by Amber, aka Defi Diva
I woke up the next morning in my #43 Bungalow to bright sunshine streaming through my open window, and a mosquito buzzing in my ear. I covered my head with the blanket in hopes that he (or I guess “she”) would go away. It was 8 am. I had slept the clock around and still wasn’t sure I wanted to get up. The mosquito’s insistence in finding available skin for breakfast however soon convinced me otherwise. In fact, I was hungry and ready to have my own breakfast. The night before I stopped at the little store just out side the camp and bought a huge box of French Corn Flakes that would put Costco to shame (apparently the French like their Corn Flakes), some milk, and a few other tidbits. I fixed my breakfast and settled down out on the little porch to ponder my day ahead.
It was promising to be a picture perfect French spring day, bright sunshine, perfect temperature, and …. no wind. I had given myself an extra day in my itinerary up front to explore the area and hopefully find where exactly this race of some 800 windsurfers could be found. I also thought it might be good to give the waters a test ride, however with absolutely zero wind and none forecasted for the next day or two testing the waters was “right out”. I wasn’t exactly keen on driving the Thingy any more than I had to as it was unwieldy to maneuver in small spaces and everything around me seemed small. (Where is a Walmart parking lot when you need one?!! ) But the problem was that I had no idea where anything was or in what direction I should travel to find the site.
by Amber, aka Defi Diva
Luckily the military had trained me well when during my first deployment to Iraq I was unceremoniously dumped on the tarmac in Kuwait with 6 military bags and a weapons case.
“Ma’am, you’ll need to check in at the terminal headquarters about a quarter mile down the road.”
“What about my gear?”
“…Yes Ma’am, you’ll need to check that in as well…”
So my quarter mile turned into about 3 by the time I arduously leapfrogged my bags to the terminal. I think they call these relived war stories “flashbacks”. And I indeed was having them at the Toulouse Airport.
After having sorted out my car rental and offering my house, 401K, and all my gold jewelry up for collateral to Hertz, I had found my luggage and began pondering the movement of it. The luggage came into the main conveyor system and was easy enough to throw on one of those luggage carts they have at the airport. The next stop took me to the oversized luggage conveyor and when I finally found it I was elated to see my three wonderful bags sitting there waiting for me. They made it!!!! The relief washed over me. It was like I found my long lost dog. I wanted to rush up and give them all great big hugs. But in respect for public decorum, I refrained and offered them a little pat and smile instead.
by Amber, aka Defi Diva
The notion of traveling to the south of France in the spring time seems all romantic and picturesque until, that is, you check into the airline ticket counter with 2 boards, a sail bag, 2 suitcases, and a back pack. “Just go with the flow… Just go with the flow…ooohhhhmmmm….”, I kept saying to myself. It didn’t help this time either… I called a porter to help me with the bags. Once inside, I checked in at the ticket kiosk and then made my way to the front of the checked baggage line. At the counter the ticket lady greeted me with a smile. “Oh my are those surf boards?! How exciting!” “Yes ma’am, I’m going to a race in France.” (I kept the emphasis on the word “race”, hoping that she might think I’m an important sports icon or something, rather than a lowly ..er… over 29 year old amateur seeking a little windsurfing adventure. After all sports icons always get the bags accepted!) Surprisingly she didn’t balk or bat an eye. She weighed all my luggage and then had the boards put on a special cart off to the side since they were too big for the conveyor. She then directed me to a separate counter to pay for my “excess” baggage.
I spent the next two hours standing at the “excess fee” charge counter. First there was the panic by the Senior Ticketing Supervisor, “Your baggage exceeds our 158 cm limit for width plus length plus height! It is not possible to accept them.” “No ma’am, I sent the dimensions and estimated weights to the Paris corporate office when I booked the flight, they approved it. Surfboards are typically more than 158 cm in length alone. There are notes in my reservation to confirm this.” “Let me go verify… Yes, I’m sorry, you were correct. I apologize about that mistake. But now there is another problem, TSA will not accept the baggage because it doesn’t fit in their scanners!” I consoled her, “TSA can run a special detector on the equipment and do a manual inspection, they do it all the time when they have concerns about baggage. It usually isn’t a problem, but does take a bit more time.” Warily she replied, “Ok, let me confirm with them first though. Please wait here in case there
are questions, we want this to go as smoothly as possible!” So I waited………………… At about one hour before the flight, she finally came back with a smile on her face. “Yes the bags are checked and ready to go! Now how would you like to pay for the excess baggage fee of $525, cash or credit card?” …. gulp….
by Amber aka Defi Diva
“Intimidated” is the word that best describes how I felt the few weeks before I left. Here I was going half way around the earth… ok, I exaggerate, it was only one quarter of the way, but it seemed a lot farther. It’s FRANCE!!! after all! There were so many things that could go wrong. I kept telling myself, “just go with the flow”. If it falls apart, no big deal, it’s not the end of the world. But lets be serious, who was ever calmed by such platonic blither! My gear could be destroyed in transit, my shoulder could rip off at any moment, and my plane could crash in the ocean and I would be eaten by sharks. (I hate sharks…) PLENTY COULD GO WRONG!!!
by Amber K
First things first, there is this whole thing about actually registering for the race. Half the battle is actually finding the registration site. Mind you this is not a small task. First, it doesn’t come up on a Google search very well. Second, you have to find it in French. (Et, je ne parle pas francais! – ok, so I had it in Second Grade…but that doesn’t count when you are ..er… over 29.) Third, you have to be patient. The race announcements don’t actually start showing up on the web site until early in the year (January-ish). The only way I actually found the race dates last fall was by poking around in previous year’s race newsletter and they had a “We’ll see you next year on May 8th!” sort of announcement. Which I was lucky to find.
Not wanting to dally my boss was duly notified and a leave request was submitted in October for the dates. (oh, and then I slipped in the BABA Spring trip leave request a few weeks later when he had forgotten about already having approved the Defi leave.) Risky! Considering, they were back to back, but I learned a thing or two in Air War College about “Strategic Planning”. At least I finally got to put some of that mind numbing reading to use!
by Amber K
The first of a couple, or perhaps a few, but definitely not more than a some.
Everyone seems to want to hear about this little adventure I’m on. So while I don’t “blog” or “facebook” (yes, little Johnny, that is right I don’t have a facebook account…nor do I want one) I figured I would do this the story the “old fashioned way”… gasp! EMAIL… well ok, so maybe in real live print would be even better, but I’m having problems finding groceries so post offices are right out for the moment. Besides I don’t think I have enough euros to post a potential demi-tome to all of BABA’s members…(“Did she say demi-tome, Alice?!” yup break out the wine and reading glasses, I’m sure this will be excellent evening pre-bed read.)