Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Chicago Edition

Alternate titles to this post: 
  • I Hear Milwaukee is Beautiful This Time of Year
  • The Trip to Hades/Chicago
  • How The Clarks Saved an Otherwise Disastrous Trip
  • What Some People Will Go Through To Keep Their Status on Southwest Airlines
  • What Did People Do Before the Internet and iPhones?
  • Our Romantic Polish Winter Getaway
  • How To Never Be Warm for Three Days
  • An Unplanned Trip Down Memory Lane
  • A Feel Good Valentine's Day Post

So, a few months ago, Gty realized he was dangerously close to losing his prestigious status with Southwest Airlines.  He would only be a few credits short from keeping this hard earned status and he wasn't going to let it go without a fight.  It provides him with many perks including a companion pass in which he can always have someone fly with him for free.  He has some trips planned in the future which will necessitate the use of this companion pass so he devised a plan to keep it.

PLAN:  He and I would fly to Milwaukee (a destination which gave him double credits) when his parents were in town for TBone's baptism.  He would get a cheap ticket for himself and I'd go as his companion.  We'd fly in, drive down to Chicago (less than 2 hours away), see some friends, do a couple of things downtown, fly home.  Quick.  Easy.  Fun.

 The trip started out as planned.  We woke at 4:30am on Monday morning and headed to the airport.  Not ideal but we needed an early flight to fit everything in.  Our flight was fine.  We watched a few episodes of Mad Men and were on our merry way.  After driving through Milwaukee (and being,  Milwaukee looks like an awful place to live), we grabbed a quick lunch and drove down to Chicago.  We checked into our hotel & headed over to our friends' home to go out to dinner.

The Clarks have been one of our good couple friends since college.  Kelli and I were in the same major (Humanities, tyvm.  Don't ask either of us what it is tho) and we had several classes together.  I think she graduated from HS a year after me but since I was able to push myself and squeeze 4 years of college into 5 we ended up in many of the same upper level courses.  We eventually figured out that she and Jeff lived right across the street from us.... fate!   We've only been able to see them once every few years, however.  We spent a Thanksgiving at her parent's house in CT when we were living in NY.  Then they moved to Pittsburgh and we saw them a couple of times there.  Then we moved to OH and they drove through once on their way to IL.   So we were due for a visit with them and we made it happen.

We got to see their awesome house and meet their two youngest kids (yes, it had been a while since we last saw each other) and we went out to a fun local restaurant.  We then headed over to a cute little fondue place for some dessert.  I won't mention the idiot who worked there, cuz it will ruin the picturesque scene I'm trying to create here. We then went back to their house and waaaay overstayed our welcome by chatting with them until the wee hours of the morning.   It's always so fun to catch up with old friends.  We adore these guys.

Aaaaaand, this is where the story takes a turn for the worst.  

We wake up the next morning and call back to the homestead to see how Gty's parents and the kiddies are getting along.  As I'm talking to them, Southwest Airlines calls the home phone (thank goodness Phil answered) and informs us our flight home the next day has been canceled.  Apparently the weather was not cooperating.  What??  February in Milwaukee and the weather is bad?  No...couldn't be.  This is a vacation destination fhs!!  


So then this was Gty for the next couple of hours:

Calling Southwest--  no flights out of Milwaukee until Friday (Gty's parents were flying home on Thursday so...yeah, no.  Asking the SW person to "get creative" and figure out a way to get us home.  This phone call takes an hour, even more if you count the 40 minutes we were on hold to even get through to someone.  End result, we would have to drive down to Indianapolis for a flight the next morning at 7am. 

Fine.  As long as we get home on Wednesday.

Call Dollar Car Rental--  wanting to change reservation for car to just drop it down in Indianapolis rather than taking it back to Milwaukee.  We figured we'd have a $50 drop fee or something.  Again, no.  Dollar has no drop place in Indianapolis.  What??  Jerks.  Gty actually looks at the Greyhound website to see if that was a possibility.  My eyes well up at the thought.  Eventually we decide to drop our car at O'Hare (a $33 drop fee incurred), and get a new car from Budget.  This will be $200.  Again, jerks.  They take advantage of people who are desperate and booking last minute.   Although, with the weather the way it was and flights getting canceled we were lucky to get a car at all.

