The clouds decided to pay us a visit on our second day in Spokane (WA), but with no rain in the forecast we were excited to do some more exploring outdoors. After my daughter left us to be with her volleyball team, my hubby and I jumped in the rental car and went in search of Riverside State Park. We love exploring new parks in general, but I read about their suspension bridge that spanned the Spokane River and I wanted to check it out for myself. We found our way to the Aubrey L. White parkway, a scenic road which stayed mostly next to the river and led us right to Riverside State Park.
Riverside State Park – Bowl and Pitcher
Riverside State Park has a $10 entrance fee that you self-pay (unless you have the Discover Pass, a Washington State Parks pass). We visited on a Saturday and the place was packed. We were lucky to nab one of the last two parking spaces in the day-use area. It seemed the park was more crowded than usual because of a trail running event. Riverside State Park is described as a “14,000-acre camping park,” but we only hiked in the popular Bowl and Pitcher Area. Even with the day being kind of drab, the park was beautiful and we were impressed with how well the park highlighted the Spokane River.
Our visit was shorter than we liked, but we still had to get through a long day at the convention center. Riverside State Park with the suspension bridge and amazing views of the river was a wonderful way to spend time outdoors. We stood in the middle of the suspension bridge for awhile and watched the river flow underneath us through the slats. Everytime someone walked by we bounced up and down in their wake, and I couldn’t help but suppress a giggle each time. Bridge surfing! Even though we were in a city we’ve never been to before, being out in nature brought out a feeling of familiarity, like we were visiting an old friend.
The Onion Taphouse and Grill
We headed back to downtown Spokane to have lunch, and we decided to give a place called The Onion Taphouse and Grill a try. We liked it so much that we went back again the next day with our daughter for our last meal in Spokane. Everything we had, including burgers, fries, fish tacos, sweet pea salad, beers, huckleberry cider and strawberry shake were incredible. During Saturday’s late lunch we noticed that the bar area was packed and people were cheering loudly. The NCAA semi-finals were on TV and Gonzaga University, which is located right in Spokane, was playing South Carolina. How fortunate to be in Spokane when Gonzaga University was getting national attention for their basketball team. Their victory over South Carolina ensured they would be battling it out with North Carolina in the finals! Although they ended up losing that game, they had an incredible season and we enjoyed watching them (on TV) and getting caught up in all the excitement (go Bulldogs!).
In other sports news, my daughter’s volleyball team placed in the gold division by the end of Saturday night, which was pretty exciting. However, they still had to place in the top three three if they wanted to earn a bid for Junior Nationals. Although we saw some exciting and very close games on Sunday, a bid was not to be had at this tournament. Fifth place was still a great way to finish. Thank you, Spokane, for hosting a wonderful tournament and introducing us to your great city!
Our return trip, unlucky travel experience (part II)
So, this is part two of our unluckiest travel experience ever (first part here). By Sunday morning my hubby and I were able to laugh and even appreciate our unlucky travel experience to Spokane. As we chatted about looking forward to getting home, my hubby thought he’d be on top of things and call Alaska Airlines to ask about reimbursement for our rental car to Spokane. During the conversation he happened to ask the agent if he could just confirm our flight for that evening since he had him on the line. The agent took our reservation number, and after a long pause told my hubby that our tickets had been cancelled. What?!? Are you kidding, April Fools was the day before?!? No one contacted us about cancelling, and we certainly would have never agreed since we needed to get home that night. He proceeded to tell us that Alaska Airlines was completely booked up with no possibility of getting a return flight for all three of us. Then without explaining anything the agent told my hubby to “please hold.”
We went in full panic mode, my daughter already missed two days of school, hubby needed to be back at work Monday morning, this couldn’t be happening. Can we drive back to the Bay Area (16 hrs, don’t think so)? Can we drive to Seattle and find more flights? What…can…we…do? We were on hold for what seemed like an eternity (ok, more like 15 minutes), just getting more and more stressed and wondering whether the agent forgot about us. We were needed back at the convention center soon, so just when we were about to hang up, the agent came back on the line. He told us that he found a flight leaving about the same time to get us home through Delta Airlines! Oh, the relief! He actually came through for us. I understand he didn’t want to get our hopes up, but he could have let us know what he was trying to do because those 15 minutes caused some serious grey hairs.
The agent found out that someone on their end cancelled our tickets, most likely because we didn’t make our connecting flight to Spokane. What I don’t understand is, why they would cancel return tickets automatically just because you missed a leg of your flight on the way there? Let the customer be responsible for cancelling tickets if they changed their travel plans, but more importantly let them know if you will be changing their ticket in any way. With our new reservations we tried to log on to the Delta Airline website and confirm, but we got a message stating we needed to talk to a ticketing agent to get our seat assignments. Something wasn’t quite right about the new reservation, so we drove over to the airport after the tournament was over and talked to the agent at the ticketing counter. The ticketing agents at Delta were fantastic! Once we talked to someone there, we just felt at ease, like we were being taken care of. They confirmed every step of our flight for us and even got us sitting next to each other.
As we were checking-in, they told us our flight was delayed, “Oh no, not again!” I actually felt my grey hairs pop out of my head. However, the plane that we were to board in Spokane was the same one that would take us to SFO. They assured us that there was no chance of the plane leaving without us. Once we made our way to Seattle, we found out that the San Francisco airport closed one of its runways, which caused an air traffic jam, so planes couldn’t land on time. This added a couple more hours to the delay. By this time we were quoting our great, former President, Barack Obama – “Come on…man!” So, to make a long story short, we got home at 2 am, caught a few hours of sleep and started our week. 🙂
Alaska Airlines did apologize, and reimburse us for the rental car and the leg to Spokane which we didn’t take. They gave everyone on the first delayed plane a $100 credit for future flights. I’m not sure if it was worth the extra 4.5 hour drive on our part to get to Spokane, the cancellation of our reservations without being notified, all the time spent at the airport fixing the problems the kept popping up, not to mention all the stress. This was my first time on Alaska Airlines, and I have to say my worst air travel experience. However, other families on the team used Alaska Airlines without any problems and I am also grateful for the agent who helped find us tickets on Delta. I really can’t blame Alaska Airlines for most of the bad experience, but I do think that cancelling our tickets home without ever contacting us was a mistake on their part. At the least communicate to the customer that you will be cancelling their tickets. So, if you ever fly Alaska Airlines and miss a leg of your travel, make sure they do not cancel your other reservations. From this experience we learned that we need to be proactive about NOT getting our reservations cancelled. We now know to make sure that we let the airline know that we will be using the return tickets and officially get that into their system (confirm, confirm, confirm), not just let a ticketing agent know verbally. I hope you will never have to go through the same experience we did, but now you know how to prevent this from happening to you. I hope I didn’t discourage you from visiting Spokane because the city was wonderful and definitely worthy of a visit.