Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adventures in Air Travel

While many people fear and dread the idea of air travel, I consider myself a pro. I've got some mad skills.

Security check and shoe removal-no problem.

Stowing carry-on with a line of people waiting-like a boss.

Navigating the tiny airplane bathroom while hitting turbulence-well, lets just say I do a better job than Chris Farley did in the movie "Tommy Boy" (if you have never seen this movie, first, shame on you. Now click here).

My first flight ever, almost a year to the day after September 11th, suffered a lighting strike, airport changes, and a mad dash through the O'Hare airport with an unfortunate (and embarrassing) fall on a moving walkway. After that experience, everything else is a piece of cake. Having traveled a great deal solo in the last year, I've had my share of interesting experiences while flying that make for great stories when I land. This last trip to Boston was no exception.

It being only a few days after the major snowstorm hit New England, I was prepared for delays along the way. I sat in the waiting area after clearing the security check at the La Crosse airport and began chatting with a woman sitting across from me. After a few minutes, we were informed that the flight leaving Chicago to pick us up was running over 30 minutes behind. Being an experienced traveler and knowing the O'Hare airport very well, I know that you never give yourself less than an hour layover. For many reasons. This woman did not know this rule. She had only a 20 minute layover and with a 30 minute delay before every leaving the ground, she was going to miss her connecting flight. I gave her a sympathetic smile and thought, live and learn.

Once we landed in Chicago, I had an hour remaining of my layover time. I grabbed a bite to eat and made it to my gate with plenty of time. Again, the flight take-off was delayed. The pilot informed us that despite the late start, the flight plan had been changed and our landing time would remain the same as originally scheduled. About a half an hour before landing, the pilot informed us that we were on a "hold" due to heavy air traffic coming into the Boston airport. This resulted in another 30 minutes of circling before finally landing.

Now, usually when the plane comes to a stop at the gate, passengers take it as a signal to get up and start the race to get their carry-on out of the overhead bins and claim a spot in the aisle to exit the plane. Not on this flight. The flight attendants came rushing down the aisle, insisting that everyone remain in their seats because law enforcement was coming on the plane. My first thought, and I would imagine that of all my fellow passengers, who did it and what did they do? Did someone mess with the smoke detector in the bathroom? Look at one of the flight attendants wrong? These days, who knows! Two officers boarded the plane and announced the name of the person of interest. For almost a minute, no one moved. I don't think anyone took a breath. We were all waiting for said person to arise from their seat and make their way to the front. Finally, someone stood up. It just so happened the gentleman in question was sitting right next to me! He looked around at all of us surrounding him as if he were pleading for help. We all just looked back at him, all thinking the same thing, "dude, what did you do?" He made his way up the aisle toward the officers who promptly removed him from the plane. When we all finally made it off the plane, we saw the man surrounded by about six armed police at the entrance to the gate.

After all that, it was hard to believe that my return flights would lend nearly as much excitement. That was a mistake. That has now become a new rule, never believe when flying that it can't get more interesting. It always can.

The return flight from Boston to Chicago was turbulent and spent wedged between a snoring woman and a rather smelly Russian man, but otherwise uneventful. It was when the plane touched down, around 4:30pm and the flight attendants gave passengers clearance to use their cell phones that things got interesting. I decided to check my phone for any texts I might have missed in-flight. I noticed I had a voicemail. Before the plane ever made it to the gate I found out that my connecting flight to La Crosse had been cancelled. Yep, American Airlines decided it would be okay to inform me of this via voicemail. Awesome. But they so politely rescheduled me for another flight leaving at 8:30. The next morning.

I de-boarded the plane as quickly as I could and rushed to the first ticketing desk I could. I was told my flight had indeed been cancelled, "due to weather." I looked out the windows to a semi-clear sky with no precipitation of any kind. The lady at the desk said it was a preemptive cancellation because there was the possibility of a large snow storm. Seriously? I thought I was back in the midwest, since when are we afraid of a little snow? She placed me on standby for the next flight to La Crosse, in four hours, along with about 40 other people who were supposed to be on the same flight. So I sat, disgruntled, at the gate for my standby flight. I surveyed the crowd sitting around me and quickly learned that pretty much everyone else was in the same boat I was. I made the acquaintance of a few people around me and after about 15 minutes we had formulated a plan: to get the hell out of Chicago whatever way possible. Four resourceful Wisconsin women, a few phone calls, and a lot of determination got us all on our way out of Chicago. By plane? No. By train? No. We rented a car, split the difference among all of us and drove the 268 miles, or four and a half hours home. In rush hour traffic no less! As it turned out, I work with one of the women at the hospital. The other two were a grandmother/daughter duo. We took turns driving, chatting the whole way. We never even turned the radio on, the long trip went by in a flash.

