Cruisin’ To Costa Rica 2012
Updated: Aug 29
One summer, I booked into an annual American vs. Canadians golf tournament (CAN-USA) in Michigan, a chance to hang with old and new friends, a mix of Windsor and Detroit golfers, our side organized by my buddy Jack Renner (of Road to Tucson fame). Our contingent met in Windsor and crossed over to play in Mount Clemens.
I was paired with Paul Kuerek, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. Paul and I have played a few rounds of golf together over the years and we've always had a blast. Paul brought me up to date on his life and mentioned he owned 4 small condos in Playa Coco, Costa Rica. He and his partner Lori had been spending the past few winters down in CR escaping south as do so many Canadians, renting out the units to weather weary Canadians.
We exchanged some emails after that about renting the possibility of renting a condo. I checked online, and as it was only August I booked three round trip tickets on points for March break- basically free tickets (small tax portion only). As the condos were ensuites, featuring a small kitchen and double bed, I realized this would not work for Elaine and I plus our daughter Rosalie, so we booked two units. We were hoping Rose could bring a friend but that did not pan out.
Time goes by slowly and quickly and before we knew it, the day arrived when we were scheduled to fly south. We had once stopped in Puerto Limon on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica in 2005 while on an exotic cruise and liked what we saw. We'd taken the crews advice and visited a nearby beach, spent the day relaxing and swimming. We thought an extended stay in CR would be a good call, as we had rented a villa in Grenada Nicaragua in 2008 for almost three weeks and had a blast.
Out the door to the airport. The bad news was that the flight had been moved up from 7:30am to 6:30 am. Guess what- we had to be up at 4 am to ensure we were on time for our departure. At US Customs, the agent informed me that my passport was invalid. My first thought was that I had grabbed an expired one. But then I realized I had already triple-checked, so I said I did not understand.
The guy was a bit of a jerk off and yanked my chain for a while then finally informed me that I had not signed my passport. This after travelling through customs in Hong Kong and Bali twice, and Toronto. When my heart finally stopped racing I signed the damn thing and we were on our way.
Even though it was 5 am at airport parking, the temp was quite mild for March. Windsor was about to have a taste of spring, 60 degrees so I didn’t even bother with a jacket, just a golf vest and shorts!
We had full day in Miami as our flight to Liberia CR was not until 6 pm ( we landed in MIA at 9:30a m). I made arrangements to rent a car, and as they couldn’t provide us the vehicle we wanted they upgraded us to a Mazda 6, which was peppy but of course no match for our E-Class Mercedes. We drove up the coast from south beach to Pompano Beach, which was a giant wall of condos and hotels with narry a sight of the ocean or beach. The day was gloomy, overcast and rainy so we were not in full holiday mode yet.
We had a great albeit quick visit with friends Don and Cathy, who said it was the finest winter, weather-wise since they’d been coming to Florida. We walked down to the beach but the wind was howling and the rain came down in earnest. We hightailed it out of there and drove back the airport along I-95. The traffic gods smiled upon us as the entire freeway heading north was completely jammed with a major traffic accident- it extended for miles as we drove south. Had it been the other way we surely would have missed our flight.
Back at MIA airport, Elaine began to complain about stomach issues. As we flew southwest following a gorgeous sunset, she felt really feel sick, including vomiting into the air sickness bag. Not good. She tried in vain to hold it together when we landed. A comedy of errors was set in motion, as the ground crew could not pull the ramp up against the plane.
We waited until they drove an old school ramp, the one with the ladder. We had to walk down and then cross the tarmac in a howling wind (Rosalie said the landing was “terrifying” in the cross wind). Elaine was really in bad shape physically, and once our bags arrived (yes!) we had to pass through customs and have our bags x-rayed- which was a total joke as the bags kept stacking up at the end of the conveyor and the security paid no attention to the bags being x-rayed. Our bags, including our precious laptops, were crushed under pile of heavy cases.
Elaine had another attack of the heaves, and I grabbed her arm while trying to steer her to the nearest washroom, across the arrivals lounge. I dropped Elaine at the washroom, and headed back to see how Rosalie was making out, when I saw a porter headed out the front door with my laptop bag. I chased after him, not sure what was happening but ready for any eventuality. I grabbed the bag, which contained not only my laptop, but our passports and cash for the condo rental.
Apparently the laptop bag fell of the baggage cart when Rosalie decided she needed to sit and moved the cart toward the window. She hadn't noticed my bag fall off the bag cart as she was delirious and tired. The porter thought the bag had fallen off a cart from a tour group getting into a bus- a case of mistaken identity but looking an awful lot like a snatch and grab.
To recap- my wife was sick, vomiting etc…My daughter is bone tired and loses track of our most important bag which is saved in the nick of time. And to top it off our friends Paul and Lori were nowhere in sight.
Of course there wasn't any wifi in the airport, even though it was ultra-modern, so I could skype them. At the phone booth the machine would not accept my card and yes everything was in Spanish. Evidently I looked frazzled at this point, and a taxi driver walked up and in perfect English asked if I need help.
I explain our dilemma and he hands me his cel phone. I call Paul’s number, lo and behold it rings- and yes Paul answers. The flight info I sent them said the plane landed at 8:30 pm but did not allow for local time, which would have been 7:30 pm Central Time. This is the third screw up from the British Airways/American Airlines partnership on OneWorld- what a joke but I am not laughing.
Soon enough Paul and Lori haul ass to the airport, which Paul says he makes in 17 minutes instead of the usual 30. God bless him. We are relieved beyond belief, hop in his huge Dodge Ram pick up (another story) and head to Playa Ocotel to our condos.
Safe and sound…..