Tuesday, November 20, 2007

November 20, 2007 - Hudson, Ohio, USA

Let me start by saying that I'm an idiot. I had both of us convinced that we were on a 7:40pm flight out of Auckland. With that departure time in mind, we got a lift from the boat yard into Whangarei shortly after 9am to run some errands before catching an 11am bus to Auckland. It took over 3 hours to travel approximately 100 miles, in part due to construction delays, but primarily because the roads in New Zealand are grossly undersized. Most of the country's major roadways are 1 lane each direction.

Arriving at the Auckland bus terminal around 2:20, we stowed our bags in a locker, and took a quick walk around town. We were both thrilled to be in an urban area again. The last time we were in a real city was Panama City last May (Papeete doesn't count - the tallest building is 4 stories high). We got to see just enough of Auckland to whet our appetite for further exploration when we return from the States.

At 4pm we hustled back to the bus terminal to catch a shuttle to the airport. While on the shuttle I checked our flight information and realized we were on an 11pm flight. We both started laughing about the stupidity of rushing out of town to go browse at the duty free shops for 6 hours. I tried to get us on an earlier flight, but we didn't want to pay the fee to change our flights. Whatever happened to flying standby?

This is the first time Sten has flown since the adoption of the new security rules about liquids in carry-on luggage. He had to do a quick purge of his shower kit at the security gate. I learned my lesson last April when I wound up donating 2 bottles of Pinot Noir to the TSA guys at BOS on my way back to Aruba. After that expensive lesson, I remembered to pack all of our New Zealand wine in our checked bags.

The Air New Zealand flight was painless. We arrived at LAX at 1:30. I tried to get us on an earlier flight to CLE, but Continental didn't have any departures until the red-eye. Luckily for us, there was a hot spot at the international terminal and we whiled away the afternoon and evening skyping with friends and family. The highlight of the layover was a giant iced tea, filled to the brim with ice cubes. The ice left in the glass after the tea was gone seemed so decadent after months of being handed a soda and an empty glass. No matter how long we spend overseas, I will never understand why anyone would want to pour a cold soda, out of a frosty can, into a room temperature glass.

We had our first bit of culture shock as we sat in the international terminal. First the bomb squad, complete with dog, arrived to investigate some unattended luggage. Then they led away a man who had been sitting near us for the past few hours. We eventually wandered over to another terminal to wait for our connection to CLE. As we waited, we kept seeing these really young guys in marine uniforms heading for connecting flights. They hardly looked old enough to shave, let alone fight. We've been able to avoid thinking about the war and politics while overseas, but now that we are home, there are reminders everywhere.

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