Tag Archives: internet

Good News, Bad News

This title should read: Bad News, Good News, Bad News and More Bad News. We are alive and well so it wasn’t that that bad, however . . . .

After two weeks of trying and mostly failing to sever our relationships with credit card companies, the satellite TV, phone, internet and electric companies – for the most part these companies don’t accept that there is a functioning world outside of the U.S. – Jimmy tried to check in online for our transatlantic flight 24 hours before departure.

“I don’t believe this!”

“What?”

“They haven’t got our reservation!” With the stress of packing, planning, making lists and arguing with corporate America on the phone I was surprised his head hadn’t exploded.

My heart sank but I tried to exhibit calm in my voice. “Let me try.” I carefully typed in our reservation code – 6yk2E7i14clD5CK – easy, no? and I got:

We don’t recognize this reservation.

Our furniture was gone, truck shipped, apartment lease terminated, hire car returned and taxi to the airport booked. I tried not to think through the consequences of having booked flights with a company online we hadn’t previously used.

“Have you typed your name correctly?” I asked.

“Of course I have!” said like this: “&*  #&*%@*  #  &*$#!!!”

“What name did you book it in?” I asked patiently. He has two names, first and middle, like many of us, but uses them interchangeably, unlike many of us. They were both on the screen. “Try taking that space out.”

Up popped our flight reservations effectively putting the pin back in his primed grenade head.

We celebrated with one margarita too many at happy hour. So cheap! How could we not?

The taxi turned up early the next day and we arrived at the airport in good spirits.

After the lost reservation fright on the laptop at the hotel I was unable to check in online anyway as I am to become an alien once again in the UK and I needed to be scrutinized. As I am “special” we were escorted to the head of the long queue.

The check-in clerk was either surprised at our cheerfulness at that early hour or just liked the look of us because then something magical happened. She put “security cleared” labels on our carry-ons and even on my handbag.

“You’re TSA cleared,” Tracy declared.

“What does that mean?” I asked.

“You go through the security cleared line. You keep your shoes on, you don’t have to take anything out of your bags and you aren’t x-rayed or searched.”

We swanned past dozens of sweaty, harassed-looking, bare-footed passengers and I felt like royalty. They looked at us with hate and envy.

No more Airport Gestapo for us. We had had an encounter with an airport angel.

That’s the end of the good news.

During our trans-country flight we were concerned that should our flight be late, our one and a half hour layover in New York would evaporate and we and/or our luggage would miss the connecting flight to London.

We landed in good time and rushed to the departures board to see . . . . . oh nooooo! . . . . . a four hour delay! It was our punishment for feeling smug at security in Phoenix.

Four hours turned into six hours as we waited on board for eight passengers with names the cabin steward struggled to pronounce. They never turned up. When we finally pushed back from the gate the captain assured us these eight passengers hadn’t checked any baggage but I fretted all across the Atlantic about the airline’s record keeping systems.

You will have gathered that we landed safely. Somewhere.

London, actually. Tired and stressed but all in one piece.

Jimmy drove the two hours to our accommodation through torrential rain alternating with bursts of sunshine. With the countryside looking so green after spending  140 days in the desert with no rain we were pleased to be nearing the end of this particular journey.

caravan/single-wide/park model
Our temporary home. For now. See storm clouds looming.

Our caravan/single-wide/park model/whatever-you-call-it was pristine, cozy and dry and we tumbled in with six pieces of luggage in the evening, 36 hours after our alarm had gone off one third of a world away.

Driving rain continued on and off the next day but viewed through the window from the comfort of a warm sofa and feeling slightly smug again as we watched campers dashing in and out of their tents, we didn’t care.

Until . . . . .

“Ewwwww! This carpet is wet!”

After I’d stepped in the soggy mess our eyes drifted up to the ceiling where crumpled wallpaper showed signs of water damage. We had just unpacked and put away the contents of six suitcases and one hundred pounds (Sterling, not weight) worth of groceries. Looking like Spiderman, my hands and arms outstretched, I hopped from spot to spot and patted all over the walls searching for more signs of damp.

I patted down all the recently filled cupboards and shelves. There was no sign of running water.

We waited and watched.

Somehow a small damp patch on the carpet you could feel but not see turned into a squashy obvious puddle.

We were demoralized. The campsite owners were alarmed. The maintenance men were less than sympathetic.

“You didn’t know a swimming pool was included in the price of your rental did you?!”

Oh ha.

“You should have popped down the shops and bought some wellington boots and charged them to the campsite!”

Ha bloody ha.

