Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How I came to be back in Texas....

“If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent out Texas and live in Hell” 
― Philip Henry Sheridan

I love the quote above.  It clearly sums up my feelings on Texas, and yet I keep ending back here over and over and over again.  The plan, after I left last week, was to not come back until the end of the year, but as all things in regards to this trip, things have changed....... again.  But, I'll come back to that.

Monday morning, got a slow start again, and headed out to the ocean.  The first major stop was at La Jolla Children's Pool.  There were about 50-100 seals at this location, with quite a few pups, so stopped there and watched them play in the waves, resting on the beach, nursing, etc, for quite a while before walking up the sidewalk there along the ocean.  I LOVE the Pacific Ocean.  The last time I moved away from Texas, I narrowed my move options down to VA and OR, and horses were what led me to VA instead of OR, but I think I would have been just as happy in Oregon, being able to travel 101 anytime I wanted, driving through the forests, visiting Crater Lake, etc.  I am much more of a Western Oregon girl than a eastern Oregon person.  As many times as I've traveled the Oregon coast, though, I have only seen a small part (San Diego) of the California coast once, so this was a great experience.  I continued along up the coast, enjoying the view, but I had been really thinking about going to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  I saw the sign for Escondido, and said, why not?  And, off I went.  By the time I got there, it was around 3pm, and I wish I had gotten there much earlier.  I had kept hearing about the safari tram, so I thought all it was was riding a tram around the park (safari style), and that was it. NOOOOOOO......It's the San Diego Zoo's breeding area, so there are a lot of young/baby animals there, and a variety of just adult animals as well.  The enclosures are huge, to mimic more natural surroundings, to encourage natural behavior in the animals (such as breeding).  My favorite part of the whole thing?  The Lemur Walk.  Have you been to one of those zoos that have the walk through area with either lorakeets or other birds of various kinds that you can go through and take pictures, and get close to them without fences?  Well, this was that, but with lemurs, which is SOOOO much better!  It was an amazing experience.  If the park wasn't closing at 5, and I had gotten there earlier, I could have easily spent an hour or more in there.  Loved it.  Then, you do take a tram through one of the African sections, with a lot of horned animals, and giraffes, and birds and things on this great big "savannah".  They also own a large section of land that they are not developing, that they are saving from being developed because it is home to some endangered species in California.  So, I was very impressed with their ethics.  That they are working on conservation through appropriate handling of the animals, and not so concerned about the bottom line, and also trying to conserve local land.  It was well worth the trip out of the way.  Then headed back to the coast and tried to camp at a state campground for the night.  Not that easy.  I have a lot of problems with the California state parks.  They charge $10/day to get in.  There are no several day/week/month passes.  The only other option they offer is a year pass for $195, which is more than twice what I paid for my annual NATIONAL park pass.  And, you can't just stop at the park and get a camp spot.  You have to go online and register, and it has to be at least 2 days in advance.  And, it's $30 for an off the coast spot, $50 for an ocean front spot.  Ridiculous.

