Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Weekend in Augusta/North Augusta, GA/SC

So Holly and Tom moved from Indy to North Augusta earlier this year and Mom has been whining about wanting to go see them and their new home.  The woman even threatened to take Greyhound, by herself!!  Like I was going to allow that.  Silly rabbit...

Saturday was a beautiful, if warmish, day.  And we all packed up in the Burns-mobile to tour the sites.  We soon found ourselves in Augusta - Holly had plans for us to take a boat tour of the Augusta Canal.  After being reassured that it was NOT a three-hour tour, Gnarley agreed to get on the boat.  (He watches far too much TV.)  It was a Civil War canal tour, so it was lovely AND edu-ma-cational!  We saw sites, and both flora and fauna... and some of the fauna was busy working creating more fauna, if you get my drift.  (Like to keep the blog PG for the kiddies, you know.)


Gnarley enjoyed the trip, and the attention.  He was rather bummed, though, that we hadn't packed his fishing rod.   

Sunday, after church, we drove to the State Capital to see the statue of Wade Hampton, Confederate General.  As possibly most of you know, my father, Wade,'s middle name was Hampton.  Legend has it that by the time she had the 9th child (dad), Granny Barger allowed the older girls to name him... AND it was about then that the book Gone With the Wind had come out.  Now why they named Dad after the only child from Scarlett O'Hara's ill-fated first marriage, I don't know.  But hey, they could have named him Rhett Butler Barger!

Lunch was to be had at a Ramen Noodle restaurant.  I was rather disappointed to discover that they didn't use the little 10 for a $1 packages of ramen noodles in their food, but it was pretty good.  Even Mom got the hang of eating with chopsticks.

After a short nap, everyone piled back into the Burns-mobile for ice cream.  One the way, Gnarley saw another of his heroes.  James Brown (Hot tub!).  Gnarley was embarrassed that he wasn't wearing his cape, but got a picture with him anyway.

On the way back from ice cream, a short side trek to the Wade Hampton Veterans Park in North Augusta was called for... had to walk off that ice cream you know.

Tomorrow, Mom and I will leave Chez Burns and return to our trek to find more information on Priscilla and company.  Bet you thought we'd forgot about them, eh?  G'night all...

The Gnome Wars - Episode III.V

Much like the Star Wars saga, where the sections are divided off into sets of three movies, it would appear that Mom and my travels may have the same scheme.  Ignoring the fact that the second set of three "good" movies actually came out before the first set of three "crappy" movies came out,... the last three posts Alabama trilogy.  We have to wait, not 30 years, but still... for the rest of the story, i.e., thus begins the South Carolina trilogy.  This analogy begs the question of who am I in these movies, as only the stupid droids, Anakin/Darth (spoiler!), Yoda, and Obi Wan are in both sets...  I'm going to say I'm Obi Wan and just hope that I don't get killed (only to become stronger) in the first episode.  Here goes.

Gnarley had a lot of fun going to Alabama and that was in spite of the fact that he had to stay in the car most of the time.  First there was the rain - he didn't want to get his socks muddy; and second, he seemed to think that the security in the courthouses might catch him... mumbling something about a warrant and unpaid parking tickets.  He did get to enjoy the fun of a road trip with me and Mom and eating out a lot.

He even enjoyed the toy from my kid's meal at, you guessed it, Sonic!  I did NOT volunteer to share my tots, however.  (grumble..)

I know, you're saying, "To heck with Alabama, that's history!  I thought this was about South Carolina!"  Well, it is, but you know I like to fill in a little background.  Plus there was not quite, but almost two weeks of actual life that had to take place before we repacked our bags, got another cat-sitter to agree to come feed the livestock, and head off again.

Gnarley didn't seem to think that any of that was important and as soon as he got home, he repacked clean socks in his suitcase and stood sentinel at the elevator door.

Neither Mom nor I had the heart to tell him how long he would have to wait.

I'm thinking this entry is quickly becoming the Clone Wars of my Stars Wars analogy... the time between trilogies.

