Because I Was Raised to Share...
So... here's the deal-e-o. Sunny and two of her friends (Sassy and Hottie, whose blog I would visit just to look at that boot, but I digress)came up with a contest to see who had the best of the worst travel story. Quaintly enough... they call it...
I've read some of the other stories in the competition, and they're really pretty bad. Of course I mean that in the best possible way. I kind'a hate to do this, because I hesitate about letting everyone in the blogosphere see how the other half lives here at TEOTW (that's just not quite as catchy as NAY, is it Tiff...), but... I'm going to anyway.
Most of my regulars have already seen these, but I'm going to repost (links would work, but wouldn't be nearly as much fun as making everybody scroll through these gargantuan posts again) my two favorites that fit into the above category. Lest you think this is a total copout post, I'm actually going to update the second one and tell you what happened on my way back from Cleveland. Enjoy!
From the entry -- Road Trippin'
Over where Sunny's pursuing happiness, she wanted to know about vacation spots. Well... I don't vacation much, no time, no fundage, so I'll have to just repost my little tale of woe from when I drove cross country one fair winter...
The long, long, long road home (a working title)
In 2001 around the end of December, a good friend of mine from college calls me up and asks what I'm doing at the end of January. "Just the usual," I reply, "feeding, starting to calve, working in the snow etc. Why?" He says why don't I come down and visit him, then I can help him move. Did I mention that he lived just south of Orlando, Florida? Now a trip from cold, snowy Idaho in January to sunny Florida might sound like a good idea, to most people, but responsibilities take precedence. "Uhhh, where are you moving to?" "Just north of Billings (Montana)." Then he gives the sad story. They'd just had their second child earlier in December, C-section, then his wife got a touch of mastitus, was having a rough time of it, and he didn't really want to make her drive alone with the two kids in the car while he drove the Ryder truck. He thought that if I came down, she and the kids could fly up here to his parents' place and then they could drive up from here and it wouldn't be nearly as hard on any of them. Besides, we could make better time with just the two of us. So I checked with my folks to see if they could get along without me for a week, and so I made plans to go.
I get on the web and start searching for plane tickets. I couldn't find anything from Boise to Orlando for less than $800 one way, remember, this was just after 9/11 and flights were just starting to get back to normal. Well, I finally found a flight from Portland, Oregon to Orlando on America West for around $180, and then thankfully one from Boise to Portland on Southwest for $39. The time finally comes for the plane trip.
Now I get into the queue at the security gate and just as I get to the gate, "Sorry sir, you need to remove your shoes and put them on the scanner." Well, fortunately for me they are lace-up cowboy boots, so I've got to disrobe, and finally get through the security checkpoint. Ok, fine. So then I make my way to the gate, check in, and wait for them to call me for boarding. They give our group of numbers a call and just as I get to the jetway, the nice lady looks at me and says, "Sir, you've been randomly selected for additional security screening, could you please step over there." Now I work outside everyday during the year, so when winter comes, I get a little shaggy. I get my last haircut, and shave for the last time around Halloween, so by the end of January, I'm nearly in all my glory. Ok, I understand security is a concern, but the guy in line behind me was actually wearing a turban, and I'm a somewhat ruddy white guy, with a big belt buckle, boots, and a cowboy shirt, toting everything I was going to need for the upcoming week because I wasn't going to leave my luggage up to the discretion of 2 different airlines.
So I step out of line, (it was me and two other terrorists, both blue haired ladies, "randomly" selected) and get strip searched. Then I get on the plane and have a non-eventful flight west to Portland. Every other airport I've ever been in has one security checkpoint when you come into the airport and you can access all of the concourses after you're in the system. Turns out, Portland isn't like that. They have two concourses, with a security checkpoint in front of each, and, yep, you guessed it Southwest was in one concourse, and America West was in the other. I had an hour and a half layover in Portland, and I had to wait in line at the new checkpoint for about an hour. I just get to the scanners and they wave me through (whew). So I go running down to the gate, check in and am just about to get on the jetway when, "I'm sorry sir, you've been randomly selected for additional security screening. Would you please step over there." So I get strip-searched AGAIN. I finally get on the plane and someone's in my seat, so I took his. This turned out to be the bright spot of the whole flight, because I sat next to a lovely young lady and we carried on a fun conversation until she got off in Pheonix. I finally got into Orlando, and my friend was there right on time to meet me.
