Parents Visiting Day 2007

It was homecoming week at Cranbrook Schools.  They have many activities during homecoming week, one of which is Parents Visiting Day.  I visited last year and Meg wanted me to come up again.  So this is my tale………


There used to be a direct flight from Detroit to Wichita via Northwest Airlines.  But about two years ago this flight was cancelled.  That was inconvenient for us to say the least.  Now we must connect through Minneapolis or Memphis.  We usually fly a puddle jumper out of Wichita.  The Minneapolis connection is inconvenient because the connecting flight to Detroit is a large plane and the two terminals are about a mile apart.  You arrive in A or B and depart in F.  The airport is laid out in a straight line.  It is a healthy walk.  We also try to avoid Minneapolis in the winter.


So I booked my flight through Memphis.  Memphis is a much smaller airport.  The main problem with Memphis is that the connection times are either very short or quite long.  My preference was to risk the short and hope for the best.  So my booking allowed 37 minutes on the ground in Memphis.  I boarded my outbound flight on time and all looked good.  However we stayed at the gate an extra half hour because of delays at Memphis.  Given a 37 minute connection time, I did not view this as an especially good deal.  So we landed in Memphis a tad late and my connecting flight was in a different terminal.  They were starting to board just as I got there.  So I took a minute to use a restroom and buy some food.  It was a squeaker though.  All I had time to get was some trail mix to eat on the plane.


I took two vacation days and went up Wednesday late evening.  My plan was to visit Ford and talk aerodynamic noise with Bob Powell and then go to lunch with the guys.  It has been five years since I retired from Ford.  I thought it might be safe for me to go back and visit.  Unfortunately Bob got called away for a family emergency.  But we did have a lunch scheduled at Hunan-Hunan in Allen Park.  So I met ten of my old Ford friends for lunch on Thursday.  They took about an hour and a half lunch.  I enjoyed it immensely.  Here are Bob Thomas and Mike Haffey at the lunch.


Ford Lunch


One of the things I miss about the Detroit area is the quality of the ethnic foods.  I really like Korean Noodle Soup, which is a large bowl of seafood soup.  Most of the Asian restaurants in Detroit offered it.  One of my favorite places was the New Mandarin Garden in West Bloomfield.  I have not found a similar offering in Wichita yet.  One of my Korean friends say you can order it off the Korean Menu at Yen Ching.  I don’t like their basic Chinese food, so I haven’t tried it yet.  But I think I will.


The seafood noodle soup was OK at Hunan-Hunan.  It was a lunch special, so it was inexpensive.  There were more noodles and less seafood than I prefer, but it was still good.  The work environment at Ford seemed oppressive to me.  The number of workers has been reduced, but the number of car programs remained the same.  They are working really hard just to keep their jobs.  They say they can’t afford to move because it is not possible to sell their house in the Detroit area.  We were lucky to move when we did.  We did discount the house a little to sell it.  But at least we don’t own any real estate in the Detroit area now.


Andrew had a couple of items he wanted worked on at his apartment.  When he moved in we bought him a new mattress set.  The box spring had sagged and caused the mattress to sag as well.  They were under warranty and the mattress failed upon inspection by the company but the box spring didn’t quite fail.  So Andrew got a new mattress and the guy who delivered it said Andrew should reinforce the box spring or the mattress would fail again.  So one task was to fix the box spring.  Another task was to install a wireless network in his apartment so when his sister visited, she could have high speed internet as well.  I though I would have time to get these started on Thursday.  It didn’t work out.  We did grocery shopping and got a key for me made Thursday morning.  Meg has his spare key.  Then I was busy Thursday afternoon with Meg.  So Andrew’s work waited for Saturday.


Meg has her own key to Andrew’s apartment.  What changed?  Meg is an RA this year.  When she got an RA job, the discussion about cars changed from ‘Can I have a car?’ to ‘How do we pay for a car for Meg?’  It was an interesting process getting the car for her.  I should take a few minutes and complain, but I won’t.  We debated passing Andrew’s car to her and helping him get a new one.  There were two main obstacles to this approach.  Meg is a Kansas resident.  To tag an old car in Kansas, it must be inspected by the Kansas state police.  We didn’t want to drive his car to Kansas and then drive it back to Michigan for Meg’s senior year.  Equally problematic was that we wanted side impact airbags for her.  So Meg got a new Ford Focus.  It is a four door hatchback.  It has side impact airbags, traction control and antilock brakes.  Here is Meg and her wheels:


Meg’s Wheels


It was one or two days in a school parking lot before it sustained it’s first battle damage.  Here is a picture of it for your viewing enjoyment.


Door Ding


Meg wanted me to be at Kingswood by 7:30 AM so we could enjoy breakfast before class.  This required me to get up at 6:00 AM and leave the apartment by 6:30.  I drove to Christ Church parking lot so I could park in the overflow parking.  I suspect I was early enough I could have parked at Kingswood, but I didn’t mind the early morning walk. 


