2014.06.19-23: New England Baptism Trip

As many of you already know, my wife and I took our children to New England for our son’s baptism (along with two cousins) and to visit family. The details of that trip are contained in this entry. The images from the trip are already uploaded and formatted (all in this set on Flickr). If you’re logged in as my friend/family, you can see all of them. If not, contact me privately for a Guest Pass link. There are also per-day and per-event links scattered through the entry below, as well as a few actual images.

◊ The First Day: June 19
    • BWF’s First Airplane Ride • Rental Car • Arrival •
    • Images From June 19 (16 images)

Our day didn’t begin any earlier than usual, but perhaps more earnestly. I didn’t mention it on June 18 (because it’s not a good idea to announce publicly online that you’re going to be out of town), but we packed almost everything the night before, only leaving out the few items we’d need in the morning.

Thursday (19th) morning, my wife bathed the children and herself while I put the finishing touches on the suitcases and got them in the car, along with a toy bag, the diaper bag, and my camera bag. We left the house at 08:55 and parked in the long-term parking at GRK (Killeen-Ft. Hood Regional Airport) by 09:15 or so — it’s normally only 12 minutes away, but there’s construction on Stagecoach Road right now and has been for more than a year.

We got the stuff out — including the car seats (which fly free but means there’s more stuff to carry) and took a quick photo:

Arrival At Killeen Airport
Just before check-in at GRK
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

During check-in, the United Airlines staff had computer trouble but eventually charged us less than we’d expected for our checked luggage (two suitcases, one of them mostly hygiene items and diapers). My wife set BWF on the luggage scale when they were done — he weighed 23.5 pounds. No one else was at the counter.

GRK airport visible from the air
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

The security line went very smoothly, as it usually does at tiny airports (only six terminals at GRK), and we arrived at our gate with several minutes to spare. The completely booked EMB-135 (only three seats across) was filled a few minutes early and so we actually left the ground at 10:02 for the 10:00 scheduled flight.

(We had to switch rows; the booking website had placed us in a row that didn’t have enough oxygen masks, despite us including “infant” in the booking procedure. This happened again on the way back from Houston to Killeen on June 23.)

This time, I was able to recognize quite a bit from the air, including the airport itself (see image at right), the shopping center that includes Target (in Harker Heights) and nearby towns — which whizzed by quickly. When we passed Belton in less than five minutes, it really sank in how quick air travel can be; it’s normally a 20-minute drive to Belton.

We touched down in Houston (IAH) at 10:34. That’s 165 miles in 32 minutes, or 5.15 miles per minute (309.4 mph), on average. It would have taken us four hours to drive it, not counting Houston traffic.

At IAH, we ate lunch at McDonald’s (did you expect me to say anything else?) and easily found our gate. RLF was afraid of escalators, elevators, and anything that wasn’t nailed down. She walked slowly and had to be constantly prodded to move. This was the only difficult part about traversing the airport — neither my wife nor I had a free hand to carry her (though I did actually carry her a few times, in addition to the camera bag, toy bag, and diaper bag).

For the second leg of the trip, we were boarded onto an Airbus A320, which is six seats across; three on either side of the aisle. I eventually had a chance to try my new earbuds, having bought them the day before for $2.50 and then having copied a few hundred songs from my computer to my phone. First time listening to music on my phone; that was a nice diversion.

Both kids asleep on the plane
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

BWF and RLF both slept a bit on this 3+ hour flight, though the girl couldn’t quite fit in her seat for a comfortable sleep. As for me, I was surprised that both flights had more leg room than I normally get — my knees didn’t touch the seat in front of me. Maybe they’re finally listening to customer complaints? However, the adjustable headrest didn’t go high enough to quit poking me in the shoulders; I leaned forward most of the time because of this.

This flight left the ground at 13:17 CDT (22 minutes late) and touched down at Boston’s Logan Airport (BOS) at 17:43 EDT (13 minutes early), a total flight time of 3 hours, 26 minutes. That means we flew 1,597 miles in 206 minutes, which is 7.75 miles per minute, or 465.1 mph.

(My distances here are “straight-line” distances, measured on a map. Since airlines don’t actually fly in straight lines across a map, the distances aren’t exact. I’m presenting them for general comparison purposes.)

Google estimates it would have taken us 28 hours to drive from Houston to Boston, or 29 hours from Killeen to Boston. (Also 29 hours from Killeen to Seekonk, which was our final destination.)