During the day, I had also spoken to USAA (finally) regarding my car.  They sat up a time the next day for an area where I would be, to get an estimate on the repairs.  So, I found a place to stop for the night, and the next morning, drove along the coast a little further before reaching the auto body shop.  The people there were VERY nice and helpful.  The guy looked at my car, and said it was too dangerous to continue driving, which I wasn't TOO surprised by.  The problem was, there were no easy fixes, nothing they could do just to keep it road worthy until I get back to VA in a month.  And repairs were going to take about 2 weeks.  Called USAA.  They still hadn't gotten ahold of the agent at Geico to figure out whose fault the accident was, and to see if we could set up hotel arrangements for the 2 weeks I was waiting to get my car fixed.  Either way, I was going to have to pay for out of pocket expenses, and then hopefully get reimbursed, so I started looking at flights, thinking it would be a cheaper to catch a flight somewhere where I could stay with someone, than try and stay in a hotel for 2 weeks.  Found a flight out of a local airport, called a cab, packed up my stuff quickly, and got ready to head to the airport.  In the meantime, the Geico agent called me, went over what happened, said that the guy hadn't even called them yet, so she hadn't talked to him, and could not say that it was his fault, but that if that ended up being the case, they would cover the hotel costs or a flight.  Whatever.  Headed to the airport.  Arrived at SNA.  Went to check in.  "We don't have a 1:55 flight"  Ummm....maybe I got the time wrong?  She looks up my  name.  "Honey, we don't show you flying out of here today."  OMG.  Did I somehow not hit the right button?  Pulled up my email.  Here it is.  Flying from LAX to DFW via *some city*.  "Honey, this isn't LAX."  OMG.  Ok, so I knew this airport wasn't LAX.  But, I was trying to throw this together at the last minute, and I knew I had put in SNA as the departure airport, but I must have clicked on the "surrounding airports" button, and forgot to check.  Ok, is there a shuttle between the airports?  "Yes, but it's kind of expensive.  Let me just see what I can do."  Now, this is the amazing part.  Remember how much I hate Delta?  Well, they were the only ones that had a reasonably priced very last minute ticket in the short time frame that I had to look at them.  This was the first Delta representative who didn't care that it was my fault that I made this mistake, or that there might be a difference in prices, she took quite a bit of time to work with me, and get me on a flight out of SNA instead of LAX, so that I wouldn't have to pay the shuttle. I did not ask her to do this, nor would I have expected her to.  She did it on her own, and without any problems.  This is what normally happens when I fly American And USAirway, but NEVER when I fly Delta, and I told her that.  And, I told her how much I appreciated her help.  The only thing was that my connecting flight wasn't until the next morning out of the layover city, but I assured her that was not an issue, because my second flight on my original ticket got in the next morning.  She did suggest that I check in at the gate when I get there, to see if I could get it changed.  So, I'm at my layover, check the screen for DFW departure, find the gate, and go up to talk to the lady.  I need to see if I can get my ticket changed to tonight.  Now, mind you, at this point, I was not being demanding.  I was not really expecting to get my ticket changed, I was just hopeful.  I had not done anything to get attitude from the person, but that was what I got right away.  TOTAL opposite from my earlier experience.  "Did you not know your second flight was in the morning?  Was this flight sold out when you bought your ticket, because it's sold out now?"  Yes, ma'am, I knew that my flight was in the morning, but that was what was available, so I got it.  I understand your sold out at this point, but if you could put me on standby, that would be great.  "Well, you realize there's a $50 charge for that?"  Excuse me?!?!?!?!  "There's a $50 charge if we get you on this flight, since you were booked for in the morning and not on this flight."  Well, what the heck, if there's going to be a charge anyways, I saw that there was a flight to Austin tonight.  Would it be possible to get me on that flight instead?  "Well, then you'd have to pay for the price difference between the two tickets, and they're booked full anyways, as well."  At this point, I gave up, had her put my name on the standby list, which already had quite a few people, so was not expecting to get on, and walked away.  But, once again, I am appalled by Delta's overall policies, and the attitudes of 99% of the people that work for them.  And, I am so grateful after the morning I had at the car place, that the first person I ran into was not that way.  I have switched my flights on other airlines before, to get on an earlier flight, without any problems.  Most airlines figure, if they have room, why not help you out by getting you there earlier?  Then, they can either sell the seat you had, or give it to one of the people they have probably already overbooked, or have on standby.  And they don't charge you.  Reason #846 why I do not fly Delta.  All that to say, in the end, I was able to get on that flight, and thankfully, my mom loves me enough to pick me up at the airport at midnight! :-)  So, here I am, back in Texas for 2 weeks.

Oh, and I think I forgot to mention, I received a return call from Geico that they had talked to the idiot who ran into me, and they are not taking responsibility for the accident.  I told them I would be happy to take them to court over it, and she said, "Go ahead."  So, I emailed this information to USAA along with a couple of things they could do to help make the case against them.  Will see how it turns out.  I mean, in the end, it's not the end of the world either way.  The difference is my deductible with my insurance, and my flight.  But the flight was cheaper than the amount I would have even spent on gas driving for those two weeks by quite a bit, and the deductible, well, I would just have to deal with it.  But, if USAA can't get them to pay, I probably will at least speak with an attorney to see if it's even worth pursuing, or if it would be more trouble than it's worth.  At the end of the day, I was not injured, my car will get fixed (or replaced), and the trip will continue one way or another.  Life goes on.  I'm definitely learning how to just go with the flow on this trip.  It's a very good learning/growing experience!

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