Tuesday, December 11, 2007

How We Ended Up in the Frozen Tundra of Iowa

So, this is where I am today. (The picture is taken out of my hotel window because it is too stinkin' cold to go outside again right now!) This is the frozen tundra of Burlington, IA. We made it into town last night just in time for the ice storm that is passing through the area. Luckily, the temperature has risen just enough to stop the rain from freezing right now, but tonight it is supposed to go back to getting icy. Brrrrrr and YUCK!

So I haven't yet shared our travel story and I guess I should tell you how it is we ended up here (and maybe why we spent the weekend in Mexico!)

Thursday started out a normal day. The day we were supposed to fly into Chicago. Our plane was to arrive in Chicago at 5:00 Friday morning. We were going to the consulate's office on Friday to finish up our visa paperwork and then we were heading to Urbana to spend the weekend with Eric's parents.

We arrived at the airport in Belo Horizonte with plenty of time to check into our flight. Our flight was delayed about an hour, but we had a 5 hour layover in Sao Paulo, so we knew we'd be okay to catch our flight to Chicago.

Once we arrived in Sao Paulo, we had to take a taxi over to the international airport. Traffic was bad and so it took an hour and a half to get there. The check-in lines were terrible and we stood in line from about 8:00 until 10:30. Our flight was to leave at 10:30, but while waiting in line, we learned that the flight was canceled due to bad weather in Chicago (or at least that's the reason they gave us.) At 10:30 we got to the ticket counter and were there for a half hour while the agent tried to find another flight to put us on. Finally, she said our only option was to fly to Mexico City and then catch a flight to Chicago from there. She said we would arrive at 1:00 pm in Chicago. Yea! We will still have time to get by the consulate!

United Airlines was putting us on an AeroMexico flight, so we then had to go over to their ticket counter to check our baggage. No line there-PERFECT! Especially since we had just an hour now before our new plane was leaving. At this point it is 11:00 pm on Thursday and we haven't eaten anything since lunch.

We make our way over to the international security station so we can get into the terminal and board our plane at midnight. The international line is a mile long. Holy cow! We knew there was no way we would make our flight to Mexico City now! And we are starving and we both get a little cranky when we are hungry. Eric left me in line while he ran to find something for us to eat. He came back with a yummy hot croissant sandwich and an ice cold beer. A beer and sandwich had never tasted so good to me! We stood in the security line convinced we would never make our flight and try to scarf down our meal.

Luckily, the plane got delayed and we made it on board just in the nick of time! On to Mexico City. We took a dose of Simply Sleep and settled in for our 8.5 hour overnight flight.

We arrived in Mexico City and had 3 hours until our Chicago flight left. The airline was transferring our bags for us, so we wouldn't have to go through customs. We checked at the gate to make sure the boarding pass we had would be all we needed and the airline employee said we were good to go, just wait until boarding time. 9:00 am rolls around and they are boarding our plane. We get in line excited that we are about to be on the last leg of our journey to the US. When it was our turn to hand over our boarding pass, we were told we couldn't board the plane! Apparently, we needed to go through immigrations and get a little piece of paper before they would let us out of the Mexico Airport. (Remember how we had asked the lady if we had everything we needed? She lied . . .)

So as our plane left the gate, we went to immigrations. Here we had to answer all kinds of pertinent questions like how many days we had been in Mexico (0.125 days), where we had visited while in Mexico (the airport?), and then we got our little piece of paper that would allow us to leave the country. Now, it was off to find our luggage, since the lady at the gate told us they would be removing our bags from the plane.

Two and a half hours later and after being sent from one end of the airport to the other a couple of times, we had our luggage in hand and we made the long walk down to the AeroMexico ticket counter to get new boarding passes for another flight. They then directed us to another counter elsewhere in the airport. Well, no luck there either. Because our original flight (from Sao Paulo to Chicago) was with United Airlines, we would have to talk to them about a new flight. And have I mentioned yet that while we are being shuffled all around the airport, we have a suitcase monorail going? Because we had Christmas gifts to bring back to the US and because we need to take some things back home with us, we have 4 very large suitcases along with 2 carry-on upright suitcases and a small duffel bag. There are two of us, which makes 4 hands, which means we had to strap suitcases together and try to maneuver them all through the crowded airport.

At some point on our way to the United ticket counter, Eric looked at me and said, 'we aren't going to get to Chicago during business hours anyway . . . we should call my uncles and just spend the weekend in Mexico and go to Chicago on Monday.' So we did.