My memory is notoriously unreliable, but I believe this is the first time my wife and I have flown anywhere and all flights arrived on time. There were no appreciable waits on the tarmac and no real delays. I had no complaints about any airport staff in any of the three airports we visited; the signs were well-placed and informative; there were abundant shops and restaurants where the prices weren’t quite as high as I remember them being — maybe that’s been addressed too in the past few years?

Plenty of beautiful weather
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

With only a little trouble (now carrying our checked luggage and two car seats), we managed to board a shuttle bus that took us to the automobile rental area (really “region” would be more appropriate), where we took temporary possession of a relatively new Toyota Camry. It was all black, with black interiors and no window tinting or sunshade. You won’t see that where I live; as it was, the car got pretty hot inside over the next few days.

Since I alluded to the weather, let me just say: I would like a summer home in that region of the country. These people were swimming with afternoon highs of 75°F, which is a temperature I’ve come to expect in January. Nights were beautifully brisk in the upper 50s and lower 60s, while afternoon highs didn’t crack 80°F during our entire stay (in Killeen, it was cooler than usual with 90s/70s). There was almost no wind at any time during the five days we experienced New England weather, and the humidity was less than we were having back home.

Due partially to driving conditions that earned a separate entry and partially to mental fatigue on our part (and getting additional directions over the phone in broken English from simultaneous multiple sources), we took a wrong exit and had a hard time getting back on route.

We arrived at our final destination (Yanick’s & Yves’ house in Seekonk, Mass.) at 20:45 EDT, just less than 11 hours since leaving our home.

There was food ready for us, which we ate. My wife was impressed at how much BWF enjoyed Haitian food. He ate nearly an entire plate of rice and beans, and tried other foods too.

Then began a three-day process of me re-meeting people I had only met once or twice before, several years earlier, and introducing our kids to all of them for the first time. (Correction: RLF had met a few of them in Odessa, Texas, in August 2011.)

◊ The Second Day: June 20
    • Shopping Alone • A Lunch Apart • Playground Adventure • A Party •
    • Images From June 20 (60 images)

After breakfast and a bit of chit-chat with relatives — and watching the children explore the house (which wasn’t child-safe at all), I set out to Kohl’s (getting decent enough directions from a cousin who now lives in North Carolina), looking for a dress shirt and pants. I didn’t bring my suit for two reasons — mainly, because it would have been another bag to carry and/or check (for money) with the airline, but also because my suit’s pants are getting darn tight on my aging waistline. It would have cost as much to check another bag as it cost me to buy this combination. (I’d brought along dress shoes, a tie, and a belt in the suitcase.)

Found what I was looking for after some time — I hadn’t bought a dress shirt in ages, so I had no idea what size I should be. Even after trying on a few, I came away with a slightly oversized shirt and too-long pants. My inseam has apparently gotten shorter since having kids. Draw your own conclusions.

Arriving back at the house, I found my kids and one of their cousins playing in the wading pool in the back yard.

Pool Fun
RLF, Isis, and BWF in the back yard
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Talk began among the adults about going to either McDonald’s or Burger King for lunch, and then switched to sending one person out with a long list and bringing back everyone’s food. After a bit, my wife suggested to me that it was likely just talk, and would continue for quite some time. If we wanted lunch, we’d have to go and get it or make it ourselves. The kids were getting hungry, so we just announced we were leaving and went to Burger King (not more than a mile away) — I’d spotted it on the way back from Kohl’s, earlier.

RnB at Slater Park in Pawtucket
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

Sure enough, after eating we returned to find the others just preparing lunch. Now they were talking about taking the kids to a playground at Slater Park (maybe 20 minutes away). It was already nap time for both our kids; we knew they’d either stay awake at the house because of all the hustle and bustle or sleep in the car on the way to the playground. As the talk continued, my wife again suggested that it was just talk and if we wanted to go we should just go. So we did.

This was (I think) the longest drive we took during our stay that wasn’t filled with wrong turns. Slater Park (in Pawtucket, Rhode Island) had a decent playground, which both our kids enjoyed. Both had fallen asleep in the car as predicted, and RLF was slow to get going, but eventually had fun. We stayed until we (all but BWF) were exhausted.

Both kids slept in the car on the way back to the house, even during my several wrong turns.

