Happy New Years to all of you, I hope 2023 is spectacular for you!
I spent Christmas on the “East Coast” of the U.S. with my family this year, and I have a bit of a travel saga to share. John and I met up with my sister and her family; and my brother and his family in Richmond, Virginia to celebrate the holiday. But this trip involved a “bomb cyclone” in Denver, below zero degree Fahrenheit temperatures, numerous flight delays and a major airline meltdown.
It was the first time in many years spending the actual Christmas holiday with my siblings and their families. When I lived in Oregon (West Coast of the U.S.) we avoided cross country travel during the holidays as it is always a “hot mess” at the airports. We always visited before or after the holidays. After I moved to Denver in 2019, the plan was in 2020 spend Christmas on the East Coast with my family as now I lived 1/2 way across the country.
But we all know what happened in 2020 (hint it involves the word “pandemic”).
Then we were going to make it happen in 2021 and there was a national situation involving the word “variant”, and we decided to wait another year.
So this was the year it was going to happen and “come h*ll or high water” John and I were going to make it to the East Coast for Christmas with my family! Our plan, which we thought was fool-proof (but only fools think that, ha!) was to first fly into Washington, D.C. where there are always numerous flights and options, stay the night there, and then take Amtrak train from Washington D.C. to Richmond, Virginia (which has very few flights from Denver).
Before I tell your the story of our travel saga, let me first share some photos with the darling resident kitty Annabelle (who liked to take “selfies”) at the Linden Row Inn in Richmond, Virginia where John and I stayed during our family holiday:
More on our visit to Richmond and eventually Alexandria Virginia and Washington, D.C. in a future post. But when our travel adventure began at the Denver International Airport (DIA) we thought we were not going to make it.
A couple days before Christmas a bomb cyclone was due to hit Denver, Colorado. We found out our original flight on SW Airlines was cancelled and they would not allow us to schedule a new flight over the phone or on line – we were informed we had to do it in person at the airport! John went to the airport and was able to get us another flight, very early in the morning (5:05 am).
The only problem was the night before our early morning flight the bomb cyclone it and Denver got a MAJOR snowstorm and temperatures dropped to 15 degrees BELOW ZERO Fahrenheit (-15 F)…and that is -26 degrees Celsius for my blogging buddies outside the U.S. John’s son was originally going to drive us to the airport but the weather was treacherous and his car was not up to it. We looked at getting an Uber or a Lyft ride share ride but they were limited with the terrible weather.
So we decided to drive it ourselves and leave our car at the airport. It was a long “sphincter-puckering” drive on snow and ice to the airport. Luckily John has lived in Colorado most his life and is an experienced snowstorm driver.
The roads were not the scariest part of the drive, the other drivers that were either whizzing by or driving 10 miles an hour on the highway were the scariest part!
But we got to the airport 2 hours early for our flight! We were overjoyed (and we able to un-pucker our sphincters!)
But then the plane could not board passengers as the airline could not get it de-iced. They could only keep crews out for 10 minutes at a time in the sub-zero temperatures for safety reasons (like frostbite!). Plus they have 17 airline crew members that needed to “deadhead” and since they had to get the flight crew members to their next location (pilots and flight attendants), they had to BUMP 17 passengers from the flight.
The gate attendant of course asked for 17 volunteers to give up their seats (with an offer of $1200 in flight credits) but warned us that if there were not enough volunteers, they were going to have to give some of us bad news.
3 hours later we lined up to board the plane (John and I were lucky enough not to be selected to be bumped from the flight) and discovered that those passengers who were bumped we not able to get their luggage that had been loaded on the plane back! They had to wait to hopefully get another flight during a horrendous storm while their luggage flew on to the destination.
Lots of stressed out holiday travelers and tension and then the SW Airlines airport gate attendant had a meltdown and tearfully announced over the loudspeaker that if customers continued to be hostile towards her she was not going to help them. I felt bad for the passengers but I also felt bad for the overworked and stressed out SW Airlines staff who were trying their best to handle a stress holiday travel weather disaster that was not their fault.
We were so happy when we boarded the plane to the first leg of our journey – Chicago, Illinois (Chicago Midway Airport).
Little did we know that when we landed, our next flight (to Washington, D.C.) would be canceled...
So we were stuck at the Chicago Midway Airport with no way to get to Washington, D.C. that day as the weather was growing worse (Chicago of course was being hit with a blizzard). We even heard that the airport was being closed! This turned out to only be a rumor by one of the airport food service workers who talked to who’d been told the airport eateries were all closing/they were sending staff home.
John and I were able to find a flight late that evening to Washington, D.C. but there was a strong potential it would be canceled, and then the CHRISTMAS MIRACLE HAPPENED.
John and I were in a daze wandering the halls of the airport wondering how to fill the time, when John noticed all flights were cancelled on the large screen listing of arriving and departing flight board he passed by…except for a 5:00 pm flight to RICHMOND, VIRGINIA!
Richmond, VA was where we wanted to eventually end up! We walked as fast as we could to a SW Airline gate counter, pleaded our case and got two of the last available seats on the flights! After my very happy sister (who I’d kept apprised of our evolving travel saga) picked us up from the airport we were able to check into the Linden Row Inn and meet our new friend for several days, Annabelle the resident kitty.
More on the next post about our travel saga, the SW Airlines meltdown and then the New Years Miracle, but here is a photo of the wonderful couple dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus (or was it really them?!?!) that were wandering the halls of Chicago Midway Airport trying to bring cheer to travelers during a stressful holiday travel time:
I thanked them for the joyous distraction they provided!