Our family has a history of what we call ‘epics’. These are those trips which on the face of it, seem simple and straightforward, but in actual fact go so horribly wrong that you wonder why you bothered in the first place. I suppose my current trip to Seattle is not such a disaster in relation to what some people go through, but it’s gone sufficiently haywire in the last 72 hours so as to warrant a blog post, and I think at least the subtitle of ‘epic’. In fact … I’m sitting in a hotel just outside Seattle as I’m writing this, seeing as I’m stopping in the USA a day longer than expected.
It all started when I decided to attend the MVP (Most Valued Professional) Summit in the USA which is held every year. For various reasons I’ve not been able to attend the last few, but this year I thought it would be good to go. Sandra dropped me off at Digbeth Coach Station in Birmingham UK early Sunday morning and I boarded the coach and headed down to London Heathrow. Arrived in plenty of time, but for some reason the online booking system would not let me check-in, so I had to go to a special desk to check-in. All well and good.
The next challenge was the seat I was in had no functioning in-flight entertainment, so after settling down and having had a meal, I was offered another seat which had working in-flight entertainment. Except the woman sat next to me had a stinking cold and kept coughing and sneezing. I covered up my mouth and nose best I could and kept drinking the Orange juice …
Anyhow I arrived at Seattle and eventually found some transport to the hotel, got booked in and was allocated my room which I was sharing with a young Italian Hyper-V MVP by the name of Francesco. We got on well, his English was really good, my Italian limited to “Ciao” and “Bella Bella” …
The summit passed pretty much without incident, but I was still pretty jet lagged even on the third day and I started having difficulty breathing and developed a cough. “Thanks lady on the plane!” I thought, and sure enough next day it erupted into full blown headaches, coughing, sneezing, shivers etc, etc. We had some sessions that day, and I ploughed on until lunchtime when I gave up and went back to my hotel room to crash out and try to get some rest. This was plainly a sign of things to come …
After a terrible nights sleep I got up feeling pretty ropey but determined to do what I had planned which was to drive around the local mountains sightseeing and meeting some of the locals. I’d hired a car at the start of the week and so I collected it, still not feeling great. I found a chemist and got some super strength cold and flu capsules which I took and headed out. The weather forecast wasn’t good in fact it was 90% chance of rain in Bellevue which meant snow in the hills. It wasn’t raining when I started the car engine. By the time I hit the freeway 10 mins later it was hammering it down. It continued to hammer it down for the next 2 hours as I doggedly drove first North then East heading for the Washington North Cascade Mountains. Probably the height of optimism really, seeing as the cloudbase was about 500ft with torrential rain, and the Cascades are around 10,000 ft and above in height. But to hell with it, I’m British, and those mountains damn well better show themselves eh what?
Having found out about now that I’d taken a wrong turn and I wasn’t in fact now heading for the Northern Cascades, but in fact heading towards Leavensworth, and feeling rather ill, I stopped for an hours power nap on the roadside. An hour later I continued on feeling a little refreshed, so I decided to stop and get some food. I checked the weather forecast and was annoyed to see that it was the same or worse. So I ordered 2 pancakes, 2 bacon and 2 eggs at the Sultan Bakery and was served two drain covers, two pieces of pork that looked like they’d spent the last 2 years inside Sellafield Nuclear Processing Plant and two runny anemic eggs. Yum. And some people complain about the English cuisine? Ah well onwards and upwards, my unplanned change of route was probably just as well, I reflected, seeing the weather was so bad. This route I was on now only went up to about 4000 ft or below, so I stood a better chance of getting through.
… or perhaps not …
2 hours later I was just about holding the car steady as I drove through driving snow with only about one tyre width of road visible ahead. Discretion being the better part of valour I stopped, somehow managed to turn the car around and headed back down the hill disappointed. Only to be met by the snowplough heading up the hill clearing the way nicely with a column of cars behind it … Doh! I decided not to follow suit as I didn’t know the area and I still was not feeling great. But I’d paid for this car hire and I was damn well going to enjoy it when I did or not!
