Monday, February 20, 2017

Travel: Rolling the dice

HALLIE EPHRON: When you travel, sometimes you luck out, and sometimes you roll snake eyes.

Two weeks ago a blizzard was forecast for the northeast. I was supposed to meet my editor and publicity team at HarperCollins the next morning and I was determined to be there.

Just before the storm hit, at 7 AM I drove to the Amtrak station just outside of Boston and boarded a train to New York. It started snowing in Rhode Island. Then whiteout. By the time we got to Queens you could not see the surrounding streets, never mind the Manhattan skyline.

But we arrived... only ten minutes behind schedule. I boarded a subway to Brooklyn (the A-train arrived as I was climbing onto the platform). Emerged in Brooklyn and slogged a block in well-trodden snow to my daughters' apartment. Spent the day playing with my grandchildren! Next morning, took the subway to my meeting, feeling as if I'd slipped through a crack in the space-time continuum and singing the praises of mass transit.

On the way back the next day I boarded an Amtrak train that had arrived an hour late to Penn Station. By the time it approached Boston it was creeping along at about 10 miles an hour and the PA system had died and many of the doors were frozen shut. I hoofed it through two cars to find a working the exit. But I got there.

MEANWHILE, THAT SAME DAY My friend Barbara Fournier tried to get to Boston from... Casablanca:

I had just flown from Casablanca into JFK airport to find my flight, and all others to Boston, cancelled. I went online and managed to buy the last seat on a 10:30 pm Greyhound bus to Boston! I grabbed the shuttle to the Port Authority, slogging through snow and ice. I printed out my ticket and headed for the dock when a representative announced that all buses to Boston had been cancelled three hours ago!!

But I just bought the ticket!" I whined. He shrugged.

I then checked the Amtrak train schedule and grabbed a ticket for the 2:30 am train. I cabbed it to Penn station and paced anxiously in the jammed waiting room. We left on time!!! I found a seat and dozed off as the train left the station. 

But in a few minutes I was jolted awake by the train stopping. The lights went out except for some dim back ups. The heat was off. The train was dead. We were not fifteen minutes out of the station, in the Bronx. We were getting colder by the minute. The toilets began to overflow. The first announcement informed us that the electrical system was down; an hour later it was announced that 'they' were working on it.

Four hours later, finally the train started. We limped into the next station ( New Rochelle). We were directed to leave the train immediately. We can leave our luggage on board, we were assured. The next train is right behind us. We piled onto the platform. It was ten degrees and the wind was howling. The doors shut and slowly the train pulled out of the station. People who left their luggage on board were yelling.

Three trains stopped but didn't open their doors, despite our pounding. Finally a train stopped for us - but it was already full. Many of us stood for the remaining four hours to Boston. But we were warm! We could go to the bathroom!  We were going home!

So it took me six hours to go from Morocco to the US but eighteen hours to go from New York to Boston. What a world!"

What are your good-luck/back-luck travel stories?
(Photo credit Matt Donnelly Lake Shore Limited Boston-DC)

RHYS BOWEN: My worst bad luck travel experience was when we were in Kashmir and wanted to go to Ladakh, in those days a forbidden kingdom high in the Himalayas.

We started in a jeep at four in the morning. Drove up a steep mountain pass with streams gushing across the road and a three thousand foot drop on one side. The pass was 15,000 feet high. Bitterly cold. Then for hours through a high bleak valley. At four in the afternoon we came upon a place where the road had been washed away for fifteen miles. No way around.

We had to turn around and drive back for twelve hours mostly in the dark, with a driver who thought he could save gas by shutting off the engine when going downhill. I had to sit with my hand poised above the keys to knock his hand away!

A good luck experience was when we wanted to visit Yellowstone. We spent the night in Cody where it was snowing and all the signs said the park entrance was closed. John, being stubborn, said we would drive up there, just in case. We drove up and they had opened the gate ten minutes before! We were one of the only cars we saw all day.

INGRID THOFT: A few years ago, my husband, mom, and I traveled to Vietnam.  We're an adventurous threesome, and it was a destination that interested us.  It was a fascinating and amazing trip in many ways, but it also included one of my worst travel experiences. 

