52. Homeward Bound

Wednesday 11/10 thru Thurs 11/11- We had a pretty early start to our day today, I actually set my alarm to go off at about 5:15 to allow us enough time to close up the house, strip the bed (to keep the bugs out of it and the mold from growing between the sheets) make sure all of the outside things (patio furniture, etc) were put inside, water was turned off, windows were closed, and all of those things that you do before you leave a place vacant for a while. We got on the road at about 6:30 for our long 3 hour drive up to San Jose. We made good time on the drive so far, so once again stopped at the same restaurant we stop at every time we go to San Jose. Today we weren’t driving directly to the airport since it would cost an arm & a leg to park there for 3 weeks, so Ramie was able to find a business who lets you store your car at a very cheap rate and will drop you off and pick you up from the airport. This morning we would drop off our car with them and they would drive us to the airport, and in 3 weeks they would pick us up from the airport in our own car so we wouldn’t have to transfer all of our luggage twice. This worked out fantastic (plus, we wouldn’t have to drive in hectic airport traffic this morning!) This process went very smoothly and we got to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

We had 2 bags to check on the way back (not that we were bringing much of anything back with us, but we just needed to bring all of our suitcases packed inside of each other like Russian dolls) so that we could pack them full of stuff and bring them down here full again. We paid for our luggage, got the tags for the bags, but the machine wouldn’t let us print our boarding passes. What is going on here? We ended up having to go up to the ticketing counter to get things sorted out. This is when we were told that the plane scheduled for our flight was delayed from wherever it was coming from and they didn’t even have an estimated time of arrival. We could be delayed a very long time. They gave us the option to switch instead to a United flight that leaves San Jose at about the same time as our American flight was supposed to, fly to Houston then switch to a Delta flight that would get us to Minneapolis about an hour BEFORE we were originally supposed to land. Ok! That sounds like a decent plan to us, especially since we were getting into MN so late anyway! So, since we had already paid for our American bags, they said we’d have to call in for a refund. Then we had to go down to the United line, get our boarding passes and pay for our bags again, and finally get on our way. Ok, a little bit of a pain, but whatever!

We eventually got all of that done and got to our gate and were sitting around waiting for our flight when a bunch of sports guys in matching uniforms started showing up. We didn’t really pay too much attention to this until a lot of people really started paying attention to these players. Initially I figured that it might be a college team or some traveling team, but after all of this attention and people wanting to get selfies with these guys, we started doing some research. It turns out that the Costa Rican National Soccer team was playing in Canada for a couple of days and we were on the same flight as them. Well, that was kind of cool. Ramie messaged Geiner who was super excited that we were sitting next to all of these famous futbol players. 

When it was finally time to board the plane, we were in the last group to board. As we were boarding, I was picked for a “random” screening by the gate agents where they search through all of your stuff to make sure you don’t have anything that you aren’t supposed to have. Ramie got to go on through and get on the plane. By this time the plane was getting pretty full of carry on baggage and he had put his carry on toward the front of the plane even though we were sitting quite a ways farther back. Because I had to wait to be searched, I was the 2nd last person to get on the plane. While I was waiting at the end of the line, as a joke I texted Ramie (who was already in his seat) that they wouldn’t let me on the plane. He texted me back almost immediately asking what was going on and if he needed to get off the plane too. (I later learned that he had almost stopped the flight attendant that was near him to find out what was going on and tell her he needed to get off the plane). I texted him back and told him that I was kidding and that I just made a funny joke just like he would have. He said that it wasn’t funny at all, but admitted that he probably would have done the same thing if the roles were reversed and he had thought of it. So, I finally made it to my seat (sitting next to one of the futbol team coaches). Fortunately I only had my under the seat backpack so I didn’t have to worry about finding space in an overhead compartment. We overheard that the flight attendants were trying to send carry-on bags down below and the people from down below were rejecting it and sending it back up because it was full underneath too (presumably because of all of the soccer team’s equipment). Just as everyone was finally getting settled down to go, an airline employee comes to our seats and asks us for our boarding passes. He pointed at me and said “you just got checked, right?” I told him yes, and he said that I was fine. He then proceeded to tell Ramie to follow him off the plane. Well, NOW what is going on?! Ramie ended up needing to be searched too, so he had to take his nicely stowed carry on bag out of its space and off of the plane with him.


Now, of course, when he got back on the plane in a few minutes that space had been taken up. The flight attendants ended up helping him out by making people take their smaller items (like all of the duty-free liquor that people purchased in the airport) and put them under their seats instead of in the overhead. They eventually found a place for our suitcase, and we were able to take off. By now, our flight was taking off about 30 minutes late but, like always, the pilot told us he was going to try to make up that time during the flight.

