Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our Train, Bus and Car Adventure (and the kindness of strangers), Back to Anchorage and Colonoscopy fun

So we got up very early, cleaned up the RV, repacked our stuff, and returned the vehicle. Our sale tickets on Alaska Air had us leaving LAX the day after Thanksgiving, so back in Unalaska, we'd checked on flights from San Diego to LAX and they were pretty expensive. We then looked into taking Amtrak and that was much more reasonable, plus we like riding trains. However, the train station in LA looked like it was a long way from LAX so we searched some more and saw that we could take the train to Van Nuys and then switch to an Amtrak bus to El Segundo, which was not far from the airport. Anyway, we had to catch the train in San Diego at noon.

The guy at the RV place called a cab for us, which took forever to get there but eventually arrived. The driver was chatty and tried to explain the ins and outs of cab leases to us as we made our way to the train station. We passed right by the hotel where we'd stayed at the beginning of our journey and surprisingly, our fare was $13 more for almost the exact opposite trip. Oh well, we figured the cabbie must have needed it more than we did and it was the day before Thanksgiving, after all. He dropped us at the train station, where we were happy that we'd made reservations because it was deemed "the busiest day of the year on Amtrak and you must have an advance reservation." We went to check our bags, not realizing that Amtrak has a 50 pound rule just like the airlines. So, yes, on the busiest day of the year, we were those people holding up the line while we tried to rearrange our suitcases to get them all under 50 pounds. Whew! Eventually we waited in a very long line to get on the train and embarked. We were told the train would be overflowing with people, but thankfully we got on at the first stop so we had seats and not only that, but seats together. We enjoyed a very pleasant train ride and here are some of the sights I saw out the window as we cruised along in the Surfliner.

Colorful buildings
A lighthouse
Hmmm, what's this? Looks suspicious!

Swampy stuff
Patriotic volleyball players

More beaches
Palm trees and piers
Beach walkers
Bright boats
Lots of birds
People catching the train
The Hummingbird House Cafe
Close up
"Character counts" in San Clemente (Didn't Richard Nixon have a house in San Clemente?)

Van Nuys, where we got off the train and switched to the bus. We began having a feeling of foreboding when the driver acted like he couldn't care less and made us all load up our own suitcases under the bus. Didn't they used to do that for you?

The bus ride was fine but the second clue of trouble came when we stopped near fraternity or sorority row at UCLA and let some people off. I mean, we literally stopped at the curb like a city bus would do. But we convinced ourselves that it was probably just a convenient stop for college students and we would soon be at "the Amtrak terminal" in El Segundo. Did I mention it was dark by now?

We wound our way through LA and eventually came to a huge deserted parking lot that said "Transit Center." No terminal, no building, no information, no people working, no one even loitering in the parking lot. A young guy and an older woman got off with us. Luckily (we thought), Rich had written down the numbers of two cab companies since our plan was to call a taxi to take us to our hotel near LAX. While Rich unloaded our luggage from the bowels of the bus, I called the first cab company. The dispatcher wanted to know where we were so I explained we were at the Amtrak "transit center" in El Segundo. He said he needed a street address so I looked up and gave him the names of the two intersecting streets. He said he needed a street number. I asked the other people if they knew the address and they did not. I gave the dispatcher all the info I could come up with and he said the only transit center he knew was in Longview. I said we were not in Longview. He said if we couldn't give him a street address, he couldn't come.

We conferred with our fellow passengers and the guy said there was a Starbucks a few blocks away (not within our sight) so maybe we could walk over there. Rich first called the second cab company and was told "we don't come out there." The dispatcher asked Rich if he wanted the number of a company who did come our way, Rich took the number, but when he called it, it seemed like a sex line. LOL

So we are getting more and more concerned about what we are going to do. We are still searching for some sort of address and there are no other buildings or businesses within eyesight for us to use to call in. Should we start walking? How safe is this area? We had no clue. By now, the young man has been picked up and I start chatting with the woman, who tells me her daughter's boyfriend is picking her up. She volunteers, "Maybe he will give you a ride." I tell her I was not asking her arrangements to try to bum a ride but she says, "He's the nicest guy in the world and he will probably take you to your hotel." We tell her we would greatly appreciate a ride but perhaps he can just drop us at the Starbucks or another business with an address. She calls him up and tells him about us and I can just imagine what he is telling her or asking her as she tries to explain that we really are very nice and we're from Alaska and stranded. I am sure he thought we were con artists or worse.

