Friday, October 19, 2007

The Best and Worst Trip of My Life

I travel an above average amount as part of my Environmental Engineering job. When traveling that much, it is normal to have occasional travel delays and unappealing experiences that make you want to work in a sweat shop before you ever get on a plane again. None of my experiences have been that horrible, though I’ve heard my share of stories that, if they happened to me, would send me into early retirement.

On occasion, work takes me to a place that my family has always wanted to vacation and we are able to combine a family trip with a business trip. We did this last year when I had to go to Orlando for a certification exam. The boys have always wanted to go to Sea World and everything just kind of fell into place, so we were able to plan a short but jam-packed three days in Orlando. Wouldn’t you know that the day we were supposed to leave brought with it a freak early November ice storm in St. Louis? That ice storm kicked off one of the best and worst travel experiences of my life:

11:30 am on Thursday, departure day: Sleet starts to fall.
12:00 pm: Sleet turns to ice.
12:30 pm: Check the flight status, and flight is listed as on time.
1:00 pm: Check the flight status, and flight is listed as on time.
1:25 pm: Check the flight status, and flight is listed as on time.
1:30 pm: We all pile in the car to head to the airport. The boys are so excited they can hardly stay in their seats.
1:31 pm: Before we are even out of the garage, I receive a text message that our flight is cancelled. Emotional breakdowns ensue in the back seat.
2:00 pm: I call the airline to try to get us on another flight. I have to be in Orlando by 11:00 am on Friday to take the exam. If I am any later, I miss the exam and the business trip turns into a personal trip (read, no reimbursement of any expenses).
2:30 pm: I have been assured that the four of us have been booked with seating assignments on the 6:30 am flight to Orlando the next day. That whittles our three night trip down to two, but we are determined to go.
3:00 pm: Hotel and rental car are rebooked with new schedule.
4:00 pm: Boys stop crying.
7:30 pm: Get the boys to bed as we have to be at the airport by 4:30 am so have to leave the house by 4:00 am.
8:30 pm: Power in the house goes out. The coldness is good for food in the refrigerator and freezer, but not good for us. We turn on our gas fireplaces and bundle up with blankets.
3:30 am: We leave some water dribbling, as power is still out and we don’t want to come home to busted water lines, and wake the boys to get ready to head to the airport.
4:00 am: We get our car up the ice-slicked driveway, dodge fallen trees, traverse very dangerous roads, and begin our trek to the airport.
4:30 am: We arrive at the Parking Spot, for which I have reserved free parking for the weekend. Parking Spot has no power. We have to park in the airport’s short term parking lot. Cha ching!
5:00 am: We make it to the ticket agent to check in for our flights. None of us are sitting together. No big deal, because we can switch around on the plane. Luke's seat just happens to be on the 6:30 am flight the following day.
5:15 am: Things get worked out and we all manage to be booked on the same flight, still not sitting together.
6:00 am: Boarding time has come and gone.
6:30 am: Kids are getting restless.
7:00 am: Kids are getting agitated.
7:30 am: Kids have passed over into the superhyper delirious stage.
8:00 am: Parents are ready to give up. Kids are running around like Tasmanian devils.
8:30 am: We board the plane! Yes!
9:00 am: Still sitting.
9:30 am: Still sitting.
10:00 am: They begin deicing the plane.
11:00 am: They are still deicing the plane. By this time, Luke has taken his nap and woke up, and we have played with all of the toys we brought as distractions and ate all of our snacks. There are 23 other children on this plane, 5 of which are not crying.
12:00 pm: They are still deicing the plane. I have missed my exam, which was the whole reason we were going to Orlando in the first place (cha-ching, cha-ching!)
12:30 pm: Wheels up! Here we come, Orlando.
1:00 pm: Kids are starving. We haven’t eaten since 6:00 am and have no more snacks. The flight attendants have no snacks.
4:30 pm: We land in Orlando, get our bags and head to the rental car counter (on a bus, of course, because we haven’t been compartmentalized enough today).
4:45 pm: Guess what? No car for you! But I’m a Gold member, so they come up with a car for us.
5:00 pm: Get to the car, which was a mile walk from the counter with exhausted, hungry, tired children and cranky adults. Someone has left the passenger side window down. Did I mention it had been raining in Orlando? At this point, the trek back to the counter to ask for another car is more than overwhelming. John lays his jacket out and sits his butt in the wet seat with a squish. The kids fine this hilarious. Finally, something to laugh about. We head for the hotel.
5:30 pm: Arrive at the hotel. Guess what? Nothing is wrong here! Surprise! You have a room! Our pool is open! The restaurant is open! We head for the bar restaurant and spend the rest of the night drinking swimming.
Saturday and Sunday – We have one of the best trips ever, exploring all Sea World has to offer.
Sunday 10:00 pm: Arrive in St. Louis. Our power is still out. The boys and I head to my mom’s house. John heads home to check on our house.
Sunday 11:00 pm: John holds a watery funeral for our fish and frogs, who all have frozen except for one. He is dubbed “Lucky.”
Monday 7:00 pm: Power is restored to our house and we return home, after being gone for three days that felt like 300 years.

I know compared to those poor people who spent 8 hours stuck on a plane on the runway, my story probably doesn’t compare. But for us, it was about as bad as it can get. At least the bad stuff happened on the way there and not on the way home, so all my boys have are good memories of the trip. And I have a good story to tell.

Shamu


Our Christmas card photo


Watching the dolphins. Peaceful, right? That's Luke going "eeek, eeek."


Feeding the dolphins



Feeding the sting rays.


Not tired yet.


3 comments:

Tricia said...

Heather,
You are a very busy woman, with your 3 boys. To consider the lives we both grew up from, It makes me smile to see your 3 boys keep you so happy. Reading your blogs I see you are a very talented writer. Have you ever thought about taking your writing to a higher level. Best wishes, Tricia

KentuckyGal said...

I feel for ya!

After last year's Louisville to Las Vegas to San Jose; San Jose to Chicago to Louisville just-before-and-just-after Christmas plane trip, I vowed NEVER AGAIN to travel by air with the family during the holidays.

So this year? We're going between Dec 10 and 17. *sheesh*

Michelle said...

Okay, you asked at Cafe Mom for travel horror stories in your comments section, but I wanted to share a really nice story about travel-for-work (though I have bad ones too). My daughter was born in December 2005, and I went back to work in late March 2006. I was able to miss a lot of the traditional January-February travel, but had to go to Boston (from Indianapolis) in July for my FIRST TRIP AWAY from my little baby girl. I was sad and crying the whole flight, but composed myself enough to get to my hotel to check in. When I was at the checkin desk, MY SISTER, who lived at the time in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, surprised me by showing up to spend the next 24 hours with me. It was the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me, and I don't know how I would have survived the trip, and that first night, without her.