After a day of delay and lengthy phone calls with Delta we loaded our bags and surfboard into dad’s white suburban. Temps were hovering around zero in Green Bay that morning. We bumbled out of the driveway toward Austin Straubel Airport.
Checking in was awkward to say the least. I’m positive it was the check in attendant’s first time seeing a surfboard in the airport, and because they informed us they weren’t sure it would fit in the cargo hold, we were also tense. Matt and I have transported boards in the past on puddle jumpers like these from Hawaii. We were both ready to march down the tarmac and load them ourselves if Delta felt like roadblocking us for the 2nd time in two days. This board was 3/4 the reason for this chosen destination so if the board wasn’t going, neither were we.
We heard nothing more from Delta preflight and boarded holding our breath that the board would make it in one piece all the way to China. We had packed it with a pool noodle perimeter and styrofoam supports inside a foam board bag taking every precaution we could think to.
We had a jiffy of a layover in Detroit before boarding the giant airbus that would deliver us to Beijing. After +13 hours, a view of the full moon on NYE at 39,000 feet above the North Pole, and several LaCroix paired with mini bottles of Bombay later, we exited the airbus and shuffled our way toward the immigration line in Beijing’s airport.
We had just about four hours until our last flight so we zombied through immigration and went to claim our bags before rechecking them and finding our gate. With only 45 minutes to spare we walked around the terminal to stretch our legs before the final flight.
As we waited we noticed a very large group of little girls, 9 or 10 years in age, decked out in Pepto Bismol pink parkas and, what could only be described as fake flower embellished Kentucky Derby-style hats. I couldn’t make out exactly what their group was doing as the logo on the back of their parkas looked like two metal C-clamps facing each other.
Since we were the only foreigners on the plane they were very excited to see us and even more tickled pink when they learned their group would be seated around us. Mind you, I’m on flight 3, 20 hours in with zero naps and it’s 3AM in the time zone we’re used to. I should also mention the only English they know is “Hello!” and a song that goes “I am very beautiful,” which I am not privy to the origin. Quite the scene to be thrown into when entering the “slap happy delirium zone” of transit.
As luck would have it, it’s 8PM local time and they are children. So as we reach our flights altitude, we, along with all the little pink ladies are out cold.
We awoke just before landing around 11:30PM local time and exited the terminal to claim our baggage. The moment of truth. After the many tiny, hardshell matching suitcases came out for the Flower Power Pink Parka C-clamp Little Women (slap happy delirium zone), a man stuck his head out of the baggage claim flaps looking for the owner of this oversized “Chonglong” board.
With bags and board in tow we set off to overcome the next obstacle: find a taxi willing to transport us and our “chonglong” board to our hotel. After 40 minutes of touts following us, haggling, inquiries at the Chinese speaking help desk and heavy sighs, we found our guy.
The back windows were all the way down and Matt’s surfboard was sticking out both sides of the car like mini airplane wings. Matt was crouched beneath the board in the back seat and I was in the front talking with the driver using his phone’s spoken word translator. He was nervous about the transport but there was much less traffic this time of night that would have been during the day. Twenty minutes later we pulled up to a side alley off the main shoreline road. We paid the driver a bit extra for the trouble to transport the board and delivering us and all of our bits safely to the hotel.
Lucky for us there was still an open mini mart so we grabbed a beer and some cashews and practiced our numbers with the slightly intoxicated clerk to celebrate our arrival to Hainan…..finally.
(I should disclose we did have a soft rack for transporting the board on vehicles and used that method for the transports beyond the initial one. I also apologize for not getting a photo of the Little Pink Ladies, the image is forever burned in my mind so whatever you’re imagining is probably not far off)