So on that note, Samantha is programmed.  I have downloaded the Sonic app for my phone, so when Mom has a craving, we can see where the nearest one is without depending on the Sonic being listed on the Food signs on the interstate.

Friday Morning - circa 7:30 a.m.  We set off in Baby Blue and head south.  Samantha said I that barring potty/gas/food breaks, it would take 8 1/2 hours to get to Holly and Tom's house in North Augusta, SC.  Of course she had us going via Atlanta, and Rose would rather not venture into that quagmire; so we headed east from Nashville towards Knoxville.  It took Samantha almost 100 miles to succumb to the inevitable and realizing we were NOT going back to Nashville!

Thirteen hours later, after roaming through some beautiful scenery, we finally arrived at Holly's house.  Dog weary...  Upon arrival, Gnarley immediately picked up his friendship with Gnoah.

Gnoah, being a bookish type, shared a bedtime story with Gnarley. 

Soon it was bedtime.  After the long trip and time zone change, Gnarley was soon fast asleep.  We had big plans for the next day!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

So When DID She Die??

Another goal of the Alabama trip, was to find proof of someone's death date.  Again, a little background is needed....

A few years ago, I convinced Mom to do the paperwork necessary to get me into the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution), as I'd discovered we have several ancestors who served in the Revolution one way or the other.  And she did.  So Mom, Ho, Ha, me, and my neice Ho2.0 are all members now.  Now, I have an admittedly addictive personality, I like to collect things, so I felt the urge to attach myself to the other patriots.  Mom did the paperwork for a dude on her side of the family, but turns out there are several on Dad's side too!  Long story short, we've been working on adding some of the, I think there are potentially 8, other lines I can join (like 4 or 5 for Mom).

Bear with me now, we're getting to the meat of the second why for this whole trip.  Mom has an ancestress named Priscilla Hollis.  Now someone else has previously joined the DAR and Priscilla is one of their peeps too.  Mom, in the course of preparing her application to attach onto that particular patriot, noticed that the DAR (per this other person's application) shows that Priscilla died in 1804-ish (shortly after her hubs, our ancestor, died). 

Now, at this point in the story, I'm like "yeah, so?"  Well, Mom says Priscilla died in 1836, in Alabama, after remarrying and she wants to be able to put the correct info in her application instead of "me, too'ing" the wrong info.

Obviously, I've not drunk enough of the Kool-Aid, and pointed out that Priscilla isn't the Patriot, in fact, I think she's just the wife of a guy in the ancestral line.  Nevertheless, she persisted.
As I said, Hollis family lore has it that Priscilla and hubs #2 (Thomas) got married in South Carolina, obviously after hubs #1 died.  They had a son, and at some point moved to Alabama, where she died a week after their son.  Somewhere along the line, Mom discovered that the
re is supposedly an obituary for Priscilla in the West Alabamian (a newspaper).  Armed with this info, we headed south from Hamilton, AL, with our ultimate destination being Sumter County - however, along the way, we had a couple of courthouses and libraries to stop at to see if would find this obituary.

First, I apologize, I'm writing this a week after the events, so I don't quite remember the names of all the towns/counties, but I will attempt to otherwise accurately report our escapades.  Additionally, I must say that you couldn't really get to one place from the other easily - it involved several county roads which were long and twisty, with some thrill-hills thrown in.  But it was a beautiful day and we were game.

After driving some, we arrived in Pickens County, in the town of Carrollton. (FYI, I've Googled a map of AL to assist here).  Mom had some reason to think that the West Alabamian was a Pickens County based newspaper.  And whatever her sources were led her to believe that old issues could be found in the courthouse.  We arrive, gather all of our research accoutrements, and go inside where a very nice man sees us, looking like we have no clue what we're doing, and he offers to help us.  Mom explains that supposedly, somewhere in this building are issues of the West Alabamian going back to the 1870's.  (I realize you're asking, but didn't Priscilla supposedly die in 1836?, and yes.  But I think Mom's thoughts were that we'd find an actual death record for her in the county where she supposedly died.  Meanwhile, if the WA went back to the 1830's, then maybe she could find an obit for Derrill Upright Hollis (see last episode).

