Travel Log 2010: Day 1

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Looking back to early Saturday morning, the signs were there, I just didn’t recognize them for what they really were. I know now that I misread them, but it was probably better that way.

I had looked at the overcast skies, the gentle claps of thunder and the sound of rain falling with contempt because had this been happening on any OTHER Saturday I would have been able to sleep late, snuggled under the blankets with Tammy. But not THIS Saturday… This Saturday we were leaving for vacation which meant I was up by 6 a.m. making sure that I had crossed all of the I’s and dotted all of the T’s. We had packed everything we could possible get into the suitcases, while keeping them under 50 pounds each.

I sat at the table eating my waffles, washing it down with coffee wondering if the rain would pass before our 10:50 flight out of Midway. The radar looked as if everything would be fine. Southwest said our flight was still on time. I took another drink of coffee and started wondering what else needed to be done before our car arrived to whisk us away.

I went to brush my teeth and heard Tammy yell from the kitchen, “He’s here.” CRAP!! He was early and I wasn’t ready. Well I had to finish brushing my teeth, but other than that I was ready.

I walked out to give our luggage to the driver; I mumbled something about the rain, thinking how I couldn’t wait to feel the sand beneath my feet. The driver, Rich, was an older man that reminded me a little of a balding Dennis Hopper, didn’t seem to mind the rain nearly as much as I did, but then again he was only going to Midway, not Daytona Beach.

We got all of the bags loaded and Tammy stuck her head into Jake’s room to tell him goodbye before getting in the backseat with me. We were on our way before 7:30, our intended departure time, which meant we would have been rolling into Midway around 9, plenty of time to check in and maybe grab a bite to eat.

En-RICH-ing Our Lives
As we headed through Woodstock and worked our way toward Huntley, Rich engaged us in simple conversation as the rain continued to come down. By time we hit 90, the rain had started to taper off, unlike our conversations with Rich. He told us he had heard there could be some trouble around Cermack, which I couldn’t have picked out on a map, but felt like we should be OK.

By the time we neared the area of the expressway that was disguised as a parking lot; we had learned a lot about our buddy Rich:

  • was a truck driver for 30 years
  • once had someone pull out into his truck’s gas tank
  • has been in “every state of the union”
  • had a truck with a sleeper cab
  • is a World War II buff that wants to travel to Pearl Harbor and Normandy
  • spent some time selling real estate
  • once paid to repair the furnace and water heater in a flooded basement of a house he was closing a sale on
  • thinks the Bears and Jay Cutler will be OK this year
  • drives the morning shift for McHenry County Limo
  • enjoys that he’s the one driving people TO things while they are drinking in instead of picking them up AFTER they’ve been drinking
  • once drove to California with his son
  • is still friends with his first ex-wife and had just been to a party the night before for her birthday
  • HATES his THIRD ex-wife because:
    • she made him sell his truck (18-wheeler)
    • aid she would support him when he tried real estate but once gave him a bill for his half of the mortgage

Where’s Noah when we need him?
As we sat in the car, talking and listening to Rich, I kept checking the time, wondering and hoping we’d be able to make it on time. Sometime around 9:15, I mouthed to Tammy that I didn’t think we’d make our flight because I knew we were still at least 20 minutes away with NO TRAFFIC.

We listened to the traffic reports and knew we were in trouble because a few miles ahead us there was only one lane of traffic open. Four lanes merging down to three lanes causes traffic to get backed up and people to pull their hair out. Now imagine four lanes merging down to ONE lane. Not good. Traffic was flowing as good as blood through the heart of a smoker whose cholesterol is around 400.

Once we realized we weren’t making the 10:50 flight, we started looking to see what else was available. We briefly had hope that we’d be able to get on the 11:30 flight, but the hope lasted about as long as a teenager’s attention span during algebra. Hopes for the 12:25 never really went anywhere because neither were we.

By time we got close to where the backup was happening, we started wondering if it was really as bad as the traffic hell it had caused. It was.

I couldn’t believe how much water was still over the road, all four lanes.

In the lanes going the opposite direction as us there were cars littered along the side of the road. They were left there by owners who thought they could maneuver them through the lake. There was even a car in the middle of an exit ramp, with water up to the windows and surrounded by 15-20 yards of water on all sides.

Once we got past the bottleneck, things really opened up and the rest of the ride to Midway was smooth sailing.

Will we or want we…
As we got out of the car to get our luggage, we thanked Rich, wished his family well and headed to figure out just how we were going to get down to Daytona.

Because I didn’t ask someone for help, we got in the wrong line and had to get BACK in another line. Fortunately we were able to get in front of the blue-T-shirted group of teens heading down to some South American country for some missionary work. I say, good for them, I just didn’t want to be standing behind all of them.

We finally reached the desk, got our luggage weighed and were told we’d be put on standby for the 1:30 flight or the 2:30 and 5:20 flights. At this point it was 1:04 p.m. and we still had to try and get through security, which was backed up as bad as Elvis’ colon.

There was mass confusion in the security lines because apparently someone’s shift was over and they had to close a line. By the time we FINALLY made it through security, we ran down to our gate in time to hear several names being called for standby. Ours wasn’t one of them.

Fortunately, none of the names that were called had any people with them. As we stood within spitting distance of counter, waves of sadness flooded over us. That’s when the ray of sunshine burst through the clouds… “Jason and Tammy Wommack.”

The lady at the counter said we had the last two seats on the plane and didn’t even want to waste the time to print our boarding passes. She ran with us to the gate, told another lady who we were and we were on our way.