That evening, everyone involved was invited to a get-together at Uncle Sedric’s house in Attleboro, which we happily attended. Sedric’s family lives on a beautifully secluded tree-lined lane that’s not fully developed, so you feel like you’re far out of town instead of a couple of minutes. The trees towered over the multi-story houses (something we’re not used to seeing here in Central Texas). Several of us spent most of our time on the back patio, which was intimately surrounded by the towering trees.

Some drank, some danced. Others fixed hair or just sat and talked. At least half of the conversations were in French. For the most part, the kids stayed inside, guarded by an older cousin.

Outdoor Entertaining Space
Intimate atmosphere (ISO6400, f/2.0)
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

We stayed later than we should have, but managed to find our way back — my wife drove this stretch without much help from me.

◊ The Third Day: June 21
    • Baptism • Reception •
    • Images From June 21 (236)
    • Images from Baptism (88)
    • Images from Reception (141)

Paula styles Lauryn’s hair
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

The majority of the morning was spent “getting ready”. For many of the females in the house, that meant doing their hair. Some of them fiddled with flat irons, hair dryers, and curling irons for a few hours. For the males, that meant staying out of the way and/or corralling the children.

I went with Johany (a cousin-in-law) to take several children on a walk, which led us around some nearby baseball fields where some youngsters were having a tournament. RLF came too. After a few minutes, she told me she wanted to go back to the house, so we parted ways with the others. As soon as the others were out of sight, RLF stopped and began playing with gravel and leaves — dropping gravel through leaves to see how much weight the leaves could bear. I realized she’d been trying to do this earlier but the other kids had gotten in the way. I further realized she’d lied about wanting to go back to the house so we could get separated from the others, so she could play by herself. Smart girl, but not very sociable — much like her father. At least she’d found a way to get what she wanted without hurting anyone’s feelings.

When she finally was ready to go back, we met up with the Johany and his kids again.

My wife and I took the two kids to McDonald’s for lunch before getting everyone dressed up for the afternoon’s baptism.

A.J., Isis, Benjamin, pre-baptism
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

Dressing didn’t take terribly long, and then we were in the Camry again, driving north (again) into Attleboro. We found St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church, though not without trouble. We arrived at 13:55, just enough time to get inside and settled before the scheduled 14:00 baptism — which didn’t begin until 14:20 due to waiting on one person.

We met Deacon Lawrence St. Pierre, who would perform the rites, and got on with it. BWF and his two second cousins (first cousins to each other) ranged in age from 10 months to 23 months, but were all about the same size, which made for some cute pictures.

Afterward, since there were still a few moments before the church’s next-planned event (15:00), I suggested a few group photos even though we’d been planning to go to a nearby park for photos after the ceremony. And now I’m glad I did, since while driving away, several people decided not to go to the park afterall.

I photographed through the entire ceremony. Because the other two families did much of the work organizing the events, and because I would have brought my camera anyway, I was asked to act as “official photographer” for the baptism and the reception that followed. But because I was also the father of one of the kids, I had to be in a few photos. I handed my camera off to Johany for those.

All the people involved, including godparents and Deacon St. Pierre
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

My small family with BWF’s new godparents Gina and Arnold
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

For the first group photo above, I’d asked the three husbands to stand behind their wives and didn’t realize until later that one of them didn’t do it. So the photo is a bit off-balance and one godparent is mostly hidden. This kind of thing happens when you have to hand off the camera.

For what it’s worth, I enjoyed being the photographer. Since Catholicism isn’t my religion, using the camera gave me something to do and something to hide behind.

As noted above, the park photos were canceled (we were told by a running cousin as we were driving out of the church), so we drove back to Yanick and Yves’ house to rest a bit before the reception, while several people went ahead to the reception hall for preparations.

The kids only napped in the car. I think they had three short naps on this day — on the way to the baptism, back from it, and on the way to the reception.

BWF and I, with Pat — husband of one of my wife’s cousins
Note: we semi-matched purely by accident
(Copyright © 2014 by Marline Fry.)

The reception was a nice affair, held in the Knights of Columbus hall in South Attleboro. There was plenty of food, a (not free) bar, a dessert table, and a gift/card table for the three who’d been baptized. The other two — A.J. and Isis — spent much of their time at the reception fast asleep, but BWF never closed his eyes. He followed his big sister around on the dance floor much of the time, walked around meeting people and being cute for them, eating any food that was offered to him, and generally having a good time.

