For a while, I thought that the story of getting home to my apartment in good ol' WV was never going to end. I'm going to recite it here just because it truly was a saga! And throughout all of it, I was only actually mad and upset one time - after that, it just began to be kind of comical.
1. It started easily enough - I had to fly from Florence back to Barcelona and then catch my flight the following morning to Philly and then Philly to Baltimore where Heather would pick me up. I was smart and figured out ahead of time the best way to catch the bus to the airport in Florence and that went very smoothly. Got through the airport routine with no problems that I can recall although it was either on this flight or the one from Barcelona the next day that I beeped when I went through the security thingie and got pulled aside and investigated a little further.
2. Got to Barcelona airport which at night was fairly deserted but managed to find people to ask about how to get to where I would find my hotel shuttle. Called the hotel and got told it would be about half an hour till the shuttle arrived but that was fine because it took me a while to finally get to exactly the right spot.
3. Got to the hotel around 10:15 or 10:30 p.m., having had very little to eat since about 2:00 in the afternoon in Florence. Explored a little and discovered that they seemed to have only machines with snacks and sweets or an insanely expensive menu of heavy meals. So I went to bed.
4. I had to catch an early shuttle back to the airport. I've decided I don't really like the Barcelona airport. It seems to be all about shopping rather than ease of getting around for those who are actually trying to go somewhere. But with many questions and much, much walking, I managed to get myself and my checked suitcase where they should be but no time for a little bite to eat.
5. The arrival in Philadelphia was kind of harrowing from the start. We had to go through security to get into the country and then through customs. And both times, we were asked questions that I sure had never been asked before. And at one point, the person even said to me "and I want you to think very carefully before you answer this..." I found out later that security had been upgraded following the crash of a Russian airplane in Egypt, but at the time it was a little nerve-wracking. But I got through it and then the next step was to turn in my checked suitcase because I was on a connecting flight and so they just take your luggage as you arrive into the terminal area and tell you it will be taken to the plane.
6. Then found the first departures board I could and discovered that my flight had been cancelled! I found an American Airlines person and asked what I should do and she said I would need to go to customer assistance which was located at the "D" gates. So, following the signs, I made my way to the D gates and when I saw I was at Gate D1 and could not see a sign of customer assistance anywhere, I again asked an AA employee where I might find it. "Down at Gate D16" was the response. Having already walked who knows how far, I now had to walk way, way, down to the second to last gate in the D area. And this is when I was well and truly mad. Cancelled flight, luggage going who knows where or when, and miles to walk to find out how to get to Baltimore.
7. Finally arrived at customer assistance, to a very unpersonable person who told me she could put me on standby for an 8 something (we're in night time now) and could confirm me on an 11:55 PM(!) and that was all there was. I said "I guess I go to the gate for the 8:00 one an hour or so before and let them know I'm on standby?" And, yes, that's what I would do.
8. So I went there and sat and was mad and then decided I would find food so did that and had a big glass of wine along with it. By the time I got back to where the 8:00 flight would be boarding, I was more mellow and just very tired and discouraged. Called Heather to let her know she wouldn't be meeting me when she had thought she would and she started urging me to take the train from Philly to Baltimore. We went back and forth a bit but it began to sound more and more appealing because at least I would be moving (I didn't have much hope of getting on the 8:00 p.m. flight).
9. Went back to customer assistance to let her know I was thinking about taking the train and she checked things again and said "oh, I can get you on that 8:00 flight now" so I said great - do it. She printed off the ticket and when I looked at it I pointed out that the only time shown on the ticket was 9:35. She checked again and "oh, yes, it doesn't leave until 9:35" So that was it for me. I called Heather and said do it cause she had told me she could get the ticket online and e-mail it to me and I could catch a taxi to the train station and be there in time to get the 7:10 train which would get to Baltimore about 2 hours later and she'd be there waiting. So OKAY!
10. I walked another however far to get to where the taxis are, had a long drive to the station but got there in time to get on the train. And oh, how nice that was - quiet, much more comfortable seats, not a very full train - just really nice. And even when we got rolling, it was quiet.
11. So at some point, after two or three stops, the conductor announces that we will be stopping "to inspect the train". Hmmm....so we stopped, nothing happened that we could tell so I assumed they were inspecting outside. Eventually the conductor came back on to say that they hadn't inspected yet because they had to wait for two trains to go by before it was safe. And every time he came on, he would say "Ladies and gentlemen..." and then close with "and again, we apologize for the delay". We all began to get a little tickled after a while waiting to hear him say it again and conversations were starting up here and there - not to complain to each other but just neighborly conversations so it was actually pleasant but we weren't moving.
12. Finally the two trains had gone by so announcement - we're now going to inspect the train. Wait...announcement - okay, we've inspected the right side, now we will have to move forward so we can safely inspect the left side. Wait...announcement - okay, we've now inspected both sides and are sorry to say that we will have to wait here and either have a new engine sent to us or make a transfer to another train and that decision will be "up to the powers that be". Wait...announcement - the powers that be decided we will transfer to another train. Explanation of how that will work - have to wait for a couple of trains behind us to get around us and then when our transfer train gets here, we will all exit out of one door only. Wait...Okay, the train is here (we could see that out the window) and we will now start transferring. Form an orderly line (we were nothing if not orderly). So, of course everyone in all the cars had to come to that one door so it was one from our side, one from their side until...announcement - (and they're really sorry by now and very appreciative of our patience), that train is now full so the rest of you will transfer onto the next train which is right behind this one. Wait...and wait...this time they seemed to have a fair amount of trouble putting down the little metal grid type thing that goes from our door to their door - there was great banging, at one point our conductor yelled out "NO! O LORD HAVE MERCY!!" which by then we found utterly hilarious. But finally, once again we all lined up and we all got on the other train and it went. Phew!
