My travel home is an adventure in and of itself. The overview is a bus, three airport shuttles, two taxis, 6 different airplanes, 7 airports and a road trip covering 700 miles. All this over the course of 4 days. Throw in a little jet lag just for good measure.
The following is a step by step guide on how to get ditched by your friends in Spain:
The last several days have been a whirlwind of activity. I arrived in Paris Friday evening at 10:30. I had originally planned to take public transportation, but after looking at the transit app and determining I would need to take a bus and 3 different metro lines consuming nearly an hour, I opted for the quicker, albeit more expensive alternative of a cab.
Fortunately the cab wasn’t nearly expensive as I had feared, and within 25 minutes I was at my hotel. I used some of Brian’s Marriott miles to book the Marriott Opera Ambassador hotel. Considering hotels in Paris are expensive to begin with, and then throw in the fact the hotel was 2 blocks from the Paris Opera House, the accumulated rewards points were well spent.
Today I departed for my next adventure; hiking the Camino de Santiago. The trip somewhat snuck up on me. We hosted our season opening pool partyover the weekend. Between prep and clean up, the last week has flown by.
Today I finished up many loose ends. I paid a few bills in advance so they wouldn’t be bothersome during my trip. With my Project Manager Keith, we finished up a few repairs and maintenance around the house. One of which, was having a large hole in the side of the garage repaired. More on this later.
All and all it was a good day. The mood around the house wasn’t particularly melancholy, more just the realization I am going to be gone for the next 45 days. Brian arrived home from work a bit early, and the three of us went to dinner. We carried on the usual banter back and forth, all somewhat avoiding the thought I would be departing in a few hours.
We finished up dinner and headed home. I decide I am going to take a shower before my flight since it will be a good 20 hours before I set foot in a full bathroom. I lolligag around, put away a few things, check my email and sit down on the couch to charge my phone.
I’m in no hurry since I still have three and a half hours until my flight. We are all chatting when I get a text message from British Airways. It’s content I find rather peculiar as it is a text questionaire inquiring about my satisfaction level while at the airport. I think to myself, “Odd it’s coming through now, I’m not at the airport yet.”
I ponder it for a moment, and then think, “Let me check my flight time again, for the umpteenth time just to be safe.”
I pull out my ticket and much to my horror the flight leaves at 8:35 PM. Not 10:35 PM that I have thought all along. I look at the time, 7:10. Out loud I exclaim, “Oh shit, we have to go.”
With confused looks both Brian and Austin look at me quizzically . I head for the bedroom to change into the clothes I intended to wear on the plane, all the while shouting, “My flights at 8:35!”
I quickly change and do a quick double check to make sure I have everything and we head to the car. We live about 20 minutes from the airport if traffic is cooperative. Generally traffic is dying down by 7, but with Southern California, there are no guarantees.
My heart is racing and Brian manuevers through very light traffic. The worst bottleneck is generally on the 163 south heading into downtown. As we merge on, there is virtually no traffic. We arrive at the airport with 1 hour to spare. I say a quick goodbye to the two of them. Not really the goodbye I had in mind, but it did remove the potential for tears, as I was more panicked than sad.
I rush up to the curb side check in for british air where I receive a look for disapproval. She asks if Im going to London, I confirm, with my final destination of Paris. She informs me I made the checked bag cut off by 5 minutes. She hands me my boarding pass and says the flight boards in 10 minutes. We all know airport security can take as along as a pregnancy term so I’m definitely not out of the weeds just yet.
I run into the terminal and look over to security. Only 4 people in line…. and they are in the process of getting disrobed to go through our most thorough of screening processes (note sarcasm). I make it through security and arrive at the gate 5 minutes before boarding. Success!
The gate area is somewhat crowded and people are milling about. We all board the flight over the next 30 minutes. I find my seat aisle seat in row 34. I wait and wait. All the rows around me fill up completely. I begin to think, “Wow, I might luck out and get this whole row to myself.”
In somewhat disbelief, I keep waiting for someone to barrel down the aisle at the last monment. A few stragglers make it on at the last moment and I figure Im doomed to be sitting next to them. Contraire! They sit in middle seats. As we pushed back from the gate I ask the flight attendent if I have the whole row. She looks at me and says, “barring someone’s TV breaking, it’s all yours!”
