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The Best Laid Plans



On Friday, January 24, 2014, just five days before our scheduled departure for New Zealand, we stopped on our way into the park to pick our mail. In the mail was a summons for jury duty for me, Tom. Oh, Great!

I read the information carefully. The report date was scheduled for after our departure. There was an information sheet to be completed and returned within 5 days. It was possible to submit the information by computer, so I logged on and filled out the required information. At the end were a series of reasons that would exempt me from jury duty. None of them mentioned New Zealand or Australia!

There was an opportunity to request a postponement, so I checked that. Then it wanted a date for the postponement. I submitted June 23, a week after our planned return. That was accepted immediately, no questions asked. I was told I would get a confirmation e-mail within a day or two. On Tuesday I called to confirm that they had indeed received my information as no e-mail ever came. All was good, I was free to go.

January 29, 2014, arrived and our much-anticipated trip was under way. We left the house at 5:00 a.m. on the way to the airport for a 7:00 a.m. flight. Our friends Bill and Laura drove us to the airport. It is a 20- to 25-minute drive to the McAllen, Texas, airport. There are four gates for commercial flights, so the long security lines at some airports are usually not a problem here.

We approached the access ramp to US 281 South, only to find the ramp closed. This was odd, we’ll just go on to the next ramp, who knows what the problem could be. The next ramp was also closed. Hey, there is no one on the highway. Well the temperature was near freezing, there was a light drizzle and no one in this part of Texas has a stock of salt to deal with ice nor the equipment to spread salt if they did have it.

We had to take the trip through town and found the ramps on the expressway, U.S. 83. also closed. As we approached the airport, the street crosses U.S. 83 and that overpass also was closed, so we had to detour onto the access road and cross under the highway and return to the street to the airport. This was absolutely crazy.

Guess what, we got to the airport and our flight was delayed. The 7:00 a.m. departure would now be leaving at 11:00 a.m., maybe! We checked bags and cleared security and waited. As we waited we began to see the news reports from Atlanta. Yes, this was the day of the great highway disaster in Atlanta.

Obviously, the road officials in Texas were watching the news and decided to head off their own disaster. That was why all the major highways and overpasses were closed. Our plane was coming from somewhere in the southeast and weather was delaying it also. Louise investigated and found a connecting flight in Houston that left later than our original but allowed us time to get to Los Angeles in time for our flight to New Zealand. We made all connections with no further complications.

At 9:10 p.m. on January 29, 2014, the Boeing 777 pushed back from the gate and we were on our way. The flight was scheduled to arrive in Auckland, New Zealand at 9:00 a.m. on January 31, 2014. We would cross the equator and also cross the International Date Line.

We arrived in Auckland at 6:30 a.m. thanks to a ferocious tail wind, more than 100 mph as we approached New Zealand. On the trip we had a seatmate who was making a return trip to New Zealand after going to the Netherlands to visit her mother. She was a delightful young woman, an educator and statistician working on testing and assessment in New Zealand. We had a very nice discussion as we were all waking up from our long flight. She suggested several things we should try to see while in New Zealand. Tomorrow I’ll share my first impression of some of the myriad of things that are different down under.

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