Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Meet Me in St. Louis!

Hello from Salt Lake City! And how happy I am to have made it back on Sunday night. :)

I feel like there are so many details to tell, so many good things to remember, so I'll do my best, but I may miss things here and there...during the long hours on the different plane rides I tried to write it all down, but I'm still not sure I got it all.

Thursday night I went over to Brandon's after work and we combined our belongings into one suitcase and then I checked the flight again and we - in our anticipation - headed over around 6:15 (for an 8:08 flight). Grant and Dallin dropped us off as they headed out to find dinner. I'd been checking the flights all day and they'd looked great but I remain mystified as to where all the random people come from for flights that look so open hours before. I was a little worried as this flight drew closer that I wouldn't get on, but I ended up being fine, sitting in the last row in the back right corner with no window. But a seat is a seat. :)

Our flight wasn't too long, near about three hours or so, but the weather going in was fairly turbulent, so I was really happy when we were finally on the ground. I've never been sick on a flight, but I was starting to feel just a tinge queasy as we descended into St. Louis. Solid ground is nice.

Once in the airport I texted my dad and he sad he was up waiting at a certain door in the departures area. Note on that, my family has almost always picked up in the departures section because it's usually a little easier and on top of that, the hours when we're being picked up are usually the opposite of whenever there are departures so the departures area is usually pretty empty and vacant. And when Brandon and I walked outside, there was hardly a car in sight. In fact, there was only one regular car (which left shortly) and a cop car. We'd been standing there for maybe 30 seconds when I heard the cop say something kind of loudly. I was engrossed in texting my dad to let him know we were out there so I wasn't really paying attention, but Brandon quickly said quietly that he thought that the cop was talking to us. I looked up at the cop and then back to my phone and then the cop confirmed Brandon's suspicions, yelling a bit louder, asking us if we were waiting for someone. We confirmed this and then he proceeded to tell us that we needed to go downstairs to the arrivals and "pick up zone." We tried to explain that our ride was coming up here but he repeatedly just said we needed to go downstairs. Never mind that there weren't any cars up there and that it was almost 1:00 and there weren't likely to be any people dropping off anyone. He wanted to go downstairs. We tried to object a bit more but like a broken record he just repeated again and again that this was the drop off area and that we needed to go down to the pick up area. Frustrated, I started texting my dad to let him know we were heading down to the "pick up area," but as we slowly walked back to the door along came that maroon jeep liberty. So there we were, close to the door and my dad was about ten feet away. What to do?

Well, seeing as the only reasonable thing to do was to head to the car, that's what we did. We were there, my dad was there, it made sense. But who made a bee-line to the passenger side front door window? The cop. He knocked on it and shewed at us as we headed towards him, telling us that we needed to go downstairs, but by this time my dad had rolled his window down and the cop had someone else to argue with. As the cop and my dad argued back and forth, my dad pointing out that there wasn't anyone else up here and that since we were already here it was ridiculous to go down now, the cop just went on like he had, saying this was the drop off zone, and that was the pick up zone. After a short moment I grabbed our suitcase from Brandon and went to the back of the jeep, knocked on the window to have my dad unlock the door and popped the bag in as soon as he did. I walked over to the back seat door and opened it and climbed in, motioning to Brandon to get in as well. All the while the argument continued circularly without any new points being made, although the cop did threateningly say he could give us a ticket. For what? Picking up in the drop off zone. That's what. Once Brandon and I were both in, after a moment more of arguing my dad finally said, "Well you know what, we're good now, so we'll just go. Thanks." And off we went.

Now, honestly, I did feel a little bad for the cop. He has a job that sucks and he was doing his job, trying to enforce the rules, even when the rules were absurd and ridiculous. But it was also frustrating to see him push a bureaucratic rule in the most silly ways. It occurred to me yesterday when I was writing this down that in any other situation where I've been around an active cop, I've always been respectful and generally compliant and patient. I'm not certain what it was about this situation that allowed me to internally completely ignore that general respect, but it definitely wasn't there. It might have been how ridiculous I thought the situation was and it might have been the repetitive manner in which the cop approached the situation, but even now, I'm not really certain how much power he even had to do anything but tell us to move....

