Leaving Las Vegas 2011

16 Dec
 

© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.
Leaving Las Vegas? Why is this worthy of a blog? Have you ever felt you’ve been caught in some sort of weird time warp?

Well, to start with, it takes us three days to escape Las Vegas, to wit the scene beyond the cage at the left. Yes, that is a cage, out of focus on purpose. Arnie’s shot is the reverse with the cage in focus and the fairyland fuzzy.

We both have the same idea. There is apparently no leaving Las Vegas. You know the old saying, “What goes on in Vegas stays in Vegas.” I’m not sure what Arnie and I have done, but we are staying in Vegas, albeit not by choice this trip. It’s one thing when you plan a trip to a destination. It’s quite another when you have spent most of the day in the airport and haven’t made any plans. Heading out to Valley of Fire. Visiting Red Rocks. Doing some street photography of the bizarre nature of this city.

As those of you know who have been following the blog, we flew in and out of Las Vegas. The fares are cheap, and it is an easy drive to Death Valley. We would be returning from Joshua Tree National Park, and that wasn’t a bad drive either.

Now, let me set the stage. You know about Area 51. It’s not far from Vegas … sometimes. I Google Mapped it a little while ago:© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.Please note that there is no state, just “Area 51 United States ” Hmmm…

I also like the description. Google Maps charmingly describes it as “anal probe – top secret – spaceship” — Arnie asks if I am sure that wasn’t alien probe — and under that, Classified sandwiched between less-than and greater-than signs and surrounded by quotes. Nice! I try to type it that way, but HTML sees those signs as code and thoughtfully erases them.

OK, how many miles to Las Vegas? Simple, right? Well, maybe not, to wit …© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.Excuse me? 1299 miles to someplace east of Coffeyville, Kansas? I try again and get the same results. Fortunately, I have done a screen shot, because when I try to replicate this for Arnie, it doesn’t work. Really! Promise! With all that has happened to us in the last three days, he refrains from suggesting that I must have picked up some Peyote Buttons in the desert. I don’t even know what a Peyote Button looks like, but I couldn’t blame him if he had made some such comment.

OK, so the first map shows appropriately that Area 51 is right by Groom Dry Lake in Nevada, so I do the directions from there…© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.…Much better. 127 miles in 3 hours and 20 minutes, although I think they — whoever “they” may be — allow extra time for some UFO interaction.

We have established that some strange things happen around Area 51.

After checking into our hotel, we walk around a bit dropped-jawed at the visual overload, especially after Death Valley!

© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.We have dinner at a café in Belagio’s, and take in the Chihuly ceiling in the lobby (not nearly as good as the ceiling at the MFA exhibit in Boston). The meal is tasty, but we are beat and head back to the hotel to crash, stopping for a few more photographs, some of which appear in this blog.

We’re scheduled to take Continental’s 12:45 flight 1111 to Houston (IAH) and on to Raleigh-Durham (RDU) from there. All settled on the plane in the seats we had chosen months ago, me at the window, Arnie on the aisle, and no one between us (we’re both highly allergic to the middle seat). It’s been a great trip; the workshop in Death Valley and the scouting in Joshua Tree went really well; but we’re ready to head home to MooseCat who’s been holding down the fort with his house sitters.

I look at my watch, and we clearly have a delay. Will we make our connection to RDU? It’ll be tight, but we should be OK. Years of flying have made us swift in the airport when we arrive at a gate in one terminal and have to hot-foot it to another gate in another terminal in far too short a time span.

The pilot’s voice comes over the intercom, “We have a mechanical difficulty that the engineers are trying to fix. We’re as frustrated as you are, because we can’t get an answer to how long it will take. As soon as …blah, blah, blah”

Finally, the pilot sends someone down into the belly of the plane and finds out that it’s one of the reverse thrusters that is not working. While the captain assures us that it is not critical to the safety of the flight, he has us all disembark. After all, it has been nearly two hours.

Because it has become clear that there is no way in H-E-double-toothpick, as one of my dear friends says, that we will make our connection, I have already scooted up front to talk to one of the pursers who suggests that I telephone reservations and make other arrangements.

No sooner am I connected to a live body at Continental, the rush is on to get to the agents’ desk to rebook on other flights. Meanwhile, I have secured arrangements for the same time, same flight numbers tomorrow. We even have non-middle seats, albeit a few rows apart.

© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.After picking up our vouchers for the hotel and meals (forget them, unless you like Denny’s for your evening meal, sans wine), we decide to make the best of the situation. What else are we going to do? What goes on in Vegas …

I fire up the computer and check out Tix4Today.com that has up to half-price discounts on shows and meals. We decide on a Cirque de Soleil show and dinner at Emeril’s, thanks to the discounts.

The show is bawdy and fun with amazing dancing, energy, and gymnastics, and dinner is excellent. We first ate at Emeril’s restaurant in New Orleans many years ago when he was getting started. It was fabulous then, too.

Tomorrow has come, and we are back at the airport. As we enter the terminal, I look up at the Departures screen and say to Arnie, “You won’t believe it. I think you need to see this for yourself.”

“Est. Dep. 2:30”

So much for a 12:45 departure that will supposedly connect in IAH with the second flight to RDU.

There is a long line at the ticketing counter, so we head for the gate. We have to make other arrangements anyway, and we already have our boarding passes that were issued to us yesterday. The gate lists United, and even though these two airlines are going to merge, a lot is still separate until things become official.

Finally, we find a nice Continental agent who books us on a later flight through DC with a reasonable connection to RDU. All the agents are really nice if you are nice to them, and when she hears of our two thwarted attempts to leave Las Vegas, she works hard to find us non-center seats. We know we won’t sit together — that is a given at this point — so anything reasonable will do.

She manages to put us close together, and we board the plane on time. I get out my iPad and push my backpack under the seat in front of me. Don’t they say, “Three times is a charm”?

Again, I look at my watch, and things are not looking good. Guess what? Yup, this flight is cancelled because of mechanical issues (with that very soft sssss that our workshop alumni know so well). We find out later that the 2:30 flight ended up being a no-show; Continental couldn’t find another aircraft.

Because I’m in one of the bulkhead seats, I grab my gear and hot-foot it to the desk, even getting there before some of the slower first-class passengers as they exit onto the jetway. And no, I did not elbow anyone; nor did I knock them down in the process. Just a polite, “Excuse me” did it.

United offers to put us on either of a couple of red-eyes. Thanks, but no thanks. I laughingly say we already have red eyes after what we’ve been through. Then, the agent offers Cleveland or Newark. It’s December, and I am not interested in another delay because of weather. She asks what would work, and I say “Anything in the southern tier.” She makes it all work for us and thanks me for being so patient. As we all do, I let her know that we know it isn’t her doing and we appreciate the help she is giving.

Meanwhile, some un-housebroken bird-brain is yelling at the top of his voice at some poor lady who is helping a customer way in front of him in line. Arnie observes that some security have arrived, and the afore-mentioned bird-brain and other impolite travelers suddenly quiet down. Clearly, they have gotten the message!

We get vouchers for both hotel and meals (same scenario on the latter), and after pretty much another whole day at the airport … again … we head back to the same hotel.

“Screw it,” we say to one another, with apologies to any who might be offended, “Let’s have dinner at Bobby Flay’s MESA.”

© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.No discounts there at Tix4Today, but we are committed, perhaps in more ways than one, and enjoy another fabulous meal in Vegas.

After two full days in the airport, much of it standing in one line or another, we try yet again, this time for a 9:50 flight back on Continental. We’re not together by a long shot, but again, the agent has taken pity on us. In all our decades and thousands upon thousands upon thousands of miles of flying, neither one of us has ever experienced any multiple SNAFUs such as these. She makes sure we do not have middle seats. I am way up front in Row 12, Arnie way back in 36.

I hold my breath. We take off more-or-less on time. I change my watch for Houston. We arrive pretty much on time … then circle … and circle … and …

Finally, we land and wait, as a delayed flight to Newark — remember, one of the places I avoided — was in our gate. Fortunately, it pulls away, and we pull up. Phew!

Well, not quite. Whoever directed the plane to stop goofed. We are at the jetway, but they can’t open the door onto the jetway, because of the bad positioning.

I’m chafing at the bit and can only imagine what Arnie is going through way back there.

I quickly disembark and find an agent to give us the next gate number. We come in at C and will go out from B. Figures! I ask the gentleman how long it will take to get there.

“If you go quickly, you should make it.”

Hmmm, didn’t I phrase that question properly?

“From here to Gate eighty-[whatever-it-was], how long will it take me to get there?”

“As I said, if you go quickly, you should make it.”

OK, I have to be really specific, “My husband is at the rear of the plane, and I am afraid we are not going to make our connection. How many minutes from here to there?”

