Heading to Graduation

Heading to Graduation

Grand Junction, Colorado – May 15, 2014

The usual 02:30 departure from home put us at the airport at about 03:30. That is where we encountered our first bump in the road.
Leslie and I had decided on this trip we would not check any bags, we would use carry-ons. I did not realize there was a weight limit for carry-on bags. I thought that if the bag would fit in the “sizer” at the gate, then all was good; not so much. The agent told us our bags were overweight. That meant we would be charged $150 US for each bag. We had no choice, so we did not complain. She said she would get her supervisor to come to the counter.
A few minutes later, the supervisor was there. We explained our ignorance and asked for forgiveness. He was very kind and said he would let us pass; however, he was not sure what may happen in Port of Spain. We thanked him for his kindness and said we would take our chances in Port of Spain.
About an hour and a half later, we were boarding the Caribbean Airlines plane. Much to our surprise, we pushed away from the gate about ten minutes early. Caribbean is a friendly airline, but they are not always the most punctual, hence our surprise.
In a short 55 minutes, we were at the airport in Port of Spain. We were surprised again when they did not make us deplane and then re-board, the ordinary course of events. That thankfully meant we would have no baggage weight issues hanging over our heads.
Even though we did not get off the plane, we still “went” through immigration. One of the immigration workers boarded the flight to check everyone’s ticket and passport. A short time later we were in the air for our nearly four-hour flight to Miami.
We landed in Miami right on time. We got off the plane and headed to immigration with our bags in tow. We breezed through there and customs and then began our trek to the American Airlines counter.
When we checked in at a kiosk and had our tickets printed, I noticed the phrase “TSA Pre-Check.” Nothing registered with me about that phrase until we got to the security checkpoint and I saw a lone TSA employee sitting below a sign with the same phrase. There was no one in this particular line. We asked him if we could go through that line, to which he replied yes. It was wonderful; we just zipped right through.
Once we were on the other side of security, we headed to our gate. It just so happened there was a restaurant near our gate, so we stopped for lunch.

Sitting at our gate and an old Denver Bronco shirt strolls by!
Some beautiful artwork in the Miami International Airport.

At the gate, we took a seat to wait for the 15:30 boarding call. Outside we could see some very dark and ominous clouds approaching. At about the same time there was a “breaking news” segment on TV in which they said a tornado had been spotted on the ground one mile west of the Miami International Airport…our second speed bump this trip.
When I heard that report, I began to dread the evacuation of the terminal. I was quite surprised when that never happened. Regardless, I watched closely to see if I could spot any rotation in the clouds. Periodically I looked across the concourse. I could still see planes taking off, bathed in sunlight.
Rain began to fall before boarding began. The rain fell harder and harder. It was so bad at one point that one could barely make out the parked plane. After a couple of dozen passengers boarded, one of the pilots emerged from the jetway and spoke to the agent handling the boarding. Boarding stopped immediately. Soon, the boarded passengers emerged from the jetway. The entire time, the rain became worse. We overheard one of the pilots stated that boarding could not begin until the lightning stopped. We had not seen lightning, but it was no doubt associated with the storm.
The scheduled departure for our flight was 16:00; however, at that time, we were still waiting to board. By then, the skies began to clear. Finally, at about 16:30, boarding started again. We nervously boarded the plane, worried we would miss our connection from Dallas to Grand Junction. We were one full hour late when the plane pushed back from the gate at 17:00.
Shortly before the plane pushed back, an Army major sat in the window seat beside Leslie. He asked where we were going. Leslie told him of our trip from Guyana to Colorado for Hillary’s graduation. He was amazed when he found out we work at the United States Embassy in Guyana. He shared that he was with the Military Attaché office at the United States Embassy in Lima, Peru, what a small world! Leslie’s uncle Wayne was the Attaché to Lima, Peru in the late 1960s, what a coincidence!
The remainder of the flight to Dallas was uneventful.

Up in the air.

