D A Y - F O U R T E E N
Why can't the Swiss get busy and build a longer tunnel so I can cross the Atlantic WITHOUT another dam airplane ride??????
Flight time out is 10:00am - "requested" is 2 hours checkin prior to departure. Due to holiday, shuttle is only running every 40 minutes, so we will take a 7:40am departure from hotel.
Wife feels she needs time to be "beautiful" (why, to impress the bleary-eyed dead-tired mob in coach class?). This entails a 5:00am arising for momma, and if momma ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy, so I see the bricks about the same time. We breakfast at 6:30 in the restaurant, catch the shuttle to the airport where I immediately go to the train station and claim our larger luggage. I get the old "escalator" cart, trundle into the airport, and surprise! ... 10:00am departure is "11:10am" - "delayed arrival".
We get thru checkin with all the usual "who else has been in your bags" etc, and wander down to the departure gates, where sure enough there is an aircraft sitting - however the entire tarmac around it is swarming with fire engines!
Needless to say, 11:10 departure is a "fairy tale", and we don't even begin to board a COMPLETELY PACKED Boeng 777 (who said New Years morning would be a good time to travel since with the "night before" many people wouldn't be travelling?).
We finally roll off the ground at 12 noon, and the captain informs us that the delay was the necessary de-icing in Dallas before the previous flight came here, and that de-icing material had gotten onto the brakes, causing massive smoke when the brakes were used on landing, thus the fire engines. However, there was no problem, we were on our way for a "pleasant" 10 hr 43 minute flight, and "make yourselves comfortable" (oh sure - packed ecomomy class is GREAT for creature comfort).
Nothing need be said about the joys of the next 10-11 hours, and we land in Dallas and enter baggage-customs area. I need to call home to inform them we won't be making our planned arrival, and am informed that there are NO phones in this area, and after I get my bags and wander thru the customs lines with a few hundred other people, THEN I can make a call (no, I have not brought a cell phone along).
We finally clear the area, go a little further and they take "connecting passenger" baggage (since it's already tagged) and we are told "see the man behind you over there about connecting flights" (our connection to San Francisco was just 2 hours, and we are now past that departure time). He informs me "next flight to SF - gate A-39 - leaving soon - better hurry" - forget the phone - up the escalator. We go up, find we are at gate A-1, and take the LONG stroll to A-39 (it could be worse - there are terminals B & C here too, and they are all HUGE).
A-39, up to the desk, and "3 of you?" - sorry - POSSIBLY 1, but this flight is already overbooked. Huh? What about my connection to SF? "Yes sir, they knew you were delayed. All flights the rest of the day are already full to San Francisco - they have you booked on a flight tomorrow" (TOMORROW?!?!?!?), and they also have you alternately booked on a flight to Orange County with a connecting flight to San Francisco".
OK - where and when?
Flight xxxx - 4:15 departure - gate C-23.
4:15?!?!!? - it's already 4:30!
Yes sir, but the flight is delayed until 5:15 - you can make it.
Grab the girls, and since C-23 is way to hell and gone on the other side of the airport, we head for the tram system that takes you between the terminals - and find a barricade! I ask a nearby security agent where the nearest gate is and "the tram system is out of service"!
I tell the guard we have a short time to catch a flight all the way over in "C" and he flags down a scooter (the kind you always see carting the old crippled folks around) and we get treated to a "beep-beep - out of the way please" ride (always "kinda" wanted to ride at an airport that way, but never had a reason).
We get to our gate - (another mob scene), and are assigned seats, but told "there will be a slight delay". Now I make a call home, tell them I am going thru Orange County, and will be in SF at 7:45pm on a connecting flight.
Back to the gate, finally board, roll onto the tarmac and hear "there is heavy traffic and we'll be here a while until the tower clears us", and finally take off at 6:30pm. Then "sorry for the long delay. The aircraft scheduled for this flight had difficulty in South America and we had to bring up a substitute aircraft".
Routine flight, land at OC, and since we are late "there is an aircraft in our gate and we will be at the terminal just as soon as there is space". Yeah.
Finally at the gate, mob scene to get off (we're about halfway back), down the gangway and at the boarding desk I ask (even though I know we are too late based on our delays) "San Francisco"? "The 7:15 flight has already departed sir, and there are no more flights to San Francisco until tomorrow."
HOWEVER, I heard the announcement as we landed "those of you continuing on with us to San Jose should leave the aircraft and reborad after we clean up". I ask "can I get to San Jose on THIS flight?"
After checking, it's "yes sir, but none of the 3 seats will be together" (like I give a s--t at this point - we just wan't to get home). Grab a phone, pass message that we will be in San Jose at 8:30pm, not SF as planned.
Boarding begins, 1st class and rows 5-10, look at our passes, and they're rows 1-2!
The "not together seats" are all in first class, which would NORMALLY be a pleasure, but right now I'd settle for a crate back in the kitchen prep area. We get on and all 3 of us just lean back with eyes closed - I don't know what amenities they offer 1st class, and at this stage could care less (but there is no way to ignore the the 200 or more poor souls that stare in envy as they file past back into the crackerbox in the rear) Is that envious look how I usually stare when I walk by 1st class?.
9:15 landing at San Jose (late departure due to our late arrival in OC), but due to 1st class, we're FIRST OFF THE PLANE (and that is definitely a FIRST instead of the "everybody up - unload the overhead racks - then wait 15 minutes for anything to move towards the front doors").
Party meeting us had gone to San Francisco (from San Jose where they lived) and chewed up $12 in parking fees before a call notified them to return BACK to San Jose. They were then to drive us the 3 hours SOUTH back to Pismo Beach, and were now MORE thrilled that although the airline had no room for passengers to San Francisco, their cargo holds had no such problem, and OUR BAGS WERE UP IN SAN FRANCISCO!
So, another hour up the road to SF, another hour back and a wave to the SJ airport as we blew by again, 3 more hours down 101, drop mother off, and home to bed at 3:00am.
Thats noon Zurich, and based on 5:00am "wakeup", a lovely 31 hour "jaunt" with a couple of "catnaps".
I DEMAND A US-SWITZERLAND RAIL TUNNEL!!!!
So, other than having to FLY, I hope some of this detail has intrigued you enough that you might want to put Switzerland on your "To DO" list for the future.
YOU WILL LOVE EVERY MINUTE OF IT.
Enjoy, and have fun....
Also, one of the early readers of this mish-mash is a travel agent with a great deal of knowledge on Switzerland, and he furnished his own Swiss rail travelog with additonal non-rail items plus some Germany train travel too. His story follow on the next page.