The kind gentleman tells us, "Oh, no.. not here.  You'd want to go to the Library in Aliceville, they have all the old issues there.  Or, maybe in the Probate Judge's office across the street, but I KNOW the Library in Aliceville has all the old issues, because I've done research in them."

So, we trotted back to the car, discussing whether to try the Probate Judge's office, which was a maybe, or head to Aliceville, which was a definite.  We hit the road for Aliceville.  And had lunch.  Where we asked some guys at the table next to us where the library was.  Of course, they weren't from Aliceville, so they didn't know.  Sigh.  

Don't worry, Siri got us to the Library and when we inquired about the papers, the woman behind the counter had no clue (literally and figuratively) but she helped us investigate.  Turns out the library had every year of the West Alabamian on microfilm EXCEPT the years 1870 and 1871.  She voluntarily called another library in the county only to be told by that person, that the best place would be, you guessed it, the Probate Judge's office in Pickens County.  Sigh.  

Fortunately, it's a good road and a beautiful day, so we drove back to Pickens County, where we had to stand in THE slowest line ever.  See in Pickens County, AL, the Probate Judge's office is also the BMV!  I kid you not, we were in line a good 10 minutes waiting for the two people who were being served when we walked into the room to be finished!  Argh!  Finally, we were able to inquire.  The woman took us to a room giant bound volumes of actual old newspapers - it seems the newspaper itself produced these volumes for the Court.  Very nice.  EXCEPT (together everybody..) the Courthouse burned in 1876.  So nothing older than 1872, newspaper-wise.  Sigh.

At this point, I'm bummed.  Why does Mom do this?  Where's the thrill of discovery?

We drove on down to our ultimate destination, which was Sumter County, the county where Priscilla (you forgot her, didn't you?) and hubs #2 lived.  Mom said the the Courthouse burned, but not the Probate Judge's office, so she hoped there might be some records.  We got to the Probate Judge's office at 3:25 pm hoping that they were open until 5.  We were told that they didn't have any death records, but they did have some old newspapers.  Oh, and the office closes at 4pm.  Sigh.

Mom said that Priscilla died in 1836, and Praise God!! the newspapers went back to 1836!  So I started at the beginning and Mom at the end (of 1836)... when inspiration hit Mom that we should log into her Ancestry account to find out Priscilla's actual death date.  Thank God I had the app on my phone.  I logged in and ... she died in early October.  

As we both stand neck and neck, pouring over the ooh so tiny print in these ooh so crumbly old newspapers, our hearts were pounding.  Finally, BAM! I see this tiny little obit.  I all but ran screaming "We found it!!" to the woman who was helping us.  Ok, I got my thrill of discovery.  So, incredibly long story short, Priscilla died in 1836, and we have proof!  Now the only remaining hurdle to Mom correcting the DAR's record is proving that the Priscilla Hollis they say died in So. Carolina in 1804 is, in fact, the same Priscilla Cusack that died in Alabama in 1836.  Fortunately, I still have vacation days to burn, so it looks like we be South Carolina bound!

- To Be Continued - 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Yet Another Vacation Spent Roaming Around Cemeteries!

Last episode Mom, Gnarley, and I found our way to Alabama in search of Sonics and dead ancestors.  So how did that go?  Well first, some background! 

See, Mom's been doing genealogy for many moons, since she was preggers with yours truly.  As I have whined before, when I was growing up, rare was the vacation that didn't involve a cemetery, a courthouse, or trespassing on strangers' property to see where an ancestor used to live. 

One of the goals for the trip was to find the grave of an ancestress, Mary Elizabeth Hollis, who obviously existed, since we are here, but we can't find any proof.  Family lore has it that she died and was buried in the cemetery at the Macedonian such and such Church cemetery.  So the plan was to go in the afternoon, after spending the morning in the courthouse.  But according to the weather channel, remnants of Harvey were supposed to come into western Alabama in the afternoon, so I told Mom that we needed to switch the plans.

