Monday, February 13, 2012

Vacation's Over

Some days you just have to laugh.

After a great long weekend, today was the journey back home.

I, ahem, sacrificed my last couple of hours of skiing yesterday to get the bags packed in a quiet condo. (I am such a servant...hahaha.) We had leftovers for dinner last night and got everyone put to bed early. The car was pre-loaded so that when the alarm went off at 4:30 this morning all we had to do was dress and hit the road.

All was proceeding exactly according to plan until we got outside and saw the snow...lots of it had fallen overnight and big thick flakes were still pouring from the sky. We were mildly concerned...but we still had 4 hours until takeoff.

As we started the dark, snowy two hour (projected) drive to Denver, a seven year old bladder sounded its alarm. After 10 minutes of searching for an exit with a clean bathroom that was open at 5:20 am, we opted for the old fashioned way...side of the road...frozen little fanny hanging out making yellow snow. What else could we do?

Back on track with empty bladders, my husband cautiously drove us through the intimidating Wintry conditions. Around 5:45 am one of my sons starting vomiting--orange juice--all over his clothing, his booster seat and the black interior of our rental car. Apparently dark windy roads at high altitudes have an effect on his tummy.

It was pitch black in our car, so the full scope of the damage was left largely to the imagination. I climbed in the back, wrestled with the stacks of luggage in the dark and managed to secure a clean set of clothes. Still not finding any place open along Highway 70 at that early hour, I was left with no choice but to wrap up the nastiness and shove it into our dirty clothes bag. It made for a nice post vacation treat tonight. Not exactly my idea of a souvenir!

We spent the next hour driving behind a caravan of three snow plows. While it insured safe passage, it was not even remotely speedy. As dawn broke, the reality of the potential travel fiasco we were facing set in.

With 75 minutes until takeoff, we were still 15 miles from the airport in Denver's morning rush hour traffic. We had a rental car to gas up, clean and return, bags to check and three worn out children to wrangle. I called Delta to see what options we might have if we missed our flight.

I was reminded by the perky associate, that rescheduling five people is no easy task. The flight after ours was completely booked. There were only two seats on the one after that. There were a handful of other flights later in the day with layovers that delayed their arrivals into Atlanta until midnight. As we chatted all I could think was: It's a school night. My husband has to be at work in the morning. There is a smelly garment wrapped in one of my bags. The kind representative had nothing to offer us but her best wishes.

I called the car rental company next. Their office is a shuttle ride away from the actual airport. Was there any way they could expedite our car return? I was placed on hold for 27 minutes before giving up. We also decided to admit defeat in terms of gassing up the car. The rental company's gas surcharge would be a small price to pay for getting on our flight and avoiding the extra charge of an additional night of boarding our pets.

When we reached the Denver airport is was 8:07am. I had been told that if we weren't checked in by 8:15 we would be locked out of checking bags. My husband pulled the rental up to the curb and the children and I dashed to curbside check in with the bags. Daddy left us in a valiant effort to get the car back to the rental lot. If worse came to worse, we had decided, the kids and I would at least get back and he would have an easier time flying standby as a single.

The sweet veteran airline employee awaiting me at curbside did NOT feel my sense of urgency. He took his time entering my name before declaring that he couldn't help. I would need to relocate myself, the bags and the children to the counter inside for help.

We ran frantically inside. It was 8:11 when with what I am positive were wild eyes and a panicked tone I accosted an attendant monitoring the kiosks.
"We have 3 minutes until the flight closes. I have these bags and these children. The flight leaves in less than an hour. Can you help?"
She was unruffled, but helpful as she ushered us immediately to a counter where two agents worked simultaneously to get our luggage checked in before the cutoff.

We all breathed a collective sigh of relief that at the very least the kids and I would not be hanging out indefinitely at the airport. There was still security to conquer and a potty break to work in, but we made it to the gate with a whole 15 minutes to spare!

The focus then became on my husband's furious efforts to make it before the boarding doors closed. He had checked us in online the night before and the children and I had taken care of the bags. It seemed highly unlikely he would make it because of the rental return--but I have learned to never count my man out.

We boarded the plane with only about a dozen people left behind us. A couple of sweet friends who had been praying were sending me texts to the effect of "Ruuuuuuuuuuuun Forrest Ruuuuuuuuun!!" and "Is he there yet?"
My husband was sending me play by plays of his location in the airport...
"In security...but they seem to be doing full body pat downs of every one in front of me."
"Waiting for train"
"Approaching concourse"
And the kids and I fastened our seat belts and waited.

All the overhead bins were closed. We were told to turn off all our electronic devices. Then, I saw his sweet face. It had a similar look as to the day almost 8 years ago when he dashed in my labor and delivery room after getting the call that the babies were coming. A huge relief washed over all of us.

He was among the final two people to board the plane. The flight attendants sealed the door...and we logged another wild story to tell.

Tonight I am so grateful to be back in my warm home, together.


Liz said...

You're such a great story teller! I totally had goose bumps & was getting a little teary eyed for you, picturing my kids & I doing all the same things while we anxiously waited for Daddy to get on the plane! So glad you all made it!!

Marcia (123 blog) said...

OH MY GOSH, that could have been my story. Our first plane vacation with our twins was like that flying back home.

3 of us checked in by the skin of our teeth and husband returning car and rushing through.

I personally don't care to repeat that performance. you? :)

Happy Valentine's Day.

Jillian, Inc said...

Oh wow! Hooray for you all for making that flight. Loved the valiant daddy ending, (and my second favorite line was the frozen fanny!! Ha!)

La Familia Garcia said...

Loved it! I felt like it could have been right out of my life...except good thing it was yours....haha...

Diane Tohline said...

Oh my gosh - I could hear the seatbelts clicking - all of your eyes looking toward the plane entrance. Okay - hmm burst out into tears when you said., "and I saw his sweet face."

My husband is out of town, that was my sweet Valentine moment. Thanks1

Rachel said...

Oh my goodness. I need a nap after that. And I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief at the end when he made it. Thank the Lord.