Why would you go to Chicago in February?
I wanted to attend the first one, that's why I hit "Register" confirming my participation in the National Geographic Traveler Magazine travel writing seminar "Inside Secrets of Successful Writing." Forget LA or Boston in the spring, I picked Chicago in February at the Evanston Campus of Northwestern University.
"Honey," I announced to Ed on December 17th, "National Geographic Traveler finally posted its seminar information and I am going to Chicago, I'm going to pull some frequent flier miles from American and I'm going to use my free rental coupon earned from National for a car."
"So when is this?" he asked. "February," I replied and received a questioning look. "Chicago in February," I heard him mutter while shaking his head as if he had a premonition of what would come.
Over dinner in Chandler, Arizona, I announced my plans to my Chicago-born friend Kelly , she shrugged her shoulders and said, "Be sure to visit Michigan Avenue and go to Gino's for some authentic Chicago deep dish pizza. It might be colder than you are use to," she added as an afterthought.
When Jill visited our Texas home over the holidays, she said, "Chicago, great! Let's get together while you are in town. I might even go to the seminar with you." And then, a day before my trip she emailed: "Do you have warm clothes? Pack them."
I threw my ski mittens and a pair of black rabbit fur earmuffs into my suitcase. I was ready to take yet another step in this preparation to full-time in the RV, travel and write about my expereinces. I was headed to my first travel writing seminar at least until American Airlines called at 7 AM on February 3rd.
"Your flight has been canceled due to mechanical failure. Don't worry, you are now on the noon fight arriving in Chicago at 5:30 PM. Have a nice morning!" I yelled to Ed who had already started the truck, "We don't have to leave yet!" I canceled my plans to explore Michigan Avenue and postponed dinner with my cousin Jeff until Sunday night. I resigned myself to drive direct to Evanston, eat a quick dinner, rest and be ready for the seminar.
I should have realized that the mechanism on the rental car door locks was problematic when I couldn't hear the snap of door lock outside the hotel registration area. The locks did secure the car once I parked it in the lot and they stayed secure until I met the locksmith at 5 PM. He opened the car by popping the lock like a car thief.
Excited about going to the seminar, I left the hotel early only to be locked out of the rental car. Wind chills of -30 and a malfunctioning lock system fouled my temperament. "No, I am not safe," I growled to the National customer service representative. "It's freezing out here and the car will not open...Of course, I have two keys but they are both ignition keys. The automatic car system is dead!"
Think fast...Call Jill, no she is always running late...Walk to the University, no too cold...Cab! Yes, I took a cab with a non-English speaking driver who went in circles around Campus Drive until I leaned over the front seat and righted his wrongs with MapQuest directions. So what if I had to insist that he go the wrong way on a one-way street. "What cop is going to be out in this weather?" I persisted. I had arrived at the McCormick Tribune Center Forum with time to spare.
"Inside Secrets of Successful Travel Writing" offered interview tips, practice on pitching a story to editors, insight to trends in travel writing, and advice on creating a story readers will have a curiosity to devour word-by-word. Was this seminar worth going to Chicago? Yes! Yes! Yes!