Boten's review: Summit, July 16, 2004 - The Journey Begins
part 1 - An idea is formed
part 2 - Preparations
part 3 - Oh, NO!
part 4 - Test Drive
May 2004 - June 2004
I have finished reading Peter Jenkins' "Looking for Alaska" - a great book if you plan to go to Alaska. We received our docs, computer generated, in late June. My custom-made Milepost logs were expanded to include the trip to Homer.
We are ready to go!
One thing we learned from the "test drive" is to take the crutches with us on the flight. Once we have finished with the checked luggage and got our boarding passes, I'll change from the brace to the crutches, use a wheelchair in the terminal and board the plane with crutches. This will spare me the stress of wearing the brace through the long flights. I will use the crutches & wheelchair when we are in transfer and put the brace on about an hour before landing at our final destination.
For this purpose we had a bag custom-made, 4 feet long, that can hold the crutches and regular shoes when I'm wearing the brace, or the brace and the orthopedic shoes when I'm using crutches. We tie the bag to a folding cart so Dalia don't have to lug it on her shoulders.
We usually fly Lufthansa from Tel-Aviv to Frankfurt, have a long cigarette break in Frankfurt - Yes, there is smoking in the terminal and in the coffee shops around the terminal - and then continue to our final destination.
We had enough miles to upgrade one leg of our journey into business. Having a choice of upgrading a four hour flight (Tel-Aviv to Frankfurt) or a nine hour flight (Frankfurt to Vancouver), what would you choose? It's a no-brainer, of course we upgraded the longer flight.
After we asked our TA to get the upgrade for us and before the flight, Lufthansa changed the mileage required for such an upgrade and we were no longer eligible for it. They also "sold" our economy seats and the flight was fully booked, which means we have no seats in economy for this flight, and no seats in business since we didn't have enough miles.
After some heated conversations between our TA and Lufthansa, we were issued the tickets, economy class, and had to get the business boarding passes at the airport in Tel-Aviv. Will we?
July 14, 2004
Our flight is scheduled at 4:30 AM. The security checks in Tel-Aviv are long and thorough and passengers are required to be at the airport three hours before the flight.
We left home at midnight and arrived at the airport just before 1 AM, there's nobody at the Lufthansa counters, but the security checks are going on, so we did that.
At about 1:30 Lufthansa opened their counters. Surprise! Their computer system, connected to Germany went kaput
. After almost an hour of tests, they decided to board the flight manually using printed passenger list. Of course this means we don't get our business boarding passes to Vancouver and we will have to do that in Frankfurt.
The flight left an hour late, but we have plenty of time in Frankfurt to get everything sorted out.
It was an uneventful flight. We landed in Frankfurt, had to look for a wheelchair, and had a lady to escort us to our gate for the flight to Vancouver.
I explained to the lady that we need to get our upgrade, so she escorted us to a ticketing counter. They did have us on the upgrade list, and we ended up in the business lounge. At that point we "dismissed" our escort and settled in for the wait.
Free beer - there's also champagne and wine - make three hours wait a very short one.
Finally, it was time to board the flight to Vancouver. The Airbus business class features very sophisticated seats and entertainment center with a remote control to operate both. The seats not only recline fully to a horizontal position, they also have a massage system. (see picture below)
While trying all the options on the screen, I used my degree in Computer Sciences and managed to foul up the system. It had to be re-booted. It uses the "ancient" and very slow X-Modem protocol to upload the software, duh!
After a few drinks, and a meal accompanied by wine, we settled in for a nap. When we woke up, I realized that the aircraft was hungry too! A floor panel between my seat and the side wall was missing, a wide hole was exposed, one of the crutches was firmly stuck in the hole and the part that holds the forearm was missing! We - Dalia, me and a worried flight attendant - struggled to free the crutch. We all tried recovering the missing part, sticking our hands inside the hole which was filled with wires and mechanical stuff but the part was gone. The aircraft swallowed it.
Missing the part made walking with the crutches tricky, though not impossible. I just have to walk in very very small steps in order not to lose my balance.
No worry, I assured Dalia. These crutches are called Canadian crutches in Israel, we are landing in Vancouver, we will find a new crutch. After all, these are Canadian crutches.
About an hour before landing I went to the bathroom to put the brace on. When I came back, I saw that the folding cart was stuck between the seat and the floor. Those seats are very sophisticated, they don't just move back and forth. Getting them into position for landing involves some up and down movement. That movement really pressed the leg support against the cart, producing a disturbing grinding noise. The already worried flight attendant came again, got more worried, tried to free the cart, couldn't, got so worried he started cursing, in Polish! We know it's Polish, we use the same curses here. The curses helped. The cart was freed from the seat with no apparent damage to either one of them.
We finally landed in Vancouver, went smoothly through Canadian immigration and waited for our luggage. Within 10 minutes we got all our luggage except one piece, our largest suitcase. We waited for that suitcase. You probably know the feeling, you miss only one suitcase, people are leaving the carrousel with THEIR luggage, yours in not in sight, you start thinking un-healthy thoughts, you try to figure out what was in that missing suitcase. We went through the whole process, we realized the missing suitcase contains, among other things, our clothes for formal nights!
After 50 agonizing minutes it arrived, big and heavy. We left the terminal. I decided that after what we went through, we deserve some pampering, so we took a Limo - not too much more expensive than a taxi - to the hotel.
We arrived at the Blue Horizon hotel on Robson street. Great location! Great room! We asked for a North-West corner room for the views and we got one on the 29th floor. Lots of floor to ceiling windows, a balcony and views of both the English bay and the North shores between the high rises.
After settling in, we walked a short block to London Drugs looking for a new crutch. They didn't have any but they gave us the number of a medical supply store to call. It was too late to call that evening. We went to a Korean restaurant nearby, got huge portions - we should have ordered one and share - walked around and went to sleep.
July 15, 2004
We woke up and had a nice long breakfast at the hotel's restaurant. The weather is great so we sat outside, watching the street comes to life.
After breakfast we took a cab to the medical supply store. Yes, they have crutches. No, they don't have those type of crutches, in fact they never heard of Canadian crutches. They called some other places, no one ever saw these type of crutches. They only have "regular" crutches which are less maneuverable. I decided to improvise something. We went back to the hotel and with some cardboard for a skeleton, bubble wrap for flesh and a lot of duct tape - yet another use for it - I fixed something resembling the missing part. I tried it, it was too flimsy, so some more duct tape, a lot more duct tape, made it firm enough to last the entire trip.
Strolling the streets was too difficult for me so we boarded the trolley which is hop on hop off deal, got off at English bay, walked around some, had coffee and ice cream, boarded the next trolley, got off at Gastown and walked some, boarded another trolley and returned to the hotel. We had a late lunch nearby, took a nap, woke up and finished packing the checked luggage, put the Celebrity tags on them, went out for coffee and cakes and returned for an early night.
Tomorrow we sail!
Lufthansa seat and entertainment control center