Barely Awake


So I met Meg and we had breakfast in the Kingswood cafeteria.  They had quite a selection for breakfast.  I had some fruit, scrambled eggs and a sausage.  It was good.  Then we hopped a bus to the Cranbrook campus for math class.  Meg is taking pre-calculus.  They were working on complex numbers and factorization.


Math Class


After math class, we headed back to Kingswood for English.  I am afraid English Literature was not one of my strong points.  They were working on Poetry readings.  They selected a poem that wasn’t a poem and discussed it in some detail.  It was an interesting short story, but I failed to understand it’s significance as a poem that wasn’t a poem.  (Meg says it was a prose poem.)




The busses were struggling with the increased volume.  We were generally late for class because of the long lines for the buses.  We met quite a few of our friends in the hall and on the bus rides.  Meg is very social and has an extensive network of friends.


Bus Line


Ellora and her mom


Meg has a free period after English.  We retired to her room for a break during her free period.  Here is the door she decorated to welcome her students to the dorm.  It has a distinctly Kansas theme.


Dorm Door


Meg insists that there is a difference between dirty and cluttered.  Cluttered and dirty are not mutually exclusive but are distinctly different in Meg’s viewpoint.  Here is a peak into an RA’s dorm room.


Meg’s Room


After break, it was back to Cranbrook for Biology AP. 


Biology AP


Bio AP was focused on cells and diffusion.  There were detailed discussions on transport mechanisms.  Oxygen and Nitrogen were discussed as well as potassium and sodium. 


After Bio AP, it was back to Kingswood for Russian History.  In Russian History, they were learning Cyrillic so they could read Russian signs.  Meg seems to have an aptitude for this


Russian History


Then we got lunch.  Lunch was good.  After lunch we had another free period.  We stopped at the dorm office for this free period.  Because Meg is taking two Sciences, she needs to have two lab periods available.  So this is why she has two free periods during the day.  Here we are in the dorm office.


Dorm Office


Meg’s last period of the day is Physics.  They are studying Newton’s Laws now.  They had a brief lecture and then did an exercise in the lab.






After classes were over, there was a Powder Puff football game.  We didn’t stay for the game.  The Seniors won by the way.  They tied last year, so they are undefeated.  The Juniors are better athlete’s, so I don’t know what happened.


Meg met us at Andrew’s apartment.  We rented the movie ‘Hot Fuzz’ and settled down to watch it.  We got a power surge that fried Andrew’s DVD player and television cable box.  We couldn’t get the DVD player or the TV to work.  So we trundled off to Best Buy and bought a new DVD player.  We also stopped at Panera for supper. 


Saturday morning we got to work on Andrew’s apartment.  Andrew and I went to Home Depot to get the tools and wood to fix the bed.  Andrew said he learned a life lesson from me when we got the material to fix the bed.  We needed a tape measure, a saw, some wood screws, a power drill and a drill bit set as well as some two by fours.  The grand total for the repair kit was eighty-one dollars.


The box spring was made by a wood frame with a metal support running lengthwise.  The metal support was bowed.  Because the metal support extended below the frame of the bed, we could not support it laterally without also purchasing a router.  I could use an excuse to get a router, but decided instead to support the bed lengthwise.


Bed Repair


The life lesson Andrew learned is this episode was that ‘You get what you pay for!’  Because I didn’t expect any heavy duty use of the equipment, I bought the least expensive item that seemed like it might be suitable.  We cut the two by fours to just fit.  Then we drilled clearance holes for the screws and screwed it to each slat of the box spring.  It was pretty simple, what could possibly go wrong?  The cheap drill did not have a chuck key.  So it was tightened by hand only.  Neither of us was strong enough to fully secure the drill bit so it didn’t slip.  The end result is that the cheap drill bits didn’t tolerate that very well, stick slipping.  One of the drill bits shattered.  It was a good thing I was doing the drilling because I wear glasses.  Andrew thinks this was a valuable life’s lesson.


After we got the bed repaired, we turned our attention to the wireless network.  About that time Meg arrived with her computer.  She searched for available networks and found two suitable unsecured networks available from Andrew’s Living Room.  We set up a secure network for Andrew.  Here we are at the computer.


Computer Networking


We set up the network and secured it with 64 bit encryption.  Both Meg’s and Andrew’s laptops are now wirelessly connected to the internet in Andrew’s apartment.


After we got the work done, we finally watched ‘Hot Fuzz.’  It is a movie brought to you by the people who gave us the zombie classic ‘Shaun of the Dead.’  It was a little slow to start, but by the end there was not a police movie cliché they had left untouched.  It was enjoyable.  After the movie, Meg and I headed to The New Mandarin Garden for dinner.  Andrew begged off claiming he didn’t feel well. 


