As I limped into the darkness of Colorado, I-70 turned into a monster. Poor road markings and rain with shortness of sleep after driving 700+ miles was taking a toll on me. Getting to my pre-booked hotel on time in Glenwood Springs was attainable so the only reason I was feeling rushed is I just wanted to get off the road. It was a fight, but I finally arrived about 10:20. As I told the receptionist about my exhausting day, I mentioned that I was likely going to be the last to check-in, and the first to leave in the morning. I was not feeling good at all about an already short night because I was sleeping 3.5 hours away from Denver for a 10am flight. I kept doing the math in my head over and over. I couldn’t miss this flight.
I needed sleep though. Though settled in by 11, I was so pre-occupied by what time I should set my alarm for. Maximizing sleep v’s not getting up too late. It was such a battle. I may have been asleep by Midnight. I slept for an hour, was awake for an hour. I maybe got 3-4 hours sleep. I didn’t sleep till my 5 am alarm. I didn’t know at the time that was a good thing.
I still took my time when I got up. “Plenty of time, nothing to worry about, you’re going to be fine, quit worrying about it”. I finally walked out the door, stopped for gas, cookies, & milk…in the dark and returned to the I-70 grind. I-70 didn’t change overnight. It still sucked. Where was dawn? Now it’s raining. I’m never getting to Denver on time.
As dawn finally broke and I saw the clouds over the Rockies I happened to notice the temperature outside for the first time. It was 36º. It was wet, but it was 36º, nothing to worry about despite ‘chain warnings’ being posted on the highway boards. What’s going on?
Umm, I-70 passes through the Rockies at 10,000 feet. That’s what.
As the temperature dropped, the precipitation became light snow. Snow plows then appeared. The roads changed. I was not going to make it to Denver on time.
If you know me well enough I’m a determined sunnavabitch. I suddenly found myself in an unexpected snowstorm in the mountains, but I was not immune to driving in the snow. I had to zone in. I had to get through this. I had to make it to Denver on time. As it worsened I was not deterred. I led the way, I passed cars, I was in charge.
My goal was to be in Denver by no later than 8:30. I was on the west side of Denver by like 8:05. Winner.
I beat a snowstorm, but another thing got in my way that I couldn’t take charge of. Traffic. I hit a backup of grand proportions (the Denver airport is on the NE side of the city, the opposite side I was on) on the north side of Denver. Google wasn’t giving me a lot of hope either. I still had to put gas in the car, drop off the car, take a shuttle to the airport, get my boarding pass, drop my bag, and go through security by 9:45. It was 8:30 and I was still in traffic.
As traffic finally broke I was back in control. I got my gas, dropped off the car and only waited less than 5 minutes for the shuttle. I was the first to be dropped off at the terminal. The line was short at check-in. I had 39 minutes to board according to my ticket. Suddenly I was feeling pretty good until I made it the security corral.
It was not only full; there was a line leading to the full corral.
9:15 am. Shit. But, Don’t panic.
I was beginning to feel I was warranted to start pleading with people that I had a 10 o’clock flight so I could get ahead, but I stayed calm. I just kept moving through that corral. They checked nothing in security in Cincinnati, but they were giving the full throw down in Denver. I finally made it there and even asked how far I had to go to make my gate. It was like 9:40 by now. I almost didn’t tie my shoes as I finally left security. The tram to the gate was to come every two minutes. That was too long. It arrived, the ride was short, and the only thing between me and that plane were the ASSHOLES standing on the moving walkways like it was a carnival.
Muttering the final number of 125 to jet bridge attendant, the lady at the counter saw an exhausted, determined, and nearly broken and desperate man as she told me; “sir, technically you’re too late, the gate has closed”. But she reluctantly changed course and said “126” to the jet bridge attendant and coded the door for my departure.
I MADE IT.
Every twist and turn from my delayed fight on Friday, my numerous late nights planning this trip, laying down nearly 2,000 miles over a short period of time, and beating the desert was all worth it by those few seconds of relief being ‘that guy’ walking onto the plane at the last-minute.
I was asleep before the Rockies were out of my sight.
Despite not having a second to go to the bathroom or take my medications between 5 am in Western Colorado and landing 7.5 hours later in Cincinnati I couldn’t have been happier to being tossed through the clouds landing in CVG on time. It wasn’t just an epic trip, but a successful one.
6 states. 1,914 miles. $150 worth of gas. 500+ photos, and beating pancreatic cancer every step of the way.
I didn’t have time for a nice meal on vacation. I was tired and hungry. Italian was 100 yards away from my doorstep. I’m closing this series with a picture of food as it was the official ending of my journey.