By the time we were landing in Houston, we were only slightly late, but that meant that we still only had 1 hour to get off the plane, through customs, pick up our checked bags, drop off our checked bags, find a Delta person to get us boarding passes for our flight, get to our Delta gate and get on the plane. Wow, that seems like a lot of stuff to do in an hour, but we were ready to do this! The bags were fast coming up to baggage claim, all we had to do was pick them up, roll them over to a new carousel and drop them back off again. I don’t know why they make you do this, but you always have to when you get to your first US airport after coming back from a foreign country. We then basically ran to customs. A couple of years ago we got our Global Entry pass, so we go to a machine, put in our passport, do a biometrics scan of our face, get a “fast pass” ticket where we don’t have to wait in line, or go through any of the questions, and can get through customs in a few minutes. We did this (the line at this point wasn’t terribly long, but any delay would NOT be good!) and ran to the security checkpoint that you have to go through. Unfortunately, this is where the hangup was. There were too many people, not enough agents, and there was no way that we were going to make it through this mess in time! Unfortunately, at this checkpoint in the airport there is no TSA Precheck and everyone gets to stand in line together. Then, we had to find a monitor that showed us what gate we needed to go to for our Delta flight to MN. Houston has 5 different terminals connected by a tram. We were currently in E and we had to go to B. Ok, on the train…. by now, we had lost hope. Our flight “if on time” had taken off 15 minutes ago. We still decided to run just in case they were delayed. By the time we got to our gate, the gate was empty and there was no one in sight. Time to go back the way we came to find an Airline employee. We found an agent at another counter who we explained our situation to and after some typing and looking at her computer she told us there was another flight to MN that was delayed and had seats available. If we hurry we may be able to make it. She would try to call them to ask them to hold the plane. We had to go to another terminal again- back to that tram. We ran, and by the time we got there the plane had not yet taken off, but the doors were closed. We begged and pleaded with the agent to let us on, we just wanted to get home. She said that there was nothing that we could do, and we were stuck. There were some passengers sitting in the gate waiting to get on a plane in the next gate who said they had literally closed the door no more than 2 minutes before we showed up. Well, now what? We were told to go talk to the customer service in the airport to find us another flight to MN. Back on the tram.

Our initial thought was to go find an American representative since they were the ones that started all of this. Well, Houston isn’t an American hub, so there wasn’t really a place where they had a customer service counter here. So, we then went to United. Here we spoke to a guy that was as helpful as he could be, but didn’t really have any good answers for us. He also told us that the American employee in San Jose should have NEVER booked us on a flight with only a 1 hour connection. It is absolutely impossible, and an international connection like this should never be less than 2 hours. He advised us that our best bet would be to go try to find a Delta employee and see if they could help us out since we were currently booked for a Delta flight that we had missed. Delta doesn’t really have a customer help desk here either, but maybe we could find a gate agent back in the terminal that Delta flies out of. Back on the tram. Luckily we found 1 lonely Delta gate agent in an otherwise nearly deserted terminal. We had explained to him (for like the 5th time since we landed) what our situation was. He worked on his computer for a while, and eventually called another employee to come help him out. In the meantime it was just getting later and later at night. The airport (which I thought was busy 24 hours a day) was nearly completely empty (at least in the terminal that we were in). Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the Delta agents told us they could book us on a flight to MSP at 6:30 tomorrow morning. WE WILL TAKE IT!! By now it was nearly 10pm, we were exhausted and hungry. I am SO glad we took the time to stop at the little restaurant on our way to the airport this morning because that was the last time we had eaten anything. Well, it turns out that airports are not 24 hour a day hotspots and pretty much every restaurant and convenience shop in the airport was closed. The gate agent recommended going back to the international flight terminal where we landed, that would be our only hope at finding something that might still be open after 10pm. So– back to that damn tram.


We found 1 place that was still open. All they served was fried rice. At this point we were just both so hungry that we ordered this excessively expensive rice. It was after 11 by the time we got our food and ate it. For the amount that it cost and the amount of time it took them to cook it, you would think that I was ordering gourmet food at a fancy restaurant– not airport fried rice!

So, it’s 11pm, we have to board the plane at 6am tomorrow– there is absolutely no point in trying to find a hotel or anywhere to go, so we decided to go back to our gate for tomorrow morning and sleep on an airport floor. Ramie has never had the pleasure of this experience, and I haven’t done this in over 10 years (and hope to never have to do it again).

You would think that at this point the excitement for the day would have come to an end- but you would be mistaken!

