Worst day in history?
March 29, 2008, 12:42 am
Filed under: Travel

SPOKANE — I suppose I can’t claim the title of Worst Day in History. That might go to the Japanese on Aug. 6, 1945. Or to the Jews on Kristallnacht. Or perhaps to the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, especially those munching leaves on the Yucatan Peninsula.

But if I were to make a list of the top 10 worst days of my life, these past two traveling days (to and from Charlotte, N.C.) would make the cut.

Death TripA note: I have made a point of not swearing in my blog, so you can use your imagination.

As you can see by the above dateline, I am in Spokane tonight, not Pullman. What welcomed me back here in the Inland Northwest was just the capstone on a horrendous day of sitting in airport terminals and flying aluminum tubes.

It might seem cliche, but the best way to do this is a timeline.

  • 2:45 a.m. EDT — I go to bed after a long day of basketball.
  • 5:45 a.m. EDT — I wake up after three hours of sleep and get ready for a day of traveling. The four of us in the Spokesman-Review contingency are to meet in the Charlotte Marriott at 6:30 a.m.
  • 6:20 a.m. EDT — I go downstairs to the lobby early, figuring I could grab a bagel from Starbucks before the other guys show up. I’m the last one there, however, and we immediately leave to drive 100 miles northeast to Greensboro, N.C., so three of us (Vince decided to stay in North Carolina for the rest of our pre-scheduled time) can catch our 9 a.m. flight to Chicago.
  • 8 a.m. EDT — Vince drops us off at the Greensboro airport and we swiftly get through security and get to our gate. I get a breakfast sandwich thing from Dunkin’ Donuts.
  • 9 a.m. EDT — Our United Airlines Airbus takes off from Greensboro en route to Chicago O’Hare. I sleep through most of the flight, listening to the George Carlin book-on-tape to which I often go to sleep (weird, I know).
  • 10:45 a.m. CDT — We arrive in Chicago with some time to kill before our 12:10 p.m. flight to Seattle. I buy a Chicago Tribune, the new Sports Illustrated “Baseball Preview” issue, a cinnamon-raisin bagel with cream cheese, a kiwi-strawberry Snapple and a chocolate chip cookie.
  • 12:55 p.m. CDT — We finally take off from Chicago after a 45-minute delay, due to our plane getting in late. In the highlight of the day, I am in the very first row of coach — though I am in the middle seat — so I have a bulkhead in front of me and plenty of leg room. One of the guys next to me has bad breath I occasionally get a whiff of, but I easily sleep most of the flight listening to more Carlin.
  • 3:30 p.m. PDT — Sometime around here the pilot announces we are flying over Spokane and will be starting our descent soon. Little did I know, I should have grabbed a parachute and jumped out of the plane. I might have frozen to death on my way down, but I would have gotten to Spokane a lot quicker.
  • 4 p.m. PDT — After that 45-minute delay and an 80 mph headwind that apparently puts us 45 more minutes behind schedule, our flight lands at Sea-Tac airport. Our Alaska flight to Spokane departed at 3:40 p.m., so we missed it. John Blanchett (S-R columnist) decides to stay in Seattle, because he’s covering the Mariners’ opener on Monday. Chris “C.A.” Anderson (photographer) and I take the subway from the N gates to the C gates to figure out how to get back to Spokane.
  • 4:20 p.m. PDT — A flight attendant on our United flight from Chicago had announced that those of us who missed the Alaska flight to Spokane were re-booked on the 6 p.m. flight to the Lilac City, but the desk folks at an Alaska gate apparently didn’t get the memo. All flights to Spokane are booked, so I get a ticket on the 9:40 p.m. flight out of Seattle. I decide this won’t do.
  • 4:45 p.m. PDT — I go to the Alaska customer service desk in the D concourse to try to get on an earlier flight. They get me onto the 5 p.m. flight, which is delayed until 6:20. Sounds good. I go get some crappy Asian fast-food dinner and a double-tall-nonfat latte from Starbucks.
  • 5:50 p.m. PDT — Our plane is late getting in, so we’re a bit delayed. But the worst news is there’s a snowstorm in Spokane, so our flight is on weather alert. The Horizon folks announce that if we get to Spokane and our plane can’t land because of poor visibility, we will have to turn around and fly back to Seattle.
  • 6:30 p.m. PDT — We board our plane after waiting a bit for maintenance to fix something. After 10 minute of sitting on the tarmac, a flight attendant announces there is another maintenance problem that can be fixed in about 45 minutes, but we’ll have to “deplane” and wait back in the terminal. Great. Our flight is pushed back to 7:30 p.m.
  • 7 p.m. PDT — The Horizon folks announce our plane is not getting fixed as quickly as they hoped, so they’re switching us to a plane that lands in a few minutes. Our flight gets pushed back to 7:50 p.m.
  • 7:30 p.m. PDT — We board our new plane — still with the possibility of having to turn around once we get to Spokane — and sit on the tarmac for another 10 minutes. A flight attendant gets on the intercom and says he has bad news: This new plane has a maintenance issue, so we have to get off and switch back to our first plane, which is now fixed. All of us get off and wait in Horizon’s covered hallway on the tarmac.
  • 8 p.m. PDT — We board for the third time, back on our first plane. At the door, we are given vouchers for 1,000 free miles (or $25 credit) for our Alaska/Horizon mileage programs. I opt for the miles. We sit on the tarmac as maintenance guys walk in and out of the cockpit. Of course, we are all worried we’ll be delayed more, but the flight attendant announces everything is fine and they just have three times the paperwork to do because we boarded our flight three times.
  • 8:20 p.m. PDT — We finally take off. It’s dark out by this time. On the bumpy flight, I get a tiny cup of free beer (the best thing about Horizon) and talk to the guy across the aisle from me. He knows one of the editors on the Spokesman’s sports copy desk.
  • 9:15 p.m. PDT — Somehow, somehow, we land at the Spokane airport, even though visibility is extremely low and there’s a blizzard outside. Yes, a blizzard. We scramble out of the plane and into the warm terminal, and I catch the shuttle out to the North Shuttle parking lot, where my car has been for the past three days. I’m greeted by this:

