Beth and I have been to Houston together three times previously; on a road trip through Texas and California in 2011, on another road trip to Texas in 2013, and for a quick trip to meet our nephew Carter as a one-month old in 2014. This particular trip would be just after Carter’s third birthday and we’re excited/nervous to be traveling with our six-month old, James, for the first time. This trip took place from February 17th through February 22nd, 2017.
Day 1: Minneapolis, MN (MSP) to Houston, TX (IAH): We awoke on the morning of the 17th and finished packing the last items into our shared suitcase. It wasn’t going to be a very long trip so Beth and I each packed only a couple changes of clothes, knowing that we could do laundry at her sister’s house whenever necessary. The most difficult part of the packing process was for James. Not only does the little diva need a new outfit every couple of hours, he also requires a variety of other products that we had to find room for in our various bags. Beth’s large suitcase fit all of the clothes while all other baby essentials were split between my backpack and the diaper bag. James’ car-seat has its own carrying case which was our other checked bag at the airport. With all that stuff finally packed, Beth took James to his six-month pediatrician check up (four days after he actually hit the milestone) while I stayed behind to do all the dishes (both baby and regular) and make sure everything was ready for us to leave. After a couple trips to the car with all of our things, we departed the house around 4:30pm, (about 15 minutes behind schedule).
To avoid paying for parking at the airport we were instead headed to my parents’ house so my mom could take us. My dad also wanted to tag along so the car was a bit stuffed with the four adults, car-seat/baby, and the dog. Maeby was staying with Beth’s parents during our trip, which was our last stop before Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. It was a beautiful, record-breaking 60 degree February day in Minnesota with the possibility of more records falling the rest of the extended President’s Day weekend. It was a shame to miss the fantastic (and unusual) weather for our trip but there was no way to know that when we booked the flight a month earlier. We’ve certainly been on v
acation for our share of horrible Minnesota weather so we’ll accept the bad with the good (occasionally). When we arrived at MSP we all jumped out and I worked on getting the car-seat and its base into the carrying case. It is quite large so it had to be checked but it has backpack straps and small wheels so it’s easily portable. Once inside, Beth and I had some trouble printing our boarding passes at the automatic kiosk, checked our luggage, and then got temporarily lost looking for the security line, which was very well disguised to the left of a TSA pre-screen line for frequent flyers. All told it took probably twenty minutes to get through all three lines, quite efficient for a supposedly busy holiday weekend at the airport, and James made several friends along the way with his beautiful smile.
Our gate was in Concourse G which was luckily the first one we came across once clearing security. We walked to gate G10 and I got Beth seated before setting out to find us both dinner. I had to walk a long way to the Subway for Beth but then decided to stop at a burger counter on the way back for myself. It looked like one of those short-order counters where you order your food and it’s on a plate in front of you in three minutes. It was NOT a short-order counter where the food is on a plate in front of you in three minutes. I stood there waiting for 15 minutes before finally getting my barbecue cheeseburger with French fries. By the time I made it back to Beth our flight was starting to board four minutes later. I didn’t provide her enough time to eat her sandwich or for us to feed James his dinner of purplish baby mush (a combo of raspberry, banana, and oatmeal). Beth was justifiably disappointed in my decision-making and forced me to eat my burger quickly so we could board the plane. I offered to let her eat her sandwich while I held James but evidently making me eat was her preferred punishment. My burger was tasty but knowing I had messed up so badly put a sour taste in my mouth.
We were allowed to board the plane first along with three other families with kids. Our seats were in the very back in front of the bathrooms. The seats did not recline but having such easy access to the bathrooms was a good trade-off. We stowed our carry-ons and I held James on my lap while Beth fed him. He was a bit fussy afterwards because it was his bedtime. I’m sure all the people boarding the plane hearing a crying baby thought they were in for a nightmare flight. I was certainly a bit nervous about the possibility as well. Our gate was at the entrance to one of the runways so we only had to taxi for a minute and were taking off a minute later (lucky!). James cried for a couple minutes off and on but Beth was able to soothe him to sleep. He woke up for a while after take off but then, fortunately, slept most of the flight. The guy in front of me abruptly reclined his chair the maximum amount the moment he was allowed. I wasn’t allowed to recline in the back row so it made for an uncomfortable ride. Beth did great. She held him for two hours and only shifted him between arms once. It was herculean. I was, and still am, very impressed. In addition to handing Beth items that she could not reach while holding him, I played a couple games of Ticket to Ride on her iPad. I played against three computer players and never finished better than second place.
Our flight arrived almost forty minutes early; the pilot had mentioned something about favorable conditions when we left the Twin Cities but cutting forty minutes out of a three-hour flight was pretty unexpected. There were a couple occasions of short-lived turbulence that required buckling seat-belts but it was an enjoyable flight overall. I couldn’t identify any cities below us but not for a lack of trying. Last time we flew into Houston I could see Dallas clearly below. In typical fashion, my ears decide to cause me problems as we landed. They didn’t fully normalize (pop) upon landing. The right one was worse than the left but they both felt wrong. It took everyone in front of us several minutes to clear the aircraft and we couldn’t even stand up until we were one of the last six people onboard. It took us a good seven minutes to gather our things and James made cute faces at the flight attendants. The pilots looked very tired as we walked past at 10:35pm and I couldn’t blame them. I had body aches from sitting in the tight, uncomfortable seat and I wasn’t holding a baby the entire time! On the lengthy walk to baggage claim we met a nice airport worker that commented on James’ smiling face and saw a statue of a cow wearing a space suit and holding a Texas flag. It was incredibly Texan. We must have arrived on one of the last inbound planes of the evening because the place was practically deserted.
Val picked us up and we got James in the car. He fell back asleep on the 45 minute ride to their house. We caught up on current events (including scary political news) and watched as a local sheriff’s department pulled over several unsuspecting drivers in a speed trap. Our nephew Carter was long asleep by the time we arrived but Val’s husband Dave was still awake. They showed us to their guest room and after limited conversation, we went to bed! End of day one.