“Twenty-four,” he responds, and I know this is not true. This is the first unhelpful person I have encountered.

“You’re a big help,” I politely but a tad acerbically reply.

© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.He gets the message.

“If you take one of those carts, you really should be OK,” and now being helpful, talks to the driver of the cart that has just arrived and explains our predicament.

I am feeling very predicamented at this point. The driver loads my carry-on onto the back of the cart. I sit down with my backpack and get engaged in conversation with those who are already on it, all the while glancing at the exit to see if there is any sign of Arnie. I explain our plight, the three cancelled flights, and the fervent hope that my husband will emerge in time to make the connection.

They have no connections to make. Houston is their final destination, and they are charmingly sympathetic, and we chat more, as I keep glancing at the jetway exit.

Finally, Arnie emerges. I signal to him to move quickly. We are both on the cart, and the driver who has heard the tale of woe, goes into sixth gear as we speed down the corridors to the tram. No, we can’t go directly to the B gate; we have to take a tram.

The tram’s doors are about to close, but we squeeze in, thanking everyone on the cart profusely.

Panting, we hang on as the tram heads to the B concourse, fortunately fairly close.

We scramble out, and practically run down the corridor.

“Arnie, and did I mention I have to pee in the worst way?”

“So do I, he calls back.”

At this point, I don’t care if we make the connection, because we are so close to departure time, that if we do manage to get on the plane, it will be at least another three-quarters of an hour before we can make it to the on-board head (“loo” for those who don’t know the term “head”).

We rebel. We stop. We feel much better, and we continue on.

Miracles of miracles, the gate is still open. We are actually not the last to board. Clearly, there are other delays. There is a glimmer of hope.

We collapse into our separated seats, grateful for this unbelievable turn of our events, and catch our collective breaths.

The plane takes off on time …

The plane lands on time …

© 2011 Margo Taussig Pinkerton.  All Rights Reserved.  From Barefoot Contessa Photo Adventures.  For usage and fees, please e-mail BC (at) ZAPphoto (dot) com or contact us at 310 Lafayette Drive, Hillsborough, NC  27278 or at  919-643-3036 before 9 p.m. east-coast time.Something’s wrong??? No, we may have actually escaped from the Area 51 cage!

I suggest to Arnie that he try to retrieve our checked duffel that had continued on to RDU without us two days previously, figuring that will be a bit of a wait and not necessarily a successful one, and I take our roller carry-ons.

Arnie, always thoughtful, asks “Are you sure you can handle two bags?”

“Yes, your end will take longer.”

I negotiate the two bags through the route of escalators without mishap. The down escalator gives me pause for a minute until I realize both bags are behaving behind me.

It’s as though I had said, “Heel, sit, and stay!”

I arrive at the bottom of the last escalator and find Arnie is calmly waiting. What’s wrong with this picture?

“It was right there, just inside the door,” he reports.

Our friend Joanie had left RDU on the day we were supposed to return. I have her car key in my purse, and the parking tickie is right under her crocheted frisbee.

We drop off her car at her house and head for a quiet dinner at one of our favorite restaurants in our little town.

Life is good. We have made it home. We are tired but not overly stressed. The wine tastes good.

MooseCat greets us appreciatively. We have succeeded in leaving Las Vegas.

Many of you have travel stories. Share some of them with us. Ours will certainly not beat all, but after three non-starts, and a near-miss on the fourth, we’re way up there on the woo-woooo scale. It ain’t easy leaving Las Vegas!

Oh, and did I mention that while we were in Death Valley, also close to Area 51, we saw a B-2 Stealth Bomber doing a fly-by really low?

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2 Responses to “Leaving Las Vegas 2011”

  1. Nicole Richman 12-18-11 at 6:19 PM #

    Holy Hannah Margo….what in the world! I feel like I was right there beside you on your adventure…though I can promise I probably would not have been as lady like! YOU ROCK!!

     
    • TBC 12-18-11 at 6:52 PM #

      It was a bit of an adventure, to be sure. If we had planned on staying in Vegas, we would have worked on shooting in Valley of Fire and/or Red Rocks. We would have figured out ahead which show(s) we would have seen. Maybe we would have even gone in search of the best Elvis look-alike!

      And Nikki, I’m sure you would have been ladylike. After all, it wasn’t the fault of the pilot or agents. “Had you considered,” United and Continental, adding a few more maintenance people to your staff?

      Thanks for commenting, Nikki. Glad the blog engaged you!

      Take care,

      TBC

       

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