The 4 a.m. chirp of my cell phone alarm was a harsh wake-up call compared to the usual gotta-go meanderings of Ellie B aka Dogamous Pyle.
But our beloved rescue mutt was nowhere to be found in the Little Bitty in the Syracuse city neighborhood of Eastwood, dropped off the previous night at the north side dwelling of our great friend Michelle for safe keeping while we were winging our way to Colorado for my dear wife Karen’s first Family Reunion.
I knew no time was to be wasted because daughter Elisabeth and boyfriend George Three would be arriving at 5 in the van kindly driven by George Two to save us five days of airport lot charges. Up I jumped for those last-hour preparations, and be ready to lug our one big check-on bag each and carry-on out to the street.
Gotta look good for the two legs of our Delta flights, changeover in Minneapolis, right? Nah. Shorts and T-shirts suffice these days.
Karen had pre-checked us and printed out our boarding passes, so the TSA process was a snap. Once through the screener, we stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts stand to fuel and wait for our 7 a.m. departure. Boarding was posted as 6:30. My iPad Air hooked me up to airport WiFi from our last visit, and I read and commented on blogs, thinking I might not get much of a chance once in Estes Park. That was good figuring on my part.
Up, up and away we went. I read from my long-held Steve Martini
novel featuring attorney Paul Madriani. It kept my attention on all four legs, and yay, I finished it in the air between Atlanta and Syracuse.
I reached across the aisle to my left and held Karen’s hand as we taxied down the runway. It made me feel good.
We four were pretty quiet during the flight. Indeed, at that time of the morning, the only noise was the flight attendants taking our beverage and snack order. Peanuts and Fresca, please and thank you. I’d already had coffee in my cup the size of my head at home and another large from Dunkin’ before takeoff.
After the pilot told us to prepare for landing, I asked George and Elisabeth if I could lean over them for one good shot below. I think I got it.
There was no problem with the layover at busy Minneapolis, with a smooth train ride to another terminal getting us to our gate in ample time despite there being just a half-hour between flights.
Minny is a busy ‘port. There were no open seats for us.
I leaned against a kiosk and people- and plane-watched.
Upon arrival in Denver, we easily found baggage claim and the proper exit for the shuttle to Thrify Car Rental. I won’t go into the story about how I had to call a half-dozen rental places the day before because the SUV was on me, and I didn’t save confirmation emails and had no earthly clue which place we’d decided to go with online more than a month ago. My credit card statement merely listed an online conglomerate. No, I won’t tell you that because it’s too embarrassing, you know?
Click on any gallery photo for a description. Click on the bottom right photo in any gallery for an enlarged slide show.
On the shuttle, we four discussed how flat the lay of the land looked around the airport.
But then the bus driver made another turn, and we saw them.
The Rocky Mountains, in all their majesty, were dead ahead of us. We figured Estes Park must be up there. We got even more excited.
Thrifty got another $60 out of me by upselling me to Colorado’s version of EZ-Pass, the counter rep explaining how now I could take the faster and easier toll highway on the way to and from Estes Park. Because I knew we planned to come back to Denver on Sunday for the Colorado Rockies baseball game, I bit. I also signed for his $2.75-a-gallon we’ll-fill-it-so-you-don’t price.
I did not go for the bigger vehicle pitch. It would have cost twice as much. He tossed me a pamphlet and said we could pick any of the SUVs in Row 4. I gave the pamphlet to the other and headed to the restroom.
When I got out, George was attempted to pack our Chevy Trax, way smaller than what I’d imagined. He and Elisabeth ended up with one big suitcase between them in the back seat. Ah, well, it was fine for the around Estes Park jaunts.
On the drive, they told me that this had been the only vehicle parked in row 4. Sly bastards.
Hours after that Syracuse airport Dunkin’ bagel, we were famished. We saw a sign for a Perkins, a breakfast favorite of mine that closed its doors in Syracuse, oh, a decade ago.
Yes, it was the same chain.
I did notice signs that this particular place had been regionalized.
I went with eggs over easy, bacon, pancakes with sugar-free syrup. Everybody else got lunch, sandwiches and burgers. We were all happy.
Before we climbed back into the car, one of the young folks noticed a ding near the rear. We had not hit a thing. They suggested a take a picture of it to prove it’d been there since the beginning of our trip. Indeed.
So, you ask, why did I wait until the near-finish of this The Thin Air Series for my story about the trip to Estes Park? Because on the way home, I did not take my iPhone 6 out of my pocket to take one single picture, that’s why. That’s how good the trip to Colorado for our first Family Reunion had been. I was content to read and think about it all.
Tomorrow: Sock it to me and take it home
Tuesday: What I learned
How long do you usually get to an airport before your flight time, and have you ever cut it very close at the gate? What upsells have you gone for, and why? Have you ever dinged a rental car, and if so, what did you do about it?