Fruita, Colorado – April 28, 2013
As is typical for us, we were on the road before the sunrise. We made a quick stop in Woodland Park to get an Egg McMuffin and coffee for the way. As we left McDonald’s, the sun was starting to peek over the horizon.
Shortly after passing through Lake George, Colorado, we saw a herd of deer near the highway. I estimate there were about ten does. Our wildlife spotting continued as we drove across South Park toward Hartsel. Leslie pointed out a herd of some 14 or 15 antelope. There was not a male anywhere around. A little farther along the highway, we did see a male. He was between the road and the fence. I slowed just in case he decided to run across the highway in front of us.
As we continued, we saw another group of antelope on the opposite side of the highway. The herd was smaller and included at least one youngster. A little past that point, we came to another male. This one was on the same side of the fence as the last herd. He was standing still, looking in their direction.
We continued to Hoosier Pass. Up to the summit, the road was completely dry. In several places on the descent, there were some treacherous icy spots. We went quite slowly over those.
The towns of Breckenridge and Frisco were both asleep. We went through both cities with zero traffic. We turned west onto I-70 toward Fruita, Colorado.
As we approached Copper Mountain Ski Area, we passed a sign warning of an accident five miles ahead. We had planned to stop at the rest area on top of Vail Pass. Shortly before the exit was a State truck with a flashing warning sign indicating the left lane was not open ahead. From that point on the Interstate, one can look across the lanes of traffic and see the rest area. Due to the amount of snow, the authorities closed the restrooms.
As we continued, we began to see some emergency vehicles in the left lane. Then we saw the accident, a light blue Jeep on its left side. It was in the snow in the median facing westbound traffic. It was easy to tell what had happened. Just before the accident scene is an overpass, that is the crossing one would use to get to the rest area mentioned above. On the Interstate below the bridge was a relatively large patch of ice. The Jeep had hit the ice, lost control, rolled at least twice, and came to rest as noted above. We could not see anyone standing around that we would identify as the driver or passengers. We could only assume the driver, and any passengers had already gone to the town of Vail, Colorado, for treatment.
That patch of ice was the only one we saw on the way up Vail Pass. On the way down, there were two or three other ice patches, but no other accidents.
At Edwards, Colorado, we got some gas and made a pit stop. It just so happened to be at the same gas station we had stopped at on the 15th; only this time there were not eight inches of fresh snow.
On our way through Glenwood Canyon, Leslie pointed out a Bighorn Ram grazing along the side of the Interstate. As we passed, we could see he had the latest in Bighorn fashion, a radio collar.
Several miles east of Rifle we were driving along at 75 mph, the speed limit. I saw a black SUV quickly approaching from the rear. As the vehicle passed, I estimate it was traveling at near 90 mph. I commented to Leslie that the driver had better be careful or the police would like to have a chat. Just after that statement, I saw another SUV, brown, approaching. That vehicle was going fast, but not as quickly as the first. Behind the brown SUV was a car. Then I noticed the car was a State Patrol car.
Just ahead of us in the right lane was a car. As the brown SUV passed us in the left lane, the State Patrol car was right behind him. Finally, the Patrol car switched on the overhead lights. I am confident the heart of the brown SUV driver just sunk. The brown SUV pulled into the right lane, one vehicle ahead of me. As soon as that happened, the overhead lights were turned off, and the Patrol car sped on after the black SUV.
At this point, the topography was such that we could see the Interstate going downhill in front of us and gently curving to the left. Because of that change in elevation, we could still see the black SUV way ahead and the State Patrol car closing ground. Finally, we saw the vehicle stop. As we passed by, the State Patrol officer was out of her car and approaching the driver of the black SUV.
We did not have any other wildlife sightings or other excitement for the rest of our trip. Shortly before 11:00, we arrived at our destination.
I occupied some of my time on this visit to Fruita with photography. Some of my favorite shots follow.
The globe willows really stood out against the Colorado blue sky.