Long story short . . . oh wait, too late for that . . . we have to move.

Our caravan has been condemned.

It could only happen to us.

English bottoms
Remember the view from our balcony? This is our view now. What do you think of it?

Another Dam Mistake

Can we? Can't we?
Can we? Can’t we?

What a couple of dopes we are.

“Are we going over Hoover Dam?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you see that sign?”

“Yes. Let me look at the map.” Flip, flip, flip, flip. “Oh! Yes. Oops.”

Though we only had a journey of about 150 miles from Wikieup, Arizona to Las Vegas, we’d both studied the route several times to check our approach into Sin City. Hoover Dam nestles on the border of Arizona and Nevada, as bold on the map as the Boulder Dam that it used to be. The 247 square mile mass of Lake Mead shows as a big blue splash behind the dam on the road atlas, fed by the mighty Colorado River, downstream of the Grand Canyon.

Lake Mead NV
Lake Mead NV

How could we miss that? But neither of us had seen it, noted it or planned for it.

“The sign said ‘no trailers’.”

“It meant no commercial trailers.”

“Are you sure? It just said ‘no trailers’.”

“Well, yes . . . no . . . . I don’t know. We’ll just keep going and see if we get turned back.”

Flip, flip, flip, flip. “A hundred and forty miles.”

“What’s a hundred and forty miles?”

“A hundred and forty miles there and back to a junction where we can then go the long way round.”

“What should we do?”

Why does he ask me these impossible questions? I’ve learned not to commit myself. Equal blame will be allocated if the journey goes all wrong. I kept quiet while he concentrated on aiming the car down the road, possibly in the wrong direction.

“There’s another sign. It definitely says ‘no trailers.’ Ah, a phone number, 1-866 . . . oh. How are you supposed to read all that at 55 mph? Now what do we do?” I asked.

It was Jimmy’s turn to be non-committal to my question, perhaps pretending it was rhetorical. We’d only just passed through the town of Kingman and the landscape was looking barren as we climbed into high desert.

We’re always climbing. The slightest puff of wind on our nose causes our car to change down into third gear. We’ve traveled “uphill’” all the way from Washington State down to Florida and back to Washington again.

“If I’m quick, I might get an internet signal. Maybe they have a website.” And they did. “Commercial trailers are prohibited to drive over Hoover Dam but recreational vehicles CAN cross the dam,” and then I did lose the signal.

“Well this is a nice surprise. We’re going to drive over Hoover Dam. I didn’t know it was here, did you?”

Hoover Dam - too big to fit in my wide angle lens!
Hoover Dam – too big to fit in my wide angle lens!

We’d driven hundreds of miles specifically to see the Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State yet here we were about to drive right over Hoover Dam by mistake, or like the chicken crossing the road – to get to the other side, but in this case, to get to the other side of a river.

Hover cursor to read captions or click to enlarge:

It is a little concerning that in this late stage in our travels, with all our navigating experience that we failed notice Hoover Dam. It is so huge it contains enough concrete to construct a two-lane road from San Francisco to New York – a definite landmark.

The deep ‘V’ shape of this dam is an image familiar to both of us as it is to many people but who knew it was just 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas? We’ve probably missed more tourist destinations than we’ve seen as we hurtle around the three and a half million square miles of this country. Jimmy is an alien and I’m almost a non-native, having lived more years in Europe than the U.S., so what he never knew in the first place as a foreigner, I’ve forgotten as a repatriated ex-pat.

So, no, we didn’t know Hoover Dam was smack dab in front of us and we were going to tow our trailer right over it.

This country is so vast, that there are too many geological, technical and historical wonders spread over thousands of miles for us to be aware of every little (and big) one in our vicinity.

Anyway, I’m making excuses now for our ignorance. One would think we’d have a better system by now.

While the pleasure of seeing one of America’s great engineering marvels was still causing us to grin with our serendipity (a more pleasing word than stupidity) we drove straight into Las Vegas rush hour traffic on a main artery to the center. Memories of towing through Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, as well as the kamikaze driving styles around us raised some white knuckles in the car. I counted down the numbers to our exit to North Las Vegas where we proceeded to get lost and Jimmy became more terse.

Which is only funny when it is someone else’s husband.

We popped back three years later for the pleasure of driving over the new bridge. Disappointingly you can’t see nuthin’ as you drive across. I guess gazing at the stunning landscape while attempting to point a car across a high bridge vulnerable to cross winds is asking for trouble:

Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge - photo taken from Hoover dam
Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge – photo taken from Hoover dam. Old road visible below – waaaay down there!