Monday, March 25, 2013
I know people have been waiting for this blog, but I've not only been trying to recover from the trip, I've also had to deal with a lot of junk this week. My LTD should have been decided a week ago, but due to their incompetence and blatant disrespect of laws, they never sent the letter requesting an extension to make a decision to my lawyer's office, so while I was in GA they told my lawyer's office they needed information from me on the day they said it was due to them. Morons. My lawyer made sure it was okay for me to get that to them when I was home, so I had to compile a bunch of information from them. I've had to email my doctor, deal with requesting a new housekeeper, yet again asking for someone to pay to fix my broken shower due to the housekeeper, and more. Add in I came home right after an ice storm followed by snow and no one cleaned up my walkway and right after I was home there was another snowstorm and they still didn't clean up my walkway (they left all the ice in place).
As for what happened, this is going to be absolutely crazy long. You've been warned!
Before getting on the plane on Mon, 3/11, I had to finish packing and had to run some errands. This included getting my hair cut (it hadn't been done in many months; it looked awful and was bugging me). I got home and did my inevitable 'I forgot this' 'gotta do this' 'don't forget that' 'oh yeah there's still that' for awhile. A friend waited for me while I finished up then I kissed my kitty goodbye and headed for the airport later than I wanted to be. The good thing about using a wheelchair in the airport is they don't want the staff tied up in long lines, even though there was barely anyone in the lines, so they put you to the front of the line. Unfortunately, I have to go through extra screening. I don't care if they do a pat-down, but it did bother me that all of a sudden bringing medically necessary liquids on the plane means they tear apart every part of your luggage to test all of it, or they opened the sealed liquids and ruin them. Seriously TSA - you're stupid! Thus, it took awhile to tear apart my very carefully packed luggage and then I couldn't put it back together well because they were rushing me. Oh and you can't repack your luggage sitting in a wheelchair but if they do it then stuff is left behind, broken, or they can't figure out how to pack it. Yeah, the next time TSA asks GPACT for suggestions on how to better treat people with medical conditions this will be mentioned. Still, I did my best to keep a smile on my face, crack jokes, and just be cheerful. Nothing gets you stopped faster than being a jerk at security. I get taken to the gate and left there, having to balance my luggage on my walker while I attempt to go to the bathroom and get water. And guess what - there is no such thing as "Minnesota Nice", especially in a car or in an airport. Everyone is out for their own good. Heck, people take over the specialized handicapped seats and don't want to move when they see someone struggling to walk while balancing luggage on a walker. Jerks. I ask at the counter about getting my seat moved so I'll have more room considering I don't walk so well and can't take my walker on the plane. The guy waits until the last minute to give me a seat right at the front of coach, but he said I won the lottery for that seat so I told him I wanted to give him a hug - and he got one. Unfortunately, after that they started boarding - WITHOUT giving me a pre-boarding. So I've got a flight attendant taking my luggage while I slowly walk down the jetway with over a hundred people nipping at my heels and grumbling. OMG You are supposed to let disabled people pre-board for this exact reason! They go by as I try to prepare my walker to be checked under the plane (where it was damaged, TYVM) and then I have to try to get around all of the people jockeying for power in first class and a dozen people already in the way in the front of coach. OMG people, you will get on and off the plane - you don't have to throw fits and elbows to be first on and first off! Finally I get seated. I got seated next to a sweet woman who has a service dog. She was doing her best to keep him from sitting on my feet or getting in the aisle, but he kept wanting to stretch out. It was okay, we made it work. It was good she was so sweet because I didn't figure out until we were landing how to pull out the TV from under the seat to watch the movie that was being shown that I REALLY wanted to see. *Grumble* Thanks flight attendants and Delta for NOT saying a word about it. Not a single person in the front row realized that it was there. So it was 2 1/2 hours of chatting and listening to my mp3 player. And a half hour of trying to get a flight attendant's attention so I could go to the bathroom, considering I needed help to get up and down the aisles. (I peed for nearly a minute straight, that's how bad I had to go.) They ignored my call light and I had to keep turning around to find someone to get their attention.
Okay, so we get there and everyone pushes and shoves off the plane while I wait. And wait. And wait because there is no wheelchair at the gate waiting for me, even though it was requested when I ordered my ticket and by the flight attendants right after we landed. Wonderful. I get off, fight with my damaged walker to get it working, and have a flight attendant carry my luggage up to the gate while I still waited for a wheel chair. Nice. It turns out the airport is pretty empty because of a rainstorm cancelling flights, and they had 1 person to push me and another person in a wheelchair (who apparently took my wheelchair at the gate from what I heard). Poor guy! (BTW when I was in a wheelchair I pushed my walker in front of me.) This goes on for several minutes before we run into a few other staff member who can push a wheelchair. It takes awhile to get out of the airport, but I had her and a few other workers who were leaving after their shifts cracking up laughing. Then out to the shuttle to take me to the hotel. Which the shuttle was totally full so they barely fit me in - after having to ask other passengers to move so I wouldn't have to fight my way through 10 people to get to a seat. Again, the courtesy for a disabled person is severely lacking at airports!
To the hotel, which was cheap, and I got what I paid for. The people were nice but the place was not. It was one of those places that you wear 2 pairs of socks and take one off before getting into bed because the floors are that gross. The walls are too thin, especially being right next to the airport. I dropped off my stuff then took the shuttle just down the road to a restaurant to order a kids menu item and barely be able to eat it all. I talked to a nice police officer as I waited to be picked up to go back to the hotel, and gave him my caringbridge website because he wanted to find out more about me. Tried to sleep at the hotel, but it just didn't go well.
