Monday, June 30, 2008

A Lizard Stopped My Airplane

Random notes from a random day of travel.

Took off from Portland International Airport at 10 p.m. Sunday, June 29. The flight attendant said our captain was Cal and our co-pilot was Scott.

Cal and Scott? What, Skippy wasn’t available? I don’t know about you, but I do not want to be flown anywhere by Cal and Scott. They sound like they should be getting ready for the prom, not flying me to Florida. If my pilots must have first names only, I want them to be called something like Ace, or Buzz, maybe Tex, something that makes you think they’ve flown a lot, preferably through flak. But I have to give the boys their due, it was the least eventful part of our journey, the flight from Portland to Orlando.

The Portland airport recently won some “best airport” award. In contrast, the airport at Orlando was a dump. I’ve been in better bus terminals. Granted, part of it was under serious remodeling, but show me an airport that doesn’t have construction going on most of the time.

We flew from Orlando to San Juan, Puerto Rico, where we’d catch a connecting flight to St. Croix. It was the tightest part of our schedule – pretty much get off the plane, march straight to the next gate and get on the plane. So we landed, the plane is taxiing to the terminal, and suddenly it stops, right in the middle of nowhere. We sit for a few minutes, and finally the captain (not Cal, I didn’t catch this guys nickname so I’ll call him Donny) comes on the intercom to explain the delay.

Apparently there were a couple of large iguanas on the runway. “I could just drive over them,” Donny says, “but I’d probably suck them up in the engine and that wouldn’t do either of us any good.” So we had to wait for someone to come out from the terminal and shoo them away. 15 minutes passed before the plane started moving again. I should mention that we were in the very back of an A300 Airbus, so there were a couple of hundred in front of us. The airline magazine had a sketch of the airport showing the gates. Millie is the smallest, fastest of us, so I showed her the map and told her what to do, where to go and what to say. The second the seatbelt light went off she was up the aisle like a shot – and off and running for the gate to tell them we were coming. You know how it is when a plane lands, everyone stands up and then just stands there, stock still, as the congestion clears. She caromed off people like a pinball and made it to the gate. We were 10 minutes behind her, but it was too late. The plane had left.

“What do I do?” I asked the guy. “Go upstairs to gate 2 and they’ll take care of you.” I ran for it and got the last four seats on the next flight. By the time I walked away from the counter, there was a line of maybe 30 people behind me all wondering how they were getting to their next destination. We had a three-hour wait, but we had tickets.

As I’ve said, the major impetus for this journey has been that we’re tired of being cold and wet. So I got to St. Croix, stepped outside the airport, and a light rain started falling. It was warm, and it was over in minutes. But it was rain. God has a funny sense of humor.

That’ll do for now. Traveling is over. Now it’s time to live this life.

Ol’ Chumbucket

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Bloody Adventure Continues

IF you have ever had to pack up a family of seven - five females and two very patient males - to travel to an almost, but not quite foreign country, you can relate. If not, let me give you some advice: Regular tampons weigh less than supers.

Some of ye manly men reading may think you want to skip this installment thinking this is a tale fit only for womanly consumption, but I promise you that there’ll be no gross tales of menstruation. This is merely a tale of weights and measures with a little dose of airline policy thrown in to boot.

My husband John, Ol Chumbucket to ye pirates, went to the mega super store Costco to stock up on a few supplies before we move to the island of St Croix. My daughter Alex did some research and found out that the price of certain items, including feminine hygiene products was astronomical on the tiny island, so John, being the practical guy he is, bought seven huge boxes of tampons, several cartons of mini-pads along with massive quantities of our favorite coffee beans.

Tampons, pads and coffee. All equal in importance.

To get an idea of how much stocking up John felt four healthy women would need for the next few months, he bought four boxes of regular sized and three boxes of super sized pons for those oh so special days when just a regular won’t do. That’s 700 tampons for those of you who are mathematically challenged. 700! I don’t quite know what he was thinking, but I will let you all just imagine what must’ve been going through his mind when he loaded up the cart with 700 tampons, and I will also let you imagine what the checker at the store must’ve been thinking as well.