Quirky travel experiences aside, I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to New England, as I always do. A post about a few of my adventures is yet to come!

Friday, February 15, 2013


February 13th, 2012

It was on that date that I started this adventure of travel nursing, the day that changed my life in so many ways. Looking back, it is so hard to believe it has already been a year since I took that deep breath, walked into my boss' office, and gave her my notice. A year ago that I started packing my bags, loading my car, and preparing for the 1300 mile journey across the country. At the time, I would never have guessed the ways in which my life would be altered, all because of one singular decision: to travel.

February 11th was the day I arrived in Exeter, NH to start my assignment and the 13th was my first day on the job. How fitting that a yer later I am right back where I started. Yes, you read correctly, I am back in New Hampshire again for a visit, with my plane landing on February 11th. Did I plan it this way, no. But I never would have thought a year ago I would be back in this place, albeit for very different reasons. I guess it speaks volumes to the hold this place and these people have cast on me.

It is difficult to quantify all the changes that have happened, all the people I have met, and least of all, the places I have seen. But, in some attempt to sum up my year of travel nursing, I sifted through the many photos and videos of my adventures on the road to post some of my favorites. Hopefully they are some of your favorites as well!

A history lesson in Salem, Mass visiting the witch trials memorial site and later taking in the literary history of the Little Women house.
Getting swept away in the sand at the beach in Gloucester, Mass

Taking in some art at the Museum of Fine Art on my first ever trip to Boston.

Flowers and oysters filled my second trip to Boston with my ever amazing landlords Jeff and Cindy.

St. Patty's day in Boston proved to be quite the experience with all those Irish running about!

The infamous Beaver Brook Trail sign in post at the trail head. This trail is still on my list to complete!

Wilton Falls. Just a small town on a back road in NH, who knew this beauty was hiding?

Getting soaked and soaking up the sights in Bar Harbor, Maine.

The cruise with my ladies in Portsmouth, NH

Fresh lobster with Val and Shelley in Wells, Maine

Niagara Falls with Mom, quite the sight to see.

Feeling like I could see clearly for the first time with my new camera, Mark!

Spending a beautiful day with the amazing Gray family.

Fall in New England. Nuff said.

The infamous "layer" cake!

Door County with Mom.

And the adventure that started it all, road tripping with Helga.

It is amazing to reflect on all that I have done in a year's time, but bittersweet as well. While I continue to rehabilitate my injured back, there are no guarantees at this point that I will ever be able to travel nurse again, or ever be a bedside nurse again. It is painful to think of such a scenerio. But, in the same token, there are far worse scenarios I could be in. Not many people are blessed in the ways I have been. This past year has been by far the most enriching of my adult life. I am walking away with so many gifts, I can't even begin to take inventory. I'm not sure what will become of this blog as I am unsure what will become of my life and career. But thanks to all those who have come along on this roller coaster the past year. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

New England: Take Three

Shortly after my return from New Hampshire in October, I booked tickets for a two week vacation to go back. It gave me something to look forward to; something to get me through the injections, chiropractor appointments, and countless painful days. I began the countdown, eagerly awaiting the day in December that I would be re-united with my friends.

I didn't have major plans for my time there, didn't have anywhere in particular I wanted to go, but had a long list of people I wanted to see. But, while my friends were working or otherwise busy with their lives, I made my way back to a few of my favorite places.

My first day included a return to Nubble Point lighthouse in York, Maine. This was the same lighthouse that Sarah (aka: Helga) and I visited on my first day in New England back in February. So, it holds many memories for me. It was a beautiful day, sunny with a few stray clouds streaking the sky.

After my stop at the lighthouse, I made my way to the Cliff Walk. My friend Laura originally introduced me to this hidden gem in York. Known mostly to locals, the Cliff Walk is flanked by the ocean on one side and large mansion-esque homes on the other. Most of the homes along the ocean are owned by wealthy families, some passed down over generations. With my visit being so late in the year, most of them were vacant, some even with their windows boarded up for the winter.
Side note: I've been working on this post for over a month! These are the only photos the site is allowing me to upload! I figured a few were better than none. I will continue to work on it and intend to post another entry with more photos and more about my two weeks of bliss in New England!