So we were supposed to leave D's parents' place last Friday to visit my family in the Texas panhandle. Unfortunately, our travel plans were thwarted again (are we beginning to notice a pattern here?). What follows is an account of an odyssey that still boggles my mind. Normally, I wouldn't provide such a ridiculous blow-by-blow, but for the sake of illustrating how absurd the whole experience was, here's the tale. Feel free to skip down to the photo if you'd rather not hear about the journey.
Weather was the primary culprit this time -- not on our day of departure in question but in the days preceding it. Because of ice and fog, lots of planes were grounded, and the one that was intended to take us to Chicago for our connections to Dallas and then the panhandle never made it to our city. About an hour before we planned to head to the airport, American Airlines' automated system called us with the news that our 1 p.m. flight was a no-go.
Given D's success with the bus on his way down, we decided to cancel the tickets for the Chicago flight and hop the charter coach again to get back to O'Hare -- a four-hour ride, but one that would get us there in time to take a later flight to Dallas, with some hustling through security. We also got ourselves rebooked on Saturday's first flight out to the panhandle (the last plane for Friday evening that we were originally going to take would be long gone). Sounds good, right? At least, better than the new itinerary we were given by AA's automated system, which would get us to my parents' place late the next night.
Well, about two hours into our bus ride, the driver announced that our arrival at O'Hare would be delayed by 45 minutes. Normally, the bus line splits its passengers at a halfway point, transferring everyone going to Midway (Chicago's other major airport) to another coach. But because of the unusually high volume of passengers from all the canceled flights, the company was short on buses and ours would have to be rerouted to Midway and O'Hare -- which meant that we wouldn't be able to make our new flight to Dallas.
A quick call to AA revealed that there were no seats available on future Dallas flights until Saturday evening, which would mean getting to the panhandle another day late. But then, at the last minute, two slots opened up on an early morning flight, so we grabbed them and then found ourselves a hotel near the airport. Once we finally reached O'Hare, we got ourselves a good dinner, set our cell phone alarms, and promptly conked out.
One hour later: D's cell phone rings. Yep, our new new Dallas flight was canceled.
At this point, we realized that our chances of getting out of Chicago in time to spend any part of our vacation with my family were looking bad -- the AA agent D got connected to spent nearly an hour and a half searching for flights that would get us to the panhandle by Saturday, but the best he could come up with was a flight leaving Sunday for Indianapolis, connecting to a flight to Dallas, and finally getting us to my parents' place that evening. A quick peek at the weather forecast revealed an ice storm on its way to the Midwest for Sunday as well. Time to consider a new form of transportation? We thought so.
The pickings were slim, but we did find a car rental company with vehicles left (at a premium price, of course). So at 1:30 a.m., we made our reservation and finally had a guaranteed way to Texas. Because of the cost, it meant deciding to make the 1,050-mile drive all in one day, but it was a good thing we jumped on the option when we did. By 7 a.m., there was nothing available to rent within a five-mile radius of O'Hare.
Saturday was long, but we made good time, despite a tornado warning as we passed through St. Louis and torrential rains further south in Missouri. Here's a view of the Gateway Arch as we crossed the state line out of Illinois:
We reached my parents' place around midnight after 16 hours in a little red Prius we named Pepe. I don't think we really believed that we had made it until after the first full day of our stay -- what does it say about the state of the airline industry when you can drive a thousand miles in less time than you can fly the same distance?
The clincher: the flight we were booked on out of Indianapolis to Dallas ended up being delayed 11 hours, which would have forced us to miss our Sunday flight to the panhandle. I think we can say for certain now that the road trip was justified -- I just hope we won't be driving back to Seattle after this weekend!!! I'm fresh out of extended-travel stamina.
1 day ago