Unbeknownst, the journey to inauguration day began awhile back after being bumped from a US Airways flight in Charlotte bound for Chicago. Offered a free ticket and first class for the next flight home – 6 hours later – both the wife and I agreed that sounded like a tempting offer. We had work to do, I had my laptop (with slingbox and 3g card) plus an iPhone, and growing up we always wanted to be bumped from a flight so that we could sit first class. Soulmates. We took the bump.
Of course, I immediately – as the ink dried on some paperwork we signed – wanted to make plans to fly somewhere. As in – while we were waiting in Charlotte – I was checking out destinations that US Airways flew to. I wanted to go everywhere. The first class seat on the flight back to O’hare was nice~ish – nothing special. Hey, it’s US Airways.
Eureka! Obama just became President Elect. I’ve been first row at the Super Tuesday Rally, attended the Grant Park Rally on election night, and we have two free airline tickets and friends that live in DC. Obama’s swearing-in is the day following MLK day – meaning, that’s less time off work for my wife. Let’s do this thing!
Wow, January 17th – January 20th has some pricey flights – on all airlines flying out of Chicago into DC. In fact, they’re so pricey on US Airways – $4,000 for both of us on through their partnership with United – that apparently the aforementioned free tickets can’t be used though coach seats were showing availability. It’s worth noting, we were told at the time of the bump there were no black out dates and you could fly with any of US Airways partners. By the way, don’t try to say “so, that means there are blacked out dates” to a airline customer service rep over the phone. Convenient. Frustrated by repeated calls into US Airways customer service, I decided to head to the airport. Yup, to O’hare.
What a difference talking to a human being makes. Sort of. Side note – I never realized how stressful traveling has become. You could cut the tension everywhere with a spoon from the CTA stop to baggage claim to the terminal. Regardless, I walked up to the waiting ticket agent (nobody books tickets at the airport) and explained – in some elaborate story – that I needed to get to DC on January 17th and back to O’hare on January 20th on the last flight. The swearing-in is at 12 noon. My free ticket seats were still unavailable. Shocker. But, we brainstormed and I was able to land a ticket out of Detroit non-stop to DC on the 17th. Perfect, you say? Yes. The return flight from DC is at 5:45 pm to O’hare with a stop in Philly.
Now, how do you get to Detroit on Saturday morning facing a 4 hour drive? We’d usually just drive to my parents’ house, drop the car (and probably dog off), and go on our way to whatever we were doing back in the home/mitten state. That return to O’hare on the 20th makes this common scenario tricky.
Flights directly into Detroit on Saturday morning from Chicago are dirt cheap on Southwest.com. $49 each. The flight gets in 35 minutes before our 10:08 flight to DC leaves. Ugh, that’s a tight window. Renting a car turns out to be $129 plus gas. Scratch that idea – I thought car rentals were cheap. Amtrak from Chicago to Ann Arbor leaving on Friday night after work – $48 each business class. Done. We just have to convince some favorite relative to pick us up Friday night and drop us off at the airport Saturday morning.
Why? I’m not sure. I guess a free airline ticket, plus seeing friends, and being part of history will be worthwhile enough – ha! Now for those Inauguration Day swearing-in ceremony tickets – I’ve got some calls in…thanks to everyone giving us a hand.