As we drove away from our hotel in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon,) we did a passport check only to realize that my mom's passport was missing.  We had a guide and driver for the day (we were supposed to be traveling to the Mekong Delta,) so we returned to the hotel. 

A lengthy search ensued, but the passport could not be found.  First, we went to the local police station to report the missing passport.  Next, we went to the American consulate where they very efficiently issued her a temporary passport.  Phew!  Except we then had to go to the Vietnamese immigration office to get a new visa. 

The next eight hours were filled with chaos, anxiety, and bribes.  Many, many bribes.  At one point, I went out to the car to get more money from my husband, only to hear that he and the driver had been involved in a car chase.  And you know what?  I didn't really care, that's how fraught the situation was in the immigration office! 

Finally, with a lot of cash and the help of our guide, we got the required visa and set off for the Mekong Delta.  A couple of days later the hotel in Saigon contacted us to say they had found the passport in her mini-bar.  Maybe it would have ended up there after our fiasco, but not before.  We suspect the front desk staff misplaced it during check-in and eventually discovered it amongst their paperwork. 

As for good travel stories, every time my plane lands safely, I consider that a successful trip!  Most travel aggravations can be overcome, but not if you don't finish it in one piece!

JENN MCKINLAY: My Mom and I decided to indulge in a trip to Florence (Ah, Firenze) Italy for my fortieth birthday. I left the Hub and Hooligans behind in the frat house for a week of visiting museums, historic sites, and Tuscan vineyards.

It was a wonderful trip. Amazing food, beautiful city, lovely people, lots of laughs, and more gelato than I could ever eat, although I did my best. The only blip in the trip was when Mom got into it with a transportation officer on a city bus and the next thing I knew we were getting hauled off the bus and charged seventy-five euros. Mom hadn't punched her ticket right away and when she remembered and went to do it, the transportation guy nabbed her. Not very sporting of him since she was trying to do the right thing but we were already under way so he felt he had a case. Mom, being feisty, refused to listen to the man, and started calling for "La Polizia!" (I kid you not), meanwhile the other woman who got snagged with us made her escape.

I was too busy laughing at the insanity and taking pictures of the cute police officers, they had white hats just like the British bobbies, who smiled and nodded and told us with a shrug that we had to pay. Mom was miffed but once we caught the bus to our vineyard tour at a castle and had some wine, she settled down.

Still one of my favorite memories. Mom has spunk!

LUCY BURDETTE: Our scariest travel moments involved driving to ski houses in Vermont back in the 1990's. If you rented a house with another couple for a weekend, by God you were going to get there no matter what it took.

I wouldn't have minded staying home if the forecast was for black ice or a blizzard while traveling. Especially with two squabbling children in the backseat! At one point I was reduced to a quivering blob moaning "motel, motel." John honestly could not see the road more than 100 yards in front of him.

I finally prevailed and we got the last room in a crummy dive and we were oh so glad to be there. I consider it sheer dumb luck that we survived all those weekends--and that our fledgling marriage survived too!

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Yes, good luck is when it all turns out fine and everyone is safe. My plane to Atlanta Friday was FIVE HOURS delayed, and there's nothing like the crazed and frantic atmosphere of a planeload of travelers trying to to figure out how to get somewhere. It was doomed. It was presidents day weekend and school vacation week, and seriously, there was not one seat. It all turned out fine, I arrived five hours late, but my event was the next day, so all fine.

But once on a trip to Indianapolis, I smelled a funny smell. you know how when some thoughtless person brings Chinese food on a plane? That's what I thought it was.

Finally, though, it was clear it wasn't. I went to the flight attendant and said, you know, there's a funny smell. (I mean, you have to understand the level of terror I had to mention it..) And she looked at me like I was really annoying, and said this plot has twenty years of experience, I'm sure it's fine. So I shrugged, and tried (and failed) to believe her 

And truly, the smell  grew to be incredibly pungent..I had my scarf over my nose. The flight attendant saw me, and said: the smell is less in the back, want to change seats? And I did. 

As the Indianapolis airport came into view, and we were almost landing, the flight attendants came on the PA. 'BRACE BRACE BRACE"  they yelled. "Heads down, heads down! Brace brace brace!" I peeked out the window.MANY Fire trucks. SILENCE on the plane, except for the commanding flight attendants. We landed. We taxied way to the end of the runway. The pilot came out, and said they that before we deplaned, they had to make sure the plane was not going to catch on fire.

