Friday, October 22, 2010

Rick' Roadshow: The Horrific Journey Home...

Welcome to Rick's Roadshow: The Horrific Journey Home. I last left of with a wonderfully pleasant weekend in Telluride, Colorado. Even after being 10,000 feet above sea level for a few days I was still having a tough time breathing. Deep breaths seemed to escape me, and I felt winded after minor physical exertion. Mind you, I am somewhat "de-conditioned" and need to lose 10 pounds. My story picks up early Sunday morning. My traveling companions and I had decided to get an early start to check out and drive back to the airport. When we got to our rental vehicle, we discovered we had a flat tire. Well it was early on a Sunday morning in a very small town. We knew there would be no one around. We used the On-Star thingy (they were less than helpful). In the interest of trying to keep moving so we would get to the airport on time, we changed the tire ourselves. I was short of breath, huffing and puffing, wheezing while trying to change a tire. I didn't feel comfortable driving 2 hours down winding mountain roads on a tire-donut. After calling our rental company, we decided to head to the Telluride regional airport to switch cars for one that didn't have a flat tire. Since they told us they would be open by 9 am, it was only a half hour to wait, so off to Telluride Regional we drove, ever-so-gingerly. 
The plan was to get to the local airport, wait til the car rental place opened at 9 am, switch cars and be on our way by 9:30 or so- which meant we would have plenty of time to make our flight out of Grand Junction airport. That is, until we arrived at the rental car booth at the deserted Telluride airport and found this sign. Frustrating, but since it was only a half hour, we would probably be OK, so we waited. 9:30. 9:35. 9:40. 9:45. Minutes seemed like hours as we watched the clock tick. We began to worry about making our flight our of Grand Junction, as we still had a two hour drive yet. How would be get home if we missed our flight? We already had to make a connection after the first flight. We walked over to the other car rental agency booth in the airport, and found this sign:
That certainly didn't help us. Out of desperation, we walked behind the counter of both rental agency booths and found the employee phone lists, and called the top person, assuming it would be the manager. Much to my luck, it was. Both had decided to come in late that morning and were "on their way". In reality, it was a Sunday morning and it was a fairly small airport, so there wasn't much happening anyway. But here we were, expecting someone to be available for us at 9 am and it was now after 10 am and no agent.
Me and my travel companions were getting antsy. We decided to consider alternative options. Maybe we could abandon our scheduled flights and just fly out of Telluride airport, we thought. So we walked over the airline counters; there was no agent to be found. Then we saw this sign at the customer service call button (see above).
 The other two airline desks were vacant as well. Earlier I had seen a woman walk in and disappear behind the desk somewhere. She was nowhere to be found now. I decided to check the flight schedule board...perhaps we could just find a flight right here and avoid the long drive to Grand Junction.
Then I saw the flight board. Not much activity at all. No flights, so no luck. Meanwhile we waited for just one of the car rental agents to show up, we started to get a bit giddy. Soon, panic set in and we came to the realization that we would now miss our flights, even if we had a new car to drive off in at that very second. A sense of impending doom descended on we four. What shall we do now?
 We started to search the tiny airport..every nook and cranny, hoping to find someone, anyone who could help us. There were no agents, no janitors, no service people, not even one customer. FINALLY both car rental agents arrived and I explained that we had a flat and the 800 number service people said there were other cars available and we could switch out our vehicle with another and be on our merry way. We figured we could still head to Grand Junction, perhaps catch a flight to Phoenix and see what our options would be. One of us decided to check flights on the iPad, only to discover there were not enough seats left on the later flights. Someone would be left behind. Anyway, our nice car rental lady declared that she didn't have a single car on her lot to give us anyway. Frustrated we walked over the other agency, the one that "Tries harder", and sure enough she had a nice vehicle available. My traveling companions huddled for a moment and discussed options. Drive two hours to Grand Junction and get stranded there, maybe luck out and get to Phoenix, and maybe get stranded there...we had no idea what options would work. Then we looked at one another and said, "Well, we could just drive all the way home to Palm Springs".  Suddenly, the notion of having control of our own day seemed quite appealing. By this point, we had waited nearly two hours at the airport, feeling stranded and helpless. Having our own car to drive all the way home just seemed like a good idea.
And so, off we went.  We returned the vehicle with the flat tire and rented a new one from another agency. The perky lady with the curly blonde hair explained that a one way rental to Palm Springs would cost $268. I had everything I could do to hold in the laugh. Mind you, not that money grows on trees, but at this point that hardly seemed like a huge sum of money. We all just wanted to get home. So we set off. I offered to drive, as it was pleasant weather. We charted a course for Palm Springs. The navigation told us it was twelve hours and forty-five minutes. No problem. Riiiight. The first few hours were in fact, no problem. It was a beautiful drive through long winding roads and amazing mountain-scape scenes. We stopped for a quick lunch in a tiny gold rush type town, and re-fueled. We kept ourselves busy chatting endlessly and singing along to the Broadway channel on Sirius XM radio. Then we hit Arizona. 
 Let me tell you, it was a long long long drive through Arizona. Kayenta, Tinalea, and then Tuba City-which was downright scary. We stopped off to refuel and decided it was best not to get out of the car. There was some sort of street fair going on with people spilling out everywhere. It was chaos. People walking up asking or money, standing in front of our car, a one-armed beggar approached as well. I have lots of compassion, but at that precise moment I was more in a mode of safety and protection. So we took off. Monument Valley was so interesting with its miles of deep red clay color dirt as far as one could see. Sings for dinosaur tracks peaked my attention, but there was no time to stop, we wanted to get home. My the time we reached Flagstaff we were growing tired of the drive, the scenery and even the Broadway channel on Sirius was wearing out it's welcome. I started to change channels, searching searching searching. Even silence seemed welcoming, but not for long. I needed mental stimulation.
We stopped three time to refuel and twice to eat. Fast food was getting gross. The car was restricting and we were just at the point of "get-me-out-of-here". I drove the entire way through, by my own choice. I didn't want to be in the back seat and risk feeling queasy as I sometimes do. Being in the drivers seat was best. I wasn't the slightest bit tired, just tired of driving was all. We finally pulled into Palm Springs close to 11:00 PM, having made great time when you consider it should have taken much longer. Still, 12 hours in a car non-stop was frightfully painful. I must say, however that one does learn about ones friends when being confined closely for that long. It strengthened our relationships and reinforced the value of true friends. And so despite a horrific journey home from Telluride, I look on the bright side of life and find good in everything. The scenery was beautiful, and we had more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Even if it was a horrific drive back to our beautiful Palm Springs.


