First let me welcome myself back from the dead. Yes, it’s been quite awhile since we’ve put a new post up here. I’m sorry! Since our trip to Disney that I last posted about, we went to Philadelphia (home), back to Cuenca, to the Ecuadorian Coast, back to Philadelphia, to Connecticut, the Jersey Shore, back to Philadelphia, down to Tampa, Florida, and back here to Cuenca. Whew! It’s a lot even to write out. Now let me see if I can fill you in on what you missed… just not necessarily in any particular order 😉
Today’s post is about the fun that weather events and airline delays can inject into your life. Elliott and I fly a LOT and therefore have endured many, many crazy days in airports, filled with delays, near-misses, cancellations, and yes, sometimes even misses (see previous post, The Evils of Airport Lounges). It takes quite a bit for us to even go into a “What happened at the airport today” story. But this one happened exactly one month ago, and since it turned into a sort of fun adventure (for the adventurous-at-heart), I think it’s worth sharing.
Take yourself back a month, to July 3rd. It was supposed to be a simple trip from Cuenca, Ecuador, back to Philadelphia. We had left our home in Cuenca on Wednesday night the 2nd and taken a local bus to the Cuenca bus terminal. We got on a four-hour overnight bus from Cuenca to Guayaquil. Now all we had left was to take a taxi from the Guayaquil bus terminal to the Guayaquil airport. Fly from Guayaquil to San Salvador, then from San Salvador to Chicago, then from Chicago to Philadelphia. Meet our friends at the airport and be driven to Oley, PA, where our car lives when we are in Ecuador. Drive home to Dad’s in Limerick.
It doesn’t sound easy to you? Believe it or not, due to the points and miles game I play, this would be one of the simplest trips we’d taken from Cuenca to Philadelphia. (Only one stopover in Central America. No flying way out of the line of direction to San Juan, Puerto Rico – our typical path. No overnighting in an airport! This was the biggest and best change from our usual course.) Elliott said more than once that day, “I can’t believe we’re going to get all the way from our home in Cuenca to our home in Philadelphia within 24 hours.” Ooops. I think you jinxed us, babe.
Our flight from Guayaquil to San Salvador was perfect, as was the next flight from San Salvador to Chicago. We were fed on each flight and we were happy. (Elliott’s always happy when someone feeds him.) We arrived at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) around 2:30pm, and our last flight was scheduled to take off at 4:08pm. And this is where things became interesting. You see, there was a hurricane traveling up the East Coast that day. And even though it hadn’t landed in North Carolina yet, it was affecting things. A lot.
Our flight from ORD to PHL was delayed four times that afternoon. We finally boarded our plane around 8pm, but I still had no faith. A few flights to NYC had now been canceled. One flight to PHL had been canceled. The flight before ours was now supposed to take off at 8:30 (same time as our flight now), and two more flights were supposed to take off within an hour and a half after us. All headed from ORD for PHL. No way! Unfortunately I was right to be skeptical. Soon after telling us we were third in line for takeoff, the pilot announced the flight had been canceled. Ugh. And here’s where it got really interesting.
Elliott ran ahead off the plane to customer service so he could rebook us, but when I got off there was a boisterous guy in the Jetway asking if anyone wanted to drive to Philly. “I’m getting home tonight!” He said his company would pay for everything and he just needed people to help drive. I told him I thought we’d be interested and ran past ten gates to find Elliott, who was now in a two-hour-long line for United. He said yes, let’s go for it, and we didn’t even know this guy’s name. So I went back and double-checked that this guy had room for two more plus luggage, and eventually we found out his name was Tyler*.
Once it was confirmed we were going, I asked the gate agent about getting our luggage back for the journey. She said that wasn’t possible, but assured me if we didn’t change our flight itinerary, our luggage would go to Philly, and would probably arrive before us! ORD had way too much luggage and the airlines wanted to get it OUT. (You mean to tell me flights that don’t have room for people have room for extra baggage?) We had a fast decision to make and we decided to risk it – we’d drive home without our luggage.
We followed four strangers out to the ground transportation area, and eventually Elliott hung up on his one-hour-long, on-hold call with United. Meanwhile I got an email saying United had automatically rescheduled us for a flight two days later. What?! There was no way we were going to miss the July 4th celebrations in Philly; that was what we had scheduled our arrival date around! We were so glad we had found this guy Tyler who wanted to drive.
While we were out there waiting, he informed us all he was drunk. Apparently he had been hitting up the bars in the airport and having a drink each time our flight was delayed. Eventually he got us a car reservation and we headed to the car rental place. Tyler said he needed to be the one to drive us out of the parking lot. We all figured that would be okay, only Tyler didn’t stop once he exited the parking lot. He kept driving, taking us onto the highway! Meanwhile, Tom, a guy who had lived in Chicago for 14 years, kept offering to take over the driving, but Tyler just wasn’t having it. I finally leaned over to Elliott and said we needed to either get Tyler out of the driver’s seat, or get ourselves out of the car. It was pretty terrifying to be in the back of a car, to know the driver was drunk, and to be unable to convince him to stop driving. How did we get ourselves into this situation? Luckily when Elliott asked Tyler if he was sure he was “up for” driving the first shift, Tyler said that maybe he was not. He just wanted to get us to the first rest stop that had Red Bull, he said, and then we’d switch drivers. He admitted it was probably not a good idea for him to drive very far when he was drunk, and I added it was not a good idea for him to drive at all when he was drunk. Finally, he said he guessed he could pull over, and I encouraged him to do so, and he did. Crisis averted.
It was an interesting experience to say the least. We decided to call it “Couch Surfing in a Car.” I was stuck in the back seat in the middle for the entire drive because I was really the only one who would fit in that spot. With a hump between my feet and no headrest, I was mighty comfortable, let me tell you. I kept waking up in weird positions, intertwined with my husband on one side and complete strangers on the other. This was no time to be bashful.
Thirteen hours later, we arrived at the Philadelphia airport. And wouldn’t you know it – our luggage WAS there! And one of the guys who had come from Chicago with us, offered to drive us all the way from the airport to my dad’s house in Limerick, where our car was now waiting for us. And we made it to our 4th of July celebration, which was filled with delicious smoked ribs, grilled salmon, corn bread and yummy salads and topped off with frozen tropical drinks and chocolate-y desserts. And great friends. And fireworks. Yes, we were weary. But it was well worth it.