Last Days Tales

As promised in the Illinois blog post this is a collection of dicey situations we got ourselves into during our travels, especially on the famous last day. 

Let's see. 

Number one was totally my fault. 2003 we had been visiting different regions in the U.S. like Chicago, Arizona and New Orleans, and the last four days we spent in NYC. It was cold, rainy and over all unpleasant. Coming from the Southwest, most people in the big apple seemed rude and ripping off tourists. So I was kind of glad to get out of there. 

A taxi that ate up all of my remaining dollar cash brought us to Newark Liberty International Airport. 

Things  were looking good. We were there early, and the line at the check-in counter was short. The passenger in front of us had a cat as their travel partner, and they went back and forth about the cat needing to be checked in, and what cage was needed, and what form to fill in, what do I know. It took a lot of time until it was finally our turn. 

The clerk looked at our passports and tickets and frowned. "I am sorry, there is no flight going to Zurich, Switzerland tonight", he said. Haha, bad joke, of course there was a flight! "Yeah, but not out of Newark - you guys need to go to JFK, and you better hurry!" 

What a punch in the stomach! 

Was it even worth the effort, could we make it in time?

Shuffling together our bags and getting in line at the taxi stand, I realized we didn't have any cash left. Certainly not enough for a 35 miles ride from New Jersey to Queens. 

Running through the airport in search of an ATM, I kept thinking why the h* had I been so sure we needed to depart from Newark? Up until that day I don't know.

Our driver was a Russian holding a PhD in math or physics or something along that line who made it his personal mission to get us there in time, never mind rush hour. During the ride, or should I say "race", I texted a friend who is a flight attendant asking her about our options. Of course I was on my last battery bar. 
Piotr, our driver, did a wonderful job and got a fat tip. We were really hopeful we could make it. The snotty check-in person didn't think so. The airplane was still here, but the door was about to close. Sorry. Come back tomorrow.


It was clear that there was no point arguing.

So for the second time we picked up our bags and left. This time we wouldn't take a taxi but some hotel shuttle bus. It was in the old days where you had to pick up a red phone and got connected with a random airport hotel. 

We had to give the Ramada clerk our credit card details on the phone and were told to wait for the bus. We were waiting for about 45 minutes and saw various hotel shuttles coming and going, but nor ours. As we didn't have Ramada's phone number, we just boarded the next best bus and checked into that hotel, I don't even remember what it was. 

It was also a time when hotels didn't provide free wireless internet, but you had to ask for an ethernet cable and pay for a 24 hours internet access package, even if you just needed half an hour, but we had to to cancel the Ramada (they were giving us such a hard time claiming we just didn't wait long enough for the bus and didn't want to give us our money back) and check out "stand-by procedures" and prices for new tickets. 

We left the next morning, looking at a perfectly blue sky and sunshine and luckily got our seats back home. 

Number two was also my fault. I had accumulated frequent traveler miles that were about to expire, so I was determined to redeem them and get free flights. 
We ended up getting seats for the following itinerary:

Zurich - Geneva - JFK - Washington D.C. - Miami

It was a bit of a stretch, but hey, we only paid for the airport tax (with four landings it started to add up, though.) The flight back would be much better: 

Miami - JFK - Zurich, easy peasy. Or so we thought. 

The lady who checked us in, said she could only do so for the Miami - JFK part. The other flight was blocked in her system. Why would THAT be, please? Because the transfer time was less than 90 minutes. And 90 minutes was the minimum requirement to make sure the bags could be unloaded, brought to another terminal and loaded onto the other aircraft. 

OMG! I started sweating. I had chosen the shorter layover on purpose because I didn't want to hang out at the airport for hours and hours!! 

So what should we do, we asked her?

Get your bags yourself and re-check them.

Now HOW should WE be able to do this, if not even the cargo guys with their fancy conveyer belt system couldn't do it???

Again I texted my flight attendant friend who told us to just forget about the bags and run, so at least we could make the flight. Nooo! My nice purchases :-( 

Before descending, the captain explained he needed some more time, so the airport fire fighters would be there upon our landing. Something about the landing gear, just a precaution, nothing to worry about.

Just what we needed. Delayed arrival. Less than less than 90 minutes. We ended up not needing the firefighters, but it sure looked dramatic, all the fire trucks and police cars with their flashing lights and sirens on waiting for us to touch the ground.

We had decided to assign the tasks as follows: Christian would get our bags and I should play for time at the check-in counter. Which I did, and the people there were very friendly and patient. They even called a guy who would personally take our bags to the plane - if only they would arrive any minute now, because they needed to close the gate. I assured them it was only a matter of minutes. 

The other clerks were done for the day and were waiting for "my" team so they could go and have cocktails. It was Friday around 4 or 5pm. I so wanted to buy them drinks to thank them for their helpfulness. Christian arrived with our bags, the girl had our boarding passes and bag labels ready and said "now RUN WITH ME!" She took off her high heels and ran off. 

