5 years ago

Leaving Las Vegas | Pretoria, South Africa

It seemed easy enough.

Hop on a flight to LA Sunday morning, head for Africa Monday afternoon, enjoy a 9ish-hour layover in Paris on Tuesday, and get to Jozi on Wednesday.

But I must’ve displeased the travel gods because things got complicated quickly.

Time and again, I question the sanity of taking an early morning flight out of Las Vegas. But time and again, I book them, because they’re usually the cheapest and I swear to myself that I’ll get to bed early the night before leaving.

Of course, it didn’t happen, but the huge family dinner and well-mannered frivolity that followed were worth going to bed less than 4 hours before my alarm would go off.

Luckily I’d spent a few hours packing on Saturday afternoon and was able to just grab my bag and go.

I rarely check said bag, but since I stocked up on some necessary liquids & aerosols for the trip, I had to.

Nonetheless, check-in was smooth, I got a fragile tag for big blue, and I even had time for coffee with mom, which was a perfect way to take off. Or at least it would’ve been if we’d been able to take off.

But, the Delta plane pulled away from the gate only to be forced to return due to mechanical issues. Twice.

So nearly three hours after I was supposed to leave, I was still at the airport. No worries though, as this trip has made me a much more patient and understanding person. Plus, I’d rather have mechanical issues on the ground and be delayed than leave on time and have an obit in the newspaper a few days later because of a problem 40,000 feet in the air.

After getting on the really long standby list for the next available flight to LAX, I jumped ahead of a bunch of couples and families because there was only one seat left. Solo travel for the win, once again.

So while I missed the Portland vs Seattle match I’d agreed to watch with the old roomie in LA, I arrived well ahead of my flight the next day. My bag, however, did not.

My first overseas trip involved a lost bag that took 48 hours to get to my hotel in Japan. I didn’t have 48 hours in LA, so I was hopeful that I’d have it later that night.

Off we went for burgers & beers, the Taschen gallery, and the Goo Goo Dolls show at the Greek theatre that night (they sound exactly the same as on their CD)…and no word from Delta on my bag.

It finally made it to me around 10 am the next day. By 11 am, I was out the door and on my way to LAX. On foot.

I googled the route and didn’t see any cities between Brentwood and the airport that I’d heard about in rap lyrics, so I figured it’d be safe to walk. And not only was it safe, but it was a delicious 9 miles that included stops at a Rite Aid for Thrifty ice cream (triple) and In-N-Out (Double-Double). Oink.

Excited to finally hop on a the very first flight I’d booked for A Great Journey 330 days earlier, and to shower/imbibe at the Skyteam lounge since it was a business class ticket, I tried to check-in 4 hours before my flight. But I couldn’t.

My flexible travel plans backfired because I didn’t have a ticket booked to leave South Africa (because the plan is to mostly overland from Cape Town to Cairo, moving as the journey dictates), something I needed in order to get on the plane. My dead phone batter didn’t help matters, so it took a while to book a refundable bus ticket to Namibia and get checked in.

I kissed my bag goodbye shortly thereafter, confirmed it’d go all the way to Jo’burg, and hoped for the best.

The shower was glorious, the Crown and coke tasty, the food at the lounge just ok, but the lay-flat biz class seat & meals were money! A true treat, especially because I only paid $32 cash to get to Africa.

I experienced a bit of culture & wallet shock during my two weeks in the US, but Paris was on another level (and steaming hot and full of American tourists)! And when the RER rail line to the airport was shut down for hours due to a security issue, I was forced to discard my 12 dollar return ticket to the airport and pay 36 bones for an Uber. At least there was free water in the city and sending a hurriedly-scribbled postcard to the US was cheaper than in Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru.

So while I was glad to get off the plane and walk around a bit by Notre Dame and Montmartre, I was very happy to get the hell out of there (but not before really pushing my luck by hopping in for a quick shower at the airport).

The seat on the CDG-JNB portion was nowhere near as nice or comfy as the LAX-CDG leg, but it was certainly better than the alternative in economy.

I arrived in Johannesburg ridiculously excited to be on African soil and ready continue A Great Journey in one of the most amazing countries in the world. After getting a 90-day visa, I was pumped to find my bag on the carousel. Upon leaving the arrivals area, I was immediately reminded of the last time I’d been there and how awesome the World Cup was.

First stop? Nando’s, no doubt! 2nd stop? The Budget/Avis Car Rental desk where things went (thankfully) smoothly and I picked up the tiny, stick-shift Chevy Tampon that would get me to one of my favorite places in the world a few days later: Kruger National Park.

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