Early in the evening, (cousin) Ludmia made an announcement that I was the photographer and encouraged anyone who wanted to ask me for a photo. I also walked around a lot, introducing myself and attempting to get candid photos. However, candid photography almost isn’t possible these days (except with a hidden camera, maybe); people are too camera-aware. But I enjoyed myself and got some decent photos; it reminded me of the best days of photographing events for The Seminole Producer, except that now I have better gear and know more about using it.

At one point, I realized that almost all of my wife’s aunts and uncles were in one place at the same time, a fairly rare event since one of them lives in Florida and a few live in Canada. (Of the original ten, three are deceased and one did not attend this gathering.) So I eventually convinced the six of them to gather in one spot to take a photo. Embarrassingly, my speedlight (flash unit) failed me at that point. One of the uncles handed me his Canon Rebel with a kit lens, so I got their combined image with that one, apologizing profusely.

Back at my table, I switched out batteries and my flash still wouldn’t fire except when pressing the “test” button. Eventually, I realized it had been switched from “manual” to “slave” mode — I must’ve bumped it on something. When one of the uncles saw I’d got my flash working again, he asked for another group photo — noting that the one with the other camera had a slight shadow around all their heads. I explained briefly that it was the on-camera pop-up flash that caused the shadow.

So I finally got the shot I’d wanted:

Six of seven surviving Goutier siblings: René-Max, Leslie, Alix, Sedric, Yanick, Marie-Josee
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

When asked what had gone wrong the first time, I just said my flash’s batteries had died — I didn’t feel like explaining “slave mode” to a room full of Haitian-Americans.

Eventually, I decided I’d taken a picture of anyone who wanted it, and our kids were (finally) wearing down and running out of fun to have. We left a little after 22:00, got lost in Pawtucket, and finally arrived back home for a good sleep.

◊ The Fourth Day: June 22
    • Providence Children’s Museum • Walkabout • New Hampshire • Hotel • Flat Tire •
    • Images From June 22 (121 images)

Providence Children’s Museum
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

Originally, our plan for Sunday had been for MRB to stay at Yanick’s & Yves’ house while I drove about to take some photos. I’d considered going up I-91, which divides Vermont and New Hampshire, so I could add two states at once. I had considered meeting a Flickr friend from Worcester but he had a full plate and couldn’t meet up. My wife decided for me, saying she’d like to take the children to the Providence Children’s Museum and I could walk Providence. Later, she suggested, we might all drive up to New Hampshire.

She also suggested getting a hotel near the airport that night, so we wouldn’t have to wake up at 03:00 the next morning and fight Boston traffic to the airport.

Her plan worked, as hers usually do.

We packed up the suitcases after breakfast (MF had done a bit of laundry the previous two days, so we had more clean than dirty clothes), and left the house around 10 a.m. and had a quick-and-easy drive into Providence, which is really a beautiful old town at its heart. And, unlike many of the other cities we’d driven, Providence had street signs everywhere. Much of it was under construction, but we’re used to that back home.

We found the Providence Children’s Museum and parked in their exclusive parking lot. I left the car there for my first “walkabout” of the day, while my wife went in with the kids — $9 each for MF and RLF, while BWF was free.

I found the streets in the area curiously empty, even for late Sunday morning. In any town in this nation, you expect a certain percentage of people to be tucked away in church, and another percentage to be passed out or at least groggy from Saturday night activities, but Providence was eerily empty, like a ghost town.

Empty Streets
Empty street in Providence. This is west-northwest on Claverick, as seen from Bassett St
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

I walked down South St to Hospital St, where I took a right, and then went left on Bassett St back to I-95 (to establish a boundary so I wouldn’t get lost). I went along the frontage road and then right on Broad St and continued after it changed to Weybosset. Then right on Richmond all the way back to South St where a right took me back to the Children’s Museum.

I didn’t bring a map, but knew that I was between I-95 and Providence River. Either one makes a good landmark and boundary. If I’d known then how close I came to downtown, I might have kept walking, but I wanted to be close in case the kids got tired of the museum.

A man feeding waterfowl on the Providence River
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

I called them when I returned, and we decided to break for lunch. We drove southwest past I-95 to a Burger King and then I returned them to the museum. This time, I took the car and found my way across the river on the Point Street Bridge (under construction, but open), but over there it was crowded. There were open parking meters, but I had no change, and all the parking lots were “by permit only”. Finally, I saw a sign advertising free parking for Providence Flea, a weekly event near the river. I slipped into the last available space and began walking the river.

