Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Making the Connections

Back in February when we started making reservations, I ran into a bit of a problem.  The root of that problem was that I don't fly very often and I haven't learned the tricks of getting where I want to be if the airlines don't happen to have the right combination available as a choice.  I was wanting to fly in and out of small town airports and the round trip combinations offered just didn't work out.  I could fly into Durango fairly easily, but flying out of Gunnison was a problem.  All the flight connections arrived in Austin at midnight or later and there were major layovers in Denver.  I just did not want to have to deal with making my way through the airport that late at night.  So I decided I would just have to pass on the trip.

But Karen is much more experienced in figuring out ways around scheduling problems with the airlines and before I knew it, she had it worked out so I could get back to Austin a little before 10 pm.  Still not ideal, but at least I would still be more or less functional at that hour and less likely to have hysterics if I ran into snags retrieving my baggage or finding the shuttle to my car.

It wasn't until I was getting all my boarding passes pulled together before leaving the house that I began to wonder whether I was going to be able to handle the last day of travel after all.  In order to catch my plane in Denver, I had to get up at the crack of dawn and catch a bus in Gunnison at 6:20 a.m. that would take me to another bus that would take me to the bus station in Denver.  Then I had to figure out from there whether I was going to take another bus to the airport (about an hour ride) or grab a cab at an astronomical price.  Theoretically I would have about 4 hours to figure that last part out if I didn't mess anything up along the way.

I'm one of those compulsive people who maps out everything in detail before a trip, so it was that last part that had me agitated the night before.

Bright and early we were up and loading the car and driving into town to a gas station that serves as the Black Hills Stage Line bus stop.  I wasn't the only one catching the bus, but I was definitely the oldest one catching the bus.  All the other passengers looked like, and probably were, college students.  I had been expecting a Greyhound style bus, but instead it was a shuttle bus and wasn't big on comfort.  At least there were few enough passengers that we could spread out and have plenty of arm and leg room.

I was fairly relaxed at this point - until we started running into the road construction.  This is not an unusual phenomenon in summertime Colorado and you get used to sitting and waiting 15 to 30 minutes for your lane's turn to move.  It's one thing to run into a construction wait when you are out sight-seeing, but it's another when you are supposed to be catching a connecting bus in an hour.  About the time we hit the second construction stop, I was beginning to speculate about whether there were any car rental places in Salida.  Even though our driver was hauling it (and that in itself was worrisome as we were going up and over Monarch Pass, a drive that gives me the willies when I'm behind the wheel), we were running about 20 minutes behind schedule when we finally rolled into the bus stop.

Thankfully, we saw our connecting bus (this time it was a big Greyhound) waiting for us to arrive.  We were slinging baggage out of one bus into the other at top speed and back on the road in about 10 minutes.  We were an hour out of Gunnison and I was pooped already.  There were only about a dozen passengers on board, so we all spread out again.  Our original group of college kids plus one old lady were joined by a young mother and sleeping child, a middle-aged lady who almost got left behind at the second stop when she got off to use the bathroom, a guy who was either high or not quite all there, and a young man who kept up a non-stop shouting conversation with the driver in Spanish (they had to shout thanks to the motor noise and the driver sitting behind a plexiglass panel).

We lost the spacey guy at the first stop, thank goodness, and after that I stopped feeling like I had to keep an eye on my belongings.  And after the minor excitement of almost losing a passenger at the second stop, things settled down.  Despite my intention to watch the last of the mountain scenery slip past, the restless night and the morning nerves were beginning to catch up with me.  The conversation in the front of the bus continued unabated and developed into white noise that, along with the rocking motion of the bus, allowed me to doze off for awhile.  By the time I and the little boy across from me woke up, we were beginning to approach the outermost suburbs of Denver.

I guess all big city bus stations are probably the same.  I had decided that I had enough time to take another bus to the airport and headed toward the ticket desk - only to discover a long waiting line of folks, many with upset kids and piles of baggage.  It did not seem to be moving very fast.  I glanced toward the opposite site of the room and the main doors and saw a line of waiting taxis.  I decided whatever the cost, it was worth bypassing the aggravation of that daunting ticket line and getting myself to the airport in the fastest way available.

