New Zealand 2011 trip, Day 0, Jan 1st: Denver -> Auckland

Saturday, Jan 1st, 7:30pm, LAX terminal 2

Testing things out on Wendy's Macbook Air…

Yikes, where to begin… The past 3 days have been a blur, and amounted to 2 hours of sleep on a bed. Fortunately, here I am in LAX, relaxing an hour before boarding our 13 hour flight to Auckland. Getting here has been a challenge.

We were supposed to fly back from Cleveland Wednesday night, giving us 2 full days of prep-work before our Saturday 1pm flight out of Denver. However, fog in Chicago caused our flight to be cancelled, and the Xmas storm in the east resulted in fully booked flights everywhere. With a new storm approaching Denver Thursday afternoon/night, we decided to avoid another possible cancellation, and take a Greyhound bus from Cleveland to Chicago to Denver, departing 11:45pm Wed, arriving 12:40am Fri. This would be our first Greyhound experience, but would leave us feeling like grizzled veterans after what would be a lengthy ordeal on the road. The big question for me was, would it be possible to keep from getting sick after sharing 24+ hours on a bus with a bunch of random people during prime cold season? Initially I wrapped my scarf around my face, hoping it would act as a face mask, but soon realized, that wouldn't be practical.

The 6 hour bus to Chicago went by fairly quick, and I managed some sleep. After a 1 hour layover at 5am, our next bus was equipped with wi-fi and power plugs. Major bonus! We were able to take care of several errands online, and also watch episodes of 30 Rock on netflix. Fog kept the bus at a slow pace, and we were falling behind schedule. At Iowa City, the driver announced they may re-direct us to Kansas City, in order to avoid the storm ravaged I-80. Indeed, at Omaha, we found out we'd be making a 4 hour detour to Kansas City. Our new arrival time was 8am Friday! It was frustrating that the bus had to stop every couple hours for smokers to have a light, but I did take advantage of a chance to use the restrooms and stretch legs.

The 5 degree weather overnight was penetrating the windows. Glad Wendy's mom gave us a fleece blanket for the trip. I slept very little this 2nd night on the bus, as my seat didn't recline as far as the 1st bus. At 5:30am Friday morning, we stopped at a McD's for breakfast in Limon, CO, just 90 minutes from Denver. Snow from the storm yesterday kept us at a slow pace, and it wasn't until 8:20 that we arrived at Denver.

Then, as the driver was announcing our arrival, a car slid through a red light and hit the bus! This caused another 40 minute delay as we waited (2 blocks from the bus terminal) for police to arrive and handle the scene (no injuries).

Finally at 9:15am we unloaded from the bus, and took a taxi to DIA to pick up our car ($51 flat fare). Roads were slow going, but easily drivable. We reached Fort Collins at 11:15am, and immediately went into execution mode: laundry, dehydrating food, errands (mail hold, drop off plants to neighbor), hair cut (Wendy). By 6pm we were finally ready to pack. 12 hours later, we finished, and slept 2 hours before a 8:15am alarm. This morning was the hardest day to get out of bed that I can remember. My head was feeling congested, and dead tired. But we had an airport bus to catch at 9:30am.

After trying to finish off the veggies in the fridge, with some eggs, and some last minute to-dos, a knock came at the door at 9:25am (5 min early!), and our driver picked us up. We scrambled out the door, hoping not to forget anything. We checked in at skycap for Southwest, in the freezing cold (but easier than carrying 4 large bags to check, and 3 carry-ons). I tipped the friendly attendant with one of the last decks of 14er cards I had from the early 100 deck shipment. He was quite pleased.

Slept pretty well from DEN to PHX (we forgot there was a stopover in Phoenix on the way to LAX. No plane change). The flight to LAX was quick (62 minutes), and soon we were collecting our bags. I was dismayed to find the rain cover missing from my large pack, and started to ask the attendants, when another man said the bag was his. Turns out we had the same pack, which I had grabbed by mistake, and I was relived that my rain cover hadn't been lost. I searched the remaining bags on the carousel, but my pack never showed. After talking to the attendants, it was determined my bag was taken off the plane in Phoenix by mistake!!! It looked like they would have to ship my bag to NZ a day later! Fortunately, this wasn't a huge loss, since I had toiletries with me, but I had no additional clothes. Ugh…

After checking in with Air New Zealand, we found out there was another flight to NZ 45 min after our 9:15pm flight, which might be able to catch my pack from the next flight arriving from Phoenix. We'll see if my bag arrives in the morning. Fortunately, we're planning to stay in Auckland for 1.5 days, and I'll be able to pick it up either way. On the plus side, we only had to pay one $50 luggage fee, since we only had 3 bags to check (allowance is 1 per person).

So now all seems to be good. The remaining hurdle will be customs in NZ. We're bringing ~35 lbs of food, which should meet restrictions, but never know for sure…

Wendy had a double whopper, following the salads we packed from home. 2 meals scheduled on the 13 hour flight.

Time to leave this charging station and head to the gate….

Our double decker plane to Auckland, NZ. Seats 3-4-3 across...

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