Turns out, the electrical system had shorted out, and been burning, and just before we landed, the ENTIRE electrical system went down.

Forgive me for how long this is, but I had the same pilot on the flight back. I said to him--wow, that was scary yesterday.

And he said yeah, in my twenty years of flying, nothing like that had ever happened. He said--the cockpit was filled with smoke. We put on our masks, and landed.

Oh! PS. He also said "When I first smelled it, I thought someone had brought on Chinese food."

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I made my book signing yesterday in Phoenix by the skin of my teeth! Flying early yesterday morning from Portland, big mess at PBX with a flight very delayed from Chicago and all the American agents scrambling to get people sorted who had missed planes, which delayed my flight, too. But so far, that's the closest call for book tour.

I have a fun travel story. A few years ago, my daughter and I were flying to London. She had booked us for afternoon tea at Gordon Ramsay Claridge's for that afternoon. Even reserving months ahead, that had been the only available date.

So we arrive at Gatwick at 7 in the morning. We get through customs and my bag comes in. Then we wait, and wait, and wait. No bag for Kayti. We finally realize it is not on the plane and fill out the necessary paperwork. Kayti is in sweats and we are panicked about our tea reservation.

So we go shopping in Gatwick and find her a dress at Monsoon, and then some shoes. By this time it's noon and we have to be at Claridge's at two. No time to go to the flat to change and freshen up. I said don't worry, we can change in the Ladies at the hotel. Really? Kayti asks. It's Claridge's, I say. Of course we can.

So we did, and our tea was fabulous, one of our most memorable experiences. Kayti's bag arrived the next morning...

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: My scary experience? A "free" week-long vacation in Manzanillo that my father-in-law got us when he sat through a time share offer. (He used the same technique to acquire a weekend in the Bahamas for us later.) We were young, adventurous and child-free, so we jumped at it.

First off, we booked a cheap flight (not included) saving money by arriving in the middle of the night. There was a driver from the time share company waiting for us, who ushered us into the back seat and began to drive. And drive. And drive. He didn't speak English, and we didn't speak Spanish. We went for what seemed like hours, seeing nothing but impenetrable jungle in the narrow headlight beams. Ross was convinced we had fallen into the hands of kidnappers.

When we finally arrived at the Barefoot Hotel, we were pleased with the spacious accommodations - but the only part of the hotel that seemed lit was our room and the antechamber leading to it. The only sound we could hear was the beating of the Pacific waves. No voices. No muzak. No greeting. Ross told me to bar the door and not open it for anyone, then went to see what he could find out.

Turns out, we were the ONLY guests in the hotel, which was otherwise closed for renovations. Only we never saw any work going on. There was one maid - from the village? - who cleaned our room. We never saw her. The only other person around was Ramon, a sixty-something who spent his days trying unsuccessfully to clear the pool of leaves and who kept a cooler full of ice and beer for Ross, whom he called "Patron." I felt like we had fallen into a Winston Graham novel.

It was a relaxing and eerie experience, made more so by the fact that I can't find any reference to a "Barefoot Hotel" in Manzanillo...

HALLIE: So please, were any of you out and about in a blizzard or trying to get somewhere in California's epic rains? Share the good, bad and the ugly.


  1. Oh, goodness, I cringe at the travel horror tales . . . and absolutely no traveling in blizzards for me.

    Many years ago, when the children were little and air travel was much different, each year we spent part of the summer visiting family on the east coast while John was off flying with the Navy. This meant a flight from Los Angeles to Philadelphia where we my sister would meet us. At the end of one such visit, we arrived at the airport in Philadelphia for our return flight only to find that they’d cancelled the flight because of the rainy weather. So we schlepped back to my sister’s [about a ninety minute drive from the airport] and returned the next day only to discover that they had no seats for us on the flight they’d promised we would be on. Apologetic for what they deemed their error, they simply parked us in first class [where the girls promptly went to sleep] and we had an uneventful flight home.
    Some years later, I needed to be in Las Vegas for a conference and caught a late flight because the girls had had a skating competition that day. I arrived at the hotel shortly before midnight, having advised them that I would be arriving late. But the hotel staff wouldn’t let me check in that late, so I spent the night sitting in the hotel lobby waiting until they decided I could have a room. Worst experience ever . . . .

