Longest Day of Our Lives

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Where I stayed
Seat 45A+B, Flight TH106 to LA via French Polynesia

Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, June 16, 2011

We really have got this bikes on a plane thing sorted. With bikes already boxed we had the morning to take our time and pack the bags and tent.  The taxi was booked to get us to the airport very early so that we could enjoy some time to read over coffee before boarding.

When we got to the airport things got messy.  The volcanic ash released from an eruption in Chile had resulted in Quantus cancelling all of their flights.  This meant that our airline which was still operating seemed to be dealing with all of the redirected passengers.  Consequently we were stuck in a 1 hour queue for check in.  This made things tight for time but when we reached the front we were satisfied that we would at least have a few minutes to get through security and settle for the 15 hour flight ahead.  BUT NO!, OH NO! TOO SIMPLE!

"What is your ESTA number, Sir?"  the check in lady demanded (she was also feeling the stress of an airport struggling to deal with Volcanic Ash).  “A what?” I asked anxiously.  “We cannot let you catch a flight to the USA without an ESTA number” she snapped.  Another highly strung airport official ushered us away saying they had too many people to deal with and they had to prioritise people who could actually get on the flight.  It was another desperate moment before we established that we could buy the entry visa type document online via an Air New Zealand desk.  I rushed off leaving Pols waiting anxiously.  To cut a very worrying story short we got the documents and checked in allowing us just enough time to rush through security and join the line of boarding passengers.  Now how we planned it, not even enough time for airport reading, eating and shopping.

The flight out of New Zealand gave one last reminder of the dramatic scenery and then we were off over the ocean, sitting back and enjoying the onboard entertainment (happily this involved films, not party games and sing-a-longs which we enjoyed on Air Asia flights).

We touched down in Papeete in French Polynesia for a ridiculous transit where we stood in a queue for two hours in stifling heat serenaded by local musicians playing plastic dustbins.  Air Tahiti were brilliant on board but the in between bits were not much fun.

Back on the plane and another 8 hours to LA.  We did well to sleep after dinner and wake up for breakfast.  We needed the energy to get through LAX airport.  Customs gave us a hard time with the dirt covered bikes (probably didn't help that questions like “What do you intend to do with these bikes, Sir?” got the response only such questions deserve).  Polly remained much more charming and won us a way out into the open air of USA. Others didn’t fair so well – a Chinese lady who accidently stepped the wrong side of a barrier in front of us was screamed at by 3 different officials and had guards reaching for their guns!

The bike reconstruction outside of the terminal was pretty smooth, even though Polly had lost a very important part of the gear mechanism.  (I (Polly) would like to add at this point that it is not confirmed that I lost the part and it could just have easily have been Michael).And then we were off, cycling out of the airport and North to try and find our way through LA to Venice Beach. 

It was about a 10 mile ride and we even found a bike shop on the way to replace the mislaid component.  Surprisingly it was a relaxing ride and after a random lunch (opted for Asian despite being sick of 5 months worth of noodles) we checked into the quirky Venice Beach Cotel.

Bikes safely in room (this is one area you do not want to leave your bike chained up outside) we took a stroll along Venice Beach Promenade in the afternoon sun.  It was quite an eye opener.  Far from the conservatism of New Zealand and a welcome change from the short winter days of the North Island.

The people were nuts, absolutely bonkers.  From washed up old rockers playing electric guitars, to bodybuilders in Speedos dangling snakes whilst unicycling, Venice Beach had it all.  We rested on the beach and Pols fell asleep.

It has been quite a day, two days infact, and it is still Thursday.

Miles Cycled:  0, bikes in a box and racking up the air miles
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