Tuesday – the HopAfter all the border and tourist shenanigans, we stopped at an ATM in the next town. And, blessed surprise again, the ATM withdrawal was free on the ATM side again, just like it was in Nicaragua. As we drove to our first campsite, we were hungry and I asked Jonathan what he wanted for lunch. He replied a pizza, jokingly. However, I took the GPS and found that there was a Pizza Hut in the town we were going to, so I punched it in.
Pizza Huts in Central America are nice dining places. It is one of those nicer places the middle class dines out when they want to go to a nice American place. This Pizza Hut had an extensive menu and even desserts like cheesecake displayed in the front. Our waiter even spoke English, although apparently not well enough to understand that we only wanted ham on half of our pineapple pizza. So Jonathan got to enjoy a large pizza to himself. Fortunately it only cost US$10 with the special they were offering and not the usual US$27 there.
Back at the campsite, we started planning more on where we would go in Costa Rica. I asked Jonathan if he wanted to go back to the States for a bit. I just felt like we were both getting a bit road-worn and looking forward a bit too much to when we would get back to the States and air-conditioning. I thought we might both appreciate a break from our travels. Now, most people on journeys like this splurge on a nice resort and stay there for a week or so. I thought about this, but with my flight benefits, it is just as cheap, if not cheaper, to fly back and stay with family. Whenever I mentioned this to Jonathan, he said that it was not necessary and that he was fine, so I thought the discussion was over. But then as I let the matter rest, he started throwing out ideas of what we could get done while in the States. I soon decided that even if he wouldn’t admit that was what he really wanted, it would do us both good for a break. Now we just needed some more information.
Wednesday – the SkipSo Wednesday morning, we got up and ran into town to find some internet. When we did, we found out that we could leave from the town that we were in (Liberia’s LIR) or we could depart from San José (SJO). We also decided that if we were holed up without a vehicle, my family’s lake house sounded about the best place to go between space for us, vehicle options, and distance to the airport. Flights were looking fun—we would have to fly to MIA and then to DFW (or Chicago’s ORD) and then to Springfield (SGF) and looked like it would take 2 days with a night in an airport. And then I discovered a single flight that left from SJO to DFW and then straight to SGF. It left daily at 8:45am and the flights looked mostly clear—the one to SGF looked pretty full, but the ones after that looked clear, so we would definitely get there in one day. It was decided. We would drive to SJO and find a place to park the van (probably at a government-bonded warehouse of which we had heard). So we took off of San José.
We arrived there at about 4 pm. But, it immediately started pouring, like end-of-the-world stuff. With the van fogging up and the sheets of water falling from the heavens, we could barely see. We decided we would go first to the warehouse and see what we could work out with them. We only passed by the warehouse once before we found it. They let us in and I ran out in the pouring rain to find out where to go and what to do. The gate attendant pointed us to the back. We found another attendant in a hut and they pointed us to the garages and lent us an umbrella. We finally made it into the garage and found the offices. When we got our turn, we asked him a few questions to determine if this would work for us as we still needed a place to stay for the night. They closed at 5:30pm and wouldn’t open till 8am. They didn’t want to do the work tonight and let us drop it off in the morning, either. So we decided we would figure something else out. We had heard there was a trailer park not too far away, so we thought maybe we could work something out with them.
We ventured back out into the rain with the van. Unfortunately, it was rush hour and the interchange we had to go through was poorly-designed. We sat there for 10 minutes trying to nudge forward through traffic. Stupid people would block the roads so traffic would get jammed. It was quite the battle, but we finally broke free on the road on which we needed to be.
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This little 270m drive took us 10 minutes.
We were soon cruising down the road to find the Belén Trailer Park. It was still pouring rain out, but at least the van wasn’t fogging up anymore. We navigated easily enough to the location on the GPS, but didn’t see the trailer park. We made another pass and checked out an alternate GPS location. Still no success. We got out at the Mas x Menos grocery store there (mostly to use the restroom), but we walked around the neighborhood and asked a clerk about it with still no success. I then told Jonathan that I thought I had heard something about a new location or it not being open. We had to assume it was no longer open. By now it was 5:30pm and pretty dark and we were tired. I caved. I told Jonathan we would just find a hotel. There was a hotel area nearby, so we went there.
The first place was Double Tree Resort, and I figured that one would be too expensive. We kept going, then I saw a sign for Country Inn. There is a Country Inn in Garden City near my hometown. I figured it couldn’t be too high-class or expensive. So, I went and talked with them. I was concerned at first because I saw a sign that said the standard room was $149. But, they offered me a room for $90. This would have been too expensive for us, but then I asked about leaving the vehicle there while we were gone. They said that was fine and that they wouldn’t charge for that. So for a $100, we get a room for tonight, two weeks of parking in a secure area, and a complimentary shuttle ride to and from the airport. That averaged about $8/night. Definitely not the cheapest option ever, but it seemed reasonable to us, so we took it.
