So....I got checked out of the hotel, which was an ordeal, because I had packed one of my bags incorrectly and couldn't carry it but was running behind and couldn't redo it. Finally straggled out to the curb and had missed the shuttle by five minutes, and the next one wasn't due for another 20 m9inutes. Rather than wait with all my bags I decided to just pay for a taxi and get it over with and GET THERE. I was so relieved when he dropped me off right in front of Reno's little Southwest skycap kiosk and they promptly took those bags off my hands *whew*. I was able to find where I was supposed to be with no problems at all and walked through security with no issues. I got to the desk and asked if they would let me preboard because I was deaf and they gave me the pass, no problem. I asked if the plane would be stopping or if it was a direct flight and they told me it would stop in Oakland first. Aha...stay on the plane! While I was sitting in the preboard area another fella with a preboard pass came up and sat next to me. I noticed the hearing aid so I asked if he had been at the convention. Turns out that he was one of the California HLAA state leaders so had so we had plenty to talk about. He was also a very frequent flyer and turned out to be a very knowledgeable tour guide about our flight route...he showed me all the scenery and told me what I was looking at...cool! The Dean Martin impersonator was on our flight...just a shame he didn't sing for us!
Got to Burbank with no trouble at all, and my new friend informed me that the Burbank airport was kinda quaint...that they wheeled steps up to the door of the plane and you just walk down them, onto the tarmac, and into the airport. That was the first time I'd done that and that was kinda cute. I kept thinking about all the videos of the presidents walking down those steps and waving at the crowds. Found the baggage claim with no problem and met my aunt Sonia there. I had seen her last at Grandmas' 90th birthday party back in February...it was great to see her again! She helped me wrangle bags onto a trolley and we got my car rented with no problem. Then we drove to Universal CityWalk in Hollywood and had lunch at the Daily Grill. Sonia ordered us an ahi tuna appetizer...I canNOT get enough of that stuff!! (may have to go out for sushi one day soon) and I ordered a Southwestern chicken wrap. It was all delicious!! Sonia offered me dessert but I had seen a Ben & Jerry's down the way and I was holding out for that :). We walked around and looked at several of the shops and then we hit up Ben & Jerry's for my Bananas on the Rum ice cream (I only get it about once every six months or so and it's AWESOME) and The Crepe Cafe for a banana Nutella crepe for her (WOW!). After a little more shopping I drove Sonia to the airport to pick up her car and we said our goodbyes there and I headed up Freeway 5 to Santa Clarita.
It was kinda funny that I left the same time Deb McClendon, boyfriend Brian, and Judy Wagner did...I got in the taxi in Reno about the same time they got in their car...and when I pulled up in the parking lot of the Hampton Inn in Santa Clarita several hours later, they were walking through the parking lot into the front door! Talk about great timing! We all got checked in and then decided to go next door to the Outback for dinner. I was quite full from eating ALL afternoon, so I just got a coke and sat and enjoyed the company. While we were eating I mentioned that I wondered if perhaps Evelyn Gardner was at the hotel yet. Apparently, news that she was staying at our hotel hadn't yet reached the ears of the rest of the group, so that lit a fire under all of us weary travelers and we stampeded out the door over to the hotel. We have known Evelyn for a long time...I met her online two years ago when I was considering my first implant. She had just gotten her first one and she was a huge encouragement to me. When I was considering my second one I found her on HearingJourney.com, and she had just had her second one, so she held my hand through that one too! I had been so excited about finally meeting her face to face...and just couldn't wait :).
Deb asked at the front desk and they called up to Evelyn's room to let her know that she had company. She had just arrived...and when she stepped off the elevator a few minutes later the arms started flying as we all swarmed to hug her and her hubby Norm. Even though she had never met any of us personally she knew us...Deb and Judy from one of Advanced Bionics' promotional DVDs, and me from my picture on HearingJourney.com. I got tickled though when she said that she thought originally that I was a little person, maybe around 5'2" or 5'3". If you ever meet me and you're thinking I'm going to be short, you're in for a surprise, since I'm six feet tall with my shoes on...not exactly tiny :). We all grabbed some complimentary cookies and coffee and sat down in the lobby and talked for a while. It never ceases to amaze me how neat it is to finally meet online friends in real life...I haven't met a stranger yet, and usually get quite comfortable with new friends almost immediately.
We didn't stay up too late...because the next day was going to be a busy one. I went upstairs, hooked up the computer, and worked for another hour or so on a speech...the first of four that I would give over the next 48 hours. For a girl that dropped out of public speaking twice in one year...I was to get a lot of real life speaking experience...fast!