Sunday, February 16, 2014

Alternative Galveston Trip(or What Happens When Your Flight Just Keeps Getting Canceled)

After my frustrating conversation with Alex, I remained on the line for about another half hour and finally got hold of someone. I described my situation, the need to fly out that next day in order to get to the race for Sunday and gave him the options for all the airports that we were willing to fly into. Now mind you, the list was extensive. It included New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Cristi and, of course, both airports in Houston. I also said that we were willing to fly out of Manchester, Boston, or Charlotte(since that part of our flight HADN'T been canceled). After quite a bit of back and forth(not nearly as pleasant of a person as the one I had spoken with that morning), he finally told me that he pretty much guaranteed that if I went to Manchester the next day I would be able to work it out with the ticket office there but he couldn't do it over the phone. 

That should have been a sign. I should have cut my losses and just canceled the trip. Already two flights canceled in a day, it was looking less and less likely this thing was going to happen. And yet, instead, I decided to head to the airport the next morning. Being the prodigious reader that my sister is, within minutes of my waking(four hours after it had hit the pillow), she called me asking whether our trip was canceled(she had, of course, read my blog). I told her the situation, and we decided to make a go of it. So we headed to the airport where a United official was directing people to various other airlines but not at all being helpful with us. After standing in line for a kiosk for about 45 minutes at US Airways, I went to check in to the flight to Charlotte, only to discover that we were no longer on that flight to Charlotte. Angrily, I went back to the United desk asking how I could have been bumped from that flight(my thinking was at least Charlotte was a bigger hub and may be able to give us more options of where to fly into). Several minutes of resistance, finally yielded to slight hep where she attempted to remedy the situation. Lo and behold, United had bumped us from that flight and was now flying us into Austin on Sunday night! Yes, this was Saturday morning! Suffice it to say that didn't go over well. And going through all of the scenarios again, I stood there irritably and quite impatiently. 

And what did she come up with? Salvation? Only if we could somehow make it to Boston within the next hour. Based on the run around that we had already gotten up until that point and the likelihood of us making it down in time being slim, we decided to call it quits. Now I realize that most of you would have probably done so the night before, but you must understand the Ferreira's are a stubborn people. We finally conceded to the Cancellation Gods and headed home. 
This has been the year from hell in regards for travel. Amber and I now both have had our flights canceled and we had that awful flight cancellation/rebooking fiasco out to Louisville. It is so true though that misery loves company and I really do feel quite a bit better about our situations when I read the statistics of how many flight cancellations there have been this year. In fact, this year has had the highest cancellations in at least 25 years(that's how long they've been keeping track). Over 5% of ALL flights have been canceled according to the New York Times. While they cite weather as being a main culprit, new regulations on pilots' flight hours and patterns also has been implicated. 

Either way, being on one of over 75,000 flights cancelled does put it in perspective. Plus, we were going to Texas to run 26 miles! What kind of fun is that? Some poor kids were missing Disney World or a grandmother missing a wedding, and I'm complaining about a lousy stinking marathon! Plus, after a short conversation with Priceline, they were generous enough to give me a partial refund on my car and hotel reservations. Considering they have a strict no refunds policy, that was pretty awesome. Yep, I had totally convinced myself that it was no big deal by the time I got home. 

Now having nothing planned for the weekend, I did what any reasonable person would do and immediately went to bed for the next several hours. 

Awaking to a bright sunny day has a way of making me feel guilty sometimes, so I decided to see whether I could do anything about that. Did I go out for a run? A lift? A slow walk? Nope. I went to Facebook. No not in California, on my phone. After spending  a few minutes of my life on things in which were totally unproductive, I came across Kevin Tilton's post about heading over to Bennington Vermont to compete in Woodford White, Tim Van Orden's race which just so happened to be a Nationals qualifier AND being held on the same course. Well there I had it, now I at least knew what I was doing the next day. 
The US Nationals Flyer-Notice Who's Featured!

Pleased with myself for having made constructive plans for at least one of the weekend days, I was about to head back to bed(hey! Facebook stalking is tiresome), Amber arrived home telling me we were off to celebrate her grandparents 65th anniversary. I did vaguely remember seeing something about that but didn't think I would have been around so it went out of my mind. I quickly sprang out of my pajamas into something somewhat respectable and got in the car.

I am glad I did. Almost all of Amber's father's brothers and cousins were there many of whom we hadn't seen since our own wedding over four years before. The food was good, the company engaging and the cake delicious. That alone made it worth it. Plus to celebrate 65 years of anything is pretty impressive no less that of a commitment to another person.

The Cullen Family

As we were driving home from the party, and probably due to the copious amounts of sugar running through my bloodstream, I developed an elaborate weekend scheme. I would a)ditch Amber(okay so that wasn't actually the plan but since she had speed skating and tri-training the next day, she did have to be cut out), b) head to western New Hampshire and help my sister and her fiance move into their new place(yeah, she really lost out. Instead of being in a warm climate on vacation while he did the moving, she got suckered into helping him) and c) drive out to Bennington that night and stay over so I wouldn't have to walk up as early the next morning. 

