This installment will be a bit different than most since, instead of being on home turf and doing our usual visits to Loco’s with a little cycling, motorcycling, and projects this weekend, we flew up to Pennsylvania on Friday afternoon for a weekend visit with my folks.
We flew up Friday afternoon and then flew home Sunday evening, still netting about a 44-hour visit. Interestingly enough, and because I used my annual companion pass for Debbie’s airline ticket, flying up was less expensive than making our usual 1,500 mile round trip drive: how about that?
Our flight to Pennsylvania wasn’t until 3:30pm, but we had to leave for the airport around noon so we’d have enough time for the drive (45 minutes), finding a place to park and getting to the terminal (20 minutes), getting through security (30-60 minutes) and then getting to our gate (15 minutes) with about an hour of padding for the unexpected. To do that, I’d need to pick-up Debbie from work and since we didn’t want to leave her car at the office I’d also need to take her to work.
I was up my regular time well before Debbie and took care of some work-from-home business before driving her to work at 7:00am. After dropping her at work I headed over to Cobb County Toyota to have the defective passenger air bag replaced. It only took them an hour and after picking up some dry cleaning I was back at the house around 10:00am with just enough time to get the lawn cut before I’d have to get showered, pack our bags and head off to get Debbie at noon.
As for finding time to have lunch, I stopped by The Red Eyed Mule and picked up our Jake’s Big Daddy to go. Enrique was nice enough to put them into two separate boxes so we’d be able to have our burgers in the car at her office before heading to the airport: there’s no way to drive and eat a burger from The Mule!
After meeting Debbie at her office and eating our burgers in the parking lot we hopped on I-75 south towards Atlanta. We encountered two dead stops on the I-285W loop around Atlanta: the ubiquitous back-up at the I-20 interchange that added 5 minutes to our drive and an accident in the left-hand lane that had traffic backed up adding another 5-10 minutes. However, once we arrived at the airport and found our way into the economy parking lot we lucked out and found a parking space that wasn’t too far from the covered pedestrian walkway which cut our walking time to the terminal by at least 10 minutes. But, the biggest time saving came when we reached the security checkpoint and the TSA agent re-directed us to the TSA Pre-Check Security Screening entry to the gates. I’m guessing it was my Skymiles status that triggered the Pre-Check tag on our boarding passes but, whatever it was, it really was nice going through security the way we used to, i.e., just putting our bags on the conveyer to be X-rayed and walking through a metal detector. If I could be guaranteed that kind of treatment on every flight I’d probably be lest resistant to flying.
After arriving at our gate we had a minor scare when the gate agent advised boarding was on hold pending resolution of a maintenance issue with the aircraft. It was a good 15 minutes before the Delta mechanic arrived at our “ExpressJets” (aka, Delta Connection) Bombardier CRJ 700. Thankfully, it appeared to be a small part that needed to be replaced and 15 minutes later we were finally boarding the aircraft. The CRJ 700 is a relatively small jet that accommodates 65 passengers and the one we were in was pretty tired. But, it got us to the Lehigh Valley Airport in Allentown, PA, on time at 5:30pm. The two-hour flight gave me enough time to finish reading a book I’d been sent by the author who appreciated my contributions to the tandem cycling community and I’ll do a specific blog entry on that.
Instead of having my parents meet us at the airport we opted to rent a car and make the 50-minute drive east on Route 22 / Interstate 78 to the Bernville, PA, area and rolled into their driveway a little before 7:00pm.
Since it WAS Finally a Friday we celebrated our arrival with a couple batches of margaritas and had dinner in: V&S Italian sandwiches! As I said to my mother, that was perfect since the real reason we come to PA is to get our V&S sandwich fix! The balance of the evening was spent chatting and watching the Olympics before calling it a night.
I didn’t really sleep all that well and after hearing my parent’s dog Danielle stirring around upstairs I headed up to see what the plan for the day was. About the only thing firm was that my sister Anne would be joining us for breakfast around 8:30am.
The visit with Anne was nice and the rest of the morning was spent trying to resolve some computer issues with Bill’s laptop and wireless router. It was great fun working through Verizon’s computerized customer service system: (1) Central support referred to (2) wireless support who referred to (3) landline support who referred to (4) tech support who didn’t have on-line diagnostics and referred us to another (5) tech support who actually could assist. However, they determined that there was a problem with the phone lines and had to refer us to landline service department who will be coming out on Tuesday to trouble shoot a problem with the phone lines. In the mean time I finally broke the code on the original problem – the password for the WPA2 wireless router – and was able to reset that to Bill’s original passcode before the new router was installed. While I was in messing around with the computer I cleaned out 500 emails, 400 mailing list / junk items from LL Bean, Cruiselines, Investment Companies, etc., and about 100 old Emails from as far back as January.
