Cunninghams On Parade - 2017 New Zealand: Return to the Shire travel blog

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Heading Home

TRAVEL QUOTE OF THE DAY: “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” - Robert Louis Stevenson

Generally speaking, I prefer the “moving” to be onto a vacation parade; not such a big fan of the ”moving” along on home part of it…..LOL. But today is the day to take it on homeward….

Woke up at 7:15, well ahead of the alarm at 8. Not excited about the flying home but I do get anxious about missing a flight and so I always seem to wake up early on a flying day. We took our time getting dressed and finishing the packing up. I had some tea in the room; I love how the motel rooms here have tea/coffee making facilities that you sometimes find in US hotels but not nearly as nice. Art ate the last of his cereal and milk but I had no appetite and just had my tea. We were ready to go by 10am and took our stuff outside for the shuttle to the airport. There was a family of 3 already there to go and it took a little while to get our big 4 suitcases into the car along with their luggage but finally managed it all and crowded into the minivan for the 10 minute trip to AKL.

Got there with plenty of time, our flight wasn’t until 1:00. Found a scale and weighed our luggage. One bike suitcase was 23.5kgs, the other bike suitcase was 23kgs, my suitcase was 22kgs and Art’s suitcase was 19kgs. Whew! Weight limit was 23kgs so we just eeked by. Went and checked in; wasn’t too terribly long a line but I have to say again how much I dislike the kiosks for checking yourself in. If you have no luggage, fine; that works. But for people with multiple bags, multiple people, etc. it just is more complicated and work. Those luggage tags are slightly complicated and they still have to have a worker there to help people figure it all out, so don’t try and tell me it’s for my benefit. It’s more work for me and I don’t see my ticket price going down so I’m pretty sure it’s for the AIRLINE’S benefit….You still have to go to the girl at the counter to let her check your passport and scan in your luggage so why not just do it all there to begin with like we used to? Okay, off the soapbox; it’s a well known fact how much I hate the airlines anyway. LOL

Got the check in done and then went to find our gate. Took our time walking and the security line didn’t take too long either. We didn’t have to take shoes off - nice - and it wasn’t a huge hassle about anything else. Walked to our gate and stopped along the way to shop a bit and grab a couple cheeseburgers at the Burger King on our way. Ate them at a table near our gate and charged the phones up one more time. Did a last bit of shuffle video recording and then went down the escalator to the gate itself. Didn’t have to wait but about 25 minutes to begin boarding at noon. Flight was almost completely full. We had seats 22A and 22C and had hoped no one would take the middle seat but someone did. Nice young woman and I elected to keep my aisle seat this time rather than swap and sit next to Art. Turns out, that was a lucky happenstance because before we took off, a flight attendant came and said the girl’s mother was worried about her leg swelling up like on the flight over and wanted her moved to an empty aisle seat near her further forward in the plane. The girl deferred but the flight attendant came back and said, yeah, come on and let me move you and so the girl did. Which meant Art and I had the whole 3 row to ourselves! Might be my second most comfortable longhaul flight ever; my first was the transatlantic I took with Barry to have classes with Eddie Spence in England and it was so empty at the back I got to lay down across the row of 4 in the middle and sleep all night - it was glorious! Anyway, I was considering telling the girl she could have my aisle seat and I’m happy I was still considering it because I think she would have stayed there if we’d already swapped. So all in all, it worked out better for everyone since she got a seat near her mother too.

Since it was an 11 hour flight and was for the most part afternoon and evening to us, neither of us got any sleep. We watched movies and it was a nice new plane like the one going over which had great seatback screens and LOADS of movies to choose from. I watched Girl on the Train, The Accountant, Office Christmas Party, Why Him, and Inferno. Art watched The Accountant, Office Christmas Party, Allied, Bridge of Spies and Deadpool. We had a lunch service which for me was pumpkin ravioli (meh) and for Art chicken teriyaki. Snack service was some 5 spice chicken panini (yuck) and a small cup of Kapiti (NZ) ice cream - hokey pokey flavor - that was awesome. Breakfast came about 1.5 hours before landing and was bacon, scrambled eggs, hash brown cake, and yogurt. It was all right. Landed at LAX about 5:20am, an hour ahead of schedule and no one was on duty yet at customs so we had to sit on the plane until 6:00. Got off and walked miles to the customs and immigration station. It was a new-fangled one; we did the immigration kiosk first and it was one that photographed your face and you scanned your passport in yourself and also did a customs declaration form on it, so no paper ones to fill out this time. It prints out a “receipt” with your picture on it that you then take with your passport to the officer. They stamped the receipt, not the passport and then you were done to go get your suitcase. So our bright, shiny new passports got not a SINGLE stamp in them on this trip! No NZ stamp, no US stamp...nothing. Sad day! After getting luggage, you take it to the customs officer, they take your receipt and you shlep it to the AA recheck area and leave it there. It was chaotic and I dislike leaving my luggage there in a big mess of suitcases but that’s the system.

