On Monday, Nov. 27, we returned from what I am calling our worst best vacation ever. What was good about it? A lot of things-
1. Lots and lots of fun relatives: My Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even my sister were there.
2. Large amounts of incredibly good food.
3. Good conversations and visiting
4. Some low-key site-seeing on the American River and old town Sacramento, CA
There are lots of photos available in the photo gallery.
Now for the "not so fun" part.
Our trip started off entirely on the wrong foot. We arrived at Seattle-Tacoma airport nearly 3 hours early for our flight which was to leave at 9:45 am. When I tried to check us in they informed me that the twins were old enough to require their own tickets. (Long story short) $600 later we are checked in to a different flight to San Francisco instead of Sacramento, leaving 3 hours later at 12:30 pm. After touring the airport for 6 hours, and finding a really cool childrens' playground in the central terminal, we finally boarded the plane bound for California. The boys were sleeping before we took off.
Traffic getting out of SFO was incredibly slow. It took over an hour just to get onto the Bay Bridge, and another hour to get out of Oakland where Patrick informed us, "Mommy I don't feel..." <insert child vomit noises>. As luck would have it we had just passed a nice shopping area and ended up stopping in a more seedy part of Oakland to clean things up at an auto repair shop. They were nice enough to give us lots of paper towels and let us fill our water bottles. We arrived in Fairfield very late and went straight to bed.
The next couple of days went very well: lots of visiting with relatives, joking around, and, of course, FOOD! We got to visit a train museum (much to Patrick's delight), watch the salmon swim up the fish ladder on the American River, and do a little Christmas shopping. I did find one odd thing: my brand new smart phone was not functioning properly. I could make and receive calls but all the other cool functions were simply not available. The start menu was gone and so were all the on-screen icons. I called Cingular and they said to just bring it back to the store where I bought it for an exchange since the phone was literally 5 days old. More on this later...
We left Fairfield early Monday morning the 27th to arrive early at the airport in San Francisco. We arrived 2 hours early for our flight to find out that it had been delayed an hour. After running around the terminal trying to find a good restaurant, we decided that Wendy and Patrick would go back through security to a Chinese place next to the ticket counter (lesson learned: when at SFO, eat before going through security). I sat with the twins at the gate eating snacks and checking my email. After eating dinner, thoroughly checking email, and a lot of waiting we found out that the flight was delayed yet another hour. I started looking at news from home and we found out it was snowing in Seattle, and boy was it ever! We finally took off 2.5 hours late.
After circling Seattle for 30 minutes (now 3 hours late) we landed at 11 pm. Our baggage came rather slowly but all in one piece. A quick bus ride later we were back at our van at the parking lot. The snow was about 3-5" deep around the airport and still coming down. It was then while listening to the radio news that we found out just how bad the situation was: snow and freezing rain all over the area. That evening was a Monday night football game at Seahawks Stadium as well so the evening commute was still going on even at midnight. We got in the van and discovered another shock: my cell phone was now completely non-functional. So now we had to drive home in the snow and ice late at night without a cell phone. We would have stayed at a hotel but they were all filled to capacity. After a quick prayer we went off into the night.
The first couple of miles were the worst: there is one stretch of freeway where Hwy 518 comes up to I-5 and goes underneath. As we approachd that area idle speed was too fast. I was riding the brakes at about 3 MPH for over an hour. We crawled along as we passed South Center Mall and then downtown Renton. We were able to speed up to 15 MPH coming out of Renton, and then up to 50 in Bellevue where the snow was very light. As we approached Issaquah the snow and ice were again quite heave and we had to slow down again. We tried 2 different paths up onto our plateau but were unable to go up the hills due to blocking accidents. On the third one we finally made it up and then to our very chilly home at nearly 3 am. What a day.
The short of it is that we made it home safely and without incident, although very late. The area was completely shut down for several days. I traded in my phone after a couple days and it has worked flawlessly since (more on that in a post to come).
So that was our worst/best vacation ever. The traveling was the absolute worst I have ever experienced. Of course it could have been worse: no one died, we didn't loose anything except time, and everyone arrived safe and happy. The non-travel part of our vacation was wonderful. We try to focus our thoughts on the good parts.