and the quest continues

Costa Rica WILL happen, but not until tomorrow for Lauren or I. To make a moderate length story short Lauren arrived at the airport this morning with only 15 minutes to check-in, pass through security, and run to the gate to board the plane. Needless to say, she was too late for any of this to be accomplished. However, her tardiness proved to be fortunate given that she was bumped to a seat just shy of first-class on my flight leaving tomorrow. So, one problem with this voyage resolved (we fly together and Lauren avoids wandering into any unsavory alleys alone in Costa Rica) but as of today yet another one created: NO CELL PHONE!

The phone I have attempted repeatedly to rent over the past week and a half is a no go. Why, you might ask? Horrible customer service. The company I have been “working” with on this necessary endeavor, for lack of a better word, sucks. My emails went unanswered for days on end and any progress I made in reserving the phone was erased by the incompetence and general lack of business etiquette of the company’s employees. Taking a direct quote from a phone conversation I had earlier today with one of these gremlins, “We rent hundreds of phones each month. They’re gone. You’re out of luck. You’re renting a car, just rent a phone from them.” Fine, push your problem off on me, I’ll push my problem with you off on a bad review you can find here (in case you should ever need to rent an international cell phone).

Moving on, given that this phone is vital for me to continue running Illstreet while in Costa Rica I called the car rental company to see what could be done . . . and I called . . . and I called. Each time new issues arose and one persisted, that being what the junk are these people saying?! Dealing with an American company whose customer service sector is riddled with an incomprehensible mosh posh of international dialects is no bueno. On top of that, first I’m told I can’t rent a phone through the company. Then I’m informed that I can but that I need to speak with a representative from the local office in Costa Rica. Excuse me, but I’m not all that interested in paying six dollars a minute to be on the line with CENTRAL AMERICA. I inquired from the rep if it would be possible for him to make the call: “No, we can’t do that.” After that I landed on the line with an office located in India and an agent reiterating that he can not place the call to Costa Rica which is understandable, who would want to call India from America or Costa Rica from anywhere apparently. I’m left with the option of hoping that a phone will be available to rent at the local car rental office in Costa Rica. Wish me luck.

Despite all of this I remain optimistic about this adventure, albeit exasperated with waiting on hold listening to mediocre melodies that sound like midi ringtones crafted by a fourteen year old in a basement somewhere. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating. I DO have lots of awesome camping gear to play with and a mad cool pack I picked up from Appalachian Outfitters in Greenville, SC though. I suggest stopping by there if you’re in need of good conversation and even better gear. More to come seeing as how anything could happen.

Review of Appalachian Outfitters in Greenville, SC

Buying my new gear at Appalachian outfitters was probably the easiest, best experience involved with planning for Costa Rica. Their prices were more than reasonable compared to other local outfitters. I went in there with NO IDEA what kind of pack I needed and what else I would buy. A guy named Russ helped me out. He measured my torso, asked how long I was going, where I was going, what I was using the pack for, etc. Then showed me my best options. He taught me how to properly adjust the packs and how to load it properly.

Russ told us about his 6 month trip on the Appalachian trail.  I was looking for 100% DEET and they didn’t carry it but he even helped us find it in another local store.

I felt very welcome in the store and really enjoyed the experience. I HIGHLY suggest you check them out if you’re in the area.

You can check out their blog here

Russ
864 987-0618
email: trail@appoutfitters.com

Appalachian Outfitters
Greenville’s Backpacking Headquarters
96 Orchard Park Drive
Greenville, SC 29615

Review of cellphonescr.com

DO NOT RENT FROM CELLPHONESCR.COM !!!!

If you’re planning on going to costa rica just rent from a car rental company.  I thought it would be nice to help support local small business and started researching cell phone rentals in Costa Rica.  I came up with a few options and finally decided on www.cellphonescr.com.  Boy did I learn my lesson.  I should have heeded warnings from other travelers.  Even reputable forums like the fodors forum advise against this company with posts like this:

http://www.fodors.com/community/mexico-central-america/renting-cell-phones-in-costa-rica.cfm
Be very careful! Do NOT use this company:
http://www.cellphonescr.com
they are a total rip-off!!!

I made my preliminary reservation on their poorly designed website about two weeks ago.  I received an email back a few days later answering some of my questions but leaving me with more.  After exchanging emails back and forth for a few days I settled on plan 1 and told them to make the reservation.

A while went by and I never heard anything. I wasn’t charged a deposit. NOTHING happened.  Lauren was going to be showing up a day earlier than I was so I submitted another reservation.  This time I received their automated email saying they had received it and never got anything else.

So finally, today we’re getting everything in order and printing our reservaitons and such and I call cellphonescr.com.  I originally got a hold of a guy who was learning english.  He did his best to help me but ultimately it was very unprofessional.  He said the owner was out of the office but no reservations were in the system for me or Lauren and he advised me to resubmit a reservation.

I immediately resubmitted it and again, I received nothing. I called and left a message stressing how important a call or email back was and again, received nothing.  Finally, I called a couple hours ago and the owner answered finally.  He scoffed at me for submitting the reservation today and was very rude.  He said there weren’t any phones available and I should have reserved one earlier.

I advised him that I DID reserve one weeks ago and never heard back from Sandi (the girl who does the reservations).  I told him about all of the emails and messages I had left and he said I did not send them.  Finally, after arguing with him for about 5 minutes I decided the company must be pretty shady and I had better just go with the car rental company’s cell phone.  To end the conversation he told me he rents hundreds of phones a month and I wouldn’t be missed.

