If you made a line graph of our trip to Costa Rica measuring fun and excitement it would be shaped exactly like Arenal Volcano. The little flat section at the peak of the volcano shaped graph would represent our one full day at our final destination of La Fortuna.

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The majority of the trip was spent in transit. Kristen works at the airport so we are able to get amazing deals on plane tickets, but the downside is that we have to ride standby which can be very unpredictable. We weren’t even planning on visiting Costa Rica in the first place, but it was available so we took it. After a little bit of state hopping, we caught a flight from Newark to San Jose, Costa Rica. After staying the first night, we immediately hopped on a bus which took the better part of day 2 winding through the northern highlands to La Fortuna, a cozy albeit touristy town nestled in the shadow of an active volcano.

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The bus ride through the mountains in the last hours of sunlight was one of the highlights of the trip.

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Day 3 of the trip was our only full day in Costa Rica spent in one place.

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I left my camera at the hotel because I wanted to swim in the falls care free, but we brought Kristen’s 35mm. I set a timer and tried to jump in for a couple shot, but I guess the timer was only set for like one second because I didn’t get very far… Oh well, this is better anyway.

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When there is a huge volcano towering above a town, it’s hard not to put it in every photo.

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Back on the bus, we took a ride to the far side of the volcano.

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Fortunately the lava flows away from town.
It was startling to see how fast the bits of lava would flow down the mountain. Top to bottom in about a minute.
After the volcano we went to a natural hot spring that was unlike any we had been to before. It was actually a fast moving river that was as hot as a hottub. There were areas where it pooled up and the water was still enough to relax. Or so it seemed. Right before we left we were sitting in a little pool before a small rapid. Any light that the moon or stars could have contributed was blocked by trees and mountains. I heard a little yelp and faintly saw something moving down the white rapids. It was Kristen, she got sucked over the edge by the current and was flying down the river into the darkness. I hopped into the rapids and body surfed down after her. After a little marco polo we reconnected and were both unscathed.

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Sorry, I realize this is about the most cliche photo you could possibly take in this part of the world, but its one of the only portraits I got.

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The bus ride back to San Jose on the following day gave a different but equally beautiful view of the countryside.

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Everything went smoothly on standby until we got into Houston to find that the combination of spring break travelers, weekend travelers, and technical difficulties at the airport made for a nightmarish perfect storm of standby clusterfuckery. We tried to catch the first flight to Newark, but it was over booked with paying passengers and had well over 100 people trying to ride standby. Those hundred something folks that didn’t get on that flight did exactly what Kristen and I did, tried to get on a flight to anywhere outside of Houston. Every flight that came up was overbooked with dozens of people trying to jump on standby. There was no options whatsoever until the following day, so we camped out for the night.

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An empty airport is an interesting place. I spent a lot of the night just wandering halls in awe of how eerily empty it was. There is something enticing about a large empty space that is normally teeming with people. I had an overwhelming urge to do something I wasn’t supposed to do like skate through the halls or highjack a cart or race wheelchairs down the handicap ramps. Since Kristen’s job was on the line I had to repress my rebellious instincts.

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Occasionally in my wanderings I would run into other folks who had also been stranded for the night. Many, like Kristen and I were stuck in the standby jam, and others were weekend travelers who missed their connecting flight for one reason or another. It was nice talking to these people and having the instant camaraderie of our shared dilemma.

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The next day there was only one possibility for a way out. Mobile, Alabama was the only flight of the day that was not overbooked and the following day was not looking any better. We booked the flight and crossed our fingers. About 20 minutes before the flight we saw that about fifteen other standby flyers had booked the flight as well. Since standby is based on seniority, and Kristen has only been working at the airport for a couple of months, it was looking pretty bleak. To make matters worse, the captain ordered that three seats be left open because they had passed the weight restriction. Four spots were open. After all of the passengers boarded, four standby names were called, Kristen and I were not called. A couple minutes later the captain said that two more could be let on. We were next on the list and squeaked by.

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With no flights going out of Mobile, we had no choice but to rent a car and make the ten hour trek home.