On May 2, our flight from Grand Junction was scheduled to depart at 06:10. We arrived at the airport two hours ahead, just like good travelers are supposed to do. The airport building was open; however, the check-in counter did not open until 05:00. We did get the process started by using the self-service kiosk. Then we waited for an agent so that we could check our baggage.
With the check-in behind us, we made it through security quickly. We treated ourselves to our first cup of coffee of the day at Subway. We carried it to the gate area and waited to board our plane.
We boarded the plane and took off right on time, just as the sun was rising. We took off mostly to the southeast. The Colorado National Monument looked terrific with the sun splashing it with various shades of red. Out the right side of the plane, we could see the La Sal Mountains in Utah. A little later, we flew over the San Juan Mountains and the Uncompahgre Mountains in Colorado. The early morning light mixed with the fresh snow made for some stunning views.
The closer we got to Dallas, the more our view of the ground was obscured until there was nothing but clouds below us. Regardless, we arrived at the Dallas/Ft. Worth airport on time.
When we got off the plane, an electric cart was there to meet us. We got on with a single lady and another couple. We went to one end of the terminal to drop off the lady. As we drove along, I was surprised how cold it was going through the conditioned air of the terminal.
We went to a different terminal with the other couple. That ride even included two elevator rides, cart and all. The other couple was dropped off at their gate and then we at ours. Then we stopped at the nearby T.G.I. Fridays for our breakfast.
Once again, we boarded and departed on time for our flight to Miami. We were above or in the clouds for the entire journey. The trip was very bumpy, one of the worst I have been on in quite some time. Because of those storms, we were re-routed a couple of times by air traffic control. That meant we would be late arriving. We did not think that was going to cause us any problems because we had a two-hour window.
At one point the co-pilot announced we were going to be in a holding pattern because of closure at the airport due to the severe storms. The pilot also broke the news that we would only be in the holding pattern for about 20 minutes because that was all the fuel we had. As if that were not enough “interesting” news, he floated the idea that we might have to divert to Ft. Meyers.
Shortly before we were going to have to head to Ft. Meyers due to low fuel, the announcement came that we were clear to land at Miami. We did so in a driving rainstorm. We arrived at our gate, D-38, just after 17:00, about an hour late.
We located our next gate, D-45. Not far away was the Islander Bar and Grill. We stopped in for a snack and a glass of wine. As we made our way back to our gate, we were surprised to see it empty. We discovered our gate was now D-33. I flagged down an empty electric cart so Leslie would not have to walk. Unfortunately, that was not a cart for the general public. After a short discussion with the driver, the vehicle went on its way. Much to my surprise, in about a minute, the driver returned and picked up Leslie. Since it was only a two-seater, I had to walk.
When I arrived at D-33, I found Leslie standing there with what looked like 1,000 people. All of the chairs were full, so there were many, many people standing. I approached the gate agents to check-in. When I did, an agent told me they were going to board the plane for Orlando first. I did not understand why they were referring to an Orlando flight when the board behind the agents read “Port of Spain,” our next destination. That sign also showed a new departure time of 19:00, about an hour later than the first time.
The other thing I did not understand is why the Orlando passengers were not boarding since there was a plane at the gate. One of the waiting passengers explained there was not a crew on that plane. They were waiting for pilots that were flying in from California. We were there until shortly after 19:00. The Orlando flight did not depart; neither did ours.
One of the agents announced that our flight would now be going out of gate D-49. We could not find a cart or wheelchair, so we began walking. As we passed a gift shop, I saw a wheelchair. The attendant was in the store. I went in and asked him if he could wheel Leslie to our new gate. He agreed.
At gate D-49, we sat and waited for our flight. We finally saw a plane arrive at our gate; I believe it was from Honduras. The board showed a new departure time of 20:00. As soon as all of the passengers were off, a maintenance crew boarded. There was some problem with the plane. By the time they finished, it was coming nearly 20:45. That was when we began the boarding process. As Leslie and I stood at the ramp door, we heard the gate supervisor questioning why we were being allowed to board. He said the current crew would be illegal as of 21:00. He did not think there was any way the plane could be loaded and pushed back in 15 minutes. They allowed us to board anyway.
