Few things are more exciting to me than the thought of traveling (even for business).
The day of travel was upon us. I had booked the flights to and from Ft. Lauderdale for both Mom and I. When I did so, I booked us on a 6:30am flight. Mannnnn.. “Never again” I thought as I woke up just before 4am the morning of. I got all my stuff together and got on the taxi, ready for some warmer weather.
Both Mom and myself like to be at airports two hours before scheduled flight time. With the flight being at 6:30 in the morning, 4:30 was probably too early for the JetBlue check-in desks to be open. We stood inside the terminal seeing no employees, in the bag drop line for several minutes, waiting for someone to come and check our bags. Nobody did. We went back outside to the curbside check-in and bag drop where there were staff, leaving our bags with them. Dear JetBlue, how about some posted hours for your customer service desks in the main terminal?
I had purchased the wonderful “Even More Space” seats for the flight down to Ft. Lauderdale (FLL). This was worth the extra $45 in many ways. First, we were allowed through TSA Pre-Check. Secondly, we would board early, giving us the ability to place our carry-ons overhead without jamming or needing to check one. Third, mom really benefits from the added legroom with her arthritis/osteo issues. Comfort is always a priority when it’s a choice. We were on a Embraer which was nice as it meant no awkward, potentially sick, 3rd person to sit next to. Good stuff. We were happy to be on the plane that would take us on our vacation.
We pushed back from the gate, started engines, and headed to the end of the runway. Oddly it was the opposite side from which planes were taking off. Hmmm, perhaps they planned on changing take-off direction shortly. We pulled along side another American Airlines plane. Within a couple minutes the captain made an unwanted announcement. Fog had enveloped FLL airport and the runways there had been closed to arriving and departing traffic. Greeeeaaaaat. We would sit at the end of the taxiway until they had received another update from the airport which would take roughly 30 minutes. We sat for some time and eventually there was another announcement… We were heading back to the gate. Ugh.
Seated in the row next to us was a couple who were to board the Oasis of the Seas cruise ship. It was obviously a little nerve racking for them, but also a little annoying as they incessantly tried to pick-apart a situation that was out of their control. I always try to fly in a day ahead of a cruise and this was a good reason why.
Once back at the gate, we re-attached with the jet bridge. The captain asked the passengers if we didn’t mind staying on the plane for another 30-40 minutes until another update from FLL. The crew turned on the entertainment system and we would be provided with free movies. As I sat there, I pulled up the PTZ TV webcam of Ft. Lauderdale. I’d didn’t really look that foggy and I could see the airport. It puzzled me, but I was sure that a decision to close runways and delay flights wasn’t taking lightly. After what seemed like a while a very upbeat captain once again made an announcement. “Just got our all-clear from Lauderdale… we’re good to go. Everyone back in your seats!” Wohoo! Shortly after, we left the gate, taxied, and took off, bound for Florida. Leaving behind a dreary Washington D.C.
The flight itself was nice and uneventful. It’s always great to be above the clouds and out of the gray. Arriving in sunny Ft Lauderdale was also nice. It was obviously warmer too and the fog was long gone.
Off the plane, we had our luggage in our hands in record time. Never before had a bag truck and claim dispensed our bags so quickly. FLL has a weird layout when it comes to getting to the rental cars. We had to catch a bus to the rental portion of the airport (contained in the massive center parking structure) with the main entrance being pretty much the opposite side of the airport, across from terminal 1. The buses themselves have stops in-between the terminals to best distribute passengers.
After a fairly short ride, we arrived at the rental terminal where I headed to Enterprise to claim the intermediate size car I had reserved. My fingers were crossed for a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic. To slight dismay we were given the only one of the size left, a Dodge Dart. At first it was ok, but I wasn’t pleased because someone had written “RENT” on the window. The interior felt cheap and there was no USB socket for me to charge my phone. It being 2016, it was odd that a car wouldn’t have at least one USB slot hidden somewhere. Just wanting to go and drop off luggage at the hotel (and maybe nap) I said screw it and just accepted it. It was only for one day.
