Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kalama-Air Zoo

Last weekend, I took my two older boys to a Cub Scout overnighter at the Kalamazoo Air Zoo museum.

The itinerary for the event called for a night of building rockets, touring the old museum building, where we were sleeping that night, and watching a movie. The next day, we would shoot off the rockets and tour the new Air Zoo building.

The only problem with this schedule is that it didn't start until 7 PM, and once the rocket construction ended around midnight, that is when they would show the movie. That's fine if you have a bunch of HS kids, but these are all elementary schoolers. Most of these kids are usually in bed by 9, and now we're keeping many of them up until 1:30 or 2 AM to watch a movie.

For me, this kind of event means a night of next to no sleep. I do not sleep well away from home generally, and do particularly poorly when I sleep in a crowded room on an air mattress on the floor.

Still, I thought I'd try to take advantage of the relatively quiet time in our sleeping area during the movie and try to sleep then. That plan was foiled because the father and son camped out closest to me (about 10-15 feet away) happened to be the Fabulous Fartersons, and they chose that moment to launch and all-out Fart Fight.

The next 30 minutes - or perhaps it was a week, I don't know - went like this:

Both: "heeheehee!"
Both: "heeheehee!"

And so on. If that's not a special father-son bonding moment, I don't know what is. Just think of the stories the son will be able to proudly tell his children and grandchildren. With any luck, that particular skill will be hereditary so they can show it off at family reunions. Imagine, a four-generation fart-fight. A veritable choir of flatulence. This assumes, of course, any of them can overcome that overwhelming talent and successfully breed anyway.

After that, we learned that the father is also a world-class snorer, but he wasn't the only one in the room. So, I didn't so much sleep as pass out and come to a couple of hours later.

I did learn something in those wee hours of the morning though. I didn't realize Kalamazoo's airport, which the museum borders, has commercial flights, but two Northwest flights left there by 7:30 Sunday morning.

Before we launched the rockets on Sunday, we got to visit the hangar where the museum does its restorations. Among the equipment we saw was a Sopwith Camel, which is best known as the kind of plane Snoopy flied in his fantasy battles with the Red Baron. The real Red Baron was supposed shot down by a fighter in a Camel, but it was later learned that he was down by Australian ground fire.

The rocket launch was fun for the kids. It was a very windy day, so they traveled a long way. The new museum was also fun. It had more newer planes than the old one, including a Navy Tomcat and a Blackbird spy plane. They also have a flight simulator where you can control the flight and do things like barrel rolls. It got the better of my kids though. They got upside down and couldn't get out of it.

Still, it was a fun time for the kids. I hope someday to forget it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We're so sorry, but go pound sand

That's the basic message I got back from American Airlines after I wrote them about their policy that assured that people who were stranded by the MD-80 inspections remained that way.

To review, my flight was one of the first ones canceled when the FAA ordered AA to inspect their entire fleet of MD-80s. When I called the airline to ask about getting home, all they were willing to do to me was rebook me on another of their flights the next day. That flight was also on a MD-80, which meant it had zero chance of leaving as scheduled, and we both knew it. It also meant that I would have to go through the same run around for yet another day. I believe it was four days before AA flew out of San Antonio again.

So, while the chairman of American was going on television telling everyone how American was getting people on their way, even if it meant rebooking on another carrier, I was left to fend for myself.

I eventually got home on Southwest the next day. Ironically, Southwest had a similar problem a couple weeks earlier.

American wrote to tell me that they were "sorry that you found our rebooking policy to be less than convenient," but that since I was unwilling to spend an indefinite period of time in beautiful San Antonio waiting for them to get their act together, all they would consider reimbursing me is my hotel cost for the extra night. They aren't even promising that, just that they'll consider it if I send in the proper documentation.

"Less than convenient." That's a big, steaming pile of something less than pleasant.

Oh, they did refund my ticket for the trip I never made. Big of them.

I will send in my documentation, and perhaps before my kids go to college, I'll get a refund for my hotel. You'll pardon me though if I don't hold my breath.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Wake me when the big one hits

After a pretty restless night of not much sleep, I was pretty surprised this morning to see that we had one of the bigger earthquakes on record here in the Midwest overnight.

The Chicago Tribune reported that this was a near-record event, but it must have happened during the little bit of time that I was sleeping because I didn't notice it. Folks closer to the epicenter experienced some damage, and even people around here got rattled around a bit. My mother-in-law, who lives near Indy, was shaken awake.

It also awakened my wife, who is a very light sleeper. At that time of the morning though, she's pretty groggy. She wasn't sure at first if it was a quake, a strong wind, or if I was shaking the bed. She finally concluded that since everything was rattling, it must be a quake. But she didn't try to wake me.

Nothing and no one else in my house was disturbed, although with four kids, the house is such a mess that shaking it up might actually make it cleaner.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Stuck in San Antonio

I came to San Antonio to cover the Final Four for, but like so many folks, I'm stuck here due to American Airlines being grounded. Actually, it's only their Super 80 planes that are grounded, but that's all they fly out of here.

The airport was very full yesterday with people trying to leave, but at 3:30, AA announced it was canceling all of its flights. All they were willing to do for me was was rebook on another of their flights the next day, but not only were many of those full, but they were on the same type of plane.

Some people waited hours (yes, plural) at the AA counter in the hopes of getting rebooked and perhaps a hotel room for the night. I wasn't going to wait hours, only to have to do the same thing again today. I did manage to get my flight refunded over the phone though.

So, my brother-in-law worked the internet at home (I had no access myself at SAT) and got me a reservation on Southwest and a hotel room here, so if everything goes well, I'll get home sometime tonight.

Meanwhile, here in San Antonio, internet access has been difficult to find. My hotel is near the airport, but in a light industrial area, so even finding food meant a long walk.

Today, while making that walk, I went about a mile and a half before finding a Denny's (as if I didn't have enough of that this week - our hotel was right next to a Denny's). I had no luck finding places with internet access.

After giving up, I started the long walk back to my hotel thinking one of my favorite phrases, "could be worse, could be raining," when - you probably guessed - it started raining.

Fortunately, there was a car dealer nearby, with a rental car company inside. It turned out to be relatively cheap to rent a car for a few hours and drop it at the airport, so I did. Now, I could check out of my hotel and search for internet access.

I drove a little ways before finally coming upon a McDonald's. That's perfect for me because I can access the internet there for free. However, it didn't like my id and password, so it took a half hour on tech support before we could figure it out and get me online.

So, to review, rating the degree of difficulty of some of the things I did this month while covering the tournament from easiest to hardest:

  • Getting into Canada without proper documentation
  • Getting my credential to get into the Final Four
  • Getting out of San Antonio (although this has not actually happened yet, so it could fall down the list)
  • Finding internet access in San Antonio

    If you would like to read some of my other coverage from the NCAA tournament trail, you can go to's Hangtime blog for my off-day adventures, and the Posting Up blog for my in-game coverage.