reads "incest is best". Or something like that.

Thankfully, a Suburban did actually materialize and a group of us followed him for 100-miles or so.

But then he turned off. And the traffic had to be content with a middle aged, slightly eccentric Aussie at the wheel.

* * * * * * * *

The point at which you actually see the police car lying in wait, and the time it takes for your brain to compute and then hit the brake pedal is agonizingly slow. And my reaction time was exactly that. A drunk turtle would have reacted faster. But it was too late. The laser technology in the State Trooper's radar gun was much smarter than me. It had me at "hello".

The "poh-leece" cruiser stormed out onto the interstate, like a rabid dog. It was behind me in less than 30-seconds and was a blaze of blue lights, arm waving and a big sign on top of the car which tells the fleeing driver which side of the road the man with the gun wants you to pull over to. It also tells you what side the man with the gun is going to start shooting from if you don't pull over within 11-seconds.

Ok, I may have made that last part up. They only do the shooting part in Nebraska.

Now, I would be lying to you if i told you that this was the first time I have been booked speeding in the US. It wasn't. I know the drill. License and Registration. Or in my case, license and Hertz car rental contract.

The man with the gun approached the car and the first thing that comes out of his mouth, "Sir, do you have any weapons on you?".

"Um, no", I politely respond, somewhat disappointed that I wasn't packing heat. I always wanted to say that.

"Sir, I just clocked you at 86 mph. Do you know the speed limit on this interstate is 65mph?"

Why is it that the police always ask you rhetorical questions? Yes, of course I knew the speed limit. I didn't like it. That's why I was going faster. I nearly said "oh, 86 mph, that's nothing. You should have seen how fast I was going back up the road a little bit". But sanity and logic got the better of me. And besides, I didn't really want to spend the night in a county lock-up.

The State Trooper invited me back to his cruiser. Probably to have a light beer.

The Americans must have wised up to all the "foreigners" coming over to the US, speeding and then skipping town on the penalty.

Once he was convinced that I hadn't stolen the car, and that I was really who I said I was, he politely informed me that my little indiscretion was going to cost me $145.

"How would you like to pay?" he enquired.
"What is this, McDonalds?" I felt like saying.

I pulled out my credit card. He entered the numbers into his onboard laptop. Then we waited.
Just as luck would have it, the credit card I pulled out has a PIN feature and so there was no way this was going to work via his terminal. There was much finger tapping. He then spoke to someone "at dispatch".

He then made the fatal mistake of asking me what i was doing and where I was headed. I tried to tell him. I think he figured, that an Aussie, driving somewhere in Ohio, in a rental car, thankfully heading out of town, couldn't really make all this up.

In the end, the state trooper lost the will to live and he gave up in disgust. He said that "I'm going to let it slide just this once, but you had better slow down as there are plenty more of us up the road. He gave me back my license, the rental papers and I was officially still $145 dollars richer.

He was clearly disappointed that he didn't get to shoot someone.

As soon as I was well clear of the man with the gun, I put my boot back into Pepe and I decided to be conservative and set the cruise for 80-mph. We made good time. I kept on doing calculations in my head. Average speed was good. Fuel was good. Weather was perfect.

What was everyone pissing and moaning about the conditions on the east coast I wondered? It was picturesque where I was. Somewhere in Ohio…

If I only knew.

(And for those of you who can't be bothered wading through all the following posts, and let's be honest, why would you?, I will tell you that as I write this, it is now Tuesday morning, just on 8am and I am still in New York. But we have much to share between now and then...)
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Old Dec 28, 10, 9:09 am
  #14  
 
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Ohio Turnpike

I'm loving your writing, by the way.

I'm a veteran of driving the Ohio Turnpike, having made at least 100 round trips by road between the DC area and either the South Bend-Elkhart area (where my wife and I went to school and where her parents still live) or to a little town about 100 miles west of MBS known as the "Baby Food Capital of the World", where my father relocated us from the SF Bay Area in 1963.

Anyway, the Ohio Turnpike can just be lousy with Ohio State Patrol looking to, as the truckers say, "give out the green stamps". I didn't know that they demanded payment on the spot in Ohio; I did know that Michigan did this (I got nailed a few years ago driving on US 131 south of Kalamazoo where the freeway abruptly ended and the speed limit went just about instantly from 70 to 35). Also, the highway cops are really out to terrify you, what with their cars that light up like slot machine jackpot on steroids, and the officers looking like skinheads, even with their hats on. Your getting out of a fine shows you to be a world class traveler; I'm envious.

Also, three other problems with the Ohio Turnpike--they did not follow suit with neighboring states like Michigan and Indiana and raise their speed limit to 70, even though it is one of the best designed and maintained highways in the whole country; and they never finished making the highway 3 lanes in each direction in two places, even though they've been working on that project for 20 years or so (it was supposed to be three lanes from Exit 59 to Exit 218, and over 90% of that has been completed). Finally, despite having paid off all the construction bonds that were issued in the early 1950s to build it, they continue to raise the tolls (largely ripping off out-of-staters like me).

Please continue with your story. I can't wait for more.
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Old Dec 28, 10, 12:23 pm
  #15  
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When, exactly, is your customer expecting you in PNH? And you're still in NYC?
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