The plan was for our daughter, Amanda, to travel from her new home in New Mexico to Manhattan, Kansas to surprise her brother to celebrate his 24th birthday. She would board Amtrak at noon on Wednesday and arrive in Topeka at 5:00 a.m. on Thursday. One of her best friends would meet the train and they would get some quality time before I came to pick her up on Friday. Saturday was the big birthday surprise and she would depart from Kansas City on Sunday to fly back to Albuquerque. That seems like a pretty straight forward plan . . . Oh, how wrong we were!
We start on the train. The Amtrak Southwest Chief left Albuquerque at noon. At about midnight, Amanda texted that she had just passed through Syracuse, Kansas, where we used to live - right on schedule. At 1:01 a.m. she called - in tears of frustration. A Burlington-Northern train had derailed near Hutchinson, KS, blocking the track and keeping Amtrak from reaching it's next few stops - including Topeka. The train would have to detour south, into Oklahoma, and back north to Kansas City. An additional eight hours on the train and ending up in the wrong city were not making for a happy woman. Fast forward an hour or two and multiple calls to Amtrak Customer Service (who, btw, were angels!) - and a new plan was formed.
While I was chatting with Amtrak concerning our options, Amanda made her own plan. A 17-year-old girl had also boarded the train at Albuquerque, on her way to Salina, KS to visit a friend she met at camp. The friend and her mother were driving to pick her up. Since the train could not get to their intended meeting place, they were driving on to Hutchinson. As you can imagine, the poor girl was terrified of waiting alone. She asked Amanda to stay with her while she waited for her ride and they would give Amanda a ride as far as Salina -- about 100 miles from Topeka. Deal! Amanda's wonderful BFF left Topeka at 3:30 a.m. and was waiting in Salina when she arrived - and the plan was back on track.
Until Sunday . . .
Her flight left Kansas City at 11:45 - so we subtracted driving time, plus the usual hour pre-flight check-in and determined we needed to leave at 9:00 a.m. Wrong. We needed to leave by 8:30 or possibly 8:00. We realized the math error about halfway to the airport and Dave did his best impersonation of a NASCAR driver, but we arrived 25 minutes before departure and they refused to let her on the plane. I understood their point that the luggage had already been loaded, so I offered to keep her bag (she'll be home again in 2 weeks) if they would just put her on the plane. No dice. Even though we could see the plane still sitting at the gate, a rule is a rule no matter how stupid, so we booked her on a flight out the next morning and took her home. She and Dave left at 3:00 a.m. to make sure she made this flight - which she did with an hour to spare. And once again the plan is moving smoothly.
Until Houston . . .
She landed in Houston with a short layover to change planes - - - but the new plane had no pilot. They couldn't find him? Or maybe he arrived for HIS connecting flight 5 minutes too late. Whatever the reason, the waited 40 minutes for him to be located. Then there was a "mechanical issue" with the plane. Considering the timing, we had to wonder of "mechanical issue" is code for giving the pilot time to sober up. Whatever the case, she took off an hour and a half late.
Alls well that ends well, right? We got to have a wonderful weekend with the kids, and have a story to tell and re-tell. Mitched enjoyed his birthday - - Amanda arrived home in time for her job interview - - - and the saga of planes, trains and automobiles was over.
Until Wednesday, when Amanda blew a tire on her car.