A long strange road to nowhere
It has been a long strange road since I last wrote in this space, and yet we have not managed to go anywhere at all. If anything, the events of the past month have reminded me of how much I love my Airstream, and how relatively trouble-free it has been.
You might be thinking, “Aren’t you the guy who had the brake actuator problem that canceled your trip a few months ago?” and yes, you’d be correct. But that failure was one of only a rare few incidents that have derailed Airstream voyages, whereas our success rate with airplanes has been much worse.
It all started last October, when Eleanor and I decided we finally had accumulated enough airline points to book a family trip to Japan for the cherry blossom season in late March. The mystery, beauty, culture, and food of Japan have long beckoned to us, especially Eleanor, and we have been saving up points on our airline-affiliated credit cards for that dream trip over the last five years. We worked every angle to build up points until we could get (almost) free tickets to Tokyo, with a stopover in Oahu, to depart in mid-March.
From that point, we spent many hours over the winter preparing for this trip. We bought maps and guidebooks, and downloaded information about Tokyo’s complex rail system. We planned out our days, reserved hotels, figured budgets, and researched specific historic and natural sites we wanted to see. I figured out how to stay in touch with the office (using Skype, and iPad, wifi hotspots, and remote access to my computer). I even bought a translator app for my iPhone, and guides to the language and culture.
But the trip didn’t happen. Japan is an extraordinarily expensive place to travel, and with various unexpected expenses over the winter, by February it became clear that this wasn’t our year to go to Japan. Reluctantly, we canceled the trip and got our points returned (for a somewhat painful fee of $300), and vowed to try again sometime in the future.
In a way, we were lucky. Two days before we were scheduled to fly, Emma and I were stricken with some sort of horrible virus. We thought it was a cold, but it turned out much worse (fever, chills, nausea, etc.) and in retrospect we think it was actually the flu. Whatever it was, we were incapacitated for about a week. Only Eleanor was spared, and she was kept busy with nursing duties. If we had kept our trip to Japan, we would have been sick on the flight to Oahu, and on the flight to Tokyo (a total of 14 hours on airplanes). That wouldn’t have been feasible for us, and if we had tried it we would have probably infected the entire airplane. Plus, our entire first week would have consisted of Emma and I lying in bed at the hotel and looking out the window at the cityscape of Tokyo, while refusing all offers of food. It would have been a disastrous “dream” trip to Japan.
However, when we canceled Japan, we kept the trip to Oahu as a sort of consolation prize, shortening our trip from three weeks to six days. So all the time we were sick, and all the time that Eleanor was taking care of us, we had the knowledge that at least we’d still get a vacation to the beautiful islands of Hawaii.
Now, there’s definitely nothing wrong with going to Hawaii for six days, but if we had originally planned to go solely to Hawaii we would have not chosen Oahu as our destination. So after we recovered from the virus, and after a lot of discussion, we changed the destination to Maui. This required cashing in some more airline points and another $272. We re-booked the hotel, reserved the car, and started researching hikes in Haleakala National Park. All seemed well, until …
… two days before we were to leave, Emma woke up with a cold. This triggered an ear infection, which meant a visit to the doctor and antibiotics. She wasn’t capable of flying in that condition. Reluctantly, we canceled the trip to Maui too. Another scramble ensued to recover airline points ($180 in fees) and cancel all the associated reservations. This trip to Hawaii and Japan has become the most expensive trip we’ve never taken.
Today would be the fourth day of our Hawaiian vacation, or the 17th day of our tour of Japan. Instead, it is more memorable as the fourth day of a ten-day course of Amoxicillin. It’s pointless to wail about the trip we aren’t having right now, and we know that someday we will manage to pull it off, but at this time I have to contemplate the Airstream and how very good it has been to us. Many times we have been sick while traveling and rather than punishing us with fees or threatening us with exploding eardrums, the Airstream has always provided a cozy, safe, peaceful place to lie down and get well, without serious interruption of our travels.
The Safari has been busy this season doing duty as a guest house, and is doing so right now, so we can’t take it out this weekend. But we will find somewhere to go in order to feel as though we got a little bit of vacation, as soon as Emma is feeling better. No more booking airline flights for us. This time we’ll take the car.