Some of you may have noticed I haven’t had a blog post in almost two weeks. We were gone on vacation, visiting my husband’s family over spring break. With an unexpected extension to our travels…
Thursday, 24 March 2016
Last Thursday afternoon we found ourselves at the end of our vacation. We were making the drive from Columbia, South Carolina to the Charlotte, North Carolina airport to head back home to Denver. I’m sure many of you saw the reports of the blizzard in Colorado last Wednesday. It was so bad that the airport shut down and thousands of flights were cancelled. Luckily, we were flying back home Thursday so we knew we’d be okay.
I had checked our flight before leaving my mother-in-law’s house, and it was delayed by about 45 minutes, but that was okay. My husband had looked at some highway cameras back in the Denver area, and it seemed the plows had done their job, the sun was out, and the roads were clear. They might be a little icy by the time we landed at 9:30pm, but definitely clear from the snow. About 15 minutes out from the Charlotte airport, I checked our flight again.
“Oh sh*t,” I said.
For those of you who don’t know me (probably the majority of the people reading this post), I should probably stop here and let you know what a momentous statement that was for me. I really don’t swear. I tried to stop it as it came out of my mouth, but too late. My boys sucked in air in the back seat. My husband started laughing.
Our flight was cancelled. Our Frontier Airlines flight was cancelled. The ONE FLIGHT Frontier has per day out of the Charlotte airport was cancelled. We had to get home. The boys went back to school Monday. I was ringing handbells at church for Easter Sunday. And the most important reason – we had to get our dogs.
My mom had been taking care of our dogs for a week and was at her wits end. We have one old dog and one really old dog. She’s 15 years old, and is a handful – deaf (so she cries if she doesn’t see you), medications, doesn’t eat well, has accidents. Our other dog (12 years old) is usually pretty easy to care for, but he had emergency surgery on Sunday. Not so easy this past week. My mom truly was at her wits end with these two geriatric cases.
“It’s okay,” my husband said. “Nothing we can do about it now. Let’s see what they say.”
So we returned our rental car and marched up to the counter. “Your fight is cancelled. We’ve got two options for you. We can refund your flight, or we can rebook you.”
“Rebooking us would be great, thanks. We are from Denver and just really need to get home,” I said, silently breathing a sigh of relief. Of course they would rebook us.
“No problem. The next flight with open seats is March 30th. That’s next Wednesday.”
I did some quick calculations in my head…that was 6 nights from now. No way could my mom handle our dogs for another 6 nights. “We really need to get back home. There’s nothing earlier? Nothing else you can do?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am but no. We don’t have any partners to transfer you to, and all we can do is rebook you on the next flight that has open seats. Which is next Wednesday.”
We took the refund.
I quickly jumped online to see how much a last minute flight over Easter weekend would be. For the low, low price of only $4000, the four of us could travel on multiple airlines for three air segments, spending the night in an airport to arrive home on Saturday afternoon. We decided to rent a car and drive the 1550 miles instead. We’d get home about the same time, be in control of our destiny, and our funds would be much better off.
Let’s get to the heart of this dilemma. Do you have sufficient audio books for the drive?
We started out in good spirits. We had already been in the car for 2 hours, but that was heading due north, so we hadn’t traveled any closer to home. We began moving westward towards Knoxville, Tennessee. It was late in the day on Thursday when we finally started driving, and we didn’t want to drive all night. Our goal was to get home on Saturday. After stopping for a quick bite to eat, the sun set and my oldest fell asleep. My youngest was entertained with the music we had playing on the iPod and had no complaints as we drove through the dark.
I had begun posting updates of our adventure on Facebook. One of my friends asked, “Let’s get to the heart of this dilemma. Do you have sufficient audio books for the drive?”
I had already asked myself this, and the answer was no. We did not. Our rental car had an awesome USB port, and I could play anything I wanted from my iPod. My car at home is old enough that I don’t have an awesome USB port, so I get books on CD at the library. Since I only listen to audio books in the car, I’ve never even tried their downloadable audio book service. Because this was supposed to be an airplane trip, I hadn’t packed any audio book CDs. We were on a road trip with ZERO audio books. Oh calamity! (Stolen from Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies, which I am just finishing up reading. I love this phrase.)
Both my boys and I get carsick. Which means: no reading, movies, electronics, or activities of any kind while in the car. But we can do audio books. And we have discovered that audio books are what make our road trips enjoyable for everyone.
Well, this was an unplanned road trip. We would just have to make do.
Fast forward to Friday morning. We’d been on the road for about an hour. My boys were already fighting. You know, the typical, “He touched me!” “He’s hogging the armrest!” “Stop doing that!” etc, etc. In between the car banter was the whining, especially from my oldest. “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do! How much longer until we get home?” About 36 more hours, buddy.
I started browsing through my music library, trying to find an album or playlist that would keep them happy. And I found it. It turned out I did have exactly ONE audio book with me. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Sure, it was only seven discs long. But it was something.
Thanks to Harry Potter we had something to keep us occupied on Friday afternoon and Saturday afternoon. When Jim Dale began his narration, something magical happened in our car. The boys sat quietly, watched the scenery roll by, and just listened. No more arguing. No more whining. No more “Are we there yet?” The journey became an adventure.
We made it back to DIA to pick up our car 45 hours and seven states later than expected. We were tired from all the time spent in the car, but thanks to Harry Potter it turned out pretty enjoyable after all.
The Lost Art of the Road Trip
Thinking of taking a road trip? Allow me to share some rules of the road with you.
If your mother-in-law suddenly says, “You’ve got four hours until you need to leave for the airport, why don’t you throw a load of laundry in?” DO IT.
Seriously. This is what’s called divine intervention. Trust me – you’re going to want that thick long-sleeved shirt that is packed in the dirty laundry bag when you get out in Kansas and it’s 45 degrees with high winds.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” – George Harrison
Unfortunately, on this road trip we were on a time crunch, so we couldn’t afford the time to stop and see the sights. We made due with pointing out of the window. “Look boys! Here’s where Peyton Manning played football in college!” or “Quick! Look out the window and wave to the St. Louis Arch!” There were many places, big and small, that would have been fun to stop and visit. The next time I’m driving down I-70, I’ll be stopping in Wamego, Kansas for sure – home of the world’s largest collection of Wizard of Oz memorabilia AND Toto’s Tacoz.
Enjoy the local cuisine.
Part of the fun of traveling across so many different regions is getting a chance to try the local fare. Passing through Missouri and Kansas City on Friday was our chance to enjoy some local barbecue. We used Google maps to help us find local restaurants and recommendations along the way. Both Knoth’s Bar-B-Que and Jack Stack Barbecue were delicious.
Have some cash on hand.
You may run into some cash only situations. We encountered this at both Knoth’s Bar-B-Que and a cash-only toll road on I-70 in eastern Kansas. I would have hated to miss Knoth’s because they didn’t accept credit cards.
Never, ever – under any circumstances – go on a trip without at least one Harry Potter audio book.