The alarm had been unnecessary. We woke up without it at 7:00. We spent some time getting our things packed—getting a head start on a hectic day. When we reached a stopping point, we headed to The Palms again for breakfast. It was more standard fare this day than the one before. We both just had eggs, sausage, and hashbrowns.
Not wanting to end our vacation, we read in the shade by the pool until 10:00. While Chris stayed there, I showered and then checked us out of the hotel. By the time I was back to the room, Chris was there. We finished packing and took all our bags to the lobby. We would travel home with one bag less than we had brought with us. We had forgotten to retrieve the empty scuba bag from Mini and Heath, so they would have to get it home without us.
Our vacation ends
We left the hotel just before 11:00. We gassed up the rental car and drove the short distance to the airport. I dropped Chris and our luggage at the terminal and took the Caliber back to the Dollar office. Coincidentally, Chris waited for me right next to the family who had teased us with their pancakes in San Francisco a week before.
We had arrived at the airport two hours before our scheduled departure time. We took our bags through the agriculural inspection and then found the end of the very long check-in line for United. The line moved excruciatingly slowly. It took half an hour just to get to the cordoned off area before the counters.
About that time mass confusion hit. A United agent came out and redirected part of the line. It looked like she was just making a loop to give more room at the back of the line, but that turned out to be wrong. After we moved to the new part of the line, we found out it was only for passengers traveling to Los Angeles. The LA flight was to leave forty minutes before ours, and they were giving priority to those passengers. We couldn’t get back into the San Francisco line, because it had closed up behind us. We stayed with the LA passengers.
About ten minutes later, another ticket agent came out to make sure only LA passengers were in our line. I was hot and dehydrated and losing my usual cool. She tried to get us to move back to our line, but I refused. Instead, we let the LA passengers go past us to get to the ticket counter.
By this time, it was apparent what the main problem was: All passengers had to use self check-in kiosks. Many of them were having problems and taking a long time to get their bags checked and their boarding passes printed. Later we would discover another problem. Once we had checked our bags, we had to take them to the TSA x-ray station ourselves. There wasn’t enough room for passengers to get to the kiosks and check in and move their bags back out of the ticket area. Many of the kiosks sat unused while we passengers tried to maneuver our possessions in and out of the area.
Once we had dropped our bags at TSA, we headed to the security checkpoint. That process went pretty well. We finally made it into the secured area an hour and a quarter after I joined Chris on the curb. I finally got a drink of water.
When we got to our gate, our flight was already boarding, but our section hadn’t been called yet. Pretty soon we were onboard, and I got a chance to cool down, hydrate, and ragain some calm. It seems that in order to leave paradise, one must go through hell.
Our flight was delayed twenty minutes by a mechanical glitch, but we were soon over the Pacific. The flight was very smooth. We bought lunch on board and treated ourselves to a couple of servings of wine. The inflight movie was Blades of Glory, which we really enjoyed.
Home again, eventually
Back in San Francisco we reclaimed our bags without incident and took the South & East Bay Airport Shuttle back home. The driver added about half an hour to our trip by exiting the highway to avoid a traffic jam. With the round-about route he took, I’m sure it would have been much faster just to stay on Highway 101. At 11:30 pm, we dragged our bags into the house and left them to be dealt with the next day.