Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1) International Travel on Stand-by

1) International Travel on Standby
SLC, Utah toSantiago, Chile
Jan 30th 2013

Sorting race food.  Main sources:
Royal Hawaiian Nuts, Journey Bars, TailWind
We have been preparing for the Patagonian Expedition Race for weeks.  Getting all the gear together, sorting food and making bike boxes have been taking most of our time.  Gear from our sponsors is arriving steadily but slowly.  

We are three of the four members of Team Four Continents: Sam Salwei, Tom Grundy and I (Luz Raquel Hern├índez). We are getting ready to meet our team Captain: Taz Lawrie. It is Tom and I’s first Patagonian Expedition Race (PER), Sam's 2nd and Taz's 3rd. 

There are a lot of questions directed to Sam, being the only one of us with previous experience. A former member of the team has allowed us to stay at his house. We have taken over his basement and converted it into a production and sorting machine. Boxes and boxes of gear and food arrive daily.  We are all amazed by the quantity of gear required for three people and the vast amount of packaging it comes in.

Precision cutting with Wenger Knife

The biggest of our projects is making bike boxes. We have decided to save big bucks by recreating a design we found on the internet for road bikes. Our improved design will allow us to transport a fully assembled mountain bike, saving us a bunch of time in race transitions. Brilliant idea!  Even more brilliant than that: realizing that we can air transport two bikes and two bike boxes for the price of one.  By placing two bikes in one box and creating the second box big enough to nest outside, while result shipping two bikes and two bike boxes for the price of one. Flying with our custom designed boxes will cost us half the amount of money. Given that we stay within the right weight and dimensions. 

We are racing the clock to make our SLC departure at midnight. The last of our gear boxes arrived at 5:45 pm. Our 'workshop' is still a sea of gear and we are moving as fast as we can. Our mission is to keep all bags at the required 50 lbs limit. The last packing hours are spent compiling each bag with different assortments of gear, food and clothing. The heaviest items have been put aside to be taken as carry-ons. This allows us to cheat the airline weight limit just a little. 

It is 11:00 pm and we are just leaving the house. We are sure we will lose our flight. On the way to the airport we verify our departure time and for our surprise it is a 12:50 am departure!  We have almost an hour!  We might make that flight after all!!!

Atlanta Airport:  One more flight to go!
At the airport we shuffle our luggage and bike box to the check-in counter. The moment of truth has come:  would the bike box be in the allowed dimensions?  will the bags be past the weight limit?  

It turns out that flying stand-by had saved us!    We were allowed 2 checked bags each, including the bike box. That's all we had!  We only had to pay the bike box fare. All our bags were 1 or 2 lbs over. The bike box was 1 inch and 2 lbs over but we were allowed to go on. 

A big weight was lifted off our shoulders (literally 550 lbs!) when we checked our entire luggage. Each of us had a large carry-on and a small personal bag. Carry-ons were probably 50 lbs each!  We went past airport security wondering if all our gels would make it by. We had no problems at all and headed to our flight. 

Bored on an airport?  Never!
This was my first time flying stand-by.  I was expecting to miss a few flights, to be sent in separate flights and to arrive to Santiago two or three days after we expected. But luck was on our side:  we all made our first flight to Atlanta, had a relaxing 16 hr layover where we manage to sleep for the first time in days and made our flight to Santiago with no further difficulties. Tom even got to fly first class, lucky him! 

Food Impound
Once in Santiago we gather all our belongings and headed to customs.  We had ‘something to declare’.  Food, expensive equipment, slacklines for sale… a lot!  We were not sure what was going to be impounded… but we didn’t know we were about to lose all our Beef Jerky.  Imagine, me, a vegetarian, defending the faith of pounds of Krave and Sweet Water Beef Jerky. Fate was not in our side and we watched with sad eyes how they were all destroyed.  

We thought the hardest part of the travel to PER had happened... Little did we know destiny’s plan.  

Bye-bye Jerky, meat eaters Tom and Sam will miss you.


  1. I want to try this race also. So sad for the news, bye bye jerky.

    granton world