Monday, August 3, 2009

Home at Last

Well, we are all home (except for Sam and his dad, who are visiting England at the moment). However, our ride back wasn't exactly the smoothest.

We left the scout centre at 9 AM to catch a 2:30 PM flight and caught the bus to the train station. Once there, Mr. White bought tickets. While he was doing that, the train arrived and we had to hold the door open for him for about a couple minutes. We then took the train to Spiez, where we had a 7-minute wait before we were to get on the 9:54 train to Bern. However, an announcement came telling us that the train was delayed 15 minutes. That was a bit of an issue, since we only had a 9-minute wait at Bern for the train to Zürich Airport. Then the 15-minute delay became a 30-minute delay. At that point, we decided to take the 10:24 train that would go straight to the airport. At 10:20 or so, a different train to Bern arrived, but at that point we decided it was better to wait the 4 minutes for the Zürich train. Well, 4 minutes passed, and the train didn't show up. At around 10:40 or so, a train headed to Brig stopped, let its passengers off... and discontinued its service. While this was going on, the usual automated announcements that were being translated into English became announcements with lots of static presented only in German from the person in the station-house. Evidently, the problem was so bad that there wasn't a prerecorded message about it. Finally, the 10:54 train to Brig arrived, and we finally took it after waiting for a few minutes. It was only the second train to leave the station in an hour (as ours terminated at Spiez), despite being a somewhat busy connecting station.

At Bern, we would have to rush to catch the 11:34 train to Zürich, seeing as we were expected to arrive only a minute or two before then. However, when we got off, we noticed that there was a train to the same place that was to leave at 11:02, but was listed as 30 minutes late. Since we decided that there was little chance of us catching the original train on time, we waited for the latter to come. About fifteen minutes later, it finally arrived, and we headed to Zürich Airport.

While on the train, we were informed that it was going directly to Zürich Main Station and stopping. We arrived at about 12:40, just in time to miss the 12:37 to the airport. Finally, at 1:07, a train came and we got on. After waiting about 20 minutes, we were informed that the train was not leaving and that we had to catch the 1:37 from a different platform. We got on that train, and it actually left with only a five minute delay.

When we finally arrived at the airport, it was 1:45 and we had to catch a 2:30 flight to New York. When we rushed to the ticket counter, we were informed that the flight was closed and it was the last one leaving to the US for the day. After about an hour of negotiations, we finally got on planes leaving the next day (though with a $250 per person fee). Nine of us would catch the 10:00 AM flight to Atlanta and the 4:20 PM connection to Washington National, which would arrive at 6 PM, while the other three (with noted eighteen-year-old Chris as adult leader for the group) would catch the 2:30 PM flight the next day and get into National at 9 PM. The McKinleys were going to England on a different flight, so they still made it onto their plane.

Since we had about 20 hours to kill, we found a place in the airport to hang out. We got food from a supermarket in the airport mall, and we searched for things to do. Some of us read books, others listened to music, and some went outside and walked outside of the airport for a while. At around 10:30 we reviewed the trip, and after that, we had full range of a deserted airport. I'll keep the list short just in case the authorities catch a wind of this blog (just kidding), but among the highlights were running around in our sock feet and going the wrong way on escalators. We got a few hours of sleep, while David kept watch of our bags, as there was a homeless person who kept on trying to steal our stuff.

We woke up to people probably wandering why a dozen scouts were sleeping on the airport floor. We got our bags checked and waved goodbye to the three who were catching the later flight in. We had an hour or so at the gate to get food, and then we got in the plane and took off. Unfortunately, there was a large headwind, so our expected arrival time went up from about 2:30 PM to 3 PM. Once we made it to Atlanta, we had to go in a holding pattern for about 45 minutes due to storms on the ground. So we ended up getting off the plane at 3:45 for a 4:20 flight.

Once we got off of the 11-and-a-half hour plane flight, we got in contact with Ms. Armstrong, who had been our point of contact back home. We discovered two things: First, the flight to New York got delayed. The three of us on the plane would miss their connection, and all remaining flights for the day were booked solid. So, instead of spending the night in a hotel in New York City, one of the parents was going to drive up the four-hour journey and pick them up. Meanwhile, our flight to Washington was canceled because of the bad weather (not that we would have made it anyway -- we had to go through immigration, baggage claim, customs, check-in, and security first), and our group of nine was to be split again. Five of us (including myself) were to catch the 5:45 flight to Dulles, while the other four were to take the 7:20 flight to National.

When we got to the gate, there was pandemonium. Practically every single flight on the giant display board was delayed in one way or another. Throngs of people were at the gates, waiting for their flights to arrive. When we went to get our new boarding passes from the gate (since they wouldn't issue them at check-in for whatever reason), we were informed that the computer was saying that the gate had changed. Except that another computer said that it hadn't. Our plane hadn't arrived, so there was no way of telling who was right. Finally, we were told that our original gate was the correct one. Right then, it was announced that our flight was to arrive at another terminal. So we went to the new gate, and we finally managed to take off at around 7:00 or so, and we arrived at 9:00. The other flight to Washington took off at 9-ish, and the New York crew apparently arrived home at 2 AM, a good 47 hours after leaving Kandersteg.

Thankfully, we all eventually made it back safely. It's been fun blogging, and on that note I am going to say good bye. Maybe we'll come back in 2012.

1 comment:

  1. And then Chaz and I had just enough time to shower and eat and hop in the car for an overnight drive to Indianapolis! We figured it took us *54 hours* to travel from Kandersteg to the Indiana Robotics Invitational. Luckily, Chaz's dad drove most of the way, so we had some much-needed sleep. We were still pretty out-of-it the first day of robotics competition, but much better for the second day. We actually won a couple matches!