The wife and I just completed our Summer vacation. It was a fun-filled, whirlwind-yet-relaxing week that took us on an 800+ mile journey from Massachusetts to Vermont to New Hampshire to Maine and back to Massachusetts. We left the triple digits of Texas for milder weather. We vacated the North Texas prairie for soaring mountains, glorious fields of grain, and winding roads. We left Tex-Mex and barbecue for quaint roadside diners, Vermont blueberries, Maple syrup, apple cider, and Maine lobsters. We left the jammed-up, crawling, sprawling, heat-conducting, concrete jungle of Dallas/Fort Worth and its seven million souls for states whose entire populations don’t begin to approach that number. In fact, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine combined have fewer than half as many people occupying their beauty as the DFW Metroplex contains. Even Massachusetts with the iconic Boston as its plum only contains 6.8 million people in the entire state.

This was just the getaway that was long overdue and much needed. This was our opportunity to unwind and recharge. This was perfect.

So, on Saturday morning we boarded the plane for Bradley International Airport, located in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, halfway between Hartford, CT, and Springfield, Massachusetts…which is where the trouble began.

Thin Walls, Worn-out Tires, and Weary travelers

Ours was a late-night flight. My wife works for American Airlines. We fly free…but standby. The flights were oversold to Boston all day Saturday and Sunday on the weekend of our departure. Only one flight, the last one out Saturday night, which was bound for western Massachusetts rather than Boston, seemed likely to accommodate us.

We went for it.

The flight was delayed more than an hour due to a worn-out tire on the plane.  (I don’t know about anyone else, but I really don’t want to think about bad tires on airplanes.) It was already going to be late when we arrived, as we would lose an hour due to the time zone change. Now, it would be even later – after midnight, in fact.

On the plane, I failed to find an overhead bin for the larger of Donya’s two cloth carry-on bags. I decided to wedge it and my computer bag under the seat in front of me. They fit, but I no longer did. I spent the next three-and-a-half hours basically in an upright fetal position. My knees were screaming. My back was aching. I was hot, tired, and ready for someone to turn that plane around.

We landed at long last and in the witching hour. Once there, We waited for our luggage. We waited for the shuttle to the car rental place. We waited in a line of frustrated travelers at the rental car place. The computers were down. The staff was having one heck of a time locating cars, writing up contracts, and getting patrons on their way. One fellow was handed a contract and sent to parking lot space B32 to pick up his car. He returned red-faced and animated. There was no B32. They sent him to B8, where he found his car. It was locked with the keys inside. He was more red-faced and animated when he returned.

When our time to be served came, we were shocked to be quoted a price nearly twice the amount we were given when we booked the car. It took another half hour of wrangling, but we prevailed and drove away in a midnight blue Kia with an acceptable contract in hand.

On to the hotel and a few hours of shuteye before we began a week of explorations. We were booked at the Springhill Suites, a Marriott Hotels property, so at least we could expect a few hours of comfort, peace, and quiet.

Only, not.

Through the years, I have slept in hotels of every description. Having spent 10+ years on the road as a catastrophe adjuster, I stayed in cheap roadside motels with their “vacancy” signs buzzing and glowing red against the night sky, I have spent weeks at a time in extended stay hotels with their kitchenettes and slabs-for-beds. I even slept in my truck a few times.

I have never stayed anywhere with walls as thin as these. The door was cut a little too small for the frame, so light spilled into our room around it. Restless wanderers could be heard up and down the hallway and outside a group of zombie teens talked and laughed and chased one another well into the wee morning hours. Every sound was unfiltered. It was like they were there in the room with us.

I woke the next morning to Donya running a bath. Then, rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I realized she was lying next to me and on her phone.

“Sounds like someone is running a bath in our bathroom,” I says.

“I know,” she sighed.

We heard a massive splash. The water displacement was remarkable. So, I remarked…

“They just did a cannonball in our tub!”

Donya is still laughing about that.

And that is how the Great New England Tour, Summer 2018 began. Donya and I wondered whether God was telling us we should have stayed home.

Stay tuned for Part Two…