Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Plan Was Super Easy

The plan was super easy: I was going to get on a train Saturday morning, arrive in Washington, DC three hours later, and enjoy a day of tromping around the city with friends before flying to Seattle the following night.

And then it snowed.

You may have seen the TV coverage of the two-foot blanket of white we received. It was really rotten timing, and I was mad. Unlike many, I've always distrusted snow. Sure, it looks pure and friendly, but it shoves cars off the road, freezes pipes, and takes all the bread off grocery store shelves.

The night of The Big Snow, I stayed with my travel buddies. In the horrifyingly white morning, Hunter dug out his four wheel drive truck and took us to the train station. We managed the difficult, uncleared roads and hills just in time to get the truck stuck in the parking lot.

But then we rushed aboard the train just in time! We were safe! And headed to a Big City with a Big Airport where everything would be okay. The train started off, and we relaxed in the knowledge that we'd all get to our destinations.

Then the train stopped. It continued stopping, with very few interruptions, for ten hours.

Meaning we got to DC around 11:00 p.m., about 13 hours after left. Amtrak's slogan waved goodbye: "Amtrak: Enjoy the Journey!"

Bah, humbug.

We arrived at the hotel at midnight and collapsed into bed. The next morning, we learned my flight was still on time (yay!), so we spent the day wandering in the snow and drinking coffee.

In the late afternoon I took an exciting shuttle ride with a friendly man who eagerly disregarded lights, lanes, and laws to get me to the airport on time.

I got some food! I found my terminal! I waited to get on my plane! It was delayed ten minutes!

Wait, what? That's not good. My layover was only scheduled to be 40 minutes... but the DC airline rep told me I'd be fine.

The airline rep in Minneapolis apologized instead, and handed me vouchers for food and a hotel stay.

So I wearily waited for the Ramada shuttle. I climbed aboard, and the driver announced that our hotel was next door to the Mall of America. I checked my ticket for the next morning: 7:20 a.m. So no cheesy sight-seeing for me.


I was zoomed next to a creepy hotel that was apparently modeled after the one in The Shining. The woman at the reception desk said to take the elevator to 2R, and then find my room -- 436 -- from there. Um, okay, that makes no sense, but I figured maybe it was a rambler-type hotel and then ran out of both 200s and 300s and thus had the 400s on the same level.

What a silly thing to believe. No, the hotel hallways actually SPIRALED upward to the 400 level. Creepy noises and poor lighting led me to believe I had a fair chance of being murdered or see rivers of blood, so I kind of sprinted up the spiral until I found my tastefully decorated room.

I called people to say goodbye in case I was murdered in my sleep, and went to bed.

Jumped out of bed the next morning, raced downstairs, and climbed on the airport shuttle. Bad-breathed debate team members with Minnesota accents discussed the merits of speeding up and slowing down speeches while analyzing them. I refrained from leaping onto my seat and yelling that I am a speech professor ON VACATION and they all NEEDED SOME BREATH MINTS.

(Santa's watching. Plus I hadn't eaten breakfast and really didn't have the energy.)

Hours of being shuffled around by people who didn't understand that I really meant it when I said I TRIED to use the kiosk check-in already -- yes, both Northwest AND Delta -- and it didn't work because it wasn't working, NOT because I'm an imbecile... and then a brief stint of securitizing, and I was on a plane to Seattle.

It arrived. As did my best friend, who was picking me up. And we didn't get into any accidents or explosions along the way home.

But I'm really scared to try leaving again.

So yes... while this is not the world's worst travel story (I met one girl who was on her third day of delays and was worried about missing her wedding!), it was pretty tiring and also why I needed to decompress a bit before reliving it for you here.

But now it's your turn: tell me YOUR travel horror stories!


Rick said...

Sounds like quite the trip. Glad you made it safe.

AspiringFashionista said...

I love your line about how snow takes all of the bread off of the shelves. I live in the South and mere mention of the word snow sends the world into a bread-grabbing, milk-guzzling frenzy.

christianne said...

Wow. That sounds really sucky. While I'm glad to get the whole scoop on what happened (filling in the details better than Twitter-sized updates can do!), I'm sorry you had to experience this at all.

But that picture of the church in the DC snow is really pretty. It made me wish I was along for the coffee tromp that day. :)

Anonymous said...

I actually usually am really fortunate when it comes to travel. I don't have any terrible horror stories accept for the 16 hour flight home from Iraq.

However, that "snow storm" that was supposed to blanket the Valley in New York with ungodly amounts of snow, turned out to be a dusting up here...

yeah so basically, the party i cancelled could have been a go, but mother nature decided to be a selfish b!+ch.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh! 13 hours on an amtrak?!

I would have gone insane. When I take it for just an hour trip and it is late I freak out. I definitely dont have any travel stories that compete with yours at all... I dont think..hmm

Um my best I guess would be when I was about 13 my mom and I went to Egypt and I got really sick with a bug from the Nile and ended up passed out for days with some weird disease. And then we had to travel on various planes for 24 hours to get home and I was stuck on really long plane rides while being super sick. I think yours is still worse though!

Dave said...

To say that sucks would be a profound understatement. We spent 7 1/2 hours sitting in an airport on Thanksgiving because of "fog," but your story is by far worse. I don't like trains to start with....13 hours and I think I would have come unglued.

Kristi Faith said...

bad travel is never good for the nerves...or anything else for that matter. Glad you are safe!!

(6 months pregnant, layover and had to transfer my own luggage-which I didn't know until I got to the layover city-no one stopped to help as I dragged along luggage and carry ons and my big ol' belly!)

Sara said...

That is all foul. Planes, trains and automibles indeed!

My roommate and I got hit with that giant snow and we drove in it from Boone to Charlotte. That's supposed to be a 2 hour drive, but we got there in 6. I'm so glad I wasn't the one driving.

P.S. I'm so glad no one murdered you in your sleep!

Bethany said...

Wow, I have no idea how I missed this post! I can't believe your trip home was so crazy, but I'm glad you finally made it safely!

Hmm, travel stories! I'm sure I could come up with a ton about missed trains, planes, boats, etc., but I once led my friend and I to the wrong Glasgow, Scotland airport. Who knew Glasgow would have TWO airports!?!? Not me. But now you know, so if you ever go to Scotland, be careful to go to the right one! ;)