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Jun '08

Summer Boston Visit

celtics_snoopy.pngThe Bates Family made our yearly summer trek to visit the East Coast Bates’ at the end of June. The beginning of the trip was an adventure that no one counted on!

Before I get to that, I have to take my hat off to the Celtics! I’ll be very honest. I have not given the NBA much of a thought since Jordan retired (no, not the FIRST time or the Third time, I mean his REAL retirement from the Bulls in 1999… I strongly believe that both his time with the White Sox and Washington Wizards was all just a strange dream… kind of like Paul McCartney’s time with Wings). Anyway, like I was saying, I did not pay much attention to the NBA since 1999, despite some decent Celtic teams from 2001-2003. Regardless, the Celtics of this season deserved attention. They were fun to watch and not just because they were winning. How could you not watch a Celtics/Lakers finals, no matter who you were rooting for? Paul Pierce vs. King James? Wow! One of the best NBA playoff games of all time and to have that in a Game 7? If we could have the NBA back to the Celtics/Cavs or Celtics/Lakers series, the NBA would be back in the spotlight again!

Our Trip to Boston…

Well, as I said above, our trip to Boston this summer was an adventure all on its own! Let me set the stage by saying that my family are seasoned travelers. I have averaged 4-6 long plane trips a year since 1992. My family travels from coast-to-coast at least 2-3 times a year. My two sons were on a plane from California to Massachusetts mere months after they were born (Casey 6 months old and Quinn 3 months old). We have had delays, missed connections and more. With all of those trips behind us, the trip to Boston this summer was the WORST trip we have ever been involved in.

– More set-up:

It started the day before we were supposed to fly to Boston… Jenn went back to work this year. She is teaching 4th grade. Jenn is a veteran teacher who spent 8 years teaching Jr. High at Pinewood School (the private school in Northern California, where we met). She earned her teaching degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is credentialed in Illinois.

Jenn is now teaching for the California public school system. She needs to be credentialed in California. Now, I could spend an entire post (or more) railing on the dumb-ass hoops that teachers in California need to jump through to get their credential… NONE of the hoops, despite what “they” tell you, are designed to make teachers better or help our students, by the way. Anyway… Jenn was given an emergency credential last August. Since then she has been working VERY hard at not only educating her students, but dillegently jumping through the hoops to get her credential. Knowing what you need to do to get the credential may seem a simple question, but it is not an easy answer. Jenn is close to completing all of the requirements, but again, I am tempted to digress… moving back to the topic at hand…

So, Jenn has been working at getting her credential (Professional Clear Teaching Credential). She forgot all about her emergency credential. It is only good for a year. She was not notified, as she was supposed to be, nor is there anyone to help you with the process. So, she found out that the only way to extend the emergency credential is to either take 6-semester units of some approved college classes or pass a test. California changes the college course requirements this past January and none of the colleges have updated their courses yet (most launch their new classes this fall), so Jenn could not try for the course credits even if she wanted to. That left her with the test… She found out that the test is only given twice a year. Once in December and once in July (three days after we were supposed to be in Massachusetts)!

Jenn confirmed with her school district that if she did not complete the requirements that she would not be allowed to teach in the fall! We had only one choice, Jenn had to stay and take the test. So, not only did we have to change vacation plans, but Jenn had three days to study! The “test” she has to take is really three tests. She has to pass all three sections in order to get her credential, she just didn’t realize she needed to take it this soon! She only needs to take and pass two sections in order to extend her emergency credential.

We found this out and made the decision at 4:30pm on Tuesday. the deadline to register for the emergency late registration was 5pm that same day! We were scheduled to fly to Boston at 7:40am the next morning! We decided that I should take the kids and we would reschedule Jenn’s flight for the morning after the test. Jenn was worried about the cost of changing her ticket, but I said whatever it may be it is far, far less than losing your paycheck next year! 😉

– The Actual Trip:

Now, I said earlier I have flown a lot. I used to be an American airlines Platinum Member with an average of 150,000 miles at any given moment for a few years. I have flown as far as Korea, Japan and Australia. All that being said, I am no longer a good flier. Since Casey was born in 2000, I do not do well on plane flights. I went through a particularly bad spell in 2003-2004. I am much better now, but still not a good flier. So, at the 11th hour, having Jenn bail on our flight and leaving me to take the kids myself was not a happy moment for me!

Before I give the details, let me sum it up and say that a trip that usually take 8 hours (including airport and travel to/from time) took 17hours 35 minutes!

1. Leaving the house:

I was up at 5:20am and we left the house at 6:09am. I tried to check us in online, but I could not. My company paid for my ticket since part of our trip is a business trip. Jenn and the kids were on a seperate itinerary that I paid for on Expedia. Jenn dropped off of the itinerary with the kids and was now on her own. Since the kids had no adult on their itinerary, I could not check them in online. 🙁 Other than that, leaving the house was uneventful.

