I never questioned the rationale for each stop as practically every one of them welcomed me to feature them in my stories.
This month, I may have bit off more than I can chew…
Let me backtrack a bit. In this month’s Historiography column, I gleefully stated that I would be back on travel with two trips. Both would be up in the air – literally – in two different directions.
When the trips were coming up, I had less expectations of the first, since I was going to an all-new destination for me. Little did I know that my time in Connecticut would be one of the best work-related trips ever. I never questioned the rationale for each stop as practically every one of them welcomed me to feature them in my stories.
Yet, that trip also threw up some warning signs about travel. All of the flights were packed. My comfort level was compromised, even after upgrading to a more comfortable seat in economy. Both of the Charlotte-White Plains legs were operated by a regional jet with narrower seats and some interesting neighbors along the way.
Then came the nightmare of my last leg home. The flight back to MSP out of Charlotte was delayed at first. I knew I had a long layover for a late arrival, but it got worse. Our flight would’ve left after midnight. That is probable, but, then, I learned why it was pushed back into the next day.
The inbound flight crew dealt with weather in South Florida, which affected a slew of flights across that airline’s network. If they actually fulfilled the first delay, they would be considered “Illegal” due to Federal airline regulations, as well as the airline’s own policy.
Then again, we did not know any of that when they announced the second delay. Instead, they turned us away to find a way to sleep overnight. The line for customer service was long at Charlotte Airport. I tried to stay in line except for some of my fellow passengers pointing out of my disability status. I was then set aside to meet with some customer service agents about my final leg home.
With some discussion, they found me a hotel room nearby and put me on a later flight the next morning. As much as I appreciated the gesture, I was still in a mix of emotions that I’d rather not get into for the sake of not going down a path I will regret in this website.
The end result was that I finally got home the next morning. The V&R Machine was collected at MSP after a packed flight.
After some rest, I started to look at the next trip – another media travel familiarization trip on the west coast. I was to leave the following weekend, which was not the original plan. The weekend days were added by me to fulfill a request by a group of old friends to have brunch near where I was to do my FAM trip.
The problem I had with the FAM trip was the story itself. While an itinerary was being finalized, I just did not feel confident in the kind of stories I would tell about this destination to my intended demographic. Where was the angle to fulfill my intended mission for this story? It became evident that it would not turn out that way in the end.
I ended up backing out of the FAM portion of the trip. And I was OK with that. Instead of a travel familiarization trip, it became a “Family and Friends” weekender back in Southern California.
As novel as an idea that became, things started really going south as the trip loomed on my calendar. For one, the National Weather Service called for a hurricane that was targeting anywhere between Los Angeles and Phoenix with landfall to hit Baja California before it arrives. Concern had started to set in on a lot of folks I was hoping to see out west. Maybe, panic? Who knows?
The reality was that Tropical Storm Hillary dumped a lot of rain on Southern California and blew some nasty winds in the mix. Several places were flooded, but not everyone was completely inconvenienced. Power was still on everywhere I went. I was safe at my hotel room as the meat of the storm came through.
At the same time, an earthquake hit up in Ventura County. It measured 5.1 on the Richter Scale, which was very significant. I didn’t feel a thing when that hit.
That was not all, folks.
Backing up to my flight from MSP to Los Angeles, I was not excited about this trip. It was also the second time that the TSA Cares arrangement did not materialize to plan at MSP. You get a call from them; they tell you to call back after you drop your bags at the counter. Once I called back, I got a voice mail. I simply went through the TSA checkpoint, and it was fine. After I cleared TSA, they called back and apologized.
Could’ve been worse. TSA threw us in our own queue at Charlotte – packed full with us in wheelchairs. That took too long because everyone was flying at all once.
Back to my flight to LAX. I thought I was getting a good seat. Turned out that the flight was packed, and I had annoying passengers next to me – and around me. Without calling that airline out, it was on an ultra-low cost carrier that had a few seats with extra legroom. I paid for the upgrade, but it was not much of one.
In mid-flight, I was already regretting this trip. The guy next to me – in the middle seat – was annoying. He made me uncomfortable even before the flight. I was beyond upset at that point. I assumed that he probably never flew in his life. I’ll leave you with that…
When we landed at LAX, I got the impression that we were to go into Terminal 1. The truth is that the airline's ticket counter was in Terminal 1. Our actual gate was on the far end of the West Gates at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Wheelchairs helped, but they didn’t really ease my tensions. It was still a long haul from the gate to the elevators to meet a bus back to Terminal 1. That was quite the challenge for my soul.
I’d love to tell you the vehicle I worked with for this trip. The idea of a 2023 Alfa Romeo Giulia was charming. Yet, it wound up being an experience overall.
Luckily, I wrote up a review of the Giulia for one of my other outlets. I did my work with it. Moving on…
The brunch with my old Reseda High School friends at a restaurant in Torrance went quite well. It was great seeing them again. One of my friends showed up late due to a flat tire. I’ll give him credit for making it through this weather event to be with us.
As soon as we were wrapping up at our brunch, I began to get really sick. I’ll save you the details, but Sunday was spent back at the hotel room – not to shelter myself from the tropical storm. I was in no condition to do anything that day. I lost a lot of sleep in the process.
Things did improve on Monday. I was active, but tired. Luckily, I was able to see my brother in Redondo Beach before heading back home on a red-eye flight. It was good to see him again.
Once I got off the plane early Tuesday morning, that illness returned. It never left. I ended up back in emergency room at Allina Health United Hospital in Saint Paul per orders of a nurse from my primary care clinic. In fact, that illness continues. I suspect the medication I took complicated things with another issue I've been dealing with for years. Again, I'll spare you the details.
It would be easy for me to call this the “worst trip I’ve ever taken.” That would be a cop-out. On the plus side, I saw some old friends and my brother. It was everything else that transpired in my short time back in the place I once called home.
This piece is to not call out people and organizations. I do not wish to lay blame on anyone. Only to state how sometimes life will throw some curve balls at you, even if you had the best of intentions in doing so.
However, it did help alter some ideas about my future. For one, commercial air service has gone down in quality. Shoving people into planes and offering a minimal level of care for "service" did not help my soul. I have elected to not fly anywhere any time soon.
Since V&R is primarily an automotive website, maybe I should stick to talking about road trips? That is always more enjoyable than going through TSA, waiting for disabled traveler’s assistance, and being shoved into thinner seats that provide more discomfort than anything. Not even for an hour’s flight anywhere.
One thing I told my brother was to consider traveling my way. He said that he’ll talk it over with his wife to see if that’s possible. Just so they know, Delta flies direct from Orange County’s John Wayne Airport to MSP. That invitation is now extended to any of my friends from Reseda, if they choose to want to visit me.
I'll call this a wrap…
All photos by Randy Stern