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Friday, January 14, 2011

San Diego to Tallahassee - 54 Hours - 3 Days - 2 Nights - 15 States - 5 Cities - 4 Airplanes

We took the long way home

We left our hotel in San Diego on Tuesday morning at 5 AM. We expected to have two quick flights and be home before the day ended. But a freak snow storm in Atlanta changed all that quickly. When we got to the airport - we were greeted by an unruly crowd filled with librarians. They all wanted to get back to their libraries - and were cranky to find out that most flights east were cancelled. It was everybody for themselves trying to find a way home.

Tuesday - The ticket agent said that we probably would not get home for a few days - so we relaxed a bit - and received the news of our granddaughter being born on 1/11/11. We got a hotel un Old Town San Diego - and enjoyed a nice sunny day touring all the museums and just walking the streets and eating Mexican food. The airline said we could make it home the next day if we agreed to take the long way home.

Wednesday - We got four planes tickets to Los Angeles - Detroit - Atlanta - Tallahassee. If everything went right - we'd be home late that night. It started out strangely enough - when we had to walk about 100 yards under the stars to catch our commuter plane to Los Angeles. We were just happy to be moving east - so the walk seemed like a positive step. The airline gave us first class seats for the 20 minute flight up the coast. We flew very low and got a great view of the Catalina Islands. I recalled Beach Boy drummer Dennis Wilson dying there when he was diving off his boat to fetch items he threw overboard in a rage. The place seemed peaceful enough now. The first leg of our flight would have cost $778 if we were paying cash.

While sitting at the gate in LA - a fellow came over and tapped me on the shoulder. It was my neighbor Mario Feinstein. He had bought a car - drove across the country from Tallahassee to Pasadena with his son - now he was flying home. Small world huh?

After a long layover - we left on a Boeing 767 to Detroit. This flight was over 4 hours - and we enjoyed a nice meal - movie - and avoided the free drinks. Lulu and I were in the same first class row - but each of us had a window - six seats apart. We could exchange hand signals - but most of the time Lulu was talking library and grandkids to the lady next to her. The flight was a little late and we were sure that we would miss our next flight leaving Detroit. The motor city airport terminal is long. We had to run at full gallop past 40 gates - hoping to make it before the door was closed. I had to go to the bathroom badly - but does anyone want to spend an extra night in Detroit? That ticket cost $1013. Boy am I glad I am not paying for this odyssey.

At the gate - while scanning our airline ticket - the attendant told us we hit the lottery and were awarded "business class" seats. In case you do not know what that means - when you press a button - the seat changes into a bed. Even though this flight would only be 2 hours - Lulu and I were tempted to press the button and pull the curtain to join the mile high club - but we didn't. We did catch a little sleep and a few drinks - and finally we were circling the forbidden city - Atlanta. From the air it looked more like Allentown than Atlanta. Everything was covered with snow - a strange sight. School was closed for 5 days. Since this was the "big hurdle" - we were confident that we would be in our own bed that night. This segment of our voyage with bed was $797.

All smiles we romped off the Boeing 777 - sure that we would catch one of the remaining jumps to Tallahassee. We went to the flight board to see if the Tallahassee flight was on time - but there was no listing for our home city. We went to the help desk - and were informed that our flight was cancelled - not for weather. While we were at the help desk - Lulu could see the Duke at FSU basketball game on the TV in the bar. She shielded her eyes because she wanted to watch the biggest game of the year on the DVR later. We planned to be at that game - but no luck.

Starbucks had advertisements for books on their cup holders - a double whammy for Lulu

The agent was getting ready to close down the help counter - she said that no hotel rooms were available - we would have to spend the night in the terminal. We refused to accept that. Even flashing my Gold Delta card could not raise her sympathy - she escaped to the faculty room behind the door with the digital button lock. I tried everything - finally another agent came to try to get rid of me. I had to think fast. I reached into my backpack and pulled out my CPAP machine. I placed it on the counter - and put the ventilator mask on - I looked like a creature from one of those Avatar movies. She said she could call a medivac unit to help - I said I was okay but I just needed a place to plug in. I asked if I could crawl behind the counter for the night. All of a sudden she was playing the computer like a Steinway piano - and she handed me a voucher for a hotel room and vouchers for $60 of meals.

It took forever standing in the 10 degree weather - but the shuttle finally arrived - "Days Inn - East" was written on the side. We got to the hotel - it was a dump - but it was our dump. The place supposedly had free wifi - but the signal did not reach our room. We could see our breath as we turned on the heat. We were smiling because we still had one ace in the hole. We got undressed - put on the nightshirts from the airline help box - crawled under the blankets. We turned off the lights and turned on my iphone. If you do not know what a slingbox is - do a search on my blog. Simply it allows us to watch our TV and DVR from home. For the next hour or two - we watched the entire Duke at FSU basketball game. We expected a slaughter of our Seminoles - but our stars were aligned. When the smoke cleared - FSU won - and 1000s of people stormed the court. We were stuck in a 40 degree hotel room - under the blankets - but it felt like we were on the court. Go Noles!

Thursday - we slept in late - got to the airport at 10 AM. The hotel still looked bad - even in the daylight. We did not care - we had a nice brunch in Lulu's favorite bookstore/French Cafe - and after a short jump flight - we were home. Our bags beat us to the terminal - they came two flights before us. This flight cost $442. Ironically - Lulu and I sat in the last row - the last seat - right next to the toilet. We didn't mind. George was there with the van - and it was good to be home.

With tickets - hotels - and meals - the flight cost $3190 per person - $6380 total. But you all know I did not pay a penny.

Lulu and I were flying on a frequent flyer companion fare - which means one person flies free. Our total cost of the round trip was $438. Yes - about $220 each. Even though the 7 day trip turned into 10 days - we had a great time. All our bags arrived home on time. During the flight our granddaughter was born - and FSU knocked off the number one team in the land.

Flying over the Rockies in Colorado

Santi Anita Racetrack in California

The Great Plains of Nebraska and the Platte River

A deep meandering canyon in Utah

Lake Meade and Hoover Dam in Nevada

Business Class - where the seat turns into a bed