Anyway, off we went to our Drury Inn hotel (what an awful name - I get the reference but I can only look at the name and think dreary). It was nearing 1:30 at this point and Mom and Carina had just decided that they were going to head to bed (Mom had just opened the door to head up to their room) when we popped around the corner out of the elevator. Quick hellos were said and then all went to bed.

Bright and early (though not too early) we got up and headed straight down to breakfast with everyone. After breakfast we returned to our rooms and quickly got ready and rushed out the door, piled into the car (six of us in five seats) to race to the temple (as the GPS said it would take longer than anticipated and we didn't want to miss Grant and Melissa coming out of the temple!). About five minutes in Morgan asked if we knew that the gas meter read that we only had 4 miles left to empty. We'd noticed this the night before but we'd totally forgotten. A quick hurried pit stop later and we were back on the road. We got there a few minutes late but happily had more than twenty minutes to wait before Grant and Melissa came out.

Cousins of the bride!
Pictures followed for the next hour or so. Storm clouds and lightening had been looming for most of the morning but it wasn't until we were just wrapping up some of the formal shots that the downpour began. We sat in the car for a little bit and then drove in mass to the St. Louis Bread Company (otherwise known as Panera Bread to the rest of the country) for a nice lunch (Morgan and I shared a bowl of broccoli and cheese in a breadbowl - yum!). After lunch Mom, Grant, and Melissa took off to take some more photos and the rest of us went back to the hotel to relax. Brandon and I started watching Argo, but it quickly turned into Brandon napping and me watching Argo. :)

Around 5:00 I woke Brandon up and we got back into our fancy clothes (and did I mention that Brandon wore his three piece suit and bright red converse and looked fantastic?) and left for the reception. It was held at a local church building not too far away. We got there, helped with the last bit of set up and then dinner and celebration commenced. My Uncle Glen and Aunt Doris had been making a poster-board card using candy and we made our best attempt to help make another. It had a few lines and then ended with a hodgepodge of candy. Real creative. ;)

The reception itself was nice with the usual trappings wrapped up in a fun Alice in Wonderland theme. Kyle finally made his appearance about an hour into the reception which ended up being very timely as not more than about an hour later we started hearing sirens and everyone with cell phones got eerie simultaneous weather alerts. We took it pretty lightly at first but then headed out into the halls to wait it out and socialize, pausing our dancing.

Though nothing happened, looking back at it now, this was a really smart move. An EF3 tornado passed not more than three miles from where we were at. For some perspective on this, here's the path of the tornado. If you zoom in on the part of the path just below the words for St. Charles (about where the tornado crosses the river), just to the right of that is another road that crosses the river called Page Avenue. Where Page Avenue heads north and meets Old Highway 94 is the approximate location of where the church building was at. Where we were at. Crazy! The weather outside our building was pretty mad (gorgeous though) but I didn't really realize how close it was.

About thirty minutes later we were dancing again. I requested some West Coast Swing dance songs (or rather, songs that are good for dancing West Coast Swing) and Brandon and I were able to get a little in. Picking those songs unfortunately cleared the floor, but we'll have to work on that....somehow. It would be nice to request music that we can dance to without making everyone else feel like they can't dance...and hey, I caught the bouquet! Brandon then made an admirable effort to claim the garter (cause wouldn't that have been cute!) ;) but that didn't quite happen. Grant and Melissa took off and we helped clean up everything and took off. I've been to a fair amount of receptions and it is wonderful to finally be dating a guy that, while I may still have to initially persuade him onto the dance floor, both enjoys dancing and can hold his own. :)

Saturday morning we had a lazy morning, getting up late and going down to breakfast at a meander.  Around 11:00 we headed over to Goodwill (really close to the hotel) and wandered around there for a little less than an hour hunting for treasure. Highlights of that stop included "Moon Shoes" (little trampoline shoes) for Morgan (which she ended up leaving with), an Angry Birds - Star Wars - Darth Vader, and a giant catfish pillow (I had Mom pausing to think whether she could pull it off (she has at least one fish pillow at home) but she decided to opt out and after I'd returned it to it's pillow pile a little boy picked it up no more than five minutes later and his dad laughed and laughed at it and I saw them check out with it.).

