Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Long & Winding Road Part I (by: Mike)

I've been meaning to write about the actual trip down here for a while now.  I want those who might be interested in a visit to know that it's not exactly the easiest place to get to.  Not that it is hard (though having all the luggage that we did made it an extra challenge).  It's mostly just long.  So, here's Part I.

We left our house on October 31 around 5 PM to head to Ecuador.  Sort of.  Our flight from Boston, MA to Houston, TX leaves tomorrow at 10:15 AM and none of us are interested in getting up at 4 AM in the morning.  We borrowed our friend Bruce's truck because we needed something big enough to hold everything that we're bringing with us, plus the four of us.  Nani's brother Tim was nice enough to drive us down and drop us off at the Courtyard Marriott that we're staying at tonight.

The weather forecast showed the possibility of rain so before we loaded everything in to the truck we spread a tarp big enough to cover everything into the pick up bed.  Unfortunately, I had a bunch of small tarps that weren't big enough, and one monster tarp.  I think it was 30 X 40.  It was big enough to wrap everything 3 times over.  But, we made due and loaded everything into the back, wrapped the tarp around it, and tied it down with an excessive number of bungy chords.

Everything means three 50 pound bags, 2 boxes weighing about 50 pounds and a 3rd box weighing about 65 pounds.  We also had 3 carry on bags and 3 "personal" bags.  The boxes all met the dimensional requirements as stipulated by Continental Airlines.  We have stretched the luggage allowances to the limit.

We also have a short connector flight once we get to Ecuador with an airline called TAME.  I wanted to make sure that we weren't going to run into any luggage issues with them once we got there so we used a travel agent out of Florida that our friends Jack & Julia recommended.   TAME's website is in Spanish and we wanted to make sure we understood the requirements in order to minimize surprises.

Our travel agent assured us that the size of our boxes met the dimensional requirements but warned us that there is a fee for any luggage over their weight limit which is 44 pounds each.  Every kilogram over 44 pounds cost an extra 80 cents.  Why they mix pounds and kilograms is beyond me.  That means one of our 50 pound bags would be over 6 pounds or roughly 2.7 kilograms (1 kilogram = 2.20462262 lbs.)over the limit.  Multiply that time .80 = $2.18.  If my math is correct and I understand the requirements, then no problem.

After arguing with the GPS and getting directions from someone at the hotel we eventually made it to the hotel.  I think it took us a couple of hours.  But, we were there.  After muscling all of the bags on to a cart, checking in and dropping the bags at the room we decided to grab a bite.  We ate at the hotel restaurant and bought Tim dinner as a small token reward for his generosity.

After dinner Tim headed back to NH and we headed to our hotel room to do some last minute reorganizing.  In spite of months of meticulous planning, mostly done by Nani, we still had to bring a few things with us to the hotel that we hadn't been able to cram into the boxes and bags.  After about an hour Nani had it straightened out.  We left a few nice pairs of jeans and some other miscellaneous items for room keeping.

We woke up the next morning at 7 AM.  We had a lot of luggage so we wanted to get down to the lobby early so we could make sure we could fit everything onto the airport shuttle.  We showered, had some watered down hotel room coffee (the kind you make in the miniature coffee pot), and headed down to the lobby about 7:45 for the 8 AM shuttle.  We loaded all the luggage into the shuttle and waited a few minutes till it was time to depart and head to Logan Airport.

The shuttle ride was about 15 minutes and once we arrived Nani went to look for a luggage cart while the driver, Dec, and I unloaded the luggage.  I paid the driver a tip and thanked him while we waited for Nani.  A few minutes went by and she showed up with a luggage cart that might hold half of our stuff, so she ran off to look for another cart while Dec and I crammed as much luggage onto the first cart as possible.  A few minutes later Nani returned with a Skycap (I think that's what they're called.  Have no idea why, either.  Okay I had to look it up, see inset below).  He had a much bigger cart, so I took all the luggage off the first cart while Nani, Dec, and the Skycap helped to load the other bags and such.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A Skycap is a porter employed by an airport and provides the following service to airline passengers:

The word is a portmanteau of the words sky and redcap (a rail station porter).

Of course I had to look up portmanteau:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses of "Portmanteau", see Portmanteau (disambiguation). A portmanteau (pronounced /pɔrtmænˈtoʊ/ ( listen)) or portmanteau word is used broadly to mean a blend of two (or more) words or morphemes and their meanings into one new word,[1][2][3] and narrowly in linguistics fields to mean only a blend of two or more function words.

