We pulled out of the parking lot around 9:30am.
It had hit me a few days prior. “Wait a minute – our flight boards after 11pm. What?” The planners had elected to leave from JFK, instead of from our local airport. Supposedly this saved a few hundred bucks per person. I guess I could believe that, having flown out of here before. I didn’t properly consider maps and geography however.
I figured “We’re just headed North a few hours.” After all, going back to Virginia, it takes all of four hours. Five if traffic is bad. JFK is not in Virginia. Conveniently, I had made a bad pun at one of the meetings, a teammate had picked up on it, and I had a feeling we were in for a good van ride.
Opting not to ride shotgun, but happy to take one of the captain’s chairs in the middle of the van, we discussed a number of topics on the way. We each shared something about ourselves, where we’d come from, and what our histories were. And it was approaching lunch time. Text messages being the primary form of communication, the three vans were planning a stop at Chick-Fil-A. Yum.
It was a pretty good stop, and I think we were ahead of schedule. Of course, for an international flight, “on-time” means arriving 3-4 hours before scheduled boarding, so … we were going to be waiting for a while once we got there. Then we got a call that someone had forgotten their passport.
Now, there were some real pros on this trip. Some people had been to 5 continents. Others had been to over 40 countries. For some of us, this was our first trip of the sort. However, one thing the leaders had reiterated: keep your passport on you at all times.
While the first two vans moved ahead, the third had stopped to assess the situation. One positive thing about the people on this trip: many of us are natural leaders. One negative thing about natural leaders: in a perceived leadership void, they will step up to fill the gap. So lots of people in the van wanted to volunteer solutions. Fortunately, there was enough information flowing between the continuing leaders that we could satisfy those looking to help.
Unfortunately, there actually was a leadership void at that point. Since the Trip Commander was in the third van, and that van was now potentially two hours behind us, we had a dilemma. In that van were essential documents, tools, and other supplies we’d need once we landed in Nepal. A short stop for the two leaders in the first to vans to have a pow-wow, and we were on our way again. “We’ll deal with it if we need to.” Not a bad decision – after all, what really could we do?
Soon enough the conversation resumed as we put miles behind us. We discussed our backgrounds, the nuances of Biblical justification for various topics, music, and what we expected of the trip to come. As we went through Virginia, we passed through an underwater tunnel. That was amusing; one of the van’s occupants almost held their breath for the entire length, but opted not to pass out. A wise decision. Then we passed through Jersey and into New York.
Some of the team had never been to New York, or New York City. The cameras came out, and people started snapping photos of … everything? We passed a big bridge – pictures. A toll plaza. Pictures. The city skyline in the distance … more pictures. I hope they turned out well. We skirted along past Coney Island – which I’ll admit was cool to see. In all my trips to NYC I’d never been there. Then along the shore on some parkway towards JFK.
It was also interesting to hear people’s perceptions – some had no idea that NYC was right on the water, others didn’t realize there were lowrise apartment buildings. So we had some more interesting chatter as we approached the airport. The other van had caught up to us by now, having left their passport-lacking-passenger at a reststop. They were picked up by family (with passport), taken to a semi-nearby airport, and flown into JFK. (Why we didn’t fly to JFK ourselves is a mystery, but supposedly it saved several hundred dollars per person.)
The Team Leaders had coordinated dropping off the teams at the terminals, and then dropping the vans at the rental facility. We exited the vehicles like trained teams and grabbed bags from the trunks. Nothing was lost during the transition, and we hopped into line for boarding passes. I have no problem being first (a.k.a. the guinea pig), so I went through first, and proceeded to the security check with no issues. Through security I went (opt-out for the win), and reclaimed my shoes and belt on the far side. The team mostly regrouped, save for the drivers, and after our scouts found the departure gate, we all settled in to wait.
The drivers showed up shortly there after and I realized something: I was hungry! It had been almost 10 hours since lunch. We split up into pairs to grab food before the shops closed. Almost everyone got some of those quick-cook panini style sandwiches, and had a few snacks from the stashes we’d be taking with us.
One guy laid down under the seats for a quick snooze, I broke out the paracord to get in some last weaving (and shrink down the ball I’d brought with me), and we set about waiting the last half hour until boarding was supposed to start.