On Friday evening I waved goodbye to the Doctor and the Littleboys at La Guardia airport and boarded a plane by myself.
Three hours later, I touched down in another American city and hurried out of the airport in the dark and cold. I then took a taxi to a hotel, where I was booked into a room with two people I'd never met before.
I entered the bar next to the hotel with a little trepidation, wondering if I would be able to identify the people I needed to meet - and whether they would turn out to be as I hoped.
And then I breathed a sigh of relief. Because sitting there, quite clearly recognisable despite the fact I had no idea what most of them looked like, were Expat Mum, Iota, Calif Lorna and Nicola. A little group of British expat women whose blogs I have read, commented on and come to love over the last couple of years. We had travelled to this hotel in Chicago from the East Coast, the West Coast, the Midwest and from the city itself. And despite the fact that we had never met in the flesh, I sat down immediately and began to talk.
I don't think we stopped talking all weekend, in fact. Not that evening, or the next morning as Expat Mum kindly gave us a detailed guided tour of city from the comfort of her car, or the next afternoon at the Art Institute of Chicago, when Geekymummy joined us from San Francisco, or Saturday night when we went out for cocktails and delicious Vietnamese food. We were still yattering away when we met for brunch on Sunday morning and then strolled in perfect autumn sunshine looking at Chicago's magnificent display of urban sculpture. Even when the lovely Nicola kindly dropped us at the airport to fly back to our respective corners of the USA, the conversation was still going strong - in fact, Geekymummy and I even managed to chat our way through the tedium of the 30 minute security queue at O'Hare Airport (quite a feat, really).
And we didn't just talk about blogging. Far from it. We talked about families, about America, about our lives and our plans and our thoughts. Just as we do online, in fact. And the amazing thing was that these women were just as funny, warm and intelligent as they are online, each with their own distinctive character and voice that makes their blogs such fun to read.
I never went into blogging to meet people - in fact I think it was probably the last thing on my mind when I started writing this blog in January 2008. I already had friends, and I suppose I was really aiming the blog at them, but I didn't even expect strangers to comment, let alone become loyal readers and amazing sources of information and advice.
But this was a fantastic weekend. So thank you, Chicago ladies, for your company and your conversation. And if anyone wants to join us next year, I'll definitely be up for another US blogger gathering.