Sunday, February 4, 2018

Iceland Expedition: Day #1

Well, as the saying goes, there’s good news and there’s bad news. The good news is, the statement Steven makes in today’s video holds true. “No one’s dead yet.” The bad news is, we did have to (temporarily) leave a man behind. More on that in a little bit.

Today was mainly a travel day. We met at the local Park and Ride around 9:30 AM to consolidate vehicles and luggage. Most of us decided to just take a personal item (17 x 13 x 10 inches) and split the cost of a single large bag, mainly for liquids, food, and extra shoes. This worked out pretty well, but we knew we were pushing the 44 pound bag weight limit.

The other decision we had to make was how many vehicles to take (accounting for the cost of fuel and parking for each). Steven was driving, but doesn’t plan to return from NoVA at the same time as the rest of us, so, although we could easily fit everyone into two vehicles on the way up, the question became how tightly we wanted to squeeze in on the way back. My Jeep can carry seven (with a pretty uncomfortable third row), and we eventually settled on squeezing someone into one of those seats in the back with the luggage on the way home.

We made it about a quarter of a mile out of the parking lot before stopping at Hardee’s (bathroom and breakfast), and then we were on our way (for real).

The trip to the airport (BWI) was fairly uneventful, filled with some napping by the self loading ballast (passengers), and occasional radio chatter to keep things interesting. Steven told jokes such as, “What do you call a pastor who runs a marathon? A reveRUNd.” Our pastor, Jeff, would be so proud. After that joke, I told Steven, “You’re fired. Give the radio to Katy.”

We made a pit stop for lunch at a Chick-fil-A in Winchester and gas at Sheetz and arrived in the parking lot at the airport around 4:30 PM.

The moment of truth came when we had to drop off our single checked bag. I set it on the scale and the agent told me, “Your bag is one kg over the limit.” We moved out of the way of everyone else and cracked it open to see what we could shift around. As it turned out, we moved a few things to the carry on/personal items and I swapped out my trail runners for the boots that I had packed in the bag. That was enough to drop us 1.4 kgs below the limit.

Security screening was uneventful, despite a grumpy TSA agent. From there, we made our way to the gate and everyone split off in different directions to grab food or a forgotten item.

I was pretty relieved at this point. We had made it to the airport with plenty of time, handled the overweight bag issue quickly, and everyone had made it through security without incident. We were home free! Or so I thought.

About thirty minutes before takeoff, one of the gate agents made the following announcement. “Passengers, please check your boarding pass to make sure the name on your ticket matches the name on your passport exactly, including your middle name. This is an international flight, and if the names do not match, you won’t be able to fly today. We’re about to close the flight, and, after that time, no changes can be made.”

I immediately checked mine, although I was almost positive it was correct (it was). The few people from our group that were still at the gate checked theirs as well. No issues. The other half of our group, however, was elsewhere, and most of them had left their phones with me, charging. As people began to filter back in, I passed the message along and received affirmatives. Then Tanner said, “I think Mike said his name was different on his ticket.”

As soon as I heard this, I went to the gate agent and told her we had a possible mismatch. She asked if he had checked in already, and when I said that he had, she said, “I probably would have caught any difference when he checked in, but let’s double check.”

When Mike return, we looked at his ticket and passport together. Mike’s actual name, as you’ve probably guessed by now, is Michael. Mike on the ticket, Michael in the passport. My heart dropped.

We went to see the agent, and she just shook her head and told us that the flight was closed at that point, and that they could no longer make any changes. Our only option, she told us, was to call customer service, in the off chance they might be able to change the name on the ticket before we took off, but she wasn’t hopeful that would happen.

Mike started dialing and I started to work through contingency plans in my head. My first thought was that I would stay behind with Mike until we could get it all sorted out, and send the rest of the group on to Iceland. None of our reservations were tied solely to my name, so the group wouldn’t have issue continuing on without me. My main line of reasoning there was that Mike didn’t have a vehicle, although there was also a part of me that felt some responsibility not to leave a group member behind.

As Tanner and I discussed, he pointed out that, since there was no issue with my ticket, WOW wouldn’t do anything for me if I decided to stay, so I would essentially be buying a second ticket.

That reasoning, combined with the fact that, in reality, I wouldn’t be much help stateside, helped me resolve to continue on. I handed my Jeep key to Mike, still hoping that wouldn’t be the outcome.

We waited until the last minute, but the plane was almost done boarding and we had to go. We stalled for a little bit longer, then sadly waved goodbye to Mike. Our whole group was pretty despondent (although the sight of the purple airplane cheered us up a little).

Despite that setback, we have been in communication with Mike since then, and it looks like he will be joining us early Monday morning! He has a place to stay tonight, and will fly out of BWI at the same time tomorrow. Please pray for a smooth flight and no further issues for him. We’re bummed he won’t be with us the first day, but look forward to him joining us!

I’m writing this post as we hurtle through the air at 500 MPH over Greenland, heading towards Kevflavik, Iceland. We should be touching down around 5:30 AM local time. Our plans for tomorrow (today?) include exploring Reykjavík and attending a service at Loftstofan Church! More updates to come!

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