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European Vacation: Getting There - Grand Rapids to Chicago to Dublin, 15.06.15

European Vacation: Getting There - Grand Rapids to Chicago to Dublin, 15.06.15

...continued from European Vacation, the Prequel

*Note to the reader: Although published three months later, the blog entries for our European Vacation are written in present tense as transcribed from the travel journal I kept during our trip. Also, a loving “Thank you” to my nephews Jayden and Ashton for gifting the journal to Katherine and me for Christmas last year, which inspired me to thoroughly document this experience. Onto the adventure…

Before we thought about our honeymoon, Katherine and I were already thinking about Europe. When we were dating, we drove a weekly two-hour one-way commute between my apartment in downtown Royal Oak and where she rented her aunt’s house in Kentwood. In her bedroom, next to her temporary twin bed from college, she had a miniature metal replica of the Eiffel Tower and on her wall a poster of the manicured trees lining the Tuileries Garden. The first time I stayed the night, both were easy, obvious transitions into the topic of Paris. She wanted to find love like any hopeless romantic, so why not dream of the so-called City.

We started saving, putting $100 or so away every paycheck immediately after we got married, July 24, 2010. We barely returned from celebrating our wedding and we already had our sights focused on our five-year anniversary. $12,000 later and these two hearts who finally found the love they deserved embarked on the biggest bucket list trip of their lives.

Today, Mon, Jun. 15, 2015. My friend and colleague, Jason “Mac” McClellan, was our ride to the airport. And, (so thankful for him) he was our ride immediately home from the airport, too. While checking in at Grand Rapids, the desk representative from American Airlines unemotionally told us our flight from GRR to ORD had just been canceled at that moment due to weather. After a quick phone call to Antonia, our travel agent, for her recommendation, Mac scooped us right back up, got us to my car, and we bolted to Chicago. With any luck, we’d BARELY make what was supposed to originally be our connecting flight from O’Hare to Dublin, Ireland.

We hauled ass, like seriously the most ass I’ve ever hauled in my life. Katherine was my multi-tasking co-pilot, making sure to alert me of cops up ahead and with regular checks to confirm our flight’s departure time out of O’Hare. We hit rain, lots of it, just outside of the city. While en route, Antonia called ahead to make arrangements with a local hotel for us to leave my car securely in their parking lot. Upon screeching my tires into the hotel, she also arranged for a taxi to pick us up and to get us to the airport, which was so conveniently just one mile away. Antonia won all the prizes that day.

Originally scheduled for departure at 4:12p CST, Katherine watched as our flight got delayed thirty minutes to a new departure time of 4:42p. We arrived at the airport at about 4:05p. It was the first time I’ve pleaded with security - I begged them to help us cut the line. They were sympathetic and obliged. In the fifteen minutes it took us to get to our terminal, nervous from still not knowing whether they’d let us board and shaking from anticipation, our flight was delayed another fifteen minutes. Normally, anyone else would start to get annoyed. We, on the other hand, now had time to eat and catch our breath - the first time since we split GRR earlier this morning.

My last meal in the United States was fucking McDonald’s. Ugh… But! We did post up at a little bar directly across from our terminal and washed down our cheeseburgers with a pint and a shot of Jameson. C’mon, we were headed to Dublin, right?! We hung for what we thought was just going to be a few, mingled with other passengers and made friends with strangers. And, I had another beer. We met the sweetest lady, Maile (pronounced “Miley,” but with less nipple pasties, she clarified). She and her husband were traveling from California en route to Tuscany by way of Rome. On top of their vacation, they had developing plans to look at villas to purchase in Tuscany. With Siena being on of our destinations, Katherine and I were instantly hooked on what Maile had to share. She recommended a trilogy of books by Ferenc Máté. She promised that if we were to ever fall in love with Tuscany that these books would reassure us what that relationship would look and feel like. We took a photo with Maile and her husband, exchanged emails, gifted them the first of almost 100 Grand Rapids Beer City USA (#GRBCUSA) stickers I brought with me to share with all the new friends we hope to make and wished them safe travels.

We were headed to Dublin… Riiight??? For the next six hours we paced nervously while we watched our flight continue to be delayed in increments of fifteen, thirty and forty-five minutes. We got new boarding passes reissued once, but that didn’t make a difference. While multiple domestic and international flights out of O’Hare were getting canceled due to the rain and fog, ours was delayed due to unspecified “mechanical” reasons. After a call to American Airlines help center and an embarrassing number of texts to Antonia to weigh our options, we came to terms with our best case scenario, which was to sit tight. At about 8p, one American Airlines representative at the terminal told me that, due to labor regulations, if the mechanics couldn’t fix the aircraft and get us in the air by midnight that they would be legally obligated to ground the plane. Read between the lines, it meant: we’d be screwed.

At that point, American Airlines was generous enough to compensate $12 in food vouchers to anyone from our flight. Although we already ate (McDonald’s, remember?), I took both of our vouchers and wandered off solo to find someplace to cash them in so they wouldn’t go to waste. The only restaurant still open at 10:15p was… wait for it… another McDonald’s. I stood in line for about fifteen minutes because everyone had the same idea, and ordered all the vanilla ice cream cones and smoothies $24 in food vouchers could carry. While waiting for the delicious, sugary treats, Katherine texted me that everyone on our flight was being moved to another gate and that we were boarding?! Finally(!), after over six hours of fiddling with our damn plane they thankfully rolled in another operational aircraft to swap out for ours. I snatched up two cup carriers, fast shuffled melting ice cream cones to our new gate at the far end of the terminal and passed out cones and smoothies to anyone who raised their hand. In hindsight, I laughed at myself because as a complete stranger to a few kids I was offering them free ice cream. The exhausted smiles made for the sweetest ending to a very stressful day.

With midnight as the hard deadline American Airlines gave us, as a collective people, every last one of us calmly, respectfully and very quickly got our asses on the plane and planted our butts in seats. A full flight was ready to take off in less than thirty minutes with no other issues. We were safely in the air just before 11:30p. We sighed and fell asleep. When Katherine and I woke up, we were approaching descent to land in Dublin, Ireland. Our five-year anniversary vacation was about to officially begin.

To be continued...

Stay tuned for European Vacation: Dublin, Ireland, 16.06.15

European Vacation: Dublin, Ireland, 16.06.15

European Vacation: Dublin, Ireland, 16.06.15

The Ada Pour House Gastropub

The Ada Pour House Gastropub