Monday, November 22, 2010

[Catching up] Even on good days things can go bad

The Wasatch Mountains as seen from Salt Lake City International Airport
The 10-day trip started on October 29.

It was a nice day. I'll have you make note of that fact. It was a very nice day. So obviously everything was bound to get fouled up somehow.

On this day I was traveling with a character you haven't been introduced to before. I'll call her Stephie the Pharmacist. (I am introducing her because she'll likely appear in a few photos I'll be posting from this trip and I don't want you wondering who she is.) Anyway, Stephie and I head to the airport bright and early to catch our 6:35AM CST flight. We were to be flying out of Central Wisconsin Airport heading to the city of Grand Junction in Colorado. Our trip was to be a multi-leg affair, with stops to grab different flights in Minneapolis, MN, and Salt lake City, UT.

CWA is a tiny regional airport in the town of Mosinee, WI, and I don't mind flying out of there. Lines are short and security is generally not much of a hassle to get through. However, because it is such a small airport if there are mechanical problems with a plane there's generally no quick alternative options to get onto a different flight. Such was the case this morning. When we checked in at CWA they re-booked our flights for the day, in case we missed our flight in Minneapolis, so instead of arriving in Grand Junction at 12:40 PM MST we'd now be arriving at 6:35PM MST. Of course, there was the possibility the plane would get fixed quickly and we'd be on our way earlier than they expected, but no, the plane we were supposed to catch that morning was 2-hours late arriving, and because we were tightly booked we didn't have much wiggle room between our flights.

When we got to Minneapolis it was just before 9:00 AM and there was still 10 minutes left until our original flight was supposed to depart. We scurried for the gate just in case that flight had seen delays, hoping maybe we could get on-board, but by the time we got there the plane was moving away from the terminal. Nuts!

If you've not flown Delta before, instead of always having to track down costumer service, they have little rescheduling kiosks in their terminals. You just scan your ticket and the computer will spit out tickets for your new itinerary. We did this and our new flight to Salt Lake City didn't depart until nearly 2PM. That gave us 5 hours to hang out at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. And one other thing about the scanners: I don't mind dealing with people, but the nicest thing about these computers is that they don't forget to spit out food voucher coupons for you if you wind up getting delays (Human-type interfaces seem to forget to give you these things unless you bug them about it). Stephie and I were given four $6 meal vouchers. Two for breakfast and two for lunch. It wasn't much, but hey, it would save us a little cash.

With 5 hours to kill I suppose we could have left the airport and wandered over to the Mall of America for a couple hours, but doing that would force us to come back through security, and it just sounded like added hassle, so we elected to walk around and around and around MSP.

The main terminal of MSP is composed of a great big rectangle that has a walking perimeter of about 1 mile, and because it forms a self contained loop, the terminal isn't bad for walking around. While we were there Stephie and I managed 4 1/2 circuits around the airport.  Too bad I don't have my old pedometer from college anymore as I am sure it would have enjoyed the mindless walking around.

Adding to our excitement was the fact that the airport TVs were all showing the news and the big story for that day just happened to be the discovery of the toner cartridge bombs being flown into the US from Yemen.  Seeing breaking stories like that don't usually make you feel all that comfortable when you are just about to get on board a plane yourself.

2:00 PM finally rolled around and we boarded our flight for Salt Lake City.  This was the first time I'd flown into Salt Lake, and landing there gives one the feeling that they are crashing into a swamp as you drop in over the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Areas which borders the airport just to the north.  If electronic devices weren't so frowned upon during take off and landing I'd have gotten a picture of the experience myself.  The only shot we did get during the flight was one of Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho border.

Bear Lake on the Utah/Idaho Border
However, the internet did not fail me and I was able to find a photo showing the approach into SLC.

Farmington Bay WMA, Salt Lake City International Aiport. Source
As you can see, it is pretty wet down there, and when you are looking out a side passanger window, you can only hope that there is dry ground in front of you that the plane is going to be landing on.  That said, the flight went well, and we didn't sink into the marsh.  BUT!  And you should have expected a but from the way this day was going, we must have had a head wind as we arrived 15 minuted behind schedule and we had only been given a 30 minute layover period when the computer re-booked us.

We hustled off the plane to get to our gate as we now only had 15 minutes before the flight to Grand Junction would depart.  However, as we entered the terminal a airline representative told us our Flight to Grand Junction had already departed.  What?  We still had 15 minutes until departure!  We scurried to our gate, and when we got there there were a number of other people gathered.  I didn't do a head count, but including the two of us there were probably nine people.  We were all told we'd have to rebook our flight to Grand Junction.  The flight was already listed as departed and therefore no new passengers could board it.  Now mind you, the whole time we are being told this we can look out the window of the gate door and see the plane sitting there on the deck.  It hadn't even turned on its engines yet.  There was a lot of moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth, but it got us no where and we were all told to go get our new flight information.

Our new flight would board just after 8:00 PM MST and would arrive in Grand Junction just after 9:15 PM MST.  We were given two more $6 food vouchers to help cover dinner, which we found at Squatter's Pub inside the airport.  I mention this place because it is the first time I think Stephie or I have seen a airport restaurant that is so vegetarian/vegan friendly.  I am a rather flexible omnivorasaurus, but Stephie is a dedicated vegiesaurus, so finding places where there is a good selection of foods for the both of us when we are traveling can sometimes be a challenge.

After dinner we did the walking thing, but SLC isn't that large an airport, so it didn't take very long to walk through the everything.  We hung out for a bit, and eventually it was time to get on board the plane, and away we went.  We arrived in Grand Junction (GJT) and went to grab our checked luggage, but our suitcase didn't come out on the conveyor with other luggage of the other people on our flight.  We stood there, wondering if the bag had gotten lost with all the shuffling of planes we had done that day, so we wandered over to the service desk to find out.  As it turns out, our bag had gotten onto the earlier flight from Salt Lake and had arrived before us.  We weren't allowed on the plane, but our luggage was.  Go figure.

So to recap: with an initial plan to leave CWA at 6:35 CST and arrive at GJT at 12:40PM MST travel time was only supposed to be slightly more than 7 hours.  Due to a 2 hour mechanical delay and a slight headwind, the day was a little longer than that, with nearly 16 hours spent in airports. Regardless, we made it. Our day was done and we were at our first destination: Grand Junction, CO.


  1. sounds like a awful long time of waiting.. i once was stuck at lanzarote airport for about 12hrs due to a strike in france.. sucked^^

  2. man im sorry you had to go through that

  3. Don't touch my junction?

    16 Hours? You have more patience than I.

  4. 16 hours in airports sounds rough, I'd be fed up


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