Posted by: Michelle | September 5, 2012

Just when you thought it was safe to enter the water…

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a blog worthy day. This is mostly due to a lull in travel over the summer, which is typical in my line of work. Whilst I enjoy being home, there comes a time where I need to get on that big metal bird and fly somewhere that isn’t here. So after three weeks at home, I was more than ready to head off to Baltimore for a two day meeting. Or so I thought…

A few days before taking off, a colleague asked me to join her to do some discovery work for a new client. Sounded good in theory but was a little more than challenging to pull off. This was due in part to the locations (Springboro, OH and Allentown, PA) and the timing. I booked a flight departing Baltimore via Charlotte to Cincinnati at o’dark thirty (5 am) with a 40 minute layover landing at 9 am. The reality of catching a 5 am flight hit me Tuesday morning. This became a moot point when I checked my email Tuesday during the morning break. An email from one of the two colleagues I was meeting advised that there had been a change of plans and they were meeting Tuesday night in Cincinnati instead of Wednesday morning. Although I detested early morning flights, the thought of rebooking, packing and catching a flight that evening wasn’t exactly appealing. I was looking forward to a nice, leisurely dinner along the harbor and a workout. I could also picture my suitcase, unpacked and disorganized since I had the evening to repack. Oh, I had the option of getting in Wednesday morning. It came with renting a car and driving 50 some odd miles to Springboro. Seemed like a waste of money as well as something that could be a wee bit dangerous giving the early hour of my impending departure. Alright, I’m in. So here came the fun part – walking the six blocks to the hotel, packing, checking out, and lugging my bag across “quaint” stoney walkways and wooden planks. In the heat. All within an hour. I was sweating bullets by the time I arrived back at the meeting with about two minutes to spare. Fortunately, I didn’t have to worry about hitting traffic (we were ending at 4 pm) and I could catch a ride with a consultant who booked a car.

At least I had time to grab a bit to eat. Okay, I admit it.. time for Starbucks. To be honest, I could have cared less about dinner. I found a place to sit to answer my email when our plane pulled up. Immediately, I could hear my inner voice saying “no, no, no, no.” This is NOT happening to me. As it turns out, it was no joke. It was – in fact – a US Airways plane dedicated to The Steelers. I.Hate.The.Steelers. Truly.Hate.Them. I rarely fly any other carrier than United, but this was an instance where I needed to fly another Star Alliance carrier. But I knew I had to suck it up. It was a completely full flight and I had a nice (big) fella sitting in the middle seat. I felt sorry for him, he had to be uncomfortable. At least it was a short flight to Charlotte and I couldn’t wait to get out of the cramped quarters. I had a little over an hour and it was a good thing as it was quite the walk (note to self: allow ample time to change planes in Charlotte). Strangely enough, I ran into a client. Small world. Enjoyed a few minutes of catching up before I was off (and up) again.

Finally arrived at Cincinnati (Kentucky in reality) around midnight. Since I was near the front and I tend to walk fast, I was leading the pack to baggage claim. It was a large airport but very quiet. It was another long walk and long escalator ride down two levels. I jump on the train. It seemed strange I was the only person on it but maybe I am just that fast. I should have known better. Instead of heading towards baggage, I was headed further out to another terminal. Greaattt… As it turns out, I needed to make a sharp right off the escalator and take another one back up to get to where I needed to be. In my defense, the signs weren’t that obvious. Or I could have been that tired. Or both. After all, it was past midnight and my bedtime.

Fast forward to 7 am. Bleary eyed, I met with my colleagues (who were bright-eyed and bushy tailed since they arrived much earlier than me). All I could think of was Starbucks (I realize that it wasn’t unusual for me but the need was much greater). Steve programs the GPS for the nearest Starbucks. So we’re off and we find ourselves at the airport. Yeah, this really isn’t going to work. Surely we’ll find another one between here and there. We head back out the airport by the Marriott (where we stayed) which was across the interstate. Strange, but okay. We circle back around and head the road away from the interstate. It a matter of minutes, we are on a windy, two lane road, surrounded by dense trees and a shear drop-off. This goes on for several miles. We gradually see a few “houses” (I use this term loosely as many looked more like shacks, one even had a plastic NASCAR race car on top of the roof. Wonder why I never thought of doing that? That’s right, I don’t like NASCAR). We were all wondering about the routing the nice GPS lady was directing us on. I even muttered “and they were never seen or heard from again” as I watched the minutes tick by seeing my hopes of going to Starbucks diminish. All of sudden, we were told to make a left and we were on a dirt road facing the Ohio River. I jokingly said “what? are we suppose to get on a ferry?” when we noticed the sign. Sure enough, we were directed to Anderson Ferry. This isn’t really going to work for us, so we back up and head back to the interstate (via the Marriott making me feel a little like Clark Griswold “look kids, there’s Big Ben and Parliament”). Better to take the time to program the damn thing properly the first time. By now, we are under an hour and 55 miles to go.

So here I go! No Starbucks (or caffeine in any form, a very bad omen), 5 hour meeting, back in the car, hit traffic slowing us down to a crawl, arrive at the airport with a few spare moments (fortunately just enough time to grab Starbucks that was long, LONG overdue). Back on the plane, off to Philadelphia. Off the plane, back in a car (85 miles this time to Allentown via the turnpike), check in and collapse. Lather, rinse, repeat. Never mind, it just shows the frame of mind after relentless movement over the past 24 hours.

Thursday morning. I’ve been waiting for you since Sunday when I started this little trip. Fortunately for all, there was a Starbucks across the street so come hell or high water, I was going and no one was going to stop me. (Caffeine headaches are a bitch!) Another long meeting, car ride (heavier traffic during daylight hours), check in, plane ride, layover in Houston, another lengthy plane ride and then finally, I look out the window and see Mt Hood. I’m home. Has it only been five days? Yes, five days, seven states, six airports, two cars, three hotels and four layovers. Not in that order but you get the drift. By the time I got home, I really didn’t know if I was coming or going but fortunately my car knew the way home. I was barely conscious. Probably not a good thing but it happens.

And I saved the best for last. We didn’t need to drive 55 miles to Springboro. We could have flown through Dayton and saved ourselves 70 miles (round trip) and even better, we could have flown into Allentown, PA and been within two miles of the airport (instead of 85). Next time, I’m in charge of traveling. I mean, it was nice to drive through the countryside but I lost several hours of valuable work time lending to a very long Friday and weekend. As for GPS, I’m not convinced. Every experience has been an “experience” that hasn’t been positive.

I’ve missed the travel but didn’t need to make it all up in one week. It’s the whole “be careful what you wish for” it just might come true.

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