Monday, February 11, 2013

Trips, Not Unlike Giraffes, Have Legs

Everyone who's anyone has seen the legendary film Planes, Train and Automobiles, which stars my favorite actor/writer/banjoer, Steve Martin.  In this film you will remember Neal (Steve Martin) needs to get home for Thanksgiving.  His trip takes him on a crazy tour of the midwest, which causes him to nearly go insane.

I didn't see this film until recently, after my very own Planes, Trains and Automobiles sort of adventure.

I decided to go to Mammoth Lakes, California. Here's a picture of where that is.

Mammoth Lakes = A
It is a place that I do not understand ever visiting.  It is a remote ski town in the Sierra Mountains about which I strain to find a redeeming quality.  But that could be bitterness talking...

I don't know how long the trip took, and with time zones and the winter solstice and I think it was a full moon...I don't think I could begin to calculate the hours spent in transportation.

The trip was meant to go:
Philly to Nashville, and after a short layover, from Nashville to Los Angeles.  A few hours in LA and I'd be off to Mammoth Lakes.  How simple!  How easy!  How enjoyable!


That is NOT how traveling happens.

Traveling goes, after 2 hours sitting on the plane at the gate in Philly, the Cap'in coming on the radio and saying "There's something wrong with the wing.  It might stop working mid-air, but after weighing options we decided it'll probably be fine, so we're going to get going in a few minutes."

Once in Nashville the Flight Attendant with the luxuriously long ponytail says "For those of you who missed your connecting flight to LA, you will stay on this plane all day eating nothing but overly salted peanuts and Nilla Wafers!  We'll get you to LA by the end of the day!"

So then you're stuck.  All day.  In the same seat.  Eating the same snacks.  Stopping in Austin and Houston and swapping out one group of germ-ridden cretans for the next.  Finally in LA.  Oh, what a relief.  


Only one airline flies to Mammoth Lakes, and it's not the airline that held you captive for the last 97 hours.  So you have to exit the airport and schlep from Terminal B to Terminal Q, or some crazy crap like that.  You go through security AGAIN.  You're so starved from yummy snacks with no actual nutritional content that you desperately spend $15 on a chicken salad sandwich and a bottle of water.

So you get on the plane to go to Mammoth.  The kind of plane that goes to Mammoth is the size of a school bus and has the propeller engines that spin and are loud, and the Flight Attendants seat passengers based on body weight so that the plane's overall weight will be balanced enough to not plunge into a mountainside.

Confidence and team building.

An hour into the flight to Mammoth, and you can see the sparkling lights of the town below and everyone sighs a collective sigh of relief.  We are here.

Almost, mutha suckas.

The man comes on the microphone and says "The winds on the ground are too strong and if we attempt to land we will most certainly crash.  We're going to fly back to LA, where you can make other arrangements."

Desperation and fatigue set in.  I hitched a ride with a guy named Evan, who seemed nice and thank heavens I was right.  He took me to the town right below Mammoth, and I found another ride from that town the rest of the way.

And was it worth it?  All of that, was it worth it when I got to Mammoth?  No.  But experiences are what travel is about, and this is an experience that I can certainly say I've experienced.

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