Snowy Beast

  • 9:45 p.m. PDT — I clear off my car and start driving out of the airport. It’s snowy. It’s slick. People are driving 35 mph. But I’m optimistic, hoping the freeways are clear. I get to I-90 — wet, but fine. I exit on Highway 195 to Pullman — an inch of snow. Still in the Spokane city limits, and an inch of snow on 195 and cars driving 45 mph. There’s bound to be plenty more snow once I get out into the middle of nowhere. This will not do.
  • 9:55 p.m. PDT — I turn around at a gas station and drive the mile back to I-90. Time to find a hotel. I plan on the nice Red Lion downtown, right on the river, but once I get there I spot a Holiday Inn Express. I figure there’s more of a chance the Spokesman will pay for it if I err on the cheaper side.
  • 10:15 p.m. PDT — The hotel has two rooms left. I snag one of them — a second-floor single room with a king-size bed and a microwave, the clerk tells me. Why I would care if it has a microwave, I don’t know. I get up to the room, open the door and drop my bags. Finally. A bed. It’s not in Pullman, but this will do.

So I still have to drive to Pullman on Saturday, but that shouldn’t be too hard. Hopefully. As long as this snow subsides, or as long as the temperature gets above 32 degrees. I want to get home. I want a weekend. I want to see Lisa.

The trip is not over yet, but hopefully the hellish parts are.


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[…] and I through our “angry” private high school years, and I have all his books. I have mentioned before that I have been known to listen to his books on tape (disc? mp3?) while going to sleep. As raspy […]


[…] nothing like a long road trip to make you appreciate air travel. I’ve been known to hate flying on the airlines, but my trip back to Spokane from Minneapolis was pretty much hassle-free — and decidedly […]

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