More construction abounded, but it was easier to navigate it on foot, and soon I was at the flea market and then beyond. Once I got past the flea market, the streets were again mostly deserted, though not at empty as the area around the children’s museum.

I walked along the river (S Water St) a little ways and then returned to my car via S Main St viewing and photographing some of the more interesting buildings, including the Old Stone Bank:

Old Stone Bank
Old Stone Bank on S Main St in Providence, R.I.
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Providence City Hall
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

Several images, including the one above, required stitching software. Instead of bringing multiple lenses, I’d only brought two for the entire trip, a 28mm f/1.8 that I used almost exclusively and a 70-300mm f/4-5.6 lens that I brought along in my free hand during these walkabouts. That meant I occasionally couldn’t back up far enough to capture an entire building like the Old Stone Bank. If I’d backed up another foot, the tree limbs visible in that image would have blocked the view of the structure. Much further and other things would have been in the way too.

I’ve learned over the last couple of years to take multiple images of an overly-large subject and later stitch them (I have a more explanatory entry about how that works). Sometimes it results in odd distortion, as with the Providence City Hall image at right, which a more experienced Photoshop user could probably correct. I was happy just getting all the details in one composite image.

In a larger version of the city hall image, you can see that there are only three people visible (one is in the car). That’s the advantage of shooting a city like this on Sunday. The only places I saw more than a handful of people at a time were the flea market at the river, at the Kennedy Plaza bus station, and at another bus station near the Burger King where we ate lunch.

One thing I’d been looking for was the “Textured Gear” sculpture along the river — I’d seen it on Flickr a few months earlier. It was just beyond the flea market, about where I expected it. I was disappointed to see no plaque or inscription nearby with more information, but learned on the internet that it was made by Rob Lorenson.

Textured Gear
Textured Gear, a sculpture by Rob Lorenson
(Photo is Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

Not realizing that I’d again missed a few cool sites by not walking far enough (and keeping an eye on the clock), I returned to the car and returned to the Children’s Museum to check on the wife and kids. They said they were having a great time and wanted to continue. It was about 13:15. So I drove toward downtown, by now following my instincts, and started looking for parking (I could have saved quite a bit of time by leaving my car at the flea market and walking across a bridge into downtown, but I didn’t fully realize this until later.)

A view west on Post Office Court, Providence
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

I had a little trouble finding parking, but only because I didn’t realize that parking meters are free on Sundays. I don’t come from a parking meter lifestyle; otherwise I might have guessed it. I did find what I thought was a curb to park at that didn’t have a parking meter — on Dorrance, between Fulton and Westminster. Instead, after I parked, I realized there was one electronic meter for the whole block, something I’d never heard of. Reading that meter’s instructions is where I learned it was free to park on Sundays. Had I realized that from the beginning, how much time could I have saved earlier in the day? A lot.

I asked a large gay man (assuming, because of the flamboyant pink shirt and the two dressed-up poodles on leashes) about the meters, and he said: “Do I look like I’m from here?” But then he assured me the meters were free on Sundays. (Turns out he was from another tiny state very nearby, which I would have classified as “here”, based on the size of states where I’m from — Oklahoma City alone is more than half the size of the entire state of Rhode Island.)

And then I walked around downtown, Dorrance St, Kennedy Plaza, Exchange St, Westminster St, Dyer St (US44), Custom House St, and Weybosset back to the car. Again, I missed some interesting sites simply by not knowing they were a block out of my way, but I was more interested in not getting lost and being able to return to the car quickly — just in case my wife called to say the kids were done.

And then I was done. My feet were tired and the sun (directly overhead at this point) was warm with no wind whatsoever. I made my way back to the Children’s Museum to find that my wife and kids were ready to leave. I met them in the parking lot and we loaded up.

It was about 14:30 or so when we left Providence on I-95, heading north. My wife, slightly more familiar with the area (having lived most of her life within spitting distance of these states), said we’d have a choice, once we got near Boston, of I-95 or I-93 to New Hampshire. I-93 had a shorter distance to the new state, but was often more crowded due to its route straight through Boston. I determined that traffic shouldn’t be too big an issue on a Sunday afternoon, and that a shorter route was what we wanted.

Three of us in New Hampshire for the first time
(Copyright © 2014 by Marline Fry.)

