One of the biggest disadvantages that we have found in
booking tickets through Priceline.com is that you are not at liberty to pick
your flight times. We learned that the hard way when we booked our
Francisco trip and then had to get from the airport to Sonoma, CA in three
hours to be at the anniversary party. (Needless to say, we arrived very late!)
This time, it wasn't much different.
In order to get the cheapest airfare, we were required to fly during non-peak
hours and to have one connection on each flight (outbound and return). That
meant that we were going to be departing from Phoenix Sky Harbor at 6:25 a.m.
on Friday, March 1. And in our post-September 11 world, that translated to a
4:30 a.m. arrival time at the airport, so that we would have enough time to
get through security.
So, at 4:00 a.m., Erika (John's mother) showed up at our doorstep to take us
to the airport (she and Bill weren't flying out until later that day). She
dropped us off at curbside, where there was no line at all. By 4:30, we were
all checked in and ready to go…with two hours to spare.
At 4:30 a.m., Sky Harbor International Airport was a deserted wasteland. None
of the shops were open until 5:00, and there was no one around except for the
National Guard, security, and a handful of early morning travelers. The line
at the security checkpoint was, of course, non-existent; even with the new
security measures we could have easily passed through security in less than
five minutes. We could have gotten to the airport much later and still made
our flight with time to spare. Of course, as I pointed out to John that
morning, had we done so, we would have ended up in line behind an Argentinean
soccer team trying to get home on the early morning flight. (I don't know what
made me say that - I was reaching for a worst-case scenario, and that was what
came to mind.)
"No, we wouldn't have," he retorted. "They all ate each other - didn't you see
Thank you, John Verley, for the pre-flight humor.
After breakfast at Starbucks (the only thing open at 5:00), we passed through
security and waited for our flight. Our plane was already at the gate, and all
of the flight monitors indicated that we were slated to depart on time. And
indeed we were; in fact, our uneventful flight landed ahead of schedule at
Chicago's O'Hare Airport. We carried Mary (who had slept for most of the
flight) off of the plane and into the bustling airport, where we would have to
wait three hours for our flight to Atlanta, GA.
So what does one do during a three-hour layover at Chicago O'Hare?
Drink…heavily. After eating a light lunch, John and Mary and I went to a small
bar across from our gate and proceeded to pound one Killian's Red after
another for an hour. The bartender who served us was very much amused by our
lovely daughter and, instead of serving the other patrons in the bar, played
with her. John stood Mary up on a barstool, and the barkeep gave her two
plastic cups, which she banged on the bar as she giggled with glee. When it
was time to go, she let Mary keep the cups, so that she could play with them
on the plane.
On the next leg of our flight, we were fortunate to get a row to ourselves, so
we put Mary in the seat between us and let her play. She was greatly amused by
the seatbelt, but if we tried to buckle her in with it, she pitched a fit! So,
to preserve the sanity of everyone on board the plane, we utilized the
parental seatbelt method, that which was used by parents before car seats and
air bags became mandatory: hold child onto seat with hand.
Our flight arrived in Atlanta, GA ahead of schedule, at 4:00 p.m. Upon
collecting our baggage, we picked up our rental car (THAT took longer than I
expected) and began the eighty-mile drive to Athens, GA…where we were to
attend a rehearsal dinner - in cocktail attire - at 7:00 p.m. It was an all
too familiar story!
We were certain that we were going to get stuck in Friday rush-hour traffic in
Atlanta, but we were fortunate that that was not the case. Our travel on
Interstate 85 went smoothly, and it wasn't until we exited onto GA 316,
towards Athens, that we hit our first traffic jam.
Driving through the backroads, along the state routes, is not much different
that driving through Prescott Valley, AZ. The speed limit is 65, and for miles
and miles, traffic moves along quickly, smoothly…until suddenly, it comes to a
screeching halt at (of all things) a stoplight. We hit many, many red lights
(some at which we had to wait for several lights) before we finally entered
Athens, GA, at 6:30 p.m.
We checked into the Holiday Inn in downtown Athens. Once we were in our room,
we quickly began to get dressed for the rehearsal dinner. We were barely
dressed when the phone rang; it was Aunt Lotte, wondering where we were and
why we hadn't called when we checked in. At this point, John was ready to
explode from the stress, so he did. It wasn't pretty.
The rehearsal dinner was held in an old hotel called the Historic Georgian,
only a mile from the Holiday Inn. (It wasn't difficult to find, thanks to the
detailed map that the bride-to-be, Lori Peel, had sent to us!) Once inside, we
passed through the Victorian style lounge and into the banquet room, where
there was already a large gathering of people and a live quartet hammering out
jazz tunes. Against the walls, there were tables set out with finger foods,
crackers and cheese, sandwiches, a seafood bar…and yes, an open bar, too. (It
was just the thing we needed to relieve the stress of the evening.)
Richard and Lori's rehearsal dinner wasn't at all what I was expecting.
Typically, rehearsal dinners are casual and include the bride and groom, the
wedding party, and a few close relatives and friends. Our rehearsal dinner,
for example, was held at a steakhouse in Flagstaff and included about twenty
people. Theirs was much more extravagant, with all of the women - myself
included - wearing cocktail dresses, and all of the men in suits and ties. In
all, there must have been about seventy people there, including the
Guckenburgs (Janice, Danny and Joshua), John's grandparents (John and Sofie
Chakowski), and Aunt Lotte and Uncle Richard. (Bill and Erika would not be
attending, as their flight would not arrive until later in the evening.)
It was at the rehearsal dinner that we met Lori for the first time. Although
we had seen pictures of her, they just didn't do her justice. Not only is she
beautiful on the outside, but she was also very sweet and charming, with a
lovely Georgian accent. She made quite an impression on Mary, who went up to
her and gave her a hug - something she would have never done to a perfect
Mary was full of affection that night. In an effort to get the children to
play together, John took Mary and Joshua aside and tried to bring them into
the lounge, where it was less crowded and noisy. He asked Mary to take Joshua
by the hand, which she did. Joshua, however, did not want to hold her hand
(probably for fear of cooties), so he resisted at first. When Mary finally
succeeded in taking his hand, John led both of them into the lounge, where
they chased each other around. At one point, John asked Mary to give Joshua a
hug, so she did…and knocked him over in the process!
Around 9:00 p.m., the party began to break up, so the three of us returned to
the hotel. Upon returning to our room, we put Mary to bed then soon passed out