We got back from a trip to Cleveland, OH last night. Sarah and I flewto Cleveland for the wedding of a college friend of hers. The weddingitself was okay. Since I’m not much of a wedding person, I’m generallynot the best person to interrogate about the particulars of any givenwedding.

Our trip back to California was a guided tour through the two outer ringsof Hell. It all started when we were sitting on the plane to Oaklandat Chicago O’Hare. The flight from Cleveland to ORD was reasonablyunremarkable: no delays, plenty of time to make the connection in ORD,only a few screaming kids. We got to our gate at ORD in plenty oftime. I ate a sandwich because I was anticipating that United’sgeneral incompetence would surface again and that they wouldn’t have mylow-sodium meal (which, of course, they didn’t). We weren’t sittingtogether on either of these legs because we’d made our reservations atdifferent times. I traded in my window seat for an aisle (which turnedout to be in the exit row). The flight from ORD to Oakland wasscheduled for a bit over four hours.&nbsp No problems. That’s when Imade the critical error and thought to myself (notice that I didn’t evenannunciate this thought out loud to anyone): “Wow. This trip isprogressing really smoothly.” That was the point at which thetravel gods struck back at us with all their fury. As the plane pulledaway from the gate in Chicago, I started to notice that the air conditioningseemed to be set a bit high and we were all starting to work up a nice sheenof sweat. We taxied out onto a taxiway which would deliver us to theactive runway. At this point, the captain announced over theloudspeaker that they were seeing an warning light in the cockpit whichindicated an overheating problem with one of the two air conditioningunits. So, we sat on the taxiway for fifteen minutes while thecaptain, first officer, and the local ground mechanics figured out that itprobably wasn’t safe to fly a giant plane full of jet fuel and people with apossible fire hazard in the form of an overheating, malfunctioning airconditioner. Back to the gate, was the verdict. We spent anotherhalf hour taxing back to the gate. United workers herded us off theplane and informed us that we would be leaving from the gate immediatelynext to the current gate approximately fifteen minutes after we all deplanedfrom the first plane. At this point, we are officially one hour pastour scheduled departure time. After waiting the fifteen minutes, weall reboarded the plane to the soundtrack of overhead thunderstorms. They were packing us into the plane so that we could wait on the tarmac forthe thunderstorms to pass. Finally, we were all on the plane, thedoors were closed, and we taxied away from the gate to wait out thethunderstorms. About 5:30 PM CDT we finally took off out of Chicago,two hours and fifteen minutes after our scheduled departure time. A few tip when traveling on or around major holidays: Don’t. Ifyou must travel to satisfy a sadomasochistic urge, keep these helpful tips inmind:1. Parents with kids who they either cannot or will not control arelikely to travel in the middle of the day. For maximum pain, travel onthe same flights as these parents.

  1. Travel through an airport with frequent delays, regardless of season.
  2. Ask to be seated next to the window so that it is inconvenient to getout to the restroom. There was a set of parents on our ORD to OAK leg that were traveling withfour kids. The parents were absolutely ruled by their kids and refusedto do anything to moderate their behavior. One child graced us withhis impression of a fire alarm (at full volume, of course) for approximately thirty minutes (in one tenand one twenty minute chunk). When I inquired of the parents whetherthey were willing to temper their child, they told me that they were unableto do anything about the behavior of their children. Others around theparents were drinking heavily, while occasionally asking the parents if theywould prefer to be chucked from the plane over the Great Plains or the RockyMountains. Fortunately, ear plugs (a standard part of our air travelkit) took most of the edge off the unruly children, but for others notsimilarly equipped, their flight was truly hellish. While we were in Cleveland, we took in the USS Cod, a WWII submarine, which was very cool. It’samazing how small the boats for ninety people were in those days. Wealso went biking on the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. The Park containssections of an old canal, with a restored towpath. Sarah’s father,Sarah, a couple of her friends, and I rode this trail for a few hours onSaturday morning, which was fun. Sometime, I’d like to go back andride the whole thing from end to end.

When we got home, we discovered that our garden had been busy explodingout of the ground. The beans we planted germinated and sprouted. The pumpkin that remained after thinning, had thoughts of empire and wascreeping towards Sarah’s car. The corn I transplanted, and whosefuture seemed uncertain, is also doing well, and even thriving a bit. Our second planting of carrots germinated. The peas are climbing uptheir trellis, blooming, and eyeing the canoe as a possible ladder forfuture growth. Sarah’s cherry tomatoes are blooming, and a few little,green tomatoes are already on the vine. That’s a great deal ofprogress in just five days.

While we were in Cleveland, we also took in the movie Shrek. Goodshow. The animation isn’t quite to Pixar’s level, but the story morethan compensates for any pictoral failings.