Three weeks ago, I flew down to Orange County for my sister’s birthday party. I couldn’t stay at her house because the party was a surprise, so I booked a hotel across the street from the airport and settled in for some much-needed solitude (who would have guessed that a night in an airport Hilton would feel like a dream vacation?). The next morning, I decided to walk to a coffee shop to write. A search on yelp revealed a few Starbucks locations within a mile radius, but I was intrigued by a local café called Milk and Honey that served a lavender tea latte loved by reviewers. As the crow flies, it was 1.5 miles away, but when I mapped it on my phone it routed me around the airport, making it a 3-mile walk. I texted my husband about my plans and wrote, “Forget Starbucks — I choose adventure!”
After packing my laptop in the hotel’s drawstring bag labeled “Hair Dryer,” I donned my running shoes and left the hotel.
Three blocks away, I saw a Starbucks perched on the corner, and was tempted momentarily (so familiar! so close!), but reminded myself that I had chosen adventure. I forged ahead.
Southern California, the land of freeways and eight-lane boulevards, is not exactly pedestrian friendly. In the first fifteen minutes of my hike, I walked alongside half a mile of barbed wire fencing along the border of the airport, crossed a freeway overpass, was honked at by a leering man in a battered Toyota, and passed a store called “Safe Zone Ballistics: Bullet and Blast Resistant Products.”
Not only that, but I was forced to reroute due to a road that did not allow pedestrians. No less than three freeway crossings and about five miles later, I arrived at Milk and Honey, a tiny cafe filled with hipsters, where I claimed a shabby loveseat and started to write. After two lavender tea lattes, a peanut butter, nutella, and fresh fruit sandwich, and three hours of writing, I decided to head back to get ready for the party. Opening the door, I discovered that it was raining. I considered my options: walk back in the rain, hail a cab, or call my hotel to see if the airport shuttle could pick me up.
“Hilton Orange County Airport, how may I help you?” answered the hotel clerk when I called.
I explained my situation and asked if the shuttle could pick me up at the Hilton Costa Mesa, which I had spotted two blocks away.
“I’m sorry, our shuttle doesn’t go to Costa Mesa. It’s outside of our three-mile radius requirement. But you could take their free shuttle to the airport and we can come get you there.”
Thanking her, I ducked my head in the rain and trotted to the other Hilton. When the bus pulled up, I boarded with a group of other hotel guests who had been waiting in the lobby.
“I walked here from the other Hilton near the airport,” I said to the driver. “I went to a coffee shop nearby, but it was a lot farther than I expected, so now I’m catching this shuttle to the airport to get back.”
“This bus isn’t going to the airport,” said the driver. “It’s a private charter. But I can find someone to take you to the airport.”
“Goodness! I’m glad I started talking to you!” I exclaimed. “Sorry, wrong shuttle,” I said as I squirmed past boarding passengers.
“You didn’t want to go to Costco with us?” joked a woman as she made room for me to climb down the steps.
“I love Costco, but I’m trying to get to the airport!”
The driver who was recruited to take me was happy to bring me directly to my hotel. “You walked five miles for a coffee shop?” he asked. I mumbled something about wanting to support local businesses, but the truth is, I like a little crazy in my life. Not necessarily the kind that accompanies life with three boys, but the kind I choose on my own terms. Swimming Alcatraz without a wetsuit, hiking up a snow-covered Mt. St. Helens, or, say, traveling around the world on a ship with three young children. After all, I wouldn’t have any good stories to tell if I always chose the Starbucks three blocks away.