  2. Those are some hair-raising stories! I thought of one terrible experience I had at the start of the post and now I have forgotten it. So here's another. In graduate school in southern Indiana, I'd had a paper on "Women and Language" (or something like that) accepted at a Women in Sociology (or something like that) conference in Uppsala, Sweden. Now, despite being in a PhD program, I was twenty-six and just the teensiest bit irresponsible and risk-taking. I'm sure I'd been carousing the night before my flight. My friend drove me up to Indianapolis, and on the way we realized it was the day of the spring time change, so we were an hour behind schedule! She put her foot on the gas. I sprinted through the airport, but they had just closed the gate when I got to it. I had to wait 24 hours, and then spend the night in JFK airport because of another missed connection. Damn. But I made it.

    Good luck story. A few years before that, at 22, I was at the end of a two month trip across the country and to Brazil and back, and was visiting a friend in Michigan. I was out of money but needed to get home to California. I found a ride board at the university and hooked up with Barbara, a woman a few years older than me who wanted to get to the same coast. We put out our thumbs at the start of the on ramp and started lobbying for rides. We got a couple of rides and were in Iowa with a HUGE thuderstorm rolling toward us across the plains when a small red car stopped and a kid poked his head out. "You girls old enough to hitchhike?" We felt like saying, "You old enough to drive?" But he was a Christian Marine going back to his base just in San Clemente and we both managed safe - and free - passage home.

    1. Edith - I want to travel with you! You have quite an adventurous spirit!

  3. Joan, what a crummy hotel! Especially if you were paying for the night before...

    Edith, if that's a TEENSY bit irresponsible, I'd hate to see...

    1. I will not reveal details of the way less responsible stuff, believe me!

  4. Just take along a good mystery book(preferably by one of the Jungle Reds) and everything will just be fine

  5. Oh the time zone thing--that is such a land mine! A pal of mine taught me to look at the clocks in the airport the moment you land. ( he missed a signing because of it)

    Wow Julia --that is downright weird!!

    And why is it SO BLEAK to wait in an airport ?

    And finally: Hallie , did Barbara get her luggage??

    1. Would YOU have left your luggage on that train if they told you to?

      I'm asking her... will let you know.

    2. As I suspected, from Barbara: "I never let my luggage out of my sight! ( experienced traveler that I am! )"

  6. My worst travel trip will be brief in order to gloss over the gory details:

    Once upon a time, unbeknownst to me, I was bitten by a spider. I did not realize this before I got on the first of two flights from Dulles to Montgomery, AL. This spider, as tiny and innocuous as it must have been for me not to notice it was biting me, packed a nice allergic reaction punch in its venom. Shortly after take off, I began to vomit. And I continued to vomit all the way to Atlanta. And in Hartfield-Jackson airport. There in even footage of me vomiting into a trashcan somewhere as they were doing a story there at the time.

    My dear husband ran into a convenience store to buy me some medicine to make me feel better and found some seasickness medication - chewable. Desperate for relief, I put it in my mouth and began to chew only something was off about the taste. I checked the ingredients to find aspartame which I am violently allergic to, of course.

    And so I spent the flight from Atlanta to Montgomery vomiting. Any time I took a sip of water my stomach rebelled the second the drop hit.

    Long story short, my husband's aunt was called (we were there for her daughter's wedding) and she connected us to a doctor. He instructed my husband to put me in the tub and check me head to toe for any marks or bites. On my ankle he found it and with supplies from the hotel shop and the pocket knife he always carries (this was pre-9/11 so he had it on him the whole time) this country doctor instructed him how to lance the spot and milk out the poison. I began to feel better but still has the artificial sweetener, even the tiny amount I got before I spit out the tablet) was in my system.

    We attempted to make the rehearsal dinner but arrived so late it was already over and the caterers were packing up.

    All I remember of the wedding the next day was that it was very, very hot and the historic house the reception was in was not air conditioned.

    1. Oh my gosh! At least it wasn't the precursor to the Santa Clarita Diet.

  7. Aimee, what a nightmare! But how did you even KNOW it was a spider bite??

    1. We didn't but thank goodness for the "country bumpkin" doctor who a) would take a house call, literally, on a Friday night at 8:00pm, and b) had seen enough bites of all variety to instantly suspect it upon hearing the story my husband told him.

