Portland to Portland: You Can’t Get Here From There

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here, writing with tongue (slightly) in cheek. Next week I’m headed for “the other Portland” to attend the semi-annual U. S. gathering of members of the Historical Novel Society. These conferences are always interesting. They are held in a different city each time—San Diego was my favorite to date, since the hotel was right across the street from the maritime museum and a wonderful assortment of ships to explore. This time, I’m excited by the prospect of visiting a city and a state I’ve never been to before.

Aside from location, the other big draw comes in the form of pre-conference workshops. Two years ago in Denver I had the opportunity to get some hands-on practice with a variety of medieval and renaissance bladed weapons. This time around, it’s sixteenth-century (and later) firearms. Also available are events like mead tastings, historical costume competitions, and Regency dancing lessons. The major attraction, however, is the pure bliss of spending a weekend with other people addicted to history. Most of those attending write historical fiction. All of them love doing research into obscure areas of history. Oh, there are sessions on the business aspects of publishing too, but where else am I likely to run into someone else who knows the story of the woman who campaigned to keep Shakespeare’s company from setting up an indoor playhouse in the Blackfriars section of London? Or someone besides me who’s read a hefty but fascinating tome titled Religion and the Decline of Magic? I expect to be in pig heaven the whole time I’m there.

But it’s getting there and back again that’s the challenge. Once upon a time, it was possible to get a flight from Portland (Maine) to Boston and from there the rest of the world was in easy reach. No more. Aside from the time difference, which is a killer, most airlines only offer routes that take ten, twelve, or more hours to make the cross-country trip. Nothing when compared to the pioneers in covered wagons, but frustrating in this day and age. The best times are with American Airlines and even they aren’t great.

Going out, I leave PWM at 3:18 in the afternoon (after an hour and a half drive from home to the airport) and fly to Philadelphia. A little over an hour later, assuming everything is on time, I board a second plane and arrive in Portland, Oregon (PDX) at 9:18 their time (after midnight here). Not too awful, if long. A total of seven hours and 44 minutes in the air. It’s coming home that will present the greatest challenge. The best I could do (and believe me I looked at other options) was to leave PDX at 7:00 in the morning (groan!). That gets me to Chicago at 1:00 PM. So far so good. Unfortunately, my connecting flight leaves Chicago at 1:45 PM. I have a feeling it’s too much to hope at a) everything is running on time and b) the gates are right next to each other. We shall see. I am already preparing myself mentally to have to do some rebooking. Remember the good old days with regular flights between Boston and Portland? This is where I’m really going to miss that option.

Green line is going, red line is coming home and dotted line is the route I wish they offered.

Even assuming I make my connection, the trip home doesn’t exactly take a direct route. The plane out of Chicago flies to—wait for it!—Charlotte. There, considerably south of where I want to be, I get to wait for nearly three hours before I can board a plane back to PWM. I’ll get in at 9:57 PM (and that’s in the best of all possible worlds) and still have an hour and a half drive to get home. Time in the air on the return trip? Eight hours and twenty minutes. We can only hope that’s all it takes, because on the surface it sure looks like it’s going to be a challenge to get back here from there.

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett is the author of over fifty books written under several names. She won the Agatha Award for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category for “The Blessing Witch.” Currently she writes the contemporary Liss MacCrimmon Mysteries (Kilt at the Highland Games) as Kaitlyn and the historical Mistress Jaffrey Mysteries (Murder in a Cornish Alehouse) as Kathy. The latter series is a spin-off from her earlier “Face Down” series and is set in Elizabethan England. New in 2017 is a collection of Kathy’s short stories, Different Times, Different Crimes. Her websites are www.KaitlynDunnett.com and www.KathyLynnEmerson.com

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10 Responses to Portland to Portland: You Can’t Get Here From There

  1. Anne Cass says:

    Dick and I lived in Portland for 13 years, with family “back east.” It is a tough trip. But…visit the Japanese, Chinese, and Rose Gardens, SW Hawthorne and Northwest 23rd street. And you will eat well.

  2. David Plimpton says:

    Thank you, Kaitlyn, for the information on the Historical Novel Society conferences. I’ve read a little about the Society, but my interest is now piqued, as I’ve written a novel set in 1960 that, although I believe nudges, if not barges, into the crime and thriller categories, may be best described as historical or near-historical. Maybe the conference next year won’t be all the way across the country.

    When I read the challenging logistics and time involved in your conference trip, I hope I’m not being presumptuous in suggesting Concord Trailways as a travel option worth considering by Mainers for any trip like yours. It avoids a lot of driving, whether to Portland (because of all the points north of Portland where you can hop on) or to Boston, as well as parking fees at Portland’s airport. A key benefit is the easy connection to flights out of Boston, including stops and pickups upon return at all the Logan terminals. I’ve used it for years for all my professional travel to Boston and almost all vacation and other air travel headed south or west:


    • Thanks for the link, David. Unfortunately, from where I live I’d have to drive almost as far to catch a bus (or a train) as I would to reach the airport in Portland. All in all, that’s the easier option. Parking fees aren’t a problem, since my husband drops me off and picks me up when I return. Actually, parking fees (and air fare and taxis, etc.) are all tax deductible expenses for a writer. One of the few perks.

  3. John R. Clark says:

    I hear you on the flight pain. We’re going to Alaska in a couple weeks and I don’t even want to think about the flight back. I’m betting it’s good for three books at least. Speaking of books, if you’re in Portland, you have to visit Powell’s Books. It’s on my gotta visit before I’m too old to move list. Link here.

    • When we went to Alaska a few years ago for Bouchercon the connections weren’t too bad. I think we went by way of Milwaukee (one of those Midwest citties beginning with an M, anyway), another of the routes that isn’t available from Portland anymore. There used to be direct flights to Chicago and Cincinnati too, which are at least in the right direction. Now all the airlines seem to want us to fly south first, no matter where we’re headed.

  4. MCWriTers says:

    I’ve always wanted to attend one of The Historical Novel Society conferences! I hope you will report back on what fun you have! Providing, that is, that you make it home!

    • They are fun. There are historical people at other conferences but they’re always outnumbered by writers who use contemporary settings. It’s a real treat to have our own little gathering.

  5. Have a wonderful time, K. I’ve been to the other Portland it is wonderful, and the reason you are going sounds even more wonderful.

    I hope your flights are on time and all your transfers are easy.

    • Thanks, Brenda. I’m looking forward to being there, if not to getting there (and back again). What I wouldn’t give for a transporter to beam me from one coast to the other!

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