Typically when someone shares exciting details about a trip, they start at the beginning.
I’m not your typical storyteller. I like to start at the finish line.
Most of the day Saturday, folks attending the conference were getting text messages or emails from their airline carrier indicating that their flights in to any east coast airport had been cancelled. All carriers, that is, except mine. United. Not only was I on hold MOST of the day (“your expected wait time is five billion hours…”) every time I checked online it indicated that MY flight was scheduled to leave on time. I know, I know, I should not have believed that MY flight was the only one that they were allowing to take off and land, but I remained hopeful.
I woke up at 5:30, showered, dragged my five TON, five bags of luggage through the small city called “Opryland” and ran to make the 6:30 shuttle. I walked to the United check-in area, conveniently located at the FAR END of the Nashville airport, and was instantly greeted with a large sign that said, “All flight to Washington/Dulles Airport have been cancelled.” Then, my phone rang. (7:00 a.m)
“This is United Airlines. Your flight has been cancelled.” Oh, really? REALLY?
I stood in line behind several billion people (or twenty) and waited for one of the TWO ticket agents who were handling a throng of crabby, crabby, crabby travelers. When it was finally my turn, I realized I was going to speaking to the ONE ticket agent that we had all discovered by now, was NEW.
My only option, after naming every airport even REMOTELY close to Smythe, Oregon, was to fly Monday afternoon into Dulles Airport. (Don’t ask about the geography, people. Don’t ask.)
I took my ticket, my five heavy pieces of luggage, and dragged myself to the opposite end of the airport where I had discovered a small Starbucks after my earlier flight into Nashville. I sat, dejectedly, and sipped my red-eye.
What were my options? I was pretty much out of cash, and I knew my credit cards did not have enough room for the expense of another night in Nashville. I COULD have twittered and joined the many who were still stranded back at Opryland, but the thought of going backwards instead of forwards brought me down.
Then, I had a feeling in my heart that I should head back to the ticket counter. It was a nagging feeling, but I tend to listen to those. I grabbed my bags, held my coffee carefully, and went back to the OPPOSITE end of the terminal, splashing my red-eye all over the front of my coat as I went.
The line by now had doubled, but I kind of sidled my way towards the fella who issued my previous ticket. He was helping another woman who was about at the end of her rope. He quickly looked at me- hoping for a distraction, and told the woman I was in the same boat. She said she HAD to get back to Dulles, where her vehicle was parked, and HAD to get to another business meeting the next morning. She turned to me and said, “Are YOU trying to get to Dulles?” I nodded my head.
“Well then,” she said, “I am RENTING a car and driving. It’s only about a ten or eleven hour drive. Are you in?”
To which I replied, “Yep. I’m all in.”
After several tries, we found an agency that had some cars left and rented a Dodge Charger. Now, this MIGT be the most opportune time to reveal that I am NOT a good passenger. I was involved in several very bad car accidents when I was young- one that resulted in a shaved head and many stitches. I am STILL to this day a horrible passenger, and anyone who knows me just lets me drive without question.
As we were leaving the airport, I tried to explain this to "Jane" and she just nodded her head and told me I’d be fine. She traveled all the time with her job, and this was a piece of cake.
And the first ten hours WERE. We talked, we shared, we laughed and we were surprised at how much we had in common. I have to say that being in a car with this person was a lucky break. She was ALSO a fabulous driver. And I do not say that lightly.
We took turns, and by the time we turned onto Route 66 into the Washington area, I was behind the wheel. That MIGHT have been a tiny mistake.
The roads were covered with blowing snow, and the trucks and cars were plowing through regardless. I tried to maneuver the car through this mess as best I could. In the meantime, Jane kept saying little things like, “Don’t BRAKE!!! Don’t BRAKE!!!”, or “Do NOT flick your high beams off and on!!!” and “PULL OVER RIGHT NOW!!! PULL OVER!!!!”
Yeah. I managed to find an exit and pulled over into a service station. She put her hand out for the keys and jumped out of the car. I got out, and went inside where I promptly burst into tears. After a few minutes I gathered myself and went to the car. She was sitting in the driver’s side, and I hesitated. When I went to get in the car was locked. LOCKED. She unlocked it and let me in.
“Are you okay?” She asked. “I thought you were a strong independent woman?”
“I am. I’m just a bit wimpy about driving in a raging blizzard with trucks and cars strewn in the ditches as we go by!”
I put my coat over my head, reclined the seat, and cried for the next 30 minutes as she navigated us safely into Dulles. She was phenomenal. I was not.
We managed to make it to the rental car drop off, where a Spanish speaking individual took MORE money that we had planned, and drove us to the snow covered extended parking garage. He unloaded us and all of our luggage, and took off.
There we stood - surrounded by THREE FEET OF SNOW, with no elevator in sight. We needed to get to the TOP of the garage, and to the opposite end. It had to be ten blocks long.
Well, we managed, dragging our luggage through dirty snow, and found her Lincoln Navigator. We met my brother-in-law at a tiny service station that was located at the entrance, and Jane practically threw me out of the vehicle and into his truck.
“She’s all yours.”