Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday: The Saga Of The 60th City

Good Morning Everybody,

Although it is probably well into the afternoon for many of you reading my post today.  We are now in Honolulu where we have a 5 hour time change from my normal EST locale.  No problem, the post must go on.

In today's post, I'm transgressing from the normally photographically centric content in order to give you a peek behind the scenes of the "trials and tribulations" of putting on a national tour. 

Yep, I've said it before, this is city #60 of my DWUC tour.  Tonight will be the last time I present "Digital WakeUp Call - A New Dawn." The program has been a kick to present and we've loved our audiences and the special people we have met along the way. But getting to city #60 has been quite the adventure.

We were up bright and early yesterday morning, actually at the "crack of dawn" about 6:00 a.m. so we could repack our bags for the long trip to Honolulu.  We left Cincinnati with over 500 lbs of tour supplies including the DWUC tour handbooks, vendor materials, tour DVD's etc.  Fortunately we are Delta Medallion travelers and are permitted to take most of it with us with an extra charge.  I'll tell you, getting to the airport and checking in 8 bags weighing in at 500 lbs. is no picnic.

0001-Saga Pics-IMG_2810 After the Las Vegas program we reduced what we had carried but picked up 14 more boxes of vendor supplies at our venue on Monday.  Now we were essentially repacking with all the necessary materials for the Honolulu program.  We had to watch our travel weight once again.

Although the flight didn't leave till 11:00 a. m. we arrived about 8:30 a.m., checked in easily, and just strolled through the Las Vegas airport till we boarded our flight, lifted off to Las Angeles arriving 1 hour later safe and sound.

Now we had a 3 hour wait till we  boarded the flight to Hawaii. We were on board and on our way by 2:45 p.m.  Lift off was kind of shaky,  I was thinking, man, give it the "juice" we're going to run out of runway - seconds later, we were airborne.  The sun was shining brightly over the soft waves of the ocean and LaDawn and I were in the process of settling in for a relaxing 6 hour flight to Honolulu. 

0002-Saga Pics-IMG_2819 It was about 20 minutes after lift-off that the pilot made the first announcement about a possible maintenance problem but it didn't look serious and we, the passengers, shouldn't worry.  Sure, 6 hours over nothing but water and we shouldn't worry ;~)

Minutes later, it was escalated to a real maintenance issue, and 10 minutes after that we were headed back to the airport. After being in a holding pattern for some time, our plane was back on it's glide path to LAX.

0003-Saga Pics-IMG_2821 Next came the pilot's next announcement instructing us not to worry.  It went something like this.  "Folks, don't worry when we touch down and you see all the fire trucks lined up on the runway. It's normal procedure and happens all the time." 

I'm thinking what happens all the time - fire trucks lining up on the tarmac when a plane returns to the airport - how often does it happen?!!!

0004-Saga Pics-IMG_2823 As we landed the fire trucks were lined up on the runway as we touched down.  We made our way back to the gate, parked the plane, and maintenance types rushed onto the the plane.  How long would the delay be - none of us were sure.

We were ushered off the plane and back into the passenger lounge - it is now 3:45 p.m. As LaDawn said, "Wow, for getting up at 6:00 a.m. we sure haven't traveled far in the last 9 hours."

0006-Saga Pics-IMG_2829 I roamed around the passenger lounge and chatted up whom ever I can find to see if I could get the rest of the story.  Well, it seems that the fan that keeps the plane's electrical circuitry cool during flight had malfunctioned and stopped working.  Uhmm, probably a big problem for a six hour flight, mostly over water, that just started. At this point, I'm kind of glad we turned around and headed back.

But here is the rest of the story.  It turns out that this fan was replaced just before take off - and now it was broke again!  The FAA chap I spoke with mentioned that they got the spare fan from United.  "Was it new? I asked.  His answer kind of surprised me - "No sir, not new, but serviceable."  Oh good, I thought used parts were used to fix the plane the first time around. Hey, what do I know, I guess that's how they do things.

Now here's the deal.  When a part goes out like this, they send out an "all points" bulletin to all the other airlines' maintenance departments to see if anyone has the part.  This is the second time today, this plane needs the part.  I'm thinking, "Am I lucky if they find the part? Maybe another used one, install it, and we take off again only with the second part possibly going out 3 hours later at 30,000 feet."  Hey, what are you going to do - it's air travel.

I contacted our hotel in Honolulu to notify them of our very late arrival.  I did the same with the car rental company, too.  They closed their offices at midnight so that looked like that part of our itinerary might be in jeopardy.  The National car rental agent assured me that there would be no problem - I was relieved.  Remember, we still had around 400 lbs. of tour supplies to get off the plane and over to the hotel.

0005-Saga Pics-IMG_2827 The pilot comes out about a hour later and says they "think" they have a replacement part - he will get back with us......shortly.  Fortunately about 30 minutes after that he re-appears, mentions that they do indeed have the fan part and it is being installed as he spoke.

