A long day trying to get to DR...

Warning: This was sort of a big suck day, I was getting really stressed out, and I'm sure it shows. If you don't like it, well, too bad, skip to the next day :-)

I woke up in the am, mildly hungover, and with not quite enough sleep. The phone rang, from some random unknown 800#, so I promptly ignored it and let it go to voicemail so I could half-sleep for another 5 minutes. I figured it was some annoying spam call, but they actually left voicemail, as it turns out, to let me know my flight was delayed and moved back a few hours leaving Miami.

Well, OK, I could use a few hours more sleep, anyways. It seemed like it was 45 minutes or so to Miami, and I left with what should have been enough time, but....

I realized on the way that it was taking longer than I remembered, and kept eyeing the clock in the rental car (which I'd had to set, as apparently the rental place only sets the clock on 'premium' vehicles? :-) ), and realized the car rental place was off-airport, and I wasn't entirely sure where I had to deliver it to. I managed to call them, and get directions, but the directions made me realize the airport was further away than I thought, so I dropped the car off without filling the gas tank, to find out they get $7.99/gallon for unfilled cars. Damnit. Ahh well, gotta make the flight...

I dropped the car off and jumped on the airport shuttle, and walked in an hour and 25 minutes before flight departure to DR, though, and figured no problem. Well, not quite. A friend had some car issues, so we'd rented a rental car back in NC, and figured we'd be able to just extend it without issue, or she'd be able to. Yeah, no. Thank you, Dollar. I tried to reach them while trying to figure out which of the many unlabeled terminals was the right one for international flights, until I got so annoyed with them telling me basically there's no way to extend a car rental, and I had to hung up on them. I found a counter labelled International Flights, but..it was closed. Walked around a bit, then found someone to ask at an open terminal, and they gave some vague 'down there' motion..how helpful. I managed to find the right one (again, no signs, but asking more employees), and had to wait in line to do the self service kiosk. Ok, I had an hour left. The first kiosk system was borked, so I waited for the next one. Swipe my card, and punch in the destination code, and..chug, chug, chug. A card spits out saying, "I'm sorry, you must see an attendant, you must check in 60 minutes prior to departure." Great...Ok, NOW where? I ask an airline employee standing around, and he waves to this long line. I groan and get on it, expecting someone to be going up and down the line checking to see which of us had imminent flights. Great, except...no one ever came, and the line was slower than a Wal-Mart checkout line.

I finally get to the counter and am told I can't get on my flight. Excuse me?!? I'm not overly happy, and the attendant is totally unyielding and unapologetic. We finally get a supervisor who was, well, worse. She went so far as to tell me that I was lying when I told her I'd been trying to find out where and how to check in for the past 80 minutes. That didn't go over too well. Suffice it to say, American Airlines - kiss my ass, I won't be flying with you again.

Next flight? Only FIVE HOURS AWAY. Ok, now I'm fairly tired, kinda pissed off, and have to sit in an airport for five hours. While it's an interesting place to people watch at times, something I do enjoy, the thought of spending five hours waiting just really wasn't thrilling me, even less so now that I had no car and effectively couldn't leave the airport, to come back later. Ahh yes, I was then pointed to some random unmarked line to hand my luggage to, instead of them checking it. I was really curious as to why, but I pretty much no longer cared, and just hope my stuff showed up. Organization at it's best..or something.

So, I went outside for a smoke, to find it had heated up nicely...it felt like 100*F, and high humidity. I emailed MotoCaribe to let them know I'd be in later, then called them, to find out their sales guy, Chris, was in the airport on the same flight as I was, so at least I'd have some company in the airport suckage. Ed texted me Chris' cell #. There was some big mixup with the rental car I’d had I’m still not sure what the actual issue was, as I didn’t have the same card with me that I’d done the intial booking with, so I went to try to sort that mess out.  That went about as well as the first time when I’d been returning it and then walked out.. They wouldn’t take another credit card over the phone, in my name, after giving them the contract number for the rental. The fact that I was about to leave the country, and telling them, "ok, so I'm leaving the country, would you like to actually get paid for the rental, or not?" just seemed to fall on deaf ears. The only way to change the payment arrangements to a different card was literally to show up in person at a Dollar rental agency. The day was just getting better by the minute.