      I will say this about that trip: I may not remember it fondly but I do remember that when we landed in Montgomery, with the same crew that had been on the flight to Atlanta, they made the announcement that they wanted to get the very ill passenger off the flight first and every other passenger I walked by (staggered by?)wished me well and not one person acted annoyed that I had basically re-enacted The Exorcist meets Airplane on that flight.

      Delta got a very nice, handwritten note about that crew and one flight attendant in particular when I got back home.

  8. Aimee, you're lucky to be alive. Spider bites are scary.

    Rhys, having all of Yellowstone to yourself! What a fabulous experience that must have been, with no lines of cars at a "bear jam".

    Twice on my way home from Europe, including last June, an airline strike canceled one of my flights. The first time I ended up spending time in a hotel near Logan Airport, which wasn't terrible. But last year's fiasco was a doozy.

    The night before I was to leave Prague I wondered why I had not gotten an email from Delta about checking in for my flight, so I tried to go online to see what was going on. There was a pilot's strike in Paris, which is where I was to change flights for Cincinnati, but since I'd been in countries with non-English-speaking news channels I had not been aware of the problem. The US news sites I'd been reading online were full of American election stuff.

    Because I'd booked my flights (and everything else) through a travel agent, and since it was the weekend, none of my own travel info was available to me. Before I'd left, three weeks before, I'd at the last minute put a Skype ID and password in my bag, fortunately, because the airlines' lines were jammed, with two-hour-long wait times. And on one call to Delta, after an hour and a half of holding, the talking to an agent, then holding, then talking, etc., the hotel Wi-Fi stopped working long enough to disconnect the call.

    Finally, in extremely tiny print that I needed two pair of glasses to see, I found an emergency phone number in Europe, and after an additional hour or two of phoning was able to check in for my first flight out of Europe. By this time, the sun was coming up, and I had to check out, finish packing, and hightail it to the airport.

    Once I got to New York, more chaos ensued, since all of Europe was in turmoil from Charles de Gaulle's mess, and I was unable to change my next flight; Delta had me changing from JFK to La Guardia and flying to Cincinnati seven hours later.

    However, the GOOD travel experience also happened here: a kind Delta agent at JFK not only gave me a taxi voucher, she ordered a limo for me and personally waited with me while it came. I shared the car with young three Finnish business people on their way to Indianapolis. They had even worse stories than mine, and they had no luggage, no cash, and the only possibility for getting to Indy that day was to follow an impossibly torturous route on at least two planes. But they were in high spirits, and we laughed together all the way to La Guardia. I finally got home well after midnight; I just hope their first US travel experience had a happy ending.

  9. Go Delta! Great story, Joan. (Remember when airlines had actual offices in cities and you could go in and get a ticket issue addressed?)
    This reminds me... I've been to Athens twice and BOTH times there were transit strikes. In Italy and France trucker strikes.

  10. Working for an airline meant flight benefits. Seniority ruling in all things meant not always getting ideal vacation slots, trying to get back to Florida during Spring Break is very risky. Nevertheless, my mother was failing so I risked it. Returning through Memphis, I was denied boarding. I had a major presentation scheduled for one of my grad school classes. Fortunately I was able to contact the professor, telling her I was stuck; seventeen hours later I finally was on my way again.

    The next debacle was not poor planning, it was the black out in 2003. My plane touched down in Detroit just as the power failed. I was trapped. Finally, I stood outside and boarded a hotel shuttle. When the driver asked if I had a reservation, I lied. I spent several days without power, but with clean sheets and water in a Fairfield Inn. I had power bars, plus the hotel tap water meals. Then the hotel staff thought a bit and cooked hot dogs in a cauldron boiling over coals on a barbeque. I think it took about 4 days for me to finally get listed and return
    home. Ir was a long time before hot dogs looked tasty to me.

    1. 4 days?!? Ouch. I'm traveling next weekend and putting power bars on my shopping list right now.