So here we are, the day before the big move staring at seven huge boxes of lady plugs, six pounds of coffee, as well as all our clothes and other belongings and books and bric-a-brac that we just cannot live without for the next six months. We go online to the airport website and found that each checked bag must weigh 50 pounds or less in order to not incur an extra charge for the overages in weight. With the first checked bag costing 15 bucks and the second checked bag costing 25 bucks a pop, we figured that having two checked bags each was much cheaper than having one giant over 50 pound bag which would’ve incurred a 50 dollar extra fee for being over weight.

The whole family, John, and our three daughters Alex, Kate, Millie and our son Max and I spent five hours madly packing and repacking bags and weighing each bag on the bathroom scale to make certain that none of the bags were over the weight limit. I wish I could adequately describe the humor filled chaos as each bag was placed on the scale: “This one weighs 54 pounds! Shit! I guess I really don’t need that extra pair of pants and those three pairs of socks. And these two shirts can go in my carry on!” It was truly like a game of Tetris, only all the little oddly shaped pieces needed to fit in under 50 pounds!

So we packed and repacked our bags. When one bag made it under 50 pounds we would all cheer with glee as John prayed that our bathroom scale was accurate! And let me tell you that sometimes it was quite difficult getting these awkward sized bags to sit on the scale. Most of the time we had to weigh ourselves, and then hold the bag and re-weigh ourselves and figure out the difference. We had several lively discussions about math that night.

Finally we are down to our last bag. The bathroom bag. After shoving into the suitcase all our toiletries, a keyboard, some books and a few other small items, we filled in the edges with five of the seven boxes of tampons and all the pads. We set it on the scale: 54 pounds. Crap, crap and double crap! Out came the keyboard: 52 pounds. Out came the small items: 51 pounds and change. We took out two boxes of regular sized tampons and we were now over by just a few ounces. With a stroke of pure genius that I take full credit for, I take out two boxes of super tampons from the suitcase and replace them with two boxes of regular tampons and lo and behold the bag weighs in at just a hair under 50 pounds! We opened the last two boxes of tampons and carefully distributed them in the pockets and pouches of all the other checked and carry-on bags.

We did it! All the bags weighed in under 50 pounds at the airport. As each bag was set on the scale at the Alaska Airline terminal, our entire family shouted with glee. Seven giant checked bags with tampons shoved in every pocket and pouch. Homeland security must be flummoxed. They will probably joke about our bleeding luggage for years!

I just know, however, that I will start my cycle on the airplane and I won’t be able to find a feminine product to save my life. And it is a 13 hour flight. Really. That is the kind of ironic life I lead, but at least I can laugh about the fact that there are 700 tampons in the cargo hold of the plane I am bleeding all over, and isn’t that what it is all about?

More to come.
Written by Tori "Mad Sally"Baur

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ready to Jump

I've said it a dozen or more times now when trying to reassure friends that we're not crazy.

"You don't know if you can fly until you've thrown yourself off a cliff."

We're moving to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands because, as much as we like Oregon, we're tired of being cold and wet nine months out of the year. We're throwing ourselves off a cliff, confident enough in ourselves that we'll be able to get jobs and survive in a new place with new customs and challenges and opportunities.

"We" are - John "Ol' Chumbucket Baur, Tori "Mad Sally" Baur, our daughters Alex, Kate and Millie, our son Max, Tori's mother Janet, and our cat, Roger Cow (the kids named him.)

This all began on Feb. 27, 2007, about 9 a.m. when Tori looked out the window at the frozen rain coming down in a 50 mile an hour wind and said, "Why do we live here?" Immediately the plan was hatched to move to the tropics, and St. Croix was selected. We've been studying and working and preparing for this ever since. Now, in about 13 hours, I'll be boarding a plane with our daughters and a very pissed off Roger and heading off on this new adventure, arriving mid-afternoon on our new island home. Tori follows the next day with Max and Janet. We're doing it in two shifts because we just couldn't even comprehend the notion of trying to herd all the luggage in one trip.

The last few weeks of mad final preparations - finishing selling the house, moving out of it, packing, making arrangements - have been a blur. I've had so many people say we should get together before we go, and I've wanted to, but there just hasn't been any time. Any time at all. So the only option is for them to come visit us on the island.