Trip Begins - Stopover in Ft. Lauderdale

Trip Start Feb 02, 2009
Trip End Feb 10, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Florida
Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The trip from Philadelphia to Ft. Lauderdale was pretty uneventful.  Luckily Greg was willing to drive our luggage down in his truck giving us room in the van.  Twenty bags are rough to manage particularly when each weighs 50 lbs.  I had already checked us all in, so we just had to check luggage and reprint the boarding passes.  We had 2 bags over the 50 lb limit despite all our careful planning and weighing.  So we had to pay extra for those bags.  Still much better than most domestic airlines these days which are charging for most checked bags and sometimes even beverages in flight.  The guys didn't reprint the boarding passes (oops, guess I didn't make that clear) but we discovered it while we were still at the check in area and quickly got it resolved.
Since the last time I flew Southwest out of Philly, PHL has opened a new large security checkpoint for terminals D & E.  It made getting through security quicker and also we did not have to negotiate the maze that is terminals D & E.  There were nicely connected beyond security.  We left from Gate D2 just like in December.  Just at boarding time Fred, Rich, and Keith disappeared.  I was having flashbacks to traveling with my family to Minnesota this past summer. We decided to just board without them since it is open seating on SWA.  Seems they found a Dunkin' Donuts.  At least they were holding DD coffee cups.  And they didn't bring enough to share with everyone. Just kidding guys!  They did make it onto the plane prior to take off, so it worked out ok and we had seats saved for them.  Flight took off fairly quickly - so much better than Newark (EWR) in that respect.
Arrived in Ft. Lauderdale with all our bags, so that was a blessing.  Called the Holiday Inn Express for the shuttle and they said we had to go to the other end of the terminal.  With the use of two hand carts plus dragging bags, we managed to get it all down.  When the shuttle arrived I thought that we would need to make two trips.  But the driver accomplished an engineering wonder and managed to fit all 20 checked bags, out carry-ons, and the 10 of us into a 12-passenger van.
Check in was ok.  We got 2 suites but I heard the guys later got another room for 2 of them.  Since I am a gold priority club member, each suite also got to choose 2 snacks from the shop.  Don't know if the guys used theirs, but the girls got microwave popcorn and m&m's for later when we watched "Amazing Grace."
For dinner we all walked to a local BBQ place called L'il Red's.  The pulled pork was very good.  Rollin entertained us with eating spoonfuls of hot sauce.  Clair got it all on video.  Clair was filming many aspects of the trip as well as providing commentary.  When he gets it all up on the web, I'll link to it.  Fred was a little concerned when we first got there since there were no cars in the parking lot, but the food was tasty, the service good, and some locals came in a little later.
I am enjoying the trip thus far and I'm more comfortable than last year since I have gotten to know most of the folks better over the past year.  I do see that the dynamics of this group is much different than last year, so I'm interested to see how the trip plays out.
As we were walking back to the hotel, we noticed the shopping plaza across the street.  Keith needed a battery charger for his camera I think and there was a Radio Shack.  Sammie needed to get something too, so we decided to try Big Lots.  I was on the search for a belt.  I hardly wear belts, but I have lost 25 lbs since last summer and I brought all my old clothes so I can leave them in Haiti when we leave.  I bought a belt a few weeks before we left, but I forgot to pack it and I didn't think it would be good if my pants fell down while we were working.  Sammie found what she needed but I couldn't find any belts.  I found some clothesline thickness rope and was going to us that when Fred came with a very dirty looking cloth style belt.  The clerk wouldn't let me buy it since there was no tag on it, so I picked up the rope instead. 
Sammie also found water pistols and against my better judgment I gave into the peer pressure and bought one too.  I don't know, pranks always seem to escalate. I've heard of past trips where pranks led to hiding the coffee.  You just don't mess with people's caffeine sources, that's just cruel and it inflicts on everyone when they get grouchy.  Last year, we were prank free but like I said, different dynamics this year.  Could get very interesting.
Since there wasn't much else to do we continued up the shopping plaza.  Long and behold, I see a Beall's outlet store.  Surely they must have belts there!  Trying not to be distracted by the shoes I find the belts in the accessory aisle.  Most of them are S/M size.  Ok, I haven't lost that much weight!  But I finally find one that fits...SCORE!  We wander around for a little longer looking for more toys we can bring to the kids in Haiti and what do I find?  A little bowling set...Double SCORE!  I had wanted to send one of those down when we set items to the House of Hope.  Last year when I told the kids about my hobbies, they had no idea what bowling was and my attempts to describe it just didn't cut it.  This year I'd be able to show them first hand.  Now I just had to figure out how to get it, and the water pistol, into my luggage without adding too much weight to the checked bags.  I didn't want any issues with security, so the water pistol had to go in checked luggage.  I managed to squeeze the bowling set into my already bulging carry-on.  I don't know about that backpack, each strap only has about half its thickness attached to the bag.  I hope it makes it the whole trip without breaking.
When we got back, we found the boys in the breakfast area eating snacks and drinking more coffee.  They were waiting for Jerry and his wife to arrive.  They were driving down to Ft. Lauderdale from Arkansas.  Jerry is the 'telephone' man who is joining us for this trip.  We dropped off our purchases and brought our own snacks down and joined the guys.  Sammie had purchased a pair of bright yellow sunglasses at Beall's for Clair.  Seems he has an obsession with all things yellow.  So he tried them on and took video tape commentary.   I had a mixed bag of candy including Shockers.  Clair decided to try them out of curiosity.  Just like he tried the conch fritters at the BBQ place.  Well it seems you should not consume the whole bag of shockers with one mouthful.  The faces were priceless.  I hope someone got that on video.  I did get Sammie trying just one and then having pain in her tooth.  I don't know, I like them.  But then again I eat them one at a time.
The girls finally decided we were going to watch our movie, so we headed up to change for bed and put the dvd in.  We were about halfway through when our final roommate came.  We didn't stay up long after the movie, since we new we were going to have a busy day.
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