This turned into a bigger adventure than we expected.  The plan was to drop Meg’s car off at Kingswood and get together to drive to West Bloomfield.  Meg usually drives the surface streets between Cranbrook and Andrew’s apartment.  I usually take the freeway.  Meg wanted to follow me on the freeway route.  It was not a good choice this day.  The freeway was for all intents and purposes, closed.  There had been a fatal car accident at our intended exit.  In the crush of cars, Meg ended up in front of me and was not sure what to do.  This was one time I wished I carried my cell phone.  So Meg ended up calling Andrew.  It was a slow go, but eventually we got past the accident scene and dropped Meg’s car off at Kingswood.


We stopped by Detroit Archers to see if there was anyone there.  It was closed so we proceeded to the restaurant.  I got my Korean Noodle Soup and we brought food back for Andrew.  I dropped Meg off at Cranbrook after dinner.  It was the homecoming dance and her friends persuaded her to attend even though she was not dressed for it.  She reported that even though the music wasn’t the best, she had a good time.


Sunday morning I got up and packed.  I washed the sheets while I was packing.  I worked on the TV and got it to work after fiddling with it for awhile.  When we called Comcast earlier, they had a large call volume and could not respond.  So maybe it was a large area outage and they managed to restore it over night.  But Andrew was in good spirits when I left.


I stopped by Kingswood and met Meg for Brunch.  From there, I drove down a surface street to the airport.  I felt I had plenty of time.  Of course this was an illusion.  There was construction on Telegraph Road.  I drove up this road on Thursday afternoon without any problem.  So I didn’t expect a long delay on Sunday.  They were repaving and periodically closing the road.  My time cushion evaporated.


I had a rental car and needed to gas it up before returning it.  The gas station I planned to use didn’t have any gas.  The second one had too long a line.  When I did get to the pump, my credit card wouldn’t work.  So I finally got gas at a third gas station.  By this time, I really needed to use a restroom.  The area around the airport is a tough neighborhood and none of the gas stations had public rest rooms.  I dropped the rental car off and immediately got on the shuttle bus.  At the airport, the only restrooms outside the secured area are down in the luggage claim area.  So I went down two flights of escalators and used the restroom.  Then I got into the ticket line.  I got in the wrong line first.  Both were for E-tickets, but the one I ended up in was for those that had already printed their boarding passes.  Excuse me, but both lines had the same kiosks for checking luggage so I failed to understand the difference.  The attendant was emphatic in insisting there was a difference.  They were both E-tickets lines.  I didn’t realize all E-tickets are equal and some are more equal than others.


I got through security.  They made me take my belt off as well as my shoes. I got through in good order with enough time to walk to the plane.  It started boarding shortly after I got to the gate.  I had a three hour layover in Memphis.  So I found an airport map with all the food selections laid out on it.  I choose a Pasta Bowl and got a thin crust pizza.


There was a spot of weather in Wichita when we departed Memphis.  Wink was supposed to meet my flight at 9:00 PM.  The thunderstorms stalled over Wichita.  Wink left the house a half hour before our scheduled arrival because the NWA web site reported us as being on time.  The computers at the airport were out when she arrived.  She said the thunderstorms were incredible, very heavy rain and lots of cloud to cloud lightning as well as road flooding.  She said she felt lucky to get to the airport.  Because the computers were out, she had to ask at the counter what had happened.   The plane had been diverted to Tulsa, OK.


The plane I was on was a puddle jumper, a CRJ.  It was a bumpy ride when we got close to Wichita.  For some reason they didn’t want to fly through the storm to the airport that was without power and try to land blind.  One mitigating factor was seventy mile per hour cross wind gusts at the terminal airport.  So we ran out of fuel as we orbited and were diverted to Tulsa.  I called Wink and had her drive home as we were going to be somewhat late and she didn’t need to wait.  I told her I would take a cab.  Her drive home was at least as exciting as her drive to the airport.


So we sat on the ground at Tulsa.  We were not allowed to debark the aircraft.  I had a full can of soda on the flight because it was a short flight.  There is no water pressure on the CRJ when it is on the ground.  We spent almost five hours on that plane. 


The plan was to fly South to Texas and around the end of the weather front.  Then fly West and turn North to Wichita.  It was to take an hour and a half.  If the front hadn’t moved on, we would go to Lincoln, Nebraska.  Fortunately we landed in Wichita.  However, by the time we got there, there was only a skeleton crew on service and a plane from Houston landed in front of us.  So we waited some more.  They said to expect delays at baggage claim.  So I called Wink and she decided to come pick me up.  They were right about the delays, Wink managed to drive all the way across Wichita before I could get my bag.  We didn’t get to bed until after 1:00 AM.  I did manage to get up and go to work the next day.  I am getting old and it is getting harder to do.


All in all, it was quite a weekend.


Update on Andrew’s web comic:  Andrew got a web tool from Google.  It allows him to track his hits.  He is getting hits from Davenport and Alameda, so Jean and Jayne and Steve are reading his comic.  He updates once a week.  He also gets a few hits from Wichita. 



Mark and Wink