So, the next day I'm a bit jetlagged, and he takes the wife and kids to the airport while I'm sleeping. When he gets home we run into Melbourne and pick up the Ryder truck. "It's a diesel, right?" My friend asks. "Oh yeah." the flunkie replies (remember this). So we back up to his house and all those co-workers that were supposed to help, don't. So the two of us load all the big stuff, the little stuff, and all the crap in between until a couple of co-workers finally show up and help us for a couple of hours. We get the house completely loaded and it's only about 7:30 pm. Now all we have to do is load the things from the little shed out-back (riding lawnmower, motorcycle, etc) and we'll be off to the Dixie Crossroads for my promised seafood feast *drool*. We're getting a little tired at this point, so in order to get closer to the shed, we decide to move the truck to the back of the house. I get in and drive it while he directs me. As I'm backing up, the right side of the truck runs over the septic tank and the top collapses leaving the truck pitched backwards into said sewer. 3 hours later, we finally get the truck jacked up and out of the raw sewage (they've got pictures if you're interested), then the next hour loading the truck, so needless to say, no Dixie Crossroads.
The next morning we just get up and hit the road. He's driving the Ryder with his pickup in tow, and I'm in his car. We drive into Georgia then he needs to fill up, so we pull into a truck stop. We'd figured that since the Ryder/pickup combo was long and ungainly, we'd hit truck stops and use the semi pumps and then we wouldn't have to do a lot of turning. So we get up to the pump and right on the gas cap it says "unleaded fuel only". WTF!!! He said it was a diesel, RIGHT? He lied. So now we've got to find some quickie mart and play truck contortionist to fill the tank up. The next 6 hours were uneventful, and we made it to the other side of Atlanta where we stopped for the night.
Out here in the west, things are very big, but quite small. Whereas in the South, things are very small, but quite big. Confusing? Ok. Out here it's not uncommon for someone to say, "Oh yeah, it only takes about 6 hours to get there." "That's all? Jeez, I thought it would take longer." Now coming from such a viewpoint, as we cross the South, I'd see signs like "Andersonville 20 miles", Battle of "X" 5 miles. Killed us both. Here we are passing within a couple of miles of all these legendary sites, and we can't stop. But I digress, back to our story.
The next day we got up and drove all day to the west side of St. Louis. We checked into a hotel there and asked the clerk where a place to eat was. "There's that truck stop over there." "Is it any good?" "No, not really." This we should have listened to, because it was dreadful.
Now we got up the next day and I took my turn in the Ryder.
So, I'm in the Ryder truck from here on out, and my buddy takes the car. I forgot to mention, that I had a brainstorm and brought a couple of walkie-talkies for the trip so we could talk to one another while in both vehicles (if you've ever got to make a long road trip in two vehicles, I highly recommend this). We'd had a helluva time getting through St Louie the evening before. It was black'r than a, well it was pretty dark, and they were doing road construction on the interstate. That wouldn't have been so bad, but when they went from 4 lanes to 2, the frelling morons just put up the concrete barriers and painted new lines WITHOUT PAINTING OVER THE OLD LINES. We were driving, trying to follow all the twists and turns, but there were no visual clues, so it wasn't pretty.
After the trouble driving through metropolis, we decided to avoid K.C. and we detoured up through Chilicothe. All this time we had been watching the weather channel, and a severe winter storm was forcast to hit us in two days. We mentally did our calculations, and figured we'd make it to Montana just before the storm did, but we kept our eyes open. We picked up the interstate again and headed north to Council Bluffs, but as we reached Council Bluffs, we hit a 50 mph headwind. The Ryder just kept getting slower, and slower, until I was down to around 45 mph on the interstate, and cars were having to swerve to avoid hitting us. We called an audible, and pulled off in Missouri Valley to spend the night, hoping the wind would die down the next day.
The next day it was even windier, but it was daylight, so we pressed on at 45 up into South Dakota and then turned into the headwind and continued west. Around 6 hours and 200 miles later, we finally stopped in Mitchell, because we were fed up at this point. Got a hotel room, and watched the weather channel. Forecast: winds die to 5mph at midnight. We did the touristy things that there were to do in Mitchell, and went and slept in the hotel until Midnight, when we checked out and continued our journey.