Then we walked to find our gate and it was most confusing. Had to walk a long way with fairly meager signage and wound up going through security unexpectedly so we had to chug our water in bottles, take off our shoes and quickly get our pockets organized but it worked and we got through without a whole lot of difficulty. The line was long and it was only 2 screeners. Somehow, I must have looked nefarious because although I didn’t get a beep at the metal detector and my backpack went through the screener, I got pulled aside for the full on body pat down. I mean FULL body too; then I had my hands wiped down (for chemicals, explosives, I don’t know) too and luckily I passed. Welcome home to America….sigh. In New Zealand, they took my word for my luggage weight and no one wanted to see any form of ID before letting me on an airplane. Compare that to the police state of flying in the US, and it just makes me hate the terrorists that much more for stinking up the whole situation...

Anyway, I passed and we were allowed to walk on to our gate. It was a long walk to Terminal 5 to gate 50B. Got there with about 20 minutes to spare before boarding. It was lucky we arrived early and got off the plane 30 minutes ahead of schedule because I had complained earlier when they booked our tickets that a 2 hour layover in LA was too short. As it turned out, it worked fine but it could have gone wrong badly and I would have had to do an OJ-style run through the airport. Flight to CLT left at 9am instead of the scheduled 8:30 but made up some time in the air. We had no seatback entertainment on this new plane; thanks, AA. What they are trying to sell as a “feature” for me is a bust; others and myself tried to access the online WIFI and streaming but it didn’t work at all. I’m going to guess it doesn’t work a lot but that won’t mean they’ll put the screens back in. I guess I’ll just have to be prepared to read on domestic flights from now on. So we both catnapped off and on; it was hard to sleep much as the plane was really cold; so when I wasn’t napping and the clouds parted, I looked out the window. We landed early at 4:00 but had to wait on the plane since our gate wasn’t ready. Finally got off about 4:20 and picked up our baggage no problem - we were home.

Had to get our Verizon sim cards out of the luggage and put them in the phones before we could call Helen who was on her way to get us. She picked us up just fine and we were back to our house by 6pm. Tired, grumpy, disgruntled...well, I was anyway. Art takes coming home a lot better than I do! LOL. We unpacked a little and grabbed a bit of supper at Taco Bell about 7:30 because the cupboards are bare, I tell you! Tried to stay up a little bit longer and made it until about 10 before finally heading to bed and for real closing the chapter on this New Zealand parade.

EPILOGUE: We want to say thanks to all of you Constant Readers who’ve read along and enjoyed the ride with us on this truly wonderful trip. I know I can get long-winded (right, Rob?) and I do add a whole lot of details (sometimes more than you want to know) but we are so happy that we could share our travels with you in words and pictures. We both hope you enjoyed hearing and seeing some of the things we did and maybe even get inspired to get out there and travel to NZ yourself sometime - we highly recommend it! And, please, take us with you when you go!!!

Finally, I will leave you with a bonus travel quote today. This one is my second favorite of all time because it is SO true:

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” - Susan Sontag

Penny :)


Number of pies consumed: 42

Number of fish and chips meals: 7

Number of Indian dinners: 8

Number of pizzas: 7

Diesel Cost: South Island - $462.80NZ North Island - $358.14

Mileage: South Island - 3,000kms North Island - 2,729kms

Diesel Mileage: South Island - 7.71km/liter North Island - 8.88km/liter

Average Cost of Diesel: South Island - $1.19/liter North Island - $1.17/liter

Number of nights in campervan (South Island): 21

Number of nights in campervan (North Island): 13

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