Monday, December 8, 2014

From Rome: Traveling to Africa, Nicaragua, South Korea, or ANYWHERE?

Flying standby overseas in early December is usually pretty easy for us.  Flights loads are lighter.  But our recent winning streak of hassle-free international trips came to a screeching halt this week.

Update 12/8/14:  Originally uploaded from Italy on Saturday morning, I reposted this story today with some bonus photos from Rome.  Plenty of more Italy photos are coming!

Kathy's and my South African safari should have wrapped up on Friday, freeing up this weekend to swing by Italy to see some friends.  Even if I ran out of time to make it to their villa, we could still meet in Central Italy for a Saturday night out in Rome.  It all seemed like a sure thing.

But then this week happened.

Nervous, Kathy?  Not to worry, Kathy totally gave me permission to share this pic, en route to Seattle.

Attempt #1:  PDX to Atlanta to South Africa

Kathy was fearful of traveling back to South Africa on Monday, even more so than our recent overseas trips. The anxiety was too much for poor Kathy, and for days there was nothing I could do or say to console her. To make matters worse, last October our South African outlet adapter had literally caught on fire in our dorm in Spain. We knocked out the power to the entire wing of our Madrid hostel!

The night before we were scheduled to fly down to South Africa for our safari, I mercifully suggested an alternate destination. South Africa would be our first of many attempts this week.

Attempt #2:  PDX to Atlanta to Nicaragua

I stayed up all night on Monday reworking our plans: where to surf in Nicaragua, which active volcanoes to climb, and which hiking trails would be enjoyable for Kathy. But Tuesday morning, we were unable to get on our Atlanta flight to connect to Managua. We flew Business Class to Seattle instead, attempting to catch a red eye flight to Atlanta. Shortly after we landed in Seattle, the red eye became completely oversold.

Central America was out, and we were stuck overnight in Seattle until Wednesday.

Attempt #3:  Seattle to South Korea

Wednesday's Seattle flight to Seoul looked open. We overnighted in Burien with our good Warner Pacific friends Michael and Melanie. Readers may remember Michael from little Lena's first Daddy-daughter trip to Seattle this fall. Here's the link to that story.

Camera one, camera two.  And camera three?

But on Wednesday morning, we were unable to get on our flight from Seattle to Seoul. And all flights to Atlanta (or to any of Delta's international hubs) were oversold for days.

Making progress:  Seattle to Los Angeles

Finally!  We got unstuck from Seattle and flew to L.A on Wednesday afternoon.  This was our last chance this week to transfer to Atlanta and fly overseas, though the LAX-ATL red eye flight was slightly oversold.  Regardless of which country we visited first, the clock was ticking until I had to be in Italy on Saturday night.

More progress: Los Angeles to Atlanta

Against all odds, we didn't get stuck in LAX overnight. The oversold red eye flight to Atlanta gradually opened up enough for Kathy and I to grab the last two seats. Together!

Upon landing in Atlanta before dawn on Thursday morning, we discovered that our doable international connections from ATL now looked horrible until the NEXT day. We had run out of time to visit any counties prior to our arrival in Rome, which wasn't even our main destination.  Italy was merely intended to be a fun way to cap off a week of continent hopping.

The white flag:  Atlanta it is.

We made the most of our extra day in Atlanta. We hiked to the top of Stone Mountain, negotiated an outrageously low rate for a premium hotel suite, and kicked off our tour of the Atlanta nightlife with the Cowboys vs. Bears game at J. R. Cricket's.  Dallas steamrollered Chicago, of course.

A quick afternoon hike to the top of Stone Mountain, Georgia

Our flight to Rome was less than a day away. But Kathy decided that she was content with our unplanned domestic vacation as is. The night before our flight left for Italy, she eagerly removed her name from our listing and booked a flight home to Portland instead. The tail end of our vacation week would be solo.

Back on schedule: Atlanta to Rome

This is where our vacation went back to normal (for us): A Business Elite cabin seat over the ocean, an early arrival in Rome with plenty of time for sightseeing with my friends, and an opportunity for the craziest Saturday night out that Rome has ever seen!  Let's hope!

But that will be a story for another travel post.

12/8/14:  Here are a couple pics from my upcoming Rome post:

The Roman coliseum: Who knew that the Eternal City would take an eternity to get to?

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