Friday, April 11, 2014

Trains, Planes, Cars, and Vans

It sounded simple enough - attend a two-day conference in Phoenix, be honored by the outgoing president, drink a few beers, enjoy the heat (did I really say that?), and learn something in the process. The caveat was…I was in Minnesota. This means searching Travelocity for the cheapest flight to fly 1,700 miles in the middle of August.

I had two options – fly from the Fargo airport or fly from the Minneapolis airport. Fargo is only 45 miles from Detroit Lakes – Minneapolis is 200 miles away. Sounds like a no brainer to me.

The airlines flying from Fargo are Delta, Alaskan Air, and Allegiant. Delta and Alaskan Air are the big Kahunas in the sky and charge accordingly – like $500 accordingly. Allegiant is the no nonsense airline, with cheap flights, but they only fly to Phoenix on Mondays and Fridays – not the most convenient schedule for a Friday/Saturday Conference. Not only that, but they fly into an airport in East Mesa that is just short of a 2 hour drive to central Phoenix – I exaggerate, but you get the point.

Minneapolis is a destination of Southwest Airlines – my personal favorite. I don’t care what they say about cattle call airlines – I like the adventure of walking on a plane and taking my chances between sitting next to a samurai wrestler or a toddler with a nervous leg tic and high-pitched cry.

I book my $331 flight, and was even able to use some of my points. Next challenge – getting to Minneapolis. Hubby wasn’t going to interrupt his fishing schedule to drive 4 hours to and 4 hours from the Twin Cities in one day.

Therefore, I investigate the train schedule. The good news: Amtrak makes a stop in Detroit Lakes. The bad news: Amtrak makes this stop in Detroit Lakes at 2:00 in the morning. That is, providing it’s not delayed by the oil tankers hauling crude from the fields in North Dakota. Hubby doesn’t mind interrupting his sleep to take me to the train station; after all, he doesn’t usually fish when it’s dark.

I bought my train tickets and carefully planned my transportation to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. It’s just a short walk from the train station to the bus stop where I catch the #501 to downtown where I catch the light rail which will take me to the airport – all this for a mere $1.50. I am getting excited just thinking about it.

At 1:00 A.M., I decide to call Amtrak to see if the train from the west is on time. I am informed that it is running 4 hours late. This can’t be! My flight leaves at 10:00 A.M. If I leave Detroit Lakes at 6:00 A.M., I’ll never make my flight.

At 1:30 A.M., I frantically Google van shuttle services to and from the airport. There is one that leaves Brainard at 4:00 A.M., arriving in Minneapolis at 6:00 A.M. – I might have time to eat breakfast before my flight! Now I just have to drive to Brainard, which is 1 ½ hours away.

At 2:00 A.M., I throw my luggage in my little car and head off into the night. I am so afraid of hitting a deer that I motor, white knuckled and with the headlights on high beam, down the highway. Now, deer are cute when you see them grazing off in the woods, but I sure don’t want to see their eyes staring at me in the middle of the blacktop.

At 3:30 A.M., I find the pick up point and wait for the van.

At 4:00 A.M., I’m on the van heading for the Minneapolis/St Paul airport.

At 6:30 A.M., I’m grazing on a breakfast burrito at one of the airport bars – I deserve it.

My flight arrives in Phoenix at noon – just in time for lunch.

The conference was uneventful, I wasn’t honored at all, I drank a few beers, and it rained – so it wasn’t so hot as it was muggy.

Read this story in reverse and you’ll experience my journey back to Detroit Lakes a day later. I’ve made up my mind not to go to the conference in Phoenix, in August, from Minnesota, next year. A no brainer!

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