I’ll take the blame for that decision — if we’d stayed on I-95 then we would have missed the stop-and-go traffic we encountered in Boston even on a Sunday afternoon, and we would have entered New Hampshire just a few miles from the beach… It would have been BWF’s first time seeing an ocean.

As it was, Boston traffic was ridiculous and we didn’t cross the state line into New Hampshire until about 16:00 — still pretty good time by my estimation; almost every driver ignored the posted speed limits and we just went with the flow.

We stopped at the Welcome Center in/near Salem, N.H., to use the facilities and see if there was anything nearby to visit. I had this conversation with the lady at the counter, after not finding any brochures specifically about Salem:

Me: “Do you have any brochures about Salem itself?”
Lady: “You’re IN Salem right now.”
Me: “Yes, I know. I’m curious about any local attractions.”
Lady: “You know this isn’t Salem, Massachusetts, right? No witch trials or anything.”
Me: “Yes, I know I’m in New Hampshire. I’ve never been here before and would like to see something before I have to leave.”
Lady: (appearing surprised that anyone would want to visit Salem, N.H.) “Well, I guess there’s America’s Stonehenge.”
Me: (growing frustrated) “Do you have any brochures about that? I didn’t see them.”
Lady: “Oh yes, right there.” (pointing and describing nearby brochure)

So I got the brochure and headed back outside where we’d found a nice picnic table and BWF was playing happily in the grass (RLF was sulking at the table because of some imagined slight). By the time I’d glanced at the brochure, described it to my wife, decided to go, and looked up directions on my phone — it was maybe 15 minutes away — my phone said it was 16:21. I glanced again at the brochure to see how late the place would be open — 17:00. I almost decided to go anyway, but knew we’d have only a few minutes to look around — and later I saw on the website that “last admission is given promptly at 4 p.m.”

Multi-family home in Chelsea, Mass.
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

Frustrated, we took our photos near the Welcome Center’s sign to remind us that we’d been there, and headed back to the car for the drive back to Boston. Like most state line welcome centers, this one didn’t have access to the highway’s other direction, so we had to go north until the next exit, which surprisingly also didn’t have a way to turn around. We had to go all the way to the “Mall At Rockingham Park” in order to get going back to the interstate and find an on-ramp for the southbound lanes.

Getting back to Boston was a breeze, and we saw some pretty sights along the way, including the type of houses you just can’t find in Texas (see image at right). Once actually entering the mess that is Boston and its surroundings, we encountered severe failings of our navigational apps. None of the roads we saw matched the names that Verizon Navigator or Google Maps were delivering. And a couple of times when they did match, the apps didn’t know that the streets were one-way or controlled access.

So we just kind of stumbled along as our kids cried in the back, and eventually found the hotel that my wife had booked for us via the internet during our drive back. But of course we couldn’t get to it immediately, since we were on the wrong side of a fence that divided the lanes of the road. We had to travel nearly a mile to find a turnaround. But we got there, and in one piece.

The Camry’s tire pressure monitoring system warning light had lit up as we left the Salem Welcome Center, and I only recognized the symbol (no words) because it’s the same symbol as the one in our minivan (which does have “TPMS” next to it). I ignored it until we arrived at the hotel and got the kids and bags upstairs. Then I went back down to check the tire. It was pretty low. If it had been fine when arriving in New Hampshire and was already this low, I didn’t expect it to have any air in the morning.

My wife called Alamo to ask whether we could change the tire ourselves. They said: “Oh, we’ll send someone out. It’s just $49.” With a smile, no doubt. She assured them she could change the tire herself (she can), and just wanted to know whether it was okay. They really wanted the extra $49 but eventually admitted we could change the tire ourselves. So I did that. It took about five minutes — the spare tire, jack, and tire tool had never been used before, from the looks of them.

RnB sleeping at the Comfort Inn in Revere, Mass.
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

On the way back up, I overheard two men talking to the desk clerk about the hotel’s complimentary shuttle service, to and from Logan (BOS). So stepped up and asked for clarification. Their shuttle runs every 30 minutes or so to the airport and back, including the rental car region. I told my wife and we agreed I should return the car before going to bed and ride the hotel’s shuttle back to the hotel, and then we could all ride the shuttle to the airport in the morning. So I did — after we enjoyed a meal of Chinese food delivered (with bread rolls!) from a local company.