Shortly, he and his girlfriend drive up, jump out, introduce themselves as Tom and Kathy and say they will take us to our hotel. They load up their mom's luggage and two of our suitcases in the back of their small SUV and ask if Rich can hold the other suitcase on his lap. Lou Ann, the mom, gets in the back seat, with me in the middle and Rich on the other side with a huge 50 pound suitcase on his lap. We were laughing and talking the whole way to the hotel, with them making fun of Rich because his voice was muffled behind the giant suitcase.
Our rescuers, Tom and Kathy

Lou Ann, the big hearted woman who took pity on us and got her family to give us a ride. They were SO nice. It reminds me that most people do want to help each other and treat each other kindly. Thank you, Tom, Kathy and Lou Ann. You gave us even more to be thankful for at Thanksgiving time.

So we had pricelined the LAX Hilton and it was great. We didn't want to rent a car for just a day and a half so basically hung out at the hotel and relaxed. They had a Thanksgiving buffet which was okay, though the Grand Aleutian Hotel in Unalaska puts on a better spread. :)

Our flight left at 6 AM on the day after Thanksgiving so we were up at 3:30 and off to the airport at 4. Ugh. Not my favorite thing to do. We flew from LAX to Seattle and Seattle on to Anchorage, arriving early afternoon. The rest of our vacation was spent in Anchorage as we had scheduled "his and hers" colonoscopies on November 28. We went to a couple of movies, did some shopping and eating and more laundry.

The doctor's staff said they'd call in our "prep" to a local pharmacy so we could pick it up when we got to ANC. Of course, it was not there. It was now the holiday weekend and the doctor's office was closed. I talked with a woman at the answering service who called the on-call doctor, who said he could not call us in a prescription since we were not his patients. The good news was that our doctor would be on call the next day so we should call back then. We were beginning to think this procedure would once again fall through (we have had scheduling difficulties a couple of times already). But I talked with our doc the next day and he called in our stuff. Hurray (I guess!)

Sunday was prep day and lots of fun with two of us sharing a hotel room, as you can imagine. Actually it was not bad and we did fine. The stuff is really nasty and I wasn't sure if I could handle it but managed to choke it down. We had to drink one liter that night and then get up and drink another liter the next morning before the colonoscopies. Ugh. That meant we were up at 5 AM drinking horrible stuff.

Usually you have to have an escort or a driver after the procedure but, in numerous phone calls over months, I'd explained we'd be on our own, out of towners staying in a hotel with a rental car. I was told that they would "hold" us for two hours and then we could go on our own. So we get to the clinic and fill out our paperwork and they tell us, "No, you cannot drive yourselves! You'd be under the influence! If you got stopped, you'd get charged! We have had people drive off before and we've had to call the police!" I was kind of annoyed but Rich jumped in and said it was okay, we'd take a cab.

Other than that, the folks were really nice and I was happy to be covered in warm blankets and told I could keep my socks on. I had halfway decided I might want to watch the procedure but once they gave me the anesthetic, I said, "Oh, I can feel that!" The nurse said, "You can?" and that's the last thing I remember. LOL

So all went well with our little procedure, we were put into a cab and taken back to the hotel, where we promptly crawled back into bed and went right back to sleep. Good thing we didn't try to drive because we were both pretty woozy. Took a cab back the next day and picked up our car, did lots of shopping and finished out our stay in Anchorage.

We were supposed to come home on November 30, went to the airport, heard from our local friends that the weather was great, and our flight was cancelled for mechanical reasons. :) It's always something! But we made it home on December 1 and are both back to work and busy as ever. It's one of Rich's busiest times of the year with all of the holiday parties and banquets for various organizations in town. He went to work at 6 this morning and just walked in the door at almost 8 tonight. Bless his heart. When his vacation ends, it really ends.

1 comment:

Suzassippi said...

And there I was worried you were still stuck in Joshua Tree! You should have been so lucky. :)