So onto plan B. Visit Mount Rainier, which I’d already done on a previous trip, but hey, it’s a great hill, but I didn’t hold out much hope of seeing it, as it’s over 12,000 feet high.
Three hours later I was parked up at a viewpoint overlooking Mount Rainier … seeing nothing but rain, mist and sleet. Not my day obviously. By this time I think I’d gotten the message that this trip really wasn’t a happening thing and decided to stop at the next big town, get a meal and then head home. So I took another dose of drugs, found a diner, thought about having a beer, decided it was a really bad idea the way I was feeling, ate some chicken pieces and chips and headed out for Bellevue.
By now it was dark, still pouring with rain and I only had a local map to get me home. USA road signs are not great, not the worst but not great. After a couple of wrong turns I found the right road, but whilst I quickly checked the map I must have drifted right and bumped the curb. No problems so I thought, car felt OK, so I drove on. About 30 mins later finally on the right road, the 90 freeway, a police car lit up like a Christmas tree behind me. I had no idea what I’d done, wasn’t even sure if it was me he was signalling, there was another car behind him, but I thought best to stop. I pulled over and wound the window down, and the policeman arrived and asked me to give him the car keys which I did, then told me that I’d been seeing bumping the curb a while back and I was suspected of drinking and driving. I silently thanked my lucky stars for avoiding that drink earlier, as the policeman quickly followed up by saying that he could tell straightaway I wasn’t drunk . I said something like “I did hit the curb, but it’s because the car and the roads are all the wrong way around for me here, I’m from the UK”. Luckily this policeman had a sense of humour and he laughed and said he’d had the same problem when he visited Australia. A quick license check and he was happy and I was on my way.
Never been so glad to get back to the hotel and crash out. I was exhausted, feeling really rough and ready for bed. Sat and watched “Air Force One” all about a jumbo jet being hijacked and crashing, just what I needed … and fell asleep.
Next day (today as I write) I’m ready to go home. I’m feeling better, and ready. I get to the hotel lobby and meet up with Liam Westley and Andy Westgarth two fellow UK MVPs. I ask them what flight they’re on, they say the 18:10 BA49, I say “Oh I’m on the one an hour later at 19:10″.
Liam looks at me and says “Oh I think what’s happened to you is what happened to me, the browser form didn’t update correctly and it booked me in to 23rd March. I had to cancel and then rebook”. I’m looking at him like he’s speaking Mandarin or Farsi to me. No way, I couldn’t be that silly could I? I check my booking at sure enough it’s there and it says 23rd March not 23rd February. Holy crap. Perfect end to a fraught couple of days. How the heck didn’t I spot that? Somewhat panicky I contact British Airways and sure enough no mention of me being on today’s flight. Crap, crap, crap , crap crap …
So, after nearly having a heart attack when the lady from BA says I can get on the flight if I pay the penalty fee of $3000 … like that is going to happen, I finally manage to arrange a flight the next day (tomorrow as I write) back home to the UK paying only a $170 penalty. Thank God. The nice lady at the hotel I’m staying at feels very sorry for me and gives me an extra night at a 50% discount which is really sweet of her, and I rearrange the hotel- flight transfer no problem.
Note to self: in future either get Sandra or Katie (Admin lady at Ridgian) to book all flights OR triple check the booking and get the right month for the return flight you wassack! Honestly, at the honourable age of 50 you’d think I’d be able to organise the right day for my return to the UK.
There is a serendipity to this sorry tale however. The extra day, means I have to go straight to my course in London which I’m due to attend Monday, not that I don’t want to go home of course, but it does save on me having to go from Heathrow to Birmingham and then all the way back again the following day. Also today was actually a nice day in the end, and I discovered Old Bellevue town and had a very enjoyable meal there, took some decent pictures for a change and met a few really nice people who I otherwise would not have met had I not been inadvertently delayed. So every cloud does have a silver lining …
So, I think this counts as at least a mini epic , what do you think?