After breakfast, we hit McD's for some tea and then drove 20 minutes to Sulligent,  AL.  If memory serves, this is where my great grandmother met my great grandfather - he was working on the railroad ("all the live long day!!!...).  So here's a pic of the train depot.

Going through town, we found our way to the Macedonian such and such Church cemetery.  We traipsed around over the bumpy terrain, doing our best to read really old tombstones.  There were tons with broken headstones, or totally illegible stones, so we can't say that Mary Elizabeth wasn't there, but we did not find her stone.  We did find the stone for David H. Hollis, not a direct ancestor, but a twig off the same limb of the family tree - per Mom, his father-in-law went nuts and killed him. She couldn't (or should I say "wouldn't"?) give me any more details of the crime.  Hmm...

So now, Mary Elizabeth's widower, Derrill Upright Hollis, was buried in the Hollis cemetery on what used to be part of his 1,500 acres of property.  Mom and Dad had been to see it, but Mom thought I should see it.  So, using her memory, we drove around trying to find it.  We found this sign,

but no cemetery.

Mom was bummed, and it was starting to sprinkle.  So we drove around Sulligent to locate the town library, so Mom could see if there was any records that might help us prove 1) that Mary Elizabeth wasn't a pigment of our imagination; and B) where the Hollis cemetery was.  We rummaged around in their "genealogy" section - or maybe it was their genealogy "section", that's better, because it wasn't very big.  We did not find anything, but when the woman behind the counter stopped gossiping with another lady who obviously wasn't very busy, we approached her to inquire about the Hollis cemetery.

While she is attempting to help us solve the mystery, a black gentleman came in and she said, "well, this is the man to ask, he's Somethingorother Hollis!"  So the four of us continued to work on the mystery until the light bulb appeared over the guy's head and he's like "Oh, yeah!  I know where that is!"  And he gave us directions.

Before trekking out, Indiana Jones style, it was lunch time, and our make your own waffles were no longer holding down the fort energy-wise, so we stopped at the BBQ Hut - we'd passed it before and it sounded good, but now, it is pouring rain, and we could see people wading through the raindrops to go get it, and decided that was a good recommendation.  We managed to get thoroughly soaked, but enjoyed the BBQ.

Having refilled the fuel tank, so to speak, we set out.  But keep in mind that it is pouring rain, and while I was already wet, neither of us wanted to get wetter.  We did find the cemetery but it was no longer the well kept jewel that Mom remembered seeing before.  We did trespass onto someone's property, but decided to be happy with just a picture.  If you look really close, you can see tombstones in there.  One of them is Derrill Upright Hollis.

We decided to swim back to Hamilton, and spend the afternoon in the courthouse.  We were shot down at every turn because all the info we were looking for was from before one of the various times the courthouse burned in late 1800's!  

As the afternoon drew to a close, we Googled looking for someplace good to eat.  The background here being that Dad was of the opinion that there was no place good to eat in Alabama.  After reading the online menus and reviews (some of which were laugh out loud funny), we decided upon O'Bryan's Family Steakhouse because we were in the mood for an actual meal.

We were seated, waffled our way through ordering, and Mom got up to go fix her plate at the salad bar.  That's when one of the waitresses came frantically to the table telling me that she was sorry, but they were going to have to close.  WHAT?  Oh, don't worry, they could cook our food, but would have to give it to us in a to go box.  WHY?  Because of that..  and she pointed at the tv on the wall in the corner.  The radar being showed was red.  So I'm like, "a storm?"  No, a tornado... and the manager isn't here, and they left it to us whether or not to stay open.  Right, you leave the decision whether or not to stay open up to a bunch of teenagers?  

So, a couple of things, 1) the time it took for them to cook our food and bring it to us in to go containers, the tornado was long gone; B) the county we were sitting in, was long and skinny, we were sitting in the top part and the tornado was in the bottom part and moving north east.  The restaurant was never in danger; and finally, when we did get back to the hotel, they hadn't given us any utensils with our carry out.   After that experience, I don't think Dad would have changed his mind about Alabama cuisine.

Staff tuned for our next episode "So When DID She Die?!" 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

At Least We Saw Superman...