We landed at DFW at 19:20, a little more than one hour late. Upon landing, one of the flight attendants began reading connecting flight information. We learned we would arrive at gate A36 and our flight to Grand Junction would depart from gate B10. Looking in the back of the American Way magazine, I noticed a moving sidewalk connected the two terminals. It looked like such a short distance in the magazine…
With only about 30 minutes left before the next flight left, we began our mad dash to B10. Of course, several segments of the moving sidewalk were not performing as advertised…they were stationary! That made us walk all the faster.
As I approached B10, I saw the area was empty. That did not worry me; I just figured everyone was on board. That calm thought was quickly shattered when I saw the screen behind the gate counter indicated the departure was for Des Moines! I told Leslie to stay there as I dashed another 100 feet or so down the concourse to the departure screens. I saw our flight was departing out of gate B17.
I told Leslie I would run ahead to the gate to hold the plane. She agreed. I arrived at the gate and gave the agent our tickets. She said we could relax; everything was fine. Moments later, Leslie came. She was exhausted as we walked down the jetway to the plane. We had made it with nine minutes to spare!

Gate B16 at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

We relaxed in our seats for the relatively short flight to Grand Junction.
Our plane landed in Grand Junction ahead of schedule. Once the aircraft arrived at the gate, we waited for our carry-on bags to be delivered to the jetway. Since we did not check any luggage, we strolled right out of the airport to the waiting vehicle.
It was nice to be in Colorado again.
Once we arrived in Fruita, Colorado, family time began in earnest. We told Hillary she could open the graduation present from us when we arrived. She loved the ribbon on the box so much that she affixed it to her shirt. She opened the box and saw a toy car. It took her a while, but she finally understood that Grandma Miles and we were getting her a car for her graduation gift. We would go car shopping first thing tomorrow!

Photo time with the kids.
…and the crazy photo!
What is this gift??
Neither can believe it!
Tears of joy!
The family graduation photo…oh, the gift was a new car.

The morning of the commencement ceremony was beautiful; a bit chilly, but beautiful.

The happy mother on the morning of the graduation ceremony.

We packed up all of our passengers and headed to Colorado Mesa University’s Stocker Stadium in Grand Junction, Colorado. We had some people with us who had limited mobility. Because of that, we were ushered up into the tower on the east side of the stadium. That gave us a magnificent view of the field; however, it was in the shade. There was a bit of a breeze which, combined with the cold morning temperature, made it slightly uncomfortable. I finally gave in and went down to the concession stand where I spent too much money on two CMU Maverick fleece blankets for Leslie and me.
A bit warmer, we waited for the ceremony to begin. When the graduates started to walk onto the field to their seats, we began our quest to spot Hillary. I was reminded of National Geographic specials on penguins. In the mass of penguins in the colony, the parent penguins seem to be able to navigate directly to their particular chick. It worked similarly that morning. Leslie and I spotted Hillary with little effort.

This panorama shows all of the Colorado Mesa University graduates.
I know, they are kinda like penguin chicks. Only the penguin parents can actually spot their chick. Hillary is in the photo waving to the stands.

With Hillary properly located, we began the long wait until the “V’s” were called to the stage to receive their diplomas.  The fleece blankets at least made the wait tolerable.

Finally, Hillary’s row arose and walked to the stage.  It was quite rewarding for us to see Hillary walk across that stage.  We are very proud of her accomplishment.

Preparing to walk across the stage.
Receiving congratulations.
Posing for a photograph with THE diploma.
Walking off the stage.
Coming back down to earth…
Stopping for more congratulations!
Making her way back to her seat.

After the ceremony, we made our way to ground level to wait for Hillary to emerge.  When she did show up, she was beyond excited!

Leslie with a small bouquet, waiting for Hillary to arrive after the ceremony.
Standing like a statue…
The entry to CMU Stocker Stadium.
The release of the CMU colored balloons!
Hillary emerges past mom and grandma…
…running directly at the papa!

After all of the exciting reunions outside the stadium, we collected everyone and drove back to Fruita. Hillary’s honorary gathering was set to take place. It was a pleasant time with plenty of family photographs.

