We staying in a motel 1/2 way between the beach and the airport (about 10 min to either) the night before we were to fly home to Colorado. You can see the photos from our evening beach excursion in the previous post. Since we had an 8 AM flight and a rental car to return, we didn’t want to have a big drive to worry about before 7 AM in order to return the car and check our one suitcase -we always fly out carry-on only with United and bring a duffel bag to pack dirty laundry in, giving us room in at least one of the small roller bags to pack souvenir bottles of wine and other food products we like to purchase while traveling (preserved cherries and maple syrup this time).
Anyway, we packed the night before, leaving out a change of clothes and tooth brushes, and swim suits to dry. The morning was a breeze since we’d pre-packed and had some pastries from a bakery in Traverse City stashed in our carryon bags. We returned the car, checked our suitcase and sleepily waited to board the plane (note: at this point I had an awful head cold and was snuggled into my sweatshirt and cuddling a box of kleenex).
We boarded our tiny plane, had to gate check our roller bags because they would never have fit in the overhead bins of the tiny plane, and took off on-time.
I really wanted a ginger ale and was waiting for drink service (about 20-30 min after we took off) and watching the landscape below. My ears were KILLING me. I kept rubbing the little flappy part over the ear opening, trying to get my ears to pop. The pilot made an announcement that we were about to fly over Milwaukee. About 2 minutes later he made an announcement that because they were unable to stabilize the air pressure inside the cabin, we were unable to assent above 17,000 feet and didn’t have enough fuel to make it to Denver at that altitude. Therefor we would be making an emergency landing in Chicago and would touchdown in about 30 minutes. Doh!
We landed in Chicago, went to the service desk and were issued tickets for a 3:30 PM flight to Denver. It was about 9:45 AM at that point. We also each received a $10 meal voucher.
After plunking down to pirate some wifi from the airport hotel, we each emailed our bosses to let them know that we were stuck in travel purgatory and wouldn’t be in until tomorrow.
Then we sat around debating what to do with our time in Chicago. We figured we’d head to the Art Institute and go see American Gothic, but I got us off a stop too early on the El and we ended up right on the Chicago River. Then I thought: a river cruise! So I dashed into a nearby fancy hotel and asked the concierge if she could book us 2 tickets on the Architecture River Cruise! No dice, it was high tourist season and they’d been booked for weeks. Oops. Then I was informed that tickets to the Art Institute were $18 each. Also a no-go for us.
Dejected, we walked aimlessly along the Magnificent Mile until we saw as sign for Beard Papa’s, a French chain that serves various styles of cream puffs and gourmet coffee drinks. Aah, the perfect birthday indulgence (yes, this all happened on my 29th birthday).
Yes, we had cream puffs the size of cheese burgers for lunch, and sweet cream tea. DELICIOUS!
We wandered the mall a bit before retreating back to the airport so that we could have a proper lunch of quick gourmet Mexican at Rick Bayless‘s Tortas Frontera in the airport and spend our vouchers before our flight. YUM! We split a Roasted Garlic and Mushrooms Torta (sandwich) and a Tres Quesos Mollete and each got our own agua fresca (fresh squeezed juice). DELICIOUS!
My birthday may not have been as boring as I’d planed (fly home, eat lunch, go to work), but it was WAY TASTIER!
In the end, we got on the plane to Denver, flew home, got our checked bag, waited just 10 minutes for the bus to Boulder, got home and did laundry and ate something un-memorable for dinner. Again, not what we’d planned, but still a great day!