Mon.~ May 10, 2004~Prelude
The weekend has been hectic. Graduation ceremony Friday evening, last minute shopping on Saturday and Sunday afternoon was spent with my daughters to celebrate Mother’s Day. Time has suddenly disappeared so laundry and serious packing must be done. One last telephone chat with Mom, copies of the travel itinerary e-mailed to the kids…oh, my goodness, a trip to the bank for traveler’s checks, cash and a bank bag! How could I forget that? We scurry around and make the trip into town. While Mr. Eg keeps one teller busy with traveler’s checks I have another checking on the bank bag. Checking out a bank bag for one week is not a standard procedure and it takes some time but is finally accomplished. Meanwhile, it is discovered the teller had us sign the traveler’s checks in the wrong place. We laugh, say “No problem” and begin once more to sign our names over and over and over. If it is the only glitch experienced on this vacation we will be more than happy. It turns out, the only other experience she had with traveler’s checks was during training. She is now well versed in the procedure.
Home at last and packing begins. Mr. Eg is quite proud of the fact that his carry-on is already packed and begins tossing everything else into the checked luggage. My mantra, for months now, has been pack light, pack light, pack light. That certainly seemed to fly right out the door as my clothes begin to pile up on the sofa and Mr. Eg wants to know how much more is going to appear. Patience, dear, patience. It’s going to fit in the carry-on. The shoe decision must be made. Be it known, I don’t wear shoes unless I have to. This should be simple. Wear the leather sandals and pack the closed toe sandals, water shoes and flip-flops. I think it is too many shoes.
The day wears on and before I know it, the clock strikes midnight. All is packed with the exception of the last minute personal items to be thrown in. The carry-on seems to be bulging and the thought enters my mind that just maybe mine won’t fit into the overhead compartment. Time will tell. With the sofa cleared of clothing, I rest my weary head. Sleep is impossible but a few winks are caught…and it is very few because we must leave the house at 3:30 a.m. for the airport. Mr. Eg has tried to sleep but finally gives up. There must be a bit of excited anticipation. This trip has been planed for a year and it’s been two years since our last sight of the Caribbean Sea.
Up and at ‘em! Dressed, last minute items packed and luggage stowed in the car, with final good-byes to our son and three animals we are on the road at last. The drive is uneventful and thankfully the airport construction doesn’t give rise to any problems. Will Rogers Airport has done an excellent job of placing signs exactly where they are needed and travelers have no problem negotiating around the on-going construction. The Continental desk is found quickly. We are there at 4:30 a.m. but the desk employee’s won’t show up until 5:00 a.m. I find it ironic that security is there but the bag can’t be checked until the desk tags the baggage.
At last! Check-in begins and we are quickly whisked through the procedure. One last cigarette in the lounge and it’s off to the departure gate. From here on out, the cigarette game will prove to be an interesting one. Mr. Eg flies through the security check point, which is well deserved. On the last trip, being one of the random checks, he and the luggage was thoroughly searched every time. My turn. Bag on the conveyor belt, purse and hat into the bin, step through the metal detector...and the thing goes off! Darn. I took off the watch and reading glasses. The lady asks me to remove my shoes. I’ve worn sandals with metal buckles. No problem. I have now passed and we are on our way. Locating the gate is simple. Now comes the difficult part. Hurry up and wait.
Tue.~May 11, 2004~The Flights *pic*
The waiting continues with very few of us in the departure area. We can’t help but notice the other occupant…a young woman with a small baby and there are yellow ribbons tied all over her luggage. Visiting begins and we discover that her husband has just returned from Iraq. She also has two other family members serving at this time. We thank her and explain how proud we are of all those that serve and for what the families sacrifice. Conversation soon reveals that she is traveling stand-by, destination Seattle, to see her family. I am hoping she makes the flight, otherwise, she may be in the departure lounge for up to twelve hours.
Boarding is finally called and guess who makes the flight? Yes she does! Relief washes over me to know she is on her way. I can’t imagine spending a long period of time in that area with a small baby. Getting down the airplane aisle with that rolling piece of carry-on baggage is interesting because the aisle is just barely wide enough. I eventually learn to carry it in front of me thereby eliminating catching it on the seats and bumping people’s feet. We eventually find the seats, and yes, by golly, Tami has got us a window seat just in front of the wing. Low and behold, that over stuffed carry-on fits into the overhead compartment. One less thing to worry about. Having boarded thirty minutes prior to take-off it is, once again, hurry up and wait. I occupy my time by studying the terminal map of Bush IAX and am relieved to find we do not change terminals for the next leg of the journey. Finally the engines roar to life, the purse is stowed under the seat and taxi down the runway begins. As the aircraft leaves the ground I can hardly contain screaming “YES” at the top of my lungs. We look at each other with the silliest grins on our faces. One would think we’d never been on an airplane before.
Sunrise has revealed an overcast, slightly foggy day but within five minutes the aircraft has risen above the clouds and the sun shines bright. The pilot gives the Houston weather report: 70º with light mist. There is heavy cloud cover the entire flight so I settle in to read a bit.
