I’m in sunny, warm, beautiful Florida right now escaping all the blizzards in Nebraska. I’m here visiting my mom and grandpa for about a month before I have to go back home. My grandma passed away earlier this summer and she was my grandpa’s caregiver, so mom has been her taking care of him since early June and I had not seen her for seven months. No matter how old you get, sometimes you just flat out miss your mom and have to find a way to go see her.
I had quite the adventure while flying almost 2,000 miles all the way from Alliance Nebraska to Tampa Florida which was the closest, cheapest airport to where grandpa lives. First, I had to take a tiny little plane from Alliance that only sat eight people. I could see both pilots from where I sat as the only passenger on the plane. After the pilot gave me the safety speech, he set a cooler with drinks and snacks on the floor up front and told me I could come and get whatever I wanted once we were up in the air. I never got the nerve to take my seatbelt off during that entire flight to get a snack.
My mom has always hated small planes and refuses to fly on them. I had been on planes that only sat about fifty or so people, but I was NOT prepared for this! The pilot told me before we started down the runway that it was going to be a rough start because of all the wind which was rocking the plane while we were waiting for the go ahead. The second the wheels left the ground the plane was thrown several feet to the right as a gust of wind hit it. I was holding on for dear life as the plane climbed sharply, trying to get above the worst of the wind. The plane was knocked from one side to the other like it was a boat on the ocean during a typhoon, and sometimes we’d suddenly seem to fall through the air like an anchor before getting thrown right back up!
That was the longest thirty minutes of my life. The last twenty minutes was extremely smooth once we flew out of the wind, and our landing was like landing on clouds ironically. I also found out that if the winds had been just a little bit stronger the flight would have been canceled
The next part of my adventure requires some explaining; I found that it was over $100 cheaper to book two separate plane tickets through two different airlines, and so I wasn’t sure if they would put my checked bag through, so when I checked in at the small airport in Alliance, I made sure to ask. She assured me that she would stamp it to go straight to Tampa so I wouldn’t have to go pick it up just to turn around and check it back in and go through security again. I believed her.
When I arrived in Denver Colorado where my second flight was, the man who came to walk me from the tarmac to the building told me that no, I would have to go pick it up and check in again. Having no reason not to believe him as I’d never flown on my own before, I began the long walk across the airport after a long walk to get off the tarmac just to get inside where it was warm. It was a ridiculously long walk just to get to the shuttle that I had to take to get to the part of the airport where my bag was supposed to be, and then I had to walk some more. I had to go to the complete opposite corner of the airport (trust me, I checked the map) to get to the carousel where my bag was.
I checked the screen and sure enough, my flight was up there. I waited for about 45 minutes and still didn’t see my bag. I asked the man in charge of the bags if my bag had in fact gone through. He checked his computer and said, no, I would have to wait and get it.
Now I’d been up since about 6am and had had nothing to eat besides half a pop tart at 6:30am because I was so stressed I was afraid I’d throw up anything else and I probably would have on the little plane too. By now it was almost 2 o’clock and I finally abandoned the baggage claim to locate a shop with candy bars while calling a friend who used to work at the airline to see if she could help me locate my bag since the people at the airport were being entirely unhelpful and I’d been waiting two hours already at baggage claim
While I was scarfing down a kitkat like a starving dog, she called me back after calling her friend and said that my bag had already gone through, I didn’t need to pick it up. I was ready to strangle the guy who led me from the plane who made me walk so far and go through all that trouble for absolutely nothing. I was already planning possible ways to thank my friend for being such an angel helping me find my bag.
Now I had to find a place to check in and that was turning out to be way too much of a pain so I did it online and started hunting for security. Apparently, it is a bad idea to wear jeans with glittery embroidery on the pockets because it set off the machine and I had to step aside for my second pat down of the day. They also swiped my hands with some kind of strip and stuck it in a machine and I had to stand there and wait while it scanned. While it’s scanning, I’m internally panicking and desperately hoping that I haven’t touched something contaminated that would make them arrest me for drugs or put me in quarantine for some super deadly disease or something.
After the tensest 90 seconds of my life, the machine beeped green and I was given the go-ahead to get my stuff and go on my way. They never did say what the strip was for.