Next morning, Tues 3/12, I checked out, leaving my luggage at the hotel thanks to the wonderful staff being willing to watch it. The shuttle took me back to the airport so I could pick up the rental car, then back to the hotel to grab my stuff. I was supposed to meet SherryGayl around 1:30-2:00 at the airport, but her bus was SERIOUSLY late. Instead, I drove up to where the bus was supposed to arrive in Atlanta so she wouldn't have to hop the train to the airport. Good thing she was running late because I totally couldn't find the bus stop! I drove around for nearly an hour and a half and finally found it. It was paid parking around there and I didn't know how long she'd be, so I drove around more to find a place I could park, out of the way. Then she arrived and I had to figure out how to get the heck back there, with no parking available so I had to pull over, toss her stuff in the car, and get out of the way. GAH! I was so frustrated by then. (Hey Atlanta, you might want to actually have signs and directions about how to get there!)
Finally we were off to Covington! We were using Sherry's phone for GPS (save $40 versus getting it with the car) but when we got into Covington she couldn't get a signal! The insane adventure continues. Finally I just started choosing directions until we were able to get a semi-signal to point us towards the hotel: Hampton Inn. Checked in then went back to the car to head to Wal-Mart for food. The Hampton Inn in Covington has a mini-fridge and small microwave in every room, which is ideal for someone on a very specific medical diet like me. Food support works in any state, so I saved money by doing this as well. Then we spent the evening resting in the hotel room after the long day.
Weds, 3/13 was the tour! I think I'm going to put this in a separate blog, as I'll end up talking about things that most people won't understand unless they watch Vampire Diaries. I'll post the pictures in that blog.
After the tour we headed back to the hotel. I was exhausted and it turns out we got a big of sun burn on our faces, so we got a lot more sun than I anticipated. Sherry went for a walk to grab some food nearby while I rested, then we watched Arrow and Supernatural (both reruns) in the room and chatted. I also showed her some videos and talked about Vampire Diaries, since she'd never seen the show before and I wanted her to have an idea, since we'd be watching a new episode the next night.
Thurs 3/14 we got some breakfast then I ended up getting into a 2 hour conversation with the front desk people. Whoops! I'm a talker! (Obviously.) They were awesome though, one in particular. Finally Sherry convinced me to leave and we went to some of the small shops in the town square. Sherry got this really great dress (perfect for her to go on a date and show off her new shape!). Then we went to Amici Cafe, an Italian restaurant. The spaghetti on the kid's menu was just the right size for me and the waiter was cute and sweet, so it was awesome! Then we went to Scoops for some treats. Sherry finished off her smoothie (I think?) before we even got back to the hotel. I got 1 piece of chocolate covered toffee which I ate slowly while laying on the bed in the hotel. Sherry went back out a little later to walk to Walmart and see if they had any sweaters. She got back just in time to watch Vampire Diaries with me... laughing at my utter enjoyment of the show and of the fun on twitter during the show. Yes, I get pretty funny during my favorite shows!
On Fri 3/15, it was time for the fun to start wrapping up. We ended up talking to the sweet, adorkable front desk clerk again for an hour or so before heading up to the room to pack and check out. It didn't take long to get back to Atlanta and I dropped off Sherry at the bus stop. Then back to the hotel right next to the airport to check in and drop off my luggage before dropping off the car at the airport and taking the shuttle back. I still had food left so I ate that for lunch and dinner (I had a handicapped room right next to the breakfast room so I could use their microwave and ate the cold stuff first). Unfortunately, they had begun a remodel project, so the whole afternoon and evening they were working on the walls with crazy noisy equipment and both dry and wet paint was everywhere. What a mess! Then most of the night people upstairs were either attempting to break the bed or break each other because every few minutes there were echoing thuds... this lasted for several hours. I eventually had to ask the front desk to check on them because there had to have been damage up there!
I ended up getting maybe an hour of sleep before I had to be awake at 4:45 am on Sat 3/16 to pack up the last few items, check out, and catch the shuttle to the airport. Unfortunately, the shuttle was running late, which meant I was running late, but the Atlanta airport was much better about my stuff and didn't unpack everything. The boarding process on the plane was also much better, as I got to pre-board and be settled before everyone else shoved through. I had a nice guy next to me who was on the way back from overseas (India I think?) and still had to catch another flight from MN to the west coast. The disembarking was also better and my friend was ready and waiting to pick me up. I got back home and was absolutely exhausted.
There's no rest for the weary, of course, as I slowly unpacked I put just a few things away then rested for awhile until everything was done hours later. I laid down for a short nap and soon after there was a knock on the door. A police officer came by. Apparently the city is sick of having to send officers by to tell my neighbor to turn down the volume, and some of them blame me. They're setting up mediation for later this week, which is going to be 'fun'. Ugh!
Anyways, that was the trip! I figure I spent over 35 hours to plan this trip, excluding planning what to pack and actually packing. Every bit of the travel was planned and prepared for (except getting lost in Atlanta of course - I thought I had that figured out but it didn't work). The hotels were carefully planned for their amenities and cost, and I called both to verify everything before I booked. I spent so much time planning it that while it was happening I often questioned if it was really happening or if I was dreaming it because of how much time I had thought about it.
I'm so glad I went. I really needed it. I also really, really hope to go back, potentially in the fall or winter. There are a lot of things that will need to go right to make that happen, but I'm trying to be hopeful. With some luck, it will happen - especially because there's more I want to experience there. It would also be absolutely incredible if the next time I go more people can join and make it an even bigger event. How awesome would that be?
If you've read all of this, you're a superhero! Thanks! This has taken hours for me to type and I have to get up early tomorrow, so I'm going to do the Vampire Diaries set tour blog tomorrow (hopefully). That blog will include some pictures. I can't include all because Sherry is awesome and took a TON of pictures. Anyone who's into the show should check out that blog and seriously consider visiting Covington and taking the tour. It's so much fun.