Planes, (Not) Trains and Automobiles

What started out as a simple flight from San Francisco to Wyoming via Denver, ended up being three flights one aborted landing, on plane swap, a second mechanical while in the air and a 6 hour road trip with three strangers. Wow what a day yesterday. I had a trip scheduled that was 7 hours long and 2 flights, but as the travel gods giveth they taketh away too, and the trip took 17 hours instead. I was scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Jackson Hole Wyoming. SFO was a zoo Monday morning, the sequester was part of the issue, being a Monday was the other. My 5:35 AM flight was on time, but was oversold as were all flights to Denver till the late afternoon. United was looking for volunteers to travel later in the day if my travel plans were flexible. In my case they really weren’t but I was willing to change flights if I could get closer to my final destination Worland Wyoming. Central Wyoming is a little tough to fly into, even though there are several small airports there are only a few airlines that come here, so you’re not only limited on options but you can also pay an arm and a leg too. In this case Worland has an airport, but tickets were just over the moon expensive so I had booked to Jackson, 4 hours away because it was 40% cheaper, and I had a budget to keep.

So with that being said I jumped at the opportunity to change flights if I could get flown directly into Worland, which is serviced only by Great Lakes Airways two times a day, and is a partner airline of United, who was my carrier today. I knew that United may help me get there if I would give up my seat on this first flight. The agent found me an option that would get me to Worland at 8:30 PM, but it meant not leaving SFO till 1:30 PM, remember I was there for a 5:35 AM flight. They told me to hang out during bearding and would let me know if I was needed, secretly I was hoping I they would. Well I asked about 10 minutes later and they said they were good, I got on the plane sat in my seat and waited to take off. Sure enough a few minutes before departure they come on and ask me if I’ll still give up my seat, and I said yes.

At this point the agent starts to work their magic, and the whole time two other customers are yelling at the other agent because they MUST be on this flight, and don’t understand how their seat could be given to someone else. On and on they go, and my agent and I just smile at each other. If you only take one piece of advice form me never ever show up late for a flight, always check in online and be at the gate no later than 30 minutes before departure. Period. If you aren’t there you may lose your seat or just miss your flight, and some lucky SOB (read me) gets your seat. When I show up early walk up ask for standby and take your seat. It’s never malicious, but I can tell you countless times, I show up for an earlier flight ask for standby and viola I have a seat and get home hours early. While you beg and beg to get on a flight home.

So as the agent processes my new flight, she says I’ll standby you for the 7 AM, and I gladly accept. I’m now booked on a 1:30 PM to Denver and a 6:30 PM connection to Worland via Cheyenne. Whoo Hooo. I head over to the new gate an wait my turn hoping I get set up. Sure enough this flight is oversold and they need volunteers. SO it doesn’t look good, but I’m #1 on the standby list. I cross my fingers. 11 minutes before departure they have 3 seats that are still no shows and I’m still #1. They tell me to come up and line up, at 10 minutes they give me a seat number and I board. I go to my seat and it’s occupied. Crap. I go back up front and they say take any open seat, what is this Southwest I walk all the way to the back and there are none. I go back and say now what. They then move a non-rev to the jump seat and now all is set. We get to Denver on time, but…On landing about 2000 feet off the ground the plane starts to rev engines and ascent. Wait aren’t we landing. Apparently no, we circle around, and the pilot says a plane took too long to leave the runway so we had to abort landing. Just great. Ten minutes later we land and off I wait for 6 hours. At that point I go to the board to stare at other flights and what do I see the earlier Worland flight is delayed, and I may have a chance. I change terminals and hoof it to the gate, I have 20 minutes to the newly delayed departure. They tell me sure we can set you up. I’m stocked back on track. Well the 10:30 departure creeps from 11:40..12:00…12:15…12:25…12:50…1:15 plane swap due to mechanical 1:30…2 finally boarding. By now it’s snowing bad, and I just hope we get to leave. We get on do two deicing procedures, and off we go. At 3 we land in Cheyenne drop off 10 of 16 passengers deice and take off again for 1 more hour, at this time it’s 3:30. Half an hour later, the pilot comes on and says were going back, we have a mechanical issue that must be fixed in Cheyenne and can’t be fixed in Worland, no mechanics. CRAP, now what. I’m worried I may never make it to Worland, I have to work tomorrow. They have all six of us to deplane and hit the portable also known as the gate, what a Podunk airport for the capitol. 20 minutes later they give us two options, they’ll pay for a hotel and we wait till 11 AM Tuesday to continue to Worland 300 miles or 6 hours driving away, or fly back to Denver (which oh by the way was underground stop due to snow) and hope to get to Worland on the last flight or Tuesday afternoon. Three strangers and I are like can we drive, they say sure but it’s on you cost wise.

We all decide we’ll drive, two of the others were married and had travelled for 24 plus hours and just wanted to get home from vacation, the other was also from Worland and was going home to perform a few medical procedures the next day, so he had to be there. All three I had talked to during the several hour delay in Denver but they were all strangers. Sure this was not the smartest thing to do but I HAD to get here, and the other two options we’re not going to work in any way shape or form. So off we went, we got a car, our bags and off we drove. What can be a 4-5 hour drive took six because of bad weather ½ the time, that slowed us down on two lane slightly windy roads. It ended up being a fun drive, I got to see some really beautiful landscapes and parts of the US I had never seen before. Plus I got really great narrative of the scenery from locals who knew the area, it was a great tour of the South Eastern and Central parts of Wyoming. I called my wife to let her know my crazy plan, needless to say she thought I was straight up crazy. But sort of understood, what I had to do. She was worried but I texted and called her a few times to let her know I was alive.

Finally at 10:30 PM after one gas fill up, and dinner at South of the Border in Casper I got to my hotel unwound and went to sleep. What was one heck of a travel day was finally over. Sure this is not how I expected to get here, nor had I expected to meet 3 new friends, but hey it was fun and showed me again how amazing people can be in an odd situation. I made it via plane, not train and automobile. Take that John Candy.

So if you’re taking score at home. I was going to fly SFO to Jackson arriving at 11:30 AM, got rerouted to Worland via Riverton arriving at 8:30 PM, showed up in Denver and was put on the earlier Worland via Cheyenne at scheduled for arrival at 11:30, but due to the initial delay was 1:00 PM. I finally flew to Cheyenne and got off at 4:30 PM and arrived in Worland at 10:30 PM. BTW the original Worland flight landed at 11:45 PM so I was the winner right.

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