Saturday, January 10, 2009

the trouble with taking vacation is...

So my last blog entry left me complaining that Seattle did not have the ability to deal with snow. Roads were closed, but most importantly (to me) the airport was shut down for the night leaving me and several other hundred seasonal travelers literally out in the cold. Fortunately, we were not part of these people, whom our favorite airlines hosed with deicer. Out in the cold, with no where to go (by plane) we hopped a cab to the Holiday Inn in Kent to bunker down for three days until the next flight became available. Now realize that we were supposedly flying on the 20th of December. A full 24-hour day before our cruise was scheduled to leave the port in San Diego. Unfortunately, the next plane that had seven tickets to San Diego wasnt until the evening of the 24th. This meant we would have to catch up with the cruise at a different port. At our own expense. Can you image how expensive seven last minute plane tickets are from San Diego to the next port, Acapulco? "So whatcha doin'? Nothin' chillin' at the Holiday Inn" - Christmas SnoopDogg style Mark called the Alaska Airlines MVP desk and had the replacement tickets scheduled to San Diego mere minutes after our original flight was cancelled. We heard rumors of travelers who where unable to fly for almost a week and some that we spoke to in person who cancelled their plans all together. The reason we had to pay for the additional tickets: #1 we chose not to purchase travel insurance (never again will we NOT have travel insurance during time-sensitive travel) and #2 the airlines do not cover for the cruelties Mother Nature gives them. Alaska Airlines (AkAir) was not able to cover our next plane tickets and but more importantly to us they were not able to relinquish our luggage. Mark, Austin, and Orren headed back to SeaTac the next day to try to collect our luggage. It was only after a three hour wait in line they learned AkAir was sending all the luggage onto the final destination to allow those airports to sort through the chaos because SeaTac was wholly-unable to handle the mess they created. Their baggage handlers had thrown all the luggage off of every flight and had stacked and piled them on the baggage room floor five and six bags deep, with no flight sorting, whatsoever. We were able to find only one bag. Mine. My bag. My evening gowns bag. Wow. What a relief. Those come in handy doing laundry at the hotel! In a ball gown. To my amazement, the boys kept an excellent spirit during the Holiday Inn Hiatus. With all that snow, they made a gargantuan snowball. Seattle snow is much better than Alaskan snow, I guess. Alaska snow is to too cold to stick to itself. It is powder fine and does not pack. Seattle snow on the other had has moisture, so it makes things like snowballs. Great big snowballs. No gloves, no jackets, no worries. Just hours and hours and hours of fun in the back lawn of the hotel. After three wonderful snowy days camping at the hotel, eating hotel waffles, ordering pizzas, and eating dinners at Denny's, we were finally able to leave Seattle and head to San Diego. There were no direct flights from San Diego so we had to book San Diego- Houston- Acapulco. Flight got in late evening San Diego so it was off to Jack-in-the-Box for dinner and a cozy night at the Ramada. Ah, I feel like a traveling salesmen staying at super cheap hotels. Comforting. Livable, cause we were flying out early the next afternoon for Houston (or so we thought). We get to the San Diego airport only to find out that our flight to Houston was delayed due to the plane being held in Newark. Five hours later, they secure another airplane and assure us with food vouchers that another plane has been found and will be landing in a few hours. By 10pm, I was starting to loose hope. Merry Christmas Eve. Thank God there was a bar at the end of the concourse that was willing to spike my Starbucks Eggnog Latte with Baileys. One of those down and I was actually grateful they got us on a flight to Houston after midnight. We landed in Houston around 3am and decided to skip the hotel we had reservations for in hopes of gaining an extra hour of sleep on the airport floor before our 9am flight to our ship in Mexico. My only question is: "why does Houston need to announce over their intercoms at CONCERT level reminders that I shouldnt carry someone elses property in my luggage?" The aiport is locked from 2am-5am. No one new is getting in until 5. Yet, they feel the need to remind us of very important airport safety. Thank you. Houston, it was a pleasure waking up on your airport floor on Christmas morning to be informed of these concerns. Thank you, very, very much! It didnt take long for everyone to fall back into routine once we were on the ship. The kids scattered in all directions with newfound excitement from realizing that this cruise has other kids their ages. We were the only family on a ship that holds over a thousand people last January. This being a Holiday cruise, there were what seemed to be hundreds of children. Hundreds of children that were overly excited to get up early to go on shore excursions. Puerto Chiapas offered up a small site of Mexican ruins. Nothing overly spectacular, but a nice area to walk and enjoy the fresh air and time off the ship.