So Berry has instituted a "use it or lose it" vacation policy and the deadline is the end of the fiscal year, or Sept. 30th, which meant that I had 9 days to burn during the (then) next 6 weeks. 

I called Mom and told her to start planning the genealogical trip to Alabama she's been talking about for years.  She got out her atlas and started planning.  I scheduled to take off the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before Labor Day.  We packed up the Rav with our suitcases, some bottled water, and some snacks.  Before we hit the road, Gnarley informed us that he had been eavesdropping on our plans and wanted to go with, so the three of us hit the road. 

Before we could leave Evansville, though, we had to hit McD's for our obligatory Sausage McMuffin for the road.  As we left McDonald's, there was a small kerfluffle over whether we were going to go through Kentucky (I just assumed) or the Illinois way (Mom's thoughts).  Since I had told Mom that she could navigate (instead of me following the directions from Samantha, the GPS - I've discovered there seems to be a wee bit of jealousy between the two of them), I yielded to her directions and we hit the road.

The Illinois way involved us basically following the path we always took to visit my Grandmothers - Dad's mom, in Eddyville in Pope County, IL; and then Mom's mom in Metropolis in Massac County, IL.  By the time we got to Metropolis, everyone had to go wee.  Gnarley saw a couple of "Home of Superman" signs and refused to let us leave town before he had a chance to meet his hero.

Mom and I tried to explain the whole fictional character thing, but Gnarley was having none of it.  He'd even packed his lucky Superman cape!  How could we say "NO!"?

Turns out the town had enough Supes-related stuff that Gnarley was very pleased and, after a couple of photo-ops, willingly got back into the car.

Then we got back on the road and made it through Kentucky without mishap.

Now, you may recall from a previous episode (circa 2013 maybe?) that Mom has this childhood friend who lives in Tennessee.  Turns out my navigator had sneakily planned our trip to go right through the friend's town!  It was on our way there that I discovered another one of Mom's ulterior motives for this trip - to scope out all the Sonic's in the South.  But first, some background....

See, we have a Sonic Drive-in Restaurant in Evansville and a while ago, like any good drug dealer, I got Mom hooked on their frozen limeades.  This summer, quite by accident, we discovered that in the summer, Sonic sells frozen sweet tea in one of three flavors, lemon tea, black cherry, and wildberry.  Wildberry frozen sweet tea was now our addiction of choice.  However, during an early Saturday morning conversation with the manager of our local Sonic, he told me that he only had so much of the wildberry and black cherry flavoring and he couldn't order any more.  Subsequently, we hit the Sonic as often as we could until we learned that... sniff... the wildberry stuff was all gone.  They do have blackberry flavoring that will do in a pinch, but Mom and I were now going to suffer through the rough winter....Sigh.

So flash back to our trip.  Keeping in mind that we're driving on all these blue roads (i.e., not interstate) and going through every tiny town in western Tennessee, we were going through one town (I don't remember which one, but it was before we hit Trenton, TN, because that town was memorable in its own right) and we saw that they had a Sonic, so we decided to try our luck. 

And we were IN luck!  They had the wildberry stuff!!  We happily slurped our way through to Norma's house.  She and Mom had a nice visit.  Oh, before I forget, ....  Trenton, TN.  I'm casually motoring along when out of the corner of my eye I saw a speed limit sign, and for the life of me, I'm thinking it said the speed limit was 31!?  Mom and I chuckled and then we found another.  So I had to pull over and take a pic and post it on FB.

We arrived at our hotel in Hamilton, Marion County, Alabama about 7-ish.  Our choices for hotels on (who doesn't love Captain Obvious!?) were not great, but we chose the lesser of the evils... and it was ok.  There was a huge spider on the ceiling in our room, but the manager willingly came and killed it for us.  Although I did not leave my empty shoes on the floor while in the room, it was ok.  The complimentary breakfast was cereal or make your own waffles.  But since I like waffles and hadn't had one in quite a while it worked for me.