Giant Catfish Pillow
Moon Shoes!
After Goodwill we drove over to the park near Grant's parent's home where the Open House for Grant and Melissa was being held. We spent awhile throwing a frisbee around and then Brandon and I took a walk over to the playground. The kids playing there watched Brandon like hawks and when Brandon went to do a pull up on one of the bars one kid immediately started counting them off - somewhat silly as Brandon only did one - and then later when Brandon did a back flip the kid could hardly contain his excitement as he ran off to tell his friend about it. Aside from that we hung out with everyone for a few hours, bid Carina farewell as she left for the airport, and then took off to explore the downtown.

We parked in a garage about "halfway" between the Gateway Arch and the City Museum and walked over to the Gateway Arch first. Beautiful! We took a quick tour of the museum and then rode the little pods to the top of the Arch to enjoy the view. We'd been kind of sitting on the fence about doing that but I think it was definitely worth it. Down again we walked over to the river for a while and looked at the swollen water and flooding for a bit before heading back across the lawn towards the city. Then began the somewhat longer walk to the City Museum but we stopped to cool our heels and fill our bellies at a TGI Friday on the way. Which ended up being more delicious that I usually remember TGI Friday being - particularly as we ordered a bunch of appetizers and turned it into a tapas meal where we got to try a variety of different things.

The Gateway Arch
Love this guy!
Up at the top of the Arch!
Kyle, Mom, and Dad!
Morgan and Katherin!
Pose at the bottom!
Enjoying the view up!
We finally made our way over to City Museum and immediately we were impressed. On the outside just outside the door you could see the huge outdoor wire maze area complete with raised towers, suspended airplanes and twisting and turning wire spiral tunnels. Such fun to come! We quickly purchased our wristbands (it cost a few more dollars to purchase the roof access passes so we opted out of those - not really knowing what we were getting into - in retrospect this was a smart decision as even with the three to four hours we spent there, we barely scratched the surface of what was available to us) and then split up to explore. Kyle, Brandon, and I took a spiral tunnel from the second to third floor and started there. The tunnel opened up to the entrance to a sprawling ballroom and the only part of the building that I would later qualify as being museum-like.  We explored the museum, touching and climbing on everything we came across. So often when you go to museums they're a mix - some stuff is hands on and some stuff you're specifically told not to touch, but with the City Museum, if it looked like you could crawl into or around something, you could. We came to a small round iron door and passageway that led us to another part of the museum, crawled through a few more tunnels and found ourselves near where we'd started again on the third floor. We then went over to an area with ropes and ramps where kids were running around and trying tricks. Over on one wall was a small entrance to some passageways behind the walls. I thought it might be a crawl space that just took you over to the other side of the room but it ended up being about six layers of crawl space at varying levels of height and width. We all got separated in there but were able to find each other as we headed out. Brandon kept calling "Eeeeeva!" and was greeted with a "WaaaaaAalleee" in return from the kids in the tunnel, which of course meant he kept on yelling it even when I was nearby. :)

What the all the ramps and spirals look like from the inside. 
Spiral up to the third floor!
Random tunnel!
Caution going into the wall spaces. 
Long slide down to the first floor!
From here we wandered around the fourth floor a bit, really just going up in order to access the long slide that went back to the ground floor so we could go outside. It has been cool just looking at the wire maze from the outside but wandering it from within was awesome. The wire ramps, spirals, and tunnels led up and up to the airplanes with tunnels extending above them through the air. The design of all this, aside from beautiful aesthetically, was done in such a way that the supports were practically invisible. Much of the support came from the towers that sort of stacked levels up, but the remainder mostly came in heavy cables and the structure of the metal tunnels themselves. So when you were up in the highest wire tunnel, the tunnel itself was doing most of the work to support you, even slightly swaying as you went across. It was fantastic. :) We wondered around there for awhile before finally making our way down to the ball out. Imagine a regular ball pit like you'd usually expect for kids with the plastic balls and netting around the outside but then blow the plastic balls up to basketball size and exchange the small children for older kids and adults. We initially all waded in throwing the balls at each other but then wandered up to the stand above the ball pit. From there Brandon threw balls up to us and we pelted people from above. This turned out very handy when Brandon started getting walloped by a girl with several balls and I could retaliate by pegging her with several head shots. Nobody hurts my boyfriend. ;)

One of the several towers.

