Thursday, February 14, 2008

California - Day Thirteen (and Fourteen)

Wednesday was supposed to be routine. Get up early, get to the airport, get on a flight a bit after 10, transfer in Chicago, and get to Hartford by 8 or 9 PM.

The first signs of trouble was when we were all seated on the plane and the captain came on the intercom to let us know that a valve thing was throwing a circuit breaker. A few minutes later he told us that everyone had to "disembark".

The next plane out there was scheduled to leave about 2 hours later. I booked that while standing in the gate line by calling the toll free number and hitting zero over and over again until a real person picked up. Booked for this other flight, and a corresponding 2 hour later transfer flight, things seemed okay.

I settled in with an historical fiction book I bought at the gate area and started reading a bit. Due to my "post-Palomar" hunger, I ended up eating three times by 1:00 PM.


1 PM was after the second flight (my new primary flight) was supposed to board. Instead, it got delayed. By four hours. Due to weather.

There'd be no connecting flights available when I landed so I went up to the ticket line at the gate (it was shorter at that time - just me). It was perhaps 2 PM. A very nice lady offered new tickets to me, flying through a much clearer Dulles, arriving at Hartford at 10:15.

This was great! Just an hour later than originally scheduled. I could still get a ride from the missus and I'd be at home for Valentine's Day. Since I missed the last three due to my California trips, I promised to be back for V-Day. I readily agreed to the itinerary and she started printing up the boarding passes. Then she handed them to me, pointing at the two flights.

"You'll be boarding at Gate 13 at 10:20, arriving at Dulles at 6:45 AM, and then taking the 8:45 AM to arrive at Hartford at 10:15 AM..."

She lost me at that first "AM".

"What? What time?"

"10:20 PM for the 10:50 flight..."

"Oh... this is a redeye."

"Yes. Or you could take the plane to Chicago and then do a layover there, the first flight leaving at 8 AM (or thereabouts)".

I figured I'd be better off sleeping on the plane instead of at the gate. During "normal" hours, i.e. until 10:20 PM, I could wander around and stuff. Then sleep during the sleep time. Whatever. I decided to take the 10:50 PM flight.

I called the missus for the umpteenth time, updated her on my new itinerary, and sat down to read my book. At some point, about 350 pages later, I needed a break. The missus called to let me know that she was going to sleep. We said our good nights and I love yous and hung up.

Suddenly it seemed like a really, really long time until 10:20 PM. I simply couldn't read the book too much more, I didn't feel like spending another $10 on a book (limited selection anyway), and I already spent about $40 on food (including a $10 voucher) so I didn't want to eat the time away.

So finally, against all my normal instincts, I decided to use the laptop on the public wireless network.

I didn't want to broadcast email passwords, account passwords, things like that. So I stayed out of some of my normal patterns.

I could, however, hit the bike forums. Specifically, my favorite haunt. I spent an hour or two catching up with what posts I missed. Some I didn't feel like getting into (they were usually either controversial or got into one word replies and I don't go for those threads). Some I answered. But I "cleared out" the threads pretty quickly.

I worked for an hour on my pet project, but I started fading a bit, and when I fade, my project work is horrible. So I stopped. Went back to the forums. Checked the news for the umpteenth time. Checked F1 news. Political, business, US, and local news.

And it was still about 7:30 PM local time. I had almost three hours to kill. I'd just eaten again (a pizza, a chicken pesto sandwich, a muffin, and OJ - post Palomar food). I wasn't going to move for a while.

So I posted a desperate post on the Road Cycling bit of BikeForums (or BF). I asked for someone to post something that I could comment on. And then I went and checked if any new news had occurred.

Within 10 minutes I had a flurry of responses. I started replying to them all, and with three hours to kill, I spent some time composing my responses. By the time I got them posted, there'd be more to respond to, and I'd start over again.

People asked or commented on everything from underwear to tactics given a certain power curve. I tried my best to answer everything.

And time flew by.

At about 10:15 PM, they started calling passengers to board. I signed off with a big thank you and scurried over to the gate.

I was really impressed and really happy with the BFers who posted even the most innocuous things up on that thread I started. I felt like they were supportive in both a fun and serious way, that they empathized with me, and that they truly wanted to help. No real snide remarks, nothing. Just good, friendly people.

It helped restore some of my faith in the human race.

And there was more to come. When I got to the gate I learned that they had apparently been calling me but I didn't hear. It was okay, they got me a nice seat and they were very friendly. They did get me my connecting flight boarding pass (I learned the hard way that if you don't have it, you may not be flying that second leg).

I had a center seat (flight was sort of full due to various cancellations/delays), and, unusually, both my right and left seat mates were very conscious of their personal space. I was too, so we were all sort of crunched up. I realized after a few minutes that I couldn't sleep like that.

So I watched a movie about a widower dad of three daughters who meets a very cool lady in a bookstore and then finds out shortly after that it's his (grown) brother's new girlfriend. I have no idea of the movie but Dean Cook was in it. I think.

Oh. I found it. Googled "widower father with three daughters" and voila! "Dan in Real Life". And it's Dane Cook. I was close though.

Anyway, I was enthralled by the movie. The flight attendant noticed. In fact, she made a point of coming to my row and leaned over.

"Did you watch the movie?"
"Did you like it?"
"Um, yeah, I did."
"Would you like to watch another movie?"
"Um, okay."

And she walked back to the DVD player thing in First Class and popped in another DVD.

She didn't ask anyone else, she only asked me. I glanced around to see if I was the only one up but my eyes wouldn't focus so I couldn't tell. The movie brought light to the cabin again.

"The Martian Child"

I sat and watched that too.

I felt some lumps on my arms, like pimple type things. I realized that they weren't there before. And later, at Dulles, I realized what had happened. I did get burned out in the Tour de Palm Springs, and my 7 hour day a couple days later caused me to get sun poisoning on my skin. Not good.

The rest of the trip was relatively uneventful. I got 650 pages into the book (mainly from the time we got to Dulles to Hartford). I did doze for about 20 minutes in Dulles, and almost lost my cap until a kind gentleman picked it up and put it on my lap (I was just waking up).

I worried about my bike and my gear bag, perhaps $10-12k worth of stuff if I had to replace it before my first race. But, somehow, miraculously, they arrived with me in Hartford.

I called the missus, stood outside to try and start the acclimatisation to the cold, and waited. We drove home slowly, me blabbing away about my trip. And about 26 hours after I left home base in California, I got home.


Eddy A. said...

Welcome home!!

Rich said...

Wow. Great thread you started over on the bike forum.

Sean asked for Ah-tee this morning...

Aki said...

I like that thread too, although I have to point out two things:
1. It's all about me (ego stroking)
2. The questions/comments are what makes the post great - others seeded the ideas, I just went off on them.

I've been completely out of it since I got back. Fall asleep at 7:30-8 PM, up at midnight, sleep at 5 or 6 AM, up at noon, dazed. Haven't even unpacked my bike. I hope to do it today. Haven't ridden since Tuesday, but as I pointed out to the missus, it's still an 8 hour week so far.