Well buddy, I hope you don’t miss all the people that find this review and decide to take the same route I’m taking.  If there’s anything I’ve learned running a business it is that, one dissatisfied customer will talk about your company more than 100 satisfied customers and my previous post about how slow your service is has already been indexed by google.  Do a search for “cellphonescr.com”. Oh and don’t worry, I remembered the “nofollow” tag in my link to your site :)

ah, what the heck…. I’ll post a bit about the house

I got an email minutes after posting the last post so I guess I’ll post a little about the new house.
Konrad GorskiI’m living with Konrad (a long time pal who is in Charleston playing with an awesome band called Crowfield)

Allyson

Then there’s Allyson who is just living in Charleston for the summer and working on Seabrooke Island.  Please take note of

me and AustinFinally, there is Austin.  I lived with him at Clemson and we’ve been buddies for a long time too.

So, the house is about 5,000 sq ft.  It is located in a gated country club where we have access to a pretty nice course, training facilities, a pool (5 minute walk from the house ), stables, a polo field, lots of jogging trails, etc.

Downstairs we have a game room, kitchen, huge pantry/catering quarters, a sun room, a giant living room, a bedroom, my office, the master bedroom which has 2 huge walk-in closets and a jacuzzi (which I love).

Upstairs, we have Konrad’s room, Austin’s room and a pretty sweet entertainment setup.  Both the upstairs and downstairs have xbox 360s with surround sound and 47″ tvs.

spanish mossNow for the outside, there is a 3 car detached garage which is going to be perfect for the RX7 and my new carbon fiber experiments :) Also on the side of the garage is a place to park the RV and RV hookups (how perfect right?) The landscaping is just too much for us with all of the palms so we’re paying a company to do it.  The back yard is full of old growth oaks with spanish moss draping to the ground.  The property also butts up against the 14th hole of the golf course. Apparently a pretty major Revolutionary war battle was also fought on the historic property.

At the other end of the back yard the marsh starts and we have a nice covered dock.  This is where we seem to spend all our time.  Catching crab, shrimp and fish is crazy easy out there so if you ever want some blue crab let me know and I’ll have some cooked up in a couple hours.

It really is an amazing house and I’m lucky to have found such awesome people to live with. I’m excited about CR but also really excited to come back for the 4th of July.  We’re going out on the boat to wakeboard and tube and roasting a pig.  So… pictures speak louder than words.  \/ Check it FOOL! \/

n728377101_8229.jpgAllyson

Two days before the big trip!

Only two days left until I’m off to Costa Rica with Lauren to backpack for 2 weeks. Things are starting to shape up a bit better.

ol laurenThere has however been a slight change. Lauren will be going to Costa Rica on the 16th and I won’t be arriving until the 17th. She’s staying about 5 minutes from the airport in San Jose. I’m guessing she’s just going to hang out and stay relatively close to the airport. I really wish I was going but travelocity is AWFUL. This is definitely the first and last time I will use them for ANYTHING. Good luck getting someone who isn’t an Indian named Tom. I spent 4 hours navigating their maze of automated phone lines and worthless customer support. I may have found a way to get a credit back but a lot of good that does us NOW.

Anyhow, some of you might be wondering how illstreet is going to run while I’m trekking around the hillsides and remote beaches of Costa Rica. Well fortunately, most of Costa Rica has relatively decent TDMA cell service. You can’t do a pay as you go plan or get a temporary phone number in Costa Rica because their systems are overloaded. GSM lines won’t have any space for new numbers for three years!

So as a result I’ve had to rent a TDMA phone from cellphonescr.com. So far they’ve been relatively slow with communication and they haven’t been particularly accommodating but you can get unlimited minutes for about $13 a day. Additionally, they deliver the phone to the airport. I’m a little concerned about the delivery process but hopefully it will be smooth. Additionally, I purchased a phone matrix system and 1-800 number for illstreet that will forward to my cell phone for $.23 a minute in CR. This purchase was probably WELL overdue and I’m pretty psyched to see how it works.

So now you’re probably like well yeah, you can talk to people but how are you going to find your away smart guy? Ha! I’ve got that covered too. We have a 4 wheel drive SUV reserved (with rental insurance of course) so we will be driving the long distances between regions and then we will explore on foot for a couple days. Costa Rica is only a few hundred miles long and a couple hundred wide. For offroad, I downloaded an awesome and FREE TOPO map for my Garmin from http://rwsmaps.griffel.se. Thanks to that dude!

For routing and getting out of San Jose, I bought a map from NAVSAT off ebay. They’re the only company authorized by Garmin for mapping CR. I did however find this and there is a torrent seeded on piratebay as well.

Hopefully tomorrow I can post a little something about all the gear I bought. I have tons to write about still so keep up with the blog! We’re going to see volcanoes, sea turtles, monkeys, rain forests, cloud forests, beaches, awesome surf breaks, awesome wind surfing/kiteboarding areas, etc. Also, I haven’t even written about everything that has changed in the states for me! I just moved into an absolutely massive house on the marsh with a three car garage and awesome dock (plenty of room for a nice home office and my cars). I’m right on the 14th hole of the club’s golf course so I’ll be taking up golf I spose. I also bought a ski boat :) Anyhow, stay tuned for details!