Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Easter in Chicago

Frank Sinatra sang "Chicago is my kind of town!" The weather must have been better when he was there. Our vacation plan was to fly from Saskatoon-Toronto-Chicago-Richmond(VA) and get picked up at the airport to drive to Newport News, Virginia (google maps). The Whole Ordeal was to take us about a 14hr day.

Cue bad weather near Chicago-O'Hare(wikipedia), the worlds busiest airport (or, so the ticketing agents were fond of telling us). We sat on the runway ready to leave Toronto long enough to nearly finish the entirety of Cheaper by the Dozen II(imdb.com). It was meant to mollify us, but somehow it only made the wait seem longer. We were told not to worry about connecting flights because the whole airport was backed up and so everything should amazingly work out just fine. Hmmmmm.

To make a really long story only quite long, our connecting flight was not backed up, but entirely cancelled! I'm not sure what the throughput of O'Hare is, but with scores of flights backed up and cancelled, you can do the math when it comes to the line-ups for rebooking flights. We waited in several different lines for about 4.5 hours.
I asked the line-up to shout "Happy Easter." The response was so-so.

They repeatedly told us that weather delays were not their responsibility but due to a technicality (and some badgering), Wendy managed to talk the agent from United Airlines into providing a free hotel room where we were lucky enough to spend 5 hours until we had to get up at 3am our time to try and make it back to the airport for the next stage of our journey.

With all the confusion, the best the airlines could do was either get us to our destination an entire 36hours late, or to route us through Atlanta (yes, Georgia!) and then back up to Richmond. On a map it looks just ridiculous, but it was faster, so what the hell. Only too bad for us, because our flight to Atlanta got in late and after sprinting most of the way across three Atlanta terminals missed the connecting flight by less than 5 minutes. Grrrrrr. The next two flights to Richmond were full while the third would get us there sometime after 10pm. There was nothing we could do but wait for the next flight to Richmond and try to fly standby.

I had conflicted moments, standing in a lineup of people who were all hoping that people booked on the flight would miss their connections. In the end our evil karmic thoughts paid off and we got on the plane, arriving at our destination almost 24hrs after our original ETA.

Did I mention that our luggage was mislaid? Yeah, it arrived in Richmond a day after we did. Of course we were not there any longer. When faced with the extreme inconvenience of shipping it an hour to Jodi and Brad's home, Delta airlines decided to fly it back to Atlanta and Then right to the Newport News airport. A model of efficiency, neh? Two hours on the phone with three different people netted us a travel voucher for $150 and $50 cash for some clothes and incidentals which we had to do without while our bag was in limbo.

There are certainly a great many details I am leaving out here, but I think you get the idea.

The vacation, once it began, really was quite nice. As you can see, Brad really knows how to keep visiting dignitaries happy. Most of you will recognize the esspresso/capuccino maker. To its left is the grinder and next to that is the coolest geek coffee pot in existence. It makes very scientifically sound coffee. Delicious too.

The photos that follow are mostly from the day we spent at some sort of floral zoo. The turtles were omnipresent
as were the robot guardians.

As visitors, Brad and I were clearly not aware of the hard and fast rule "don't disturb new plants." It was a squeaker, but we managed to escape with our lives and promise from the local elders to reconsider their inflexible system of law enforcement...