Saturday, January 16, 2010

International Travel

Last weekend Sarah and I had the great pleasure of traveling to Quebec to stay with our friends at their condominium at Mont Tremblant. This is the highest-rated east coast ski area, and while it suffers from the stereotypical East coast ice (which is really an artifact of artificial snow anywhere), it was actually quite fun. Not only was the nightlife in town very decent (as seems to be the case in most Intrawest resorts) but the skiing was good. Though I'm told the snow levels were somewhat below normal (and honestly, an extra foot to bury the occasional rock wouldn't have hurt), I did manage to find sufficiently challenging terrain.

The GPS indicated 40.5 miles skied on Day 1, and 43.9 miles skied on Day 2.

And then on Sunday night, Sarah and I had the great misfortune of traveling internationally to the United States. We got dropped off at the airport 5 hours before our flight as that's how the travel schedule for everyone involved worked out, but at least we didn't stress too much. Sadly, the entire process was one miscommunication after another. The Delta check in clerk told us no carry ons were allowed except a camera, a bare laptop, and a woman's purse. I showed a different Delta agent my camera bag, and they said it would be okay, but when it finally came time to check in, the first agent said the camera must be around my neck and the bag would need to be checked. We also had to argue to get our formerly free carry-on rollerboards checked for free. She also told us our neck pillows wouldn't be allowed, but acquiesced to allow us to ask security -- who felt up the pillows but said they would be allowed.

After an hour or two of packing and re-packing, we checked our four bags -- one ski bag with accompanying (but free) boot bag, and our two rollerboards (including one with both the laptop and the camera lenses inside protected by a dinky lock -- more on that later). We proceeded to the security screening where they promptly told us Sarah's "purse" was too big. I say "purse" because we had taken a small bag and put her real purse inside it, along with some other small things (like books and magazines). Of course it was very subjective and personally distasteful as women with ginormous bags got through just fine -- as long as it looked like a purse it was okay, but if it was small but not a stereotypical purse it was bad. Seriously, some of the purses could have held my rollerboard.

Fortunately we had coats, and despite size, as long as everything could be pocketed, it was okay so we didn't actually have to re-check anything. At x-ray Sarah's heated boot caused much interest. Sadly not because it had wires and batteries inside the lining, but because all the Canadian security staff wanted to know where they could buy one. Whatever, at least that wasn't too much hassle. Then onto US customers (in Montreal?!) which had a bona-fide US CBP guy who looked at us sternly but didn't really say much. Then we thought we were through when we got dumped into the duty free store just like you get dumped into the museum gift shop on the way out of a museum. But no! A secondary screening (tertiary, perhaps?) consisted of 8 tables of 6 security people each. They proceeded to rifle through everything even opening the lipstick. But the seal of approval was a highlighter X written on your boarding pass. Then to leave the screening area you had to show another guard your X'd pass. Of course, despite their diligent checking, the security folks X'd both of my boarding passes and neither of Sarah's (they had failed to actually look at the departure airport on the passes). We went back, got the requisite X, then went on to eat and browse for 3 hours before our flight.

The flight itself was fine, and at least we got to move around and read if we wanted to. A flight

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