    2. Yes, I always take some snack bars and maybe a little more when flying. I haven't been on one of those flights that have been stuck on the tarmac for hours, but I want to be ready if it happens. Of course, I have had visions of people discovering my cache and tearing apart my belongings to get it and see if there was more, or I would be sitting by children and end up giving it away because of their sad little faces.

  11. Wow! These are horrific stories… Amazing. And shows you how no matter how we plan or what we do, the universe is always full of :-) surprises .
    You are so right Hallie, there is no way I would've left my luggage on that train!

  12. Julia - your story is wonderfully creepy. I'm not sure I would have stayed.

    Debs - You made it to tea! I love this!

  13. Imagine getting in a station wagon every summer with 5 daughters and traveling all over the United States and even into Canada. Of course there were always glitches, but my sweet Dad handled them beautifully. Once we were driving through Brice Canyon on the way to the Grand Canyon and the station wagon overheated. Some friends who were traveling with us in their RV picked up my Mom and all of the girls and headed to the Grand Canyon while my Dad, who figured out the car would not overheat if he drove it under 30 mph, came way behind us. By the time he got to the Grand Canyon, they had given away our room, but somehow Dad ended up getting us the suite where they had filmed an episode of the Brady Bunch the week before. My sisters and I (all age 10 and under) of course were thrilled and didn't want to leave the room which had a beautiful view of the Canyon. I had a really awesome Dad.

    1. Celia, you had 4 sisters?? I had 3.
      Curious minds: What (who?) determined who sat where in that station wagon?? And did your mom ride in back between two?

    2. Hallie, yes I have 4 sisters, and I am the notorious middle child. On road trips, the oldest sisters got first choice and always picked the back seat which they declared was only big enough for 2. The rest of us got in the back of the station wagon with sleeping bags and pillows. My Mom always rode in the front seat and read her books and also was the navigator (she could even fold a map back the right way)! My older sisters were pretty well behaved, but devious, and it would got pretty rowdy in the back ~ we heard lots of "don't make me stop the car!"

    3. Where was the luggage?! And your seatbelts???!

  14. I had the worst luck last year. Every single flight I took the first leg would be fine, but the second leg would be delayed. Every single time! I thought I'd fooled the curse by booking non-stop flights one time. You guessed it, that flight was delayed. Although that turned out to be a blessing since I was so late to my flight I probably would have missed it had it been on time.

  15. No, never get separated from your luggage, unless you have to bail in an emergency!

    1. Right. DO NOT take it with you down the emergency slide. Please.

  16. I forgot about getting stuck in England after 9/11. No flights, of course, and I didn't know when--or if--I would get home. It was very scary.

    And then I got stuck in Germany when the Icelandic Volcano spewed ash all over the atmosphere. I was on book tour, and had the flu. When my great German publicist found out that all flights were being canceled, she managed to get me a reservation on a train from Hanover to Brussels the next day, then the Eurostar to London. I had to run full tilt in Brussels train station to make the Eurostar, but I did. Safely in London, I came down with Norovirus...


  17. Loving all these stories! Jenn - your mom. I adore your mom!

    Landing in Athens, Greece and quickly running to use the bathroom before exiting and asking my dearly loved travel companion to "Wait! Don't leave without me, okay?" Walking out of the bathroom to an empty plane. Walking to the door to see the rolling steps with handsome Greek men waiting for me a the bottom. Handsome Greek men in uniform with guns. With those belt things across their chests with (?) bullets (??). Whoa. Me and 4 handsome Greek men riding in a bus from the plane to the terminal with no one saying a word. Getting into the terminal and spotting my dearly loved travel companion and saying "Don't speak to me. You left me!" His response, "Honey, I love you but I am not going to say no to a handsome Greek guy with a gun telling everyone to get off the plane." NO idea what that was all about. Standard Operating Procedure? What? All I can guess is that the Greeks took not getting off the plane as a very serious offense back in the day - NO idea what it's like now, but one of these days "when" I get back to Greece I'll find out.

