Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Hertz red Mustang convertible with my son at the wheel in Indiana, 6/20/09

Big Steam Locomotives Are Hard To Find! (And How Can So Many Things Happen On a Weekend Trip Trying to See One?)

Part 2 of 3

Continuing the story of our trip (my son and I) to North Judson, Indiana, via Chicago, please read Part 1 below to get the context. We were just about to take off from Raleigh/Durham Airport for our nonstop flight on American Airlines in First Class to Chicago O'Hare:

Service en route was excellent, with a very filling breakfast served--not bad for an 8:35 AM departure, I thought. The flight was about 5 minutes late by the time we hit the O'Hare tarmac, and storm clouds threatened off to the north and west. By the time we had reached the "H" concourse, lightning had begun to strike. Literally adjacent to the gate, our flight was ordered to halt as ground staff took safe cover.

And there we sat for more than two hours as an incessant series of fierce thunderstorms flew over the field. My son, and most people on the plane, were tortured by our close proximity to freedom. We idled on the pad within a few feet of the jetway, helpless to do anything, and stewed in our seats. I was very glad we had both eaten a hearty breakfast and had plenty of fluids. Nothing was served to anyone during the long period of entrapment.

Finally off the aircraft, my son and I almost ran to the exit and then waited 15 minutes for a Hertz bus. Meanwhile, I counted five Avis buses and three National/Alamo buses go by, and even a couple of Budget buses. By the time the long yellow Hertz bus pulled up, we had enough customers waiting for it to fill it completely.

At the Hertz canopy I looked for my name on the board and ran for our car in the pouring rain as yet another storm dropped a motherload of rain. As I opend the door, my heart sank: the stale smell of smoke permeated the interior.

Luggage and my son in tow, I made a beeline for the Hertz Number One Club Gold counter where I waited patiently for another ten minutes. The very kind and competent agent apologized profusely for the smoky vehicle and asked if I preferred anything.

As I pondered her question, I heard my son--remember, age ten--say loudly, "A RED MUSTANG CONVERTIBLE, PLEASE!" Somewhat startled, the Hertz agent and I both looked down at him. "Please, Dad?" he pleaded.

"Do you HAVE a Mustang convertible, and how much extra would it cost?" I asked the agent.

"Yeah, they have one, and it's RED, Dad!" my son exclaimed. "I saw it right down there." He pointed to a line of cars nearby.

The agent raised her eyebrows, smiled, checked her computer, and announced that, yes, it was indeed there and available because the renter had not picked it up (no doubt delayed as we were due to the rain). It would cost an extra $10/day, a deal she gave us because of my inconvenience with the smoky car.

Naturally, I took it, and within minutes we were exiting the Hertz lot in a fiery red Mustang convertible in a deluge of rain that Noah could have identified with.

It was a short drive back to the center of O'Hare to the Hilton O'Hare Hotel where I'd made reservations. My plan was simple: Park the car at the hotel Friday morning and leave it until Saturday morning; take the Blue Line CTA train to the Loop and show my son a bit of downtown Chicago that afternoon; return again on the CTA train to O'Hare; spend the night at the Hilton; leave very early Saturday morning in our red Mustang convertible for a pleasant drive to northwestern Indiana (North Judson); ride behind the steam locomotive for a few hours; drive back to Chicago late Saturday afternoon; return the car to Hertz; take the Hertz shuttle back to the airport; walk across to the Hilton for our second night; and, finally, walk back to American Airlines Sunday morning for our return flight to Raleigh.

Basically we followed the plan, and it worked. With a few flaws mainly at the Hilton O'Hare. But that's a story I'll save for next week's post. Look for it in Part 3 of this steam locomotive saga!


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