The proud parents with one of the newest graduates from CMU…
…and of course, the sparkly mortarboard!
Enjoying her success!
Sitting on the tree near the barn in Fruita, Colorado.
Hillary with Grandpa and Grandma Juvera.
Hillary and Grandma Miles.
Hillary with Aunt Ann and Aunt Arlene.
Hillary with Grandma Miles and Aunt Arlene.
Did I mention the sparkly mortarboard??
Hillary and Chris.
Hillary and Chris II.
The celebratory cake.
Cutting the cake.
Sitting on the ground in Fruita, Colorado.
Hillary and the other Chris.
The Tyler.
A pair of commencement programs.
Yep, Hillary’s name is definitely inside!

The Wednesday before we were to return to Guyana, Hillary had several of her friends over for dinner.  With the afternoon light, the photographs turned out great!

Becca, Hillary, Afton, and Katelyn in Fruita, Colorado.
The four ladies seem very, very happy!

Like all of our adventures, we began the day of travel to our home in Georgetown, Guyana very early in the morning. For some reason, this time, only Leslie’s ticket had the notification “TSA pre-check.” It did not matter; that option is not available at the Grand Junction Regional Airport anyway.
We boarded our plane at 05:45. We were right on time. Unfortunately, once we were in the air, we learned that there was a substantial amount of weather in southeastern Colorado. Our route would take us into west Texas instead of the direct course to Dallas.
Most of the flight was choppy to bumpy. We were to land in Dallas at 09:15, plenty of time to make our 10:30 flight to Miami. Unfortunately, we did not land until 09:40, then came the unending taxiing to our assigned gate, B30. While taxiing, the flight attendant informed us our next flight would leave from gate A10. When I looked at the diagram in the magazine, I saw there was no moving sidewalk between terminals. Our only option to try to make the flight was to utilize the Sky Train.
Meanwhile, we stopped just short of our arrival gate. It appears the ground crew was not ready for the arrival since we were late. That caused a further delay of nearly ten minutes, adding to our stress. When we finally got off the plane, we had to wait in the jetway for our carry-on bags. That seemed to take forever. As soon as the door opened, I grabbed our bags, and we headed to the Sky Train.
Luckily, we were able to catch the train right next to B30. Just as fortunate was the fact the Sky Train stopped next to A10. We made it to A10 only to find the flight was now at A14. Dashing to A14, we made it on the plane with only five minutes to spare. We vowed to make sure we have a much longer connection time in the future.
We made it to Miami on time. It was around 14:00, which meant we were hungry for lunch. Close to our next gate, we found an Irish Pub. That is where we decided to have lunch. I had fish and chips; Leslie chose a Cuban sandwich. They were both outstanding.

Not many people seem to take note of Peace & Love at the Miami International Airport.

Like I wrote…people just walk past…

We boarded our flight to Port of Spain on time. We also left on time, quite a relief from some of our other adventures.
While on the flight to Trinidad and Tobago, the flight attendant gave everyone an immigration form. I did not think we were going to need one since we had a confirmed reservation. Luckily, I decided to keep the forms.
At the transit desk on the lower level of the airport, we found out we would have to exit the airport, go to the Caribbean Airlines desk, get our boarding pass, and then come back into the airport. To enable all of that, we filled out our immigration forms, much to our dismay.
Leaving immigration, we went to customs. Since we did not have any checked baggage, we made it through very quickly.
We picked up our boarding passes and made our way back to the concourse. The passes we had indicated that boarding would begin at 23:25. In true Caribbean fashion, boarding did not start until midnight.
Our seats were 25C and 25D, two aisle seats. They were at the very back of the plane. That bodes well because, in Georgetown, they usually bring two sets of stairs, one at the front and one at the rear of the aircraft.
After an uneventful flight, we exited from the rear of the plane and went through immigration immediately. We walked outside to meet our driver. In about an hour we were snugly back in our home.

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