The cheer went up in the passenger lounge and about an hour later we were being re-boarded.

By 7:45 p.m. we were finally airborne again - whew!!!  In my mind there was still the small issue of getting to the rental car office before they closed.  I decided to sit back, relax, and enjoy an adult beverage.

0007-Saga Pics-IMG_2834 Well, you guessed it - the famous fan made it, the plane made, and all of us made it safe and sound to Honolulu landing at 11:30 p.m.  Now the rush to National Car Rental.  I made it with 15 minutes to spare and proceeded to rent my car. 

It's 20 hours since we woke up to leave for the trip to Hawaii - could there be another surprise while simply renting a car?  Turns out there was.  The National agent I spoke with on the phone 7 hours earlier thought I wouldn't make it in time to rent the car and re-booked the reservation for pick up on the next day. 

Well, the next day, was 15 minutes away, but I was renting the car now - I had managed to make it to their counter before closing time.  Things were good or so I supposed. It turns out National wanted to charge me an extra day's rental for the  15 minute early pick up!!! WHAT!

After a very patient conversation with the manager of the National office, they credited the extra day's charge - I was finally on my way back to pick up LaDawn with all the bags. We were on our way to the hotel - well almost. The GPS malfunctioned at the outset and we went 28 miles out of our way in getting to the hotel.

No problem, we arrived about 1:15 a.m. at the Hilton Grand Waikikian Hotel relieved we had finally made it.  Jorel, yes just like the name of Superman's father, checked us in.  He was about the nicest, most competent hotel person I have ever met - talk about customer service.  It turns out we got a nice room upgrade to the 35 floor looking out over the city and the ocean - nice.

0008-Saga Pics-IMG_2836 The beautiful morning presented itself to us when we awoke 5 hours later and once we had a chance to take it all in, the room and the views were gorgeous - talk about "clean livin'".

We rose to an easy morning, checked out our meeting room it's perfect for tonight's program.  I have to say, I'm stoked about presenting the final program later on this evening and meeting the nearly 100 photogs planning to attend. So ends the “Saga of the 60th City.”

0009-Saga Pics-IMG_2839 Now on to the flip side of this trip - it was quite the adventure to get here and now that we are LaDawn and I begin a week long vacation in Hawaii starting tomorrow - we can't wait.  Look for the posts to come out a bit leisurely for the next week.  I'll be thinking of all of you out there reading DPT, but we are are going to be taking in the beautiful island too.

See everybody sometime tomorrow ;~)  Aloha, -David


  1. Next time check out Marriott's facilities in Ko Olina. You'll have the beach for yourself and you don't have to pay for parking.

    Enjoy your vacation. Mahalo.

  2. My goodness! Bless you & LaDawn.

  3. Gives a whole new perspective to flying when this happens to you doesn't it David lol ... I know and feel what you went through ... I had something like this happen to me flying to Belgium, everything was fine until the announcement that their "could be something wrong but not to worry" ... if you don't want us to worry then don't tell us lol ... so anyway, we land safely and like in your case, fire trucks everywhere ... still not worrying lol ... the plane stops dead on the runway, firetrucks close in and ... and ... the front wheel collapses ... I do not think I have EVER sweated this much in my life lol ... I am laughing now, but trust me I was NOT back then ...

    May you and LaDawn and whoever is close to you always be safe David


  4. Glad you're okay! You know, those airline people try to make everything sound better. Such as:

    "in the event of a water landing" = "in case we crash"

    "your seat becomes a flotation device" = "your seat officially becomes debri you can try and cling on to".

  5. I'm glad to hear you're staying for a week. You deserve it after a long tour.

  6. I'm sure you and LaDawn are in need of this week long vacation after doing the 60 day tour, specially just getting to the last venue. Enjoy yourselves. You deserved it.

  7. Sounds like a crazy trip David.

    Glad you and LaDawn are safe and I hope you two enjoy your vacation! You deserve it.

  8. Whew! what an adventure. I hope both of you have a wonderful vacation. Why not make it 2 weeks? :)

  9. Hey David, Sounds like you had a fun flight like we did. ;-D The comment from the flight attendant that we had that I liked was "Oh, don't worry. The wings are supposed to flap like that..." Don't forget to fill up the car, the top off charge over there is criminal!

  10. Just a word about 'serviceable' parts. Airplane parts are expensive. Crazy expensive. On the other hand being airplane parts causes them to have very extensive documentation describing how long they may stay installed on the aircraft before they have to be replaced (that's what makes them so expensive). Sometimes they are being taken off the aircraft for reasons other than being worn out (a.g. as part of bigger assembly being replaced) and then are 'cannibalized' out of it and returned to service. The word 'serviceable' means that after the part was disassembled it was carefully inspected and marked on a special document as still being safe and sound. I'd rather look for bad installation as contributing factor for the fan failure than the fan itself being broken.