Saturday, December 13, 2008

Our goal with this trip report is for it to be the second best one out there - everyone is basically shooting for the silver medal. When planning our trip we read, and re-read, the following trip report that we found online. It gave us a lot of good ideas on what to pack, what to wear, what boats we should be interested in, and so on. We hoped our trip would turn out as well.

That hope was tempered by multiple things that we read shortly before we left. First, there was an article we read in Travel & Leisure one week before we left, which detailed a trip to the Ross Ice Shelf that was continually turned away by the ice being too thick. In the end, the author and his boatmates never made it anywhere close to Antarctica. Big bummer. Not as big a bummer, however, as the boat that ran aground, again about a week before we were due to depart, which made us worry not only about running aground, but also seeing oil-soaked wildlife on our trip (assuming, of course, we had not previously run aground ourselves). There was also the ship that sunk last year, doing the same itinerary we were set to do.

So while we were excited to go, we got the distinct impression that a "good" trip would simply mean we stepped foot on the continent and made it back in one piece. Sometimes lowered expectations are a good thing. So we had that going for us, which was nice.

The easiest part of the trip actually ended up being a little interesting. Instead of driving up to LAX and parking our car, we usually rent a car one way, from the Carlsbad airport that is about 10 minutes from our house. When we got to the airport, however, the entire setup was different. There was a new terminal, in a new place, than there was 8 months ago when we went to South America. There were Avis signs pointing in about every direction, and about 5 minutes later we ended up in what we thought was the right spot, only it wasn't. Long story short, it took us about 30 minutes for what should have taken 5 minutes.

When we got back home, all the bags were ready to go, so we just piled them into the trunk and left, but not before saying goodbye to our babies. We think the dogs thought we left (for good) when we went to the rental car place, so they were really happy to see us when we got back, even Suge (our Doberman), who usually cannot be bothered to greet us at the door. Unfortunately, we were home only about 5 minutes, and when we put Cabo and Debo into their crates (so they wouldn't do anything crazy when the dogsitter came), we think everyone knew. Suge didn't even come upstairs to say goodbye, she just sulked on her couch downstairs.

As we drove down our street, it started to rain, which seemed a bit auspicious. This was only the second or third time it had rained at our house since about May. There was a large number of cars on the road, more than usual it seemed. The vast majority of them, additionally, were driving at about 50 miles an hour, which always makes Justin's day. On the drive through Camp Pendleton, there was a very low flying, slow flying, helicopter right next to the highway. We assumed it was just performing maneuvers, which is relatively commonplace. Instead, however, there was a marine in a Santa Claus suit hanging out the open door of the helicopter, waving to all of the passing motorists. Thankfully none of them crashed into one another while staring at Santa.

Once at LAX, things were pretty calm, although the security line was a little longer than usual. There were a lot of flights leaving around 1pm, and ours left at 2:30, so there was probably a lot of people in line for those. For once we had an actual gate, as opposed to one of the "gates" that is nothing more than a spot for a bus pickup, from which point you take a bus to a remote gate. So there was a lot more seating than we were used to.

The sitting and waiting would have been comfortable, but there was a "bag nazi" that was continually patrolling the area, looking for any carry-on bags that looked too heavy. We didn't realize it, but LAN had a requirement that carry-ons could not be more than 8 kg (about 18 pounds). We had at least one carry-on that was most-likely that heavy, and Justin's personal item, a backpack with the laptop and camera equipment, was potentially that heavy as well. So we did our best to hide our carry-ons, as this lady did laps and laps around the seating area. Our supposed boarding time came and went, and we were still there, with Justin getting progressively antsier, like one of those people on the National Geographic channel show "Locked Up Abroad." As soon as they started boarding the first couple rows on the plane, she was seemingly checking every bag, which really had Justin amped up. So when our row was called, we rushed the line, and tried our best to shield our bags from her view. Only at this point, she actually left the waiting area and started following passengers into the jetway. It was as if she was onto our scent or something. So when we got on the plane, we rushed to our seat and jammed the carry-ons into the overhead bins. Justin was extremely relieved.

We quickly noticed that we had personal headrest entertainment, with over 30 movies, including a bunch from this past summer (The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, Step Brothers). For whatever reason, Step Brothers was heavily edited (including entire scenes being cut), but nothing was cut from the other two movies. Go figure. We remembered not to order the pasta for dinner (never a good idea on LAN, get the chicken or rice dish instead), and the red wine was good. Despite this, we had difficulty getting to sleep. It was over halfway into the flight before we got any shut-eye, which has to be a record for Crystal.