Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Longest Day...Ever

   This day (days) was one for the record books even though everything went fairly smoothly. There was a movie "The Longest Day", well this was ours.
    We were both up and at ‘em shortly after 5 to prepare for our homebound trip. Breakfast was an attempt to use up any food we had left. Interspersed with showers, washing towels, loading the dishwasher etc., was the job of packing. By nine we were done with all of that and were ready to go. Loading the bags into the trunk, I got worried about the big one. Back home, before we started this trip, I weighed it on the bath scales and it was over 60 pounds. This time it felt about the same but I wasn't sure. We didn’t have anyplace else we wanted to visit on Maui and our flight wasn’t until after 2 so I went for a little walk and we both spent some time on the lap tops until we couldn’t take it anymore. A little after 10 we locked up and left. Bye Bye Number 6, bye bye Kihei Holiday. One last pass through town and we went back across the island to the airport. We dropped the car at Thrifty, the girl did a quick walk around, rubbed the bumper and turned us loose.

   At the terminal, Nancy decided she wanted to get some exercise and passed on the chair, opting for the cane instead. Our first task was to pass the big bags we wanted to check through the Ag. Dept. X-ray so they could check for something, vegetation I guess. You can check pineapples and such by the box at no charge but don't try to carry one in your suitcase. That done, we got in line for Hawaiian Air flight from Maui to Honolulu. It looked like the entire island was being evacuated! The line was ENDLESS! We’re not in Traverse anymore. After looping back and forth 4 or 5 times, you finally got to check in and then proceed an even longer line to security. That portion was the equivalent to walking the length of a city block and then half way back again. As we were inching forward, I asked one of the personnel at a different airline if I could slip over to one of their unused check in stations and weigh our bag. Nancy held our place in line and nuzzled the other bags forward while I detoured and weighed. Yep! 54 pounds. I stuffed some clothes into the outer pockets of the garment bag, 45 and 32, good to go.

We made our way to the front of the line, checked in and found a bench upon which we could take a break. While we sat, Nan got into a conversation with a woman with a walker.   When we were rested, the gal told us to follow them up the outside lane. The security people, seeing the cane, waved us on and we were able to pretty much breeze through security although Nancy did have to take her shoes off for the first time this trip.

   We found our gate and a place to sit, I went back for some beverages, a snack, and some smashed pennies with Maui on them. (They are great for caches and they only cost 50 cents a piece.) There were two flights out of gate 13 before ours so we settled in for some serious people watching. We watched the waiting room fill and empty twice. “There are a million stories in” the waiting room. To me the most interesting I observed was a youngish fellow dressed in a muscle shirt, khaki vest, cargo shorts and flip flops who had as his second carry on a canvas bag secured shut with a couple of carabiners. He opened it and removed three watches which appeared to be identical to the one he was wearing. He checked the face of each and swapped out one for the one he was wearing. I think maybe that’s the way he avoids having to change the time as he travels.

   I stopped at the desk between flights to make sure that a chair would be there when we landed in Honolulu. The young lady was great! She not only made sure that it was on the list but she moved our seats closer to the exit and said she would call us for pre-boarding. Our seats were in the next aisle behind first class with plenty of leg room. Not a portent of what was to come. This was by far our best flight of the day. Unfortunately, we were only in the air for 35 minutes.

After a short stop at HNL which included a fast wheel through the terminal we checked into American to DFW on an oversold flight for the next seven hours. Seven Hours! O. M. G.! While we were waiting to board, Nancy pulled up the M game on her phone and learned we were down 16 - 9. She didn’t learn that Denard was out of action. We along with 10 other wheelchairs were preboarded. This guaranteed that we would find a place for our bags, to bad it couldn’t do anything for our legs. The seating made the Eagle seem spacious. Once the chick in front of me slammed her seat back the legroom totally vanished. Every time she wiggled or bounced, she slammed into my bunged up knee. The seating was so uncomfortable that this was the first time that we can remember that Nancy could not snooze. She just flat out could not get comfortable. I even had to empty my pockets on her side because the pressure of the wallet bothered her.

Seven hours! After what seemed like two, it started to get dark outside. I checked my watch, we’d only been in the air for 45 minutes. After another 45 we had to stretch so we got up and used the john. Nancy said it was the most comfortable seat on the plane. We discovered that there was a cruise group of 34 on our plane which accounted for many of the other wheelchairs. Since they all, had spent the past week or so sailing around the islands, they, including the pair in front of us, all knew each other. Many of them wandered about the aircraft checking and chatting with each other. This of course meant that our friends in front of us had to wiggle and twist, turn and bounce as part of their animated conversations. Since it was my right knee and we were on the right side of the aircraft, I couldn't put it in the aisle.

The flight went on for ever! After about hour 5 I finished my book. (An interesting piece of Civil War fiction named “God and Generals”. It relates how the leaders on each side knew each other well, they were often West Point classmates and had served together in the Mexican War. They also, especially the Southern ones, KNEW that God was on THEIR side. There’s not much to read in the seat pockets. Another trip to the john and we soon started our descent into Dallas. Finally we reached the gate and joined the mob going up the ramp where we found seats to wait for the electric handicap shuttle.

Once loaded, the two of us plus six from the cruise group took off through our favorite (not) airport. Up the elevator from D to C where we dropped the cruise group and then on to A for us. When we pulled up to our gate they were already well into the boarding process. No time to buy a new book. Our seats were in the back and we were near the end of the line. The attendant told me to use any available compartment space for our bags so I loaded the small one near the front and took the larger one all the way to the back by the galley. We had the middle and window seats and shared our row with a young Notre Dame fan who promptly zonked out for the entire flight.

The flight was nice. Nancy slept and I skimmed everything in the seat pockets. All the same stuff. Out the window, the sky slowly glowed red as the sun slowly broke the horizon. Since we were going north, it became more and more spectacular. I was torn between waking Nancy and having her take some pictures and letting her sleep. Since at that time we’d been up for more that 20 hours, sleep took precedence. A little less than three hours and we were in Chicago. Three flights down, one to go.

ORD, our favorite airport. It seems like whenever we pass through we land or leave from G20 and our other gate is either H or K 18 or something. This time it was K 15 to G 19. We had to wait for a chair and although Nancy was calm and collected, I was nervous as a cat. I was worried about making our connection but without cause. We had time to spare and even then the flight was delayed about 10 minutes. Soon we were on board and over the lake. An uneventful and successful flight on the Eagle and in less than an hour we were on the ground in TC. We grabbed our bags off the belt, loaded the car and home we go. It’s only been 25 hours since we got up this morning. We turned up the thermostat, lit the wood stove, grabbed a sandwich, took a nap, woke up and discovered that the furnace is not working.  Everything is normal !