Monday, December 15, 2008

Our adventures west

Hellllooooo peeps! I feel like it's been so long since we've chatted. We're back from our holiday trip out west, which was great but I'm sorry to tell you that I don't have any pictures for you. I put them all on a cd and I think I left the cd at my brother's house. It's a shame too because two of the things we did out west were the Museum of Flight and the Oregon Zoo (including Sam the baby elephant) and we got some great pictures at both places.

The Museum of Flight was really interesting despite the fact that I know absolutely nothing about airplanes. It did, however, give me an absolutely frightening glimpse into the amount of abundant and random airplane knowledge my husband has been storing up in his brain. It was like 30 years of watching The History Channel all had it's chance to come vomiting out. Seriously, I've never once heard him utter a word about planes and the minute we walked inside he kept whipping out random bits of information. I spent three hours looking at him sideways going "What?? Where did you read that.... You just know that??"

In addition to literally hundreds of planes hanging from the ceiling and sitting in the exhibits (you can imagine how big this place is), we got to go aboard the British Concorde and the Air Force One that belonged to all the presidents from Kennedy to Regan. While walking through Air Force One my political nerdiness turned into basic third grade fascination (which is actually totally unlike me) as we walked by the private bathroom and I couldn't help but yelling out "JFK Pooped There!!!" I know... I have problems.

The pictures from the Oregon Zoo would have been good to show you because you could understand why the four of us sat in the elephant viewing room and just squealed and pointed for the better part of a half an hour. Do you have ANY idea how precious a four month old baby elephant is? Oh my god, so awkward and snuggly and charming. After spending half the day touring the huge zoo I made everyone go back before we could leave, but Sam was tired and was all snuggled up and sleeping at his mom's feet.

The other priceless picture I wanted to show you was me zipping around the zoo in my electric scooter. My back had an "incident" the day before ("incident" is my polite way of saying that my piece of crap spine went out for absolutely no reason, causing me horrible pain and a near inability to walk) and I knew I wouldn't be able to walk around the zoo. Solution? Scooter rental! You want to make your family laugh at you non-stop for an entire day? The answer is scooter rental! The sight of your wife or sister zipping around a zoo in an electric wheelchair apparently never gets old. It worked great though - I got to see the whole zoo without too much pain and entertained plenty of onlookers.

Unfortunately our trip back east wasn't quite as fun. We got as far as Newark, NJ on Thursday night and then learned about the ice storm that had blanketed the coast, canceling nearly every flight out, including ours. It was actually the first time this has happened to us, despite quite a lot of winter travel over the years, so I consider us lucky that this was the first time. Also lucky that it happened on the way back and not the way out. The last thing that would add to holiday cheer is having a day of visiting ripped away after spending the equivalent of rent on your plane tickets. So we got stuck in the Newark Howard Johnson's for the night. And here's where I have a bit of advice for you...

Maybe sometimes in life you should just accept your circumstances and NOT go for the cheapest item on the menu. Maybe there are times - and I'm betting many of those times occur near the Newark airport - where you should realize where you are, not be Suzy Budget Traveler, and spend the extra $40 for the Holiday Inn. After hearing that our flight was canceled and standing in line with hundreds of other stranded passengers at Customer Service, we were given a printed out list of hotels in the area that had shuttles. Being the member of the family who does all of the finances, and knowing that we're a single-income household right now, my first and immediate thought was "just get the cheapest place! I'm sure they're all fine and we're only going to be there for about 12 hrs." This is where I picture my future-self looking back through the time traveling machine with sorrow and pity on my face as I watch us with the printed out sheet of hotels saying "Oh you naive little travelers... you'll learn. There's nothing I can do to help you now."

So imagine my excitement when we called the Howard Johnson's and they said $58 a night! $58 a night!! What a great deal! They're so kind to the travelers! Man, Newark really isn't so bad after all. How great - we can escape this whole ordeal for less than $100 and still be a mile from the airport!! How someone can be so worldly and yet so naive is truly impressive. I place the blame for this firmly on the small town I grew up in. All of the hotels - despite their names - are nice. There are no "bad parts of town" and I've never learned that Howard Johnson just might be code for Super Ghetto Ass Hotel in the Wrong Part of Town.

So it doesn't occur to us that we might have made a huge mistake on our hotel choice until we've already boarded the Howard Johnson's shuttle. "Ugh... I hope the hotel is ok...." I say with a little bit of mounting fear to B. "Yeah... I hope so" he says back with equal fear. At this point we desperately look for signs that it's going to exceed our expectations and be fine. "The shuttle is nice! The van is brand new, that's GOT to be a good sign." Then we pull up to the hotel: "Oh! Look at the entrance! The lobby is nice!"

As it turns out, it's clearly cheaper to buy a van and spruce up the lobby than it is to... I don't know... refurbish the place... CLEAN the place. You get the idea. We stepped off the elevator and had an incredibly disheartening walk down the hall to Room 200, which actually was Room 20 since the last zero had fallen off. It was all downhill from here. The stained couch, the smelly room, the HBO guide from three months ago, the shower that didn't drain (I preferred filth over the sketchy shower - B was more brave than I), the hard beds, the random people banging on our door in the middle of the night. Oh.. and the fist fight.

Now this is where I have to give my dear husband LOTS of credit for being a wonderful care taker and having the sensitivity to wait all the way until we were home on the couch before telling me this story because he knows it would have scared the crap out of me. Apparently when he went into the lobby to check his email he witnessed a three person fist fight, complete with one guy grabbing the throat of another guy and slamming him into the wall. The front desk crew were non-too-impressed and managed to only muster a meek "uh guys... stop fighting."

As it turns out, the guys were rival pizza shop owners and it was literally pizza turf warfare. Apparently Pizza Guy A was flyering the cars on Pizza Guy B's turf, and not only that, he was stealing Pizza Guy B's flyers off the cars. The theft was revealed in the dramatic and final move of the fight when one guy pinned up him against the wall by the throat and his accomplice reached into his jacket and pulled out all of the stolen flyers. Ta DA!!! This prompted the desk clerk to save the day once again by saying "Uh... don't steal his flyers."

So, maybe the next time you're stranded overnight due to flight delays you'll take my advice and pony up the extra cash. Maybe at least look for a room that's CLOSER to $100 a night even if you can't bring yourself to spend that full $100. Because, unless you also have a blog and can entertain people with your misery, it's just not worth it.

1 comment:

die Frau said...

Oh, honey. No, no, no--you have to avoid HoJo's. However, I can see us just about making the same mistake. Pizza turf wars--I'm waiting for it to show up as the latest reality show. That's kind of awful and fantastic at the same time.

This is why I always bring my own pillow, or at least a pillow case. [shudder]. My mom did the cheapie stay in college once at some hideous dive of a hotel and she and her friend pushed the bureau up against the door and cried the whole night, convinced that someone would come in and kill them. She laughs about it now, and it does give you a good story to tell....

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