This post is way overdue, but I figure – better late than never. Here are some more updates on my travels thus far (I made it a “supersize” edition)!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
9:00am. I wake up, and go rent a car from the local Budget office. Unfortunately, the only type of car they have is a PT Cruiser – which, although I’m not a huge fan of how it looks, I found it to be very fun and interesting to drive.
10:30am. I begin my drive to Ann Arbor to meet up with a friend for lunch before the meeting.
11:30am. I arrive in Ann Arbor a little early, so I go over my presentation for a bit, then stretch my legs and walk around for a bit.
12:15pm. I meet up with a friend for lunch at Cosi, one of my new favorite restaurants. I don’t go there that often, because the food is a bit pricey, but it’s quite tasty. (And plus, MIT pays for my food while I’m traveling!) If you ever get a chance to go, I’d highly recommend the Tandoori Chicken sandwich. NOM NOM NOM.
1:30pm. I walk down the block to the Michigan Theater, where our central meeting is to be held. It’s a beautiful historic theater, fully equipped with a great crew and A/V setup. I get everything situated, tested, and ready to go.
The local Educational Counselors (ECs) arrive as well to help set everything up. Some bring yummy doughnuts and apple cider from a local mill.
My name is actually on the marquis too! Exciting!
2:30pm. The doors open, and people begin to come in.
3:00pm. We start up the meeting, and everything goes relatively smoothly. A few of the ECs come onstage at the end to introduce themselves and help answer some of the questions during our Q&A session.
4:30pm. The meeting officially ends, but several students/parents/guidance counselors come up afterward to ask more one-on-one questions.
5:00pm. Once the crowds have gone, we clean up, I grab my gear, and head to my car to drop off my stuff. I then walk to the nearby Cottage Inn, where the ECs and I get together for dinner. The pizza there is awesome.
7:30pm. After some great conversation about MIT, the interview process, and just hangin out, I say goodbye to the last few ECs left, walk back to my car, and drive home for the evening. Overall, a great day. Tiring, but fun.
8:30pm. I arrive back at my parents’ house, where I’m staying. There’s no place like home. :)
Monday, September 8 – Tuesday, September 9, 2008
The next couple days, I visit a few high schools in the area, and then fly back to Boston on Tuesday night. I quickly repack my bags, catch up on email, and SLEEP.
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
The next morning, I head in to the office to run a couple of errands, check my mail, and pick up a few things for my Texas trip. I go back home, make sure I’m all packed, and call a cab for the airport.
I fly down to Houston, the next stop in my travel plans. It’s my first time in Texas, so I’m excited to actually visit the state that I hear such great things about. However, I hear that there’s a hurricane headed for the Texas Gulf Coast, so I’m a bit anxious, having never been through a hurricane before.
I arrive in Houston around 10pm, get my rental car (this time a nice Chevy Impala), and head to the hotel. Unfortunately, by the time I get there it’s pretty late, and (probably due to the incoming storm) they’ve oversold their rooms for the night. So they send me to another nearby hotel, but cover the cost to make up for the inconvenience.
By about 11:30pm, I finally get to the other hotel, check in, and get ready for the next day. My head hits the pillow around 1am.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
6:00am. The alarm sounds way too early. Sleepy-eyed and groggy, I roll out of bed and manage to drag my feet into the shower. I quickly iron my clothes, get ready, and head out the door for a packed day of meetings.
Throughout the day, I constantly check up on the status of Hurricane Ike. Every update it seems to become more and more imminent that this storm is heading straight for Houston. I stay in close touch with Matt to make sure we have a plan in place in case we have to cancel the Houston central meeting.
1:00pm. The people at Ripley House (where we were supposed to have the Houston meeting) call, and let me know that they are shutting down for the weekend due to the storm. After working out the details, I quickly call Matt and let him know we’ll have to cancel Sunday’s meeting, and he works on getting the word out as quickly as possible. [I recently found out that shortly after Ike passed through Houston, Ripley House was designated by FEMA as a POD (point of distribution).]
2:45pm. I finally have a small chunk of free time. Since all of my meetings have been canceled for the weekend due to the hurricane, I have a decision to make – do I stay or go? I now fully understand the dilemma that folks down here go through – my hotel is west of city center, so it’s not in a mandatory evacuation zone, and I’m told it’s in a relatively safe location from the storm. I even think to myself that it could be FUN to ride out the storm, kind of like my childhood days in Michigan, when we’d hang out in the basement of our house during tornado warnings. But then again, who knows how powerful the storm could be, and what the damage will be like…and what if I can’t get a flight out of the city when I’m supposed to leave on Monday?
