Recently, I made a trip back to the mid-west to spend some time with the relatives and enjoy a special occasion. But this post isn’t about my family – this is a travel blog, not Facebook. It was the journey…
I admit it. I knew up front the first stage of the trip was going to be grueling. Anytime you schedule yourself into a red-eye flight it’s going to make for a long day and night. But it’s the little things that change a trip from ho-hum to oy vey.
Like who was the wise guy that scheduled a 12:30 AM flight to Chicago after a four-hour evening seminar? Yep, yours truly. I attended a class on how to do CPR and use an AED, combined with administering emergency Oxygen for SCUBA diving injuries just before the flight. Then it was get home and catch a shuttle to the airport.
Except the shuttle didn’t show.
Our driver, given the options of dragging us to the airport or having a nice little snooze chose the later, an inconvenient fact discovered by my impatient wife who gave him a call when he didn’t brighten our street with his headlights at the appointed time.
Setting panic aside, plan B; drive to the airport and use long-term parking. What’s a few extra bucks among friends? The ploy was successful, we made our flight.
I understand there is a new requirement for flight attendant qualifications. They now need to wield an upsized shoehorn to squeeze passengers into what passes for economy seats.
They, however, are saints compared to the sadists who designed those seats. Their idea of comfort is a seat that forces you to sit bolt upright, with no lumbar support for the lower back. This, combined with the claustrophobic space you’ve had your legs welded into provides a frightening level of discomfort in which to attempt a red-eye snooze.
Interesting how this coincides with a vigorous upsell for better seats. All strictly legal, of course. (They really are better seats. I got bumped into one on the return; I could have been a basketball player and still had leg room. And unlike economy, you could recline those seats back without mashing the face of passenger behind you into something only a bulldog could love.)
Despite the less than blissful bed I was hoping for at least some shut eye, as the 4-hour flight would be followed by a 5-hour drive to western Wisconsin. But mother nature was in on the prank.
Much of flight was a cross between driving down a washboard dirt road and a continuous 4-hour earthquake, 7.8 on the Richter scale. Try sleeping through that. Maybe it was good they welded me to the seat, bouncing into the aisle would have been undignified.
In due time we landed in Chicago, and with bleary eyes made our way to the car rental agency. We had some luck there, we scored a nice little Mazda 3; sporty, nice color, great mileage. Of course, when it came time to show my license when exiting the lot it came up missing. In my mental fog I’d stuffed it into a hidden cranny in my wallet – it took a dump and search to find it.
Ah Chicago, land of toll roads. Don’t miss a turn, or you’ll empty the piggy bank in a hurry getting back on track. I didn’t know it was possible to pay four tolls in 10 minutes. (Either that or Google Maps was in on the prank too.) Between that and the congestion, it’s a place I’ll avoid in the future if possible.
Once out of the Chicago area the 5-hour drive to Wisconson was bucolic. People think Oregon is green, Wisconsin was an ocean of it. Thick deciduous forests, reminiscent of the black forest in southern Germany, but with hills rather than mountains. Corn and soybean fields added a manicured look to the landscape. It was quite picturesque when the light was right.
Driving tip for those with little sleep: it may not be a good idea to have a solid breakfast. Once digestion sets in it accentuates the groggy. It does help to have a spouse along to keep you alert.
At long last we arrived at our hotel parking lot in the Wisconsin boondocks. Not 30 seconds later my sister and her husband arrived too, completing their own cross-country driving trek from Colorado. What are the odds? Maybe I should have paid more attention to those high school math problems.
And so part one of family visits began, climaxed by a nephew’s wedding.
As grueling as the trip was, it helps to keep it in perspective. Consider the same trip 100 years earlier, or even 150 years earlier. Compared to that, this trip was the height of convenience and luxury.
It’s all relative.