This needs to be separate from the story about the Flo memorials in my previous post, but I find there are stories to tell about the details of travel around the events.
To start, I was able to change my award to arrive in Boston shortly after noon instead of 9 p.m. In the time before Barnaby’s arrival, I had been planning to wait at the airport, but I saw that Mindy and Terry from SlowTrav were planning to have lunch in the North End, and made a general appeal for any members who could be interested to join them. The appeal for that specific Thursday lunch, which coincided with my time, looked like something that was meant to be.
On my Southwest flight, connecting through Baltimore, there’s not much to report. They started service to Boston Logan rather recently, and they use an odd section of Terminal E. In the main lobby, the signage was a bit confusing as to where to catch the bus to the T subway. I got that bus and purchased the $2 ticket from the machine, and took the Blue Line to State St. and the Orange to Haymarket. I’ve learned to take a snapshot of a map found on Google Maps on the iPod, and open it when I don’t have wi-fi.
I got to the restaurant L’Osteria, called Mindy to find out they were close, and we all got to lunch there. The meal was good, and the ladies were good company as I knew from seeing them at the big gatherings. After the meal, even though it was a bit awkward with my bags, we walked around the North End a little. I was expecting Barnaby to call when he got his rental car so I’d be ready to hop on in the street, but in fact he went ahead and (having a background in Boston) miraculously found a parking space in the North End. He charmed the ladies as we got together briefly for coffee; I must thank them all for accommodating me in having interest in this North End stop.
We had my GPS to drive out, but were foiled by making a left turn into the recessed lanes rather than staying above ground, and we unnecessarily crossed the harbor, winding up by Logan Airport again, and we had to pay the toll to cross back. Then we left Boston during rush hour, so it was slow going. We got to my parents’ Vermont home a little before 9.
At the end of my stay, my mother's friend Tricia from St. Louis, who had gone to Haiti with us, couldn't make it to the memorial events but turned up just when it was time for me to leave. It worked out that that I could ride with Sue and her parents to Manchester airport. We got there and said good-bye as they boarded their Southwest flight to Chicago; I was scheduled to fly United, connecting in Chicago, an hour later. The departure gate still wasn’t posted, but I deduced that it would be the same gate as their flight coming in from Chicago. Eventually I took the flight, on a CRJ-700 regional jet.
As I’d looked at the gate assignments of my flights on previous dates, it looked like I’d be arriving at the F gates of Terminal 2 at O’Hare, and would depart from Terminal 1, with an airside shuttle bus connecting the terminals. Now it turned out that both flights used the F concourse, avoiding that transfer, but it’s a cramped and unpleasant concourse. I found a place to get a hamburger to eat in the gate area. As I got to my departure gate area, they said they were oversold by about six passengers and were looking for volunteers to be bumped overnight. I didn’t hear the amount of the compensation, and I thought I wouldn’t go for that. The next time they said it, the offer was for $600 in travel vouchers and a free hotel stay with a food voucher. I finally thought I could manage that. I agreed to the flight at 8.45 rather than 6.30, which got me a First Class boarding pass. So here this one-way award trip that I'd essentially earned from piggy-banked miles--it's been years since I've earned United miles from flying--was getting me another $600 worth of future travel.
I had a voucher to stay at the Crowne Plaza Hotel at O’Hare. I re-learned how massive that airport is; I needed to get to the Shuttle Center for all the terminals, requiring a route through escalators, tunnels, and an elevator. Eventually the shuttle bus for that hotel showed up, I got my bag loaded, and the driver asked me to follow him since my bag was loaded and the bus was limited to 21 passengers. On arrival at the hotel, I was the last to get my bag and was at the back of the line to check in, but it worked pretty quickly: I handed in my voucher and they assigned me a upscale King room. With all the complimentary things United gave me, I was willing to put up with paying $12.95 for Internet access.
I got to the hotel restaurant for breakfast when it opened at 6; they only offered the buffet, I didn't take much, and my $15 voucher didn't quite cover the full price with tax. The way the inbound shuttle was full and they said it ran every 30 minutes, I was worried about whether there would be a problem boarding it at 7, but it worked out. I also worried about going through security at a big airport on Monday morning; while there were odd paths to take to get to the checkpoint at the airy 1980s Terminal 1, it went smoothly enough, and I was at the gate in the midfield councourse in plenty of time.
The inbound flight was a little late, but it took time for United to acknowledge that boarding wouldn't start when they said. On Southwest, there have been complaints about "cattle call" boarding, which was more the case before they gave people assigned spots in line. On United, with my assigned First Class seat, I figured I could stay seated in the gate area until they actually called boarding. This had not happened with the regional jet out of Manchester, but with this mainline jet (an A320), there was the phenomenon known as "gate lice," with people blocking the boarding area. I couldn't get through to the Red Carpet separate channel that I was entitled to take in First, and the agent closed off the front of it before I got there, and let the first Coach passengers board. She gave me an exasperated look and let me through (sorry, not much experience with this system and I didn't know the extent of the gate lice).
A reason why people push to board first on an assigned-seating airline is to get some overhead bin space for their bags, especially given the charges to check bags. I found a spot in the First Class bin where I could squeeze my bag; they had a problem closing the bin, but eventually got it to work. The plane was in a long line to take off; with storm clouds around, air traffic control asked for planes to be 10 miles apart. The 8.45 a.m. flight took off at 9.50. I had a nice Screw Driver to drink. The 10.15 scheduled arrival happened at 10.45.
So that's my account of the travel done around the sad occasion. Shortly after this, there's travel to Europe for my parents and me; going on this previously planned trip will be: moving on, part of the healing? It will be a mix, I think: we'll hope to make the best of it with Flo always in our hearts.