Yesterday, I wrote about my flight to Los Angeles. Today, I’ll write about my return home.
That morning, I said my goodbyes to my sister before she had to go to work (I said goodbye to my dad the day before as he lives an hour away in Orange County). After saying my goodbyes, I went for a morning walk by my hotel, then decided to go to the airport early.
I went to my room, packed my clothes and did one final inspection of my room to make sure I didn’t forget anything. I then checked out at 9am and requested a Uber on the Uber app (more on Ubers on tomorrow’s post). The Uber arrived within minutes and I was at the airport within 15 minutes. Traffic was not too bad.
LAX is a huge airport and the terminal itself was huge. I had no idea where to check in to get my boarding pass. But thankfully, an American Airlines employee saw that I looked lost and approached me and asked if I needed help. I said I do need help and said I needed to check in. He asked if I had a boarding pass. I said I don’t. He took me to a self check in kiosk. But I didn’t have my paperwork with me with the information on it that I needed for self check in.
“No problem,” said the employee. “Follow me.”
He took me to the check in counter to an open register and asked for my drivers license, which I produced. Within a couple minutes, he printed my boarding passes and told me where I needed to go. I thanked him and headed for security. I actually had to go three security checkpoints before getting to my gate. The first two were simple – I just had to produce my boarding pass to prove that I’m a passenger and was allowed through to the main TSA checkpoint.
Having gone through security back at Appleton, I know what to do now and was ready. I passed security with no issues and soon, with two hours or so still to kill before boarding, I took my time walking and following the numbers leading to my gate. Once I located my gate, I decided to get something to eat. I stopped at a restaurant called Sammy’s Woodfired Pizza. I thought about getting a pizza, but I didn’t want to wait too long. The restaurant was packed, so I ordered a simple breakfast of 2 eggs with white toast and breakfast potatoes. It was good. I paid my bill and headed for my gate with still 90 minutes before boarding.
The gate area was packed, full of people waiting for their flight to Honolulu. I knew a seat would open up once the Honolulu passengers started boarding, so I picked a seat at a bit away from the gate itself.
I sat down and look at the American Airlines app on my phone for another update to see if my flight is still on time. That’s when I got my first travel advisory. Severe storms are impacting Chicago at the moment, which may affect travel for inbound and outbound flights at Chicago. I had the option to rebook at no charge because of this. But I declined the option.
I checked the Weatherbug app on my phone and took a look at the radar. Sure enough, a nice sized cell was heading right for Chicago. It was all red on the radar.
I alternated between reading my tablet and checking the app for updates. My flight is still on time. So far, so good. Soon, the passengers for Honolulu got up to board and I raced for the nearest seat by the gate After the Honolulu plane left, the gate agents left and soon after that, the new gate agents came in for the Chicago flight. I informed one of the gate agents that I’m deaf and will need to hear my group number. No problem, the agent said. He would let me preboard. I felt kinda bad having to board before everyone else, but if American Airlines would post the “Group Number X Now Boarding” on the monitor, I wouldn’t have to do that.
Flight leaves at 1pm. It is now 12:40pm, typically time to board. But we didn’t start boarding until 12:50pm. I knew right away that the flight is now going to be delayed. But no alerts on my phone just yet. I boarded and got to my seat. At that moment, I received my first alert via the app to my smart watch – the flight is now 10 minutes late. It will lake off at 1:10pm.
I had the window seat and soon my seatmates arrived – a pair of women traveling together. The alerts continued on my phone. Flight now departs at 1:20, then 1:30, then 1:40. I was like, shit. I said out loud to myself, “Damn, I’ll be cutting it close to my connecting flight.”
My seatmates heard me and one of them said, “Us too.”
I asked them, “Where are you going?”
“Appleton,” they said.
“Really? Me too,” I replied. What are the odds? Over 200 people on the plane with odds that they are either going to Chicago or connecting to somewhere else and my two seatmates are both going to Appleton.