Mark and I
A view of the room. The space was reasonable. We didnt feel crowded. A queen/king sized bed a small sitting area with couch and writing desk. Insuite bathroom with 3/4 sized tub; surprisingly a lot of people take baths on a cruise. I guess the fact of not wanting to fall in the shower since standing up while the ship is moving is actually quite dangerous (but I did it anyway since I dont take baths in hotel bathrooms {unless they are luxury rooms with overly large tubs}). The flatscreen tv has a dvd player and the library has thousands of movies to rent. There are two movie channels that play nothing but new releases all day. I admit: there were several days when I just stayed in bed, knit, and watched movies.
Most ports had entertainmet in the shopping areas to draw the excusion crowd to stay in the pavilion and bring the "I never go off the ship" crowd off the ship to see what is going on. Both crowds end up dropping at least a few dollars. I would say they ended up dropping a few pesos, but every time we tried to pay with pesos, we got eye rolls and elevated prices. Even their ATMs offer to payout with American dollars.
These dancers were athelets! They would dance for 15 minutes, swinging and swishing and running about, then would walk the crowd taking pictures, only to return to the active dancing without sweating themselves to death in the 90F+ heat. We were only 10miles north of the Guatemalan border and we were feeling the heat.
Yes, the hallways are this long. Even longer if you spend time up at the Crow's Nest
Ixtapa: Brett dug a hole that deep. Parker developed a bad sunburn but they both had fun playing in the water and on the beach. The rest of us sat in the shade, relaxed and enjoyed the sounds of the ocean.
Puerto Vallarta: funny, but I think my friend Kat's hotel was just around the corner from where we took this picture.
Oh, the joys of family pictures. Okay, everyone smile!
These cruise ship are like floating cities. There are several (like 9) bars, a casino, a live theater, a movie theatre, three restaurants, two more buffets serving pizza, tacos, hamburgers, laundrymats, a library, internet cafe, espresso stand, giftshops. It was amazing. There are two kids' hangout areas. Club HAL for kids 12 and under and The Loft for kids 13+. Two of our boys turn 13, one this spring and the other this summer, so they were mad-bummin' about their denied entry into the teen joint which has it's own pool, sunning area, karaoke, games, and so much more than they ever needed to keep entertained. Last cruise they had free rein over both areas (again with the only family on board schtick).
PV: Nature's waterslide
Leaving Cabo, our last port-of-call
We had a lot of fun on the cruise. I highly recommend cruise for those with families. There is always food available with the hardest part being keeping the kids from eating before dinner. Someone else cleans, someone else cooks, and if you chose to, someone else does all the laundry. You go to bed at night after going to the theatre to see singers, comedians, dance shows, jugglers or go see a new release movie on the big screen or just get snockered at one of the many, many drinking establishments and wake up in the morning in a new town. And dont get me started about the spa, and the pools, and the fitness center.
Just a calm, relaxing vacation. Or so I thought... Then the phone rang in the room... Work has been trying to get ahold of me... Call home... Oh CRAP!
The phone conversation goes something like this:
Me: "Hello, what's wrong"
them: "It was 60F below last night"
me: "and?"
them: "It was 60F below last night, in your house"
me: "what?"
them: "Pipes are froze. All the pipes are froze. Every one of the contractors you left a phone number for are too busy with everyone else's frozen pipes to come out."
me: "call someone else!"
them: "We did. They are too busy to call us back."
