Saturday, December 31, 2011

It wouldn't be traveling without stress

December has been a cruel joke for me. I was supposed to be primarily on vacation from the 15th to the end of year, but that didn't come to fruition and so you just adjust and move on. Despite being on the go all the time, a night out with Jill is something that is too infrequent so we'll go to great lengths to get that.

This time it involved flying to Houston with an overnight layover in Little Rock, AR to drop off Cooper and Lauren with Jim and Judy so Jill and I could attend my second company Christmas party in a 7 day span. We got into Little Rock with few issues, Cooper is a seasoned traveler these days and Lauren is the world's easiest kid.

Jill and I had an early flight out of Little Rock, which felt really early considering we live an hour behind Central time. We made it into Houston on time, saw a couple of friends then headed off to grab lunch with my cousin Brandon and his wife Amy, a fellow Bartian and classmate of Jill's at Lupe Tortillas.

After that, I ambled over to the company meeting and snuck in the back door to little fan fare. After a couple hours of the meeting and some socializing with coworkers, we headed to our hotel to relax for a few hours before heading to River Oaks Country Club, the creme de la creme for Houston high society life.

The party was a good time, nice food and everyone was having a great time. The company gifts never fail to please, an iPad2 for me and a really nice pair of diamond earrings for Jill. You could say it was a very good year...

It all started getting a little messy at that point, not for Jill and I but for others. After getting some coworkers in bad shape loaded up and headed home, we were missing our gift bag. After some looking and a incoherent exchange with a coworker that had two iPads in his bag we headed to the hotel sans gifts. We've since recovered both gifts, as we knew we would but it made things more interesting.

A few hours sleep at the JW Marriott across from the Galleria, then a quick breakfast and another flight back to Little Rock. We'd be stopping through just long enough to grab a meal, get the kids and head back to the airport to fly back to CO some 48 hours after we left....or so we thought.

On our way to the airport, I started getting text messages from United. Flight delayed. First 30 minutes, then an hour, then two hours. So our 7:30 flight was now 9:30. We opted to grab some dessert and drinks at a restaurant rather than try to entertain the kids at the small airport for three hours. Around 8, we had grown tired of the restaurant so we drove the mile to the airport, said our goodbyes to Jim and Judy and headed to check our bags.

The United attendent behind the desk says to me "Are you checking in for a flight tomorrow morning?"

I am puzzled, but reply "No I have a flight at 9:30 tonight".
He replies "Well TSA goes home at 8pm, you aren't going anywhere tonight"

My reply should not be repeated, although Cooper did repeat it immediately after I said it and it was along the lines of "My good sir, this cannot be correct" or something similar to that. Knowing there was no wiggle room on this, my attention diverted to getting a rental as we watched Jim drive away and couldn't get them on their cell phone. Rental car acquired, 45 minutes later we were back at their house and kids in bed we were going to make the best of the situation. United couldn't get us all on a single flight on Saturday, so we booked the earliest flight out on Sunday morning and decided to enjoy the extra time with the family on Saturday.

Sunday morning the alarm starts ringing at 5am and we start loading the car up. The last thing we load are the two kiddos and off we go to the airport. There is a 18 mile, curvy stretch of road from the edge of the Village to the interstate. We made it about 14 of those miles and then everything came to a stop. Police cars lights flashing, cars backed up...what is going on?

I get out, walk up to see an enormous tree fallen across the road. With a car smashed into it. On a bridge. Seriously, this state refuses to let us leave. I talk to a few people to get an assessment of our options. Its going to be a "long time" before the tree is out. There are few other roads to get us to the airport and none of them are close. One person gives us the recommendation of "the dirt road across from the boarded up convenience store back up the road". Good enough, lets roll.

Now I could have just followed her up the road and she would have lead me to said dirt road, but she was about 70 and I had a feeling she would be driving 40mph in the 45mph zone so I took the lead and never saw her again. Of course, I never saw the dirt road either but Jill did find me an acceptable, albeit tiny, road that eventually dumped us out at the Interstate.

To make a long, and incredibly stressful, story much shorter. We screeched into the airport, checked in with 3 minutes to spare, dumped the rental car and ran through security while they are calling for us on the loudspeaker. Nerves shot, incredibly tired but so thankful to have the wheels touch down on some higher elevation tarmac...

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