The best laid plans of mice and men… or the saga of how we got from Washington DC to Chicago!

Monday 11 November 2019

Today was supposed to be a simple travel day – make our way to Baltimore/Washington airport – check luggage in – board 10.34am flight to Chicago and be at our hotel by 12.30pm to enjoy an afternoon of seeing Chicago’s famous city buildings. The first part started off fine – because it was Veterans Day and a public holiday – the roads were a bit clearer and we were at the airport by 7.45am! Checked in and sitting at cafe by 8.30am – plenty of time and our gate was the first one so it was close by the cafe. This is when things start to go astray.

First the flight was delayed by three hours and then half-hour later it was cancelled. We were told by American Airlines that we were now booked on a 9.30pm flight to Chicago – wait for it – out of Reagan airport in Washington DC. It is like saying your flight from Melbourne to Adelaide is cancelled but we have you booked out of Avalon airport, Geelong in 12 hours!

We go and get our luggage back downstairs and then endeavour to locate someone at the Shuttle desk so as to get to Reagan airport. We wait about 40 minutes and still no-one is at the desk. Then my phone beeps and tells me that the flight out of Reagan is cancelled as well! The message said to stand by for further details. No way I said, so we made our way to the American Airlines counter and we were helped by a lovely lady who was realising that this was not going to be an easy day as Chicago seemed in lock down due to a snow-storm. What she did for us was book us to Charlotte, North Carolina, leaving in 45 minutes, with our luggage tagged to go onto to Chicago but we the poor passengers only on stand-by for the four remaining flights that afternoon out of Charlotte for Chicago. She did say we had seats on a flight leaving at 5.07am the next morning out of Charlotte to Chicago but by now my anxiety levels were a little high – what if we missed the flights this day – would our luggage be safe – yes was the answer – what if we missed all the flights today and have to find accommodation – yes was the answer – hotels available in Charlotte but at your expense. What if he flight the next day was delayed – was there any guarantee that we could get to Chicago by the time we needed to board the Southwest Chief train to flagstaff – No guarantee was the answer!

Okay – so we decide to risk it and fly to Charlotte. We get there by 1.30pm and go straight to the gate for the flight to Chicago leaving at 3.55pm. We see our names on the stand-by list – listed at numbers 6 and 7 out a list of 21 names. Then this flight gets delayed and is now not leaving til 5.30pm – so we wait, and wait, and get bored waiting but there is nothing to do but – you guessed it – wait. So finally the time arrives and by now I’m at high alert – please God – get us on this flight. As it turns out – we make it! We were the last two names to get a ticket – I said a little prayer of thanks and also a prayer for the other 14 people who missed out – hoping their plans would sort themselves out.

But wait – there is more – now our plane is delayed on the tarmac for 30 minutes – they couldn’t possibly cancel at this stage could they – no – we get up in the air. Then as we approach we are told we need to do loops of the airport as the weather has caused a backlog of flights needing to land. They couldn’t divert us could they?

Finally we are in Chicago – and guess what – it is 20 degrees F – ie freezing! We are in a line outside the terminal for twenty minutes freezing waiting for a cab. There is snow and ice everywhere!. We get to our hotel and finally are able to relax and warm ourselves and enjoy the end of an interesting day.

Off on the big train trip – 39 hours – tomorrow. Will be out of contact for a few days as the train doesn’t have WiFi!

view from chicago hotel window
view out our window – snow and train line – we hear the trains all night! It is a bit like a scene from the blues brothers.
view in the morning with interesting buildings
view in morning – interesting buildings – wish we had more time here to explore

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