So I made a beeline out the door and was quickly on my way.  It turned out the cost wasn't nearly what the online searches had led me to believe, so I congratulated myself on making a good decision.  It wasn't long before I wondered just how smart I really was, because my taxi driver seemed to be trying to beat his best time from the bus station to the airport.  I think he would be right at home driving a cab in New York City.  He was weaving in and out of traffic at 70 mph and slamming on brakes and then flooring it again.  I told myself that since it had seemed on the entire trip that my guardian angel was working over-time to ensure that everything worked out along the way, either I was going to live to see the airport or there was nothing I could do about it anyway.  So I sat back, stopped backseat driving and found myself actually enjoying the wild ride.  We skidded into the drive next to the American terminal and then ensued 15 minutes of the driver trying to deal with a balky credit card reader.  But I was safely at the airport much earlier than I had expected to be and all was well with the world as far as I was concerned.

I was pretty punchy, though, so for the first time ever I was the idiot traveller who had to go through the screening gate 3 times because I kept forgetting about the stuff in my pockets.  One advantage of having reached the age I am is that they just rolled their eyes and waited for the dingbat to get it together instead of yelling at me.

This seems like a good place to insert a few comments about the people I observed while waiting around in airports on this trip.

(1) If you are in a relationship and traveling with your significant other, and especially if you are a woman (as much as I hate to be that specific), for God's sake it is not necessary to talk non-stop to your partner just to fill the silence.  I heard more women uttering more inanities to poor men who were sitting alongside with their eyes glazed over like they were being systematically tortured.  I would attribute it to nerves about flying since I tend to chatter when I'm nervous - except I see the same thing happen all over the place in smaller doses.  It just seems to be amplified in airports where so many people are stuck waiting for an hour or more with not much to do.  After spending time in an airport, I begin to wonder how anybody manages to stay in a relationship if they don't know how to be quiet together.

(2) If you are traveling alone, striking up a conversation with another traveler is fine.  Good even.  Helps pass the time.  But don't go on and on and on in a monologue about all the places you've been and how this airport stacks up against all the other airports you have ever been in.   I got ensnared in such a conversation with another woman who was headed to Dallas and who proceeded to tell me that I should go try and get on the earlier flight with her.  Well, aside from the fact that all the flights to Dallas were being announced as full or overbooked, I sure as shootin' wasn't going to end up flying with that chatterbox, so I suddenly needed to use the restroom and took myself off down the terminal aways until I found a quiet seat next to a plug where I could charge my phone and sat there until I was sure her plane was off the ground.

(3) This is just a personal wish.  If you have an infant, it would probably be best not to take any trips by air for at least - oh say 5 years or so after birth.  The last leg of the trip from Dallas to Austin included a non-stop serenade by two infants who really weren't enjoying the experience.  This was about 16 hours from the time I had rolled out of bed that morning and my nerves were exceedingly fragile at that stage. I almost joined in with the concert.

(4) Now that I think about it, perhaps you shouldn't fly with your children until they are old enough to drink.  Although I would make a few exceptions.  On the flight to Dallas I was waaaaay in the back of the plane and sitting beside a young father and his perfectly well-behaved son of about 10 years old.  I think the boy was nervous about flying, because as soon as we started rolling away from the gate, he shifted to put his head in his dad's lap and closed his eyes.  The two of them fell asleep before we had finished climbing and presented a sweet little picture that warmed the heart.  But then there was the twenty-something sitting behind me with two younger boys who I am assuming were siblings since they were paying absolutely no attention to his pleas to settle down.  I think they must have been having a friendly tussle about something, judging by the bumps against the back of my seat and the dull roar of hilarity that occasionally erupted to disruptive levels.  Added to that distraction, the two flight attendants and a pilot, who was getting a lift and had to stand up the entire way because the flight was sold out, were huddled in the back galley having their own little party.  Let's just say that neither of the flights home was particularly restful.  Thank heavens for knitting as a calming activity under stress.

