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Ah…the joys of traveling…not!

By Staff | Feb 24, 2019

Tuesday, Feb. 13

Greetings from sunny, warm California. We decided to take a few days off and head to Ripon, California (86 miles east of San Francisco), and visit our son, daughter-in-law and two adorable grandchildren who all live here.

Now, before you get all jealous about how nice it must be to escape the crummy cold, snowy weather back in Blue Earth, let me point out that my opening line in this week’s column is somewhat of a lie. It has not been sunny nor warm here.

And getting here was just short of a nightmare. Allow me to explain.

It was on Wednesday, Feb. 13, that we flew from Minneapolis to San Francisco. The trip consisted of a three hour drive to the MSP Airport over snow-covered and sometimes icy roads.Then there was the delay before we were allowed onto the plane, due to bad weather in the San Francisco Bay Area. Rain and wind storms were sweeping in from the ocean I guess.

Eventually they said there was a window of opportunity if we could quickly board, which we did. However, the opportunity window must have been slammed shut because we sat on the plane for a long time. One unhappy passenger actually had to be escorted off the plane during that time. Eventually we taxied away from the gate but then sat in the plane in a holding area for another long time, waiting, I guess, for the weather to clear in San Fran.

Guess what? It wasn’t clear when we got there. It was a mighty rough ride for the descent into California, with strong winds, low cloud cover, and pelting rain. The plane came in fast to land, and it hit hard when we landed. Real hard. Then it felt like both pilots must have been standing on the brakes as we screamed to a stop. It was the only time I have been on a plane that landed and all the passengers broke into applause. I guess they were all just relieved to be alive.

I’d like to say that was the end of our adventure that day, but it wasn’t.

After renting a nice little Kia Rio, we headed through San Francisco during rush hour, then north to a place where we were going to stay the first night of our trip. We never made it. Already hours behind in our schedule due to flight delays, we hit the biggest rainstorm San Francisco has seen in over 30 years. The rain came down in buckets, and then in barrels. All the highways had flooded areas and there were also mudslides. It was nearly impossible to see the road, or keep our little Kia on the road or through the flooded dips in the highway. In fact, once it was as though a river was coming down the hill as we were trying to get up the hill. And yet, through it all, some California drivers were still trying to do 80 miles per hour.

We didn’t. We couldn’t. We bailed out and got a motel room. Well, we did after stopping at several motels that were all full. Finally at one we got their last room.

The next day we had to change our plans and try and avoid the flooded roads. It rained more. I think the drought in California is over. Every river and ditch and field seemed to have lots of water.

The temperatures have been chilly here as well. Highs are in the low 50s for about two hours in the afternoon. Lows are in the low 30s overnight. There are frost warnings. The hills and mountains that are visible from here have snow. Three school districts in this area of California closed schools on Tuesday, Feb. 19, due to snow. Seriously. Granted they are in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, but still, snow closing schools. In California. Really.

People here are freezing. They wear winter caps and coats and complain about how cold it is. When we tell them we are from Minnesota they stop complaining. They have seen the news. Or they once lived in Minnesota and now live here.

Our return flight is set for Wednesday, Feb. 20. I am wondering how much our flight will be delayed since back home in Blue Earth there is a winter storm warning for the whole day. I’m thinking that awful long 18-hour trip from heck last Wednesday hours of driving on bad roads in both Minnesota and California and a flight that ended with a rough landing might look like a picnic in the park compared to what we will probably be going through this Wednesday.

Thursday, Feb. 21

I hate being right. The trip home yesterday, Wednesday, was bad again. We sat in the San Francisco airport all day. Our 1 p.m. (Pacific time) flight was delayed seven times, to 2:15, 2:45, 3:15, 5 p.m. and finally 6:30 p.m.

I am sure I don’t have to tell you why. It was because of the snowstorm you were having back here in Minnesota, dropping at least 10-12 inches on the area.We sat in the airport so long we made lifelong friendships with some of the other passengers. We sat there so long we had the post office change our mailing address to Gate 40, SFO (San Francisco-Oakland) Airport, San Francisco, California.

But then, good news. Our flight was bumped back from 6:30 to 5 p.m. We could board and get on the plane, which we did. Amazingly, this plane, which could hold over 220 passengers, only had about 35 get on it. I have no idea where the others had gone. Perhaps they had given up and were flying out today, Thursday.

After boarding the plane, one of the attendants was on the intercom and said we were not taking off for a while due to slight problem.

We had no pilots on board. You’d think someone would have checked that before getting our hopes up of getting home on Wednesday.

One pilot was flying in from Seattle, the other from San Diego. They eventually got on board and we took off at, you guessed it, after 6:30, and after we had sat on the plane for an hour and a half at the gate.

We landed at MSP Airport just before midnight. Along with a whole lot of other people. It was the most crowded I have ever seen the baggage claim area as flights that had been held up around the globe all day due to the storm in Minnesota were all landing at once. We saw passengers from Cancun and the Dominican Republic and, yes, we were jealous.

It was 1 a.m. by the time we found a hotel shuttle and got to our room and collapsed into bed after another round of carefree, stressfree travel.

Then it was home sweet home, today, Thursday, in time for a whole lot of snowblowing and shoveling.

And, we arrived home to the news that more snow is coming Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.

Oh goody…can’t wait.