Approaching security screening, she yelled at the officers "they are good, let them through!"

This was by far the best NYC experience ever! We flopped into our seats panting and sweating, and a couple of minutes later we were taxiing to the runway.

Numbers three to five were minor car accidents:

On our last night of a Boston stay we were headed to an Outback Steakhouse when, out of the blue from beyond the divider, a tire came bouncing at us, hit our left front and bounced off even more to other cars behind us. We felt kind of silly telling the rental agent "we were hit by a tire." But this was exactly what happened.

On a Friday, Sept 13, I think it was in 2002, a girl called April bumped into us in Santa Cruz, CA. We had been driving around in search of a restroom for me, and it seemed that all the fast food places around there didn't have one. The moment we collided, I spotted a Chinese restaurant. (And no, I was not driving!!), so I just jumped out of the car and into the restaurant. The other driver felt bad because she thought she had caused me to puke or something. Gwen, the nicest police officer, took our statements and a phone call from her fiancé confirming weekend plans. All very relaxed and friendly.

Another acquaintance by accident was Kenny in New Orleans. He was in a rental moving truck, we were in our rental car, and somehow we wanted to change lanes at the same time, one coming from the left, the other from the right lane. When the police inspected our red Swiss passports, he was stunned: "oh, you are from out of town?"


Number six just happened this vacation and involved Freddie from Dallas. Looks like we are making a habit of "meeting people on the street" ;-)
This time the police didn't even bother to show up. No injuries, no major damage, no fuss.

Oh, number seven is fun to read (now that it's over)

It was with my Markus, ex-boyfriend, yes, the one with the basketball player hotel suite (see Tennessee blog post), it must have been on the last day of the same Florida trip. We had a couple of hours to kill, and he suggested we'd go to the mall. Gotta love a guy who wants to go shopping! 
It was some time in the late 1990s, just mentioning this, because we didn't have a GPS in the car. Important detail.

So it was easy to find the way to the mall. It was getting back to the car rental return that turned out to be difficult. We had a certain exit in mind that we needed to take, but it didn't show up. We took an exit much further out than we should have and drove back. Again, no luck. And the clock was ticking, and we were getting nervous. I don't remember how many times we cruised around that airport in Tampa, but it was getting seriously late. 

At some point we spotted a shuttle of our rental company. Yay, we could follow it, and it would lead us right to where we needed to go. Or not. It was on its way to pick up new customers at arrival. 
Considering the time was getting tight and tighter, we were desperate. We switched on the emergency flasher and got out of the car right at arrivals, approached the shuttle driver, gave him the keys and said we were terribly sorry, but we needed to catch an international flight, and could he please make sure our car would get back to where it belonged.  "You will be charged a penalty fee" he said. Yeah, fine, whatever. It couldn't be worse than missing our flight. And it wasn't. It was 80 bucks. Later, all buckled up in our seats, sipping on something with lots of ice to cool us down, we were joking and saying we should have saved us the trouble and done that half an hour earlier ;-)

Number eight: A year or two later, we spent time in the California / Nevada area, specifically it wasn't a "last day" for once, but somewhere in the middle. We wanted to explore Death Valley and had made a reservation at Panamintsprings Resort. It was late afternoon, early evening when we entered the National Park, and he was driving. I mention this because I couldn't see the fuel gauge and maybe prevent what was going to happen. 

You guessed right, at some point we were getting low on gas. 

In the middle of the desert.

It was getting dark, and you could hear coyotes howling. An eerie atmosphere. 

Given that the NP map stated that there would be a gas station at our accommodation we were not too worried, though. Only upon our arrival the gas station looked like it had gone out of business years ago. And unfortunately it was true. No gas at Panamint Springs. Until today their website says differently, though! 

You've got to make it till Stovepipe Wells, we got told. If you don't make it, stay in your car and wait for a ranger on patrol duty. Make sure you have enough water with you. 
NOW I was worried. It was only 30 miles, but we had gone into reserve mode a while ago. 

The next morning we got up early, and a scorpio in the shower  caused me to actually not take a shower. We were on our way early, so we could avoid the extreme heat. Even so, at 6am the air was flickering. We were driving as low-speed as possible as to not to use up too much fuel. I even urged him to switch off a/c as surely this was fuel consuming as well. 

To cut the long story short, we made it to Panamint springs. Boy, were we glad to see a gas station!

When I entered the store and said I wanted to pay for our gas, the lady asked "what pump?" I told her. She looked down on her display, then out of the window at the car, then she looked at me and said "no way! You did not put that amount of gas in THAT car! Did you push it here?" 



  1. Great stories! Sounds like you made lots of memories! :o)


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