4/11/24 – With Jon and his parents taking the train back to Boston, our large group of 10 gets divided into two smaller groups so we can all catch an Uber back to Reagan Airport. One Uber driver completely blows one group off after seeing some of us with our luggage. (Minus five stars.) The next one that pulls up to pick up the group I’m in is willing to work with us to fit five people and our luggage in her vehicle. Arriving to the airport to catch our flight home looked so different during the day than it did when we got there at night at the start of our trip. I go with Monique to check my bag since I had to be the odd one out and get one that was bigger than everyone else’s. But at least I’ll have it if I should ever get on a plane and fly out of state again.

After going through security at Reagan without any apparent issues, we have some down time on our hands before we can board the plane. Some of us decide to grab some lunch at the airport while we’re waiting. When I’ve finished eating, Monique calls me over to show me something she found in her bag that she couldn’t identify. I knew right away what it was, and I was so relieved. It was my house keys that I thought I’d lost while I was at the Capitol yesterday. I must have put them in her bag when I was dragging [expletive] after getting through security. Awesome, one less stop I have to make when I get home. Thank you, Monique.

Our flight arrives at Reagan on time, but they’re not letting us board just yet. They’re doing a maintenance evaluation. I guess the plane had a couple of issues on the way over, so they needed to take care of them before they could let us board the plane. Our flight is delayed by about an hour because of it, which gives most of us enough time to use the restroom one last time before takeoff. But now we’re in a race against time to catch a bus back to Bangor when we fly back into Portland.

Flying back to Portland from Washington didn’t seem to take as long as flying to Washington from Portland for some reason. Not too much of a difference, maybe a few minutes, but enough that we noticed it. When we touched down in Portland, our group started going our separate ways. Abbott and his parents took off for Biddeford. Kile and Stephanie left to catch a ride from one of their Maine LEND friends. So that left me and the four Presque Isle people that I came to Portland with to start my trip.

We ended up missing our initial connection to get us back to Bangor because getting all of our luggage from the baggage claim took too long. I felt bad, like it was partly my fault because I had to check my bag that turned out to be too big. The next bus back to Bangor from Portland came in about another two hours. I wasn’t too worried about getting home after the bus dropped us off in Bangor since my parents lived right in town. But now it was starting to look like the rest of the group would have to stay in Bangor an extra night.

We knew our next step would be to catch an Uber to get us to the bus station from the airport, so at this point, we just started walking. Along the way, I just happened to notice a red Uber waiting in front of the airport with a marquee in the windshield that said, “Uber available now.” So I asked the driver if he could fit five people and our luggage in his vehicle, and he says he can without missing a beat.

All right then, off to the bus station we go. And as we’re talking, we learn the driver is from Aroostook County, so that puts a little more wind in our sails. Since we were probably gonna be waiting around a little bit for the bus to take us back to Bangor, he gives us a map of all the restaurants in the immediate vicinity that will deliver to the bus station while we’re waiting. Great, that should hold us over for a bit, thank you. I hope someone in our group remembered the driver’s name.

I’m beginning to realize at this point just how much magic Monique can make happen when she’s on her phone and how much work goes into coordinating things. After we decided to place a delivery order with our old friends at Flatbread Pizza, she got right to work and started calling around to figure out how the rest of the group would get home after the bus dropped us off in Bangor. And sure enough, one of our new staff, Ruth, had just gotten back home from Boston, and said she could meet them in Bangor when they got off the bus to bring them home. I was so happy for them, so glad they didn’t have to stay an extra night in Bangor when they didn’t really need to.

Speaking of Boston, things just have a way of working themselves out sometimes, and usually when we least expect it. We realized after we missed our initial connection that we would end up meeting up with Jon and his parents one more time on our way back to Bangor when their bus pulled into Portland from South Station in Boston. So after eating some Flatbread Pizza, Stacy made a sign from one of the pizza boxes to welcome Jon and his parents back home. I thought it made for a great photo op, and it got other people talking, wondering “What is this crazy lady even doing?” But I could tell we were all running on fumes at this point.

The bus back to Bangor was running a few minutes behind, so we all used the restrooms one last time before it arrived. We were so ready to get back on the road. I sat with Rose on the way back to Bangor, and even though I’m having a hard time getting comfortable on this bus and staying engaged while we’re talking, I’m just beaming with pride inside for us and the rest of the group, like “Wow, look at us. Look at all the work we’ve done on this trip. We did that. We’re really starting to come into our own together as leaders. We should all feel very proud of the kind of leaders we’re turning into after everything we’ve done on this trip.”

And it’s true, these last few days had been an amazing experience learning my way around Washington for the first time. It was a bit of an adjustment learning to think on my feet and improvising my way through unfamiliar situations and learning to be okay with not knowing all the answers right away. At least I didn’t have to adjust to everything alone, and I honestly can’t think of a better group of friends that I would have wanted to share this experience with.

I had an amazing time in Washington, to be sure. But man, was I glad to finally be back home. I waved goodbye to the rest of the group after the bus dropped us off in Bangor and wished them all a safe trip back to Presque Isle.

Jon on the Train
Marco at the Airport
Welcoming the McGovern Family to Portland
The McGovern family arrives in Portland. They are greeted with a Welcome Home Sign
Our Hero Ruth, travels to Bangor to save the rest of the crew stuck without a connection to Aroostook County.

If you are self advocate and would like to share a blog post with us please email Laurie Coldwell at lcoldwell@sufumaine.org   

The Speaking Up For Us (SUFU) blog contains views and opinions of each individual writer. The views and opinions expressed through these channels are purely the bloggers’ own and does not reflect the opinion of SUFU as an organization or any SUFU staff member.

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