The prudent side of me wins this internal debate and I call our travel agency to see if I can rebook my flight and car reservations so that I can fly down to the Rio Grande Valley (my next stop) tonight. (Turns out, I’m glad I made this decision.) There’s a 6ish flight I know I can’t make, a 7:30ish flight that’s sold out, and a 9ish flight that I have her book me on (I pray that this flight will be able to leave on time and won’t leave me stranded in Houston). I then call my hotel in the Valley to see if they have rooms available beginning tonight, and just barely get a reservation (they had 5 rooms left).
I call my Houston hotel to cancel my reservation for the rest of the time, and they tell me I need to check out by 5pm today. I have a meeting until 4:30pm, after which I rush back as fast as I can.
4:55pm. The hotel has already boarded up all their first floor windows. Yikes.
I successfully check out of my hotel, grab everything, and drive to the airport. I can already see overhead that some of the “outer bands” of the hurricane are moving in quickly.
Driving to the airport was pretty scary – luckily, there wasn’t too much evacuation traffic because of the route I was taking, but incoming storm was already starting to make headway. One second, the highway was completely dry, things looked bright and sunny, and people were going 65mph; the next second, you’d pass under one of those “bands” of storms and it would be a torrential downpour, with people slamming on their brakes to about 30mph because it was raining so hard. It was almost like going through a car wash, except without any warning. (And there weren’t those cool spinny things brushing up against the side of the car.)
5:50pm. I get to the airport and return the car. When I get to the terminal, it’s like a madhouse – everyone’s trying to fly out of the city. I quickly check in, and the kiosk tells me that there is room on the 7:30ish flight if I want to try and get on that one. I switch to that flight instead, and quickly head to security.
6:00pm. Of course, because it’s 9/11, there are special security measures in place. The TSA agent informs me that I’ve been selected for a random, full screening. GREAT. On the plus side, I get my own, personal TSA agent who grabs some trays, helps me get through the regular security checkpoint quickly, and then brings me to the screening station. He pats me down while some other officers search my bags. They were very nice people, and actually made the process a lot less painful than I thought it would be. They even made jokes about having to confiscate my candy bars because they were hungry, which posed a security threat. I lol’d.
6:15pm. I walk around for about 5 minutes trying to figure out why all the gates around me start with a “C”, but my gate is supposed to start with a “B”. I realize that the 9ish flight I was originally scheduled for departed from Terminal C, but the 7:30ish flight I was now on was departing from Terminal B. I make a mad dash towards the signs that point me to Terminal B and get on the tram that takes me there.
6:30pm. I walk for what seems like an eternity to finally arrive at the gate, only to realize there are no places to eat near this part of the terminal. Since I now know where the gate is and there’s no place to sit over there anyways, I walk all the way back to the central food court and grab a quick dinner. I call my parents and tell them I’m fine, and double-check to make sure my car and hotel reservations are set. PHEW.
7:30pm. They board the flight only 10 minutes before scheduled departure, and when I see the plane I can tell why. It’s the smallest plane I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s an express flight, so it’s one of those that has one seat per row on one side, and two seats per row on the other, and tiny overhead bins on only one side of the plane. This plane is so small that my head is almost touching the ceiling – and I’m 5’8″. I manage to squeeze my bags into the compartments, and carefully slide into my seat. I’m so tired that I zonk out immediately.
8:00pm. I wake up to someone’s cell phone ringing. Yes, we are in the air, and the lady across the aisle from me has apparently forgotten to turn off her phone. I expect her to just turn it off, but instead, SHE ANSWERS IT. She has a brief conversation in Spanish, and then turns off her phone. I’m so ridiculously tired that I don’t even care. I go back to sleep, figuring that if the plane crashes, it’ll probably be less painful if I’m sleeping anyways. Or maybe that whole thing was a dream…
8:30pm. We land in McAllen, safe and sound. I get my rental car (this time a Toyota Corolla) and drive to my hotel. The hotel room I’m in is super nice and looks almost brand new – one of the nicer rooms I’ve seen in Courtyards. So, of course, I take some pictures:
When I sit down and look at my watch, I realize that it’s only Thursday. I can’t believe how much has happened in just the last 3 days, from Detroit, to Boston, to Houston, and now the Rio Grande Valley. Time to finally relax and take a deep breath…
More to come from the road! As you probably figured out from the comments on the last post, the answer was “The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice. Can you guess the song that the title from this entry comes from? This one should be pretty easy, since about 10 million people have covered it…