Sunday, January 10, 2010

Week 2 - Traveling in Pods

The work new year always starts with deans’ reports and they were a bear this month, taking almost a day longer than usual. From there I went right back to the Facilities’ project I’d been working on before break that had a deadline of January 8th. The week flew by and I went home Friday night, exhausted, to pack.

Yes, I was flying out of town AGAIN! Connie was going to be at a conference in St. Louis and would be arriving Saturday but the conference wasn’t starting until Sunday. When she’d told me about this last month, it had seemed like a good idea to fly there and meet her. It’s the only place you can fly non-stop from on Southwest besides Chicago and I’d been wanting to try it since the super successful surprise birthday day trip to Chicago for Connie’s 50th in 2007. What was I thinking! While I wanted nothing more than to have another weekend inside vegging and knitting, instead I’d be flying out at the crack of dawn Saturday and getting home late Sunday. I powered through packing, telling myself it’d be fun (it would be) and I could relax next weekend, which would be a long one for MLK day.

I didn’t sleep much at all Friday night, worried that my car wouldn’t start because it was forecast to be –24 degrees Saturday morning and my battery is on its last legs. I had planned to get up at 5:30 and be on the road at 6:15 but was awake at 4:30, got out of bed just after 5:00 and had the car running by 5:15. Turns out I needn’t have worried, of course, but at least my car was toasty after running for a hour.

My flight arrived just after 9:00 and I headed to the hotel via the MetroLink (St. Louis’ subway.) I had made arrangements for a friend of a friend to take me out for lunch. She’s a friend of Alan Meyer’s (husband of my friend Nancy, whom I traveled to California with in October) from college and is a fantasy author. We had exchanged emails and she picked me up at noon so I only had to kill an hour at the hotel, which conveniently had a Starbucks in the lobby. We went to a fun restaurant in an old wire factory called SqWires, ate yummy brunch food and talked for hours. So I’d taken a chance and it worked out great. Connie called to say she’d landed just as Sharon was dropping me at the hotel.

Rather than spend more time waiting in the lobby, I decided to walk to the main library that we’d passed on the way back from lunch to check Ravelry for local yarn shops, something I’d meant to do before I left. It was single digit cold but I walked the seven or eight blocks, approached the desk and asked where the internet computers were. When they found out I wasn’t a St. Louis resident and didn’t have a library card, it looked like I’d gotten chilled to the bone for nothing. But they did give me a temporary internet permit so I could see if any time was free. They schedule internet time by the hour and everything was booked. The clerk sent me upstairs to the computers though to see if someone hadn’t shown up. They only had eight computers for patrons to use! EIGHT! Wahoo, which has a population that’s <5% of St. Louis’ has the same number. Sheesh! Thwarted in my attempts to get online, I decided to take some pictures of the architecture – stained glass windows, painted ceilings, carved marble – the works! I’d taken just three pics when a security guard told me I couldn’t take pictures without getting approval from PR. So much for a PUBLIC library! So I headed back to wait in the lobby but sans Starbucks this time because I’d had 4 or 5 cups of coffee at SqWires. Between all that caffeine and the walk in the frigid air, any hint of fatigue was long gone.

Big hugs when Connie arrived then we checked in and got settled. She was starving so we headed out for an early dinner at an Irish pub, complete with cider for me and Guiness for Connie, pasties for a starter and bangers and mash for supper. Yum! But it was just the prelude to the main event. I had scored Eddie Izzard tickets for that night! We both LOVE him and I couldn’t believe that he happened to be there Saturday night and wasn’t sold out. I’d only found this out and bought the tickets on Thursday so it was a total coup. We even had fabulous seats in row O of the orchestra. It was wonderful to see him in person but Connie was disappointed that he wasn’t in drag. I thought he looked great in jeans. To each his own.

We had had to take a taxi to and from the theatre because I’d been told by many sources (I even did a mini survey of the St. Louis residents on the flight to verify what I’d already heard from the theatre) that the MetroLink was not safe after dark. While the theatre was only three miles from the hotel and so didn’t cost much, I was going to have a problem on Sunday. My flight didn’t leave until 7:45 so I was looking at either taking the subway before dark and hanging out at the airport for hours or paying $30 for a cab ride to the airport. To top it all off, Connie had decided to do the pre-conference sessions Sunday afternoon (brown noser!) so I was on my own for the afternoon with nothing to do. Sheesh! With this on my mind, I barely slept that night (midnight to ~4:45.) I finally got up ~5:30, spent 2 hours reading in the bathroom, showered and dressed before Connie woke up. I had also called Southwest to see what it would cost to go back earlier. $30! So I could spend the day hanging out in the hotel and spend $30 plus tip on the cab ride or pay Southwest the $30, take the subway at 2:00 and be home by 7:00. Decision made! I changed my ticket and we headed out for some sightseeing.

You can’t go to St. Louis without seeing the arch and the cab driver had told us that the arch was only five blocks from the hotel. Well it was 7 degrees and after walking the five blocks we could see the arch but it was almost as far again to get to the base of it. We were SO cold and had to go through airport style security (minus taking off our shoes) but it was worth it. To get up the arch, they put you in strange little pods that are supposed to seat five people but felt plenty full with just Connie and me. It jerks its way to the top and you get fantastic views of St. Louis, both downtown and along the river. By the time we went through the museum and left, it had warmed up quite a bit (or so we thought) so we decided to walk back instead of grabbing a taxi like we’d planned. We took more pictures and took a different, sunnier route by the old courthouse. A guard had told us about an Italian restaurant nearby so we headed there for lunch. It was early so we had a waiter all to ourselves, sat in a sunny window and ate yummy salad, pasta and garlic cheese bread. It was a nice way to end our time together. After walking back to the hotel, we parted ways – Connie to her session and me to the airport. And the wonderful thing is I got home three hours earlier and so had time to catch up on things (like my blog) before heading to bed. I’m looking forward to getting back to a normal routine this coming week.

1 comment:

  1. Now you made me want to go to St. Louis, something I would never have considered before.