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Halicallahanicon 2012 - part 2 [Jul. 20th, 2012|10:53 pm]
John
A pointer to Part 1


So, John Barnstead never forgot his date with destiny. He mentioned it a few times, every now and again - but there was a sort of an air of unreality about it sometimes, and as my own activity in the newsgroup faded off into memory, I wondered if it would be worthwhile to go.

But then, as 2012 started to come up, I started to hear not only of plans of the event, but actual, honest to goodness plans - plans for the event. It was going to happen, and it was going to be somewhat ambitious, to say the least.

I felt that I had to go, for a variety of reasons. Except, do you remember that bit about how The Place had been a bit too important to me? Well... I had to think about my reasons. So I did. And I realized that they were sound. So I had to go.

The only question now was how I would go. Thankfully, kightp wanted to go too. But we were both not entirely sure of the other. There was a funny bit of confusion, where after hemming and hawing a bit about how to go, one of us finally asked the other "Well, do you not-want to go, and if I'm not going, you don't have to?" Because it was going to be a big deal, however we played it - Halifax isn't a major destination with non-stop flights from all major cities, and the flight was going to be relatively expensive and *long*, with multiple layovers.

Well, that question broke up the logjam - we agreed that we both wanted to go if it was at all possible. Now, the question was no longer "do we want to do X, and Y, and Z?" but "how to best handle X, Y, and Z?" and so we started making plans. This was helped along by kightp agreeing to pick the flights we'd take in return for a minor consideration on my part. It may sound silly, but on the day we made the reservations, I knew I just wasn't up to all of the mini-maxing behavior I might engage in, whether this flight was better than that, or whether this other one was worth the extra cost or extra layovers, or what ever might come up.

In the meantime, I'd started undergoing my own little adventure... I applied for a US Passport. I was probably too grumpy by half over this requirement - but, you see, when I was growing up, you didn't need a passport for most Canadian travel. Worst case, you brought a certified copy of your birth certificate, just in case. But a *passport*? Geez louise, no way!

I found to my embarrassment that I had a lot of things out of date. According to the State Department, my birth certificate wasn't quite right - but that seemed silly, I had a birth certificate issued in 2002, that was post-9/11, why wouldn't it be right? But if I did need a new copy of my birth certificate, I might need my driver's license with my current address - oh, that's funny, why does my driver's license have an address that's three living spaces past on it?

I applied for my passport, and sure enough, my birth certificate was no good. I applied for my birth certificate and was told that I could expect 20 working days - over 4 weeks! - processing time to get it! I was glad I'd chosen expedited passport processing! Got my birth certificate, overnight-mailed it to the Department of State's processing office, and got my passport a good two weeks before I was due to travel - maybe even longer!

And so, armed with all of the tools of good road warriors, kightp and I headed off for the airport. Along the way, I pointed out that I was carrying lots and lots of cash on me, and she, helpful person that she is, pointed out that it would only be good on the first leg of our flight... oh, yeah, that's right, they use interesting, colorful money, not that boring green stuff.

After a fascinating encounter with the taxi driver who we thought we were tipping very generously, and who thought we were trying to stiff him - Pat and I would have sworn before a judge we were told one number, but he'd said one that was significantly higher, so my "generous tip" still left us $10 short! - we got into the airport and started the check in process.

Did you know that, on international flights, they will often make you pick up your checked luggage, and re-check it after customs? We got to find that out - twice - because we had to pick up our luggage twice for customs.

Did you know they ask if you're carrying food products? I couldn't figure out whether they needed me to declare my 2 cans of almonds, half-cup of protein powder, and 12 ounce bag of beef jerky or not, so I said that, yes, i was carrying food or plant items. (I later saw a sign that false declarations could lead to hefty fines. I'm not sure if Canadian officials would have been able to be rude enough to try to assess such fines over such an issue, but I really didn't want to find out.)

We also got to learn that the money changers haven't really changed in some 2000 years, and are not to be trusted. ATMs are safer. Oh well.

But then, we got on the long leg of our flight. I was chuckling to myself, ready to pull out my secret weapon. You see, I'd been needing a new laptop for a while, and I'd found that Alienware makes a lovely little gaming machine, powerful enough to play Diablo III, and smaller than any laptop I'd ever owned that wasn't a netbook. I was all ready to pull it out, and maybe watch a movie (it has *two* headphone ports! Pat and I could have both watched and heard!) when we learned that this aircraft had seats that reclined *much* further than we're used to in US flights. Not even my tiny little gaming laptop could be used under those conditions. So... we read, and napped when possible, and stayed strong through the night.

And then, when the long, long flight was done, we touched down in wondrous, beautiful... Ottawa. And had to deplane while they changed crews and cleaned up. So we found coffee (did you know they have Tim Hortons in Canada?), and waited....

(Yes, I'm being ironic about the Tim Hortons. There was once a joke article in The Onion about Starbucks opening a new Starbucks in the bathroom of a Starbucks. In Canada, they'd have tried - and found a Tim Hortons already there.)

But our journey was finally complete - and we were ready to embark on the last, most wonderful part of the adventure... which, I'm afraid, I'll make you wait for :-).
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: janetmiles
2012-07-21 11:50 pm (UTC)
I did the same kind of over-thinking, and ended up declaring my cotton clothing, notebook paper, and books (well, they ASKED about plant products and wood products . . .).

I didn't have to pick up my luggage midway; both times it was checked all the way through to my destination (and I asked about that, because I did NOT want to leave my suitcase in Newark). I guess it's a matter of different airports?
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[User Picture]From: kightp
2012-07-23 01:03 am (UTC)
Heaven only knows (about the luggage requirements), but it did seem that the airports where we went through customs - Ottawa on the way there, Calgary on the way back - were set up to send all international passengers to get their bags before they went through customs.

I declared my mixed nuts. When the nice Canadian customs agent asked "what kind of nuts" I blinked and said "Planters." He laughed and waved me on. (Generally speaking, all of the Canadian transport people - security, customs, ticket agents - were much friendlier and more good-humored than their US counterparts.)
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