Due to confidentiality policies(i.e. my sister killing me if I published where she lived), I cannot divulge much about the move, other than her place made me consider increasing my daily commute to work, just to live in one of her guest rooms. Seriously, I think she should post her place on Priceline and make some money off of it:) 

After leaving them to finish moving more stuff into their Taj, I headed to Bennington which should have been only about an hour fifteen further along. Three hours later, I finally arrived. Slow winter conditions mixed with slow winter drivers made for a slog along Route 9. I finally made it, immediately Yelping restaurants in the area and decided on Ramunto's as it had gotten good reviews and was close to the place I was staying. While the dinner was good and the beers on tap extensive, I do have to say, the garlic knots that were so highly touted were fair at best. Luckily, I ordered a meal as well as the garlic knots so it wasn't so bad. 

If you've never been in the town of Bennington(I was briefly trying to do some pun with Bennington but I'm not quite in that mindset tonight-sorry), it's not picturesque like most of the cute towns off of 89. It definitely as a worn feel to it. A small section of town, Old Bennington which as the name implies was the original settlement, is nice but is balanced with a more industrial feel in the rest of it. All in all, it wouldn't be a town high on my list of recommended sights in VT, but the entire drive along route 9 is very pretty. Actually the two best sites in Bennington, in my humble opinion, is the tower which is eerily similar to the ones in Washington and on Bunker Hill and the Old Bennington High School. The reason that the high school made the list is that they had separate boys and girls entrance carved into the granite headers on opposite sides of the building. 

The next morning I scoured the town for a coffee shop and finally found one only to be told by a Verhipster, that they wouldn't be opening for another fifteen minutes. Well, apparently my impatience from the previous day hadn't worn off, and rather than just waiting, I decided to go "somewhere else". That somewhere else turned out to be Papa Pete's, a little diner on the edge of town, who's sign said "last diner for 20 miles". With that kind of build up, how could I possibly pass it up? Sitting at the bar, I had myself a griddle sandwich which was two silver dollar pancakes sandwiching sausage, egg and cheese with a side of home-fries. Not quite the light breakfast I had originally set out for but definitely filling. While there, I was immediately spotted as an outsider and upon subtle questions, it was revealed that I was one of "those snowshoers". A mix of befuddlement over how exactly one runs with snowshoes and leery sideways glances accompanied the remainder of my breakfast. I did learn that Woodford, the town next to Bennington and where Prospect Mountain is located, is somewhat of an anomaly in that when the surrounding towns may only get a dusting of snow, Woodford gets dumped on. Take this past snowstorm where all the towns got between 12-19 inches, Woodford got 30! The snowstorm two nights ago? Yikes! Nearly three feet of new snow on an already, supposedly, challenging race course. 
Prospect Mountain's "lodge"
It seems like it's always snowing here
It didn't take long for me to see just how challenging. I didn't know what to expect for competition except that I knew Kevin TIlton and Dave Dunham were heading up. Based on the weather conditions and it's relatively long distance from anywhere, I was thinking I might be able to round out the podium. As soon as I arrived, however, I realized that my bloated belly would be the only thing rounded out that day. Todd Callaghan, Jim Pawlicki, Tim Mahoney, Ross Krause and a few other fast-looking runners had all shown up.  Oh well. 
The view from the base of Prospect Mountain
Knowing that I was out of contention, I decided to use the race just as a reconnoitering expedition to scope out the course for Nationals two weeks later. I let the guys blast through the start, but soon saw that only Kevin and one other runner really put any gumption into it. Everyone else was just content to settle into a nice slow slog. I hopped on the back seeing how long I'd be able to hang. 
The First climb of the day
Still on their heels about two miles later, I was starting to feel that this slow slog wasn't so slow anymore. I slowly fell off the back of the group and watched them quickly fade from view. I spent the next mile or so running pretty much by myself.

Side Note: Tim Van Orden may be the devil! If you look at the elevation profile, you will see some definite climbs but what is missing from the picture, is that any potential for recovery on the descents or flats is thwarted by deep single track just wide enough for your snowshoes. 
There needs to be a snow depth chart too

Just as I was cursing TiVo to myself, I looked up and saw and think I also heard, Jim Pawlicki doing the same. We ran the next mile or so together which was probably the worst mile in terms of pace but best in terms of enjoyment. After rudely being passed by two runners who apparently wanted to get to the food line first, one of whom stepped on Jim's snowshoes about ten times as an indication that he wanted to pass, Jim told me not to let him beat me and I took off. 
The Final Descent
Luckily, my over-exuberance was timed perfectly with the last mile and a half which was all downhill, I passed him with a cold "nice job"(or my best attempt of being standoffish and aloof) and sped to the finish. Still not sure whether TiVo was a five or six, I kept on anticipating another climb, but we must have run out of distance because he couldn't sneak another one in. I think I finished somewhere in the top fifteen running something like 12 minute miles. Oh of the diner peeps could see me now. Oh that isn't running at all!

Post race was nice to catch up with everybody and warm up a bit then I started my drive home. Which goes a lot faster without snow on the roads. 

On my way home, I came across the guy on the lake. He was kit skiing I think. It looked pretty fun, but probably pretty cold.

 So while we ended up not having a Galveston tip, the weekend ended up being pretty fun. All I have to do now is try to convince my sister to sign up for another marathon. Preferably after the storms have finished unleashing hell. 

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