The flight is uneventful with just a bit of turbulence and lands on time at 8:11 a.m. That is a relief. We hustle through the terminal to find the next gate. Luck would have it that the gate is on the other side as far as one can go. Mr. Eg has been in this terminal before but I have not. My very first experience with a moving sidewalk. I find that getting on the thing is a piece of cake but that getting off is a bit tricky. The thing just kinda catapults you right out and I fear there is no graceful way to achieve solid ground. Mr. Eg has a huge laugh at what I look like during this procedure but after being behind him and watching his exit, I find that he is none to graceful either. After negotiating three of these sidewalks we locate the gate and decide we have time to find an exit to catch a quick smoke. Back through the three sidewalks, up the ramp to another sidewalk to the security check point and outside into the parking garage. We light up, get a few puffs when Mr. Eg states very emphatically that he must get to the men’s room. Now? Yes, now. Okay. Get out the passports, put stuff in the bins, baggage on the conveyor belt and quickly pass through. It is to be noted that I have changed into the flip-flops and stowed the sandals with metal buckles in the carry-on. Collect the items, ride the sidewalk back into the terminal and directly to the men’s. Eg does some people watching. Mr. Eg returns and we once again go to catch a smoke. Reverse the procedure…four moving sidewalks later we arrive at the departure gate with five minutes to spare before boarding. I notice something missing. My hat! I’ve left it at security. I own two hats that fit me and are not about to lose this one. A quick check with the desk employee reveals that I do have time to retrieve it. I inform Mr. Eg what is going on and I’m put on a tram to the security door. A quick trip on the sidewalk and there is the hat. Yippee!!! A nice ride back on the tram and I arrive to find Mr. Eg is a state of apoplexy. Mr. Eg has loss of hearing in one ear and did not catch what was going on. He is just a bit panicked because he can not find his wife. I was quickly told that he would buy me another #%@& hat. We board the flight with just a bit of tenseness between us but it soon passes when it is explained he was not angry but worried. Once again the airplane rises into the sky and we have silly grins on our faces.
We settle in for the two and a half-hour flight and are pleasantly surprised to be offered our choice of a turkey or ham sandwich. It comes in a cute little plastic tray along with a small bag of carrots and a chocolate bar. They are small--about the size of a dinner roll—and a bit dry but it is food. I’ve had far worse. The flight continues and the clouds stay below us the entire time. At last the seatbelt sign comes on and the pilot announces the local time. It is 12:15 p.m. CDT and 11:15 a.m. Belize time. We just gained an hour more to have on the island today. Eventually, our first sight of Belize is revealed.
Departure onto the tarmac is swift and the luggage hits the carousel in record time. The trip through immigrations is fast due to properly filled out forms and I watch in eager anticipation to receive the first stamp on my passport. The gentleman performing the service found it quite amusing. “Welcome to Belize.” Around the corner we go to the Mayan Air desk to pick up the boarding passes and on to the security checkpoint. Once again it is stuff onto the conveyor belt and interestingly enough there is a large sign that says to remove your shoes and place them in the bin also. Most proper since the island motto is “No shoes, no shirt, no problem.”
Exiting security a left turn takes one directly to the departure lounge. It has three gates and no matter where one sits the flight can’t be missed.
Having an hour before the hopper flight we have our first rum punch from the world famous Jet’s Bar.
I do not jest. He has several photos of himself with famous people, among them, Tom Hanks. Jet is quite a character. He is shorter than myself and twice as wide, dark as the Ace of Spades, kind of a high pitched voice and a personality that makes him liked immediately. Jet is the official meet and greet department and wonders the lounge area speaking with all and encouraging them to have another of his “famous rum punch.” Let me assure you, they are very good, and only one is required.
Another couple is in the lounge with multiple questions about their flight to Palencia, the peninsula further south. They are very concerned because more than one flight is scheduled to leave from the same gate. The husband spends much time trying to calm down his wife and I wonder if they will get the hang of Belize time and local customs. I still wonder if they had a good time. I assured them that Mayan Air would make sure they reached their destination. They were still at the gate when our flight departed.
The airplane arrives, the passengers are boarded and we take off. Those grins on our faces are even sillier this time.
The grins are now just downright goofy.
I am absolutely fascinated by this airplane and alternate between watching the scenery and the altimeter. A short five minutes into a fifteen-minute flight the altimeter goes from six hundred to one hundred and before I know it, a teeny little runway is visible on the coast. It is surrounded on three sides by water and two small buildings are spotted. Ah-ha! We are stopping at the Belize City Municipal Airport. A successful landing is accomplished and the cargo hold is loaded with fresh produce. No cargo space is wasted for any flight, from either airline, going to the island. A taxi back to the runway and the pilot uses every inch of the runway while turning into the wind. The front wheels barely miss going into the sea and by the time he has completed the turn the tail is hanging over the water. He hits the throttle hard and gives the little plane all she’s got and we rise into the air just as the runway disappears beneath us.
Having piloted an airplane a bit, Mr. Eg is gripping the seats with his bottom side. I’m having the time of my life. In just a few seconds the Caribbean appears in all her glory.
We have arrived.