It was the day after Cory’s 8th birthday. It was the day before Valentine’s Day.
It should have been a good day for a family airplane flight. It was Wednesday February 13, 2013. [Hmmm, maybe that was the problem, too many 13's in the date .]
We had left our house around 7:30 in the morning so we could get to the airport in time to make our flight. While checking our luggage, we were informed that our flight was delayed by an hour. All well, we thought, sometimes these things happen. We figured we were lucky that this airport had a kids play area so we could let the little ones burn off their excess energy.
After getting through the security lines we headed to the play area only to find out that it was closed for the day for maintenance. We adjusted our plans and found an empty gate area that had some wide open space. We let the kids roam around and explore … though we didn’t anticipate having a run-in with the moving walkway. (Ari’s poor little finger. We were distracted because a kind pilot from another airline, whom we had chatted with a tad earlier, had come back to find us so he could give the boys a present he had bought them. I still feel badly that I didn’t adequately thank him since I had to rush off to aid a shrieking Ari.)
Finally we were on the plane, buckled up, all four kids were mostly content and we were taxiing down the runway to get in line for take off. This was our first experience with JetBlue and so far it wasn’t too bad.
But then we sat.
And then sat some more.
Apparently we had gotten out of line because our plane was having mechanical difficulties (which is why the plane was delayed in the first place). After we had been on the jet for at least an hour, they had us deplane. They wanted us to take all of our belongings with us just in case. For now they were telling us it would only be a 2 hour delay.
Long story, short, by about 4 in the afternoon we finally found out that our flight was not only delayed, but completely cancelled. The starter to engine #2 had failed and JetBlue had to fly the part and an entire flight crew up from Long Beach to address the issue.
After making the trek to baggage claim to get our unused luggage, we herded the kids and dragged our bags through the terminal so we could find the ticket counter where we were told to go to. The line was long, and it was not moving. Not even an inch. JetBlue had 150 disgruntled passengers waiting in line at the same time (with only 2 agents trying to make things right!) as we all attempted to figure out how we were going to get to Southern California.
By now the kids had had it. Ari had missed his nap and was a screaming wreck. The older two kids were a mess as tears streamed down their red, blotchy faces. Eli was in hyper mode and was running away and bouncing off the walls. Randy was trying to keep an eye on all the kids while I waited in the stagnant line. I phoned some family members to see if they could help us figure out if it was possible to get another flight out that day on a different airline. There were a couple of possibilities, but we didn’t have $3000 – $5000 to make it happen!?!
Nearly an hour later when the line hadn’t budged (the first customer was still at the counter), I finally went to the front of the line and politely but firmly told them that they needed to send someone to the back of the line to let us know what our options were. Eventually someone came and that was when we learned that they had no alternate flight for us until possibly Saturday or Sunday. Reminder – it was Wednesday. The family events we needed to be at started Friday evening, not to mention some other earlier appointments that Keri and I had with Grandma.
I asked if they could put us on another airline. Apparently JetBlue does not partner with any airlines in Western Washington so that was not an option.
By now I was trying to keep my own tears in check, tears of frustration and exhaustion (we had been at the airport for several hours with all the kids). Tears of not knowing what decision to make. Do we bag the whole trip? Do we fork out a bunch of money to fly another airline? Will we get a full refund? Will the plane possibly be ready in the morning and a new flight scheduled like they originally had hinted at? What do we do about the car rental that had already been paid for that was waiting for us in Long Beach?
Thankfully we had a kind, older couple waiting in line next to us. They offered some advice and helped a bit with the kids so Randy and I could try and figure out what to do. We finally decided to cancel our entire flight, both legs of it, and we would either drive to Los Angeles or stay home. We gave the JetBlue agent who came to the end of the line to let us know what was going on our confirmation number and left it in her hands to make sure our refund went through.
At that point we walked away and left our spot in line so we could go retrieve our car from the long term parking lot we had left it in. We were hoping that we could get a refund from them for the 7 days we would no longer need.
Once we we were all loaded up in the car, we had an immediate decision to make. Unfortunately my brain was in can’t-think-straight-for-the-life-of me mode because I was so overwhelmed, anxious and overstimulated. It seemed impossible to make a decision – I wish someone else could just make it for me. Do we head home to our house and abandon our trip, or get on the road and make the drive to California?
We honestly didn’t know which option was the best for our family. Both choices seemed to have equal pros and cons. I was beyond exhausted, physically and mentally. My mind was simply trying to process everything and it seemed stuck. Randy and I are both not spontaneous people so we couldn’t even believe that we were entertaining the idea of making an unexpected and L.O.N.G. drive with no preparations whatsoever.
Finally we said a prayer together as a family asking for direction and peace of mind. We then asked Cory if he wanted to get baptized in California with his cousin like we had originally planned or if we should reschedule it and do it here in Western Washington. He wanted to go and be with his extended family for this special occasion so we put the car in gear and started our 18+ hour drive.
We had no map, no GPS, and no internet because we affectionately own dumb phones, but we knew somehow that it would all work out. We stopped a couple of hours down the interstate at Target to get some much needed snacks and some DVDs for our adventure.
We stopped again close to 11 pm so Randy could get out of the car and do some jumping jacks to wake himself up. A shake, some french fries and a McFlurry also did the trick. We then said a lot of silent prayers that we would find an open gas station so we could fuel up. Grants Pass, Oregon came to the rescue right after the gas light came on!
We finally made it to Medford, Oregon by 1 in the morning and crashed for the night at a hotel. We made the rest of the drive to Los Angeles the next day, (what a grand way to spend your Valentine’s Day!) and pulled up to my parent’s home around 11 pm.
The drive, though very long … especially with a toddler in tow who screamed quite a bit of the time … was manageable. The scenery for a lot of the trip was breathtaking and spectacular – the gently, rolling hills; majestic Mt. Shasta, Shastina and Black Butte; the contrast of storm clouds and vibrant, green grass with a rainbow thrown in the mix. The weather on the way down was sunny and glorious.
Hindsight being 20/20, we are definitely glad we made the sacrifices we did to make this trek. It truly was worth it, and it is an adventure none of us will ever forget. Great memories were indeed made.
The Lord’s hand was evident throughout the entire trip, even when I felt like we had no guidance while making the initial decision to drive. I guess it was His plan and timing all along since we were supposed to fly in on the Wednesday before the baptism. We tried to book flights for the Friday or Thursday before but they weren’t available. He must have known we would need extra travel time to make the extensive drive, otherwise we would have missed everything.
We were also blessed on our way home – we were able to drive in between storms. Snow was in the forecast, but the Grapevine didn’t close until the day after we went through it. Mt. Shasta got quite a bit of snow, but we stayed overnight in Redding, CA so by the time we made it through the mountain pass the roads were clear.
I am glad we took this opportunity to take a family adventure and to create some priceless memories both on the drive and while we were there with my entire family (all 28 of us!). I am glad we decided to make lemonade out of our lemons; it was pretty tasty and satisfying. It definitely quenched my thirst.
P.S. In case you were wondering, JetBlue fully refunded us our money and compensated us with some TrueBlue travel credit. We will give them a second chance. We were also able to get a full refund on our car rental through Priceline. Finally, the company we used for long term parking will also give us a refund for the days we didn’t use. We are definitely grateful for the tender mercies in our lives.
P.P.S. All of the scenic pictures were taken while driving down the freeway at highway speeds, some of them with the window rolled up. I am definitely impressed they came out as clear as they did!