For what we paid, the place was impressive. They met us in the parking lot with an umbrella and offered to carry our bags—we didn’t have any. Then they walked us to our room and gave us a tour of it plus pointed out the amenities—where the restaurant, gym, and pool were. The room was townhouse-style with the an office and sitting area and bathroom downstairs and the bedroom upstairs.
The only other problem we had was dirty laundry. With all the sweat we produce, our clothes start smelling pretty badly. This normally isn’t too much of an issue, but with the van closed up for two weeks, it wouldn’t be a good combo. The hotel couldn’t do laundry over night, but they recommended a place down the street. We walked to it, but they only dry-cleaned. We went back to the room to find some options, but they were all closed. So, we decided we would go through them and take what we could with us and what we couldn’t we would wash by hand (again). But, after that we packed up and we were ready to get going in the morning.
Thursday – the JumpWe rose early (me earlier than planned with Jonathan hogging the bed and the room being cold) and finished our preparations—mostly moving our drying clothes from the room to the van. (Jonathan here, I would like to point out that we had a remote control for the A/C and that I respond well to kicking.) We ate our complimentary breakfast at the restaurant and caught the shuttle to the airport. I was a bit concerned because we forgo the 6am shuttle for the 7am shuttle so that we could partake in breakfast. In the US, they say to arrive 2 hours early for international flights and we had no idea what to expect at SJO, especially with having to pay the departure tax. The shuttle was delayed a bit while we waited for someone, but they eventually got a call to take us alone.
They dropped us off at the international terminal and there was a sign pointing us where to pay the departure tax (hallelujah!). We quickly paid that and then found the American Airlines counter. I had Jonathan scoping it out while I walked and filled out the departure forms. Apparently he bypassed the counters provided for us to fill out the forms and check them and went down the exit lane instead of the entry lane—talk about single-minded. ;) However, there wasn’t anyone in line anyway, so it wasn’t an issue. After we were issued our stand-by tickets, we walked out of the area the wrong way and had to go under the belts. That is when I realized we had gone in the exit lane and out the entry lane. Go figure. We followed the signs to the gates and security. There wasn’t much of a line and we quickly found ourselves on the other side, ready to find our gate. I was pleasantly surprised. I had heard of horror stories of trying to navigate through the SJO airport, but we found it quiet, pleasant, and quick.
At the gate, they began boarding early. Mostly I think to give time for the American Airlines staff to inspect the carry-on luggage. Towards the end, we were called up and given tickets—I hadn’t been concerned, there were plenty of open seats. When we got on the aircraft, we found we had been given seats in the new Main Cabin Extra region. I must say, the extra space was super nice. Jonathan has forgotten what it was like to be in the normal economy with the his knees almost touching the seat in front of him and everyone in the row having to get up to let the aisle seat out to use the restroom. While we were sitting there, we realized something was wrong. We had pulled out from the gate, but we had just been sitting there near the runway for a while. Sure enough, in a few minutes the pilot came on and said they had detected a problem and needed a mechanic to inspect it, but that he expected to be on the way shortly. All-in-all, we were delayed 40 minutes to an hour, but we did get to fly.
When we arrived in DFW, we were ushered out and filed into the customs line. It was long, but it moved relatively quickly and we were through the entire process, including back through security, in about 12 minutes, surprisingly. I was impressed, though. With the greatly delayed flight, they arranged for those with short connecting flight times to be moved to a quick customs line—a very nice option. We made our way to our new gate in the American Eagle wing, Terminal B. We weren’t really expecting to get on this flight as it was mostly full (48/50) with seven people standing by with Jonathan and I being the last ones. I was starving though, so we went to TGIFridays’s To-Go counter and ordered a sampler appetizer of potato skins, mozzarella sticks, and fried green beans. We scarfed that down while we waited on the now-delayed AE flight (making it even more unlikely we would catch it). But, surprise of surprises, when they had boarded all the passengers and all the other standby-ers that were there, they called our names as well. We got on the flight, albeit in separated seats. However, we sat for a while at the gate in this one too. This one was caused by the weather. The pilots were trying to come up with a flight plan around the weather. When they did and it got approved, they then had to wait for the fuel truck to come back by and get us more fuel for the longer flight. But we made it to Springfield and my parents and sister and her boyfriend were even there already to pick us up.
As I had requested food immediately after we got in, we went to Cheddar’s for dinner. And, after a stop at a Walmart to pick up better windshield wipers for my mother (and other supplies), we finally made it to the lake house and bed. And now you know about crazy last-minute decision to return to the States.