After our trip in 2012 we knew that she didn't enjoy traveling that far anymore. So even before we knew she wouldn't be with us for the 2013 trip we had decided to leave her home in the loving care of our pet-sitter. Sadly she didn't make it that long.
I told The Mister that if I had to travel by car across Nebraska one more time my head would explode. (No offense, Nebraska peeps - it's just a very long, straight road to drive with the same scenery for 39 years. Yikes.)
So we decided to fly ~ but also mix it up a little and see some country we haven't seen that much of. We decided to fly into Minneapolis, spend some time there and rent a car to make the three hour drive to Mom in central Iowa.
We left our home at 5:45 am last Saturday (taking time to make breakfast and weigh our bags.) We parked in the outlying airport parking, snagging a parking spot 40 feet from the bus stop. Oh and as luck would have it, the shuttle bus pulled up right behind us. And we arrived at Denver International Airport as the sun rose.
Someone had booked our seats in the emergency exit row where there is no place to stash your bag under the seat in front of you. I'm a girl. I have to have my stuff.
So we joked with the ticket agent and bingo bango - we have better seats. The Mister thanked him for saving our marriage.
We were fortunate to be among the first to board and our flight attendant instructed everyone as to their designated spot for carry-ons. She requested we put ours under the seats in front of us. (She and I got along fine.) I watched her as the remainder of the plane boarded. She was friendly and smiled but every inch of her 5' 100 lb. frame was all business. If she told you that was your overhead bin space, you listened. She joked and called herself "Judy the Baggage Nazi."
Get this - the pilot came out and talked to everyone. First thought, of course, omg the flight is delayed. Quite the contrary ~ he was welcoming us all and said if it was alright, we would be departing a bit early. We arrived in Minneapolis 20 minutes ahead of schedule. As we left the plane I paused to thank Judy the Baggage Nazi and told her I had never been on such an organized flight!
Next step was to pick up our rental car. Someone had requested the wrong size car so the Hyundai Sonata we had hoped for wasn't available. Again, humour and patience paid off. The girl at Avis went above and beyond to find one for us. We waited. She came back and said, "You've got your Sonata! I stole it from Budget."
The Mister to our Avis agent, "Don't you own Budget?"
Me to our Avis agent, "You do now!"
Again The Mister thanked her for saving our marriage and we left fast friends.
So we check in to the Marriott (10 minutes from the airport) and have an afternoon to kill. Mall of America (MOA) is across the street, so what the hell ~ let's go see what all the fuss is about. We're walking, we're walking, we're walking. We stop in a few shops. A new carry-on bag with a padded shoulder strap was in order; my shoulders were killing me. (Hey my carry-on was heavy but both checked in bags were 36 lbs and well under the weigh limit!)
I love handbags but I've never been into name brand bags. I'm more of a Marshall's/Kohl's whatever bag is on sale gal. But over the years my Mom-in-law and BFF/SIL have sent a few Vera Bradley's my way and I think they are kind of works of art. So when walking into the Hallmark store in MOA looking for something else, I stopped by the colorful Vera Bradley section in the front of the store. The bags aren't within my normal budget but I did fall in love with an extremely colorful one. (As Emile Zola said, "If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist will answer you: I am here to live out loud!") When I saw it had a padded shoulder strap, the deal was done. However... I kind of wanted to see the rest of collection in that pattern and theirs was limited.
I asked the friendly clerk about that and she said if I really wanted to see all of them the Vera Bradley store was one floor down. And she said it genuinely and with a smile. So I finally found the store, took a quick look around and promptly took myself back to the Hallmark store and the nice lady and bought the bag from her. Because she had been generous and honest and kind.
Considering every loop around MOA is a mile, we did our 5 miles. We found the delightful Napa Grille and plopped our sorry tired behinds down in seats on their patio. Our friendly server brought us our kale, chicken, roasted butternut squash and goat cheese salads. They were quite yum.
And so began our salad tour of the Midwest. And the oh so healthy side of fries almost every time.
As we were leaving I found our server to thank her and I found myself saying something Charlie's Gannie always said - what his Mother always says - "Have a happy life, sweetheart."
The Mister and I remarked as we were saying good night that wasn't it interesting how smoothly the day had gone. Even with a couple of bumps kindness begat kindness; laughter begat laughter and patience paid off.
There's a lesson there, grasshopper.