Ok, I'm thinking, I just need an employee in the flesh, not the agency, and surely there's at least a counter at Miami International, right? I hook up with Chris from MotoCaribe, and tell him I'll be back after dealing with this, then head off to find the rental car section of the airport. Ok, there's Hertz, and others, and a line of employees. There's the Dollar counter...what's that, a sign? You got it, "I'm sorry, this desk is unattended, please go to the rental facility for assistance." I'll just leave it at many four letter words and bad thoughts crossed my mind for a bit.

Ok, time check...should be ok yet. My phone is normally pretty quiet, but of course, today, I'm getting a lot of phone calls, and am pretty much at the point I really was ready to be in DR without phone reception for a while, and would be pretty happy doing nothing for a bit. So, I head out to find the shuttle to Dollar car rental, and stand in line for a while while thinking about being pretty much anywhere else, and noting the fact that I should have been in DR already. I get to the counter finally, and replay what the phone agent had told me about the card issue.  I’m just going to leave it at this was not a great car rental experience.  Multiple four letter words were soooo very close at hand..Thankfully, it was finally sorted with the help of a supervisor and I put that nonsense behind me and went to go wait for a shuttle back to the airport.

I had the start of a migraine coming on about now, and I swear those shuttles have locomotive engines hidden away in them somewhere, as the single noisiest vehicles per pound short of construction equipment. I'm pretty sure it's their air lifts, raising and lowering the body when the doors open, but knowing what it is doesn't make it any quieter when you're getting a huge headache. The first one filled up and I wasn't able to get on, I took another phone call, and tried futilely to find some small corner somewhere that wasn't being blasted by the sounds of the shuttles so I could hear the other end of the conversation.

I'll leave it at I did make it a shuttle or two later, it very thankfully had air conditioning, and the security checkpoint was a piece of cake. The whole removal of shoes thing is nasty, though. I don't care so much, always having socks on, but I saw a few women that had been wearing heels or flats without socks or stockings, and wondered how many nasty feet had crossed those spots even just minutes before. one of these days, I'm sure someone's going to figure out there's some sort of health badness happening there, but, thankful for my socks, I happily went through, had time to grab an interesting Cuban baguette sandwich and a large Coke that I must have emptied within 30 seconds of getting it into my hands.

Once on the plane, it was sort of a relief to shut off my cell phone, sort of a mental or emotional acknowledgement I was finally really on my way, and time to leave the annoyance and BS behind. The flight was uneventful, other than the amusement of everyone having to fill out visitor or immigration paperwork, yet seemingly no one having a pen. The Santa Domingo airport was small, but fast. By the time we'd walked over to pay the $10USD for a 'visitor pass,' then the 30 feet in the other direction to hand the same pass to someone else (!!?), the bags were coming down the carousel, and surprisingly (but happily) at this point, mine among them.

We grabbed our bags and were greeted by the MotoCaribe crowd:

Ed on the left (Lead Rider/Business Dev, lives in the US and 'commutes' to DR), Alida (Tour Manager/Cultural Liason/Translator, lives in Jarabacoa), and Robert(Operations and 'Van Driver Extraordinaire'), lives in Jarabacoa) on the right. We said our hellos, and got on our way to the hotel in Jarabacoa, the Gran Jimenoa, and managed to grab some late dinner. As a few people can tell you, I'm a somewhat 'picky' eater, but can usually manage to find something to eat nearly anywhere, and I had a very good garlic chicken breast, 'Pollo Al Ajillo,' followed by some pretty welcome drinks

DR Hotel Night 1

The hotel was more upscale than I expected - it had air conditioning, as well as a TV, and the room was quite nice..overall the hotel was more spa like than I'd expected. And ironically, while real wood furniture in the US is quite expensive, just like Costa Rica, all of the furnishings were real wood. The largest bag below is actually my gear (blue waterproof backpack, Cabellas rocks), the tankbag in the middle only having bug repellant, sunblock and my jacket outer liner, with my clothes enough for 10 days or more (I actually overpacked on clothes for some reason, I blame packing in an hour..) in a bag around the same size as the tank bag.

Sleep, helped along by some good doses of house white wine, came quickly that night, after a brief attempt of searching for an English speaking TV station to drift asleep to.

Tomorrow, we ride!