As we walked on the plane, it felt like every set of eyes on the plane were staring at us. To everyone already seated, we were the idiots that were causing the plane to not already be in the air. We found the first open spot, a window seat next to a Mexican couple. I quickly told Tammy that she could take that seat figuring I’d roll the dice and hope the last seat wouldn’t have someone spilling over the armrest.

The Old Man and the Teens
The last remaining seat was on the last row, next to two teen girls who had already started communicating with the boys two rows ahead of them. Before I could get settled in, the mother whose two kids were in the middle of the boys and girls asked if the girls would switch with her. Of course they said yes, which meant we were moving directly behind the boys. Fun times and take-off were only a few minutes away.

One of the boys, Mike, asked the girls how old they were, 16 and 13, and then asked my age. I asked him how old he thought I was and was flattered by his first response, “24?” I thanked him and told him I was older. “27?” Nope. Then the girls got involved in the guessing game, “30? 31? 34?” It was at this point I told them I showed them the gray in my goatee and told them I was 37.

Mike then asked everyone’s name. That’s when I found out the girls’ names, Jealousy (16) and Tiffany (13). My first thought after they said their names was “I’m sitting next to two future strippers.” I soon realized my thought probably wasn’t too far off.

I don’t think there was more than 10 minutes of the 2 ½ hour flight where the boys, mainly Mike, weren’t talking to the girls and vice versa. The boys were heading to Orlando to play in a baseball tournament at ABC’s Wide World of Sports. The girls were heading home after spending time with family in Chicago (Lake in the Hills).

Mike kept talking and Jealousy (her real name, I saw her social security card) kept saying she didn’t like him, although her actions and questions said otherwise. At first Jealousy said she liked Brian because he looked like Brad Paisley. But that romance was short-lived because when she saw the hickey on Brad’s neck she didn’t like him anymore.

I could write another three pages of stories between everyone, but I’ll try to just summarize them.

  • After comparing necklaces, Mike asks me about mine (a cross on a leather chain). “Are you Catholic?” No. “Jewish?” No. “Protestant?” No. “Then what are you?” Christian.
  • Jealousy eating all of the cashews out of my trail mix on the plane. She said, “Sorry I ate all of your food.” “You didn’t. You just ate all of my cashews.”
  • Jealousy telling me that Tiffany is a habitual liar and cheats on her boyfriend.
  • Me trying to help Mike hit on the attractive stewardess only to see him stammer out “uh, uh, a Coke” when she asked if he’d like anything to drink.
  • Jealousy and Tiffany exchanging phones with Mike and Brad then freaking out because they didn’t want them to find certain pictures.
  • Jealousy saying her “old boyfriend” (less than two weeks ago) was in jail because they found him with four pounds of pot.
  • Jealousy secretly spitting on Tiffany who thought it was the air condition leaking on her.
  • Tiffany saying Jealousy only likes dating black boys.
  • Jealousy asking Mike if they (baseball team) were any good, to which I replied, “No, only bad teams get to travel to Florida to play in week-long tournaments.”
  • Tiffany asking if we were flying over the Mississippi River.
  • Jealousy asking if she could listen to my ipod because she didn’t have service on hers when we were in the air. Surprisingly she found something she liked.
  • Mike trying to come up with a nickname for me. I told him some friends called J-Wo which set off him repeating J-Wo for 10-15 seconds.
  • Mike asking me if my wife was on the plane, then if he could meet and give her a hug.
  • Mike telling me he liked short and thick women in response to my telling him Tammy was short.

When we landed, I went to the back of the plane to stand with the stewardess because I knew it’d be a while before we were able to get off the plane. I heard the stewardess tell the steward to check out the kid in the Florida cap (Brad) to see what was on his neck. I turned and told them it was a hickey and we were giving him crap about it, especially the girls. I then yelled out to Brad so he looked back there where the stewardess made a face like she had just stepped in dog poop. The next thing I knew Jealousy was putting makeup on Brad’s neck to try and cover it up.

“I wanna walla…”
Mike was waiting for us after we landed but was too shy to actually give Tammy a hug. After going through some of the stories with Tammy, we headed down to the baggage claim to see if our bags had been on the plane with us. We weren’t sure if they’d be on our plane or if they’d be on the next flight down. Luckily, all of our bags came out and we headed off to stand in line for our rental car.

I had to tell the lady at Thrifty that I didn’t want their extra insurance coverage three times before we were given the all-clear to head out to our car. I had been hoping to get a Dodge Charger so I could channel my inner Bo and Luke Duke. Tammy wasn’t feeling much like Daisy Duke and wasn’t looking forward to us driving around in a Charger. As we walked into the parking garage where we could pick out and full-sized car, there was only ONE Charger and a family of four was walking toward it. I looked around and the only other cars available were two Chevy Impala’s. As we were trying to decide which one to get, Tammy spotted a burgundy Charger a few spots down.

I pulled the luggage out of the trunk and started heading toward the Charger only to see a familiar face and what appeared to be the father making the final steps and starting to put luggage into the trunk.

I yelled and waved my fist in the air… “Miiiiiikkkkkkkeeeee!!”

We smiled and laughed as I headed back to our ride for the week…

We headed out of Orlando for Daytona Beach where we checked in to our room. Since we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast and a few handfuls of cashew-less trail mix, we headed out to find something to eat. We finally decided to just order a pizza across the street and head back to the hotel to just relax and unpack.

What a long day… We were glad we’d made it and glad to turn the lights off and climb into bed.

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