By this point, it has been over 48 hours without heat. Every pipe is busted. Every water pump is split. Every drain has cracked. The dishwasher exploded! The boiler and hot water heater were saved because electric heaters were brought up in time. Thank you!
I have had contractors here for over a week now. Yesterday we were full self-sufficient for heat. Today they start on the water. Over a week now without running water. Now I have incentive to go to the gym every day. They have showers.
I cant even begin to tell you the joys of the Sani-can at 40F below. We get back into Fairbanks to enjoy driving in Ice Fog. I love this natural phenomenon. It is the joy that only frigid cold air and humidity can bring. My only fear is driving on the highway when it is heavier than seen in the picture. There tends to be massive pileups on the highway caused by some idiot who doesn't stop to realize that if you can't see more than 20ft in front of you, then maybe you shouldn't be driving at 65mph. Drive only as fast as your stopping distance. If you can't see more than 100yards, don't drive over 40mph. But like the rest of the world, we have those that are overly cautious who decide to drive 15mph on the highway with someone else behind them driving 80 and pileups occur.
The sweet joy of -42F. I missed the 60below. Okay, to tell the truth, I didnt miss it, persay. I just was not in the state to experience this. Coldest I have ever had the joy to experience was 68F below. Being a very penny-poor college student and single mother, my car didnt have heat. That was a cold winter.
Here is the external heater that Slayden Plumbing brought out to heat the Dredge to a working temperature. It took three days to bring the house from freezing to livable. I can only guess how much diesel that baby burns with its $4000/wk price tag, I dont really care. Just turn my heat on so I dont have to pay for this anymore.
They styrofoamed my door with the hose coming through. So beautifully functional. That is why I love Alaska.
The cold blew up the Hobart dishwasher downstairs. I will now have to handwash all my dishes until this spring when budget allows me to have this repaired.
This is the part that hurt the most. This one of two frozen and fractured pumps means that I do not have running water. Slayden predicts starting on the water in/out system next week. This past week they have concentrated on fixing the boiler lines so that the Dredge heats itself.
I cannot tell you how much I love these guys. I have never in my working career here seen more diligent, dedicated, mild-mannered, clean mouthed, respectable contractors. Everyone from the service manager, to the journeyman plumber, right down to the runners has been just simply amazing, hard working, and reliable gentlemen.
Just a few of the many, many, many blown pipes.
Fortunately the glycol (thankfully I paid more for the environmentally-friendly, non-toxic antifreeze kind last time we had the system cleaned, checked and refilled) didnt enter the house. It looks like it all drained into the septic system.
We still have not found the explanation of why the entire system failed. The initial finding was a failed fan motor on the auxilary heater in the crawlspace that at 60F below allowed the pipes underneath the house to freeze, driving the boiler to increase internal pressure and causing all the glycol to dump into the septic system. After inspecting the boiler, that is the only conclusion they could come up with.


Arctic Knitter said...

Wow.... The frigid temps here in Anchorage (mild in comparison to fbx!!) have put cruising foremost in my thoughts. Thanks for sharing the warm photos... Sorry to hear about the water & heating - very big bummer!!! Would knitted pipe cozies work?

Holly Jo said...

Good crappin' christopher it has been an expensive few weeks for you guys. Ugh. I am so impressed you followed through on the cruise and went despite the, uh, challenging beginning. Looks like a glorious time....

Tama said...

Wow! Love the pictures of the vacation! Coming home to all of that "fun stuff" would have been a huge "Wish I had never come back"! I love going on cruises!!! It's been way too long. I think I am due for one soon. Maybe I'll find a "knitting" one!

Pat said...

Well I DON'T miss that! Matt's car and oil burner died - fun, fun, fun Fairbanks winters!
As for the cruise - sounds like quite an adventure leading up, but worth it!

WoolPets said...

Oh my gosh! I just read your story-well written by the way!
From getting stuck in Seattle (I was stuck in my house just across the Puget Sound) to the expensive trip and then to end up with a house full of busted pipes! Yet you survived! Hope things are getting better for you!