I wake up early this morning; earlier than I need to. As my flight from Cancun departs at 12:15pm, I’ve calculated that, if I leave the hotel by 8:15am, I’ll have time to stop at Turtle Bay Bakery to grab a cup of coffee and a pastry before driving the hour-and-fifteen-minutes to airport to return my rental car and catch a shuttle to the terminal. This means waking up by about 7:30. While I stayed up late, reluctant to go to bed and step away from the beautiful moonlight and the sweet-smelling t sea air while sitting out on my balcony, I wake up early as, apparently my body knows it’s coming to an end and wants to absorb as much of this as possible. I sit on my balcony drinking my coffee and watching the sun slowly peek out to greet me.

SunriseAfter a while, I step inside to get dressed and pack my luggage. I’ve been careful not to buy anything to bring home, mindful of the forty-pound weight limit on my luggage. The one thing I didn’t buy and yet seem to be bringing home is sand. It’s everywhere. I dump what I can out, but it seems to want to see what it’s like being desert sand in Phoenix. Dressed and packed up, I do one last check with my newly purchased luggage scale and, at 39.42 pounds, I think I’m in the clear.

I head down to my car, hand my room key over to Miguel, who works at the Vista Del Mar Hotel and has been very helpful, say goodbye to the construction workers who have just arrived (go ahead boys, make all the noise you wish, I’m outta here!), load my bags into the car, and head out down the potholed minefield. I make a stop at the Turtle Bay Bakery and ask the parking attendants if they want some coffee too (I’ve seen these guys quite a few times over the past week and it’s just a nice thing to do). A few minutes later, I walk out with three coffees and a piece of banana bread and, after handing over two of the coffees to the parking guys, I reluctantly drive out of Akumal.

With a quarter of a tank of gas, I plan to drive straight to Hertz to drop my car as close to empty as possible as I’ve taken the pre-paid gas option. People have different opinions about this. I chose this option due to the simplicity of it. I’ve never rented a car here and didn’t want to worry about filling up my gas tank when I didn’t really know what the gas station situation around the airport was. Still, I want to feel like I got a good deal so I make every effort to return it as close to empty as possible. Unfortunately, the tank empties faster than I thought it would, and at some point, I see a “Fuel” light come on and the gas tank is showing one bar (and it’s not the good kind of bar). I begin looking for the unmistakable green of a Pemex (gas) station and see none for miles. Hhmmm, so much for the plan of not being stressed looking for a gas station on the way to the airport (see what happens when I plan?). After about twenty kilometers, I see the green glow of the Emerald City (otherwise known as the Pemex station). I ask for sesenta pesos in Magna (regular unleaded) which causes the attendant to question whether he heard me correctly, as that’s equal to about $4.50, or whether my Spanish is just that bad. I assure him that I want “Solamente sesenta pesos.” I get back on the highway and, in about twenty minutes, I’m driving around the airport looking for the Hertz building.

I pull up, grab my stuff, let them know that the radio didn’t work (I ask for no compensation as, this is Mexico and if something on the car isn’t going to work, it’s best that it be the radio), get handed my paperwork and, within minutes, I’m on the shuttle to the airport.

LuggageI step up to the counter to check my bag, once again, holding my breath, yet not as concerned about the weight as I was coming here – 39.2 pounds! At least my luggage lost weight here as the tortillas, margaritas and baked goods assured that I did not. I head through security, take out all of my electronics to be scanned (they require everything here – computer, iPad, Kindle, iPhone – crap I have a lot of electronics), yet leave my shoes on (every country is different). After repacking my electronics store I go to my gate to wait.

Two hours later we’re boarding the plane. Today’s itinerary – Cancun to Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas to Phoenix. I’m flying Spirit Airlines and, so far, my experience has been just fine, except for that whole boarding us on the wrong plane (read about it in “Weighing In”). Still, we only arrived a half-hour late which is quite exceptional after my USAir experience (read about that one in “On a Wing and a Prayer”). I even snag window seats on both the Ft. Lauderdale to Dallas and the Dallas to Phoenix legs, simply by luck (I paid no extra fee). I politely ask the airport agent if I might have a window seat from Cancun to Ft. Lauderdale and, as one is available, he kindly prints a new boarding pass with a window seat (I have no doubt that the previously mentioned airline would have said, “You had your chance to pay for it and chose not to,” and would then seat me in a center seat although window seats were available.

We land in Ft Lauderdale and I head through Customs and Immigration, recheck my luggage and walk over to terminal three to have dinner with a writing colleague who I’m meeting for the first time. A great thing to note if you’re traveling through Ft. Lauderdale is that the airport isn’t very big and is, therefore, walkable. Another option for a longer layover (mine is over five hours) is something I found out two of my fellow passengers did – take a taxi and go to the beach!

Later, I head back to terminal four and board my plane. I have a forty-five minute layover in Dallas with this flight continuing on to Phoenix. As Spirit begins boarding forty-five minutes prior to departure, and I’m scheduled to be in the same seat (as is the couple next to me), I’m hopeful they won’t make us deplane and then immediately replane (not actually a word) again. The couple next to me tells me their family doesn’t want them to get off the plane in Dallas as, “there’s Ebola there.” We joke about the ridiculous concern and hear the announcement instructing all passengers, even those continuing on, to deplane. Really.

I get off the plane, run across to the shop and purchase a $5 bag of popcorn (hunger makes me financially irresponsible). We, once again, board the airplane and settle in for our final leg of the flight. We land on time in Phoenix and I gather my luggage, call the Holiday Inn (where I parked with a reservation through Global Airport Parking) and before long, I’m riding on the shuttle with Oscar, the friendly driver who dropped me off ten days ago (I think of him as my personal chauffeur).

It’s past midnight and, exhausted, I drag my luggage over to my car. As I push the unlock button on my keychain, the lights flash and I’m grateful; it’s a relieved feeling I always have, similar to when my luggage actually arrives, as it means my car battery isn’t dead (it’s happened before)! But my car looks like it’s leaning a bit. I do a quick walk-around, look at my rear tire and do a double-take. My tire is flat (a dead battery would have been preferable). Knowing that I have emergency road service, I call my insurance company for a tow-truck. Unfortunately, the tow-truck gives an ETA of ninety-minutes. Exhausted and feeling a bit teary, I think about the kids at the library and how many things I have compared to them. I decide to stop feeling sorry for myself, accept the situation and sit down on the sofa in the lobby to wait (another great reason to park at an airport hotel – there’s a lobby to wait in or, if you want, you can get a room). After sixty-minutes, the tow-truck arrives and I drive (very slowly) home on three good tires and one tiny spare tire.

**Note – if you’re thinking that my tire was flat as it was unsafe parking at the hotel you would be wrong. We see that there’s a tiny nail stuck in my tire which, after sitting for ten days, allowed for the air to slowly leak out. I still think Global Airport Parking can be a great deal.

Tomorrow – The Good, the Bad and the Thank-you’s including the cost of this trip, all of the links gathered in one spot, and all of the people, companies and situations that made this a memorable trip. It’s a good one to save for info. when you come here.

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