Friday, July 13, 2012

A Long But Nearly Perfect Day

I woke up just before 2:30 AM Central this morning (20 minutes before the alarm I had set). I was scheduled for a 6:30 AM flight out of Oklahoma City, which is about an hour and a half away. I traveled to Portland, Oregon for my best friend Bill's wedding. This is round 2 for him. I was best man the first time around and I'm best man this time, too.

We left the house around 3:30 AM. We stopped at Wal-Mart so I could get some luggage tags (I haven't flown in over 5 years and a couple of my bags had changed), we stopped at the gas station for a Coca Cola for the wife and were on our way.

We arrived at the airport a little after 5:00 AM and got into the terminal a few minutes later. There was a LONG line at the ticketing counter and they were making "final calls" for the 6:00 AM flights. I had checked in via the airline web site and pre-paid for my checked bag so all I really had to do was hand them my bag and head for the gate but I took my place in line.

In order to expedite, a gate agent came out and asked if there was anyone who had checked in and just needed to handle baggage. I stepped forward. As I was waiting for the agent to get my airport tag printed, a lady walked up to the counter and asked another agent about a 5:50 AM flight. The response was, "I'm sorry, ma'am, you have to be checked in at least 30 minutes prior to your flight [I didn't know that!]. You've missed it. Take a spot in line and we'll get you taken care of." D'oh!

The agent helping me finished up with my bag and I headed for security. There are two security 'portals' at Will Rogers airport. I had heard the other agent tell someone to go to the area at the opposite end of the terminal from where my gate was because the line was shorter because nobody was really heading that way. I stepped that direction, kissed my wife good-bye and went to stand in line.

I was through security in probably ten minutes. I cleared the metal detector without incident, nobody asked me any questions, and nobody asked to inspect my bags. I found an empty chair, put my shoes on, and walked to the other end of the terminal to my gate (it's not a huge terminal. the walk took me about 3 minutes). I stopped to grab a protein bar (hadn't eaten yet) and took the few extra steps to the actual gate.

When I arrived, people were standing around as if they were waiting their turn to board. I asked someone and, sure enough, they were already boarding and were on group 2. My boarding pass said group 1 so I basically walked straight onto the plane.

The flight was uneventful except for some noise at takeoff that made our jet sound like it had propellers. Not sure what it was all about but the pilot sitting next to me on the second leg (there were at least 3 in the cabin) didn't seemed concerned so I wasn't either.

We had a stop in Denver but I didn't have to change planes so I stayed put. After everyone else got off, I realized I was the only one from Oklahoma City that was continuing to Portland. Except for the crew, I had the plane all to myself for about 20 minutes. Kinda cool.

When we arrived in Portland, I got off the plane and headed to baggage claim and answered the call of nature at a nearby restroom. I came out of the restroom just in time to see my bag coming out of the hole in the wall. I walked right up, grabbed it, and went to the car rental counter.

The rental experience didn't go quite as planned. The agent was extremely friendly and efficient and the transaction was very smooth. It was all of the extras that got me.

First, I paid an extra $7 per day to go from a Nissan Versa to a Toyota Corolla. I wouldn't have minded the Versa (the wife drives one) but she sold me on cruise control. The wedding is at a vineyard about an hour out and I likes my cruise control.

The next extra was basic insurance. I explained that my auto insurance covered me for a rental and initially declined. The agent explained that Oregon is a loss-of-use state. What that means is that, should I be in an accident, I am responsible for the daily rental rate of the car until it is put back into service. If it takes 2 weeks to fix it, I'm on the hook for 2 weeks of rental. The basic insurance absolves me of that responsibility. I begrudgingly took it for a nominal charge of $19 per day.

Then there was the pre-paid fuel. I jumped on this straight away. It means I don't have to fill up the car before I return it (meaning I don't have to find a gas station before I return it). I can bring it in on fumes and just hand them the keys. I sorta planned on doing this anyway. It was something like $40. Yeah, they make money off of it but it saves me some hassle.

In the end, our $90 rental car for the entire four days got "rounded up" to $234. Then, because I used a debit card, they tack on a $200 deposit that is refunded within 24 hours of returning the car. Yeah, my debit card took a hit for $434 and I hadn't left the airport yet. C'est la vie.

I called Bill and arranged to meet him at a coffee shop not far from his house (about 30 minutes from the airport). He gave me the address and I gave the address to Alan, my GPS. When Alan told me I had reached my destination I thought he had steered me wrong. I called Bill and the conversation went something like this:

Me: I don't think I'm in the right place.
Bill: Where are you?
Me: I'm in an industrial park.
Bill: You're in the right place.

As it turns out, this place is a coffee roaster with the coffee shop attached. Hence, the industrial park. My problem was that they don't believe in signs around here that shout HERE WE ARE! I found it shortly after that and we had a very good and very pleasant lunch.

It is now 10:30 PM Portland time, which means I'm 2 hours shy of being up for 24 hours. I dozed a bit on the plane and managed to squeeze in a nap this afternoon but I'm still tired. It's off to sleepy-land for me.

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