A Kiwi couple's cruising adventures on America's Great Loop and around the coast of New Zealand

Friday, 8 June 2018

Heading back to the Loop

Sunday 3rd June 2018.
 Arrived good and early (2.00pm) at Auckland Airport for our 7.30pm departure to Houston to find that they wouldn’t open the check-in until the new security folk (TSA) had arrived at 3.30, as there is now an extra level of security for people travelling to the USA. So we had to go hang round the airport till then, and finally got to check in at 3.45 as the TSA folk had turned up late. The plane was chocker, so no upgrade to business class – but a nice flight all the same.

14 hours later, on arrival in Houston we noticed a change in the temperature from home. 12C when we left and 34C when we arrived. We caught the shuttle to Hertz to pick up our rental, and promptly had my credit card declined. To get sorted, we used Carolyn’s card which meant I had to sign up as a supplementary driver, which cost an extra $27. Arrived at the Hotel and found they had us booked in twice – once for one night, the other for three – but at leats my credit card worked. So far things were not going too well. However it was happy hour in the bar ($3 beers and half price appetisers) so things got a bit better after we fed and watered.

Monday 5th started as badly as the day before. We went to Walmart to top up our US phones that we bought on our last visit. So we purchased  2 top-up cards for $19.99 each, but at the end of the update, the phones said “unregistered SIM”. We showed this to the sales guy, who said we had to buy new SIM cards at $9.99 each – so we did, and we got him to fit them and make them work….which they didn’t!!! So he rang the supplier, Tracfone, and patiently waited 45 minutes to talk to a technician. After 15 minutes of discussion the conclusion was that the 2 year old phones were obsolete and we would have to buy new ones. This Walmart did not have the $19.99 replacement in stock, so we decided to call it quits, get our money back, and go start again at another Walmart. HOWEVER…in his attempts to make everything work, the sales guy had managed to redeem one of the top-up cards onto one of the unusable SIM cards, and Walmart could only give us a credit for one of them, and the 2 SIM cards. So off we went to another Walmart, $19.99 (plus tax) down the tubes and bought 2 new phones, with cards, and got them to make them work before we left, which takes about 15-20 minutes to set up. How come Jason Bourne or James Bond can just walk into a convenience store and buy a phone walk out and use it, then just throw it away, without all this hassle –  but  at least my credit card worked the whole time during all of  these transactions. And, BTW, it reached 39C that day!

That pretty well soaked up the first day and jetlag took up the rest, so we deferred our site seeing/shopping until the following day, Tuesday 6th. This was a trip to Johnson Space Centre, about 1 hour south of our hotel while Carolyn went to the Tanger Outlet Mall about 10 minutes further on. Just 2.9 miles short of the turnoff to the mall we ran into gridlock caused by a prang on the freeway, which took 20 minutes to get past. Then after dropping Carolyn off, I returned to the freeway only to run into another prang 2.9 Miles from Johnson Space Centre!  Anway, finally got there, did the tour and bought the T-shirt. It’s a bit different to how it was last time I visited about 16 years ago. Like most of these things these days, it is targeted towards kids – but I suppose they are the upcoming taxpayers and NASA has to keep them interested enough to continue to get money from them.

Finding Carolyn at the Tanger Mall was no problem because, of course, we had phones to ring each other that worked.

Wednesday 7th and it was “off to the big apple” and, again, it started badly. First was my own fault for wearing shorts with metal domes on them which ended up with me having to go through the Homeland Security Xray machine. Then we got to check-in at United to find we had no seat assignments, despite having confirmation printouts from Air NZ showing seats 12C and D were assigned to us. Of course they blamed Air NZ and told us to recheck at the gate and, even though the plane was overbooked, they were sure we would get seats! Anyway, it turned out that we got seats – just not the ones we booked – and they gave us priority boarding as a fob-off (which is actually really useful on full flights because there is never enough space for the overhead luggage unless you get on first).
However, it was a pleasant flight, it was much cooler in New York, the Hotel shuttle arrived quickly and took us to a pleasant hotel with excellent staff – even if it is across the road from one of the biggest cemeteries in New York. 

The hotel didn’t have a restaurant, but they had a real good arrangement with local restaurants of all types with delivery service – we opted for Chinese from “Yummy Yummy” which was delivered in  about 10 minutes and was…….(yummy).

We have since moved into the City proper, but more about that in a few days.

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