Kauai 2022 – ‘Do you know the way to Monterey?’

Part 2 – Wednesday, Jan 19, 11pm. Are you asleep yet? We’ve completed the first leg of our trip to Kauai. We have driven from Idaho Falls to our motel in Bountiful, Utah and are now within reasonable proximity of the Salt Lake airport to catch tomorrow’s 6am flight to San Francisco. Get to bed, David, Jody and Eric, and cop some shut-eye! Megan’s the smart one of the bunch, tucking herself into bed as soon as we check into the room.

Thursday, January 20 – The alarm blasts me out of bed at 3:30 am. David has already showered. The four of us, David, Eric, Megan and I, have 30 minutes to get ready for the airport sharing one bathroom (could have planned that better…). Hot washcloth to the face will do! No need to pack much in the way of food. Did I mention we have booked tickets all the way in first class? Sweet! It’s going to be a great day!

At 4 am we drive to the Salt Lake City airport in David’s truck without incident; David pulls into the parking garage right across from the terminal. We got it covered, man! No need to check bags, we all have carry-on. Easy-peasy! Check-in is a breeze. Except we have to get from terminal A to terminal B, in the newly remodeled/vastly expanded SLC airport, now more like the Atlanta airport except without the trains. What if you have a bad hip or knee? No mobile carts in sight to assist … anyone? We seriously clock about a mile of steps on our fit bits to get to our gate. No problem. Plenty of time! Oh, except United had already informed us that we will be riding coach on this first flight – the original plane we booked in first class had been downsized to a smaller plane with no first class section. Oh well, it’s only a 2-hour flight.

We board the plane to San Francisco on time. It’s smaller all right. At least we’re seated at the front of the plane. A narrow aisle runs down the middle of the plane for about 30 rows with 2 seats on both sides. The aisle is narrow enough to create an obstacle course for anyone over 100 pounds navigating to the bathroom at the back of the plane. “Watch your arm!” “Excuse me!” “Oh, sorry!”

We’re circling San Francisco now, and … circling. Uh-oh. Our flight is still in the air … we are not landing on time. Okay – we’ll just run to our gate when we land. The pilot interrupts the silence with an announcement, “This is your captain speaking. Uh, a situation of dense fog has prevented us from landing in San Francisco, the plane is running low on gas, and we are being diverted to Monterey to refuel. Good news is that Monterey is only about a half-an-hour away.” Okay, somehow that good news in his sexy voice about how we’re ‘only 30 minutes away from Monterey’ is a comfort. I wonder if all prospective pilots have to pass a “Sexy Joe Cool’ voice test that casts a hypnotic effect on passengers for when they announce the exact opposite of what the passengers hope to hear: “This is your captain speaking. Secure the plane for landing in San Francisco…” Yes. That’s what we want to hear! Half an hour later we land in Monterey. We sit on the tarmac for 3 hours, along with 8 other United flights diverted from San Francisco. The pilot gets on the intercom periodically to update us; the fog might be lifting and we can return to San Francisco, will update you in 40 minutes. Oh … we are waiting on another update …

On the ground in Monterey. ‘This is your captain speaking…’

After sitting in our seats for 2 hours they finally let us off the plane. We enter the Monterey terminal and half the passengers make a mad dash for the restrooms. David buys a snack size bag of potato chips from a vending machine mostly to share with Megan. Delicious! ‘We’re on vacation, Megan!” 30 minutes later an airport announcement exhorts all of us to return to the plane. Which we do. Uh, all but one passenger (there’s always one) who apparently missed the memo. The jet engines are blasting, the stewardess is ready to close the hatch, but where’s the missing passenger? The stewardess even polls the passengers, should we leave him? We sit there speechless. Sure enough he finally blows on, thank goodness, she shuts the hatch and off we go – back to San Francisco.

Will we land this time? The pilot announces our descent into San Francisco. Sure enough a low blanket of thick fog looms below. I snap a photo

“De Fog! De Fog!” (Is our plane encircled by a rainbow?)