That part was supposed to be easy. Two different pieces of paper from the company said we could just “Drop & Go”. Here are some of the exact words:

“With Drop & Go, you don’t have to wait for your receipt when returning your car, simply … drop off this completed document in the Express Return box and receive a copy of your return document in the mail.”

But when I arrived — this time not using a map or my phone’s navigation options; just flying by the seat of my pants because I knew I had all night — there was an employee directing returning cars to specific areas. When I got out in the spot he’d directed me to, he looked at the car funny and asked who I’d rented it from. “Alamo”, I said. “Oh, you need to park over there in the National lot,” he responded. I eventually got him to say they were the same company, and that the reason for moving to a different spot was so they could write up the flat tire incident.

I told him we already had an incident number and that it had been written up over the phone, and that the person on the phone had said it wouldn’t affect our drop-off procedure. I was watching the time, knowing the hotel’s return shuttle would arrive in a few minutes, and he eventually assumed I was about to miss a flight and let me go.

But when I asked about the “Express Return box”, he said quickly: “There IS no box.”

So, Alamo-slash-National, my question to the company is: Is it legal (or ethical) to tell customers you can drop off a car with an “Express Return box” if your employees know all along that there “is no box”?

I had indeed missed the return shuttle, but another one came along soon enough. The kids were asleep and I soon joined them.

◊ The Fifth Day: June 23
    • Departure • Flights Home • Arrival •
    • Images From June 23 (24 images)

Kidport sign, and RLF playing there
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry.)

With the car returned and with our hotel being so near the airport (10 minutes?), the morning was much smoother than it could have been. We simply carried our stuff downstairs (first time I’ve ever used one of those rolling hotel luggage racks) and put it on the shuttle, after a brief breakfast in the hotel’s dining room.

We were at Logan by 06:45 local time (the sun was up at 05:00, which made waking easy), and quickly found “Kidport”, where both children had fun for a while during the unnecessary wait time between security and boarding.

Our first flight — this one on a Boeing 737 — left very close to on-time (08:48 EDT) and arrived in Houston 30 minutes early (11:13 CDT). BWF had napped at the gate before boarding, so he didn’t sleep much during the flight, though we tried. He wasn’t as fussy as he could have been and found a man behind our row to make faces at. Eventually, he and MF did go to sleep. RLF waited until they were asleep before telling me she had to go to the bathroom — her first-ever time to go on a plane (she’d always refused in the past). So I took her and she did just fine.

Upon arrival at IAH, we again ate at McDonald’s, and RLF talked to a United pilot who sat beside us — I’m trying to teach her to recognize uniforms, so she’ll know the difference between a stranger and an authority figure, in case she ever has an emergency. He said our next flight would either be delayed or very bumpy, due to thunderstorms.

Sure enough, there were delays, the first of our entire trip. RLF and BWF played with an 8-year-old girl named McKenna at our gate for quite a while. Our flight didn’t board until 16:00 (should have left at 14:39), but it wasn’t a full plane (first time I’ve seen that in years) and we left almost immediately after boarding — left the ground at 16:10 and touched down in Killeen at 16:39.

So, the actual flight time heading home was slightly faster than our eastbound flight time on Thursday, one minute faster for Boston-Houston, and three minutes faster for Houston-Killeen.

Home Sweet Home
Our home airport was a welcome sight
(Copyright © 2014 by Wil C. Fry. Some rights reserved.)

The luggage was already circling the carousel when we got downstairs, so we just grabbed our stuff and headed outside. I brought the minivan up, put in the car seats, loaded our luggage and we got out of there, arriving home at about 17:15.

BWF was initially happy to see his own toys — he grabbed some of them and began playing happily — but soon the fatigue set in for both our children and they cried the rest of the way until bedtime, about two straight hours.

◊ Images

My wife and I recorded more than 800 images during this trip, if you count the few photos from our phones. Of course, not all of them were keepers. The first thing I do after copying to the computer and making backups is flip through them and delete the garbage. And then the duplicates. And then the ones about which I can find nothing interesting. I had actually expected to get the trip’s photo-count down to 200 or 300 at the most, but I instead ended with 457 images from these five days — an average of 91 “keepers” per day.

I don’t expect anyone to look at all of them, but if you have the time and inclination, follow the links scattered through this entry, or the link at the very top.

  1. Sherry says:

    Enjoyed reading about your trip.

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