    1. This is reminding me of the first time I saw security armed with machine guns at an airport -- Heathrow in the '80s.

    2. Kaye, did this happen during the 1980s when Greece had a dictator or did this happen after 9/11?

  18. I grew up in the Ozarks where, if a blizzard rolled in, a simple twelve-mile trip from college to home could be a death-defying experience. One Christmas my mother and I drove up to Kansas City to spend the holiday with her parents, and took my Irish setter along. On the day we planned to drive home a cold front moved in, with high winds and very low temperatures, but no snow in the forecast. Not long after we set out on the four-hour drive the winds kicked up, and were so strong and so cold they cooled off the engine before the engine heat could warm the passenger compartment of the car. And then, of course, it started to snow. We talked about stopping, but rural Missouri in those days was not exactly rife with motels, let alone places that would let you bring your dog. Finally we pulled over long enough for me to trade coats with my mom. I had good warm gloves, a big knitted scarf, and her conventional car coat, so I drove. She took my coat, which was a full length monk's cape with hood, and got in the back with the dog. The two of them snuggled up under the cape to keep each other warm, while I drove like hell through the snow the last two hours home. We made it, but we didn't really relax until we'd had a couple of cups of hot tea in front of a roaring fire.

  19. Celia, I have a similar station wagon story! My parents took the four girls and my grandmother on various national park trips during summer vacation. One year we were in Yosemite or Yellowstone (apparently, I've blocked it out,) and our station wagon broke down. Some hippies in a VW bus picked us up and dropped us at the only available accommodations, a place called "Fish Camp." My father rode with the drunk tow truck driver, and we divvied up the rooms. I remember the amenity at Fish Camp was a bar of soap. Very fancy.

  20. Several years ago I had to make a trip to Maryland for work. I caught a ride to the airport a couple of hours early to save the parking fee. My departing flight was delayed two hours because they were looking for stairs in Chicago to unload passengers so the plane could be sent to pick us up. I finally made it to Chicago only to find out I had missed my connection to D.C. But, my luggage went on without me just fine! They routed me thru Baltimore, I had about 20 minutes to make it to the gate and they gave me a $10 food voucher that I had no time to use. I literally ran thru the airport and made it with seconds to spare. I had had nothing to eat since 7am...I landed in Baltimore only to find I had missed the last shuttle to my destination training center two hours away by car. I pitched a fit and suggested they pay for a cab, but they refused. It's now 8pm, still no food. I called the center and they had a new shuttle dispatched to pick up me and several others who were also delayed. The passenger van they sent was packed as we all wedged ourselves in. We took off for the two hour ride. A blinding thunderstorm ensued, complete with lightening, thunder, and sheets of rain pummeling our little van. It stormed the entire ride. Finally reaching our destination training center, we were greeted with leftovers, a cold fish sandwich and a bag of chips. I was told my luggage was being delivered from D.C. and when it arrived, I would be required to go down to the front gate to retrieve it due to security measures. Stumbling off to my room, I crammed the cold fish sandwich and some chips in my mouth, stripped down and fell into my bed. I was awakened by a female voice yelling at me to wake up, wake up!!! I opened my bleary eyes to find a female security guard in my room yelling at me to wake up and go get my bags!!! It was 2AM, and she explained they tried to call me but I didn't answer the room phone. I pulled on my clothes from yesterday and accompanied her down to the gate where another male security guard loaded my suitcase on a large table and began to unzip it. He rifled through my undies and bras, pants and shirts for the next week...checked my shampoo and deodorant and found it free and clear of explosives. With my suitcase loaded the female security guard drove me back to my dorm building and let me out, wishing me a nice rest of my night. It was 3:30AM when I fell back into my bed and was soon sound asleep. I had set my alarm clock for 6AM since breakfast was served until 7:30 and training began at 8. So on about 3 hours of sleep I made it thru the first day, vowing to never fly anywhere again!!! The next year when I had to attend the conference at the same center, I drove!! It was a very beautiful drive, relaxing and enjoyable.

    1. Harrowing... Bet that put you off fish sandwiches for a bit. So now I'm filling in back story and wondering what exactly you were in training for that they had to check your luggage going INTO the training center.... hmmm.

