The journey to arrive at our destination has been full of the unexpected. The Oberlin College men’s soccer team gathered in a timely fashion as usual readying for our campus departure. The busses would have pulled out on time had we not stopped three blocks into the trip to acquire the lone passport left behind. Once headed for Cleveland Hopkins International Airport everything is back on track.
Twenty-six through check-in and security went off without a hitch. Settled into our seats, the team is anxious to begin the trip to Rio. The first leg of the trip was scheduled from Cleveland to Charlotte, however, just a few drinks into the beverage service our airplane began to descend rather quickly and unexpectedly. A loss of cabin pressure forced the pilot to descend to an altitude suitable to the conditions within the plane. Pittsburgh became our new destination. The likelihood of making our international connection grew less and less as we were given vague update after vague update. Then just like that we were corralled back onto the plane and into our seats headed for Charlotte. The five hour lay over scheduled in Charlotte in our itinerary was now spent on the tarmac in Pittsburgh and just 2 hours in Charlotte.
US Air flight 800 boarding for Rio de Janeiro the anticipation of our arrival is palpable. The team is just an overnight flight from the warmth and sun of Brazil. This trip has been a long time coming, down payments, fundraising and finally settling the bill. Who wouldn’t want to stay just a few blocks from the beach, train in a country brimming with soccer culture and compete against some top quality sides? Take-off, dinner, in-flight movie, bouts of airplane sleep and then FOG! We were nearly there, breakfast had been served and eaten, the squad was stirring and the cabin was preparing for arrival when news of fog in and around Rio had shut the airport down. A 180 degree turn by the pilot and we were headed for Brasilia to refuel and wait out the fog. A minor detour and delay in the lengthy flight. Smoke in the cabin upon landing was a little disconcerting but the crew assured us everything would be sorted and our return to Rio would be imminent. Upon further inspection the ACU had failed, whatever that is, and the aircraft has been deemed useless.
What, Brasilia is not a US Airways airport? The Delta technician did his best I am sure but all 200 plus passengers were removed from the plane after two very long, hot hours waiting for something to happen or someone to make it happen. After being shepherded through immigration, again the team waited a good bit of time before a baggage carousel began to turn. No familiar bags coming round. Eventually after seeing the same twenty-five bags seventeen times finally an OC Soccer bag, then another and then all of our luggage.
The rebooking of 26 passengers on the same flight was not an easy task but the kind folks from TAM Airlines took over for the now useless people from US Air and made things happen for our team. Another wait and a departure delay didn’t dampen spirits and the team patiently waited for a 6:30 pm flight to depart and head to Rio. Take off, smooth; in-flight sandwich, good; landing, easy; finally Rio de Janeiro. What could possibly go wrong now? Imagine this picture… the team with all their bags and Head Coach, Blake New waiting for his bag as the carousel turns with not very many bags… then finally the blue duffle pops through. We load the bus, travel out of the city on we are finally on our way to Buzios.
We are in Buzios after traveling for nearly 36 hours. A restful night of sleep and we'll be ready to begin our trip in earnest.