Sunday, March 22, 2009

South Padre Island vacation

Great place to vacation, a Snowbird destination for those who trailer or rent.

We flew from Detroit to Houston, TX aboard an overbooked flight on Northwest Airlines. It was a direct flight and we arrived shortly after 5pm, picked up a rental car at Alamo. We drove to Quality Suites a couple of miles from Bush International Airport.
Room accommodations were excellent, too much actually for two people just staying overnight. We had bedroom, living room and kitchen facilities that were top line clean.
There was not much in the immediate area without a drive on busy roads but I wasn’t going to let hunger get the best of me, so I drove down the road a couple of miles to a Jack-In-the Box. Having never eaten at one before, I opted for a couple of their all day breakfast sandwiches, the wife had a regular hamburger.
Expecting those little breakfast biscuits, our sandwiches were huge. One would have been plenty for a hungry fellow. Is everything in Texas bigger?

Up early at 6am, a quick continental breakfast courtesy of Quality Suites and hit the road. It is a Monday morning and traffic is heavy. Thank goodness! For a Garmin GPS to direct me. Houston TX has a love affair with bridges and over passes, also, toll roads. Who would have ever thought we would need to bring a pocket full of change for toll roads. Six, seven, eight lanes of traffic all rushing to get through the tolls. What a person really needs is an E-Z Pass. I had neither, and I wasn’t about to hold up some pistol carrying Texan while I ran across several lanes to get change. Another good point; get in the right lane; the one that is about two miles long and say’s, Bills Changed. I got on a bumper and almost pushed an EZ Toll’er through the gate, and went like hell before the arm came down. I spent the next six hours looking over my shoulder for the long arm of the law’s blinking cherry.

Texas is big country. Miles of table top flat land. Huge cultivated fields as far as the eye could see. Made me think of some poor Mexican hoeing a row and never seen again.

We finally arrived 6 hrs later, at our destination motel in Port Isabel; a nice little town on the opposite side of the bay from South Padre Island (2 miles by the biggest bridge).
Our friends who were staying at Long Island Village (a gated community) came to meet us and show us around. We spent two quality weeks enjoying our stay, meeting new friends and enjoying some great eats. But! I will save that for another day, when I can get some pictures up.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

South Padre Island a Texas Vacation - Part 1

Friends have asked us for the last couple of years, to come to Texas for a winter vacation. We booked this year un-be-known that our children had purchased us a Christmas present to Florida which included a cruise.

Our travel agent was a screw-up.
My original plans where to drive down to Texas, I arranged a place to stay for two weeks, in Port Isabel Texas, which is on the bay side of South Padre Island. Then one day while walking through a local mall, we thought, lets just check on flights. Supposedly good deals in flights abound.
The travel agent- Here is a good flight deal that includes a rental car from Alamo. Yes! Why drive.
Two weeks of unlimited mileage, we only had to pay the taxes. Only big problem was we had to drive from Houston to Port Isabel, agent said a two hour drive. We would land in Houston at 11.30 and be in our room by 2 or 3 oclock. Sounds good! book it; no cancellation insurance. Everyone has their hand out for extras, kind of like the extended warranties on purchases. I had faith, we were going to fly instead of drive, unless a health problem arose, we would not cancel. We were looking forward to visiting with friends.

Check the map, Dougie Boy; that looks like a long drive from Houston. It was a six hour drive according to a Texas friend, who happens to live near Houston.
Oh well! We have time and will get to see some of the great state of Texas.

Received our Flight details in the mail after a couple of requests to the Travel Agent who said, “not to worry, I will mail them to you”. When received a week or so before our trip, they were not the times we agreed too. Instead of a early flight out of Detroit aboard Northwest Airlines, we had a later flight putting us into Houston, too dark to drive for six hours in unknown highways and never seeing the land. Coming back, we had a early flight, trouble is, I would have to travel in the dark again to get back to Houston airport.

At this point, I was all for going in and choking the living daylights out of the little-shit-agent. The wife, asked me to exercise, calm.
I did.
Sir! Please cancel my arrangement for flight to Houston. That is not what we previously arranged.
“Can’t do that, there was no cancelation policy”.
“And just who gave you the authorization to reschedule my flight?”
Travel Agent- “I have no control, because the airline rescheduled the flight”
Got you! I was checking the flight details on the computer and it wasn’t rescheduled. Who did he think he was kidding, besides, why would I have to stay overnight in Detroit, I could make the 4 hour drive to the airport for a later flight.

To make a long story, short.
He would pay for a nights stay in Houston upon arrival (one day less in beautiful South Padre). Our Detroit Ramada stay was added to our return instead of our out going. Oh well, we would be tired after our 3am, 6 hour drive back to the airport in Houston and another 4 hours from Detroit to home.
We really were looking forward to seeing our friends, who over-winter in Texas every year. We accepted.

Those taxes we had to pay on the rental car amounted two hundred and some bucks. Did the travel agent again stick it to us? We left a day early to drive back to Houston in daylight hours. No big deal, the weather was cool and rained all the way back. A extra night in a motel out of pocket.

We forfeited our night’s stay at the Ramada on return to Detroit. The parking at Detroit only included one week, so we had to pay one week of $65 to get the car out. In hindsight, I should have just paid straight two weeks to Park & Fly and forgone the Ramada overnight. I had checked with the Agent about that and the answer was it is only 10 bucks more to stay over, Yeah right! If you don’t included the second week in the fee. Park & fly was very efficient to and from airport, the way to go in the future.

Moral of the story, do your own bookings and get all the details.
In summary! I think I will go to the mall and choke the little-shit-agent.

When I get a chance, I will post about our Texas vacation, so bookmark this site if you wish to read more. I will not be giving any further notice of postings.