Tl;dr: all of my worrying was for naught, and our trip west could not have gone more smoothly. (I have now used up all travel karma for the next 5 years, I am sure.)
Ingrid and I packed our suitcases the night before, I had printed our boarding passes and booked a cab, and after her bath, Ingrid got dressed into the clothes she would be wearing, and we laid out her shoes and coat and packed backpack so that when it was time to wake up, all she had to do was slip into those three things, and we’d be off. Before bed, she told me “just tap me on the back, mom, and I’ll wake RIGHT up!” And at the very early hour of 4 am — that’s exactly what she did. Down the stairs we went, we split a banana and waited for our taxi. I had asked for a recommendation earlier on facebook, and the company I called was one that several people said was always early, not just on time, so when 4:35 came around and no car, I called the company, and there had been some mixup in time (maybe they thought I meant PM?) but they sent a car right over. And it turns out the driver was the same one that was scheduled to pick up the pilots for our flight, so that was reassuring that we’d at least beat them. (And the driver was also very apologetic, and very nice and helpful, and I’d use them again and just make sure I specified AM.) We handed over our bags and went through security, and Ingrid was great. Traveling with a 6.5 year old is so great. She did her own shoes and coat and backpack and got herself put together, and it was so great to have such a little independent kid at my side!
When we got on the plane, the first thing she wanted to do was work on her math. I had to explain that we needed to wait til we’d taken off to put down the tray table, and as soon as she could do that, that’s what she did. We also played several rounds of Uno, too.
One of the reasons I had booked our connection through LGA vs DTW was because I wanted Ingrid to get the great views of NYC — our views this morning were different than usual, it was barely 7, and it was dark, and the power outages from Sandy were evident throughout the descent. What is usually such a sparkly, glittery view was just dark and gloomy, and it was hard to imagine what it must be like on the ground.
Before we landed, the flight attendant gave Ingrid her very own wings, and reassured me that switching terminals would be totally doable to catch our next flight. Still, I warned Ingrid that we had to hustle and that when we came back we’d have more time to check out anything cool she might be seeing. We made it down to the ground level just as the shuttle to the terminal pulled up, and our gate was at the very end of the terminal, and as we arrived, they had started boarding Zone 1, and we were Zone 2, so we basically just walked off one flight and on to the other (and that is the point at which I finally exhaled!) More math, Uno, some music on the ipod and a nap, and we arrived in Denver. The train arrived as we did, and as we got to the bag claim, ours were the first to be spit out, we walked to the Enterprise shuttle ast it pulled up, and we got upgraded a level on the car rental. (Oh, and here’s something some geeks might appreciate — I was offered a Kia or a Ford Fusion, and I chose the Ford in hopes it would have Microsoft Sync, solely based on listening to Leo LaPorte shill it each week on the podcasts I listen to. It definitely connected to my iPhone but I haven’t had a chance to do anything else! If I’d been a passenger and not responsible for driving then I’d probably have been really rocking it.)
Turned on my gps and pointed us to Golden, and not long after, we were hugging Aunt Kate for the first time in 11 months! She was babysitting, so she led us to her apartment, where she had set up such a sweet welcome — a little stack of treats for each of us, with a book and snacks and such, and a veggie chili bubbling away in the crock pot. She made us a great late lunch, and headed back with her charge to the house she sits at, and Ingrid and I took it easy. I napped, Ing watched some shows on the iPad, and then we hung out in Kate’s front yard for a bit When Kate got home, we went to Whole Foods for some supplies, and on the way home Ingrid fell asleep (by this time it was after 9pm EST, who could blame her?) Tucked her into bed and got to have a glass of wine with Kate and a hot shower and a cozy bed to sleep in. A great way to start our adventure!