May 11, 2013

Planes, Trains & Automobiles

Our niece was getting married down in Tallahassee, so we made our non-rev (Non-revenue or stand-by) travel arrangements then kept a keen eye on the seats available over the upcoming days. Typically the PHX-CLT legs can be the more difficult flights to get on, especially the red-eye out of PHX. This trip we were fortunate and were able to get decent seats on the 1:15a flight to CLT. Things were looking good as the TLH leg was wide open from CLT.

I was able to snag some shuteye on the flight and we touched down in Charlotte, NC with enough time for a quick breakfast. Upon arriving at our gate for the Tallahassee flight we promptly greeted with the following message 'Attention, travelers flying to Tallahassee today on flight ##, you're flight as been cancelled'. Here we go, time to get creative. Waiting it out for either of the next two TLH flights really wasn't an option as they were both almost full now and guaranteed to be oversold by departure time. Plan B: get as close to TLH as we can and get a one-way rental car. We've done it before, no sweat.

We opted to fly into Jacksonville (JAX) and perhaps grab lunch with my brother who lives nearby.
Wasn't planning on seeing this sign.
I contacted my brother, who was getting off work early, and told him of our plans. He simply said 'Good luck, there's a PGA event going on now!'. Drat. Sure enough the rental cars were few and far between and the ones that were available were being rented for $180 for a four hour rental!! No thanks. Plan C: Called my brother back and asked him if he was up for a road trip!!

We grabbed some lunch, picked up his surprised daughter from school and hung out with the rest of the family for about an hour before heading west on I-10 towards Tally.

We met my in-laws, S & G, about 2/3rds the way there, switched cars and arrived in Tally around dinner time. So we were a few hours behind schedule, we made it. The wedding wasn't until the next day anyway.

After a good nights sleep and a wonderful breakfast we headed south for the wedding. It was a nice quiet southern ceremony. 
The happy couple slicing the cake.
We were only in for the weekend, so a quick trip to the grocery store was in order for goodies not available in AZ. That typically involves Tastykakes & Yuengling beer, although Tastykakes have begun to pop up at our stores recently, just not the traditional favorites.
Mmmmm, beer.
I started looking over our return flight options and they weren't looking good. We opted to change our itinerary of TLH-CLT-PHX in favor of a Delta flight to ATL, then switch to USAirways for the PHX leg. That ended up working out even though we didn't get on the earliest flight out of Atlanta. We had some time to kill there, so why not hit up a local favorite for food.
The frozen orange was delicious.
Back in the desert, we barely had time to unpack before the next weekend approached. K had to go to San Francisco for a work conference and we decided to use up some timeshare points to make a long weekend beforehand. Flights were looking good early in the week, but as Friday approached every flight into SFO, OAK & SJC were oversold except one. The early flight into SJC was wide open, so we took our opportunity.

First was the flight to SJC, then a free shuttle over to the Caltrain station, a one-way pass for 2 adults ran us $9ea. That dropped us off in downtown SF where we jumped into a taxi, $10, for the final couple of miles to the luxurious Fairmont hotel. We figured this would be a rare chance to stay at a hotel of this caliber, not some place we'd normally stay!! It did not disappoint.
The view from our room, Alcatraz floating in the bay.
The grand entryway inside the Fairmont. I felt out of place.
We didn't have any real plans other than a touristy jaunt to Alcatraz the next morning. We were both tired from the week, so we took a nap. We ended up snoozing longer than we would have liked and missed a chance to grab dinner with a friend.

The next morning we gorged out on the enormous breakfast offerings, then hopped in a taxi down to catch our tour. The day turned out to be perfect, no wind, low 70's & sunny. We were both overdressed, but the bay area weather can be finicky sometimes. We had a blast on the Alcatraz tour, it's a self-guided audio tour so we took our time and explored the entire island. There was a special treat, one of the guards, now in his 80's, happened to be there for a book signing. He told a few stories as we started out on our tour.
Approaching the dock.

Remnants of the native american occupation of Alcatraz.
Gardens abound around the penitentiary.
Typical cell.
Recreation yard.
A few of the notorious inhabitants.
C-block cells.
Beautiful view of Golden Gate bridge.
Downtown San Francisco.
One of the cells where the great escape went down.

Nesting grounds.

We finished off the day walking around Fisherman's Wharf, of course a stop at Ghirardelli's was in order. A large crowd was in line for a wine tasting event, there always seems to be something going on in this city.

Mmmmm, chocolate.
What to wear for the wine tasting.....aha!! My bear costume!!
Powell & Hyde turnaround.
We hopped on the outside poles & rode the cable-car back to the Fairmont.
The Fairmont Hotel.
Sunday morning came around and all that was left was to get me to the airport & K over to her conference hotel. I had pre-paid for a $11 shuttle ride & K was going to taxi/train over to her hotel. Our plans were wrecked when we found out a marathon was being held that morning shutting down all but two streets through downtown. My shuttle driver couldn't figure a way to get to the Fairmont & out to the airport in a timely fashion, so I cancelled and went with a taxi. $58 later, I was dropped off at SFO. K ended up doing the same and dropped $42 on her transfer. So much for cheap transit, but without really knowing all our options and limited on time, it's what we had.

Although quick, it was nice to relax for a couple of days. I left the 70ยบ weather in exchange for upper 90's, but that's ok. I love the desert.

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