Dear Friends - Inevitably (perhaps regretably), this is Day 1 of a 9-part trip report documenting our recent family vacation to Arizona and Utah. You've been warned.
Monday, August 23, 2010 - We were one day away from a full moon. One day away from weird s**t goin' down. But today would be weird enough without the full celestial event.
The next day, August 24th, would be the start of our latest Adventures By Disney trip. This time it would be American Southwest - Grand Canyon (although I swear it used to be called Southwest Splendors). We'd had a few options for a vacation this year, but we abided by JediBoy's (my son) wish to see the Grand Canyon - and we ended up with Disney yet again.
The goal for this day - on the threshold of a full moon - was to finish packing and then take a leisurely 2.5 hour afternoon drive from our digs in London, Ontario to the Detroit Airport Westin. This would give us more manageable logistics for the next day's flight to Phoenix, Arizona where we'd begin our Disney-fied cowboy adventures.
An hour into our drive, we crossed into the U.S. at Port Huron, Michigan as we've done many times before. It's typically an easy crossing, with fairly short waits to state one's business to a guard. As expected, we waited about 10 or 15 minutes until it was our turn to cross the border. As unexpected, the guard informed us we had been randomly selected for a vehicle inspection, so would we "please turn on your four-way flashers and pull over into the inspection area".
We parked the van where we were told and then the four of us - Dad, Mom, and 2 Teens (17 and 14) - stood in line to speak with some other official person. There's safety in numbers, and I was sort of relieved to see many other people in the same boat. It was a banner day at the Port Huron crossing, with lots of 'randomly selected' miscreants looking just as guiltly as my family.
The entertainment portion of our 15 minutes in line was provided by an obnoxious middle-aged couple who were very unhappy to have won the border lottery. They were letting a very patient guard know that they did not appreciate that 'a complete stranger' would be 'touching their stuff'. I later noticed that the couple would end up in a interview room while us lower-tier terrorists would only get counter-service. Since I could not perceive the tell-tale thwack of rubber hose meeting yielding flesh, I could only assume their interview room was soundproofed. Pity, that.
In all, the process was painless. We were met by an officer who sheepishly asked us to fill out a declaration card while he went outside to poke around inside our van. Less than 5 minutes later we were free to go (and received one guard's admiration for our 'Super Mickey' antenna topper).
We celebrated our freedom with an early dinner at a nearly Cracker Barrel (my wife's guilty pleasure). While we had lost almost an hour at the border, we were fed and read to press on to our hotel. This leg of the trip also took a bit longer courtesy of federal stimulus money clogging up Interstate 94, but we arrived at the Westin at a decent hour nontheless. Our valet - a nice fellow named Richard - met us as we pulled up to the doors and within minutes he was whisking our van away as we pulled our luggage to the front desk. I made a mental note to verify that our friend Richard was actually employed by the hotel.
The Westin was nice - open, airy, with a lovely stone-lined pond separating the lobby from the restaurant. But any thoughts of being relaxed were smacked out of my head by a confusing conversation at Check-In. In short, our reservation was gone, as in 'not on our system'. It did not matter that we had pre-paid for the night's stay. We did not exist.
It took a few minutes of tense conversation and clickety-clackety keyboarding to get to the root of our woes. The reservation we had made a few months prior had been accidently entered for July, not August. According to the Westin, we were a no-show and a month late. The nice Westin Lady assured us she could check us in as 'walk ins' at the same discounted rate as our original booking, She also gave us the contact for someone in their office who would sort out the whole 'pre-paid' room accounting. She then handed us a room key (Club level!) and bid us goodnight.
We spent the remainder of the evening sucking up free hotel wifi and enjoying expensive room service snacks. We'd survived everything the day had thrown our way. We had made it to a savepoint.
Tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow we would be cowboys.