These days, I fly about 8 times a year. That’s the best estimate I can come up with considering work travel, flights home for holidays, and one or two weddings/alumni events etc. One of these days I’m going to add vacations to this list, but for now, that’s enough.
Because Tallahassee is a small regional airport, to get pretty much anywhere, it’s two flights out and then two flights back which comes to about 30 planes per year. Even though the packing/planning days leading up to a trip make me nervous, generally speaking, I enjoy flying. I’ve had the occasional delay or tight connection, but in all my flying experiences I’d never once experienced a cancelled flight, a missed connection, or a red eye.
Welp, all that changed this past weekend before last.
This begins my 2 (or 3?) part series about my travel weekend aptly named, “How to Survive 36 hours in an airport.” Consider this the prelude – the storm before the storm. My first flight delay made me arrive in California at what felt like 4AM the night (morning?) before my conference began.
Last, weekend I traveled to UC Davis for an incredible conference.
I had a great flight over to Dallas. I love flying during a sunrise or sunset because the horizon looks like this wide open space and you can see the colors blend together and stretch all the way across. It’s so pretty!
While I was walking through Dallas to make my way to my next gate, I was a little concerned about not getting in to California until 11:15pm (2:15am EST), but I bought a microfiber travel pillow and thought hopefully I’ll be able to catch a couple of hours of sleep on the flight.
We boarded the plane on time.
We were delayed for weather.
I didn’t really worry at first. Our pilot promised that this would be a short delay while they determined the best way to reroute around a thunderstorm. Sure enough, after about ten minutes, we got our new route and moved out over the jetway. I thought I may as well get cozy. I put in my ear buds, listened to my iPod, closed my window, and snuggled into my neck pillow and tried to sleep.
I rested a bit, but I couldn’t sleep. We sat and we sat and I had a feeling we weren’t going to be taking off anytime soon. I tried to be at peace with what would surely be a delayed arrival, but then the plane started rocking.
I noticed my fellow passengers had their phones on, so I turned mine back on and started my family and co-workers about my delay, the storm, and my rocking plane. My sister texted me and said,
“Just let it rock you (like a wagon wheel) to sleep!”
So funny. Except we weren’t rocking gently… the whole plane was shaking like crazy.
I opened my window to realize we were in a long, long line of planes waiting for takeoff and there was streak lightening touching down all around us. Hence, the delay.
The pilot assured us that he was allergic to thunderstorms so whenever we did take off, we would fly way far away from them, but he also warned us to prepare for a fairly turbulent flight. I don’t really mind turbulence so I texted Bret and told him to be glad he wasn’t on this flight (he hates it).
I couldn’t completely relax or get comfortable – especially after the pilot made an additional announcement stating that he really wasn’t sure if we’d be staying on the jetway or when we’d be taking off.
After what seemed like an hour, I saw a plane move forward and then reach up up up into the sky. A second plane began to take off. Within 30 minutes, I was on my way.
I was happy to be in the air, and it wasn’t as bumpy as I’d expected. Because of the new route, though, this flight took forever. I remember seeing that it was 1:15AM on my watch (East cost time) and thinking that we should be landing in an hour (2:15 EST; 11:15 west coast)…but considering we’d only been in the air for short while yet, that was not going to happen.
When we finally did land, it was well after midnight which meant to my East Coast sleep schedule, it felt like it was well after 3AM. My sweet husband texted me that there were cab stands at every terminal. The airport was desserted except for passengers from our flight. After we all took a tram together and traveled down a couple escalators, I felt like I was traveling with old friends. People were laughing and cracking jokes – I just couldn’t believe people were in such good spirits. (This is a reoccurring theme of my travel weekend and it was SUCH a blessing. More on this later).
The sweetest thing that happened… there were two air force guys in uniform on our flight. One met his girlfriend before we even got on the tram. She got permission to go through security and she had a sign and cake and balloons. Super sweet. I was feeling bad for this second guy who seemed to be alone, but when we made it down the escalator, his whole family was waiting for him including a sweet little baby! It was the sweetest.
After realizing there was a distinction between “Ground Transportation” and “Non-Airport Ground Transportation,” I found a sign for taxis and to my delight there was a whole line of them. I hopped in, pulled out the hotel and address that I had written down and stuffed in my pocket before takeoff, and 10 minutes later, I was checking in.
It wasn’t ideal, but I got 5 hours of sleep, and I had a great first day of my conference.
Stay tuned for the REAL adventure: how to survive a day and a half in an airport after my cancelled flight home 🙂