The 13th of September 2013. It was all about removing one item from my bucket list, that item being an Iron Maiden concert. They say it’s not about the destination, but the journey. Thank goodness that’s rubbish because this journey sucked, thank goodness also – Bruce and company more than made up for it. If the end goal of this trip was related to any band besides one of my big 3 (AC/DC, Scorpions, Maiden) I probably would never have went to a concert anywhere again in my life.
Before our trip even started it was being riddled with detriment. Originally the trip was supposed to occur on a couple of days when Owen would be with his dad so we wouldn’t have to worry about finding someone for him to be with. As always plans change, things get complicated. The good news is Casey’s family was helpful and graciously accommodated us.
Potential showstopper number 2 was when Grandma got sick 2 nights before departure. On my way out of the house Wednesday morning I found grandma worshiping the throne. That situation didn’t really get great at any time prior to departure, but we left anyway. She assured us she was going to be OK and sent us on our way. We got her squared away with my spare phone so that we could call and check on her. I was worried with Grandma’s ability to do the slide to answer an iPhone, but Deb got her trained up and she did succeed; we got in touch of her a couple times while we were away.
The dog was a mild nuisance. Because grandma was sick we didn’t want to burden her with Porter. I was confident enough in the mobility that grandma was exhibiting to just tell Deb to scratch the last minute attempts at finding boarding for him. He was apparently missing a shot and it was going to be way too big of a hassle to make that happen prior to departure, we’d almost be better off paying to have him come with us.
Next travesty is my own sickness. My own sickness wasn’t going to stop the journey, no chance. However it did take its toll on me the entire time. Every successive decent from cruising altitude became more and more painful. My sinuses were trying to push my eyeballs out of my head. I was crying, I was using my own shirt to blow the crud out of my nose, anything to relieve the pain. The most helpful thing was deep breathing the cool processed air coming from the vent above.
The last surprise PRIOR to departure happened while checking in for our Spirit Airlines flight. The flight was cheap, really cheap compared to the normal big carriers such as Delta, US Airways, etc. I was hesitant, but the decider was that they offered the best flight schedule for us. Leave Friday morning and arrive in LA just in time to be a little late to the concert, then leave Saturday morning not too early, but not so late that we’d get back to MSP sometime Sunday. The shocker was at check-in. Apparently nothing is included with your flight on Spirit Airlines, including the seats. I had to pay extra money to be able to choose my own seats. There was a random option, but I was afraid that me and my lovely gay wife would be *randomly* separated. Seats were no less than $10/flight for each person for each flight. Add in the cost I had to pay to check 1 single bag (even carry-ons weren’t free) and my add-on bill for using Spirit Airlines was $158. It still ends up being far cheaper than doing a big-name carrier’s flights, but it was a surprise.
With all the situations standing in the way of me and Iron Maiden even prior to departure, I’d hoped it would get easy after departure, heavens… I had gotten an E-mail prior to us even departing that our connecting flight from Vegas to LAX was delayed by 70 minutes. This adds 70 minutes to how late we’d be arriving at San Manuel Amphitheater, but I wasn’t worried yet. There were 6 names on the ticket, and while I would have loved to see them all, the headliner was my only drop-dead concern.
We landed in Vegas with no real outstanding problems other than my annoying sinus explosion. Once off the plane we searched food. Vegas’ airport is not arranged in such a way that once you get past security you can visit all terminals without leaving the secured area so we were limited to what was in our terminal. We went to a bar with grab & go stuff, but weren’t served so we left. Next shot was this place that specialized in cheese steaks. For specializing in them they were pretty lackluster, but they did fill our stomachs.
Not long after we finished eating I got an E-mail that read “Your flight to LAX has been delayed 3 hours.” I am very thankful that Kayak e-mailed me this, GO KAYAK. When I approached the person at the service desk she had no knowledge of the new much longer delay, who knows how long we would have sat there had I not gotten that E-mail. Now we have a real problem… There was no way with the 3 hour delay and traffic exiting LA around that time of day on a Friday would we be able to make it to the concert on time. The hail-mary was to rent a car and drive to San Bernardino.
So we did. The car was a very base model Hyundai Accent, a real steamer. I’m generally not one who gets excited about an under powered car as I’m not one who gets in a huge rush to get anywhere. This was a whole new level of under powered though. The car required entire ramps to get up to freeway speed. Going through the hills on I-15 it sometimes had to downshift twice to maintain highway speed. It had no cruise control – not a phenomena I was elated with given that it lacked the power to maintain consistent speed and I was on a long highway drive. The radio selection sucked (not the car’s fault), the iPod connection didn’t work (the car’s fault). I guess 2 good things were I didn’t have to descend from 35,000 feet and traffic was pretty light.
Our 200 mile journey from Las Vegas to San Bernardino ended with a little snag that did nothing more than miss us the first half of Anthrax’s set, something that I really don’t care about as Anthrax was the band on the ticket I was least interested in. Deb’s iPhone chose to lead us to San Manuel Stadium as opposed to San Manuel Amphitheater, 2 very different venues that are separated by about 20 minutes of driving, thus adding about 40 minutes to our late arrival.
We found our way to the correct venue, got parked, got out of the car, changed into our concert clothes, walked certainly no less than a full mile from where we parked to where the action was taking place. No snags with pat-downs or ticketing. We did have to wait in pretty substantial lines to access ATMs, but that was to be expected and unfortunately I was too frazzled to think of it prior to our departure from the airport. We got beer and made our way to our seats just in time to watch Megadeth! It wasn’t amazing as I’m not the biggest fan ever, but sounded better than when they were in the Carlson Center and I had beer and my favorite person there with me which was a welcome change.
There isn’t much to say about when Iron Maiden came on. The set lasted what I feel was probably 90 minutes, maybe a couple hours… however long it was I was left totally happy even after all I’d went through to get there. For that period of time I found pure bliss.
The rest of the night was rough, but with a warm hotel bed waiting for me I was determined to get there. I would guess it was 2 hours easy from the time the show ended until we got on the highway, then it was another 75 minute drive to the hotel. I was tired so this obviously seemed to take forever, one of the longest forevers I’ve ever experienced. Upon arrival the hotel clerk let us park right where registration parking was so I went to the room, jumped through the shower to calm my nerves and sinuses then hit the sack for 4 hours – had to be up at 7 to get back on the plane and head home.
The trip home was totally event-free, thank goodness. I am happy to be home on Sunday and have this extra day to regroup before going back to work. It’s stunning to me to think that my trip to Budapest to see the Scorpions was so much simpler logistically than this was. It was totally worth it and if I knew what I was getting into I’d do it all over again.