Friday, February 16, 2007

Trains, Planes and Automobiles...and buses. OR... My Escape from New York.

Ah yes, another trip to New York City's Toy Fare has come and gone and man was it a doozie!

But before I talk about the time spent in New York, (see next blog entry) I want to recount the absolute horror of trying to leave the Big Apple after a winter weather system pounded the entire northeastern United States. I've been to NY City three times during the winter and all three times it has snowed. Last year was a record snow fall for Manhatten and this year was the first snow fall of the winter. It's me...I'm sure it's me.

Indeed, we knew the icy mess was coming, but due to scheduling issues (again...see next entry), we couldn't schedule a flight out of NY until Wednesday morning. That proved to be our travel undoing.

We were leaving the Transformers movie media event on Tuesday night and the snow had already begun to fall. While the forcast had indeed projected winter weather, there much uncertainty as to how the system would track. Back at the hotel we had some last minute web work to do as key people wanted a report of the event online ASAP.

Brian (the boss man) and I finally turned in around 12:30 AM with plans to leave on a 5:15 AM shuttle for the airport. Our flight wasn't until 9:10 AM, but the concierge advised we not wait for the 6:15 shuttle. The weather situation was still somewhat mild at that point and calls to the airline confirmed that our flight was still a 'go'. So, we were up at 4:30 AM and downstairs at 5:15 and shortly on the shuttle to the airport.

We checked in, had a quick breakfast snack at the gate and waited. Boarding time was at 8:45 AM and as the hour approached, there was no airplane outside. Uh oh. Within moments the announcement came that the 9:10 flight to DFW was cancelled. We quickly rebooked a flight into Pittsburgh with a change and then on to Dallas. The new departure was scheduled for 3:30 PM – six hours later! We retreived our checked baggage, re-checked it for the new flight and wentthrough security for the second time. Again we waited.

The sleet fell like heavy rain or thick icy tears from some bitterly sad ice giant as we sat in the food court lunching on Wendy's burgers and trying to get a WiFi connection. We headed to the new gate and I had a very bad feeling about the whole thing. I sometimes hate being right. 3:30 came and the flight was moved to a 4:00 and a new gate. Before we could make it to the NEW gate,our flight was cancelled again. It became clear that American Airlines wasleading people around by the nose. I know these flights should have been cancelled for safety reasons and due to other delays in the region, but Ifeel sure the call could be made sooner or at least annouced earlier. With these types of last minute cancellations, options become fewer and fewer. I think they WANT people to stay and wait lest they lose revenue. Hence,the late coming information.

The time had come to take another course of action. American was projecting no flights to DFW until Saturday or Sunday.We had to get back to the office and so a plan was hatched. We reasoned we needed to go south and get out of NY and the white cold stuff. The roads were a skating rink at this point for miles in all directions and so we got train tickets to...Norfolk, Virginia! From there we would catch an ice free flight to Dallas. It was not a bad plan considering the severity of the circumstances, but we had to go back to the city and wait for the train which departed at 3:00 AM Thursday morning!

It was cold in the big city that night,my friend, as we trod the slush laden concrete paths that lined the streets. 3 0'clock in the morning was like a distant vision. We headed to Penn Station, got our tickets and checked some of our bags for later pickup. We found solace in an Irish pub that we had visited earlier in the week and had dinner there. We both had the Shepherd's Pie (mmmm...comfort food). After we ate, we killed a little time at a Borders Books, but the luggage check closed at 10PM so we had to be back at the station to get our bags before then. Bags again in hand, we settled into the waiting area for the Amtrak train service. There was an amazing number of people there and it stayed that way until we left. Mixed liberally into the crowd were several crazy people. Not less that two people there were engaged in what I am now calling a "solo dialogue". One gentleman was going on about how God took Anna Nicole Smith's life and that Britney Spears was next. I was braced for anything, but luckily nothing untoward happened. We watched Fantastic Four on a laptop. Jessica Alba is pretty and in that, there was some small comfort.

I had been calling home with each change in our travel circumstances and realizing I had missed Valentine's Day completely, I took a quick pic of myself making the sign for "I love you" and sent it to my wife's e-mail. She teaches sign language to kids and I knew that the image of my fatigued face and a simple universal gesture would say everything that needed to be said.

3 AM came and we finally boarded the train. It was a ride that took us through DC, over frozen lakes and lasted over eight hours, as there were delays and stops along the way.Chatty women in the seats in front of us kept me awake, but we finally managed to sleep a little – especially after our car became mostly empty in DC. Wearrived in Newport News, Virginia and then took a 30 minute bus ride on into Norfolk. Our flight to DFW was set to depart at 6:20 PM. We found a place to eat and had a steak to fortify ourselves. We then took a taxi to the airport only to be met with another delay due to ground traffic backups in Dallas caused by the same winter weather we were fleeing. We took off an hour lateand flew 3.5 hours to DFW. Another hour later, Brian was dropping me off at my house.

I hadn't slept in a bed for over 40 hours with only four hours of sleep prior. I had been away from home just 8 hours short of an entire week. I was nearly delirious, but I was SO very happy to be home. I had begun to wonder if I would ever get back. Once inside the door, I shared a long embrace with two wonderful children and one beautiful woman. God be praised.


Blogger Charles R. Rutledge said...

Glad you're home safe.

February 17, 2007 1:39 PM  

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