Time to head to our terminal. You guessed it, back on the tram. Our gate was at the end of the terminal and the place was nearly completely empty. I made myself as comfy as I could on the floor, and Ramie attempted to make himself comfy in one of the chairs. I do think that airports should go back to the old style bench seats without the arm rests for unfortunate souls like us who end up sleeping there through no fault of our own. All of these arm rests really get in the way of being able to get any sort of comfortable. Just as I was getting ready to doze off, there were some people sitting behind us that started to talk. On and on and on— really!??! this place is empty and you have to have a meeting where we are trying to sleep?! So- we really had no choice but to kind of listen. We were facing away from them but facing the window out to the runway so we could kind of see their reflections behind us but they couldn’t tell that we were awake and listening. After listening for a while we came to the conclusion that they were law enforcement but were in plain clothes. A little while later a uniformed officer showed up too. From the sounds of it, they were waiting for someone to get off of an incoming flight and kept making references to “watch for the child”. Ramie and I both thought that this sounded like it could be human trafficking or something like that (we didn’t discuss it until the next morning, but both of us were on the same wavelength here). Eventually a flight landed and all of the people got off of the plane. The officers asked the flight attendants if everyone was off, and they confirmed that the plane was empty except for the pilots. Then, the pilots got off of the plane too. After a while, we heard the officers arrest a very belligerent woman. She went on and on about how she didn’t know what was going on, and then changed her story to knowing she was being arrested for obstruction of justice.


She did have a 5 month old baby with her, and had to call someone to pick up the baby because she was being hauled to jail tonight. Man, what other excitement and entertainment could you ask for after midnight in an airport?!

By now it was probably sometime after 1. Ok, let's try to get a little bit of sleep…. and then the cleaning crew showed up and the vacuuming started! UGH!!


After a few more very uncomfortable hours of laying on the floor, people started showing up for our 6:30 flight. It was 4am! Most of these passengers were considerate enough to stay at least a couple of rows away from us, but it was no use. Might as well get up and find some coffee. Fortunately, I have had enough messed up flights to know to bring the essentials in our carry-on. Yes, I try to pack light- but after our El Salvador trip, there are just some things that I will always be sure to carry with me!! I had our toothbrushes and toothpaste in the carry-ons, so at least I could go brush my teeth and wash my face. THEN get some coffee!

We got on our 6am flight, we flew to MSP, and we finally landed at about 10am. Now the big question was— what are the chances our checked bags made it here with us?

When we landed in MSP we headed straight to baggage claim. We first came to the American luggage counter where we explained everything that had happened over the last 24+ hours. They told us that we should check with United since that is who we checked the bags with. Coincidentally, the United counter was next in line around the corner from American. We stopped there and talked to them. They confirmed that they could see our bags had made it into and back out of Houston, but that is all the more that they could see in their system. They said that Delta would be the place that would have our answers. As we walked around the corner to the Delta area, there were our bags– just going around in circles on the conveyor along with all of the other suitcases of the people on our plane. WOW! We were shocked and amazed!! That was the ONE thing that went right on this whole adventure.

After nearly 29 hours of traveling from leaving our house in Uvita to landing in MSP, a trip that was supposed to be under 18 hours– we were finally home in MN.


(To all of you who got to see us while we were home– you should be THANKFUL that we made it! HAHAHA).


So— now that it is Thursday morning and we’re here, what are we going to do? Well, first stop would be Steven’s mom’s house to pick up her car. We are so very thankful that Steven and his mom were so gracious to lend us her 1994 Oldsmobile (which we named Betsy). As long as it had 4 wheels and got us from point A to points B, C, and all of the others, we were happy. Plus, it didn’t cost us over $1000 like a rental car would have!

We got an Uber to her house, picked up the car, and started our mission of shopping for all of the things we needed. We made a few stops then finally headed up to Monticello to Taryn & Steven’s house.

It’s 11/11– that means it’s Veterans Day. Steven is a State employee so he had the day off. He is also a Veteran (as am I) so I called him up to ask if he wanted to grab some free lunch with me (we’d bring Ramie along too) and we made a plan to get some lunch as soon as we got to Monticello– we were hungry again after our expensive 11pm fried rice!


Homeward Bound— we finally made it! Oh, and have I mentioned, Minnesota is COLD!!!


  1. There is no way in God's little green earth that I would have the patience for going through what you did. Yur are both to be congratulated for going through the trials and tribulations of traveling this much with no assurances what the next step will be. Congratulations!

    1. Some days are a challenge- this was one of them! Our level of patience has definitely had to increase, but not just with the travel, with many of the day to day life things that we encounter. Many Ticos that we have met are very laid back, and we are beginning to find out why-- you have to be, otherwise you'll probably have a heart attack at a very early age!


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