At this point I have been texting back and forth with Molli over my near miss of the flight. I have regaled the story of light traffic, barely making the luggage cutoff, making it through security, and then finally getting my own row! She says, “You’re on a streak! Hopefully you bought lotto tickets today.”
As luck would have it, I did buy lotto tickets today! Wouldn’t that be a spectacular cherry on top of an already fortunate day!
Generally speaking, I don’t pay a lot of attention to “luck”. I have found, the more prepared I am for whatever task I am undertaking, the “luckier” I have been. This has been true in every facet of my life. So I have never thought luck was much of a factor. Today, I was indeed lucky, in spite of my apparent lack of comprehension of a simple flight time.
Im off to Paris! Im excited!
In 14 days, I leave to embark on my latest adventure, hiking the Camino de Santiago. The preparation for this hike has taken on a vastly different form than the PCT. By vastly different, other than travel arrangements to and transfers within Europe, I have done little preparation other than packing my backpack.
I purchased “A Pilgrims Guide to the Camino De Santiago”, by John Brierly, but have barely opened. I covered the first chapter or so, but have been otherwise preoccupied and have not been able to dedicate the painstaking hours I spent reading and planning for the PCT. For good reason, this hike is nothing like the PCT.
Unlike the PCT, this hike takes one through many villages a day. Resupply strategies and carrying every single thing you will need to survive is unneccessary. It almost feels I will be slack packing across France and Spain. My base weight for the PCT was close to 23 pounds. For the camino I will be just over single digits, if not, I will be just a touch over 10 pounds. There is no need to carry more than a snack or a meal, and enough water for a few hours.
No this journey proves to be different. This journey feels almost whimsical as I hadn’t planned to be doing it. I plan to carry on through this hike in a similar manner.
In talking with Tony, one of the individuals I am accompanying on this journey, he asked me, “Did you ever get to a point on the PCT where you were able to let go, and just be? Were you able to move outside of time tables and plans and be in the moment for extended periods?”
I did not. I can remember a few instances in which I let go of the past, and stopped thinking about the future. This instances were rare and fleeting. In the back on my mind, I always had the “schedule” in which I had to make it to Kennedy meadows by the end of April. I was to attend a skills class in the Sierra.
This was a valuable lesson for me. For this hike, my only requirement is to return on July 11th. What happens between May 28th and July 11th will be that of letting go and experiencing the moment. To be present in each step.
This will prove to be challenging. I’m a planner by nature.
The remainder of our drive Wednesday was uneventful. We decided we would stay in Nashville. We decided to stay on the east side of Nashville as to avoid driving through downtown during rush hour traffic. Road weary, we were fortunate to find a hotel room on our first attempt. It was near the airport, and over run with early 20’s somethings. This was one of those instances where you find you’re having thoughts similar to those of your parents from years ago. “I hope these damn kids keep it down.” Fortunately, none of my predetermined ideas about those “damn kids” came to fruition. Or perhaps they did, and we were too exhausted to be roused from slumber.
We put down just under 1000 miles yesterday, arriving in Nashville before 11pm. After a restful, yet short night of sleep, we hit the road again at 8am.
This was my first venture into Tennessee. The Great Smoky Mountains covered by lush forest was a treat to drive through. The scenery was spectacular. We noticed a sign on the roadside referencing the Oak Ridge Site. An interesting read on Wiki for anyone unfamiliar with it. The secretive efforts of this site helped secure the allied victory in WWII.
Without much of a break we moved from the Smoky Mountains into the Blue Ridge Mountains. More spectacular scenery coupled with exhilarating driving. That is, when able to extract yourself from behind those with a less aggressive lower extremity known as your right foot. Having lived in Southern California for nearly 15 years, I drive aggressively and fast. I love the feel of a car working the hills and curves of a mountain road.
Driving through the mountains rekindled my thoughts of the PCT. Being on the eastern side of the country, my mind moved from the PCT to the Appalachian Trail. The eastern sister of the PCT. Then it hit me. We are going to cross the AT in the Smoky Mountains! As Brian and I often do, we were sharing a brain. Excitedly, I asked him to find out where we crossed the AT. He showed me his phone with a giggle, saying, “I’m already looking it up!”
Within 60 seconds, Brian barks, “GET OFF ON THIS EXIT!!”
