Saturday, May 15, 2004

Wild Blue Yonder

I just returned from a trip to Las Vegas for a computer networking convention called, "InterOp".

It all began with a 3:00pm flight from Spokane to Salt Lake City. The flight was scheduled to take one and a half hours.

As we approached Salt Lake City, the Captain came on the intercom to let us know that it would be a bumpy ride. The winds were gusting over 50 mph.

The look on our flight attendants face told the real story. Bumpy hell, we were in for a wild ride!

The decent began with a few jostles, but nothing too bad. When we dropped a bit lower, things started to get a bit more exciting.

We came in from the West and heading East across the Great Salt Lake. The wind began hammering us sideways from the South.

Now I have logged a large number of flights in my day, but have never experienced the force with which we were being smacked around.

After three or four attempts at landing, the pilot finally gave up in the interest of safety, and we diverted to Twin Falls, ID. It seems we were running too low on fuel to keep trying.

We spent about an hour on the ground at Twin Falls, got some fuel, and about ten folks that were hurling in the back of the plane decided not to temp fate and got off the aircraft.

The pilot finally came on the air with good news. We were going to be taking off from Idaho earlier then planned, and the winds in Salt Lake were decreasing to around 20 mph.

So once again into the blue we leapt, a little more humble this time knowing that the spirits of the wind demonstrated that we were merely visitors in their realm, and not to get too complacent.

Since so many aircraft were diverted, or delayed from the earlier winds, we were placed in a holding pattern for about an hour.

Finally, with much relief, we made our way down to a smooth textbook landing. What a welcome change from the previous attempts.

Our flight attendant later admitted that it was the worst winds she had ever been in as well. She joked around with us that she could only hold her poker face for so long.

After deplaning those of us that braved the final Salt Lake landing were rewarded by discovering that we had missed the last flights to most of our connecting cities.

The customer service representative happily handed me a “distressed passenger” voucher. It seems they won’t pay for a hotel room if the delay was caused by the weather.

To quote Tim Allen in the movie “Space Quest”, “Never Give Up, Never Surrender!”

I made my way to the America West ticket counter and found they had a flight leaving for Las Vegas right at that moment. Luckily, they had some seats open and were kind enough to let me hitch a ride.

When I finally landed in Las Vegas it was late, and I was tired. I went to get my suitcase, only to discover that it was still in Utah since it would have had to come on Delta, and their planes were all done for the night.

So off I trudged to my hotel, no bags, and a bit weary from the long journey to sin city. Hotel beds are not known for their comfort, but by the time I plopped down on the hotel mattress, I was ready for sleep. After all, it was 3:00am.

The next day I went off to the first day of the conference, still wearing the same clothes I had on the day before during the white-knuckler landing attempts.

My tale of adventure ends with my bag showing up at the hotel around noon, so I was able to get it in the afternoon when I returned to my room. What a relief. For a while I thought I would be washing out my unmentionables in the sink and drying them out over a towel rack in the room.

Just another day in the handbasket.

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