The wind had indeed died down a bit and we were off but still at around 40 mph. At around 4:30 AM, I was just about to fall asleep at the wheel, so I pulled off the road to stretch and let the brisk -10 degree weather wake me up. My friend pulls up next to me and we started visiting. Right in the middle of the conversation he notices the steam from my breath is rising straight up in the air, and points it out. He's right, there's no wind at all and all we can muster out of old yeller (Ryder) is 40. Something's wrong. We limp down the road to the next exit, and all there is is a truck stop and an old feed store. We pull into the truck stop, and give 1-800-GO-RYDER a call. We're now a day behind schedule and it's a race to beat the storm.
The lady at the 800 number says she's showing an authorized service center at such and such truck stop in the town we are in. Turns out we're calling from such and such truck stop, but the mechanic doesn't get in until 7. I crash, but Power is too stirred up to sleep. Now when the mechanic gets there he's in way over his head, all he can do is replace the fuel filter. Hmmm, that could be the problem though. So we get a new filter and we're back off toward the finish line like a terd of hurtles. How'd the filter work you ask? I got all the way up to 45.
Now South Dakota might be a lovely state, but if you've ever seen it at 45mph, the shine quickly wears off. However, like the pioneers we were, we pressed on to the next town which happened to be Wall. And yes, we did stop at Wall Drug, and that's where we made our next call to 1-800-GO-RYDER. "Our next service center is in Rapid City, so see if you can make it." "What if we can't?" "Run it till it dies, then we'll tow you in." Just what you want to hear. Right now it's about 10:30 AM, and we finally limp into Rapid City at around 3:00.
We drag this thing in to the Rapid City Chevy dealer, and they put their little computer thingy on it. "I show that you've lost your oxygen sensor, that'll take us about an hour to fix, so if you guys want to go get a bite to eat or something, we'll get right on it." Now THAT makes sense. If the o2 sensor is bad, then the fuel mixture is off, so it's probably running rich, and flooding out. That explains the poor fuel mileage etc.
We jump into the car, and decide to run up and see Mt. Rushmore while we're that close. Damn impressive, and if you're ever in the area, don't miss it. We ate, and then drove back to the Chevy dealer. As we walk into the shop, we notice that the fenders have been removed from the truck. That CAN'T be good. The mechanic comes over and she says, "Uhhh, it wasn't the o2 sensor. You've got two dead cylinders. I didn't even think an engine could run on two dead cylinders. We tried to check the compression and these two cylinders didn't even register." "What's the fix on that?" "A new truck."
1-800-GO-RYDER. "Get a hotel room and we'll see what we can do." We get the hotel room, and go get a beer. When we get back (like ten minutes later), there's a message, but the phone number they left is a dead number. 1-800-GO-RYDER. "Well, we had a crew lined up to help you transfer your stuff, but we had to let them go because we couldn't get ahold of you." "Well we're here now, can we get them back and transfer it tonight, cause we're trying to beat a storm." "No. Tomorrow at the earliest"
The next day, we unloaded everything onto the ground, then had to reload everything into the new truck, and get out of RC at around 11:00. We drive nonstop as fast as we can to try and beat the storm but we aren't successful. The snow storm gets really bad in Buffalo Wyoming, and it takes us 2 hours to go the thirty miles between Buffalo and Sheridan, at which point we punt, get a hotel room, and go find the Mint Bar. We'd decided to get up at 6 the next morning, and come hell or highwater (ice included) we were going to press on until we got to his new home. We were all prepared for snow and ice covered roads, and 35 mph all across Wyoming.
We got on the interstate and had a broken snow floor for about 1/2 a mile, then smooth sailing all the rest of the way.
We got there at a reasonable hour, had time to unload the truck, and then I set the beds up while Power caught up with his family, and his new co-workers.
Nothing else to report, I made the 10 hour drive home from there the next day without incident. But I was sure glad to get home...
Did it get any better the second time around? No? Ok... try this one...
From the post -- And Speaking Of Vacations...
Lest you think that every time I travel things go bad, I've decided to tell you all about the time I went to Ohio for a wedding.
I was living in Boise and the phone rings. Turns out it was one of my college roommates and he was getting married. I often kidded him in school that I'd dance at his wedding. You know how it is... "Pass me that salt." "Here ya go." "Thanks... I'll dance at your wedding."
Well... he remembered and said I had to come to his wedding, and he was going to watch me dance. Crap. I usually don't dance. Not my thing. But alas, I was hoist on my own petard. Not only that, but the wedding was going to be where she was from, and that was Columbus.
So, another friend and I teamed up to head to Ohio. He lived in Salt Lake, so I drove down there and he secured us matching tickets to Cleveland via Chicago.