Eric called Arturo (who happens to be in charge of customs at the Mexico City Airport). He was a bit surprised to hear we were standing just a couple thousand feet from his office, but he came over and picked us up. He took us out for lunch and then drove us out to Cuernavaca to the summer house that Eric's grandparents owned.

We were met by the other 2 uncles in Mexico, Rafa and Luiz, and their families. Friday night we ate some more tacos (yummy!) and hung out with all the family. We woke up Saturday morning and Arturo asked us if we would like to go to his home in Puebla. I wanted to meet the rest of the family and Eric was excited to see his other 2 cousins, so off we went to continue our 2 day Tour de Mexico.

After a fun day in Puebla of horseback riding, some awesome Mexican food, and getting the tour of the city, it was off again on Sunday to head back to the airport. We hopped on a bus and took the 2.5 hour ride back into Mexico City.

Our plane from Mexico City was delayed about an hour, and then we boarded, and then there was a computer problem in the flight deck, so we sat out on the taxiway for another hour and a half or so and THEN, FINALLY, we were in the air and on our way to Chicago. We got into O'Hare about 9:00, stood in line for immigration and customs, and then had to wait an hour for our hotel shuttle to arrive. (We were getting a little cranky again by this point!) But we finally arrived at our hotel about 11 that night. So, 84 hours after we started our trip, we were at our final destination.

The next morning, we got our paperwork dropped off at the Brazilian Consulate, picked up our rental car, and made it into Burlington about 6:00 Monday evening. We were both rather exhausted.

We had a fun time in Mexico and it was great to finally get to meet the rest of Eric's family, but WOW! If I don't have to step foot into another airport for awhile I think it will be just fine! At one point during our 5 hours of standing in lines in Sao Paulo Eric told me I had better like Brasil. When I asked why he informed me that we may never leave the country again until our time there was completed! A little later on I suggested to Eric that we just drive next time we want to visit the US-I still think it might have been quicker! ;) Hopefully our flight back in a few weeks will go a little smoother and we will forget our vows not to fly ever again. hehe

This was Friday night in Cuernavaca with some of the family. Eric and I were both in serious need of a shower (and maybe a nap!) We apologized repeated to everyone for looking so rough, but they just kept telling us 'Hey, you're with family, it doesn't matter!'

Here we are getting ready to head to Puebla on Saturday morning. We are with Arturo and Rafa. (We were feeling so much better after a good night's sleep and a shower!)

This is in Puebla with Arturo's family. They really showed us a good time!

And this is Popo - an active volcano just outside of Puebla. It is really beautiful.


little mama said...

Uhm....that is the best story! Jon and I had a similar experience one time(I believe we missed 3 flights and had to stay over in memphis) but we were in the US so you've got me on that one! There is some old movie with Jack Lemon where him and his wife are trying to get to New York and all kinds of crazy things happen to them. You should watch it, you will feel as if you are watching yourself! I forget the name though. Anywho, hope you guys have a MUCH better trip back to Brasil. And I hope and know you will have a wonderful holiday with your fmaily's. I'm afraid your Christmas card will be waiting in Brasil for you. Sorry. I love reading your blog, you have always been able to tell stories in such a funny way! Sorry if I depress you on mine.....it really isn't that bad but don't have twins while you are still in Brasil! I CAN'T wait for you to meet the little varmits! Love you-Manda

Anonymous said...


My name is Craig Neises, and I am the features editor at The Hawk Eye, the newspaper in Burlington, Iowa. (I e-mailed earlier but on the chance it went into your junk mail am posting here, too). Your blog post about Burlington showed up in my Google Alerts e-mail the other day, and after reading I am interested in knowing more about getting to and staying in Burlington. How rough was the drive? From where? To where? Why Burlington? How long did you wind up staying? Where? What did you do while you were here? Ever been here before? How was your experience in Burlington? Etc.

We have an occasional feature in our paper where, among other things, we sometimes include the comments of people who pass through our community.

If you could tell a story in answering the above questions, and provide a little bit of background about yourselves, then I would consider using your submission in that space. I'd also be happy to look at any photos you might like to share from your time in Burlingotn. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy your visit to Iowa.

Best wishes,

Craig T. Neises
features editor
The Hawk Eye
800 S. Main St.
Burlington, Iowa 52601
(319) 758-8144/toll-free (800) 397-1708, ext. 144
FAX: (319) 754-6824 Internet: www.thehawkeye.com