Traveling To and From Maine – Planes, Trains and Automobiles

As we mentioned, our bike trip to Maine was great – but the getting to and from Maine was challenging to say the least.

Due to space constraints in the written newsletter, we really couldn’t share many of the details of the experience. But since you took the time to visit the web site, how could we deprive you of this adventure? As you read this, please keep in mind that none of this is fiction – all true, just the way it happened.

Traveling to Maine

We should have taken all of these events as omens for what we were going to experience in our travels.

Sam got a phone call on Wednesday before we were to leave for Maine from US Airways. We were scheduled to fly into Bangor early Saturday afternoon, but the flight had been cancelled. We were re-booked on a Northwest Airlines flight leaving close to the same time, so it really wasn’t a big deal. Until Friday night.

Just to make sure things were OK, Sam checks the Northwest web site at about 9:00 PM Friday to confirm the flight information for Saturday. He finds out the flight has been cancelled. He calls the Northwest Airlines “customer service” line to see what’s going on, and gets caught in the voice response loop from hell. For those who have never called Northwest, their system is all voice activated – you speak, it tries to interpret your speech and respond accordingly. The system obviously has some difficulty interpreting certain language components, that in Sam’s opinion, were completely appropriate for the situation. Something to note – if you say “Agent” every time it prompts you for something, you will eventually get a live person.

After finally getting to a live person, Sam gets the flights re-booked again. The only problem is that everything to Bangor is booked. So we go to Plan B – fly into Portland, Maine, rent a car there and drive to Bangor. It’s something we considered doing when we first worked on planning the trip, so it wasn’t that awful a deviation. Besides, it got us closer to Freeport – home of the LL Bean mothership.

We get to the Indianapolis airport and check in, but for some reason they can’t get the ticket transferred from US Airways to Northwest. After about 20 minutes of watching the ticket agent fight with this problem, we finally get our tickets and head to the security checkpoint. Our first educational item of the trip was about to be encountered – when your flights get changed between airlines in a way that results in a one-way ticket, you get flagged for the more thorough screening procedures. It was just short of

We finally land in Portland, and got to Freeport at about 9:00 PM – and began the great LL Bean shopping extravaganza. As Cathy became completely captivated by the sight of endless shopping, Sam found a comfortable chair and sat down. By 11:30, she had finally had enough.

One of the things we really hadn’t anticipated very well was that July is peak vacation season in Maine – which means finding a place to stay overnight on a weekend ANYWHERE in Maine is a pretty good trick. We finally found a Motel 6 with one empty room in Augusta – which is about an hour from Freeport – at about 1:30AM. And we’re almost positive that with the last room in the place comes the last available towel, washcloth and face towel (note the singular nature of all of these words). There’s a reason they’re so “affordable”.

After getting some sleep and sharing a towel, we rolled out of Augusta toward the Maine coast at about 10:00 AM Sunday.

Coming Home to Indiana

The trip to Maine paled in comparison to the trip home.

In chronological sequence (all times are EDT – aka Maine time). And again, we’re really not making any of this up.

4:30 AM – Wake up and get ready to head to the airport. Check out of the hotel, stop by Dunkin Donuts and pick up coffee and 2 donuts apiece (this is important later) and drop off the car.

5:30 AM – Arrive at the Bangor airport, get checked in and all of that stuff. We sit down and have our coffee, Sam eats his donuts. Cathy takes hers through the check-in, and the TSA supervisor-on-duty makes a funny comment about taking her donuts with her. She was saving them for the layover in Philadelphia.

6:30 AM – We board the plane. All is well, they seal up the cabin, fire the engines, then power down the engines. Captain comes on and says they’re getting a sensor light that indicates one of the flight controls is not working properly. Visual inspection indicates that it is working properly, but the monitor/alarm says it is not. He says, “Most of the time we just power down the plane and restart, and the problem goes away. Kind of like rebooting your computer, but we’re rebooting the plane.” We apparently missed the “Powered by Microsoft” sticker on the fuselage as we boarded. So they power down the plane and restart – problem doesn’t go away. In the mean time, we’ve got a church ministry group on board with us (about high school age), from which one of the members (right behind us) is having a hysterical sobbing meltdown because “she didn’t get to say goodbye to John” (one of the ministry, we’re guessing). And when we say hysterical, we mean bone-chilling-make-the-hairs-on-your-neck-stand-up hysterical – tantamount to a 4-year-old child’s hissy fit. We were this close to turning around an telling her that life was full of disappointments and this would be among the many to come. But we restrained ourselves.

7:30 AM – They decide to take us off the plane while they continue to work on the problem. So we grab our stuff and pile back into the gate area, to wait for further information as to the flight’s status.

8:15 AM – Apparently the problem could not be resolved, and the flight is officially cancelled for mechanical failure. At this point. all of the US Airways staff is scrambling to see what connections are involved, since it was obvious that nobody was going to make their next plane. All remaining flights out of Bangor for US Airways were full, so the only option for most was to be taken by bus to Logan Airport in Boston (yes, we said Boston). A 4-5 hour bus trip.

