Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Part 1- China: Shot Down

The Forbidden City in Beijing: Definitely next time!   Photo credit: Jacob Mee's Flickr photostream.

Part 1 of 5

(Or, the continuation of my "Beijing in My Sights" blog post)
(Or, Part 1 of my Asia travelogue series, sorely missing the cool overseas photos coming in Parts 2-5)

Unintentionally, my blog post titles about a hopeful China visit have maintained a misconstrued warfare motif... "Beijing In My Sights" and "China: Shot Down," anyone?  What's next?  "Aiming for Beijing?"  Actually, that WILL be the title chronicling my next attempt to visit China.

My convoluted scheme for a 72 hour visit to China "in transit" without paying for a visa seemed foolproof.  Although frowned upon by nearly every ticket counter agent I encountered, most employees conceded that the plan was fully legal.  A tad risky and complicated, but legal.  I had carefully assembled the various documentation to prove it.

For reasons I won't specify, my plan required me to depart from Seattle airport on a day that I was working at PDX.  I used a lunch break to purchase a standby flight pass on Alaskan Air, finished my shift at Delta, hastily completed a crucial shift bid after work, got involved in a minor security-related scuffle, and barely checked in in time for my flight to Seattle.

PDX airport, after my Delta work shift:  My Alaskan Airlines flight bump-a-thon to Seattle

Oversold.  I got bumped to the next flight.  Then the next flight.  Then the next flight.  Five flights later, I finally nabbed a seat out of Portland.


Landing in Seattle several hours late, I was still optimistic about making my connection to Beijing.  Making that connection, however, would mandate sprinting through the Sea-Tac concourse like a madman.  And sprint I did.

Gasping for air, I dashed into the Beijing departure gate just before the final boarding call.  The gate agent begrudgingly signed off on my travel plans, although she was clearly skeptical and disavowed responsibility for the outcome.

Unforeseen Problem:  All of us standby passengers had seat assignments (and the others had already boarded), but the airplane was overloaded with cargo.  Clutching my worthless boarding pass, I helplessly watched as my fellow non-rev passengers were unceremoniously deplaned.

My flight to Beijing needed to lose some weight before I could board.  I'm such a fatty!  

It was getting late, and the next flight to Beijing wouldn't leave Sea-Tac for two more days.  Extending my long weekend into a full week away from baby Lena wasn't an option.  Kathy and Lena would be home from Salem by Saturday night.  It was time to admit defeat.


My relative Eileen was gracious enough to pick me up from Sea Tac and allow me to crash overnight at her triplex, near the University of Washington.  We had the best of times catching up on life since Brent and Cheryl's February wedding in Bend (wedding party blog links here and here)!

Early the next morning, Eileen dropped me off near the Seattle light rail line on her way to work at the U of W campus.  It wasn't really on her way... but with a heart as big as hers, it didn't seem to matter.

Plan B was already in motion.  En route to Seattle the evening before, I had scoured the Delta flight schedules on my Galaxy Note 2 for alternate options.  Osaka, Japan was a wide-open route, and Kyoto should be an easy train ride away from Osaka.

Problem: The immensely popular Golden Week festival was underway in Japan.  I would be a fool to visit Kyoto on such a frenetic, crowded week without plans, lodging, or a confirmed seat!

Opportunity: See "Problem," above.  I couldn't resist!

A couple hours later, I scored a seat in the Business Elite cabin to Osaka.  I was on my way to Kyoto for Golden Week!

Coming Monday night on Garth's Blog...

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