Friday, January 04, 2008

Anatomy of a Bowl Trip – Day 1

Monday, December 31, 2007
The day began bright and early at 7:00 a.m. I got up and prepared for the day. By the time I was dressed N had appeared in my bedroom, in underwear only. I encouraged him to dress for the trip that day to CA. I went downstairs and made breakfast for everyone, nothing difficult just cereal and juice and coffee. I would’ve made a big breakfast, but my parents aren’t breakfast people. They rarely have more than cereal for breakfast and don’t appreciate when I try to do more for them. I repeatedly encouraged an underwear-only clad N to get dressed. Eventually he did. By 9:00 a.m. Mom and Dad were ready to leave. I wasn’t ready for them to leave, but they wanted to be on their way even though we didn’t have to leave for the airport until around noon. I finished what little packing I needed to do. The three of us ended up fitting our things into one suitcase of carry on size. I was amazed, but given that we would only be gone two nights and weren’t going to need anything but casual clothes it worked. I dinked around on the ‘puter for a bit. At 11:00 we got big sandwiches from a local sandwich shop for lunch since I didn’t have much at home for making lunch. I knew we’d be gone and hadn’t stocked the fridge since before Christmas. If I had known what the next couple of days were going to be like I might have ordered extra sandwiches and taken them with us in a cooler. I had no idea just how chaotic things were about to become though so we took no food or drinks with us as we drove off to the airport in blissful ignorance.

You need to understand just how cheap I am to understand some of our difficulties over this trip. I had scoured the internet for a cheap trip for the three of us. I had searched flights from half a dozen different airports within driving distance of us, both large and small. I found the cheapest roundtrip flight was on United from a regional airport about an hour from where we live. We would fly on a small commuter jet from the regional airport to Chicago O’Hare, change planes and fly into Orange County (again this was the cheapest of the LA area destination airports available, and naturally the farthest from Pasadena and the Rose Bowl) whereupon we would hop into our rental car and drive to our hotel, also reserved in my “vacation package deal.” Yep, we were all set.

When we arrived at the airport, it was cloudy and cold. Since we were headed to a warmer climate, both W and N chose not to wear their winter coats but to make their Rose Bowl hoodies suffice as jackets because they “wouldn’t be outside except to walk up to the terminal.” I also was using my hoody, but in addition I was wearing my scarf and gloves. At the last minute, I decided to throw my winter coat in the back seat of the car “just in case.” We hustled into the airport and checked in for our flight only to learn that the departure was delayed from an original 2:45 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., but the ticket agent assured us we should still make our connection at O’Hare. As we sat in the gate area, we chatted with a few other fellow Illini fans making the same trip (apparently I’m not the only cheapskate around) and N played Uno with a new found friend. Checking the monitor from time to time we watched as the flight’s departure time crept forward first from 4:00 to 4:05 then 4:10 on and on until finally it was posted to be 4:40. We also noted that it had started to snow, not a gentle flurry, but a heavy snow with large flakes drifting quickly as the wind was also not gentle. We sat. We waited. Finally, a little after 4:00 the dreaded announcement came. Our flight was no longer delayed, but had been cancelled altogether. We were to return to the ticket desk for reticketing. We stood in line. We tried to listen in to the conversations other passengers were having with the ticket agents. It appeared there was an 8:35 p.m. flight out of O’Hare to LAX that night that people thought they could catch by driving to O’Hare which would normally be maybe a two or two and a half hour drive – in good weather. That flight was full by the time we reached the ticket desk. We were offered a 7:00 p.m. flight from O’Hare to LAX, but I declined because I didn’t think we could make it in time. It was already 4:30 p.m. by that time, and it would be pushing it even in the best conditions. The best they could do was get us on an American flight the next morning at 9:40 a.m., arriving at LAX at 12:05 p.m. Wow. That would get us in only a little more than two hours before the Rose Bowl kickoff. We decided to go for it. After brushing the snow, at least two or three inches, off our car we drove out of the regional airport and headed towards Chicago where we planned to spend the night before flying out the next morning. The roads were treacherous, but we thought that once we made it to the interstate things might be a bit better. They were, a bit, but only a little bit. I was driving, naturally, since I refuse to ride with W driving (his driving terrifies me). We hit a top speed of 35 mph on the interstate. There were a few “brave” drivers that passed us, and we watched more than one spin out in front of us, some lucky enough to stay on the road and continue on their way, some not as lucky ending up in the median or the ditch. We plodded along for eons (actually only a little more than an hour) when we finally decided to give up and stop at the next exit with a motel and spend the night, and try to resume our trip the next day. We knew it meant getting up extremely early in order to make our flight, but we hoped the snow would end by then and that the roads would be clearer and easier to handle. A few miles after we made this decision we found such an exit, and stopped for the night around 6:00 p.m. along with many others doing the same thing. We got a decent room for the night. Once settled in our room, I called (yes, I had to make several phone calls on this trip and just had to set the phone phobia aside to do so. It wasn’t easy, but I did it.) Expedia through whom I had booked the flight/hotel/rental car package to make the necessary changes, cancelling the rental car and the hotel room for the first night. As is so typical these days I reached a customer service representative with an accent so thick I struggled to understand him. OMG, I hate that so much. I’m straining to listen over the phone to a heavily accented voice over a less-than-stellar connection. After that was accomplished, W asked me about dinner. Should we try to find a restaurant? I looked at him with a look that should have killed but didn’t. No freaking way was I going back out into that snowstorm for food. Nope. Not me. I’d done about all the driving I could stand for one day. We found a pizza place that delivered and ate pizza in the room. The delivery man said he’d made several deliveries to our motel that evening. W called my cousin who was going to attend the Rose Bowl game with us and asked if he could pick us up when our flight arrived at LAX at noon the next day. He said he would be happy to do that so we breathed a bit of a sigh of relief as we now at least knew we had transportation. N wanted to stay up until midnight to ring in the New Year. Given that I’d figured we would have to be up by 5:00 a.m. the next morning to have any chance of making our new flight I nixed that idea. We all went to bed at 9:00 p.m. I went to sleep thinking that our chances were slim that we were actually going to make it to the Rose Bowl at all.

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