After that, I stopped at the first place that sold food I could find (McDonald’s) and ordered a burger and fries to take with me. I ate the fries on the shuttle and forced myself to only eat one or two at a time so I wouldn’t gross out the other people even though I was starving, as by now it was about 3 o’clock. And because I refused to pay three dollars for a very small, very warm bottle of water and pop would give me a headache, I hadn’t had anything to drink since before my flight in Alliance at 11am.
When I got off the shuttle I walked to a different corner of the airport where my gate was supposed to be and walked all over to find it. At one point I misread a sign and got off an elevator on the fifth floor when I should have gotten off on the third. The fifth floor was for employees only, which I thankfully noticed before I got more than two steps out of the elevator.
Finally, I found my gate and sat down to eat what was hands down, the most disgusting hamburger of my life. No matter how hungry I was, nothing could make that thing taste good. I finished most of it because I was in desperate need of protein and then I went looking for a working water fountain, all the ones I’d seen before weren’t working. I had an empty water bottle in my bag that was about 24 oz. I filled it and drained almost the whole thing in one go.
I still had about an hour to kill before we started boarding so I found another shop and bought some overpriced snacks.
Aside from the irritating, rude, obnoxious guy that decided to move so he sat next to me instead of behind me and thought that none of the rules applied to him, i.e, seatbelt, get off your phone, do not put your full-to-the-brim soda on the tray while we are taking off as soon as the flight stewardess walks away to put her own seatbelt on, etc… we had a smooth takeoff and flight.
The landing was a different story. The big plane hit the ground super hard and jerked to one side causing a lot of people to shout and the lights flicker. While waiting to get off I heard a lot of people commenting how rough the landing was.
We’d arrived about thirty minutes ahead of schedule because of strong tailwinds most of the way, so I didn’t bother calling my mom right away, figuring she’d still be looking for a parking spot. I ended up stepping out of an elevator directly across from the escalators on my way to get my bag. It was nearly midnight and I was getting pretty hungry again and the sugary snacks were making me extra jittery, so I was entirely focused on getting my bag. I ended up walking right behind my mom and grandpa who were waiting at the bottom of the escalators and I never saw them. She called while I was standing there waiting for my bag to come out with everyone else, wanting to know where I was because I didn’t come down with the rest. I hadn’t even noticed that they were there and it was kinda funny because they were pretty hard to miss with grandpa in a wheelchair since it was such a long walk, with a dog on his lap, and I was decked out in full western gear complete with hat and big flashy belt buckle, so it should have been pretty hard for us to miss each other.
And of course, because I find everything hilarious when I’m exhausted and high on sugar, I thought it was the funniest thing in the world when we both turned around while on the phone and saw each other at the same time only about fifty feet apart. I must have looked pretty weird standing there laughing, struggling to put my phone away and put my carry-on bag down so I could hug them.
By the time we got back to the house, it was about midnight and we’d stopped by taco bell so I could get some food, so I was beyond ready for bed. Because old people, especially ones who live in Florida year-round get cold so easy, they had the heat on even though it was like 60-65 degrees outside. I’m used to my house being anywhere from 60 to 70, with my bedroom always being about 10 degrees cooler, so I was dying when it was pushing 80 inside.
I literally went and stood on the front porch in my shorts, a tank top and bare feet for a good ten minutes a couple times in the night because it was just unbearable inside. First thing in the morning I went and stood outside, and I think the people walking by all either thought I was insane, as they were all wearing gloves and heavy coats, or they thought I’d been kicked out of the house. It took me several days to get used to it, and I finally had to start sleeping on the couch in the screened in porch because it was just insufferable inside.
All in all, it was an interesting trip, and I’m glad in the end I decided to leave my violin at home for my first solo flight. My trip home should go much smoother and I’ll know what to expect next time. I haven’t booked my return ticket yet, but I’ll head home sometime early March most likely. That’s when we start calving the heaviest and when dad would be most likely to need my help. But if he’s not baying for me to hurry up and come home, I’m going to stay and enjoy laying out in the sun and extra week or two. I’ve never had a vacation before.
On the flight home though, I’m going to make sure to book my seat where I can’t see the wings wobbling though. I don’t care if they are supposed to that, I don’t want to see the things that are holding the plane in the air wobbling around like a wimpy piece of metal about to come loose.