Tuesday 3rd July
Another fine and hot day in Colorado. There is a large wildfire burning not too far from the city – the largest in Colorado records - and today is forecast hot (36C) and dry. And they are selling fireworks at every freeway interchange to let off tomorrow for Independence Day. We drove to the other side of the city to a large shopping complex that included a Skechers outlet shoe store – Carolyn’s favourite. We did another couple of stores, but it was so hot and the week of driving and altitude got at me a bit so we retires back to the hotel and relaxed for the afternoon, until I took the car back. Speaking of which, we were really sad to see it go – Carolyn wanted to keep it. It turns out we lucked in as these vans are usually around double the price as the model car we had ordered. But a few days before we rented, a huge hailstorm had hit the rental car lots at Denver airport and around 500 cars were written off. Hertz were so low on the model that we had ordered that they had started using other model groups to supplement them, so we lucked in at the right time.
By now we had enough stuff to bring home that it was time to bring out the kit bag I had brought with us for that very purpose. We had plenty of luggage allowance (2 checked bags each) showing on our Air NZ E-tickets and as we were getting a rental in LA it wasn’t going to be a hassle with just one extra bag................right????
Wednsday 4th July.
Wrong...what we hadn’t taken into account was the “United Airlines Effect”. We arrived good and early at the airport and began check-in using their self-service kiosks. First we noticed our seat numbers had changed. Moving on, we got to the “number of bags” section and put in 3, which we now had. This brought up that we had an entitlement of only 1 bag each and the “additional” bag would cost us $135 (US). We stopped the process, called for assistance and showed them our documentation showing we had an allowance of 4 checked bags, and were taken to an agent to sort it out. After about 15 minutes on her computer, she announced that Air NZ had bungled the ticket booking (sounds familiar – always someone else’s fault) and that the details of our International travel were not included in the United reservation therefore the additional charge applied. We continued to protest, and she was "very understanding of our concerns", but was unable to do anything about it as, until the $135 was paid, she couldn’t proceed with our boarding. Which left us with the invidious choice of coughing up the 135 bucks or staying in Denver forever (not much of a choice really) so with time to argue running out, we reluctantly paid United’s extorted and exorbitant fee. Of course we will be taking it up with Air NZ when we get home – I want my money back!!!
Once again, the plane was completely full – but we had seats in an exit row (United normally charge an extra $35 for those), and we were in group 2 for boarding – which meant we kept our carry-on luggage with us instead of having it confiscated and put in the hold (but that’s another story). However, it was a quick flight to LA, where we next had to deal with “Hertz and the declining credit card” (sounds like a Harry Potter movie title, eh?).
On arrival at Hertz, I allowed the agent to start the rental process but, shortly after he did, I asked him to check my credit card in their system as I had had problems with Hertz in other locations. He immediately asked if it had been declined, and when I said, “yes”, he told me that Hertz knew it was an issue, thanked me for the “heads up “ on it, and told me that he had a remedy if it declined there……which it did. However, within 10 minutes of knowing it declined, he had put his “fix” into effect, and we had a rental car, without having to fall back on Carolyn’s credit card. He also told me that it was a well-known glitch in Hertz’s system, but they didn’t like to admit to it and found it easier to lay the blame on the customer.
The roads around LA were relatively quiet, but the some of the drivers that were out were behaving like lunatics. Either they were running late getting where they were going, or had partaken of too many independence day lunchtime bevies. But we got to our motel in one piece then set out to do the remainder of our shopping while it was cool and quiet. We were staying in Torrance, which is about 12 miles south of LAX airport. It has a huge mall (Del Amo Centre) and all the usual shops. One of the main streets, Crenshaw Blvd, also runs through Hawthorne where Elon Musk’s Spacex rocketship factory is – so we had to take a drive up there for a nosey.
By early evening, we had pretty much done the shopping and decided to go to a restaurant in Del Amo that we had been to before, called BJ’s Brewhouse. However right next door was Vegas Seafood Buffet, an Asian buffet restaurant that I had noticed on Google Maps, so we decided to take a look. One look was enough to spy the crab’s legs and HUGE raw oysters, so in we went! It would have to be the most amazing seafood buffet I have seen since I went to one in Houston in 1984 (when Alaskan crab was readily available and dirt cheap). The oysters were massive and very, very tasty – on a par with the best Pacific I have ever had. They had dozens of Chinese dishes as well as sushi and sashimi and teppanyaki. Plus Brazilian style skewers, roasted lamb and beef and other western accompaniments. All for $28 per head. Sorry, no camera or even phone – so no pix.
By the time we got back to the motel, it was getting towards dark – around 8.30pm – and the fireworks were starting. Within 15 minutes, it sounded and looked like you were watching CNN during the assault on Baghdad during Gulf War 2. I got some good video footage, including fire engines screaming past, but all too big to post here. This was still going on when we retired at 10.30pm.
Friday 5th July
Time to go home……
One last trip to Walmart, then down to Venice Beach for a relax before heading to the airport. We had been there before, many years ago, but it wasn’t as “well developed” (ie squillions of T shirt shops expensive food stalls and tattoo parlours (as well as wacky backy shops). But it was nice to be near the sea again.
We had to get the rental back to Hertz by 2.00pm (or pay for another day) which left us at the airport around 2.30pm for our 10.30pm flight. Fortunately here, you can check-in and get to the lounge even that far out. We checked in our bags and got our boarding passes and, whoopee, got our upgrade – so lie down beds on the way home, which will do my swollen ankles some good, I hope.
So here we are - I am writing this up in the Star Alliance lounge in LA, waiting to board our plane so we can head home to winter. Yippee.