Next episode:  Yet Another Vacation Spent Roaming Around Cemeteries!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

On the Road Again, Again

A week ago, I got to "travel on business" to Charlotte, NC.  As I believe I've mentioned before, during the 25+ years working at law firms, my "traveling" for work consisted mainly of going to court houses in neighboring counties to file or search for documents.  I think the farthest trip was to English, Indiana or Marion, Illinois.  So working in a job where I actually have to fly somewhere, for business reasons (i.e., on someone else's dime) is just a total hoot!

I went to Charlotte to help train/program the contract software for one of the three divisions of the business.  Again, Cameron was supposed to go with me, but circumstances changed and he had to stay in Evansville.  My nerves would have preferred having a friendly face, but being an "adult" and all, I was fine.

Long time readers are asking about how intensely I interacted with TSA.  Well, the flight was direct from Evansville to Charlotte, so I only had to go through security in Evansville.  I have been told that the key to night being "randomly" chosen is not to be overly friendly, so I kept this in mind and tried to be neutral going through.... and it worked.  I was not chosen for "random" screening at all!  I took this as a sign that either the trip would be a success, or that it was the beginning of the apocalypse.  

After I landed in Charlotte, retrieved my luggage, and found my rental car, I was ready!  Since I generally am thirsty and/or hungry, and wouldn't mind taking a call from Mother Nature when I'm done with all this, I try to use my God-given sense of direction to get out of the airport complex and find a McD's first thing.  Then I can search Google maps on the phone for directions to wherever I'm going... in this case, Berry's office in Charlotte.  Google first stymied me by telling me there were two Berry locations in Charlotte.  I figured one was offices, and one was a plant, but which was which?  So I picked one, called the woman there I was coming to work with to confirm where I was supposed to go.  

On the road...  Well I enjoy driving, don't have a problem, generally, in strange cities.  I enjoy driving rental cars, sort of let's me enjoy having a new car occasionally without the car payments.  But for some reason, me driving in a strange city, in a strange car, is generally an opportunity for mayhem.  I was doing good - turns out that the Berry offices were like 15 minutes from the McD's.  But Siri and I have communication problems at times.  So she tells me to turn right in 500 feet onto I-??.  So, I see a right, I see a sign for I-??, so I turn.  Siri doesn't do the "recalculating" in a much put upon voice like the GPS does, so it took a couple of more turns before I realized that she was working on getting me back to the same spot to tell me to turn right in 500 feet onto I-??!  And unfortunately, doing that series of turns, my Happy Meal ended up in the floor of the passenger side.  Luckily my McNuggets were in a box, so I just "lost" my fries.  

The work aspect of the trip went very well.  They were totally prepared for what needed to be done and it was work, but easily done work.  Before I left, I told my mother, I don't mind being on the menu, but I really hate being the main course.  It would have been easier if Cameron had been able to come.  But it all was fine.  Except... I'd been invited to dinner one evening with them.  Introvert Rose hated the idea; but Adult Rose, who generally is in charge, told Introvert Rose to can it.  On the first day there, I learned that it would just be me, Shannon - the woman I was training/programming with, and some VP (a man).  The other woman, Allison (who was very nice and easy to talk to), couldn't go because she had to be home with a child.   

Tuesday night, after the flight, the driving around a strange place, and working (and being "on" - introverts will understand), I got to the hotel, ordered room service and worked my day job until my laptop battery died (I left the power cord in the conference room)... all with a splitting headache.  By the end of the night, I was dreading dinner the next evening.

Wednesday morning, still dreading, something told me that Shannon would not be offended if I brought NOT going to dinner.  I got to the conference room about 7:30 that morning and worked on the day job stuff.  When Shannon got there, I bit the bullet and asked about NOT doing dinner.  She was 100% ok with it!  In fact, her ex had their child that evening, so it meant she'd have her home to herself.  I could totally relate.  I realize that I could have totally offended them, but it worked out great, and after another full day, I room serviced it again in my hotel room that evening.

Thursday, was another very productive day and by the time I left, we'd done everything we'd hoped to get done, and possibly a little more.  And Allison sent a very nice email to my boss thanking her for sending me and telling her how invaluable my help was!