Now this Hyundai piece o' crap was to get us down to Indianapolis (a three hour drive) in the snow. We weren't gonna be happy until we were in our hotel room in Indy.

Call and cancel hotel, make new hotel reservations for down in Indy.

By this point it's 2pm.  We had slept in and missed the continental breakfast and had been eating hard candies we had stolen from the hotel's front desk all morning.  My mood was descending as fast as my blood sugar levels.  I needed food.   I didn't care what we ate as long as we ate in the next 10 minutes.  Gty had a hankering for Arby's.  Fine.  Let's go.  I looked it up on my phone and there was one 2 miles down the road.  Perfect.

We drive.  And drive.  I eventually figure out we had past the Arby's even though neither of us had seen it.  We turn around and I pay better attention this time.  As we come back around I see it.  Or what was left of it anyway.  It was boarded up and looked like it had been condemned.  Just piling on here.   We settled for Wendy's in our desperation and felt much better.  Do you know how long it had been since I'd eaten a cheeseburger and fries?  Well I ordered a double cheeseburger and fries and loved every bite.  And felt much better.

Now all plans of going downtown Chicago were thrown out the window.  No Sears Tower.  No John Hancock building.  No Blackhawks game.  We now just needed to get to O'Hare by 5pm and head down to Indianapolis.  And, if we could manage, say a few prayers that we wouldn't die on the icy highways in the meantime. 

(**Plz note: I was freezing and had been freezing since the second we landed in Milwaukee.  I never took my coat or scarf off.  Never.  Maybe once for a few minutes but that was it.  Freezing.  I hadn't realized how warm Denver was until I went to the Midwest in February.)

Now, here's where the story gets a little better.  Did you know that Gty went to Purdue to get his MBA?  Well, he did.  We lived in West Lafayette, IN from 1998-2000 and haven't been back since.  This little inconvenient rearrangement of our travel plans had now made a fun trip down memory lane possible.  West Lafayette is just off the freeway on the way down to Indy.  This was the perfect opportunity to stop by and drive around the ol' stomping grounds. 

We stopped and ate at our favorite restaurant there (Don Pablos):

We drove by our old apartment and took a pic:


Here is the back of our little two-story place:

We remembered how we used to close that back door to leave and Maggie would go tearing upstairs and crash into those blinds in the upstairs bedroom and stick her paw through them in order to watch us drive away.  We'd time her sometimes. Or we'd pretend to leave so she'd start running to the stairs and then quickly open the back door again just to confuse her.  Ah, animal mental torture is fun.  Or maybe the joke was on us because we'd never drive away without seeing her up in that window first, no matter how much of a hurry we were in.


We went by my old work building.  Some other company is in there now.  I don't know if you can tell, but it's a huge triangle/pyramid shaped thing.  Very cool looking.  It was a great job that I got by temping there and then they hired me on full-time.  It had great benefits which we needed while Gty was in school and I basically played Free Cell all day, sometimes did some data entry and kept the supply cabinet stocked with office supplies. Real high level stuff. 

We then drove down to campus and took a few pictures.

 They've added a bunch of new restaurants down by campus & built a couple new buildings since we were there.  It was 12 degrees and 10 o'clock at night so we didn't stay long.

Then on the way back to the freeway we happened by the hospital where the JBird was born.  
::single tear::

Our friends there were telling us a story about how when they first moved there she realized she was pregnant (and she had a 3 month old baby at the time) so she started asking around to people all nonchalant about where people had their babies there in Lafayette.  And everyone would say "Oh, just at home."  Or "I had my baby at home."  And she was freaking out thinking everyone birthed their babies in their master bedrooms with a rubber sheet or something.  But yeah, it's Home Hospital.  Hilar.