Jeni said...

Boy, remind me not to get stranded in Colorado!
I started reading this, not knowing what disaster befell you -a flat tire, huh? Oh Rick, that's not so bad. Bud then as I read on, with the car rental places having no one there and all that, I thought wow, how easily one could get stuck in a one-horse town, huh? But, as I see, you managed to make lemonade from the lemons you were handed. Uncomfortable as the trip may have been, you still managed to see some lovely scenery and had a lot of laughs too along the way. So, thankfully, all's well that ends well. Right?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a buddy movie in the making... Glad you make it home ok.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a buddy movie in the making... Glad you make it home ok.


A Lewis said...

Definitely movie material! Holy smokes. I like that arrivals/departures board .... it looks like a fairly quiet place!

KathyA said...

Good heavens! Was this a scene out of TRAINS, PLANES AND AUTOMOBILES or what!!!

There is something to be said, however, for being in control of your day -- even if it was the ride from hell!

grace said...

Holy Moly what a journey!
Life is all about experiences, huh?! This one you'll remember ;)

kenju said...

I cannot imagine driving 12 hours in a car - again - because I have done it (once) and never will again!!

© Karelian Blonde said...

Impromptu road trip! Scenery must of been beautiful but I agree with your safety worries driving through partying small town.

Well done sir!

Cheryl said...

What a day, and you told your story so well. I felt the stress. I felt the fun of the start of the drive, then the tiredness. I've driven some 12 hours stints and it gets old. I would have loved to seen some of the scenery you saw, but with an overnight in a hotel in-between. Glad you're home! Relax and enjoy.

Kanani said...

Glad you made it home. THAT was a journey!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

It sounds like a bloody Nightmare, Rick....LORD HELP US! It's fantastic that you actually got back to Palm Springs and had "more fun than a barrell of monkeys"....All I can say is: OY VEY!!!! (lol)


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