This two-day trip was planned so that I could attend a dinner honoring my uncle on the occasion of his 85th birthday. My sister and her friend would drive up from the Phoenix area, my mother and brother and I would fly in from San Jose, we would all stay at a hotel casino for one night, and then return.
Arranging a Sunday-night stay was not difficult. I have stayed a number of times at Palace Station Hotel & Casino on Sahara Avenue just west of Interstate 15. Consequently they send me special offers from time to time. A recent flyer said that I could "book online" for $19.95 per room, so I tried it. There was something wrong with their web site but when I called the reservations people, I got "that's not my department," so I had to settle for three rooms at $29.95 each. Still, that's quite reasonable, considering the prices one can pay for a room in some places.
Arranging air travel was a little more difficult. With so many changes taking place in the industry, it's hard to know which direction to go. After trying to book fares over the Internet, I finally gave up and went to a travel agency, fully aware that they would be charging a service fee per ticket. The worker was able to get a better fare for my mother than I could get, so it was "almost" worth the extra money.
For privacy purposes, I will minimize the "naming of names." If you are family, you will know those involved.
Sunday, September 22, 2002 - San Jose, California
The morning was filled with a community outreach activity for my work, and I was in place at a local community college before 7:00 a.m., but we'll skip ahead to the late morning for this trip.
I drove across the Santa Clara valley to my mother's house. We talked to my sister on the telephone and agreed that she and her friend would meet us at the hotel at 3:00 p.m.
My mother and I arrived at the San Jose Airport about noon, parked in the "Orange" (long-term) parking lot and took the shuttle bus into the terminal. We found a wheelchair and took the elevator up one floor where a uniformed airport worker took charge and I followed.
My brother arrived at the airport separately but ended up in line right behind us because he is an experienced traveler. He and I made it through the security checkpoint, although they wanted to inspect my bag more closely, but it was a brief delay.
We went to Gate A3, showed our identification and my Rapid Rewards card, then had a short wait before boarding. Southwest Airlines does not have reserved seating (it's generally first-come, first-seated), and has neither business class nor first class, but wheelchair passengers are afforded "a little extra time," and we were able to board prior to those who had arrived at the airport an hour early.
(Don't look at me, I don't make the rules.)
We chose seats D, E, and F in Row 1. (For the 5% of readers who have never been on board a commercial airliner, that would be the aisle, middle and window seat on the right side of the cabin.)
We were just a little crowded but it would be a short flight. We had plenty of leg room and no tray-tables, but they don't serve food on SWA, so it didn't matter.
We left San Jose pretty close to "on time" and arrived in Las Vegas pretty close to "on time." Again, being experienced travelers, my brother and I found a wheelchair, found the intra-terminal tram, found an elevator, went down the rental car level, checked at the Avis desk ("they're waiting for you,") went outside and found the shuttle bus, then passed the wheelchair along to another passenger who clearly needed it.
I had previously signed up for "Avis Preferred" and had been warned that I would have to stop at the desk on my first rental, but there was only a minimal delay. It didn't help that some jerk cut in front of me in line (and the clerk didn't say anything) but I was able to "let it go."
They gave me the keys to a white Buick LeSabre, which I started, inspected for damage and brought around to the office. The car looked good, seemed comfortable and had a large trunk. We loaded our bags and selves into the car, stopped at the exit gate for another I.D. check, then headed for our hotel.
I'm quite familiar with the airport and knew how to get to the tunnel under the runways (Paradise Road - Airport Connector Road) and onto Interstate 215. As soon as we surfaced, I called my sister on the cellular phone and let her know that we were enroute and might be a few minutes late.
We continued west on I-215, then north on Decatur, east on Desert Inn and north on Rancho, arriving in the parking lot of Palace Station at about 3:10 p.m. I bypassed the line of people waiting in line and headed for the V.I.P. lounge. After all, we had been invited to stay, so we must have been important.
I explained to the clerk that I had requested the $19.95 rate but the web site was not working. Unfortunately she could not make her computer give me that rate, so she put $29.95 times three rooms on my credit card.
My mother and brother and I would stay in the three rooms and my sister and her friend would head back to Phoenix after dinner, so we put our overnight stuff in our rooms and my sister and her friend change clothes in my room.
Then we got back into the rental car and drove over to Ricardo's on West Flamingo at Decatur, a very nice Mexican restaurant. The surprise party was scheduled for 5 p.m., and we were very close to on time.
We saw various family members outside and then found others inside. My uncle was surprised to see so much family and surprised that my aunt (his wife) had been able to keep the secret.
We had an excellent dinner (I had chicken), wonderful conversations with far-flung family and many photos were taken.
After dinner, we drove back to the hotel. My sister and her friend changed clothes and drove their car back to Arizona, my mother went to her room to rest, and I took my brother down to the casino around 7:40 p.m. and gave him a quick tour.
We spent a couple hours gaming and et cetera. I was back in my room at 9:25 p.m., just slightly financially better off then when I had started.
Monday, September 23, 2002 - Las Vegas, Nevada
I was up at 5:45 p.m. in plenty of time for the alarm at 5:55 a.m. We all gathered our stuff, got into the car, checked out of the hotel and headed for the airport.
When you rent a car, they generally want you to return it with the same amount of fuel as when you left. Although we hadn't gone very far, I knew that I would be asked "did you put gas in the car?" and wanted to answer affirmatively. So we stopped and put thirty-six cents (!) worth of gas into the car. (Yes, it's stupid, but again, I don't make the rules.)
We continued to the airport, turned in the car and waited for the shuttle bus. There was a little problem with shuttle bus driver scheduling, but some Avis employees recognized that when people are waiting, you do what you have to do.
When we got to the terminal building, we found another wheelchair and an attendant who took us up to the proper level and to the metal detectors. My brother and I made it through easily but something in my mother's bag attracted the attention of the X-ray screener.
Another worker gloved up and carefully went through my mother's small carry-on bag. The worker saw her cosmetics (in a clear plastic bag) and found the offending item. It was an antique lipstick with folding mirror that the screener had never seen before. But it was necessary for the employee to take the item to the X-ray screener, and only when he agreed that's what he had seen on the X-ray, that my mother was allowed to proceed. Even the wheelchair attendant was perturbed with the delay.
But we did get through, took the intra-terminal tram and got out to the proper gate.
The flight back to San Jose was relatively uneventful. We took the shuttle bus from the terminal to the Orange parking lot, I took my mother home and got back to my house at 12:15 p.m.
Such jet-setters we are!