We talked for a little bit and made a game plan together on making it to our gate at Chicago. I checked my app to see what gate I would have to go to so I can plan my route. As it turns out, the gate for the Appleton flight got moved further away than it originally was and I was like, shit! That means I got more ground to cover. The plane finally took off around 1:40pm PT with an ETA to Chicago of 7:50pm CT. My flight for Appleton leaves at 8:30pm CT. Both my seatmates and I knew there were no margin for error at this point.
My seatmates and I made a game plan to connect to our Appleton flight, which is basically to run like hell and whoever gets there first, to let the gate agent know that the others are coming. The plane landed about 20 minutes earlier than expected, but it still took a while to disembark as we were at the back of the plane. But once off the plane, we all ran like a bat out of hell to make our connection.
To get an idea of how far we had to go, download the interactive map of O’Hare Airport and choose Terminal 3. We got off at gate K19 and had to go all the way to gate G21. We ran fast enough to give Usain Bolt a run for his money. My legs, already sore from two days of hiking, were cramping up. But I kept going. We all made it to the gate together with 5 minutes to spare.
Once on the plane, my seatmates and I gave each other a fist bump for our victory in making to the gate on time. My legs were sore, but I had such an adrenaline rush from all that running that the cramps didn’t bother me.
The flight took off on time. It was right at sunset too, but my seat was on the east side of the plane, so I couldn’t get a good view of the sunset. But from what I could see, it was beautiful. As we flew over Milwaukee, it was dark and I could see the pretty city lights below. It was awesome!
It didn’t take long for the plane to touchdown in Appleton. The flight was so short that we all had to stay in our seats. The flight was basically in takeoff and landing mode the whole way.. Once off the plane, I said goodbye to my seatmates and we went our separate ways. I went to pay for my parking, got my receipt and began the walk to my truck. Once by my truck, that is when I breathed a sigh of relief. I was very happy to be in Appleton after the close call of the late flight from Los Angeles. I had a decision to make – do I drive home or get a hotel? I still was wired from the flight that I decided, fuck it, let’s go home.
I showed my parking receipt to the parking lot agent and was on my way. It was About 9:45pm at that point. I thought to myself, I’ll make it to Marinette and Menominee by 11:15pm easily. How wrong I was.
I reached the Northland Ave. exit in Appleton on I-41 and there was a traffic jam. I was like, you gotta be fucking kidding me. This is not Los Angeles. It’s is nearly 10 at night. why would there be a traffic jam at this hour? My first thoughts were either an accident or road construction. I did recall reading some lanes of Northbound I-41 to be closed off in Appleton for repaving or something like that. It was indeed construction as one northbound lane was closed.
We plodded along at like 5-10 mph, sometimes stalled at times.The highway opened up back to two northbound lanes at the State Highway 47 exit (also known as Richmond Ave). It took me a half hour just to go three miles. Traffic opened up after that and I soon was driving at 70mph again, slowing down to 55mph through the construction in De Pere, but at least I was moving.
I decided to stop at George Webb in Peshtigo and made it there at 11:15 pm. I was famished, not having eaten since my breakfast back in LA. While waiting for my food, I thought to myself, what if I missed my flight to Appleton? What if I had to rebook? I looked at the American Airlines website on my phone for the next day’s flights. The next flight to Appleton would be for 11am, which meant an overnight stay in Chicago. I’m so glad that didn’t happen. I didn’t know if American Airlines would give me a voucher for the hotel or if I’d had to pay out of pocket. But I didn’t have to worry about that.
After eating my meal at George Webb, I was home by 12:15 am. It was one of the longest days of travel that I’ve had to endure in my life, starting with leaving my hotel at 9am PT/11am CT and finally arriving home after midnight 13 hours later.
But you know what? I’ll do it again 🙂 I’m looking forward to my return trip to Los Angeles in 2019.
Tomorrow, I’ll talk about my first experiences with the Uber service. Tuesday and Wednesday, I’ll cover my visits with my dad and sister.
Stay tuned 🙂