I veered across two lanes of traffic, to barely catch exit 451. At the end of the off ramp, we spotted a thru hiker leaning against a tree on his phone. I pulled up to him and asked him if he knew where the AT was. He said, “Yeah I’m hiking it, I believe the trail connects back up around the corner.”
We thanked him and moved down the road to find a white blaze belonging to the AT. We had easily found it. We parked the car behind a few others, presumably day hikers. We hiked up a rather steep stone staircase built into the side mountain, to find an aged sign detailing various distances to other waypoints on the trail. We snapped a few pictures.
After returning to the car, Brian made the comment when I return from the Camino de Santiago, I will have been on the PCT, the AT, and the Camino within a year. I added, we would also stop in southern New Mexico and walk a few steps on the Continental Divide Trail, just to have walked on the triple crown and the Camino in the same year. Mind you, I will not have hiked any significant mileage on either the AT or the CDT, but a neat thing in any case.
We finished our fast and furious rally through the mountains. Running low on fuel and our bellies running on empty, we stopped in Asheville to take on prehistoric liquid sunlight and satiate our hunger. The service station we found satisfied both needs having an attached Subway sandwich shop.
Back on the road we rounded out the rest of our road trip. We arrive in Graham, NC around 5pm..
The rest of the evening has been spent catching up with family. The mood has been very upbeat, with moments of sorrow. The love Brian’s Mom, Aunts and Uncles have for their matriarch is palpable. They are rejoicing in the life they shared with her. While her passing is sad, their love will carry on forever.
Last night after having dinner with Brian’s dad we pressed on to Amarillo. We contemplated staying in Albuquerque but knew we would rather do more miles the first two days than the last day. We arrived in Amarillo around 1:15 Am. After checking a Residence Inn and a Courtyard Marriott we found a room at the red roof inn.
We both hit the pillow pretty quickly. Brian feel asleep almost immediately. I was a little wound up from driving. I caught up on some news and Facebook before closing my eyes at 2:15 and dozing off.
With alarms set at 7am we both begrudgingly rolled out of bed, showered, grabbed breakfast and headed out.
By 8:30am we received a text message from my friend Jeff. Being a professional pilot, he’s rather astute when it comes to the weather. He shared his concerns about the weather patterns developing throughout the Midwest. Lots of potential for super cells, hail and tornados. We assured him we wouldn’t do anything stupid and carried on.
Within 5 minutes of learning of the upcoming weather, we passed a Mobile Doppler radar unit operated by NOAA. It was headed east as well. Brian and I both laughed, I guess they expected some serious weather today.
We carried on booming down the 40 east. We watched weather build and swiftly move north. Rain washed our windshield a few times over the next 4 hours, but never for any duration.
Between noon and 12:30 we watched Oklahoma City come and go. Tinker Air Force base caught our attention. As I was the driver, Brian did research to discover Tinker is a massive airbase supporting both the air force and navy. It’s basically the logistical head quarters for much of the air force operations across the U.S. and the world. Neat!
Throughout the morning and early afternoon we received a few checkins from friends to let us know about the weather. Always followed with be safe/careful.
At 4:45 we received a message from our friend Philip. He plays softball with Brian. Philip works for the Red Cross in disaster management and assessment. He is frequently deployed to disaster areas after natural disasters. He let us know we dodged a bullet today. At 4:00pm a tornado hit Oklahoma City.
We stopped shortly after the news to have dinner. Over the next hour we exchanged messages back in forth. He relayed as three additional tornados touched down in the area. He shared that interstate 44 and then interstate 40 were shut down.
4 hours. Had we stayed in Albuquerque last night, we would have been 4 hours behind the schedule we kept today. Without the extra 4 hours we would have hit Oklahoma City at 4:00pm instead of noon. We would have been trapped due to the freeway closures and in harms way.
We are currently unaware of the damage OKC sustained. But, I’m really glad we carried on driving into the wee hours of the morning as opposed to being well rested having stayed in Albuquerque.
As always, you never know the effect small decisions will have. As for all those impacted by the tornados, our thoughts are with you.
Our car navigation has a useful weather feature. After dinner and returning to our trip we pulled up the current weather map. This is the visual we were presented with.
Shocking! Yes, those are tornado icons. They are representative of a storms ability to produce a twister.
For the remainder of the day we will have clear skies and warm temperatures ahead of us. Let’s hope it’s smooth sailing.
As we always say, “It’s always an adventure!”