September 22, 2015: The taxi was waiting outside the front door of Hospederia San Martin Pinerio at 6:30. We hopped in with our gear and directed the driver to take us to the airport. It was interesting to drive through the city in darkness, and we both noticed how beautifully it was lit up. By the time we reached the airport, it was light. We were both feeling sad that we would be leaving in a couple of hours, but still anxious to get home. We checked in at Iberia Air and spent a little time watching the shrink wrap operation before going through security and heading towards our gate. Heather saved a table for us and I went through the cafeteria line and got some breakfast items for us. When we had finished eating, we got a seat near our gate and waited for the flight to be called up.
After an hour or so, we got in line to board and began a conversation with a Danish woman in front of us who was intrigued by Heather’s scarf. She wound up sitting next to us on the plane and we continued the conversation all the way to Madrid. When we got off the plane, it seemed as if we had to walk the entire length of T4 to get to the airport shuttle that took us to the other terminal where our US Airways plane was docked. To get to the boarding area we had to go through another passport control and questioning protocol. Then it was about an hour before we could board the plane.
The trip to Charlotte was relatively uneventful. I was able to watch 3 movies on my seat-back video screen, while Heather watched some TV shows and a couple of other movies. The airline served us two meals that were not too bad actually.
We arrived on time in Charlotte, NC and proceeded to the customs control and waited in line to get our passport stamped. Then we picked up our bags and transferred them to the connecting flights desk. Upstairs, I exchanged the last of my Euros at the kiosk, and then we wound our way to the gate to catch our flight to Sacramento. Not too long after, we were ready to board, and this is when the trouble began. After sitting on the plane for half an hour, the pilot announced that there was trouble with a couple of the warning lights that was preventing them from taking off until that problem was sorted out. A large groan emitted from all the passengers. After sitting on the plane for more than an hour, they finally announced that they could not fix the issue, and that we would all have to de-board the plane, and they would have another flight for us.
Two hours later, at the other end of the airport, we finally got on a new plane and settled in for the flight home. Needless to say, everyone was tired and irritable by this time. Before getting on the plane, I called my friend Norm who was going to pick us up at Sacramento airport and updated him on the status of the flight. I told him that we could get a taxi home, if it was getting too late for him, but he insisted that he would be there, no matter what the time. Great to have friends like this! My memory is hazy about this last leg of the trip, but I think they served us more food and drink.
At Sacramento airport, we arrived during a late-night security drill which had the place locked down tightly except for our flight. Heather found Norm outside at arrivals and I waited for our bags to come in on the conveyor belt. An hour later we were home safely. I calculated that from the time we got on the taxi in Santiago until walking into our house, it was 27 hours! Whew!
Our dog, Stogie, was overjoyed to see us, so we spent some time playing with him, then had a bowl of cereal before crawling into bed. Tomorrow we would begin the re-entry process. As anyone who has made a trip of this sort knows, we were drained, emotionally and physically — filled with gratitude that we were home safely, but also feeling melancholy that we would not be walking the next day to a new exciting location.