Our flight out of SLC took off at 6:00 a.m. the next morning, so we got up early and headed to the airport. This was back in the days before 9/11 so we basically got looked over and passed right to the gate. Checked in and boarded the plane, and we began to taxi out right at 6:00. The sun was just peaking over the Wasatch range, and the brilliant blue sky was clear and beautiful.
"This is your captain speaking... They're experiencing foggy conditions at O'Hare, so they're holding us here on the ground for a while. We ask that you just be patient, and we'll be airborne as soon as we can. Thank you."
20 minutes later, the engines fired up, and we got the all clear. The flight to Chicago was completely uneventful. About 20 minutes from Chicago, the stewardess came on the radio and told us all which gate our connecting flights were at.
Ummm... we grabbed the "in flight" magazine and looked up the concourse where we were going to land and where our connector was. Of course they were on opposite ends of the structure, and due to our "hold" on the ground, we were going to be nip and tuck to make the connection. We asked the stewardess if there was any way that they could radio ahead and have them hold our seats, because we were on our way. "Of course we'll do that." she said.
We hit the ground at about 9:00 running, and like O.J. Simpson, before the unfortunate calamity, made it to the gate on time. We went to check in, and the kind lady behind the counter informed us that we hadn't checked in 10 minutes ahead of time, so they'd given our seats away. We looked at the clock, and we were 2 minutes late, both of which we'd spent in line waiting to get to the counter. "Whoa babe. We're here now." "Sorry." *translation, "sucks to be you"*
Well, what now. I told my buddy that there were going to be hundreds of people just like us, so we'd better get in the ticket line and see what our options were. When we got there, the line was about 150 feet long and growing, so we queued up.
Kinda sucked, but we stood there and visited and before long, we were the next up to the reservation desk. The guy in front of us was just livid, and he was tearing this ticket lady a new one. "THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS YOU F*CKING B*TCH!!!" were some of the kinder things that he said in his tirade. Needless to say, my buddy and I were astonished at his little display. "Ok sir, I'm putting you on the very next flight out of here." she eventually replied, and sent him on his way.
We stepped up and I said, "Hello madame, we need another flight because we missed ours due to fog. I'll bet you haven't heard that once today." She laughed. "Nope... you're the first one." she smiled, "Where you headed?" "Cleveland." "Ok... there's 7 flights from now until midnight, so here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to book you two on every flight from now until then, so here's what you do... I can't guarantee you when this fog is going to lift, but if it does you might make it out. If that flight's canceled, just go to this next one and you'll be booked there too. If you happen to make it out of here, when you don't show up at the gate, they'll give your tickets to someone else. But either way, you guys will be covered." We thanked her profusely and as I was walking away and saw the line we'd just got out of stretching further than the eye could see, it hit me.
In order to teach that guy in front of us a little humility, she only booked him on the very next flight. That meant when that flight was canceled, he had to go to the back of the line and do it all over again, only this time the wait was going to measured in hours. Gotta love that. Talk about screwing someone with a smile. I'm still impressed, but I digress...
I think you can all see where this is going. We waited for the 11:00 am flight only to have it canceled at the last minute, then the 1:30 flight, then the 4:00 flight, then the next flight, and the next one...
Each time, we had to call the people that were meeting us at the Cleveland airport and tell them not to. Fortunately, the flight was slightly longer than their drive, so we were able to head them off before they left each time.
We got mighty familiar with the American concourse before all was said and done. The most tragic thing of it all was that every time our flight was canceled, we headed back to the bar, and we got a drink. Then we'd have to leave to go wait for the next flight, not wanting to miss it should it actually take off. Then we'd go back to the bar.
We spent 11 1/2 hours there that day and never even caught a buzz, but blew a lot o' cash. If I'd have known how it was going to turn out, we'd have just camped out in the bar and gotten plowed and just planned to stagger over for the 11:00 p.m. flight, otherwise known as the last flight of the day.
If the mood strikes me just right, next time I might even tell you about the journey home...
Ok... so here's the rest of the story.
One thing I forgot to mention about the flight from Chi to Cle was that the plane we were on was the exact same make and model of a plane that had crashed and killed everyone on board about a month earlier. I used to remember the name of it, but I forget now, but it was a turbo prop with the wings mounted to the top of the plane instead of beneath the windows. It was the same type of plane that we ended up flying in on our way back, but I'll get to that later. The flight to Cleveland was in a horrible thunderstorm. I mean lightning flashing everywhere around the plane, I just knew that at any minute we were going to get hit, and we were in a plane known to crash and kill everyone. But it didn't, and we landed safely and had a fun weekend at the wedding.