So we then moseyed on down to Indianapolis and found our hotel.  It was a nice Ramada for $50 so that's good.  Unfortunately, Indiana is one of those states where they don't change times with daylight savings.  So, simply driving from Chicago down to Indy cost us an extra hour.  We thought we got there at 11pm but no, it was midnight.  And we had a 7am flight.  Ugh.  We had to get up at 3am Denver time.

Needless to say, we didn't shower.  We woke up, pulled on some clothes and headed to the airport in plenty of time.  The last thing we wanted to do was miss our flight now.  I put "Indianapolis Airport" into the iPhone and we were on our way.  Our "Airport Ramada" was supposedly 3 miles from the airport so we weren't worried about it.  As we approached we saw no signs as to where we needed to drop the rental car.  As a matter of fact, there were no signs for what terminals were for what airlines...nothing.  Looked like a ghost town.  We drove around for a bit and then started getting nervous.  What was this place time forgot?  And plus, now we were pushing it for making our flight.  At this point we were just shaking our heads.  Could this trip get any worse????  

We decided to head back out to the highway and see if we could see any signs.  Luckily we noticed a sign with a little airplane on it fairly quickly and decided to see where it took us.  Apparently Indianapolis has a NEW freakin' airport!  What the?   Insane.  Luckily it was only 10 minutes up the freeway or so.  Also, luckily, the rental car drop place was right in the airport parking garage.   We would have had a major problem if we would have had to take a shuttle to the terminal or something.  We finally breathed a sigh of relief when we were sitting in our seats on the airplane and we were heading for take off. 

The flight home was uneventful and we even made it back a few hours before we would have had our original flight not been canceled from Milwaukee. 

Exhausted?  Me too.  Reliving this was difficult but I needed you to know my trials.  And, I need you to remind me of this if we ever have the big idea of taking a completely unnecessary trip to anywhere except Hawaii in the middle of winter.


Memzy said...

I'll ask the all important yet obvious question here. Did Gty get to keep his status?

This trip sounds........awes!!!!!?!!!!

Oh boy. We've all had some sort of similar situation. I prolly woulda ended up in tears at some point.

Home hospital is heelarious.

Flem said...

I had an annoying situation with the new airport on my last trip there too.

As for the daylight savings bit... uh, Indiana is always on Eastern time so... hmmm....

I am sorry to inform you that this actually sounds kind of fun so I am not feeling for you. Who doesn't love a walk down memory lane in the midwest in the winter?

Landee said...

Flem. Thank you for bringing this grievous error to my attention. After doing some research I've discovered that in 2005 Indiana passed a law that put them back on the daylight savings train! Who woulda thought! It was so not like that when we lived there. Half the year during my lunch break I'd watch Talk Soup and the other half I'd watch old SNLs. Same channel...get it? Yeah, no DST.

Point is, we lost an hour. My sob story still stands.

And Gty will still keep his status. Hooray!

StandsMom said...

Oh... ::shaking head slowly:: So Sorry!!! Cool that you got to see some of your old hangouts and I loved reading about your Maggie torture. Poor dog. If you need a redo and want a couple of nights, give me a ringydingy.

Hot Pants said...

I only travel south during the winter. It's a rule. I don't even like to drive the 20 minutes north to the ski hill.
I turned my electric blanket up to 9 after this post.

Kelli said...

Wow! I had no idea that the trip got so exciting once you'd left here!

Those pansies up in Milwaukee. There wasn't even that much snow. Question is, did you still get the double points even though you flew out of Indy?

It was so fun to see you! We can't let it be 6 years and three kids before we see you again.

Jenny ESP said...

Sounds adventuresome! There's a home hospital here in Vegas too. Katie delivered there. Next time, come to my house, K? Nothing bad ever happens here.

Cristin said...

DANG!!! ::saying a little prayer of thanks that it wasn't me::

It sound like it was really cold. Cold sucks but it sounds like you figured that out.

But Yay for seeing old friends and going down memory lane. fun fun.