Trips always seem to start off with an alarm scheduled to go off at an early hour — but you’re awake anyway! So be it, 5:30AM was the appointed, not too early hour, and we were basically already awake.
I took a shower and did the needful, while Alison pulled together some eggs for breakfast, and we closed up all the bags after dressing. We had the bags almost all loaded in the car, but we had no Lauren and Charlie! They had a very late night, and were a bit slow, but they managed to drop themselves in the car and we were off to PHL.
PHL was busy, but nor horrendous at 7:30AM. TSA Pre-Check once again proved its utility, and we were well ahead of our appointed departure. Starbucks awaited us and we had a relaxing wait for our on-time American Airlines flight. “Group 1”, Yay! But, active military, those with young children or need assistance, Silver, Gold, Emerald, Platinum members, and THEN Group 1 – with half the plane filled, but we had no problems getting on and situated.
Nice flight to Chicago, with more than two hours until our next flight. We stopped for lunch at the Chicago Cubs Bar and Grill, which was a cool atmosphere. We shared a reasonably good cobb salad, and a chicken and sweet pare sandwhich with fries, and a couple sodas. No rush. I liked that. American texted us of a gate change – G11 to G10, no biggie. This was a regional jet from Chicago to Memphis; on-time and smooth.
I love the view of the Memphis airport – with the rows of FedEx and UPS planes. Being an operations kind of guy, I think it would be a wild experience to observe a full turnaround cycle for these flights. On the passanger side, it was almost a ghost town. It is a reasonably big airport, seemingly on the scale of a Philadelphia, but I only counted a handful of planes in the gates or taxiing. And in the terminal, there were a few people at the Starbucks, but lots of empty concourse – almost like a horror film. Where are all the people? And on the Saturday following a busy Thanksgiving travel holiday. I counted to passanger SUVs and one Taxi Van and saw only a few other cars in the pickup area.
Alison had arranged a pickup by a firm recommend by American Steamship. Nice vehicle, nice driver, and it took only 20-25 minutes to the Sheraton Downtown Memphis – right next door to the Convention Center. The only minor hitch was that we ended up waiting about another 15 minutes for another couple, on another flight, to collect their bags and join us.
This was George and Valerie Sotter, from Southern California. Actually, he grew up in PA and she grew up in England. He was part of a Jet Propulsion Lab program for his military service, and ended up studying in the UK for advanced rocket science, when they met. They will be celebrating 50 years of marriage on this cruise. Together with their son, they manage a “non-slip” business. They have cruised the Danube, and loved it, but haven’t done the Mississippi or Columbia River cruises, yet. (we ran into them again a couple hours later, at dinner)
Check-in was a little slow but that was alright. We landed room 1201 – on a corner. We have a larger room – nice – with a good view of….. well, not much, actually, and there is the noise of the highway below. But I have no doubt that we will sleep.
With the time change, it was now dinner time, and we are not really walking distance from a bunch of other eateries. So we went downstairs. The “tavern” didn’t have any visible menus, but the ajoining restaurant did – same menu would have applied to the tavern, but we chose to sit down in the restaurant. S.L.O.W does NOT begin to describe the experience. Our waitress seemed indifferent. We each had different beers, and shared. Alison had a mushroom swiss burger and fries, and I shared a wedge salad (very good), and a half-rack of ribs with fries. I shared the ribs, too. Mmm they were good.
George and Valerie took the table next to ours as we were finishing the main portion. After what seemed an eternity, we ordered coffee and a slice of chocolate cake. It was a good sized cup of coffee. Alison brings her own sweetener. We asked for milk, as there was nothing on the table. The coffee was almost cold and we had to ask a second time for the milk. The cake didn’t arrive until the coffee was gone (mine, too!), and we had already asked for the bill. Alison sent the cake back and the waitress got a goose egg for a tip – the first time we’ve done that in probably 30 or more years.
After dinner, we walked around the hotel a bit – found the pool and the gym – and outside to sample the cool fresh air, but not adventurous enough to extend ourselves beyond the confines of the hotel. And here we are back in the room, and wrapping up the evening at 8:30 CT. Marion and Barry should be arriving at the hotel somewhere close to 11 tonight. We’ll see them for breakfast.