Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 31, 2013

MARK MAYNARD: Adventures come in strangest places

Mark Maynard
The Independent

ASHLAND — Last week’s trip to the desert drove home a couple of revelations.

    First, it does rain in the desert. It was more like a rain forest with two days of downpours during our mini-vacation to Phoenix.

Go figure.

Second, adventures can come in the strangest places.

The aforementioned rain washed out our planned hot air balloon ride over the desert on Sunday morning, although we did manage to catch some spectacular sights of the Grand Canyon on Friday with our good friends, Rick and Jana Sang. Even that was kind of delayed. They drove us to our first viewing sight and all we could see from the rail was cloudcover, fog and a worried expression on the faces of our travel partners.

Not so grand yet.

“It’s never been like this before,” they assured us.

But on the next vantage point, amazing didn’t begin to describe it as tips of mountains were breaking through clouds. It was a unique and incredible view of God’s beauty. We went through red-rocked Sedona the night before and it was another wonder to witness. You’d have sworn John Wayne was around the next rock mountain peak.

But the skies opened up over Phoenix late Friday night and didn’t close up until late Sunday morning, a weather happening so unusual the locals were saying things like “this never happens” while newscasters were warning everyone to “stay inside today.” Several accidents were reported and the streets were flooded, obviously unable to take in so much rain in a short period of time.

Obviously, it doesn’t rain much in Phoenix.

Our hot air balloon flight to the heights was canceled because of the rare desert weather episode.

So that adventure was scratched.

Never fret. Life always has a curveball on the corner for you.

As we were coming home on Sunday afternoon, our plane was going from Phoenix to Chicago, where another winter weather episode was already taking place. Snow and ice were moving and postponing flights by the dozens at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.

Nice, we figured.

By the time we arrived in Chicago, our flight to Cincinnati had already moved gates. Then it moved again. And again. By the time we got to the last gate where it was supposed to be, the plane had left without us.

We were not home, but at least we were not alone.

When we went to check on the status and were told we weren’t leaving on a jet plane that night — and that 200 other flights had been canceled at O’Hare that day so there probably weren’t any hotel rooms either — our real adventure began.

“So what do we do, sleep at the airport?” I asked, almost half-sarcastically.

“Yes, that’s what most people do,” was the reply.

Adventure anyone?

Pull up a bench and get comfortable. If Tom Hanks could do it (“The Terminal” in 2004), so could we.

While we didn’t make it to Cincinnati, our luggage was on the way. We each had our airplane carry-on, which included a squishy pillow apiece. Luckily, my wife had a contact case and glasses.

It was already around 11 p.m. and the airport terminal was mostly shutting down, so there was nowhere to eat.

Life on the benches of Gate 22 was mostly uneventful. One kind angel from United Airlines saw us “sleeping” and brought over two blankets. That gesture gave us more comfort than she could imagine.

There was plenty of movement throughout the terminal, mostly security guards patrolling and janitorial services doing cleanup duties. Although never feeling threatened, neither of us slept well. Imagine that.

My particular situation was made even worse since my sleep apnea machine was headed to Cincinnati with our luggage. I’m sure my snoring, when I did nod off for a few minutes, scared off any would-be troublemakers. They probably wondered what kind of wildebeest was over there.

We woke up “refreshed” around 5:45 the next morning and began heading to our new gate number with a couple of boarding passes for a 10:03 a.m. flight to Cincinnati. We pulled up a bench there and stretched out for a few more hours.

The adventure was almost over even if the rain wasn’t. It followed us all the way home on the drive from Cincinnati.

We crawled into bed about 4 o’clock in the afternoon. There’s no place like home. Gate 22 just didn’t compare.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.