(5) Which brings me to another personal pet peeve.  If you see somebody working on some needlework involving yarn, here's a handy guide to keep you from getting snapped at.  If the person is working with more than one needle, they are knitting.  If they are using one needle and it has a hook at the end, they are crocheting.  I have never heard anybody but another knitter or crocheter get it right.  I'm always asked what I am crocheting.  I've seen numerous folks crocheting being asked what they are knitting.  It seems to be the rule to get it backward.  It is fine to ask what we are making.  It is fine to admire the work in progress.  It is fine to tell me that your grandmother performed magnificent feats of either knitting or crochet.  But, if I had a dollar for every person who has said "I just couldn't do that" or "I just don't have the time to do that", I could retire now.  It's not that hard, it just takes practice like anything else.  And if you are sitting in an airport waiting for a plane, you have the time.  Better to say "I would never in a million years want to sit and play with yarn".  Fine.  I just happen to prefer doing something productive to sitting around playing Candy Crush on my phone.  (No offense intended.  I've wasted many an hour playing computer games in my past.  I just got tired of wasting time and decided to do something with it instead.)

We finally pulled into the gate in Austin about 9 p.m.  I was never so happy to get somewhere in my life.  The airport at that time of night is a whole different experience from the airport in the morning.  It seemed to be in the same state of exhaustion as we were.  We all trudged our way to the baggage carousel like zombies crawling out of our crypts.  Finally I retrieved my bag, found the shuttle to the parking lot, crawled into my car and started home.  Other than almost driving out in front of the shuttle as it headed back to the airport, the trip home was uneventful and I was welcomed home by the furry kids with many barks and baleful glares.   Getting home is always the best part of a trip, no matter how much fun you have had.

To close out Cindy's Marvelous Adventure 2015, I wanted to include a few pictures of the souvenirs I brought home.   Bringing everything home turned out to be a bit of a challenge, since I rashly purchased a basket that I didn't need but that I thought would be nice for a small knitting caddy.  I ended up opting to check my biggest bag and acquiring a tote bag in Crested Butte (a bag that I absolutely adore) for my extra carry-on.  I put the basket in the bottom of the tote and packed everything else that wasn't a T-shirt inside the basket.  Mostly that was a nice collection of miniatures to add to my Southwestern art gallery dollhouse.  On top of the basket full of minis I added the yarn I had purchased for extra padding.  It was a perfect solution.

So the final count for souvenirs was 6 T-shirts, 4 books and assorted pamphlets, one pin, one patch, one dog collar (which turned out to be too small, drat it), one leather purse, one tote bag, 3 skeins of luscious yarn, 1 basket and the following additions to various dollhouses.

Moccasin earrings with turquoise accents.
I just remove the earring fittings and voila!
Miniature moccasins for sale in the dollhouse store.

Tohono O'Odham (Papago) Horsehair Basket with Turtle Design
The smaller basket is from an earlier trip, but by the same artist.

Handwoven basket by Sue Fedenia and a tiny petroglyph magnet.

Tiny pottery pieces picked up here and there on the trip.

Tiny wolf sculpture made of fossil mammoth ivory.

Tiny reproductions of a local artist's work on printable magnet backing.
Unfortunately, as soon as I got home, I was hit with an onslaught of work, so nothing has been done about adding these to their new homes yet.  Hopefully that will happen soon and I can share photos of the new and improved Turquoise Moon Art Gallery.  I started that dollhouse to showcase all the miniature pottery I had picked up over the years on our travels to Colorado.  David has brought back quite a few wonderful additions over the intervening years, but there is nothing like going out there personally and seeking out more tiny treasures to add to the collection.  It's nice that I can bring all my tiny treasures home inside a small basket.  But on the other hand, those tiny little treasures can get pretty pricey.  I'm already beginning to figure out the budget for the England trip that is coming up in another year or so.  I did a good bit of damage to my bank account this trip thanks to my philosophy of "who knows when I'll be back".  I can just imagine the wild justifications I'll be able to make when I'm across the pond.

In closing, here may be the most scenic photo I took the whole trip.

The descent into Austin.

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