Thursday, June 18, 2015

Missing in Action

June 18, 2015

(I will return to my narrative about my two week Colorado/New Mexico road trip and my last couple of days back in Kansas City, but interrupting the sequence of events to post this update)

I started my journey back to Ecuador yesterday, in Kansas City. I got to MCI (the KC airport) around 10:30AM to return my rental car, and to check-in for the first leg of the trip, after a 45 minute drive to get there. I was booked on American Airlines going through Dallas (with only a 50 minute layover), catching another American Airlines flight to Miami (leisurely 2.5 hour stop), then switching to LAN for the final leg to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

My checked-in bag was ticketed all the way through to Guayaquil.
My home in Olón is another 3 hour bus ride from there.
Because I wasn’t scheduled to arrive until after midnight, I booked (and paid) for two nights at one of the more pricey hotels in GYE.
I knew I would be tired since I've just spent the last two weeks having a ball exploring Colorado and New Mexico (I put 3000 miles on my rental car during that time)…so I wanted a couple of days to decompress and sleep. I decided to splurge on the room.

Because of the stormy weather in Dallas yesterday, all flights going through there were delayed by several hours.
In Kansas City, this resulted in an after-security gate change for my airplane. Because of MCI’s screwy layout, a gate change means exiting a secure area (right after I bought a $3 bottle of water), and going through security a second time (bye, water).
The bitchy American Airlines clerk at the second gate was unable to provide my LAN boarding pass, because she “couldn’t access LAN’s computer system” (operated by AA according to my Expedia print-out).  And because of the several hour back-ups on flights, it was unclear whether I would make it to Miami in time to catch the connection
During the two hour interval at the KC gate, I tried a number of times to Skype my already-paid pricey Guayaquil hotel, because it seemed pretty clear that  - at best -  I would be arriving at their location much later than 1AM, if at all. But each time I got through, I was directed to an automated system that apparently wasn’t working. I also had my brother Jack trying to reach them from his California phone, and he was getting the same result.
Keep in mind, I don’t have a smart phone. I have an Ecuadorian phone and a $10 Walmart “throw-away” that I bought when I started my road trip a couple of weeks ago.

AA's Miami ticket counter after 11PM
As anticipated, I got to Miami at 11PM – a couple of hours after my scheduled LAN flight departed for Guayaquil. The American Airline personal at the arrival gate told me to first go to the American ticket counter, before going to the opposite side of the airport to reach the LAN terminal.
No one was there so I raced over to LAN – just missing their last direct flight to GYE. The best they could do was put me on plane going there via Lima, Peru and a second city (I forget which one) before it got to Guayaquil.
This concerned me, because I was worried about my suitcase; it was ticketed through to GYE, and because of the earlier Dallas weather confusion, I wasn’t sure where it landed for the night.

I landed in the blue part
of this map.
I raced to LAN
Which  --naturally -- is in the red part 

Which way to
"Customer Assistance"?
American has lost my luggage three times (the third incident occurred coming to the States on this trip).  
It appeared my best bet was to wait out the night in the terminal until AA counter & baggage personnel began their shifts again around 4:30AM to book another flight back to Ecuador.
No food was offered on either plane before I got to Miami.
I was starving (except for an all-night Dunkin’ Donuts, the restaurants were closed by then). I was also really sleepy, so I walked around the terminal to stay awake. I don’t know that airport well, and I figured I might as well get familiar with it before the morning rush hour began.

By then, I grabbed a luggage cart; my carry-on(s) are heavy because my suitcase is packed full of spices, canned goods and weighty liquid bottles that won’t pass security. 

No one to ask.
But around 2AM I parked myself nearby.
WiFi hot spot just behind the green wall.

Just as I really needed to go potty
during my graveyard tour of the terminal

I took this adjoining picture from outside the airport.
Of course, "MIA" stands for Miami International, but all I was reminded of was my wandering suitcase.

After roaming around, I found a WiFi hot spot by the information desk.  There was a pole with an electrical outlet, it was quiet (my laptop speaker isn't very loud) , so I parked myself on the floor next to it.
I guess this was around 2AM.

I thought  I should try Skyping my hard-to-reach Guayaquil hotel again...and yippee (!) I finally reached Ricardo (with whom I had reserved the room a few days ago).
We had just begun talking, and then...and then this:

The loud floor sweeper shows up.
And though I'm trying to wave her off
during my call, she won't go away.

And here she comes again.
Determined to run her "mowing" pattern


It is now around 11:00 in the morning.
A few hours ago I got my Miami to Guayaquil ticket re-booked (and I checked with baggage folks and it does look like my suitcase has spent the night here with me too). 
Presumably, we will be on the same plane back, since it's the first likely one heading to Guayaquil today.

...At five o'clock tonight...
I'm now 24-hrs on this mission, with no sleep, no food, and have six more hours to go.I'm dying for a meal and a cold beer, but don't dare do either till I go through security and get near my gate.
I'm so exhausted, I'm terrified I'll fall asleep and miss the flight once I eat or drink anything but coffee.
have both my cell phone alarms set (and tucking one in my bra - on vibrate).

Signing off for now and keeping my fingers crossed.

have been territorially guarding
my little spot here for around 8 hours now.
I'm getting a kick about the sign

behind me that says:
"New Exhibits Coming Soon"
Courtesy of a friendly young

German gal.