The Skycap wheeled us over to the line in front of the Continental Airline's counter and we got in the queue.  The wait wasn't too bad and we eventually made it up to the ticket counter.  The lady at the counter checked our ticket information in the computer, checked our passports, and weighed each bag as they were moved to the big conveyor belt behind the counter.  At this moment we realized that we had one too many carry on bags.  In the 3 months of planning, somehow we forgot to count the camera bag.  We hoped no one would notice and carried on.  Once the Skycap helped with the last bag I tipped him and we made our way to security.

Going through security is like some sort of hurried, rushed dance.  Grab a bin and put in on the conveyor.  Take off my shoes and put them in the bin.  Grab a bin and put in on the conveyor.  Take out my laptop and put it in the bin.  Grab a bin and put in on the conveyor.  Take out Nani's laptop and put it in the bin.  Grab a bin and put in on the conveyor.  Take any change out of my pocket and put it in a cup and put the cup in the bin.  Take my cellphone out of my pocket and place it in the bin.  Put all the bags on the conveyor.  The entire time you're trying to force feed everything through the x-ray machine.  Occasionally, it gets indigestion and spits a back or bin back out.  Once all your stuff makes it way into the x-ray machine you have to walk through a door-shaped metal detector just in case you're packing.

On the other side of the x-ray machine you get to do the exact same hurried, rushed dance, but this time backwards.  All in all, security went pretty smooth.  Except that one of Nani's bags had our hard drives in them and the enforcers got a little worried with how it all looked on the x-ray boob tube.  She had to take everything out of the bag, which like all our bags, was stuffed to the point of bursting.  She eventually found the hard drives and showed them to a security lady to "prove" that they weren't some sort of tool of the devil (what a joke).  Once Nani packed her bag back up we made our way to the gate.

Boarding started about 30 minutes before the flight.  Apparently all the security that we had to go through wasn't enough and the TSA thugs arrived with a portable cart to "randomly" recheck certain passengers.  I noticed that the only passenger they checked had brown skin and sort of looked Middle-Eastern.  Hmmmm.  Probably just a coincidence.  We got a little assistance from the Universe on the extra carry on issue.  Because the flight was booked and the airline decided to allow people to check a carry on for free if they wanted to.  They where concerned that the overhead compartments would fill up and there would be a bunch of bags with no where to go.  We took advantage of this offer and checked a bag.  Now we where within the requirements for carry on bags once again.  Looks like the camera will at least make it to Quito.  We bordered on time and settled in for a 4 1/2 hour flight to Houston.

We arrived in Houston on time.  We decided to grab a bite to eat as we had 2 1/2 hours to kill before our flight to Quito departed.  We ate in the food court and headed over to our gate to hang out.  Our flight to Quito bordered & departed on time.  Once again we had some time to kill.  Unfortunately, I inadvertently left the book I was reading on the first plane.  Doh!  I hate it when I do that (yes, it's happened before).  5 1/2 hours is a long time to stare at the seat in front of you so I watched the in-flight movie.  It was Night at the Museum II, or something like that with Ben Stiller in it.  It was okay, and besides, what else was I going to do.  The rest of the time I tried to sleep, which never works out very well for me as I am 6' 3" and plane seats are designed for someone about 5' 6".  My head ends up falling forward, my mouth opens up, and once all the spit drools out it drys out like the Sierra Desert.

Eventually, slowly but surely, we arrived in Quito about 10:30 PM.  We had arrived in Ecuador!

Courtesy Paul S. Rooy's website.


  1. Very cool Mike. Naina and Mike's Most Excellent Adventure. How was Dec on the trip. You know I think he's the coolest person ever!! Keep writing and I'll keep reading. Thanks for sharing!!


  2. Love the stories, thanks for sharing! Missing and loving you all! How has the string held up thus far in your journey? Look to it for reassurance of your promises...much love & light xoxo

  3. Melissa - all of our strings are still intact. I use mine from time to time & it always reminds me of you. I wear the necklace you gave me every day as well. I can always use more strength - physical, mental, spiritual or all three! -Mike

  4. Enjoying the feed Mike (& Nani!)... Keep it up... Got you on my favorites toolbar! -Steve B