Friday, July 17, 2009

Day 1--The Great Pacific Northwest Adventure

Pirate swords and cherries at the airport pasta place. I was about 2 seconds from assaulting the nasty United agent with that tiny plastic sword, shortly after this photo was taken. Good thing I'm a diehard pacifist and have a lotta empathy for people stuck in customer service jobs, where they bear the brunt of disgruntled customers' anger. Otherwise there wouldda been an eyeball on that toothpick!

Day 1--Trains, Planes, Trains, Trains and Automobiles. Separate flights, United Divided, Portland at last, and gettin' the squirrlies out at an awesome Hillsboro playground.

Today's a traveling day. It's the much anticipated day we all go see Auntie Maia (or as Du wrote on her handmade b-day card ANTI MAIA).

AA doubled the number of flyer miles we needed to redeem, so we only had enough miles for Du and Dug to fly free. We were going to book the same flight, but it was hundreds more and 3 hours longer than a comparable direct flight on United. So, like the keepers of the secret formula for Coca Cola, we took different flights and coordinated them to arrive near the same time.

It was BEASTLY hot in Chicago when we left. The boys got a few hour head start on us. At 11am, Sage and I took popsicles for the hot, few block walk to the el and set out with backpacks and rolling baggage. By the time we reached the train, I had all the luggage and she was begging for me to carry her, too. It was hot.

I'll try to keep the saga short, but I hope to NEVER fly UNITED AGAIN. Here's the nut shell series of nutty events.

1--book flight months ago--pick seats

2--get e-mail flight has been combined with another--pick new, different, worse seats together

3--sign in 24hrs. ahead to get boarding passes--find both sets of seats we picked are gone and the ONLY seats left are two center seats across the plane in the EMERGENCY ROW. (Good plan people. Put a 6 year old ALONE by the emergency hatch.)

4--Little kid alone in the emergency row prevents us from getting boarding passes on line

5--We go 3 hours early to resolve the seating issues. Little kid alone in the emergency row prevents us from quick check in in the terminal despite no checked baggage.

6--Wait in huge baggage check line to find the agent at check in also can not reassign us seats. She makes a bunch of calls, to be told they're now assigning seats at the gate.

7--We go to the gate 2 hours early to resolve the issue. A nice agent takes our boarding passes, checks us in and tells us we can have two seats together, aisle, near the bathrooms and that they're still working on actual seat assignments, but we're taken care of and all set.

8--We head to a close restaurant for quick pasta, hit the bathroom, fill water bottles and are still back before boarding.

9--New nasty agent is at the counter and tells us we have to go to the back of a ginormous line, despite the fact we checked in 2 hours before. Midway through the line, they begin to board and she announces they've downsized the aircraft and 12 people will be bumped.

10-We finally reach the counter and she claims our seats have been given away despite the fact we checked in 2 hours before, and refuses to even check in the computer.

11--I persist. They say all other flights are booked till past midnight. Sage starts to freak 'cause we've already been at the airport 3 hours. I insist we checked in and were told we had seats. She insists all the seats are gone. She calls a supervisor.

12--A half hour, a near heart attack, and three agents and a supervisor later, they find the seats we did indeed have together, on the aisle, near the bathrooms. We are the very last to board the plane. But board we finally did.We sat behind baby Josie, who was a pretty happy kid. Sage was an excellent flyer. She put her hands in the air on take off and landing, like a roller coaster ride, and yelled out WEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! When we hit turbulance the kid grinned and said "Again, again."Things went smoothly on the much smaller Portland end of things. We met the boys in baggage claim and heard the saga of their scenic route through Dallas to get to Portland from Chicago. I vented about our near miss of our flight, and we hopped two trains for the last leg of our journey to Hillsboro, an hour and a half away. Midway through the train trip, both kids lost it. They were DONE with a capitol D!

Even the group of teens on the train, who fancied themselves vampires and kept biting each other and laughing, couldn't distract the kids for long. They were tired of all their in flight activities, hungry (but not for any healthy snacks we had), and thirsty (but not for our still half full water bottle). We somehow survived the second train and saw flashes of cool scenery between consoling the crabby kids.At last we saw Hillsboro at the end of the blue line and Auntie Maia drove to the station and rescued us. After a few hours of decompression, at the local playground, all was well in the world again. The kids got to run their squirrleys out. And, much to their delight, the kids found teeter totters and a merry go round--neither of which we have in any Chicago playlots we frequent. We'll all get a good sleep, breath some fresh evergreen air, and relish the fact that it's a good 30 degrees cooler here at night!