Way back in the late winter I decided to go on the Alaska Airlines app and see how much tickets would cost to fly and see my family who lives in North Carolina. It has been a long time and being separated by over 4,000 miles and flying to and from Alaska takes quite a bit of planning.
I found tickets to Baltimore-Washington International airport to be the cheapest and without even asking Michele I booked the trip. We always fly Alaska Air, for a number of reasons and flying into Baltimore wasn’t my first choice but we would make it work.
We had been thinking about this trip for several months. We had made a “loose” itinerary one day sitting in my truck. It would include really three things: monuments, family and coasters.
On May 18 with headed to the airport with one small bag and one of our dogs that we are training as a service dog. We met the dog’s new owners at the airport and worked with them on the commands for a few hours before we each headed to our separate gates.
We munched on pizza and beer at the Silver Gulch brewery in the airport and waited for our flight to Seattle. The flight down is always nice. There in rarely any turbulence and the scenery outside the window is breathtaking. The plane was nearly empty so Michele and I grabbed a row to ourselves and stretched out.
We arrived before midnight and knew we were in for a long night since our next flight didn’t leave until almost 9 am. I grabbed an awesome bowl of chowder and Michele a burger before finding a place to crash for the night. We found a somewhat quiet corner near our gate and spread out a blanket and used our bags as pillows. It was a long night! The next morning we grabbed breakfast at the crack of dawn and waited…
The flight to Baltimore was a little different. It was very bumpy and full to the hilt. Michele was in the middle with a passenger on her left at the window and me in the aisle. As we were about to land I could tell she was having a hard time. At about 3,000 feet she lost it. She threw up in her sweatshirt.
We landed and hurried to the bathroom so Michele could freshen up and head to the rental car shuttle.
The first thing that hit us was the heat! When we left Alaska it was still in the low sixties and I was wearing a sweatshirt. As we were about to board the shuttle Michele got a frantic call from our client with the service dog. They said the dog was not going to work out because she drooled too much! What! Are you kidding? Here we are 4,000 miles from home and you have had the dog less than 24 hours and you want to return her? Michele talked to her the whole ride over to the rental car center and managed to scream at another rider on the bus because he tore her pants with his luggage.
The trip is starting off great, isn’t? Heck ya it is! It is our typical travel fashion. Travel adventurous and always combine a little work with vacation.
I headed over to the Thrifty rental car counter. I had made a reservation at the time I booked the flight with Thrifty knowing they provided miles to our Alaska Air account. Needless to say it didn’t work out and I left the guy at the counter hanging while I snuck across the way to the Enterprise counter. We have always used Enterprise and I don’t know why I did’t this time. I guess I was trying to be “Thrifty”.
I walked up to the counter and told the guy that looked like he just walked off the set of the Sopranos, pinky ring and all, and said, “I hope you have a car available, we don’t have a reservation.”
Tony Montana said, “We’ll take good care of you.”
He said they have an economy size but its 900 bucks for the days I need it but he said he would give me the “manager’s discount” and if I signed up for the loyalty program I could save a bit more.
I agreed and headed outside to find our car.
They showed us our car, a Toyota Yaris. It was about as small of a car as you could ever imagine. It had wheels that looked like would fit on a go cart. The lady asked where we were going.
“Are you staying local,” said the blonde lady in the too tight dress.
“Oh yeah, sort of local, we are visiting family. We are from Alaska.” You see everything in Alaska is huge so to us local is driving 350 miles up and back the same day to meet with a client for an hour.
“Great, enjoy Baltimore,” she said with a Crest-white smile.
We jumped in our go cart, flashed our ID at the gate and hit the freeways of one of the busiest corridors of traffic in North America.
Michele put in “the inner harbor” into Google Maps. She would burn up probably 30 gigs of data over the next 10 days on Google Maps. Of course we got on the wrong exit, went through a tunnel, paid a toll, turned around, paid the toll again and finally managed to find our way to the tourist section of Baltimore.
I had not been to the Inner Harbor since maybe 1983 or 84. I was just a kid. We were new to the D.C. area and made a trip up to visit the aquarium as a family. It was much different now. Parking cost us 25 bucks for the evening and they have a Ripley’s museum for Christ’s sake. It’s still a very cool place. An awesome view of the harbor with the boats coming and going and lots of places to visit. When I was here I remembered there was a restaurant that served crabs right on the sidewalk and people would pound their shells with a hammer and if you weren’t careful you might get hit as you walked by.
That place was gone but Phillip’s was still there. It is over in the old power plant building that also houses a Hard Rock Cafe, Barnes and Noble, A Cheesecake Factory and several small deli-type places.
We sat out on the floating dock and our waiter came up to greet us. He looked like Bob Marley, and was was very friendly. I said we were from Alaska and we here for crabs! He recommended we share a combo platter that included crabs, corn on the cob, shrimp and potatoes.
Michele didn’t care for the crabs much. I told her it was a much different taste than the King Crab we are used to at home but she was a trooper and ate a few pieces as I made a mess of myself pounding their shells with the little wooden hammer.
We jumped in the car and headed south, confident we would have no problem finding a hotel. Before we started this trip we decided that we would not have a firm plan of what we were doing or where we were staying. Remember I said we had a loose iteniary? We stopped a several hotels and everyone was booked. We called and called and called hotels that popped up on Google Maps. Everyone was full. Michele found out that a huge high school sports tournament was going on and one hotel clerk said we would be lucky if we found anything within a hour of Baltimore.
Sitting in a hotel parking lot, frustrated and tired I pulled up the Priceline app for the first time. This little guy would save our butts and our wallets over and over during the next week and a half. I found a hotel, an Extended Stay Suites about 30 miles (or an hour in Baltimore traffic) north. I booked it and we headed toward our bed.
We got to the hotel early enough to jump into the pool for a quick swim and the room was awesome. I could live in a place like that. It had super comfortable beds, a recliner chair, and even a full kitchen.
Michele called Nicole and checked in. She was at home holding down the fort, talking care of the sled dogs and a couple of dogs that were staying with us for boarding while we were gone. She has never stayed at home alone for that long, and just a week after high school gradation and recently put on the payroll of the family business she wanted to prove herself. Problem was just days before we left Michele’s car had a major engine blowout and it was in pieces at our friend, Dan’s waiting for parts to arrive from China via eBay. Nicole wasn’t driving much until it got fixed since she know’s her and our dog truck don’t see eye-to-eye.
By midnight (8 pm Alaska time) we were in bed.
We had been awake on and off for the past 48 hours so we slept well. We were up early headed to D.C. and the journey of a lifetime.