All the bad things said about traveling during the holidays are true.

>> January 16, 2010

Well, we are back in Sevilla getting settled back into the Spanish lifestyle. We had a great time back in the States with our family and friends. It all seemed to go by so fast. We will post about that later, but for now......a story.

Spain did not let us return home so easily for Christmas. We found ourselves running into problems almost every step of the way. Our flight was scheduled for Dec. 21st to leave in the morning to Madrid, then from Madrid to Dallas, then Dallas to Fresno to arrive the night of the 21st. It all seemed so perfect. We reached the airport early in the morning thanks to a ride from Leslie the director of Acento, who was kind enough to drive back to the airport a second time when she found Sarah's wallet on the floor of her car. We met up with Julie Ann, who was leaving Sevilla for possibly the last time. As we neared the front of the Iberia check-in line we began to hear rumors of snow in Madrid (which is rare). The Iberia check-in counter gave us our tickets for our flight and everything seemed OK, but before we could even reach security we saw one of our students walking out of the gate area. She asked us if we were on the same flight as her. She had already been at the gate and was told that it was canceled. We couldn't help but think that the flight was probably canceled before the lady had given us our tickets (really!?!).

We got back in line to try again. They asked if we want to wait till the next day (which in hindsight we should have done right then and there) or get on the next available flight. We did not want to deal with taking all our massive amounts of luggage back home for the night and having to say goodbye to people again so we got tickets on the next available flight, which would still give us enough time to still make it on our flight to Dallas. We made it all the way to the gate and waited.....and waited. Then were notified of a gate change. Everyone quickly moved to the next gate. We waited awhile more then were finally informed on the screens that the flight was canceled. Everyone rushed back to the check-in counter for another go.

People were really losing their patience now and the amount of people who wanted to fly to Madrid was growing, making the situation all the more intense. The line was moving especially slow this time because everyone had to be rerouted, so we when we finally got to the front we were not happy to find out that they could not help us and we had to go wait in the line at the ticket counter. We headed that direction across the terminal and after finally getting to the front of line were told that they also could not help us but only the lady at the check-in counter could reroute us.

As our anger was growing we began to see some of the same people doing the same back and forthing and also losing patience. As we met each other in the lines we began to conspire together about renting a van to get to Madrid. Julie Ann was on the phone with her mom who was on the internet looking at available flights to get home (all VERY expensive.) We tried the check-in counter once again and the lady was dumbfounded to see us. After Julie Ann told her (with a deserved amount of attitude) that the other counter would not help, the woman marched from behind the counter taking us back across the terminal to the front of the line at the ticket counter and gave the other woman a vicious scolding saying that she needed to help us.

Julie Ann jumped in after and demanded to be rerouted on anything to get her to Madrid. Iberia refused to move us to another airline. Everyone in the line who we had now just got led in front of was verbally showing their disapproval that we were now in front of them. We avoided turning around as they starred hole in the back of our heads. After much painful resistance from the woman at the counter she finally gave Julie Ann a complete new route on the 24th. Julie Ann was content and was not t0o opposed to the idea of spending more time with her friends.

Sarah then followed Julie Ann's lead and with an unrelenting force got us on a flight the next morning to Madrid, where we would then be on stand-by to Miami, then to SF. It was a long shot but we were growing weary. Kaylyn, the student, made it on the same flight to Madrid with no promise of continuing from there until she talked to someone at a US Airways desk there. We offered her our futon for the night and we all began the trek back to our apartment.

With all our luggage there was no way we could call in a favor for someone to pick us up and bring us back into town, also the taxi's were on strike and we would not want to pay the money anyways. Oh......and also it was pouring rain. We barely manage to hop on the airport bus with all our luggage and made it to the bus station. From there we hoped on the tram which got us to a plaza close to our house. From there we waited till the rain lightened and then made a run for it (as fast as we could with 6 large suitcases and a large guitar case). When we finally got everything upstairs, completely out of breath, we then had to find a way back to the airport in the morning.

