|Life's a winding road|
......But I do.
By the last evening of this fateful trip I found myself sliding into a chair at the bar of the airport hotel next to the airport hotel I was staying at 3 minutes before closing and ordering a pepperoni pizza, after a 4 hour drive over the mountains, in the dark, with two complete strangers.
How was your day?
Maybe I should.... go back.....to 48 hours earlier when I was flying down the road at midnight looking for the Green River Holiday Inn Express. And I do mean flying- this part of I 70 has a speed limit of 80, and by midnight even the truckers have pulled over for the night. I did the 30 miles in no time.
The hotel itself was nothing special, but I wasn't expecting all that much, so it was fine. I slept a few hours, and then got up in time to battle my way to a continental breakfast through what I can only imagine was no less than 3 busloads of Chinese tourists trying to figure out exactly what 'biscuits and gravy' are, and how one might go about eating them. I got a waffle, some tang colored orange juice, and retreated to my room.
The actual reason for my being there was to take depositions of some locals, and we needed an internet connection. As it turns out, one of the only places for rent with such services is the local "River Museum" next to the Holiday Inn Express....which is how I ended up dressed in a suit, taking a deposition, all the while being stared at by an angry looking stegosaurus skeleton in the basement of a natural history museum. Can't make this up.
|CANNOT make this up.|
I headed down I 70, thinking I'd take some pictures here and there, and maybe make my way to Goblin Valley, which Siri let me know was about 45 minutes away. Helpful as always. Well, I guess I distract easily, because I missed my first turn off, and wandered down the freeway too far. When I was going to turn around and go back, I saw what looked like an alternate highway on the map which would let me avoid backtracking. Excellent (she thought).
|This is what I refer to as the 'before picture,' as in, 'this is before she ignored Siri's advice.|
Well, the byway got less and less paved, and veered more and more into open country. Still I went bravely ahead because - adventure. Less paved became unpaved, and then smooth dirt became rocky, and rocky started dipping in and out of dry and not so dry creek beds and the like. Siri may have been on to something.
|No Dodge Chargers were harmed in the making of this blog post.|
Nevertheless, I kept going, mainly because the further I went, the more beautiful it got. Spending 99% of my time currently in Los Angeles and in other major cities, it's very rare to get the chance to be the only one in sight. I did occasionally see another car, which was just enough to make me feel like if I got a flat or whatnot I might not die alone out here.
Eventually I just needed to 'hear' the nothing, so I stopped the car and got out for awhile. It was just me and a heard of cows in the distance wading through a pond, with canyons and sagebrush all around. Definitely not something that happens on every business trip.
Breathe. Listen. Repeat.
|This is the 'after' picture, as in, 'this is after she realized she had taken both the wrong, and perfectly right, turn off of 70.'|
I stayed at the Skyfall Guestrooms, which turned out to be an unexpectedly pleasant experience. This independent motel consists of 4 rooms under the 'Tamarisk' restaurant, which fronts on the river. Each room has modern, unique, décor and comes with plenty of little extras. There's a free mini bar with soda and snacks, as well as apple TV that lets you sign into your Netflix and Hulu, as well as regular channels. The big picture windows let you relax and watch the sunset over the river. No complaints at all. Plus, it comes with free breakfast upstairs, which includes the full menu. The experience here put the Holiday Inn to shame, for a lower price. It's a good stay if you can get it.
The only issue with the stay was the strict check in and check out times. I had to wait awhile to get moved in, and I had to leave promptly at noon the following day. I stayed as late as I could working using the free wifi, and then headed out for a few hours before my Boutique Air flight back up to Salt Lake. I wanted to go to the CNY airport a little early to try to chat with some locals anyway, so it wasn't a hardship.
|Delicate Arch from a distance.|
|The travel day's shirt. Bought in Copenhagen, worn everywhere.|
Of course, , seeing as how I was in the middle of nowhere surrounded by plaster casted raptors and cleverly named lunch entrees, my call to Boutique Air kept dropping, so I jumped back in the car and hauled to the airport 20 minutes away. The lone employee at the counter didn't even know about the delay when I told him. He had to call Denver, and found out it was a minor mechanical that they were working on. I was skeptical.
However, a few minutes later, lo and behold, the plane was on the runway with a new tail light (yes...seriously, tail light) and would be headed to Moab only a few minutes late. Travelers, rejoice! I settled in to do a little work, and then went out front at arrival time to watch my plane land and taxi in.
I hung out with my fellow flyers waiting to board, and watching the ramp workers re-fuel and check the plane. My next clue that things were going South was when the mechanic re-fueling shut off the hose, and dropped it on the tarmac. No...don't you....come on!
The flight crew were hanging around, looking concerned, and talking to the airport staff. Also not good. Finally I knew it was all over when a mechanic went into the plane for a bit, talked to the pilot, and then walked away from the aircraft yelling to a friend, "That thing's broke!"
Out here in Canyonlands, they don't exactly mince words.
As finally explained by the lone Boutique Air employee, they had a failure of a critical avionics component, and the plane wouldn't be flying until a part got there from Denver. At this point I had missed my connection, and AA moved me to the morning flight, but I still needed to get to Salt Lake. As stated earlier, it's a 4 hour drive. Not ideal, but doable.
Now, there's a few times in life where you just get down to basic human ingenuity and get over yourself. This was one of those times. I looked around at the other passengers who I knew were all out of luck and just asked who still needed to be in Salt Lake tonight. I'd already checked with my friend at Enterprise and she could give me the car for the drive, but there was a $150 'drop fee' to return it in Salt Lake. So this meant a $200 bill to drive.
Of the now stranded strangers, one man who flew Boutique enough to know this happens but still needed to catch a flight the next day to Brisbane said he was in right off. Another passenger- an older woman who didn't have a connecting flight, but tearfully said she had a doctor's appointment she couldn't miss in Salt Lake, clearly also needed a little help. So, now that $200 wasn't looking so bad. I went ahead and got the car back, and in the process the Enterprise staff said that 'somehow' the computer 'wouldn't let her' add the drop fee, and so therefore, we wouldn't be charged. Awesome!
So, my new compatriots and I piled back into the same trusty Dodge Charger with whom I'd been through so much over the prior 48 hours, and headed out of CNY and off into the sunset bound for Salt Lake the old fashioned way. We stopped for gas before going over the mountains, each grabbed a soda and a bag of chips, and I booked the Courtyard by Marriott on the fly in all of about 40 seconds, and we were off again.
And all of this just about brings this full circle. It was at 9:58 when I finally dragged into the restaurant of the Hilton Garden Inn at SLC, which was my only option since the Courtyard doesn't have a restaurant at all. It took about 4 hours, including dropping off the (no longer crying) crying woman, and returning the rental car to the Airport. Not bad, if I do say so myself.
I was exhausted, but at least I had a flight home and a place to sleep. I logged onto Expert Flyer once the dust settled on the day to check out the seat map and possible upgrade on my new flight back to LAX. One seat left, which a few short hours of sleep later I managed to snag! I boarded bright and early to find the same cabin crew I'd had on the way out. The Flight Attendant remembered me from my unicorn flight, and asked me how my trip had been. I just laughed. She got the picture.
And the moral of the story is- all's well that starts with adventure, and ends with a seat up front.