But miraculously, the blanket of fog has shifted, exposing the view of the runway. We land in San Francisco! It’s now 3:30pm.

It just so happens that 5G cell towers were rolled out yesterday (for real, wish we had known about that plan when we booked these flights last July) and there had been warnings from the airlines that flights in certain cities could be affected. We found out later that because of the fog numerous United flights into San Francisco were diverted to Monterey, San Jose and Sacramento. Certain plane models were not approved for landing in extreme fog because 5G could interfere with radio altimeters, which provide data on how high a plane is flying, vital information for landing in poor visibility. So I guess in the interest of safety it was a yet another comfort that we were diverted to Monterey (???) -(I’m reaching my limit here on ‘comfort’ potential …) If you are curious to learn more about the 5G situation, here’s a link to an article published in the Washington Post on January 20, possibly simultaneously to our sitting on the tarmac in Monterey: https://www.washingtonpost.com/transportation/2022/01/20/5g-flight-diversions-airplanes/

So its 3:30 in the afternoon, we are finally in San Francisco, and we have been rebooked on the United 6:30 pm flight to Lihue. Oh goody! At least we got on the flight! Okay, so flying first class was a pipe dream. We’ll take our seats in coach! And we have time for a meal. We pretty much flop into a booth at the first restaurant we come across in the San Francisco terminal. No idea what it was called. We’re starving. We order drinks and hot wings and hamburgers and fries.

David and Eric at the airport restaurant. “No, we’re not hungry”

We practically inhale the meal. That’s my margarita. I don’t think it needs an explanation.

Yeah, well who’s picking up the lunch tab?

Yikes

Let’s just start spending that hefty refund we should get for getting completely bumped off first class.

So are you getting exhausted yet? Do you want to hang in there with us through the rest of this travel ordeal? Next stop, Arm Bands! You will not gain entry to Kauai without one. The Covid passport. Of course ahead of your trip you’ve completed all the requirements to obtain a QR code and printed it out for each member of your traveling party, filled the paperwork out online, followed the testing protocol, or made copies of your vaccine passports (bring them with you!). Remember to get your armbands before you board your flight at the Covid armband area set up in the terminal near the gate where you will board your flight to Lihue. Of course, that’s assuming you have a long enough layover to stand in line and handle that detail along with everyone else on your flight. Because, you can’t get into Kauai without it, so you stand in line in San Francisco, or stand in line after you get off the plane in Lihue. Which, it does occur to us that there was no way we had time to stand in line in San Francisco to get our armbands with our original itinerary. We would have flown first class only to stand in line in Lihue getting arm bands. I’ve heard horror stories about those long lines on the other end. Whew. So glad we missed that flight in first class (yeah right).

Okay, can we land in Lihue now? I won’t overload you with details of our 5 1/2 – hour flight from San Francisco to Lihue. Megan and I ordered a cheese plate with our complementary bag of pretzels and cokes. There were no TV’s on the plane. We were instructed by a prerecorded robot-voice message to access United’s movie and TV selections by downloading the United App on our smart devices with head phones. WHA? No friggin TV’s??? Even the message about their dumb app in a sexy pilot’s voice would offer no comfort on that one.

“This is the captain. Prepare for landing.” Yippee!!! We land in Lihue about 10:30pm Kauai time. Catch a bus to Avis rental car. At least half the people on the bus had also been diverted from San Francisco on a United Flight. That’s how we heard about San Jose and Sacramento. Our big honking GMC SUV, that David reserved, was still waiting for us. A seven seater. Except it’s so dark inside and outside the vehicle David can’t figure out how to work the mirrors. Or the wipers. David just leaves the wipers flapping through the whole hour it took us to make it to Stephanie and Victor’s house in Princeville. We arrive near mid-night, all told, 23-hours of travel after we hit the road at 4am from our motel in Bountiful.

Stephanie and Victor greet us with broad smiles, open arms, and pantry and fridge stocked with our requested food items and abundant farm-to-table goodies.

Stephanie and Victor waited up to welcome us!

Aloha! Welcome to Kauai! Let the adventures in Paradise begin!

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