Escape from New York
The aftermath of a great trip is sometimes hard. “Back to the real world,” people say, and for sure there’s been some of that. But overall, coming back to our summer camp in Vermont has been pretty easy. The memories of recent travel definitely soften what could have been a harsh transition.
Not that everything went smoothly. Our arrival was certainly more complicated than expected. We had booked a hotel near JFK Airport so we could spend one night recovering from time zone adjustment before driving 300 miles back to base. The hotel shuttle was slow to respond and left us standing at the airport for nearly an hour in 91 degree heat, and then when we got to the hotel they told us nobody could check in because “the system is down.” A growing group of tired travelers were collapsing all over the lobby, which (for some reason) had no air conditioning, so it quickly became a refugee camp with bodies sleeping in chairs, on the floor, sweating in the heat, and one woman coughing ominously.
We waited about 40 minutes to allow the hotel staff to straighten out their situation, and they made multiple promises to me that “soon” they would start checking people in manually. But I discovered they were telling everyone who came in the door that “You’ll be the first person we check in as soon as the system comes back up,” and they really had no idea what to do in this situation (their mini version of a post-computer apocalypse). They couldn’t figure out how to check in the guests, they couldn’t cancel reservations, and they seemed content to just wait a few hours for some higher power to restore the system, with a lobby full of disgruntled people. It amazed me that they didn’t have a backup procedure for something as simple and predictable as a reservation system failure. After an hour I called the hotel chain’s national reservation number and after four tries to get through, I cancelled the booking.
Now our job was to attempt to flee New York at 3 p.m. on a Tuesday, while being thoroughly exhausted (we had gotten up at 12:30 a.m. Eastern Time). Rush hour traffic had begun already. After two hours of battling heavy traffic we managed to travel just 30 miles. After three hours we had gone only 60 miles, but things were getting better. We finally escaped the traffic and spent the night at a hotel off I-87, getting to bed after 22 hours of rental car, airplane, shuttle, dysfunctional hotel, and NY traffic.
(We’ll never again drive to JFK for a flight. It’s not worth it. The tolls, traffic, parking, and hotels are all outrageous, easily wiping out any savings on airfare we might have achieved, without even getting into the hassle factor. Next time we’ll choose a more accessible airport.)
And after all this we still thought we had a Great Trip, so you know that the travel endorphins were pretty enduring.
Back at the office, I discovered that my health care provider had relocated the office of my primary care physician 15 minutes further from my house (“to serve you better”), and coincidentally my health care premiums are going up 25% starting July 1. That took a bit of a shine off the day, but still I could have come home to worse news. All other things in our world seem to have hung together.
Rain is the theme for Vermont this week, so any thought of motorcycle trips has been quashed, as well as boating, fishing, or anything else recreational. In the sunny gaps I’ve taken walks down the country lane just to get some exercise; otherwise it’s desk time. The R&B Events team has been hard at work during my absence, and my major task this week has been to rejoin the crew and help summarize what we know so that we can finalize plans for all the upcoming events.
The frequent rains have given me a chance to check the Airstream’s waterproofness. So far I haven’t found any hints of leaks. The poor trailer is covered in the usual Vermont-summer mess of decaying flowers, tree branches, spider webs, and pollen, which I hate to see, but otherwise seems OK. Anything that can rust is busy rusting, so I can tell when I get it back to Arizona I’ll be doing some more scraping and painting. I think our Airstream ages a full year for every three months it spends here. Fortunately, it hardly ages at all when it is parked under cover in Arizona, so perhaps it averages out.
Can you keep a secret? I’ve got four days before I fly back to Tucson to assume my secret identity as Temporary Bachelor Man. That’s just four days to get all fatherly-and husbandly duties in place as best I can before leaving my family for seven or eight weeks. After that, you may not recognize me.