Monday, June 12, 2006

Puerto Rico: Island of tropical breezes (Part 1)

After 10 sun (and sweat) drenched days in Puerto Rico, I've made my way back to the Land of Cheese. I'm still unpacking and recovering from jet lag after landing back in Wisconsin, going to see friends and basically being up for 21 hours yesterday (and probably a bit more since I was busy teasing Keidra last night that I saw Arecibo and Alec Trevelyan is still dead).

I'm now sunburned and covered in mosquito bites, but that's probably a good sign that I had a good time. I'm the kind of person who gauges the success of a trip based on how many funny stories I come away with or how many mosquito bites/sunburns I have. Yes, I'm weird like that.

We flew out Thursday. The original plan was to land in San Juan at 2 a.m., stay at the Best Western at the airport and meet Jeff's parents the next morning, pick up the rental car and make our way to Rincon on the west coast of the island.

Funny how reality can destroy the best-laid plans.

We attempted to leave Madison on Thursday night, but storms throughout Newark delayed our flight until 8 p.m. Which would make it impossible for us to make the 10 p.m (EST) flight from Newark to Puerto Rico. According to the very nice Continental people in Madison, the odds of the 10 p.m. San Juan flight would be delayed were nil.

The alternatives -- as laid out to me -- were as follows:

1. Eat the cost of the hotel I made reservations, go home and fly out at 5:50 on Friday and make it to San Juan at 2 a.m. That option is quickly eliminated because we have to meet Jeff's parents in San Juan on Friday morning and pick up the rental car (which is in our name).

2. Take the flight to Newark and sleep in the airport and leave on a 7 a.m. flight to San Juan and land at about 11 a.m. Again, cost of hotel has been eaten.

3. If we miss the 10 p.m. flight to San Juan, there's an 11 p.m. flight to Ponce, located on the south side of the island. It would land at about 3 or 4 a.m. and Jeff and I would have to find a way to get to San Juan to pick up the rented car and his parents. We'd still eat the cost of the hotel.

I started channeling Henry Rollins. "Fuck yeah! Let's fly to Ponce! We'll get a car or a taxi and drive to San Juan overnight!"

Jeff also begins channeling Henry Rollins as he runs out to the car, gets the cell phone (which I didn't think either of us needed) and starts making calls to his parents.

His parents are more sane. "I'd sleep at the airport," his dad said.

Jeff and I are not deterred. If worse comes to worst, we'll fly to Ponce and drive because the thought of sleeping in an airport, because the hotels are full, is about as much fun as sitting through Big Momma's House 2.

Random sidenote: Big Momma's House 2 was the movie I thought I'd have to watch on the way back home, something I see as a violation of the Geneva Act. Fortunately I saw Last Holiday, which, while predictable, was a hell of a lot more fun than Martin Lawrence in shitty makeup).


We get on the plane and head to Newark. On the plane, I'm breaking airline codes and talking to to try and cancel my reservation as the stewardess is telling us to keep our tray tables up and our seats back in the full upright position.

"Ma'am, I can't hear you," the nice operator said.

"If the cabin should lose air pressure..." the flight presentation blares.

"Are you on an airplane?" he asked.

"Yes," I managed to spit out.

"Oh! I'll see what we can do," he suddenly wakes up and sounds a lot more panicked.

Thank heavens for small cell phones. It must have looked like I had a splitting headache and Tourette's syndrome because of the way I had the phone cupped in my hand and clutched to my ear as I spat out different phrases like "I. WANT. TO. CANCEL. THE. HOTEL. RESERVATION." or "CANCEL. THE. RESERVATION."

Can't cancel the reservation, the nice man tells me after putting me on hold. It's already been charged. Fuck. At least I didn't have to do the phone call as the plane was in the air.

We finally land in Newark and through much luck, our 10 p.m. flight hasn't taken off. There will be no grand adventure driving across the island from Ponce to San Juan.

However, we don't take off until 1 a.m. and land in San Juan at 5 a.m. Not being able to cancel our hotel reservation is a lucky accident because we can get a quick nap in our hotel room.

It's a nice hotel room. It has a bed, a toilet and a shower, which is basically all we need. What I didn't need was the meat-locker temperature of the air conditioning. Jeff normally heats up like a thermonuclear device when he sleeps. You could fry an egg on his back as he sleeps peacefully. Even that body heat doesn't keep me warm.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep well. Let's just say I got a quick catnap.

But we were in San Juan, which was the most important thing. And our vacation was about to begin.

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