Saturday, July 16, 2011

Begin at the Beginning

I've been home for two days now, and I still kind of look like I've just returned from war. There's a giant pile of laundry in my living room, a big pile of all the other stuff that was in my suitcase in my bedroom and an array of glasses and bottles scattered across my desk from my continued attempt to rehydrate and come back to life. "Come back to life" probably really is the perfect phrase there, too, since part of me is still back with the music and the crowds and my friends and the constant go-go-go, and I'm having the hardest time readjusting.

It will probably take me a few posts to cover my whole trip, but there are stories to tell, and I want to be able to look back on them years down the road when all the memories start to blend together.

My trip has been an entire year in the making. I stumbled across some U2 message boards last Spring when I was searching for the heart suitcase icon from the Elevation tour, because I want it tattooed on my ankle. I found that, but also found the most amazing group of people in the process. Quite a few of them were planning to do the Montreal shows, and I decided that sounded way more fun (read: less hot and humid) than Miami or St Louis, so I decided screw it, I'll do Canada, too! And we've been counting down ever since.

I pretty much gave up on being able to go for most of this year, since my health issues make my income really, really limited. How am I going to afford airfare to Canada when I can't even buy gas? I pretty much came to terms with not being able to go, until exactly one month before the shows when I woke up from a dream about the trip and decided fuck it, I'm finding a way to get there if it kills me. That led to about 2 weeks worth of "work 20 hours straight, sleep 3, repeat for many, many days in a row." I came close to losing my grip on sanity a few times over those weeks, but I'd think of various lyrics ("We're gonna make it all the way to the light") and stick it out. And I made it.

A big part of what made it possible was some serious travel-ninjaing, as I like to call it. I found a 30% off sale on Porter airlines, and after some major poking around ended up booking one of the weirdest flight plans ever. I flew from here to Chicago on Air Tran on the 6th, spent the night there, then flew from Chicago to Toronto, Toronto to a tiny ski resort called Mont Tremblant and then from there on to Montreal all on the 7th. Why the weirdness? If I flew directly from Chicago to Montreal, it would have been like $600-$800. However, I found the flight from Mont Tremblant to Montreal for literally $70, and the one from Toronto to Mont Tremblant for about $160. One little stop to save about $400? HELLZ YEAH!

Just getting to my local airport on the 6th was craaaazy. As I've mentioned in the past, I have anxiety and panic attacks that choose the WEIRDEST times to pop up, as this trip is a perfect example of. I had mostly planned to just live with it, since I didn't have $ for a doctor visit or pills, but the day before my trip I kinda freaked out, and ended up pawning some things to get $50 for the doctor visit. The doctor was kind of an ass, and went on about how he doesn't prescribe anti-anxiety meds and I was lucky to be getting 4 pills from him. I find that kind of attitude SO frustrating. You wouldn't tell a diabetic "Oh, if you just have a positive attitude, you can eat chocolate cake all day!", but there still seem to be people who believe that about mental things like anxiety and depression. BLARGH. Anyway, to make it even better, when I got to the pharmacy, it turned out he had written something down wrong and I ended up having to wait around for over an hour while the pharmacy contacted his office to straighten it out. All of this when my flight was less than 2 hours away! (I did the crazy cat lady thing and coped by going into the pet store to check out the kittens up for adoption! SO CUTE!)

I FINALLY got my (four) pills and drove back to the airport! The Branson airport cracks me up- it is SO in the middle of nowhere. I snapped a pic on the drive there, but my cell phone is now SO VERY out of money for sending texts, so I stole this one from the Internets instead:

You have to drive 6 miles up that little road at the bottom left, and it takes FOR-EVA! I was so thankful that I made it with plenty of time!

One amusing thing happened on the flight to Chicago. Each seat on Air Tran has XM Radio built in, and you just plug in your own headphones. There are all kinds of different stations to pick from. At one point, I glanced down and saw this:

Out of all of the bazillions of songs that could be playing when I glanced down, it's U2! It happened again later when it was almost time to land- I glanced down and "Mysterious Ways" was on. "She moves in mysterious ways" became a sort of theme for the trip, because things fell together in ways that I never could have expected or imagined, it was totally crazy!

Once in Chicago, I bypassed the long lines of people waiting to pay $30 for a shuttle or taxi to their hotel and hopped on a city bus. (Note to anyone traveling to Midway Airport- you have to take a train to get to the buses! I had to ask like 3 people how to get there!) $2.25 and a few stops later, the bus dropped me off about 4/10 mile from my hotel. SCORE. (I knew I'd be doing a LOT of walking on this trip, and am also too cheap to pay for checked baggage, so all I brought with me was my backpack and a 15lb small rolling suitcase.) It was a super easy walk to the hotel, other than waiting like 50 years to cross one street!

After a lot of searching online, I'd settled on the Extended Stay America near the airport, and I can give it a thumbs-up if you need a hotel recommendation in the area. If you sign up for their e-mail newsletter on their site, you get a code for $10 off your reservation, so that was pretty awesome. My rate was around $100 before the discount, which is WAY cheaper than all of the other hotels right by the airport, which were almost all $170-$200+. For under a hundred bucks, I was still less than 3 miles from the airport, AND my room had a kitchen. It isn't the greatest hotel in the history of time or anything, and in terms of value the room would probably be more fairly priced at around $70, but compared to everything else in the area, it was a good deal.

It was clean and comfy, and after the crazy weeks leading up to the trip, I was EXCITED to have a place to just stretch out and relax for the night with NOTHING to do!

(None of the hotels or other companies in my report are paying me for reviewing them, by the way. I wish they were!)

I needed food like crazy and knew from a bunch of Google Maps action that there was a big mall about half a mile away, so I walked over. I passed a Subway right by my hotel on the way, but that didn't sound very appetizing, especially with a whole food court to choose from just a little further along. Turns out I should have just skipped the walk because Subway is where I ended up getting food after about 2 miles of walking around the mall and only finding a few icky-sounding food court options!

I took my sandwich back up to my room and ate while watching a marathon of Top Model. Epic relaxation! Being me, I decided to make a pot of coffee, but I missed the ever important step of putting the little lid back on the pot part of the coffeemaker, which resulted in coffee flooding the kitchen. Coffee fail!

And then I slept. Except not really, because although I went to bed at midnight, I woke up at 2, 2:30, 3, 3:30 and 4 before finally getting up at 5:30 so I could catch a cab to the airport at 6. (I'd done that the night before, too. I was NOT a well-rested girl!)

I'm going to break this off here because it is already super long and not all that interesting yet! But I promise all the good stuff is coming soon!

1 comment:

C said...

"You wouldn't tell a diabetic "Oh, if you just have a positive attitude, you can eat chocolate cake all day!", but there still seem to be people who believe that about mental things like anxiety and depression." Love that part, it's so true.

This sounds like the beginning of a grand adventure. Can't wait to read more!