    2. It's the National Fire and Emergency Management training center😇

  21. I've been fortunate flying--even when I've missed my flights, had them delayed or canceled, it was nerve-wracking, but never harrowing. The worst have been my driving trips. I hate to drive unless I'm familiar with the roads, but my job has meant long drives across several states by myself over the years in all kinds of weather. One of my worst moments came when I was commuting weekly from northern Ohio to Charleston, WV. It was a five-hour trip and I would frequently leave at 3 AM in order to reach the office at 8 AM. One very early morning the fog was so bad I should have just gotten off the road, but I knew it would be better once I reached the Interstate. Traveling through the city streets, the street led directly to a four-lane bypass--except at the point of entry there was an exit lane on the right to an odd little side street. I knew I had to keep to the left to avoid taking the off-ramp--and in the fog I went too far left and entered the four-lane road on the wrong side. Fortunately, there was a car behind me that warned me--laying down on its horn--and there was no oncoming traffic. I was able to safely cross the median and get in the southbound lane. And the next time I made that trip, I caught glimpses of my mom and dad (deceased 10 years at that point) riding shotgun in the backseat to make sure I didn't do anything else boneheaded.

  22. Yikes! A near miss. After moments like that I say smack myself upside the head: IDIOT--you could be dead. That driver who warned you earned his angel wings.

  23. Wow! I had a question for everyone here. If you flew in a commercial plane, did you carry on your one piece baggage or did you check through your baggage?

    I asked because I recall this happened too often: the airlines would lose my family baggage or my baggage. So from the time I was in college, I always carried on my baggage - one piece of luggage and a small purse. For me, that made flying for me easier.

  24. The airlines NEVER returned my "lost" luggage! So I learned to avoid checking through my luggage if I could help it!

  25. Car trips...I forgot the horrific return trip from DC to Maine we made a couple years ago. We had gone down for Thanksgiving (my brother, sister and their families all live in the DC area) and made the mistake of heading north on Sunday, the second busiest travel day of the year. Along the Baltimore-New York-Boston interstates, the busiest roads in the nation.

    It would have just been long, tedious and filled with quick stops at grimy restrooms if a massive rain storm hadn't flooded the area to the extent that NJ actually closed the Parkway. AND I-95. Once we we off the highway, there were no detour signs or directions. Did I mention this was before any of us had smart phones? I was calling my brother-in-law in Virginia and he was guiding us based on Google Maps at home, but local roads were being closed off as they flooded, which we found out only when we drove up to the barriers. It was literally nightmare-like, crawling along routes crowded with thousands of cars, in places were water was rising up to our hubcaps and cresting over sidewalks and medians.

    We dropped The Sailor off at Trinity (Hartford, CT) and made it to Smith (Northampton, MA) around 3am. We had called ahead and gotten a reservation at the Hotel Northampton, where we staggered in, got 5-6 hours of sleep, and then headed home to Maine.

    Next time we visit for Thanksgiving? We're taking Amtrak.

  26. My husband and I were driving in Costa Rica somewhere in the mid nineties. It was a self planned trip and we had rented a cool 4wd pickup truck. Costa Rica did not have a military back then; still doesn't as far as I know. We were stopped at a bridge by a paramilitary looking group of men. Uniforms of a sort, and armed. Frank is fluent in Spanish and asked a polite version of what the hell? The men claimed it was a bridge toll that we were required to pay. Naturally we paid and took off. I'm still not sure what that was all about.
    We've had driving adventures too. I remember driving from El Paso east to who knows where we were going at the time and stopping to see what was all over the highway. The road was completely covered in hailstones. So glad we missed that storm.

  27. For the most part, my traveling on a plane or in a car has been uneventful. I did have an upsetting experience with American Airlines back about five or seven years ago. I was flying to D.C. to see my husband, who was stationed at the Pentagon, and I had my son (college age) and his girlfriend traveling with me. The plane in Evansville, IN was late, which made us late getting to Chicago, our connecting flight to D.C. We hit the ground running at O'Hare Airport. I stopped at an American Airlines ticket counter to see if he could tell the plane we were on our way or tell me if it was still there. He looked it up and said, oh, you have ten minutes and it's on the other side of the terminal. Then he smirked and said good luck. Needless to say we didn't reach the gate in time. American would do nothing for us, no food coupons, no hotel accommodations (I didn't really expect to get the hotel for free). Delta Airlines, however, gave us food coupons and advised us to stop by United to get a flight out in the morning. We did that, and the United people were lovely. I know it was just the one bad experience with American, but I haven't been on that airline since.

  28. NEVER CHECK A BAG! I would never do it. xoxoxo

  29. I Never check a bag either. Not since the airlines lost our bags one time too many! xoxo