We had made a reservation at the Rodeway Inn & Suites near the airport. We had selected this as a good option because it was A: cheap, B: had port shuttles, and C: provided complimentary breakfast. At first, it was a little hard to find, but after following navigation on my phone we got there ok. Check in was pretty easy. It seemed that everyone who was coming and going through the hotel was there for a cruise. Located within the main lobby of the hotel was not only the check-in area, but a wine rack that had mostly cheap wines available for purchase. There was also a small convenience store at the entrance. The hotel had given us a ground level room on the eastern side of the property. As we drove around to park in front of our room we noticed that this was more motel than hotel in some aspects. The property did have some work being done to it, but still looked 20-30 in age. Once inside the loom, I felt like I had stepped back 20+ years in time had it not been for the new TV and newer linens. “It’ll do for one night.” We had two queen size beds that we’d share. Mom and Kristen, my brother and me. On the beds though were 3 pillows. When did they start with 3 pillows instead of 4? Oh well, we could figure it out later…(although we never did). We left our luggage and decided to get some lunch.
We got into the car and thought it would be nice to have some lunch in Ft Lauderdale. I had one place in mind that I had been looking forward to for some time. The Mai Kai Tiki Bar and Restaurant. Only upon driving there though did I realize it wasn’t open for lunch. D’oh! I drove back south and found a parking lot near the shops and more happening bars along the beach. We walked up to the shops and found a place called Atlantic Surf Club. Mom and me perched on some stools along the bar overlooking the main strip and beach. The stools weren’t ideal for her legs, but she could at least put her feet up on the railing. I had an excellent Mahi filet over some awesome cheesy rice pilaf. Mom had the lobster mac & cheese which she really liked as well. She had to get a second one though as the crushed red peppers they put in it would have caused her issues.
During our lunch, Brian send me a text message telling me that their flight was now delayed as well, by roughly 2 hours. It would get them at the hotel after midnight now. I let him know that the airport shuttles would stop at 1am and they might need to catch a cab. At least it would be a cheaper fare with the hotel being that close to the airport.
After a late lunch, we decided to head near the inlet to watch the ships leave. There weren’t many places to park except for one strip of meter spaces along a street. To get to the public beach access we also had to walk past several condos and locate the narrow, almost unrecognizable entrance.
It was great though when we did arrive. Mom was able to have a seat on a bench under the shade of palm trees. I walked around and stood in the sun, soaking up the warmth that I can never get enough of. There was one point I needed to use the bathroom. This was an issue though as the nearest public restroom was some distance away (aside from the ocean were some people like to go). There was a beach attendant who worked with the condo there and asking him, he just told me to go behind some of the palms… Uh ok, haha. If I have no choice.
I joined my mom on the bench for a while before I started hearing ship horns. It was after 4 and some the ships were preparing to leave. I walked over to the rocks along the inlet. While sitting there, I could smell weed that some teenage girls were smoking nearby. I just chuckled and watched as Independence of the Seas, a ship I had sailed 3 years prior, began to depart, before eventually making it’s way past. People in the condos were blasting air horns and ringing bells as the ship made its way out to sea. People on the decks were waving goodbye as some on the rocks near me were shouting “bon voyage.”
After Independence of the Seas sailed past, there was little to no movement from other ships. Mom stated she was tired and would like the head back to the hotel to get ready for our cruise the following day and get some rest. We headed back to the car as a Holland America ship was sailing through the inlet. We could see the funnels and hear the horns.
Once we arrived back at the hotel, there were throngs of people in the check-in lines. I could only assume that the 2 hours worth of delay in the morning had set back many flights into FLL. When I went to return the crappy rental car there were yet more people at the airport. I waited a good while in line before being able to take a cab back to the hotel. It was only 8pm. What a mess!
Back at the hotel, mom and I shuffled some clothes before getting some sleep. It was roughly 1:30 am when Brian and Kristin arrived. They were exhausted and made themselves comfortable in no time to get some sleep for our big day ahead.