Sunday, September 11, 2016

August 15th: Surprise! We're in Maine.

I didn't have to wait very long for our next trip. Two weeks later, we were at DCA for a fun weekend trip! Mark's family goes to Maine every August, and while we flew the C172 up last year and stayed in a sweet beach house, we hadn't planned to go again this year. But then one of us joked that it would be funny if we didn't say anything to his family, snuck up to Portland for a couple days, and arranged it so that we just happened to bump into them somewhere. Joking turned into pricing out airfare, finding an Airbnb, and letting Mark's brother in on the plan to make coordinating everything easier. Which is how we found ourselves...

...on a shuttle bus at DCA on a Monday afternoon, waiting to be taken out to the airplane.

Except when we got to the airplane, we found out that the air conditioning was broken. It was in the mid-nineties, so that was a bit of a problem. They told us maintenance was working on it, took us back to the terminal, and let us sit around guessing when we might ever get off the ground. An hour or so later...

...maintenance had supposedly fixed the issue and we were taken back out to the plane. This time we actually got to board!

We pushed back, started up, and...sat. For a loooong time. And then the captain came on the loudspeaker and said that the thing that was broken before was broken again and they had to take us to a gate so we could all get off the airplane.

After a scenic taxi tour of what seemed like every stinking taxiway at DCA they eventually found us a gate and told us to go to a different gate to get on a different airplane. It took a few minutes to figure out which gate was the correct one, then when we got there nobody at the gate seemed to know what was going on. Eventually they figured out that we were taking that airplane, but then they told us we had to wait for a crew and they didn't know how long it would take. Awesome. It took a while, but we eventually got a crew and boarded the plane.

Aaaand we managed to board the plane just in time for the storms to get to the airport. I'd been watching the weather build all afternoon and we SHOULD have been out way in front of it, but nope.

Everyone had just finished boarding the plane when they announced that we'd have to sit and wait for a while because the lightning was so close now it was hitting on the airport property and they had to close the ramp. See that little squiggly white line on the right side of the picture? That's lightning. And since they hadn't finished loading everyone's bags on this new plane, we had to wait it out. The storm eventually moved, they reopened the ramp, loaded us up, then we got to sit some more. They had pushed back the plane next to us, and apparently THEY ran into an issue when they started up because they sat, blocking us in, for about 10 minutes before finally pulling back in to their gate with a fire engine escort. I couldn't make this up if I tried.

Basically, the takeaway from this whole mess is don't fly American if you actually want to get to your destination anywhere near the scheduled time. My mistake; it had been a while since I'd flown them and I forgot how awful they were.

Somehow they eventually pushed us back, started up, the airplane did NOT break, and we taxied to the runway over 4 hours later than we should have.

At least we got a nice view of DC on the way out.

I work all of the traffic in and out of DCA, so I'm very familiar with the departure procedures and how our flight was routed. The storm had moved away from the airport and directly into our normal departure path, and I have no idea what they told our pilot on departure but I'm guessing it must have been something along the lines of "do whatever you want to not fly in the giant storm". I've never been on (or maybe even worked) a flight that made so many quick left and right turns, but whatever our pilot did worked because it was a surprisingly smooth ride.

We eventually got past the weather somewhere on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay and turned back on course. We wound up flying right over my parents' house and the airport where I learned to fly in NJ, then made our way up the East Coast and finally landed at Portland.

We had originally planned to make our visit a complete surprise, but then decided instead to post a picture on Facebook after we landed and see how long it would take any of them to notice. They figured it out within five minutes, so after getting the rental car and checking in at our Airbnb we called them to say hi. Mark's Granny apparently burst into tears immediately (which was part of the reason we decided to give them at least a little heads up haha). We came up with a rough plan for the next day, then went out to find some food. We were hungry!

We had originally planned to spend the evening wandering around Portland, but American Airlines took away that option, so we had to scramble a bit to find anyplace that was still serving food after 10pm on a Monday. We lucked out and found Roustabout, a cool bar/restaurant a couple blocks away. They were down to their limited bar menu for the night, but the paninis and chips and dip were really good. The bartender was really cool and the Olympics were on the TV, so it was definitely a nice place to end the day.

I had noticed that one of the drink options on the menu was 'Bartender's Choice', so I asked about it. He said he could make basically whatever, so I told him I wanted something sweet and not vodka. He asked me a couple follow-up questions, then disappeared for a few minutes and came back with this pretty glass. He said it was a play on a drink called The Bee's Knees and had honey, gin, and egg whites, among other things. It was really good! Mark had him do the same thing with a mystery whiskey drink (I forget what his was, but it was also very tasty), then we decided it was time for some sleep. It took way longer than we planned, but we were in Maine!

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