9:00 AM – Sam gets to the ticket counter, and they book us on a Northwest flight that runs from Boston to Detroit, then to Indy. Flight is scheduled to depart Boston at 4:00 PM.

10:00 AM – Because it’s vacation season in Maine, there isn’t a bus to be found anywhere close. They end up bringing up a bus from Portland, Maine to Bangor, which will load everybody up and take them to Boston. But they didn’t tell anyone this, so we’re just sitting around getting a little restless. The TSA supervisor spots Cathy and asks her if she’s glad she hung onto her donuts; we tell him we’re selling them to the highest bidder. Actually, we did sit down and eat them about that time – she had one, and gave the other one to me. She may have regretted her generosity later.

10:30 AM – The church group decides to rent a van to get to their next destination, so they leave – hysterical sobbing girl and all. We, along with many of our fellow stranded passengers, were devastated.

11:00 AM – We’re told the bus won’t be here until 12:00 or 12:30, so they call us back up to the counter to re-book the 4:00 PM flight to a US Airways flight that leaves at 5:40 PM from Boston, with an hour layover in Pittsburgh, then on to Indy. Sam asks the ticket agents when they plan to start drinking, they replied with “Start?”.

12:45 PM – Bus finally gets to Bangor, we pile on. We leave at 1:00 PM, knowing that we’re going to be very, very close on time once we get to Boston. If we get to Boston.

3:30 PM – Bus stops briefly in a rest area in Kennebunkport, Maine. Driver says 5 minutes, long enough to hit the bathroom and get rolling again. Five minutes later, we pile back on – but we think we’re two short on headcount. Oh, and did we mention that no one bothered to tell the driver what kind of time crunch we were in to make our flights? Driver gets a little jumpy about leaving, so Sam volunteers to go back into the rest area and announces “The bus to Logan is Leaving!”. After getting deer-in-the-headlights stares from everyone in there, he goes back to the bus and reports the results. We wait another minute or so, and then we leave. The driver is a little uncomfortable, not knowing if he left anyone behind. Sam tells him that he should not feel bad about it, as there were 21 other people saying get the bus rolling. He’d know once he dropped everyone off at Logan that if there were any bags left on the bus, then someone got left behind. It was their own damn fault.

5:15 PM – We arrive at Logan Airport. We scramble off the bus, grab our bags and head to the ticket counter to see if we can still make our flight. She checks us in, but tells us that our checked bags probably won’t make the flight. Since we were heading home, we really didn’t care about that. We grab our tickets and boarding passes and make the sprint to the security checkpoint – which we ran right past in our rush. So we turn around and head back. Someone was taking pity on us, as there was nobody at the checkpoint in front of us. Cathy flies right through security, but Sam gets hung up because of a computer. Sam tells her to go ahead down to the gate and hold it, and he’ll catch up. He finally gets through security, and starts the sprint to Gate B12. He passes a maintenance worker in the terminal as he’s running to the gate, hearing him say “Run OJ, Run!” while flying by him. If he had the breath to laugh at it, he would have – it was funny. Sam finally makes it down to the gate, completely out of gas and sweating his ass off. One would think that riding 116 miles in Maine would have conditioned him a little better for the Terminal Dash.

5:35 PM – We finally get seated on the plane to Pittsburgh, breathing hard and sweaty. Then the captain comes on and says “Folks, we’re going to be delayed here just a bit. Upon final inspection of the aircraft, the ground crew found a hydraulic leak in the left side landing gear. It’s just a fitting, we should be able to get it taken care of here in the next 20 minutes or so.” We look at each other and start laughing hysterically. People around us are looking at us funny, so we apologize for bringing along our black cloud.

6:25 PM – We finally depart Boston for Pittsburgh; the delay was actually closer to an hour. Flight time to Pittsburgh is 1:50, putting us there at 8:15 PM. Our flight to Indianapolis is at 8:30 PM. The good news was that we were supposed to be arriving at Gate B3, and our next flight was departing at Gate A3. Sam’s looking at a map of the airport, thinking we should be in good shape getting to the next gate.

8:15 PM – We land in Pittsburgh, and pull into the terminal area – to Gate B36, not B3. We grab our carry-on bags and start to stretch, knowing that OJ was in for an encore performance.

8:20 PM – We get off the plane, leave the gate and start the sprint to Gate A3. As we’re approaching it, they close the door to the jetway. Cathy yells out “Don’t close A3 yet!” and scares the hell out of everyone in the vicinity. They reopen the door and send us down to the plane. As we get on (sweaty and out of breath again), the flight attendant being his trained-to-be-pleasant self asked Cathy how she was doing, to which her response was “I’ve had better days.” It literally froze him for a minute. We headed to our seats (which were all the way in the back of the plane, of course), and he comes down to check on her again – by which time she’d relaxed a little bit.

9:55 PM (8:55 PM Indiana time) – We land in Indianapolis, stunned that we actually made it home. The added bonus was that our luggage also made the trip – apparently aided by the delay in Boston. We finally got home about 10:00 our time, and had a beer.

See, we told you it was and adventure.

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