Yep, I was gone again. This time it was to finish out my 2003-04 ski season at Steamboat. Mr. Karen and I headed off with two kayaking buddies of his who’ve turned into ski buddies as well. We went on Spirit Airlines even though I had bad memories of being really, really squished on a Spirit flight years ago because Spirit was really, really cheap when we booked the flights. They’ve changed for the better. I was not squished at all. They gave me animal crackers. I like animal crackers. They’re a tasty snack and entertainment, too. I spent several diverting minutes trying to figure out what one of the creatures was; I eventually settled on penguin, with swimming turtle and armored-belly bunny as the runners-up. (As I was taking those pictures, the flight attendant in the aisle accidently bumped my arm, then apologized saying, “I’m sorry; I didn’t know you were making art.” How cool that she appreciated my creative side.)
After we arrived in Denver, the advantage of having not one, not two, but three kayakers along became apparent. Used to tying oddly shaped items to vehicles and well equipped with straps, they got the three ski bags and one snowboard bag secured to the roof rack of the rental vehicle in no time at all. That meant plenty of personal space inside the vehicle, unlike that time we had to squeeze two people into the 40 part of a 60/40 back seat.
It started to snow when we were about halfway to Steamboat. Not so much that we couldn’t get over Rabbit Ears Pass, but enough that we had good skiing on Sunday, with about six inches of fresh on the ground. I didn’t quite keep up with all the boys, but I don’t think I slowed the fast ones down too much. Monday and Tuesday spring skiing conditions prevailed, with hardpack and almost ice in the mornings and slush, sugar, and mashed potatoes by afternoon. It was relentlessly sunny. I kept putting sunscreen on but still got a red nose because I had to blow it a lot and that rubbed the sunblock off. I think the Puffs people need to come out with a Puffs with SPF line extension like they have the ones with lotion. Tuesday it was so warm that I skied all afternoon without my coat, which I’ve never done. That led to my first ever skiing-related neck sunburn, because I neglected to put sunscreen there because I’m used to it being covered by at least my collar if not a neck gaiter, too.
Because the rest of my crew was staying the whole week and I don’t yet have a limo or a private jet, I had to take a shuttle back to the airport yesterday. I’d made the reservation online but had to call the service after we got there to correct the pickup address because their online form wasn’t working right. During that conversation, it became clear that their pickup time calculator online wasn’t working right either, because instead of leaving at 9:40 in the morning, a perfectly reasonable time, I’d have to leave at 6:20. 6:20? For a 3 p.m. flight? Evidently I would, since for some reason, probably just to annoy me, they don’t run a trip between 7 and 10 a.m. So I got up at 5:30 so I could be out front with my luggage when the shuttle came at 6:20. Everything went according to plan until the shuttle failed to show up at 6:20. Or 6:25. Or 6:30. Then I thought I heard the phone ringing. I opened the door from the garage; yep, that’s ringing. I ran upstairs (ski condos all seem to have stairs; I think there’s a law) to grab it on the off chance that not all of my mates had been rudely awakened yet. No surprise, it was the shuttle company, because anyone who knows me knows better than to call that early. Evidently my driver had a couple other pickups at the same time as me and he’d be there around 6:45. They couldn’t have figured out this scheduling conflict the night before and called me to let me know then, when I still had the opportunity to sleep another precious half hour? What’s the matter with these people? That something was wrong became very clear after they finally picked me up around 6:55. At the next stop, the driver went into the building then came out alone and radioed in that he was at X location and they said they had no one going to Denver. Okay, so not only can they not pick people up on time, they try to pick up people who don’t want to go. That’s not exactly what I’m looking for in a shuttle service.
I dozed most of the way to the airport. When the shuttle bus pulled up at my stop, I got my luggage from the driver, tipped him, and then promptly tripped over my own bags and came down hard on the concrete sidewalk. Me so coordinated. My left hand took the brunt of the impact, but somehow I also managed to knock my glasses half off. The young man getting off at the same stop helped me up and both he and the driver asked me if I was okay. Okay? No, I was not okay. I was very embarrassed and somewhat shaken and also a little bloody, but of course I said I was fine. I’m fine, let me get on with my day. On the infinitesimal chance either the young man or the driver are reading; guys, I’m sorry if I came across as ungrateful for your concern. I wasn’t. I was just very distracted by contemplating how I could spend three days careening down black diamond ski runs and come out in one piece and then end up ripping my skin off just trying to walk into the airport.
I got myself and my oozing hand and all my bags inside to the Spirit counter. It was now not quite 10:30, also known as four and a half hours before my flight. Thank you, shuttle service. There were two guys behind the counter. They would not check my bags, because the counter was closed. It would open again at noon. I asked if there was anywhere I could store my bags. No, there was not. Great. I’d been wondering how I was going to fill all those hours in the airport. Now I knew. I’d be having the fun of figuring out how to get my double ski tube and my duffel and my carryon and my purse into a bathroom stall with me lest they be unattended at any time. Before that though, I really needed to get a bandage on the worst of my scrapes. As I fished around in my toiletry bag, I noticed a half dozen people at the Northwest counter, which did not appear to be closed. Since I had nothing better to do than drag my luggage around, I went up and asked if they had any flights available to Detroit. As a matter of fact, they had one closing in six minutes that I could get on for $181. I did a quick calculation. I could get four hours of my life back for $45 each, less if you factor in the dollars I would have no doubt spent on reading material, food, and several glasses of wine at the Vie de France while I waited for the Spirit flight. As a bonus, I would not have to spend 1-1/2 of those hours manipulating heavy bags with a hand that was really starting to throb and swell. I booked it. It was impulsive. It was irresponsible. It felt so right.
They took my bags with four minutes left in the luggage check-in window and I headed off to clear security (yes, I took my boots off this time). It wasn’t until I was sitting at the gate with my hand in a cup of ice that I noticed the seat assignment on my boarding pass: 2D. Could it be? First class twice in two months? It could. My cup of ice and I got on the plane and settled into the nice wide seat and thanked the travel gods. The plane left on time, landed early, and both my checked bags were on it. Life was good. Life is still good today. The side of my left hand is only a little black and blue and almost back to its normal size and mobility; I’ve put out a couple of the fires that came up at work while I was gone, and it’s almost the weekend.
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