We had to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to make the drive from Columbus to Cleveland for our 7:30ish flight back to Chicago, which we did, but we had both been erm... enjoying the wedding a bit too much the night before so my eyeballs were more like tennis balls, but that's to be expected.
Anyway... we get to the Cleveland airport and my buddy has to check his bag again, but a skycap grabs it as soon as we get out of the car and says, "I'll get that for you sir." and takes the relevant information and puts it on the tag, then puts the suitcase on the little cart. My buddy, being a little more hickish than I, is surprised and says, "Hey, thanks man!" and then turns back to me and continues on with our conversation.
The skycap really didn't know what to do at this point, so he looked at my buddy and said, "Ummm... I'll get that bag for you sir." drawing my friends attention again. "Ok... thanks." he replied once again, leaving the skycap again with a perplexed look on his face. I knew the score, and how the game was played, but it didn't dawn on my buddy. The skycap didn't quite know exactly what to do, and my buddy was now staring at him like *what the hell's your problem pal?* and the skycap looked both directions in a fairly confused manner and then said... "Ummm... I said, I'll. Get. That. Bag. For. You. Sir."
I was about to split a gut watching this go down, and finally I couldn't stand it anymore. Something had to be done or my buddy's bag was going to wind up in outer Slobovia. "Thanks man, here you go." I said and slipped him a couple of bucks. "Yes sir... Thank you!" he said and went on to the next guy, and my buddy threw his head up in the air like "Oh sh*t, how could I be so stupid", and thanked me and said he'd buy me a beer or something later.
But then we get on the plane and take off for the Windy City. Remember... this is one of those planes with the wings attached to the top of the plane. Got it? Good...
The captain comes over the speaker and tells us to buckle up because it's fairly windy in Chitown, and so the stewardess packs the drink cart up and then has to close the cockpit door and drop her little jump seat down in order for her to sit.
Now I don't know if any of you have ever ridden on one of these particular planes, but when the stewardess sits in the jumpseat, she's facing backwards and looking right at ya... Of course her seat has a 4 point harness and we've only got lap belts, but *shrug*
So we start our descent and this puddle jumper is just buckin'. We're shiftin' sideways, and up and down a little and every one of us is staring this flight attendant straight in the eyes, but she's not weakening a bit. She sitting there with a stern, but not quite grim, look on her face.
The plane was configured with 4 seats across, two on the left side, two on the right, and I was in the aisle seat on the right hand side. I mention this because it was about this point in the flight when I looked out the window to my right and could start to see the ground coming up fast. Not the horizon mind you, but the ground. Then I looked out the window to my left and saw nothing but blue sky. That could only mean one thing, we're on about a 45 degree angle coming into the runway.
I looked out the right window again, and the ground was even closer. Looked left, only sky. Back to the right... ummm... it's getting damn close now. Left? Blue sky. Right... Oh shit... there's the end of the runway. Left. Blue sky. Next... there was that screeching sound as rubber meets pavement, but there was only one little screech, and it was directly under my ass. I had to check twice at this point to make sure I wasn't the one making the noise, but alas it indeed was the wheel. Key phrase THE wheel! Not *wheels*, wheel.
Out the right window I look again, with a little more alacrity this time, and the tip of the wing, which we are sitting directly below is about 6 inches off of the pavement. Left? Blue sky.
Next the plane slowly and with a herculean effort starts to lean ever so slightly back to the left as we're unicycling down the runway, and the front wheels touch, and then it gradually settles onto the left side and we start taxiing toward the concourse.
It was at this point that everybody on the plane started to look around at one another and you could have heard a pin drop. Nobody said anything, but the looks all spoke louder than words. Holy crap, we all just came an ace from cartwheeling down the runway. But the stewardess, bless her heart, never moved a muscle, never changed facial expressions, and didn't soil her garments. She was well trained, I'll give her that.
The captain broke the silence, and we all got off the plane in an orderly fashion as if nothing untoward had occurred. There was a lot of head shaking though, and I told my buddy, "You know, there's really only 3 people that know how close to wrecking we were. The two guys in the cockpit and that stewardess."
The flight back to SLC was completely uneventful, and that was just fine with me.