Archive for September 2010

Charlotte to Denver

September 14, 2010 - 1:18 pm No Comments

Stef had a rough day at work and arrived at my house in bad mood. Her mood got worse when she realized I hadn’t packed yet.

True to form, I waited until the last possible minute to start packing. In fact, I didn’t even sleep last night, rummaging around my house looking for all my old Trek America paraphernalia while Stef tried desperately to sleep. Everything was finally packed at 4:11am, and the cab pulled up at 4:15am. The 5:45am flight is definitely the earliest flight I’ve ever taken.

Our first stop was Charlotte, due south from DC and annoyingly out of the way for a trip to Rapid City. But it’s a hub for US Airways, so a necessary stop.

Sunrise in Charlotte

After waiting for about an hour, we boarded our flight to Denver.

I like walking through first class and looking at all the people sitting there. Are they rich? Famous? What celebrity with a face I don’t recognize is sitting right in front of me? I’ve never actually seen a recognizable celebrity sitting in first class. Where do they sit?

We were the last few to board the plane, so all the overheard bins were full and there wasn’t any room for our carry-ons. This was exacerbated by the fact that we were sitting in 4A and 4B, the front row where there are no seats in front to put our bags under. Stef and I had a big carry-on bag, two big backpacks, and a tripod. So we had a problem.

I walked to the front and asked the flight attendant what I should do.

“You’ll need to check it,” she replied.

“What if I have stuff that needs to stay with me?” I was referring to the thousands of dollars worth of camera and computer equipment that I had in the two backpacks. I was hoping she’d be kind enough to help me look for space in the overhead bins further back in the plane.

“Then, you’ll have to take another flight,” she replied.

I didn’t like that. First of all, if they tell you at the gate before boarding that each person may take two carry-ons, and then there is no room for any of your carry-ons, they should at least make an effort to try to find room for you, not threaten you.

I ended up jamming my backpack between a couple of other bags in one of the overhead bins, and we got an offer from one of the celebrities in first class to put Stef’s backpack under her seat. Begrudgingly, we checked Stef’s big carry-on bag and hoped that it would meet up with the rest of our luggage at the end of our journey.

Annoyed, I sat down in my seat with my laptop. One of the flight attendants, an older woman with short hair dyed red so aggressively that her scalp was stained, told me that the laptop I was holding needed to be stowed in the overhead bin. She and I both knew that there was no room in the overhead bins, but she just had to say it as part of procedure.

I got up, opened up a bin, found the first available crevice, shoved my laptop into it, and slammed the bin closed with enough force to send a message.

Without missing a beat, this red-haired flight attendant asked if she could have a word with me out in the galley. The “galley,” for those who don’t know, is that little area by the door that you walk through when you first board the plane.

“This is a three and a half hour flight, and I don’t need to deal with someone who acts like that. Do you want to get off and take the next flight?”

“I’ll be cool,” I coolly replied.

“OK, then.”

For a moment, I was pretty sure she was going to throw me off the plane. I hear frequent media reports of disorderly passengers being thrown off planes, and I get the impression that they pull the trigger on that sort of thing pretty quickly. I guess I was lucky. If I looked Muslim, I would surely have been kicked off.

All of this, of course, did nothing to put Stef into a better mood. Three hours into our vacation, and she’s already fed up with me. She told me that we should have boarded earlier, when our “zone” was first called. OK, fine.

Looking out the window, checkered farmland gave way to an open, brown expanse, and finally, the Rocky Mountains in the hazy, blue distance. After landing, we booked it across the airport, only to learn that we missed our connection. Stef’s mood worsened.

We were placed on standby for the next flight out, but didn’t get on that one either. Finally, we got confirmed seats on the next flight to Rapid City. Hopefully, we’ll get to there in a couple of hours, where our bags and rental car will be waiting for us, and we’ll get out to Mt. Rushmore before the sun goes down.

I’ve never been to Denver before. It sucks.

A Trip to Yellowstone

September 13, 2010 - 4:45 pm 1 Comment

This has been a really slow year for travel for me, probably my slowest in a decade. In 2010, I’ve been wrapped up with a lot of personal drama that hasn’t really allowed me to escape. A few weeks ago, when I saw a break in my schedule, I planned a last-minute vacation to Yellowstone National Park with my long-time friend, Stefanie.

After finagling our work schedules to get nine days off, we decided to make it a road trip that included Mount Rushmore and Glacier National Park. Seems like this is a pretty common route for tourists, although most usually take about two weeks to do it.

High last-minute fares mean that we have to take a 5:45am flight out of DC, but everything else seems to be working out perfectly. We’ll be taking the trip after Labor Day, so most of the family caravans will be home with kids back in school. The higher altitude and cooler weather means that the landscapes should be awash with fall colors, and there might even be a sprinkling of snow in Glacier National Park. And Going to the Sun Road, the main attraction of Glacier National Park, closes for the season on September 20, so we’ll just be able to get that in. And every night that the weather cooperates, we’ll be camping under the stars.

Stef and I have spent the last few days preparing. We got guidebooks and came up with a detailed road trip on Google Maps. Stef takes camping very seriously, so we took a trip to REI to get check out all the gear and get some new all-weather camping clothes. And since it’s looking to be a photographic extravaganza for me, I rented a huge telephoto lens to take with me. I hope Stef doesn’t mind carrying it.

Definitely looking forward to taking some time off, leaving my troubles behind, and breathing some fresh mountain air.