01 January 2011

A ______ New Year!

Good? Yes. My family is home, safe and sound, mostly healthy and 3/5 asleep.

Prosperous? We'll see. After some of the expenses associated with what I am about to write, that part of the story remains unwritten.

Happy? Eh...

I am going to vent a little bit, in order to exorcise the demons of a hellish day from my system. This will be long.

I have just arrived home from a 2 week trip to California. I have spent the last 29 hours attempting to do so.

We go to California to see Lacy's family twice a year. I love these visits, as I love her family, and this trip included the arrival of a new nephew, born to Lacy's sister Lillie and her husband Ross. We had a great time with Lacy's parents and the rest of her family, but the trip was made difficult by especially persistent Eastern Time Zone sleep patterns from our kids AND the fact that EVERYONE became ill with some kind of cold/flu/sinus bug, with most of us still fighting it off (almost 2 weeks later for me).

I try to make these trips comfortable for our family of 5. I begin tracking airfares 4-6 months ahead of time. I try to make sure we have ideal layovers (around 2 hours- time for bathroom, food, and walking to the connecting gate). We often take early flights, and this time, stayed at the Hyatt located in the airport itself, which made for a very smooth departure, long but smooth flight to L.A., and easy connection to San Diego.

For our trip home I planned for us to fly from San Diego to Atlanta, 3 hour layover, then arrival in Orlando just after midnight on January 1, 2011. It sounded like fun to have our kids, accustomed (by now we thought) to West Coast time, experience the New Year with us, in a plane. It would be a new adventure for everyone. Then we would stay the night at the same airport hotel, wake up for a nice New Year's Day breakfast and then spend some quality time with my family at my sister's house in Orlando.

Nice plan, right? All was well as we packed the night before, strategically having everything we would need for the next two days in a single bag. Easy drive to the S.D. airport. Given how sick Lacy, Isaac, and Millie had been (Joseph and I having improved at this point) we made sure that the kids got some Benadryl and Lacy some cold meds to ward off pressure problems. This worked well for Millie, who zonked out during the flight. Isaac had some troubles on the descent, solved with a bottle, but poor Lacy felt like her head was going to be crushed, a pain, in her words, second only to childbirth. Despite the efforts of a kind and observant flight attendant, as we talked after the flight she was sure that she couldn't get on our next flight. She couldn't hear in one ear and the other had diminished effectiveness. She also continued to have a terrible headache for the next several hours.

We talked to Delta, but they couldn't guarantee the return of our bags, so the plan was to rent a car, drive to Gainesville, and then I would continue to Orlando to pick up our bags and car. At this time Lacy's pain was severe enough that we took a motel room a little south of the airport.

We slept pretty well and then got on the road. We had been driving for a little while when the GPS in the car, and later highway advisory signs, alerted us to an accident that had closed all southbound lanes on the interstate. The recommended avoidance route did not save us from a delay of more than 2 hours.

Finally, back underway, several bathroom and food-related stops later we arrived at our home in Gainesville, in a soon-to-be overdue rental car and with none of our bags. After unloading my family I got back on the road to Orlando. That part of the trip went well, I returned the car, noticing a major snafu with the rate which will have to be dealt with on Monday, and then got our bags, which had arrived in Orlando 20 hours earlier and which were patiently waiting for me in the Delta Baggage office.

Then to find my car, which could not be accessed the way we had left it because of a renovation in the Hyatt's lobby. After a half-mile of wandering, pulling 4 suitcases and a duffle, I made it to my car which...had a dead battery.

One of us had left the dome light on, so I called for assistance at a box in the garage and Juan was dispatched to help, the car started right up and 2 hours later, here I am, writing my first blog post of the year.

I really have very little to complain about. I am home. My family is alive, in their own beds, and we are together. We never lacked for comfortable shelter or a safe, working vehicle. In a time of need I was able to pronounce a blessing on my wife and daughter, which we feel was instrumental in Lacy's recovery and Millie's good night of sleep, absent the cough that had made her so uncomfortable. Joseph and Millie were especially great in dealing with all of the changes to our schedule, and Isaac's constant smile and sweet temperament helped make the drive less onerous than it could have been.

It definitely was an expensive detour, and we did not get to enjoy the New Year as we expected or spend the time we had hoped with my family. But writing this has helped me focus on the important parts of the day and the successes we experienced despite the travails.

Here is a quick rundown of some of the good and bad:

  • Hyatt- They waived the full-rate cancellation fee we would have paid when I explained Lacy's situation.
  • Hampton Inn- They had room, and their rooms had comfortable beds...and mouthwash. That last thing was critical, as my toothbrush decided to pass the new year without me.
  • Ford Flex- This was the second time I have rented this vehicle. It is smooth, and comfortable, with plenty of nice features and I think the SYNC system is very slick. I spent 9 hours in it today and probably could have driven a few more based on the car's comfort alone.
  • KFC in Morrow, GA- Thanks for being open on New Year's Eve.
  • Joseph & Millie- They took it all in stride.
  • Avis rate issues- To be dealt with later. I like Avis, but I will need to deal with this.
  • Sinus problems- boo sinus problems. Boo.
  • McDonalds in Morrow, Ga- I know it was New Year's Eve, but take down the 24 hour drive-through sign if you don't mean it. Tired, hungry 3 and 5 year olds don't like to hear that they will not be getting the Happy Meal I hoped to buy.
  • The way that I ate in California, and over the last two days.
So, my vent is over, and I am happy to have done this, if only to weigh the events of the day and see how blessed I am.

Here are some photos from the car ride. Happy New Year!

Isaac enjoying the ride. Thank goodness we packed an extra sleeper. He was very comfortable.
I don't know how many of these seemingly Japanese-made Kleenex packets Lacy used.
Joseph and Millie enjoyed sitting "so high up" in the back, with the DVD player close at hand.
Your humble, and often impatient, narrator. I am wearing my Miami shirt. I wore it on yesterday's flight, hoping to watch some of the bowl game on the inflight TV. And they lost, badly. I should have seen it as an omen.


Lillie said...

I can't believe you're still up--- or were until moments ago writing this. But I'm glad you did, or you may have lost steam and this story HAD to be written. I had to develop a very strategic laugh while Lacy told me the rest of this story as to not bust a stitch in my incision. I'm SO sorry this was such an ordeal and only hope that (like childbirth) you might sort of forget how hard it was so you'll continue to make the trips out! We love you guys so much. So sorry for the nightmare!

A.J. said...

For the first holiday in 13 years, I did not spend it on a plane most of the time trying to visit two sets of relatives. This post has made me realize why I moved back east from California. Traveling during this time of year is just a nightmare. Glad to hear you made it through relatively unscathed, even though it was tough. In my experience, Avis customer service is fairly helpful with rate issues. They had charged me like twice as much once and very quickly repaid me. They even went back in their history and realized 3 months prior they had done the same thing and paid me back for that -- I did not even know until they pointed it out. I hope you have the same luck!

Thanks for the perspective! Happy New Year!

Kira said...

That sounds crappy. Boo sinus problems. Boo