September 18, 2011

3,000 Miles

This last summer I got the opportunity to drive across the United States with one of my best friends, Lizzie Nobis, in order to get her back to graduate school in Philly with a car.  It was a trip to be remembered... 
Day 2: Dinner Stop
Below you will see the map that we roughly took.  The green line is our driving, and the other is my flight back home to Salem, Oregon.  It took us four days to complete the driving...and from what I am saying so far, it sounds like it all went smoothly.  The truth is, it was incredibly smooth the first three days.  In fact we averaged driving 12 hours on each of those days, and we were going strong.  Oh, how we later wished we had 'knocked on wood'...
After our second day of driving, we pulled into our motel stop for the night, and turned on the TV and were greeted with this:
We were over halfway to our intended destination, and a giant hurricane was coming straight toward the East Coast (later to be named Hurricane Irene).  At this point the meteorologists didn't know exactly when it was going to reach land, and if it would at all. So, the next morning we continued on our trek.

Big Bug :)
Day 3: Shopping break in Indiana
Then came the fourth day.  The day we had intended to complete our driving part of the journey. The day that we were going to say we made it over 3,000 miles across the U.S.  Lizzie began driving that day, and drove for about three hours.  My turn started off with me driving along the Ohio State Tollgate Road.  After driving for about an hour, Lizzie realized if we stayed on the freeway the whole toll-road, we were going to end up having to pay over $60! So, we decided to make the first of many "good" decisions of the day.
We changed the GPS, named George, to send us on "non-toll" roads.  After hitting that button, our trip that day was extended two hours longer than expected...I continued to drive 55 mph for about 10 miles, then we would slow to 35 mph through small country towns.  We drove this way for over two hours...making little progress, and making each of us a little anxious to get back on the freeway.

We switched drivers, and made it back on the freeway when I received a call just as we were crossing into Pennsylvania.  United Airlines was calling to inform me that my flight, scheduled to leave on Sunday, was canceled due to the impending hurricane.  "Okay," we thought, we will change it to Saturday since it was Friday and we would be arriving in about five hours anyway.  So, the travel agent made the switch, and I was then flying out of Philly at 6:00pm on Saturday.
Tumbleweed :)
Less than one hour later, we received another call, that that flight was also canceled.  In fact, over 10,000 flights along the East Coast were canceled due to Irene!  Lizzie promptly got on the phone and attempted to get me another flight out, in order to get me back home before my new job started that Monday.  We were told by the travel agent to drive back to Cleveland, Ohio (2 hours west) to catch a 6pm flight to Portland on Saturday evening.  After some tears by us both, considering our long day, we turned the car around and began backtracking.

Thirty minutes outside of Cleveland, at around 12:30am we received a call from the manager of the agency, saying that we could not fly from Cleveland since our original ticket was from Philly.  We attempted to inform her that all flights on the East were canceled, and we had been told and placed on a flight by one of her employees, and were no longer in Pennsylvania, but in Ohio.  While Lizzie, argued and battled with the "helpful" woman on the phone, I descided to drive to the Cleveland Airport...we arrived at around  1:30am...
At 2:00am our "helpful" agent canceled my flight from Cleveland to fact she canceled all my flights, and would not take my call...I called my parents and Jason and just cried...I was exhausted, frustrated and just wanted to come home.  Lizzie and I descided to drive to a hotel parking lot, sleep for two hours and come back to the airport at 4:30am when it opened...I didn't sleep.

We got to the airport, and after being yelled at by a ticket agent, and asked if I ever 'really' had a flight, I was given a flight from Cleveland to Houston, and then Houston to Portland leaving at was now 5:36am...I ran out to Lizzie who was waiting in the car and we said a hurried goodbye after being with each other for four days...I ran to security...which the lady made me wait because I didn't go through the empty "maze" line they had set up.

Thankfully I made it to my gate with time to spare...only to have an old lady lean over to her husband and say, "I sure hate it when people just come running up to the gate at the last minute." Really?!  We boarded the plane, and after not sleeping for over 24 hours, I was excited to find out I had three seats all to myself.  Then we waited...and waited...and then the pilot came over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen it appears we are having some problems with the computers across Continental/United flights.  Don't worry your connections will all be made."  At this point nothing else would surprise me.  An hour later we took off, and I fell asleep knowing I would miss my connection in Houston.

We landed in Houston right when my original flight was scheduled to leave for Portland. So, after running across the biggest airport, I slowly made my way to customer service and got on standby for a 2:30pm flight.  I was slowly walking through the airport with an 'angel' from a random ticket counter asked me if I was doing okay.  I recalled briefly my tale, and let her know I missed my flight due to airplane error.  Her response was amazing, "So, it was our fault huh? Well then you would probably like to ride first class.  Okay, you are on the first class 2:30pm flight to Portland.  And I bet you are hungry (wink)?  Here is a meal ticket, get what you want."

Amazing view from the plane coming into Portland.

So, after over a day of crazy traveling, flying on my own for the first time and going on little more than a couple hours of sleep, I landed in Portland safely at 5:00pm.  It is so good to be home. What a trip, great memories and something hopefully I won't have to experience again. :)
Final speedometer reading...WOW!