The return flight home, I had high hopes - after all, the week started with such a good sign!  Alas, it was not meant to be.  First thing, I was patted down - not as thoroughly as I was in Orlando and Chicago back in March, but it counted.  Then, as I'm being patted down, I hear an obnoxious buzzing and the conveyor belt at the X-ray machine stops and the machine starts flashing red.  I knew it had to be my carry on.  Sigh.  Turns out that if you have a bag of Carmel M&M's in your carry on bag, in the X-ray machine they look ever so suspicious.  The TSA officer swabbed the bag of M&M's for residue and I kicked myself for not having them for breakfast as I considered.  All things considered, it could have been worse, so I chose to be ok about it and the rest of the flight was uneventful.  I counted myself fortunate.  Ah, but TSA had one last surprise for me...

I got home, welcomed by the cats, Mom, and Haley (who had come down to visit while I was gone.). I didn't immediately open and unpack my suitcase, but when I did, very nicely sitting on top of my dirty undies was a lovely card from the TSA advising me that my suitcase had been "randomly" chosen for inspection.  Now, were all the episodes connected?  I don't know.  Does all a of this really fit the definition of "random"?  No.  Should I be concerned that the Honduran government has my fingerprints?  Hmm..  Will all of these questions be answered in our next episode?  Probably not.  For now, though, I'm going to stick with ground travel.  

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Meet Me in St. Louis ... er.. Orlando

So a couple of weeks ago, I flew to Orlando, via Chicago, to attend a software conference.  This was a totally new experience for me.  Not the travel part, longtime fans know all about my adventures (and the medical procedures that resulted from same).  No, the conference part was the new experience.  I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm an introvert.  Not to be mistaken for being shy, the Paxil takes care of most of that.  Introvertedness has more to do with energy, how you spend it and how you recharge.  After spending a large amount of time with people, especially large groups of people I don't know, I'm physically exhausted and I need to be alone to recharge.  I can't say that I totally understood it myself until I started reading up on it.

But anyway, as I'd written about before, I was supposed to go with three other people.  Then it was announced that we were under a travel ban, for all unnecessary travel.  So the next thing I know is that the three people going with me were no longer going with me.  This was no big deal, I've traveled by myself before, but there were nerves, of course, but it wouldn't have been me without them.

My flight left Evansville at 6 am, the butt-crack of dawn.  The airport was surprisingly busy considering the hour.  Now here is the big question:  Did Rose get stopped for extra screening by security?  HA!  Trick question!  Of course she did!  I got pulled aside to have my hands wiped to test for residue of explosive materials.  I'm guessing that I must just look suspicious.  (I've since learned that putting hand lotion can set off whatever.)  I'm told that it is 100% random, and I do not believe that at all.  It happens with too much regularity to be random.  But it has convinced me to look into the TSA pre-screening thing.  But that's neither here nor there. 

I knew that since I was flying domestic that even though I might have to trek all over O'Hare for my connecting flight, that that one time should be the only security event I'd have that day.  And I'm happy to say that I was correct!  The flights went well, I slept for most of them, and I arrived in beautiful Orlando about 1-ish.  I had to find and wait for my checked luggage and then I had to find the rental car area, get the car, find the car, and then find my hotel.  Easy peasy, right?  Well, yes, but I have to say that at this point, I would not have minded having someone with me.  

The rental car didn't have GPS, so if Jesus was my co-pilot, Siri was my navigator and they (btw, Siri is a man with a British accent on my phone), got me out of the airport complex, to a Wendy's for water and nuggets, and then to the hotel safely.  The only damage being a very strong headache.  I've been struggling with tension headaches lately, but this wasn't the usual.

The conference was very good.  Several of the breakout sessions were nothing but thinly veiled sales pitches for programs we didn't have and I couldn't care less about, but outside of those, I got some good information.  Of course, each evening, I ended up back in the hotel room, with my laptop trying to catch up on the work I'd missed that day.  Every evening except...