We turned to our friend and pastor, Al, who is has been a Godsend for us here. After not sleeping all night for fear of not waking up in time, he came to pick up Sarah and some of the luggage at 4:15 in the morning and drop her off at the bus station. Then he came to pick up Kaylyn and I and the rest of the luggage and brought us to the airport. When we got there I called Sarah and she told me that a taxi kept driving by telling her that the bus was not coming because now the buses were on strike (really!?!). Also a police car kept driving by to make sure she was OK. But finally the bus did come and when she got to the airport was able to jump in at the front of the line where I was holding a place. We finally got on a flight to Madrid.

Though we should of seen it coming. Nothing prepared us for the madhouse that had become of the Madrid airport. People were camped out along all of the walls. We said our fairwells to Kaylyn and wished each other the best as we headed to different connecting flight counters. We were so glad to not have to deal with Iberia anymore, especially since they had long lines across the terminal. We were welcomed warmly at the American Airlines counter and were immediately told that there was no way we were making it on the flight through Miami. Then we were told we might be able to go on a flight through Mexico. Finally there was a flight to New York, later in the day. We would have to spend the night in NY and would be able to get to SF in the morning. We were finally starting to relax. We found a quiet bench in the terminal and paid for some access for internet. We felt we had deserved it. Things were going to be alright and we were going to make it home before Christmas.

Before we flew to NY I shot a message to our good friends Cory and Annie to see if there was a slim chance that we could see them in our short time in NY. When we landed and found out where our hotel was, I shot Cory a call and he he was on his way, He was able to take the subway to the airport and take the same airport shuttle that we took (after we waited in freezing temperatures for it to come) to the hotel. My guitar case was nowhere to be found in US customs, So I just let it be. I really didn't want to have to take it along with me to the hotel and back and I figured it would show up sooner or later.

As we waited for Cory to arrive at the hotel we took advantage of our free dinner vouchers and enjoyed some good American food at the hotel restaurant. It was good to have a real steak again. Cory arrived and we were able to hang out for awhile. It was worth staying up for even though we were completely exhausted. He and Annie had prepared some reading material and some airplane snacks for us. (Thank You!) After we said our farewells, Sarah and I got a couple hours of sleep before we had to catch the shuttle back to the airport.

So the morning of the 23rd, we thought Madrid was a madhouse but JFK was absolute anarchy. Lines wrapped around the walls, people sleeping on cots. We got in the line to just recheck-in our luggage and were realizing that we wouldn't get to the front of the line in time for our flight. Every employee was being attack by passengers in a hurry to get somewhere. We watched the chaos unfold as the line began to spiral inwards for lack of anywhere else to go. Soon it became a large mass of people and no body knew where to go from there. Finally a woman came around yelling for who was trying to go to San Francisco. We jumped in line behind her and got led to the front of the line. We threw our bags on the conveyer belt and ran to security.

We passed through quickly (since everyone was still in line to check in) and ran to our gate. We were the last ones there. We handed them our tickets and heard "Oh, your the Bentleys......" (Uh-oh.......... we braced ourselves for the worse) "You got upgraded to First Class," Praise Jesus! Hallelujah! and Amen! Sarah and I sat down in our ultra comfy seats at the front of the plane and gave each other a high five. I drank four mimosas before the plane even took off. I avoided sleep so I would not miss anything offered to me; personal movie player with choice of movies, bottomless drinks, omlette breakfast, warm peanuts and cashews (which Sarah missed because she fell asleep for a bit), and delictible warm chocolate chip cookies. We entertained ourselves with the free wi-fi that was offered to everyone. It was perfect. It began the healing process of all the traveling wounds that had been inflicted on us the past few days. It was a beautiful ending to nightmarish travel story.

After we got home we heard that Kaylyn was not able to fly out of Madrid until Christmas day, but did make it home that night to spend it with her family. And my guitar was delivered safe and sound to the doorstep of my mom's a week later.


Happynhanford January 16, 2010 at 12:47 PM  

Oh Man! What a tale you have told! All that trouble, to spend a little time with Cory! 1st class sounds wonderful!
Great to see you! Glad you made it back safely!
Have fun!
Bee's Mimi

~MOM~ January 17, 2010 at 6:35 PM  

Really!?! I like that. What an adventure, We loved seeing you, so I hope it was worth it. Thank you for posting it. Love you! ~MOM~

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