Thursday, September 15, 2011

Escaping Hurricane Irene

You, my few faithful readers, know me. You know I like to plan my life in advance. I don't adapt well to surprises and last minute changes in plans. In other words, I am a Virgo.

As is typical with one of our trips, I booked the airline tickets months in advance. We were all set -- leave Sunday morning on the first flight out of JFK. Land in Long Beach, California at 1 PM. Pick up luggage. Pick up car rental. Check into HoJo's Anaheim. Walk to the Main Gate. Arrive in time for Musical Chairs at 2:30. It is a system and it works for us.

What doesn't work is having a major monkey wrench tossed in to make us scramble. That monkey wrench would be Hurricane Irene.

Since this trip will become a distant memory soon, I want to take a few moments to record a few thoughts. These are more reminders for me, than a story for my blog readers, so be warned, this does ramble.

That Tuesday the East Coast was shaken by a 5.9 earthquake -- the first earthquake I ever remember feeling. While not causing any damage, it did rock things a bit. (pun intended) That week Ashley had Lenape Camp each morning. Afternoons were a bit busy, too, as it was our last week of being home before our trip, before the half marathon, and before school started. I also had a lot of extra articles to write for the Lawrenceville Patch, and a job interview to become a Youth Services Librarian (sadly, I learned on vacation I did not get the job) in a local library.

Then we learned about Hurricane Irene. Being an organized person, I called Jet Blue on Wednesday to change our Sunday flight. They were not ready to offer free changes yet.

I called back on Thursday when they said we could make a change. Fine. We were set to leave on Saturday night at 6, rather than Sunday morning at 11. The storm was not supposed to make it to our area until Sunday at noon, we would be getting out of Dodge!

Still feeling smug, Friday night at 6 we go to the Jet Blue website to check into our flight. Uh oh! The message says to call Jet Blue as there has been a change with our flight.

This can't be good.

JFK decided to shut down their airport at noon on Saturday in anticipation of Sunday's storm. Even if we had gotten on the 1PM Saturday morning flight, we'd still be stuck. (We later learned the 1PM flight left at 11 AM, presumably fairly empty, but that was not an option.)

Now what?

Another call to Jet Blue. This one lasting nearly an hour. We talked about leaving on Wednesday instead of Sunday. That meant missing out on seeing Masumi (a friend from Japan who was returning home on Monday morning). It also made us debate about returning later (would the hotel have availability? we prepaid for the car rental, would we have to forgo that? how did I feel about Ashley missing the first couple of days of school? could Don change his vacation time?).

Suddenly Leah (a Jet Blue manager called in to cover the flood of phone calls) said the magic phrase: "what do you think about flying out of Dulles?"

All of the sudden a light bulb went off and we jumped on the chance to fly out of Dulles (confirming she meant the airport in Virginia and not the one in Texas that sounded very similar). We made the necessary changes to both ends of the flight (must pick up car at the end, you know) and hung up grinning.

Then reality set in.

Wasn't the hurricane coming from the South? How were we supposed to get from New Jersey to Washington, DC while a pre-hurricane was coming from the opposite direction? Wouldn't Dulles be closed because of the same storm?

We went to a play on Friday night. Ashley slept over my parents' house. We bought a few supplies (we thought we were leaving the next day on vacation and the cupboards were bare) and made plans.

How are we going to get there?

We looked at a map and decided to drive an hour out of our way, in-land, to avoid the path of the hurricane.

What time should we leave for an 11 AM flight?

How about 3 AM? Well, that's right when the hurricane is supposed to be hitting our area. How about now? Sounds good to me! About 8PM, an hour after deciding to leave, we hopped in the car and drove to Sterling, VA. We had the roads to ourselves. Yes, it was raining, and at times a bit windy, but much better than it would have been at 3 PM.

We spent the night at the Country Inn and Suites. We had a great breakfast in the morning. We left our car at the hotel (the hotel+parking was less than we pay to park at JFK) and hung out at Dulles. We were the only ones at the airport. We had to wait behind one person at security.

It is a wonderful airport. We had lunch at Max and Erma's and browsed the Smithsonian gift shop. As we passed the chapel, Ashley commented they had a chapel so you could get married and go right on your honeymoon.

Our flight was two hours late -- not bad all things considering. A friend from high school is a Jet Blue pilot. She was able to keep us updated on changes.

We smiled all the way to Long Beach, California.

Next time we plan to fly to California, we'll look flights out of JFK and Dulles. Still sticking with Jet Blue, though, because they are the best.

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