13. I was keeping Heather informed of all of this cause, poor thing, she was sitting in the parking lot at the Baltimore station waiting for that 7:10 train. I didn't time how long we were actually stopped but I think we got into the station probably around 11:00 p.m. I found Heather and we decided that all of this was actually a good thing because now it was SO late that whatever flight they had put my suitcase on would have landed by now so with the airport only about a mile away, we could go get my luggage and not have to do it the next day. So that's what we did and that went well, actually. There were three doors, Heather chose the middle one, I ran in and right there was the luggage claim office with my suitcase sitting there and so Bob's your uncle. We got going and arrived at her house right about midnight. Tuesday. Which way back in Italy/Spain would be 6:00a.m. of Wednesday. So if I'm counting correctly, I got up around 6:30 a.m. in Barcelona on Tuesday (which would be around 12:30 a.m. Tuesday in the states) and got to Heather's at midnight on Tuesday, (6:00 a.m. in Barcelona, so about 24 hours up. Not too bad, but wait...it's not over yet.
14. I didn't sleep as long as I had hoped - was up in time to see the kids before they left for school. I had thought I would stay there a day or two, but by this point, all I wanted to do was get home. I felt really grungy and all my clothes were dirty. I could have taken care of this at Heather's of course, but I wanted MY shower and I wanted MY laundry room and I wanted MY bed. So I decided I was going home that day (Wednesday) and left Heather's at about 10:30. It's a relatively easy drive - boring but all interstate and mostly all 70 mph. I had made it into West Virginia and was probably around 30 miles or so from Morgantown when I noticed white smoke(?) mist(?) whatever in my rearview mirror. I thought maybe it was some leftover fog and looked again in a minute or so and there was quite a bit more and it was following me. Oh no, was I burning oil? Looked at the gauge and it was over the "red" HOT line as far as it could go and by then smoke started coming from under the hood.
15. I pulled off and was terrified for a bit but began to think. I noticed a "mandatory truck stop" sign just at the top of the hill I had been climbing and I could see that there was a little building there. I decided I would chance driving up there, using the shoulder with my hazard lights on and going very slowly. I did that and made it into the truck parking area. They have to test their brakes there because the hill they'll be going down is very steep. There was no one in the building (of course) but I had put my hood up when I got there and what I hoped was that a nice trucker would come offer some words of advice at least. And that's just what happened except that he was really nice and put about 8 bottles of water in the radiator (cause that's what it was - for an as yet undetermined reason, the radiator had spewed out its contents even though the cap was still on) and he also added some anti-freeze. Suggested I get down the hill to the Cheat Lake exit and try and find a service station there. I had already found a Hyundai dealer in Morgantown and talked with them.
16. I pretty much was able to coast down the hill to the exit and the exit itself is also very steep so I could coast down most of that. Saw an Exxon sign and thought "good - maybe I'll find a mechanic" but no, it was two gas pumps and a mini-mart. So at that point I knew I would have to call the roadside assistance thing that I have with my insurance and get towed to the Hyundai dealer. And that's when I started talking to whatever "force" it was that was throwing all these problems at me. I made it absolutely clear that I didn't care if I had to leave the car there for a day or two or twenty, I WAS GOING HOME!!!! Got to the dealer and they were able pretty quickly to diagnose it - my car is old (13 years and about 132,000 miles) and the top cover that Hyundai put on the radiator deteriorates if the car gets a lot of use and age, and that is what had happened with mine. They could fix it but it would have to be Thursday or Friday, depending on when they got the new radiator. That was fine with me - just point me to a rental car place because I'M GOING HOME TODAY!!!!
17. Got an Enterprise rental car (and learned that contrary to their commercials, they DON'T deliver) and made it to my apartment at 9:30 p.m.
18. Got a call Thursday afternoon that my car was ready so Friday drove back up to Morgantown, got my car, and drove back home to Huntington and that took most of the day.
19. So, now I am truly home - have talked with various friends, had my Sunday morning at Starbucks with the crossword puzzle, had lunch with Jamie on Thursday, did lots of unpacking, laundry, going through 3 weeks of mail, etc., and just wanted to write this all out so if I have troubles on another trip and am thinking "woe is me" I can read through this and probably find that the current troubles are not so bad after all. And to be fair, this is the first time I've had a canceled flight, a whatever-the-problem was train, or a broken down car on any of my retirement trips. So, basically, I've been a very fortunate traveler.
- Mary Lynne
- West Virginia
- When I started my retirement travels - the first of which was my solo overseas trip to Italy in 2009 - I wanted a way to share it with family and friends as it happened. Hence, "My Travel Journal". However I realized I wouldn't always be on a trip and wondered what to do with the blog in between times. My daughter pointed out, wisely, that travels can also include trips to the kitchen to try a new recipe, trips to visit family, trips to my neighborhood Starbucks, or a fun day trip with a friend. You're welcome to join me on any of these journeys!
P.S. I've set up separate pages for each of my major trips (see tabs above).
I recently added an "Italian Word a Day" thingie which shows up at the bottom of every page. You see the word and can click to hear it pronounced. I've been enjoying it and I think my accent is improving as time goes by.