When Life Gives You Lemons…
I’m writing to you all from sunny and hot Southern California. Yucaipa to be exact. And tomorrow we’re off to San Diego for a fun-filled day at Sea World. Sea World has an entire portion of its park dedicated to Sesame Street! Elliott is going to be beside himself with excitement. Then on Tuesday we’re hitting the beach and maybe another theme park if we’re brave (no Disneyland this trip — I don’t feel like spending the entire day standing in line for the storybook rides in Fantasyland all day). Then on Wednesday, we’ll load the car back up and hit the road — 17 hours up the I-5 to home.
Wait. Wait. Wait.
You’re confused, right?
I mean…I’ve been talking about a Chicago trip for weeks now: Cubs game, Field Museum, Millenium park. But I am not in Illinois. Nowhere near the mid-west actually. And instead of a four hour plane ride, our vacation turned into an epic car trip…with a toddler. But why? How did this change come to be?
Ah, that is a good question. Let’s start at 4:00am last Wednesday: Our bags were packed, our standby tickets ready, Elliott was a champ on the way to the airport. We breezed our way through security with the efficiency and ease of seasoned travelers. (We’re flying veterans, we have a system and adding a child didn’t slow us down.) We get down to the gate and check our status on the flight. And that is where things started to get bumpy.
United had oversold every single flight leaving PDX for Chicago that day. And no one on the way to the airport had a flat tire or a faulty alarm clock. Pretty soon people who had confirmed seats on flights leaving Portland were being told they couldn’t get on the plane — there was a growing list of angry passengers who were involuntarily denied boarding. It was chaos. There were nine ticketed passengers ahead of us on the standby list and, of course, they had preference. United put some of them up in hotels…because they couldn’t guarantee a flight out that day. And then they turned to us, looked at our antsy toddler who had been so patient and wonderful for SIX full hours of waiting, and said, “You’re not getting out today. You should go home.”
We did. And I cried. But we said we’d try again tomorrow — just because the outlook was a little better. So, on Thursday, we woke up at 3:30am, dragged ourselves to the airport, stood in the line for our standby tickets, and…drumroll…there was a slight ticketing snafu. When I looked up our confirmation number, Matt and Elliott didn’t have tickets. I had two tickets. So, if I had a clone of myself…we might have been able to go to Chicago. We talked to someone about the error and she told us it would take an hour or so to fix…then she gave us the worst news of all: People from yesterday’s standby list were still on the standby list today…ahead of us. And the flights were even more overbooked over the weekend.
Her exact words to us. “You should expect to wait a week. And that’s with not going home and relisting. That’s staying until every flight leaves and rolling your standby status over. A week. And that’s just getting there…getting home is another issue.”
She was right. We could possibly get out to Chicago…but how would we get back? And Matt and I might have been able to live at the airport and travel like this a few years ago…pre-kid…but now? Impossible. I rode the people mover for two hours straight Wednesday morning trying to keep Elliott happy. Right past some barefoot guy in a white robe playing a six string violin.
We couldn’t do many more days of that…
Chicago was a bust.
I cried again. Called my family and explained the situation. And then Matt and I realized we had a choice. We could sit around for the rest of our scheduled vacation and mope. Or we could come up with Vacation B. A vacation that involved cars, not planes. And realistically we had two choices: North or South. South won. We got back from the airport by 6am on Thursday, put Elliott down for an early-early-early morning nap, packed the car, booked a hotel in San Francisco, called up Matt’s brother who lives in Yucaipa — two hours east of LA — and said, “You want visitors for a few days?” And by 9am, we were on the road.
All those Muppet DVDs we had for the plane did wonders for the car trip too. And Elliott lasted the entire 9 innings of a Giants/Padres baseball game the other night — after a napless day spent on the wharf eating Ghiradelli chocolate and watching sea lions.
California is not Chicago. And this isn’t the trip we thought we were taking. Also, despite the long hours in the car, I’ve barely cracked open any of the books I brought. (Which might be bad news for book club come Saturday night.) But I’m here with my boys…I’m getting to play Settlers of Catan with family…and I’m learning a lot about why Matt and I are so good for each other. This could have been disastrous; we could have thrown in the towel, pouted, and missed an opportunity. We didn’t do that. And here we are: Missing my beloved family in Chicago…but appreciating the opportunity to experience this adventure together.
Plus, I drove the Grapevine like a champ.