Planes, Not Trains, but Automobiles
By Kelly Gallagher
On Sunday, February 9, I traveled to Aspen, Colorado for a snowboarding trip with a good friend with whom I grew up. If I would have known the extent of the stress and experience I was about to go through traveling to Aspen, I don’t think I would have believed myself. The trip started out with me flying out of Cincinnati’s airport to Chicago O’Hare. From there I thought I would be in Aspen later that Sunday evening. Little did I know, I had the biggest obstacles in front of me before I would arrive at my destination.
My flight departed from Chicago O’Hare and I was excited to be on my way to see my best friend. As the pilot announced we were 30 minutes from landing, the plane started to descend to land. All of the sudden the plane immediately pulled up and everyone on the airplane knew something was wrong. The pilot announced that we were unable to land in Aspen due to low visibility and we circled the airport for about 30 minutes. I thought, “Oh this is the least of my worries, the plane will be landed soon. No problem.” Half an hour later, the pilot announced we would be diverting to Denver because we were unable to land. Considering this was my first time traveling alone, I was unbelievably stressed and worried about what would be happening. It was 8 in the evening when we landed in Denver. The flight customers were told to report to customer service. I struggled to keep up with the crowd on my plane after retrieving my carry ons and rushed after to keep up with them. After waiting in a line for two hours to figure out what I was to do, I found out no flights would be taking off to Aspen until the next morning. I was still standing in line while I found out this information and everyone looked at each other in exhaustion. A man two people in front of me seemed to be super spunky and happy compared to the rest of us. He exclaims, “I just got booked for tonight’s last flight out of Denver! You should call United and try to,” he says to me. I looked at him in total fatigue and annoyance and said, “My phones dead.” He points to the woman directly in line in front of me and says, “Hey team up with her!” I glanced over at the woman and asked her if she would mind calling the United Airlines 1-800 number together to see if we could get two seats for tonight’s flight. The airline never picked up and we were at the customer service desk and received the news that we would be booked for the next morning’s flight. I teamed up with this woman and she offered to share a hotel room with me because she had hers for free since she was a first class flyer. Although I was staying the night in a hotel with a random stranger, it is funny to look back on. I was very thankful for the woman I stayed with. Katherine was a middle-aged Harvard professor and she took me under her wing so I wouldn’t be on my own for the night. I learned of this woman’s experiences and places she had traveled. I was completely fascinated by her life. Although it was a bit uncomfortable staying in a hotel with a stranger, I was thankful to have someone guide me in the right direction.
I didn’t get to bed until midnight and had to be at the Denver Airport the next morning at 5:25 AM. I caught the hotel bus shuttle to the airport at 4:30 AM , assuming I was on my way to Aspen to finally be reunited with my best friend. Once again, little did I know what I had in store. My flight took off at seven in the morning and I was excited to finally be on my way. The flight from Denver to Aspen was an hour. To my surprise, during the flight I was awakened by the pilot announcing some bad news. He said, “Folks, I am sorry to say, but we are unable to land in Aspen due to low visibility, we will be diverting to Grand Junction.” I covered my hands in my face as I realized I still was unable to land at my final destination. The pilot announced we would be landing in Grand Junction, an airport thirty minutes by car from Aspen. Just my luck. Unfortunately, we were unable to land there either, so back to Denver it was. Stuck in the same airport for almost 48 hours now, I was on the verge of tears as I updated my parents from my cell phone on how I was unable to get to Aspen. I thought at this moment that I wish I had never even gone on the trip. Although the airlines offered bus shuttles to their customers for a four hour drive to Aspen from Denver, I was unlucky once again and was denied access to the bus shuttle because it was already full. This is when I met Anthony and Diaz. Anthony, a 54 year old British man, was standing in line in customer service, as I was freaking out wondering what I would do. He turned to me with his British accent and said, “We will eventually get there, until then, keep calm and carry on.” At this point I felt like my life was a comedy skit. I smirked over my shoulder and just laughed thinking, “Can this be real life?” Next in line to Anthony and me was Diaz, a 30 year old Spanish foreigner who could barely speak English. Diaz had good intentions, but no one could understand what he was saying. Anthony appeared to be a wealthy business man and told Diaz and I that he had a gold membership with Hertz rental cars. Anthony said that he had a suburban car reservation waiting in his name. He then invited us to go with him on the four hour drive to Aspen. At this point, I knew I should have thought about “stranger danger”, but I was so desperate to get to Aspen that I was all in. I did not feel any threatening feelings from these two men. A mother and daughter also joined us in our journey to Aspen. I was very thankful for having two female companions on the road. So there we are, five complete strangers traveling four hours to Aspen in Anthony’s nice rental car. I sat in the backseat thinking, “Wow, look at me with my new adopted family.” Surprisingly, the car ride was not as awkward as many may have thought. Everyone seemed to enjoy each other’s company and we finally had arrived in Aspen. As we were all trying to hand Anthony money for his kind gesture, he said in his suave, British accent, “I am a Christian and you would be robbing me of a blessing if you paid me.” I arched my eyebrows as I was taken aback by how smooth this guy was. However, I was very thankful for the free ride he gave me to my final destination. I walked into bag claim, retrieved my luggage, and crashed into my best friends arms, finally reunited.
This traveling experience was something I will never forget and has definitely matured me in many ways I might be scarred from ever traveling alone again, but at least I know I should be capable of facing any obstacles that come my way. The trip itself was incredible and the mountains looked as perfect as a picture portrait. When I think about this trip, I may remember the traveling more than the trip itself. I am thankful for the strangers I met on my way and will forever remember my travel experience.