Suspended airplanes.

Climbing up!

Highest tunnel!


Kyle coming through!
We went in shortly after that and immediately ran into Mom and Dad and took them back out and led Dad around the wire Maze a bit, taking him through the high tunnels and down the slides. Before too long we headed back in to find Mom and finally made our back towards the first floor. To find what? Only a gigantic cave network of caves and tunnels that led up and up to a 10 floor spiral slide and more!
Round and round!
Awesome mirrors.

At this point in the evening , after all the crawling and climbing we'd already done we were pretty hot, sticky, and tired. But on we went! We were told that the entrance to the stairs up to the 10-floor slide was somewhere in the caves, but we'd already slid our way through a network of little tunnels rather high up and hadn't seen anything, so we wandered around exploring other networks of tunnels for awhile before finally finding ourselves in the caves again. But this time we were in the larger tunnels deeper in the caves and pathways that led higher in the building. Up the stairs and ramps through an open section in the floor we went! Off to the sides we could see half finished spiral slides that abruptly had missing pieces in them (scary!) but we finally reached the proper slide  to go down. And who did we randomly run into at the bottom? Mom, Dad, and shortly after, Kyle. At this point we were essentially in the middle of the network of staircases and slides, all beautifully and artistically laid out with steam-punk edginess. We took a seat in one of the many stranded rows of velvety theater seats and waited as Dad climbed up to the slide to come down. And then we split up and each went separate ways to meet up at the bag claim (we weren't required to leave our bags, and I kept mine with my camera and phone in it, but crawling around without a bag is definitely easier than crawling with a bag). It was amazing that we could all leave through different paths but cross paths continually the entire way out.

We finally found Morgan and Katherine (who Brandon, Kyle, and I hadn't seen most of the time we were there) and went up to the veranda for slushies and cool drinks before heading out into the booming crowded streets of the evening to walk back to the garage. Everything was lit beautifully with twinkle lights and between that and the crowds the energy walking back through the city was very high and exciting. Back at the cars we piled in and Brandon, Kyle, and I drove back to the hotel and fell into bed after some quick showers to rinse off the grime of the day.

Awesome mural on most the building (only a few real windows there!)
If you ever find yourself heading to St. Louis, I absolutely recommend that you go to the City Museum. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip for me. And bring knee pads if you can, as that will make the whole experience much softer on your knees. I'm not really sure how the City Museum was put together, as the level of detail and the potential for injury seems too high to make it legally viable, but the whole experience was incredible and beautiful and I never felt unsafe as I crawled and clambered my way around. It was awesome. Literally awesome. Both the experience and the fact that they could pull it off.

Sunday morning blossomed not too early and after breakfast we said goodbye to Mom and Dad (headed to Cincinnati), finished packing everything up, and Kyle and Morgan drove Brandon and me to the airport. Only around 11:30 by the time we arrived, we had several hours to wait before I tried to get on the 2:09 flight back to SLC. We wandered around the terminal and found a nice place to relax and play games on our phones for a few hours. That morning I had checked on both the 2:09 flight to SLC and the 6:40 flight to SLC (the one Brandon was going to be on) and both of them had looked pretty good with at least 15 extra seats on each one. However, the weather in the entire Midwest was pretty terrible the entire weekend and somehow all of the seats on the 2:09 flight completely disappeared. So we settled down to wait a few more hours until the 6:40 flight. And as things would have it, the same thing happened with the 6:40 flight. Where it had looked good just a few hours before, the seats started to vanish. But when I went up to the gate agent he said that I was "on the fence" of getting on. So Brandon waited with me until everyone else was on and then at the door just past scanning his ticket. At that point there were two girls who were waiting who were just in front of me to get on. When the gate agent told them that he thought he had two seats, they jumped up and down excitedly until one last passenger showed up to get on, leaving us all with the impression that there was now only one left. Brandon had already walked down to the plane at this point. The agent asked the girls if they wanted to split up and they decided they didn't want to so that last seat was to be mine! I excitedly walked down to the airplane where Brandon was still waiting in line to get to his seat and the flight attendants stowed my bag in a compartment just next to the door to get on. But as we waited there, the agent warned me that he was pretty sure there should be a seat, but wasn't 100% certain he'd counted the passengers on right. And as I walked down to the end of the airplane, scanning the seats, it became painfully clear that he had counted wrong and that there weren't any empty seats. :( That is the worst feeling, getting your hopes and excitement up and then having it fall around your feet. I waved at Brandon and got off to puzzle out how to get back to SLC. And I'll admit that in that moment, I was a little teary eyed. No crying, but on the cusp. It was just a brief emotional rollercoaster that had pushed me back to working the game. But that's what it is to be a standby. Inexpensive but at a risk.

