And so, Saturday morning arrived, marking the end of our Thanksgiving adventure in South Carolina. It was time to fly home and return to reality.
We had purposely chosen to travel home on Saturday (instead of Sunday) for two reasons: 1) to give us that extra day to unwind before having to return to work/school; and 2) to avoid the majority of the holiday travelers. Most people would be flying home on Sunday; we would be heading home a day ahead of them.
Before we could leave South Carolina, we first had to finish packing and clean the Lake House. By the time we were finished, the place was spotless; you couldn't even tell that we had been there. Lotte remarked later that that was the cleanest she had ever seen the Lake House; we could stay there anytime!
Then, we had to say our good-byes to the family. Everyone gathered at Omi and Opa's house for an early lunch and to see us off on our voyage home.
"Make sure we keep track of the time," John whispered to me. "Hard stop at 11:30."
We actually didn't need to leave until noon, but that extra half-hour gave us some extra leeway in case of traffic or a long line at the rental car return.
After a lovely visit with the family, during which time we took pictures and looked at some old photographs that Omi had found, we said our good-byes and started toward Charlotte, NC.
There was very little traffic on the road that afternoon - of course, it was a Saturday afternoon and we didn't expect there to be much. As a result, we arrived at the rental car return two and a half hours before our flight. That gave us plenty of time, once we were checked in, to enjoy a few drinks and to do some shopping while we waited.
About one hour before our flight, we made our way to our gate and sat down to relax. John then got up five minutes later to go to the restroom. While he was gone, I put my nose in a crossword puzzle book and tuned out.
And I was still tuned out when I heard the tail end of an announcement: "--erley, please come to the counter to receive your new seat assignments."
"Mary," I asked. "Did she just say 'John Verley'? I wasn't paying attention."
"I don't know." Typical five year old response...
Fortunately, she repeated the announcement two minutes later, and this time it was clear as a bell; we were getting new seat assignments.
Since John was MIA, I went up to the counter to see what our new seat assignments were...and wouldn't you know it? We had been "bumped" to first class! All three of us! I was practically drooling when the agent handed me the boarding passes! Sweet!
Of course, it was only for the Charlotte-to-Minneapolis leg of our flight home; we would be back on coach from Minneapolis to Phoenix. But who cared? Any little bit of time in first class was worth it!
And, oh, was it worth it! We sat back in those huge, comfortable seats and thought, "I could get used to this!". The seats were so large that they seemed to swallow Mary up; she had tons of room to lay down and sleep during our flight. It was so nice...
Once in Minneapolis, we had a two-hour layover, which gave us just enough time to eat some dinner. Unfortunately, most of the restaurants were completely packed and we had to eat fast food in a crowded food court. This was the first time during our entire trip that we had encountered holiday crowds, and we were just glad to be going home.
We were also fortunate to have left Minneapolis when we did; the next day, a huge winter storm blew through the region, and hundreds of flights were delayed. We were so happy to have traveled when we did!
While waiting at MSP, I bought myself a neck pillow, in hopes that it would help me catch a short nap on the plane. I have a very difficult time sleeping on airplanes, and with our arrival time being so late, I was hoping to catch at least an hour.
No such luck, though. As soon as the beverage cart came through the aisles of the plane, John turned green - probably a side effect from that crappy fast food we had eaten. I never saw anyone leap into the aisle from a window seat so fast; he didn't even wait for me to get up! Fortunately, he didn't throw up - which was good because the aisleway was blocked by the beverage cart, meaning that he couldn't get to the restroom in time anyway. He sat back down again and was soon fast asleep.
After that, I was wide awake...great!
We landed on-time - around 11:00 p.m. - at Phoenix Sky Harbor. By that time, John had recovered from whatever made him nauseous, so he went to retrieve the car from long-term parking while we retrieved our luggage. We met up curbside; and once the luggage was loaded, we all went home...
So there it was: our first ever out-of-state Thanksgiving trip, and it went off without a hitch! To that, we were thankful that we had a safe trip, that we had a nice visit with our family, and that our trip had been fun. And that is what Thanksgiving is all about...
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