Sunday, February 5, 2017

Grand Princess – San Francisco, CA to Hawaii Cruise –January 9-24, 2016

The trip started off just wonderfully.

I ordered my taxi to pick us up for our 10:30 AM flight to San Francisco.  The weather in Chicago was cold but sunny and when I last checked on the Bay Area, it was raining and around mid 50s.

Our taxi came right on time – we didn’t notice it at first because parked out in front of the condo was a slick, black, shiny, Oldsmobile (I think).  Instead of a guy named Boris dressed in a sweatshirt coming out of the car, a young, “Melania-like” woman, dressed all in black, and wearing pricey shades, greeted us.  She even hauled one of our bags down the stairs. The only way you knew if was a taxi was the little plate on the passenger door.  Inside the cab, there was no meter or credit card swiper and the interior was shiny and super clean. This was not an American Taxi but an American Transporter – a quasi limo.  The woman did not say a word all the way to the airport and she drove very safely (both hands on the wheel) and with the traffic.  She dropped us at Terminal 3 and she was off.  I am thinking that their standard cabs were all busy and she was in the area.  I’m sure that this kind of transport is a whole lot more pricey than our standard chariot.

We got into the Elite Check In Line and waited for about 30 minutes with no movement – it seems that all of the people being helped had some kind of non-standard issue. 

After another 10 minutes of no progress, I decided to try the kiosks.  I entered all of our information and the machine flashed an error message indicating we had to speak to the desk agent.  After some more waiting, we finally got to an agent.  Then we got the news – OUR FLIGHT TO SAN FRANCISCO WAS CANCELLED due to weather.  When we asked about other flights going to SFO, she indicated that no flights were available today. 

I immediately got on my mobile and called the Embassy Suites in San Francisco and cancelled our reservation for tonight.  He confirmed that the weather in San Francisco was indeed stormy.  I also checked West Coast radar and the storm is fierce and huge covering almost half of California and reaching the Oregon State Line – at least the rain will help California’s drought a bit if a lot of this rain turns into snow in the mountains.

We worked with an agent and tried just about every airport on the West Coast but there were no flights available today.  We could go to Phoenix or Las Vegas but then what?  After about 30 more minutes of agonizing options, we finally decided that we had only one choice:  Fly to San Diego and then drive to San Francisco.  Not desirable considering that our personal driving range is not that big.

Fortunately, I guess, there were two seats available on AA1296 Non-Stop to San Diego.  Not only that, but we were able to get the Exit Row seats we had on our cancelled flight – a small miracle.

We proceeded to Gate H4, where our 737-800 was sitting. 


AA1296 Getting Readied for Travel

On the taxiway, I spotted a “throwback” American Airlines jet – an Astrojet with all of the markings of what I am guessing is vintage 1960s.

IMG_20170108_throwback AA airliner

Blast from the Past

While we were waiting, I reserved a car at the San Diego Airport (with a drop off at SFO) so at least we have transportation.

We boarded on time and took off a few minutes ahead of schedule.

IMG_20170109_ORD climbout

ORD Climb Out

NOW TYPING LIVE – we are in the middle of Chop City – it has been choppy the last hour or so.  The pilot just came on and said he had tried three different altitudes with no success but that he had gotten intel from a plane ahead of us at the same altitude that this will smooth out in about 10 minutes.  I tried to read on my Kindle but the words danced to the chop and I didn’t want to chance getting a headache.

I don’t usually work on my computer during a flight so I am finding that “typing in turbulence” to be a little challenging. 

BTW, I checked on the status of our ship – Grand Princess is heading toward San Francisco from Cabo San Lucas.  Hopefully, by tomorrow, most of the storm will have headed East and the ship can dock without incident at 7:00 AM Monday.

IMG_20170109_approach SAN

IMG_20170109_approach SAN 1

IMG_20170109_warships final approach

IMG_20170109_San Diego approach

Approach to San Diego

The air eventually smoothed out to a degree.  We landed a few minutes early and our bags arrived with us. 

We hopped the shuttle to the rental car lot.  We upgraded to a midsize car and had our pick of any car in that aisle.  After looking over a few cars, I chose a silver Mazda3 because it was silver and it looked larger than the other options.  We found the entrance to Interstate 5, which goes from San Diego through LA to San Francisco.

The ride to LA was very scenic and took us past the San Onofre Nuclear Power Facility and San Clemente, Nixon’s Summer White House.  Things were looking pretty good until we hit the outskirts of LA, when construction of the Metro clogged traffic for the next hour or so.  We eventually got through that and passed through downtown LA and into the Griffith Park area.  We ran into some more traffic and stopped a few times (Los Feliz, for example) to try and get something to eat.  We eventually found an exit that looked like it had some stores and restaurants.  We ate dinner at a place called Spumonis, where we shared a huge salad with grilled salmon.  The salmon was great but he salad, while enormous, consisted of multi-colored fufu greens.

During dinner, I made reservations at the Holiday Inn Express Big Country in Coalinga.  Coalinga, where the smell of cows is the biggest component of the atmosphere, seemed a good stopping place for the day.  We passed through the valley, then over the Grapevine, and into the Central Valley.  It was very dark on the two lane road where big trucks filled the right lane.  To make things more interesting, it started to rain.  The Mazda3 has water sensing windshield wipers – the heavier the rain, the faster the wipers sweep.  It is very cool to watch.  My next car will need to have that option.  It was a difficult ride but we made it to Coalinga at 10:00 PM after logging about 300 miles. 

The Hotel consisted of non attached rooms placed on grounds that contained a swimming pool.  We checked in (the price on was $92 including breakfast) and spent a few minutes settling down in our very nice room before calling it a long, eventful, and challenging day.

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