On the plane, one passenger was helping with the boarding process. He asked people where they were sitting. Once they told him, he took their carry-on bag, dashed to their seat and stuffed the bag overhead. He repeated that numerous times. Thanks in part to his help, everyone was on board and seated by 21:01. At 21:03 the flight attendant said we must deplane because the crew was illegal. When we made it to the gate seating area, the gate counter was swarming with upset passengers.
To calm everyone down, the gate agent announced that the search was on for a new crew. They needed to find two pilots as well as four flight attendants. The latest departure time was listed as 00:00. That was enough to calm people down and disperse them from the counter.
A few minutes later they announced they would give each of us a meal voucher for dinner. I ended up being third in line. I got our coupons and motioned for Leslie. We walked directly across the concourse to the Islander Bar and Grill again at nearly 21:40.
When we sat down to order, the waitress said they were only open until 22:00. We quickly ordered our wine and a chicken sandwich. That more than used up our $24 worth of vouchers. Once we received our order, we downed the sandwiches quickly, switched our wine to plastic cups, and went back to the gate area.
As we sat there, it was easy to tell when a member of the new crew arrived because of the whistles, applause, and cheers from the waiting passengers.
Shortly before 01:00, the last crew member arrived. Not long after, we began boarding again. This time the other passenger did not help with the process.
We pushed away from the gate at about 01:10. As we were taxiing there was some commotion near the front of the coach section. We could see a couple of the flight attendants get a first-aid kit and tend to one of the passengers. The plane turned around. By 01:15, we were back at the gate, waiting for the paramedics.
The paramedics did arrive, and they attended to the passenger. We could not tell what was going on, but the activity was not very hectic. Next, we saw two ladies come onboard wearing surgical style face masks. After a few minutes, the ladies and paramedics left sans the passenger. The door closed, and finally, we were in the air by 01:45.
It was another bumpy flight. It got so rough at one point that the flight attendants suspended beverage service.
Even though we left Miami for Port of Spain at virtually the time we should have been landing at Georgetown; we were at least glad to be making some forward progress. We each snoozed a little, even with the bumps.
It was around 05:00 on May 3, when we landed at Port of Spain. Within the hour, after getting our baggage, I was standing at the Caribbean Airlines counter trying to get us to Georgetown. The ticket agent told me the next flight was at 10:30. She said we could go standby on that flight. However, she said she could not ticket us until I paid any fees due at counter 1. She continued by saying I could not do that until 09:30. So we sat down and began marking time.
We waited for about 45 minutes. When I looked at counter 1, I did not see any passengers, so I decided I would try my luck. I explained our situation. After a lot of typing, she said we did not owe anything. However, she said she could not check me in. I had to stand in the regular line to check-in.
With tickets in hand, we went upstairs to the waiting area for our flight home. Just before it was time to board, we changed our seats. From the new location, I could see the sign at the gate. I saw our flight number, but the destination noted Barbados. I just about died. I walked up to the counter to inquire. That is when I learned our flight home was not direct. We did indeed have to travel to Barbados first. Luckily, the agent said we would not have to deplane in Barbados.
When we took off, it was still a little rainy and bumpy. In 40-minutes we were on the ground in Barbados.
Virtually all of the passengers got off. We waited for about 15 minutes, and new passengers began filing on board. Quite frankly, I was surprised at how many people did get on. Regardless, the plane was not full.
The one and one-half hour flight from Barbados to Georgetown seemed to be the longest of the entire trip. We landed at Georgetown at 13:30, some 12 hours late and after nearly 37 hours of travel.
As per usual, it took us just over an hour to get home from the airport.
When we finally went to bed that night, we were both out like rocks.
The next morning I did receive a nice e-mail from American Airlines apologizing for the delays. They also credited my frequent flier account with some additional miles, a nice gesture.
Hopefully, it will be a long, long time before we have another such trip!