Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Roller Coaster of Love (Say What?)

Ah, the joys of travel.

We are in the middle of a 10-day vacation. It has definitely had its ups and downs. The tone was set Friday morning as I got out of my Jeep and realized I had forgotten to bring the backup disk back into the office. My complimentary half-day off was cut short by the hour it took to drive back home to pick up the disk and return it to the office for use while I was away.

A and I packed our gear and B into the Jeep, picked up her mom, and headed to the St. Petersburg airport, 3 hours away. Except we realized about 10 minutes into our drive on the highway that we forgot B's stroller. So we turned around and went back home to pick it up (sensing a pattern here?). Stroller in tow, we got as far as the exit at which we turned around earlier, and met up with rush hour traffic and a torrential rainfall. We crept for the next five miles at 10 mph or less, then the rain and traffic disappeared, almost as if by magic.

We made the rest of the trip to the airport with ease. B was a trooper, but did get a little slap-happy on the flight. We landed in Chicago, thinking the night was almost over.

We had gate-checked B's stroller, and had to stand around with all the other parents who had done the same while the porters tried not to look too interested about getting our items for us. After 20 minutes our stroller bag appeared, so we unpacked it and laid B down. We arrived at baggage claim behind most of the other passengers, but still had to wait another half hour before the buzzer sounded, alerting us to the arriving bags (which trickled out as if tiny little dwarfs were trucking them one-at-a-time from the plane).

We finally had our bags and were headed to the curb to catch the shuttle to the Budget car rental office, where we had pre-arranged to use their FastBreak service to simply pick up our car without having to check in with an agent. The Budget bus was pulling away from the curb as we were walking out of the baggage claim, but we were confident there was another one coming around soon. Forty-five minutes later one arrived, ensuring that we missed the 11 p.m. cutoff for the FastBreak office. So A had to wait another hour and 15 minutes in line to pick up our car. They did upgrade us from a minivan to a Suburban, so we were appreciative.

Next to the hotel. We had planned at staying at a Holiday Inn close to O'Hare for three reasons. One, we knew we would be getting in late and didn't want to take the time to drive into the city to check into the Hotel Indigo we were staying at for the next 3 days in Chicago. Two, we have Priority Club membership with the Holiday Inn chain, and three, it was cheaper than the Indigo.

Apparently Priority Club status means nothing at the Holiday Inn Select at Chicago/O'Hare, because they gave our room away when we hadn't arrived at midnight. We had reserved a room with two double beds, and all they had available was a suite with a pull-out couch. No way was I sleeping on one of those backbreakers, and I knew B would not have a good night's sleep on it with A's mom, either. Luckily the front desk clerk was able to reserve us a room at the Holiday Inn Express across the street.

A told the clerk at the Holiday Inn Express our story, and he empathized, upgrading us to a two-level suite. We got to the room, and it was, as B would say, GINORMOUS! We had to climb a staircase to the bedroom, where we discovered a single, king-sized bed. By 3:30 a.m. we had finally made it to a room with two beds and settled down to rest.

The next morning we checked out, drove into the city, and checked into the Hotel Indigo. That place is great! Elegant and modern, it appealed to the graphic designer in me. A's mom described it as French country, and I can neither confirm nor deny that description. True to its name, everything was decorated in shades of blue. The Indigo staff were the most friendly and helpful of any we encountered on this trip.

This has gotten to be too long of a post. More will come sometime later ths week.