Playing games on our phones as we waited.
I talked to the gate agent there and he recommended that I wait until the 2:09 flight the next day but there was no way that I was going to do that. I knew that there was a last flight heading to Atlanta and that there was a connecting flight to Huntsville and so I asked him if he could rearrange my listing to head there. He said that it didn't look good for me to get on the Atlanta flight as there were a long list of standby passengers waiting on that one, but I'd looked at the lists and had seen that my priority placed me about eleven seats in for twenty seats available and that even though the list looked intimidating, I'd probably get on. He then said he couldn't list me because the gate agent for that flight had locked in the controls, so I headed down to the gate he'd indicated (I was at C2 and the gate the flight was supposed to be going out of was C10 or C12) and found almost no one there but a sign saying that the flight had been moved to C4. When I finally got back to C4 there was a little line waiting for the counter but no one at the counter. I waited for a few minutes, went back to double check that I hadn't missed anyone at the C10/12 gate and then returned to C4. A few minutes later an agent finally showed up and I was able to ask her to list me. She actually found that I had already been listed (somehow the previous agent had been able to do it even though he hadn't thought he'd be able to) and gave me a new seat request ticket. I walked off to the side and pulled up the lists again on my phone and then called my Dad (I'd called him when I'd not been to get on the 6:40 flight and he'd been working on finding wifi (at Newport in Cincinnati) so he could use his computer instead of his phone). When I talked to him, however, he said he didn't think flying to Huntsville was going to work, but maybe, just maybe, I could make the last flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City. I hadn't even seen this combination when I'd looked but he explained that the flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake, originally scheduled to depart Atlanta at 9:45 had been delayed to depart at 10:30. However, the flight from St. Louis to Atlanta had been supposed to leave St. Louis at 7:07, arriving in Atlanta at 9:45, but is had also been delayed to leave until 7:55, scheduled to get in at what time? 10:30. So these two flights would overlap too much. But I went ahead and got on the Atlanta flight as my dad listed me for the Atlanta to Salt Lake City flight (rather than the Huntsville flight which I was currently listed for). He'd also texted me the gate I was supposed to arrive in (B25 - it ended up being B21) and the one the Salt Lake City flight was leaving from (D26). If you're at all familiar with the Atlanta airport, the stairs down to the tram at the airport are at or around gate 19, so I was at least going to be close to the entrance down, but I still had to get two concourses over and up the stairs to the gate. Assuming I even got to the airport before the Salt Lake City flight left.

As luck would have it, when I landed in Atlanta (at 10:30) I got a text from my Dad saying that the Salt Lake Flight had been delayed until 11:00, but that I was listed. Adrenaline pumping, I grabbed my bags and waited as the front half of the airplane got off (they'd made that announcement about letting people rushing to connections off first, but people hardly ever seem to listen to that) and then rushed off, running down to the stairs and all the way between two concourses to the D concourse, up the escalator and to me gate. Glistening with sweat, I looked up at the board and saw that my name had been removed much farther down the priority list as they'd been calling for me and, since I hadn't showed up, had been clearing other people, but there were still two seats and I was number one on the list. I waited at the desk for a minute and then the agent grabbed my ticket, wrote a seat number on it and I was on. Amazing. I don't think I've ever been so happy to get on a flight.

And then I arrived in Salt Lake around 1:00, Brandon picked me and took me back to his place and I drove home and quickly went to bed. Happy to be there and exhausted.

It was a wonderful weekend full of wonderful things. A little crazy at the end, but I'm so glad we got to go. As usual, there are of course more pictures (and videos) over on facebook. :)

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