Travel plan fell short of perfection

Hi, my name is Joel, and I am a failure. I will never again use myself as a travel agent following my recent trip to Dubuque, Minneapolis and home.

I thought I had been a genius by buying three one-way tickets on Southwest to go to my Midwest Free Community Papers board meetings in Dubuque, then travel on to Minneapolis to see sister Elaine, my nieces and my niece Jeanette?s boys, Hunter and Justin.

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Here?s where I failed. I had first planned to fly to Chicago?and avoid American Airlines, which would have taken me to Dubuque, but they cancel flights at the drop of a hat?and rent a car and drive from Chicago to Dubuque and then drive on to Minneapolis.

It was a bit less to return the car to Chicago and fly to Minne?a?polis instead of dropping the car in Minneapolis, so that?s what I signed up for. Big mistake.

Getting out of Chicago is one thing, driving back into it during rush hour is another.

I allowed four and a half hours for the return trip, not knowing what was to come.

I also thought I had enough gas to make the round trip from Chicago to Dubuque.

So everything was going just fine until I got within about 15 miles of Midway airport. All of a sudden I?m seeing miles of red brake lights looming ahead of me, which was unnerving since I chose not to put gas in the car when I had the chance earlier in the trip.

My phone GPS quit talking to me as well. I discovered I had to hold it upright to have a signal, and while it was in my lap it wasn?t working.

Plus, I had coins in my hands for the tolls, not knowing how much it would be. I had six quarters in one hand and 60 cents in the other.

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The time limit kept getting closer and the gas gauge kept getting closer to empty until the low-fuel light came on. I was still nowhere near the airport. As I exited and merged to new routes, I learned that drivers do not let you in, including the big semis. One trucker gunned it as I was trying to enter the flow.

By this time my teeth were beginning to float, if you get what I mean. This was endless agony and still no inkling that I was even close to the destination.

Finally, I was able to exit the freeway, hoping that I could find a gas station and clear up a couple of problems I was having. No gas stations in sight.

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Luckily, my instinct was right and a sign for a street I had used the day before showed up on the overhead signage. Once I knew where I was again, the rest was much easier, but not without additional consternation.

I hadn?t taken the option to pay for gas through the rental company, so I had to fill the tank myself. I jumped for joy when I saved $4 doing it my way.

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By now I was beginning to feel totally crazy and totally relieved at the same time. It was kind of like thinking I might drown but then didn?t.

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By now, time was of the essence and I missed the turn for the car rental return near Midway airport and found it on the second try. I was running to get through security and to the gate only to learn that the flight was delayed.

Need travel advice? Don?t ask me.

If you wish to share your comments or ideas, my e-mail address is joel@hillsborofreepress.com.

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