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    Monday, April 05, 2010

    Blog from San Diego Basecamp, April 5, 2010

    Back at Basecamp! Finally! Mom's kitchen table in San Diego is where it's goin' down!

    It all started at 5.30AM on Wednesday morning the in Warsaw, Poland. I woke up with the cold sensation of the cold floor on my butt through the deflated air mattress of my host Emilia. I caught my illegal cab from downtown at 6 and in 11 minutes of wild racecar fashion I was at the airport for about 3 bucks. So far so good.

    I have a 7.30AM from Warsaw to Frankfurt, Germany as the first part of my long day of flying. I glanced up on the departure board to find my gate. But my flight was not there. Uh, heloooo? At 6.15AM only the Polish airlines LOT is open and they inform me that there is no 7.30AM Lufthansa flight, only a 7.30PM flight. Doh! I booked a PM flight! This is not good. I was proud to find such a cheap 100 dollar flight last minute and now I know why it was so cheap. After 2 hours of phone calls, online searches and begging for understanding of my mistake the verdict finally came in. I had to pay $560 for a 1.5 hour flight to Frankfurt or risk getting stuck in Europe for a week due to tight flights from Easter Week. Ouch, an expensive mistake!

    I catch my flight to Frankfurt and all seems well. That is, until I head to the American Airlines desk. I was flying stand-by, space available, from Frankfurt to Chicago, then onward to Canada to meet my executive producer Les Stroud. Here they inform me that my flight is now very oversold and, to make matters worse, a United Airlines flight was sending over dozens of their stranded passengers. The agent told me my chances were almost zero to get on the flight, but we gave it a go. Now I’m in the airport totally freaking out using the 12 dollar/hour WIFI connection to search for my Plan B—and it was ugly. Every flight to anywhere in the USA was no less than $1,200 one way. All standby flights were horribly overbooked. If I got stranded this day, I would be in Europe for at least 5 days or pay dearly. All I could do was pray for a miracle.

    I head to the gate and sit in the long line of other standby passengers, some American Airlines employees, some friends & family, and many from United Airlines. It did not look good. But I kept my faith that it would all go well, and befriended a professional ballet dancer name John who was as cool as they come. He was standing by like me, but with a lower priority and for coach seats that were far more oversold than Business Class. But my famous Travel Angels were obviously watching down on me because they began passing out boarding cards to the standby passengers and guess who got the very last seat on the plane? Me. And in Business Class. Nice!
    I prayed John would get on but his destiny was clearly to roam about Europe as a ballet dancer, singer, musician & overall great guy to have an adventure he’ll likely never forget.

    For me, I sat down and toasted with a glass of champagne with a super cool entrepreneur named Roland from Monterey, Mexico. Like me, he was flying standby and we both got styled with the last two seats in business class. We made it! Next stop, Chicago then Toronto! So we thought. Just as we are taxiing down the runway the flight attendant comes on the horn with a panicked voice, “Is there a doctor on board? We have a man with serious chest pains who needs medical attention”. Over the next 90 minutes the efficient German medical team and logistics folks got the guy off alive and sent us to the runway to take off. Finally, we’re on the way! So we think…

    We are just about over Amsterdam and ready to cross the Atlantic Ocean when the pilot comes on the PA saying that our icing system in the left engine is not working right. We will have to return to Frankfurt to assess the situation. Now, all hopes of catching my connecting flight to Toronto are clearly gone and, even worst, I begin to fear missing my meeting with Les. Les is as busy of man as they come and nailing down a date with him was not easy. And I needed this meeting to sort through all the options with the TV series and contracts. So again I put my faith in my Travel Angels and watched movies as we made our way back to Frankfurt and let the German technical team wrench on our left jet engine. Another 90 minutes later the engine is fixed and we are flying once again!

    After almost 20 hours of travel we hit Chicago and American Airlines sets me and Roland up with some discount vouchers at Radisson Inn, and we decide to share a room with two posh beds for only $35 bucks each so could be worse. After about 3 hours of sleep I’m up again at 4.30AM to get to the airport for my 6.30AM flight to Toronto, then rent a car and drive 3 hours to Huntsville, Ontario in Canada, have a meeting Les, then driving back to meet my next host Dan for the evening stay and, if the Travel Angels stick with me, I’ll be back in warm, sunny California in time for the weekend. Phew…

    Take a break and enjoy the pics...Pictures are worth a thousand enjoy this sideshow of the adventure! Then read on ;)

    Well, I was to tired that night in Toronto I set my alarm for 4.30PM and not AM…ANOTHER costly mistake! I need an assistant! So I took a later flight that ended up being the curse of death for a standby passenger—flying during the busy Easter holiday. Not smart. I ended up stuck in Chicago but, as my Travel Angels never REALLY let me down, I ended up scoring a great weekend. Found a $70/night rate at the Palmer House Hilton, normally like $300-400/night, and a free massage to boot! Met up with a great buddy Nick who I have not seen for 4 years and gave myself some needed downtime before the mad rush. And it’s on…really on!

    So I landed in San Diego last Sunday night and, after a nice 2-day adventure mountain biking with my best buddy Garryck, have officially moved myself into the classic Binks work mode—planning an expedition to Cuba, Jamaica , Central America and Mexico is just one task on the list. Add to this a professional budget for my investor, sponsorship proposals, production equipment, expedition equipment, fixing up my truck & camper to be ready for my mom, Cristina and my new baby, organizing the true grand finale open invitation Peace Ride from San Francisco to San Diego and much more. Yikes! I’m tired just writing this! But the rush of adrenaline is just what the doctor ordered to kickstart my butt into action.

    April 22 is our 8 year anniversary—my how time flies when you’re flyin!

    Big love!