2. Checking in

The line at United was long and VERY disorganized. Our flight was San Jose to Denver and then Denver to Boston. We were due in at 6:15pm Boston time. Now, I learned long ago to avoid changing planes in Denver like the plague (along with Houston). It could not be helped this time. My family had just taken the same flights to Boston (then on to Nantucket via Cape Air) at the beginning of June for Jenn’s sister’s (Jackie) wedding and we had no flight delays.

I finally managed to check in, but my seat was not with the boys. I was told that they could fix it at the gate.

3. Security

The best part of the trip… a breeze to check through security! I only mention it here because it is not normally the case!

4. Getting seats together

The gate agent was very nice, but ultimately he did not actually care if we sat together. If I hadn’t been such a pain in the ass, we would not have had seats together! Casey and Quinn were put in the United Economy Plus section in an isle and middle. I was given an Economy Plus middle “near” them. I kept on the agent until I finally convinced him to give me an Economy Plus window seat (it didn’t matter to me where). When we got on the plane I took the row with the kids. When the person came who had that window seat I told him that he could have my window seat a few rows back and I would sit with my kids. He was more than happy to take the switch, since he didn’t lose out on anything!I had already spoken to the flight attendants and they were on my side in case the person I needed to switch made a stink.

5. The FIRST delay

Sitting next to the boys was the easy part. Getting to Denver was the tricky bit! Our 7:40am flight was delayed. Apparently we had a broken altimeter! A slightly important piece of equipment! Now, it is part of a redundant system, meaning that there are two altimeters. However, we were still not allowed to take off without both working. Now, I have no problem at all with that decision. What I take issue with is that they did not have a spare in stock in San Jose! They had to drive one down from San Francisco!

So, we did not finally take off until 10:30am!

6. Re-booking my connection

Of course the delay meant that we would miss our connecting flight in Denver. So, I got us confirmed on a 6:30pm flight from Denver to Boston, but if we were lucky I could get us on via standby for an earlier flight.

7. Anyone for a visit to Colorado Springs?

I have never been overly impressed with United Airlines, but I do like that they let you listen to the pilot talk to Air Traffic Control on one of the audio channels. About 30 minutes outside of Denver ATC was telling our pilot that Denver International was closed due to high wind shear. They told him that he needed to circle Denver for a while (the next update was due in 30 minutes) and he responded, “Ah, we’re pretty low on fuel, we’re not going to be able to do that. Requesting a diversion to Colorado Springs.” That is not a conversation you would like to hear! The entire time we headed for Colorado Springs, I kept looking out the window thinking, “there is a long empty looking road.. We could land there…”

Colorado Springs did not have the facilities to handle a plane our size, but they did roll out some stairs for those who wanted to get off. They said, “You can get off, but if you do yo are on your own. We also have no way of getting your luggage, so it will end up at your final destination.” I was VERY tempted to get off of the plane and rent a car and take a road trip with the boys!

8. Finally made it to Denver!

A two hour flight turned into an 8+ hour ordeal! In Denver I tried to get on an earlier flight, but it couldn’t happen. So, although we were confirmed on the 6:30pm, we were not sitting together. I had to go through two gate agent shifts before they finally sat us all together. The airlines just do not care about people any more.

9. The flight to Boston

Well, 6:30pm came and went, but our plane stayed put on the tarmac. In fact, we hadn’t even boarded! Yes, our flight from Denver to Boston was delayed! The fourth member fo the flight crew was late and we could not fly without the fourth member of the crew. So as we waited, we watched a severe looking storm front move towards the airport! The gate crew said a front like that would close down the airport.

Luckily, we got off the ground 20 minutes before the Denver airport was clsed due to a major storm front!

10. Finally in Boston!

Well, the flight from Denver to Boston was mostly uneventful. We had to fly around storms and there were bumps “Light to Medium Chop” as the pilot would say. We actually landed a bit past 1:30am.

At the end of this ordeal, I was ready for our luggage to be lost. Amazingly, it was there!

11. One last glitch…

Ah, the karma of the trip had one last jab to give… My parents were late picking us up. How could this be at almst 2am? The normal roads and exits to the airport were closed! As you may have suspected, it also took us longer to get home than normal! Ugh!!!

12. Made It!!!!!

Well, we finally made it to my parent’s house. It was after 2am. Casey and Quinn were AWESOME the entire time!

Jenn flew in on the following Sunday. Oh yes, she was delayed twice as well. That is a story for another time. 😉

Phew, it probably took you as long to read all of that as it took us to get to Boston!


Posted by Bill on June 26th, 2008 at 10:43 pm