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Pat Rupp: The devil is in the details

An almost two-month warm-weather trip came to a halt last Wednesday afternoon as my wife and I completed the final leg of our road trip from Madison, Wis., to the Twin Cities.

A trip of such magnitude obviously demands a hearty dose of detailed planning and I so wish I could report everything ran as smoothly as a 2018 Rolls Royce. Unfortunately the return trip resembled more the ill-fated 1957 Edsel.

The three-stop, Minnesota-to-Florida portion of the journey with overnight stops in Illinois and Tennessee came off flawlessly. Good weather. Minimal road construction. More than adequate lodging and more importantly, an A-plus performance by our trusty two-year-old Toyota Camry.

The five weeks in northern Florida also came off without a hitch. Mostly blue skies and above-average temperatures. Beautiful flora and fauna. Daily walks on the beach and shell collecting for my bride and an occasional round of golf for the male of the household.

We knew, however, the last week of the 2017 snowbird experience could be especially interesting as it entailed a 45-minute plane ride to Miami followed by an international flight to the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean. There we would meet up with my wife's sisters and spouses and her American Field Service "brother" and his wife who reside in Belgium.

Amazingly, that part of the trip also went swimmingly. The language, currency and customs of the locals presented a bit of a challenge but with three French speakers in our group the problems proved minimal.

The bright sun shone every day with temps in the mid-80s and the breathtaking beauty of the place was unforgettable. We frolicked for six days, taking in the sights, sounds and culinary delights of the island before getting ready to return to northern reality scheduled appropriately on April Fools Day.

My first clue that things were not as they seemed came on the last day of March when I received email notice that it was time to check in online for April 1 stays at not one, but two, hotels—one in Miami and one in Macon, Georgia. That seemed to be stretching us a bit too far.

A closer look at the long-ago made reservations secured by yours truly found that indeed I had gotten dates confused. The Miami stay was correct as we had an overnight stay followed by a short plane ride to Jacksonville to pick up our car and head home. The other three were all a day off.

I tried to remain calm and ignore my red face as I sheepishly changed hotel reservations for Macon; Paducah, Ky.; and Beloit, Wis. How embarrassing.

Things went from comical to Keystone Kops ridiculous at the Guadeloupe airport when the English-challenged airlines representative informed us that, no, we didn't have an overnight stay in Miami but rather a connecting flight that would get us to Jacksonville late that same night. Oh-oh.

My spouse took the fall for this misread but at that point it really didn't much matter who was to blame. Murphy's Law had taken hold.

An international phone call from the Caribbean to Miami straightened out the hotel problem and some more pounding of the keys on my laptop changed once again the upcoming overnight stays.

But as the infomercial says, "But wait, there's more..."

An interstate bridge collapsed in Atlanta and brought about another change in plans. Instead of spending the first night of the return trip in Georgia, we ended up in Montgomery, Alabama. And for a little icing on the travel cake, our preferred hotel in Beloit, Wisconsin had no rooms to accommodate the change. Hello, Madison.

I have often pondered what would have happened if I had chosen a different a career path and selected something other than education by which to make a living. After last week's fiasco, I can safely eliminate one career field from future musings: travel planner.

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