15, 2008 - Friday - San Jose to Seattle - I'm up at 4am after getting about 4 hours
sleep - I'm going to be beat flying to Seatac!. It's probably a good thing
that I overnight in Seattle. At least I'll be able to get some sleep before
returning home. Diego and Walter are there at 4:45am to pick me up
along with another couple who are taking the same flight as me. I guess Diego
and Walter will shuttle the group to the airport all morning as our flights depart.
I pay my US$26 Departure Fee, clear security and wait for my Continental flight
to Houston. I hesitate to call
this departure area a lounge, since there are only folding chairs to sit
on, there is no counter, and the gate itself is well-hidden. I find a carpeted
bench area to sit on which has a power plug nearby, plug my notebook adapter in,
and start the waiting process by sorting through my photos.
My friends Wendy and John soon show up, and we trade
stories about what we were up to this last week, since they went off on their
own instead of booking the Volcanoes and Rainforest tour (which I took). My
group certainly accomplished more, but they wanted some down time to just
relax, which I can certainly relate to. They found a nice place to stay
near the Monteverde Cloud Forest. They remarked how friendly and
helpful the people were, which is something most visitors to Costa Rica
experience. This is one constant I can verify from what I also found on my
last trip to Costa Rica way back in 1995.
It's not long until we all board the
aircraft and we're on our way. Since I'm short of sleep from last night, I
try to get some rest on this leg of the journey to Houston, Texas. Our flight
appears to be full. As on previous flights, I zoned out by listening to music
from my PDA through the Shure earphones. That way I isolated myself somewhat
from the stress of a full aircraft cabin as well as from the noise of the jet
engines. The breakfast bun Continental served was dreadful, but I ate
the egg and ham out of it, and drank the lukewarm coffee. After we arrived
at George Bush Airport in Houston, I retrieved my
bag, cleared customs and immigration, and then rechecked my bag for the flight
onward to Seattle. As it turns out, Canadians can clear immigration
through a priority line along with US residents. This can save
considerable time, since other international passengers must go through many
more questions, fingerprinting, and have their photo taken.
John, Wendy and I found out our gate for our flight from Houston to Seatac is
located way across the terminal, so we took one of the golf cart shuttles.
Our flight from Houston to Seatac was also full. As on the
previous flight, I zoned out by listening to music from my PDA through the Shure
earphones. That way I isolated myself somewhat from the stress of a full
aircraft cabin as well as from the noise of the jet engines. When I arrived at
Seatac, I experienced no ringing in my ears. Previously, I would have had ringing in
my ears for a couple of days afterward, and would have had trouble hearing.
I like George Bush airport in Houston.
Although it is huge, it is well laid out, and I found it easy to navigate. There
is a good choice of services near each group of gates, and the airport staff are
helpful and friendly. I found that Seatac airport is also improving as far as
customer service is concerned. The only strike against Seatac is the poor
layout, and those infernal trains, which force passengers to figure out how to
navigate to the various terminals to find their gates.
After arriving at Seatac, I retrieved my bag and then proceeded to the ticketing and check-in area at the front of the
main terminal. Due to a scheduling mistake by Continental Airlines, I have to
overnight here before traveling home to Victoria tomorrow. Despite knowing this,
I wanted to double check with Horizon Airlines to see if all their flights this
evening are fully booked. I found the Horizon counter and they confirmed they
had no space, so I then found the Continental counter and told them I would need
a hotel voucher. After a short
delay, the woman gave me the voucher for a stay at the nearby Clarion Hotel. The Clarion at Seatac is not exactly a first rate hotel,
but the room is clean and the bed felt good.
2008 - Saturday - Seattle to Victoria - I was up at 5am in order to be at
the gate at Seatac for my 7:30am flight to Victoria. I checked
in at the Horizon kiosks that are located in the walkway between the shuttle drop-off
point and the main terminal. I print my boarding pass and then go to the
baggage check-in area for Horizon/Alaska airlines. It is very crowded, but I get
through after waiting only about 10 minutes and check my bag - no overweight
charges this time thank goodness! The line to clear security is very long, but
it moved quickly and I find my gate with almost an hour to spare, so I get
myself some coffee and sit down and work on my notebook computer for awhile. It
is great to have my notebook with me while traveling, since it gives me something productive to
do during the inevitable waiting around that always happens in airports. By
the time I get home I'll have all my photos organized and captioned, which will
be a big help to process them more quickly than my last trip (which took me many months).
The Horizon flight to Victoria departed on time, and the flight to Victoria was
uneventful. Although there were lots of clouds, there were enough clear spots
for me to photograph the Olympic Mountains from my left side
window seat. My checked bag appeared on the baggage belt at Victoria airport,
and I cleared Canadian Customs in short order. The officer asked me about my
farm stay, but wasn't concerned since I said it was a week ago, and my shoes had
been washed since that time. I found my vehicle parked in the long term parking,
paid the $88 fee, and drove home. When I left San Jose yesterday morning
it was about 30°C. Here in Victoria it was just a few degrees above
freezing at 4°C, and they had used salt on the parking lot the previous night to
help melt the ice!
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