Thursday, June 11, 2015


June 10, 2015

I am the oldest. My brother Jack is the youngest.
With our two sisters who li
ve in KC
I’m in the States now. 
I flew back here a couple of weeks ago (to Kansas City) to attend a niece’s wedding.
This is the first time that I have been back in my hometown in over six years, and it is wonderful to see my family and friends again.
Rather than leave from the coast, I started my vacation in Cuenca, where I spent a day and half to see my dentist and hairdresser.  From there, I took a 4-hour afternoon bus ride across the Cajas to catch my 11PM flight out of Guayaquil.

I flew American to Miami, and then switched to United from there to Chicago onto Kansas City. I had short layovers in both Miami and Chicago, and was concerned about my luggage making it with me. For that matter, the check-in staff at the GYE airport (José Joaquín de Olmedo International Airport) was also concerned that I would make it through customs and security in time to make my connections and even offered to mark me as a “special needs” passenger.  In other words, “needs a wheel chair”.  
I didn’t know whether to be appreciative or appalled (surely I don’t look THAT old). But the counter people at the Guayaquil airport are always so kind and helpful, I smiled and politely declined.
But things went downhill after that.  Normally, I fall asleep on buses and airplanes before they even take off, but was so squished in my bus and flight seat(s) that I didn’t get a wink of sleep throughout my journey.

I arrived in Miami around 4:15AM, cleared customs fairly quickly, but then the wheels on one side of my carry-on fell off, so I ended up dragging it from one side of the airport to the other, going through several security check points along the way.  I also discovered that I was walking around with only one dangly earring (the other fell out somewhere), my eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep, so I’m sure I looked pretty bedraggled by the time I caught my flight to Chicago around 6AM.

About then I was kind of wishing I had opted for the wheel chair alternative.

The good news was that my flight to Chicago arrived 25 minutes earlier than scheduled, so I slammed down a morning beer before heading on to Kansas City.
I got in at 10:30 in the morning; however the plan was to wait there for my brother Jack’s flight from California to land at 3:30 in the afternoon.
And, as I anticipated, my luggage did not make it with me.  Fortunately, I shrink-wrapped it when leaving Guayaquil (with all my USA & Ecuador contact information taped to the outside – I also put a copy of my itinerary inside the bag). The GYE check-in folks also tagged it with a bright orange “priority” sticker.
American Airlines has lost my luggage three times, and the one other time I made an American to United airline switch, the luggage was never found... (a domestic flight from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania back to Palm Springs)
I am wise to these guys, and as a precaution packed basic necessities and wedding clothes in my carry-on.
GRRRR…why do I ever fly American/United airlines??
I also have short layovers on my way back to Ecuador (those flights going through Dallas and Miami) and my bet is that my suitcase will go missing in action again, and already planning on spending an extra night or two in Guayaquil waiting for it, before heading three hours back home to Olón, on the coast of Ecuador.
Anyway, while waiting for Jack to get in, I filed a luggage claim, then went and picked up my rental car (I’m in the States for three weeks) and then spent a very boring five hours hanging around MCI (Kansas City airport). It’s not much fun hanging around this airport  – restaurants outside of security area are only so-so, and wifi hot-spots are hit or miss (I don’t have a smart phone and still drag around a laptop that could be used as a small table).

My sister Laura, KC friend Stephanie
and my brother and me.

Once Jack got in, we headed to my sister Laura’s house, where we were stayed for the wedding weekend.
We headed out to meet some friends for dinner that first night (my other sister, Liz, was unable to join us since she is the mother of the bride – my niece Taylor) and though I was really tired coming from Cuenca, Ecuador and 30 hours with no sleep, we had a wonderful time.

And – thankfully - my luggage showed up at my sister’s doorstep the next morning.

During our visit to Dad's house.
It's been 14 years (since Dad died)
that we've been inside.
The current owners were so gracious to
give us this tour, and shared with us
some pictures they inherited
 with the home.

The next day (which was a Thursday) all four of us siblings spent the whole day touring some of the former homes we lived in while growing up in Kansas City.  Aside from the wedding, this definitely was a highlight of the trip, and an exceptionally special day...A day full of wonderful memories.

We saw the inside of four of them. We had pre-arranged afternoon appointments with two of those (Dad’s home, and the 94th Street house in Kenilworth). In the morning, we just knocked on a couple of doors and gracious current home-owners let us in.

Grandma & Grandpa Frost's home
in KCMO.
A "let's knock" stop.
They lived here for 45 some years.
Many Thankgiving memories and
going down to see the Plaza Lights
turned on afterwards

Dad owned this home in
Prairie Village, Kansas for 41 years.
From the time I started high school
until he died in late 2002. 

A visit to see Dad.
My sister Liz took this photo.

Dinner at the Hereford House.
Eating KC rib eye.
Died and gone to heaven.


Kansas City’s reputation for hospitality is well deserved, though I doubt four people over 50-yrs old – standing on the doorstep asking to see the inside and take pictures – probably didn't appear to be too threatening.    
The rehearsal dinner was at Jack Stack’s, where I finally got to sink my teeth into some exceptional KC BBQ – boy, have I been craving that for years!

My niece Taylor and new hubby Ben
in center of back row.

The wedding was special and wonderful; my gorgeous niece looked spectacular, and she and her new husband Ben are a perfect couple together. They have been friends for years.

On the Monday after the wedding, I dropped Jack off at the airport for his morning flight back to California, and then headed west towards Colorado and New Mexico.
I figured that as long as I was coming this far from Olón, I was going to make the most of it to do a two-week driving loop around both those states and was looking forward to the adventure.
I’ve driven through them many times, but never really explored either state.
I’m on that road trip now.

More to follow...  

Celebrating my June 9th
Five year Anniversary 
move to Ecuador
with a bottle of Hatch wine New Mexico.