One evening, the conference rented out Universal Studios Marvel Adventure Island for us.  Just us, and by us I mean three buses of about 50 people each.  The rides, all three of them, were open, the gift shops, the food and drink places were open and no charge.  There were bars set up about every 100 feet.  It was nice.  I, the introvert, really just wanted to be in my hotel room, but I forced myself to go.  This was another time during which it would have been nice to have someone there with me.  I rode one ride - the "mild" ride - Spider-Man.  After almost pooping my pants during said "mild" ride, I new that the rides were out.   I did roam around the gift shops, duh!, but while I like Marvel movies in general, I am not a big fan of any one of them in particular enough to actually buy their stuff.  Now, had there been a Batman gift shop....

There were characters wondering around - Spider-Man, Wolverine, two of the Fantastic Four.  The only one that I cared to get my pic with, and that was only because he didn't insist on standing in a stupid pose during the pics, was Captain America.  Still my least favorite Avenger, but he was nice.  We had been told that the first bus back to the hotel would leave at 9:30 (2 hrs after dropping us off), so I roamed around catching Pok√©mon until it was time to find the bus.

The conference was over at noon on Thursday.  My flight out of Orlando left at 4:20 on Friday afternoon.  I originally had thoughts of finding a beach (per Google, there are like 5 within a hours' drive of Orlando) but I was tired and wanted to go home to my babies.  So I attempted to change my flight - first to the 4:20 flight on Thursday, and then, having found it to be overbooked, to 9:00 on Friday morning.  There were seats available on that flight, but to change them would have cost $400 and since I figured Berry was paying much less for me to leave at 4:20 pm, it would be best to stay put.

Friday morning, I slept in, and leisurely packed my bags.  I didn't have to be at the airport until mid-afternoon, but since I had nothing else to do, I decided to start heading over there.  Found my way there, turned in the car, went to go check in my luggage and discovered that they don't check in luggage for flights that leave more than 4 hours away.  At that point it was 6 hrs away, so I found myself a chair near a USB port and watched Dr. Strange on my iPad, all the while watching the line to get through security grow longer and longer.  Finally I could check in my luggage and get in line for security.

Security.  We can play the game again, but what's the point?  Of course I was pulled aside.  This time it was because the sweater I was wearing had metallic thread threaded through it top to bottom.  So, I'm happy to say that I may now be engaged to a TSA agent.  If not, she at least got to second base as she frisked me, maybe third.  But, it was just once - I wouldn't have to go through security again in Chicago.

I sat and watch Dr. Who for the four hours until we boarded.  The flight was fine.  We even got to O'Hare early!  My luck stopped there.  As we landed, I looked to see if my boarding pass had a gate number on it.  It did not.  So I looked on the big screen.  The big screen said that my flight which was supposed to leave at 8pm, was leaving at 6am.  Well, that had to be a typo, right?  I asked a very nice woman at a miscellaneous gate - she confirmed it was not a typo, but told me that another airline had a flight to Evansville leaving at 9:30p, so I should go to customer service and they might get me on that flight.  I did.  They couldn't.  They put me up in a hotel, gave me vouchers for dinner and breakfast.  I had to trek a country mile to get to the shuttle, and keep in mind that I'm in Chicago where it happened to be under 32 degrees, and I'd come from 80 degree I'm not dressed appropriately.

It was next to impossible to sleep, worrying about getting up in time to be at the airport for a 6am flight, you know, so I gave up and got up.  I got to the airport, and security.  Now remember, I checked my luggage, so I am wearing the same clothes as the day before; and recall that the day before, I was thoroughly frisked by a TSA agent.  Sigh..  I mentally prepared myself for another intimate encounter with security.  Needless to say, my determination to investigate that pre-screening stuff was only strengthened.

The flight finally lifted off.  I slept the entire way.  Baby Blue was safely parked in the long term parking where I left her and I made it home.  The livestock greeted me at the elevator door, and after talking to mom a few minutes, I crawled into bed.  Other than waking up for lunch, I slept until about 4 that afternoon.  Even now, several weeks later, just typing about it is making me yawn!  I think I might go have a nap.