So July 1st found me winging my way back to the UP for eight days for my annual visit home, which is why posts have been even more scarce than usual of late.
What follows is a day-by-day breakdown of my trip.
Day 0: Wait, what?
There’s no such thing as a “direct flight” from Northern VA to the UP (or vice versa), so a trip home always requires a layover somewhere. In the past that typically meant either Minneapolis, Detroit, or both (I don’t remember if it was VA>Minneapolis>Detroit>UP or if Detroit came before Minneapolis, or, again, vice versa for the return trip), but Northwest/Delta no longer provides service to the UP, so the new route involves a layover at O’Hare. (As an aside, in his youth, before O’Hare was built, my dad worked at Midway airport in Illinois. Surrounded by a bunch of Irish people, he opted to put “O’Maki” on his lunchbox. When asked what part of Ireland his family was from, he responded “The northern part.”)
I like to keep the number of layovers to a minimum, and like them to be no less than an hour – to allow me sufficient time to get to/from the BFE gate from which UP flights depart/arrive – and no longer than two hours. So when I’m booking flights – having gotten burned by a random seven-hour layover in Indianapolis that I didn’t notice until it was too late – I pay careful attention to where my connection is made and how long I have to wait before departure.
I do not, however, pay close attention to which airport I’m flying out of VA from, as, since that’s what I search on, I assume it will be Dulles.
However, the day before my flight, in looking at my itinerary, I was reminded of what happens when you assume, as I noticed that my flight was actually departing from National (I don’t like calling it “Reagan” because, well, Reagan), which is considerably further away from my house than Dulles.
D’oh. Scott was willing – if reluctant – to get up early and haul my ass down to National, but it would have meant sacrificing movie night. As we wouldn’t be having another for two weeks, I was reluctant to give that up. Fortunately my friend Sheila, who lives in Leesburg, was willing to bring me in.
So after having movie night, I set to packing and preparing, staying up late trying to load up some new songs on my iPod (Note: I fucking hate iTunes), and generally preparing myself for the day ahead of me.
I thought about using some of my iTunes (Hate!) credit and downloading a movie, but honestly, despite the length of the overall travel time, the amount of time I spend in the air at an altitude at which the use of portable electronics is not prohibited isn’t really sufficient for watching a movie, and I don’t like having my hearing interfered with when I’m in the airport.
Day Two: Better Late than Early
Sheila arrived a bit late in the morning, but it was just as well, as traffic wasn’t as bad as expected, and I arrived at National nearly two hours before my flight.
When I checked in at the kiosk, I pushed the button for one when it asked how many bags I was checking. It then charged me $35. I thought, “Isn’t it supposed to be $25?” but then shrugged it off.
The guy at the counter wasn’t so nonchalant. “Where’s your other bag?”
“I only have the one.”
“It charged you for two. See? $35. That’s the charge for two bags. It’s only $25 for one.”
“I don’t know what to tell you. I hit one.”
This caused him great consternation, and he looked at me as though I were some sort of troublemaker. He called someone over for assistance and explained the situation. The person he called over said, “Yeah, it’s been screwing up all morning.” It was clear that the guy wasn’t satisfied with this explanation – and thought that I was up to something – but he finally printed out the thing and had me put it on my bag, reiterating that I had, in fact, been charged for two bags, and clearly annoyed/confused by the fact that I didn’t appear to give a shit, stuck the label on my bag and told me to bring it over to TSA, which I did.
To kill time, and because I always mean to do so but never remember, I decided to buy some Washington D.C. T-shirts for my sister’s kids (minus Jourdan, who is off in Arkansas for the summer), and soon was on my way.
The layover in Chicago was brief, and the flight to the UP – at just about an hour – was even more brief, and soon I was back in “God’s Country.” I guess that, seeing as how He owns the whole universe, technically everywhere is “God’s Country,” but I find it amusing that so many places lay claim to that title.
When people tell me that UP is “God’s Country,” my response, which is greeted with bewilderment and/or narrow-eyed suspicion, is typically, “He can keep it.”
After picking up the rental car – a Chevy HHR – I was on my way to my mom’s place. After greeting several of my mom’s friends and killing some time, we headed to Perkin’s for me to engage in the traditional homecoming ritual: buying everyone dinner.
I didn’t (and don’t) mind. After all, the total isn’t that much more than what I’d typically spend if Scott and I eat somewhere halfway-decent and I spring for the bill.
That evening I went for an overly-ambitious walk – the cities of Houghton and Hancock were designed by maniacs and built on the sides of very steep hills – and, after inflating a very large air mattress one of my mom’s friends had loaned her, Day 1 came to a close.
And so does this entry Stay tuned for Homecoming 1 & 2: The Second Part.