Wild blue yonder

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 27, 2005

This is your captain speaking…we have reached our cruising altitude; the use of approved portable electronic devices is now permitted.

Depending on when you read this column, I will be in flight on my way from Chicago to Norfolk.

Air travel is one of the world’s greatest innovations, when things go right.

I am the first to admit I am vertically challenged.

When ever possible I check my luggage so I do not have to struggle, standing on the airplane seat heaving my carry on in the over head compartment.

Most flights have a nice gentleman on board who will witness my struggle and rescue my suitcase and me.

My first air travel mishap was in October 2001.

My family and I had a trip to Vegas scheduled before the attacks of September 11.

The only option was to take the trip.

We loaded up the car and drove the four hours to the airport in Detroit.

Our original itinerary gave us a three-hour lay over in Cleveland, plenty of time to have a much-needed breakfast.

A voice came over the intercom, paging our party.

The earlier flight into Vegas had extra seats if we were interested.

We took the seats and were off.

On the flight, no food or drink was served, not even a bag of pretzels.

Angry passengers yelled their disgust to the stewardess.

I too remember the days of a full breakfast on a three-hour flight.

Starving, we landed in Vegas; first stop –

baggage claim.

We watched, as the baggage carousel went round and round and round again, no sign of our bags.

Las Vegas in October averages 90 degrees.

Michigan on the other hand is a lot colder.

We were dressed in jeans and sweatshirts in the heat.

The baggage claim attendant told us the best thing to do was check into our hotel and call the airline back with our room information.

We took the bus to our hotel on the far end of the strip.

After checking in, we relaxed for a few minutes and found somewhere for breakfast.

Luckily, I had my carry-on bag with much needed essentials, including traveler’s checks.

I reached in my bag…no travelers checks.

I left every bit of money we had in the car in Detroit.

Everything did work out in the end, the luggage showed up and we found the travelers check office.

The only other major travel problem happened during my first few weeks at the News Herald.

I was shipped off for a week of training in the frigid tundra of Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

I was on the afternoon flight from Fargo, North Dakota to Norfolk with a layover in Chicago.

I arrived in Fargo a half hour before my flight.

The airport is small, only four gates and none of the usual airport amenities.

As I sat in the lobby, the sign for my flight kept changing; hour after hour the time ticked in Fargo.

Eight hours later we were on the plane for Chicago.

Upon arrival in at O’Hare, I find that all flights are canceled for the night due to an ice storm.

By the time my flight landed, other stranded passengers had settled in for the night in all the area hotel rooms.

I was stuck sleeping in the small, connected chairs in the International terminal.

The week before, I had boarded my cat at the local veterinarian.

It was the first time I had been late picking my cat from the boarding and being new to the area and a dead cell phone battery; I had no one to call to tell them she would be staying over the weekend.

The only thought going through my mind was &uot;please don’t let them auction my little black cat on E Bay.&uot;

The next morning I finally got a flight out of Chicago to Newark to Jacksonville then finally to Norfolk.

Over the holidays I flew to Chicago twice.

I flew from Raleigh over Christmas and missed the snowstorm on I-95 on the day after Christmas.

New Year’s Day was spent on a flight from Philadelphia to Norfolk, hearing horror stories of lost luggage and Christmas presents.

If all goes well I will spend another fun filled weekend on Michigan Avenue, complete with luggage.

Sunday afternoon, I will land in Norfolk and arrive home to my cat fast asleep on the sofa.