Lunch was left-over V&S Italian sandwiches (yummy even the 2nd time around) and as the afternoon wore on Debbie and my mother headed over to see my sister Anne’s backyard garden in nearby Womelsdorf. I opted to stay at the house and enjoy a completely down day. Bill did likewise, watching the Olympics.
As dinnertime came on I spun up another batch of margaritas for Debbie, mother and Bill but opted to stick with my preferred poison: a simple shot of tequila. I can only do maggies once a week. After our cocktail hour we headed over to the Bernville Eagle Hotel for dinner in their lounge. It’s pretty much the only watering hole in Bernville – aside from the fire company – and your typical rural PA tavern.
Debbie and I split a rack of ribs with some slaw and fries, Bill had a ½ rack and my mother had the fish and chips: it was good, but we were reminded that Loco’s is easy to take for granted. While we were in the hotel having our dinner a pretty strong thunderstorm blew through Bernville. As we left the hotel and headed for home we saw where the storm toppled a large tree and covered the city with tree branches and leaves, making me think there must have been a strong microburst or downdraft.
Arriving back at the house 5 minutes later the garage door wouldn’t open which, as suspected, was due to the power being out. Probably a pretty good bet that the same downdraft or microburst dropped a tree on power lines somewhere near the house. So, being without power we had a relatively quiet evening back at the house, with the girls and Bill reading their books by flashlight and me working offline on my battery-powered laptop and smart phone.
The power finally came back on around 1:00am and I know that because I’d fallen asleep on the couch around 9:30pm and woke up at 1:30am with the clocks all showing 12:30, i.e., they came back on at their 12:00 default, thus power had been on about 30 minutes. Of course, now that I’d gotten 3+ hours of sleep I’d be up for at least a few hours before I’d be able to attempt a little more sleep.
It was, in fact, about 4:30am when I finally shut down my computer and headed down to bed. I don’t know that I got much sleep but I “rested” until 8:30am.
It was a quiet morning at the house with FOX news providing the background ambiance, so-to-speak. I’ll leave it at that. However, my folks received a robo call from Verizon that was attempting to follow-up on yesterday’s service support. After responding to what I thought was a question pertaining to the Internet / Wireless support we received I quickly realized it was the Tuesday service call they were trying to confirm / cancel with this call: talk about confusing. After realizing the true subject matter I placed another call to the Verizon Support Center and was once again put through their incredibly annoying and not all that intuitive robo service call process. I was able to get the Tuesday service call back on the schedule but talk about a challenging process. I’m not a technology troglodyte by any stretch, but it definitely challenge me so no way older folks like my parents who are in their late 80’s and not tech savvy could successfully navigate that system… if only because of the audio / hearing demands of the system.
Lunch was cold cuts at home and after a leisurely afternoon we got ourselves packed up and headed off to the airport at 3:00pm for our 6:10pm flight back to Atlanta. It was a low-traffic, 50-minute drive and the Lehigh Valley Airport is fairly small so dropping off the rental, etc., is easy. However, the TSA checkpoint was a chokepoint and I was having a hard time understanding why until I went through the metal detector. I should note, we arrived just ahead of the Sunday rush hour so it only took us 15 minutes to the metal detector. Since we had pre-check we were both cleared to walk through the metal detector with removing shoes, etc Yeah, well… I ended up having to take every piece of metal off my body and the last thing that I removed – my boots – were even tripping that metal detector. Yup, the ½ dozen or so small nails that secure the heel to the sole of the shoe were being picked up and triggering an alarm: unbelievable. Bear in mind, I walked through the metal detector at Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta wearing the exact same boots, belt and watch without any alarms being triggered.
Having arrived and cleared through security well before our boarding time we stopped in at the airport bar and had some cocktails and a chicken wrap with side salad as a late afternoon snack before wandering down the 100’ or so to our departure gate.
The flight boarded on time in between thundershowers and we had a great flight home, arriving about ½ past 8:30pm. Getting out of the airport and back to the house was drama-free (always nice) and we opted to skip a planned stop at Loco Willy’s as neither of us was all that hungry and, well, it was “a school night” so no drinks for us, eh?
Again, not all that adventurous for world travelers but, at least for folks like us who only fly once every 4 years or so, being a trip without any drama was a good thing!