September 13, 2008. Barry Cauchon
Well, here I am, writing this report to tell you that I never did make it down to Springfield, Illinois for the “Blaze Your Own Trail in Illinois-Bloggers Meet Up” event (see posting from Sept 12, 2008 entitled “Blaze Your Own Trail in Springfield, Illinois”). Despite my best efforts, Hurricane IKE was an unexpected factor in my travel itinerary, and I never even got off the ground.
The organizers of this event had gone way out of their way to make me feel special. They had set me up for two nights free accommodation at the State House Inn in Springfield. As well, a reporter from the local newspaper, The State Journal Register (http://www.sj-r.com/) (Illinois’ oldest newspaper), was writing a story about the event and asked to interview me (why, I’m not sure but it would have been nice to find out). All I had to do was show up…and that, ladies and gentlemen, is where the plan fell apart.
My strategy was to drive from Toronto, Ontario, Canada to Buffalo, New York and then fly from there to Chicago. I had a rental car set up at that end which I would use to drive the additional 3-1/2 hours south to Springfield. This would all have been done yesterday so I could be fresh to spend the day at the event on Saturday.
“Oh my, how these things can go astray”! LOL.
To start with, my drive from Toronto to Buffalo, which is normally about 1-1/4 hours took almost 2 hours due to the weather (rain, rain, rain), road construction, rush hour and Friday evening traffic. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I also followed the ‘wrong’ airport signs that are posted just beyond the Canadian border. I was headed for the Buffalo Niagara Falls International Airport. However, these signs (symbols only) directed me to the Niagara Falls International Airport. Sorry folks from Niagara, but I can’t figure out why your tiny commuter airport is called an International one? It was not only very small, but the doors were locked and no one was there (except for cars in the parking lot). What’s all that about?
So it was now 5:00pm, with no map in hand, and being lost somewhere on the backroads of Tonawanda in Erie County. My flight was scheduled for 7:07pm. So much for checking in two hours prior to my flight!
I placed a call to a good friend that I knew was still at work. She looked up my location and the real Buffalo Niagara Falls International Airport. It turned out that I was only about 15 miles away. I still had to fight standstill traffic and rainy conditions for the next hour but eventually I arrived at the airport just after 6:00pm (1 hour before my flight). At check in, I was invited up to the counter by some very tired looking United Airline reps. It seems that air traffic all across North America had been affected by IKE and their airport was no different. They had been run off their feet since 11:00 that morning. Then they gave me the news that my 7:07pm flight was delayed until at least 8:45pm. So, all my rushing and panicking to get there on time meant …. SQUAT!
I passed through security easily with no waiting (go figure!) and then proceeded to wait it out. The flight was listed as delayed (and that never changed). By 10:00pm, I checked on it one more time and was told that the flight would not be happening tonight. Hurricane IKE had personally cancelled my flight. Bastard!
The airline did offer to fly me out first thing in the morning. However, if I took that one I would never make it to the event in time and would have ended up missing at least half of it. At this point, I pulled the plug on the trip, tipped my hat and bowed in defeat to the Mighty IKE! He had won the battle for now. However, it was comforting to know that in just one-weeks time, Hurricane IKE would be but a sprinkle of its former self and end up dying a slow death somewhere out over the North Atlantic. So with patience, let’s see who gets the last laugh! Ha ha….ha ha haaaaaaa! Bastard!
I’d like to mention one nice act of kindness that happened for me this morning. I had informed everyone that I would not be attending and I received an email back from Mr. Thomas F. Schwartz, the Illinois State Historian who was scheduled to give the opening remarks today at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. I had particularly wanted to meet this man and enjoy a good chat. He told me that his wife’s travel plans had also been affected by the storm. She was stuck at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport most of last night and didn’t get home to Springfield until after 2:00am. Thank you Tom for the note. It was very much appreciated and made me feel a little less isolated by the circumstances.
To sum up, I am sorry that I missed this event. Everyone that was involved made to feel very welcomed and I would have loved to have met the organizers, fellow bloggers and of course, Thomas Schwartz.
Despite my disappointment, my story is of little consequence compared to those who have actually been affected by the storm itself. Thousands of people have had their lives turned upside down by IKE, and other storms like this. My problems are miniscule compared to theirs. So don’t forget them! Many of these people need our help so do what you can. Mostly, please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. They need to be our priority right now.
If you are interested in Abraham Lincoln, you should read these interviews by two Lincoln experts:
(posted on November 10, 2008)
(posted on December 08, 2008)