27 October 2022

Utah: day 0 and the importance of being flexible

After months of anticipation and years of trying to plan a trip together, it was finally time to get on our flights to Utah! Or so I thought...

I got ready in the early hours of the morning, what always feels like the time where the rest of the world is still sleeping, and headed to the airport. On our drive over, I received a notification that threw a wrench in my entire travel day. My plane was delayed for 6 hours and 30 min due to technical problems. It was a good thing I wasn't dropped off any earlier, so we parked the car and headed over to the airline agents. The line was long, I felt dizzy with worry and lack of sleep, and I kept praying they would take back the announcement so I could get on the plane and finally see my friends. Unfortunately, the delay also meant that I would miss my connecting flight from Denver to Moab, which was the last flight of the day for that connection. We worked it out with the agent that I would continue with my original flight, stay overnight in Denver at a nearby hotel, and then catch the earliest flight to Moab at 9AM the next day. I then had to call our hotel and make sure that Grim could check-in without me — as our hotel was booked with points it was on another system that could not be accessed or modified online. Everything seemed to have resolved smoothly, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Since we had so many hours to kill, we drove back home and had a full breakfast at our favorite diner. 
Chicken fried steak! My favorite. :)

After breakfast, I took a nap until it was time to leave for the airport again. While I was asleep, my itinerary changed to a flight leaving at 2:30PM, however on my text notifications I was still listed on my original (now delayed) 3PM flight. I didn't want to think about it and just prayed everything would go smoothly. Because of the connections and erring on the side of caution, I decided to bring a weekender carry-on bag and my usual backpack. It was probably the worst decision I'd made, as I was struggling to carry them through the airport. My fitbit was off the charts and I was getting zone minutes like crazy.

While waiting for my flight, I looked at my two different itineraries. The gates were right next to each other, and on my boarding pass I was still scheduled for my original flight, however it did not have the new time on it — the worries kept bubbling under the surface. While I was ordering a panini at a nearby restaurant, the call for final boarding on the 2:30PM flight rang out. Panic hit full force. What if they actually changed my flight? I decided to forsake my panini and ran as fast as I could to the gate. The agents at the gate asked me in a panic if I was supposed to be on that flight and, while catching my breath and fighting my asthma and in equally panicked tones, I told them I didn't know. Thankfully they looked me up and I was still, in fact, meant for the gate next door. This whole situation was extremely stressful, and my heart couldn't stop pounding in my chest. I tiredly walked back to the restaurant and grabbed the panini I'd initially abandoned and ate it solemnly at the gate. It seemed most people had opted for earlier flights to Denver, not having to worry about a small town connection to Utah. The flight crew was sitting nearby, and the pilot himself came over and asked if I was on the flight. He reassured me that they'd get us to where we needed to go, and I felt much calmer. It turned out there was a hydraulic leak and it needed a lot of cleanup. 

I got my hotel accommodation voucher, booked my hotel, and was even bumped up to first class as a result of the delay! They also gave me two meal vouchers, which I kind of wish I could've used on the panini (lol). Boarding time arrived, so I gathered my things and headed on for the next leg of my long, long day.
So spacious!
Not sure if I've ever been so close to the door!
There were only about ten people on the flight now, with some addons seeking earlier flights from their original bookings. A majority of us were bumped up to first class, and I got to eat a nice, full meal.
A familiar mountain view as we departed.
The flight over was breathtaking, with lots of snowy peaks stretching as far as the eye could see.
In the distance you can see the sunset reflecting off of a lake. I wonder which lake it was? It was so beautiful.
Clouds blended into mountains.

I arrived at Denver Airport and my god, the place is long. I struggled so badly getting through the long stretch of gates with my heavy backpack and weekender bag. At one point I stopped just to catch my breath, which ended up being a bad idea as I had a strange encounter with someone who approached me. There was a young guy who, while carrying two cups of coffee, picked up an otherwise unattended McDonalds bag and set it down near me. He then asked me directly, "do you like coffee?" I was still catching my breath, exhausted and not wanting to be sociable, I told him no thanks. Then he looked around nervously and set down his second cup of coffee and started to walk away. I decided to pick up my things quickly and keep walking — do people not pay attention to the rules? Don't leave things unattended, especially not move them near complete strangers!
I managed to arrive at the trains and made my way to the terminal, clinging to the poles as if I would collapse without them. Finding the shuttle pick-up/drop-off for hotels was easy, and I was able to hitch a ride with a shuttle that'd just pulled in. The inside was blinking with Christmas lights, which I thought a little out of place for the end of October. Still, it was a comforting atmosphere, and the drivers were very kind. They mentioned they were bored at the front desk, and figured they'd go to the airport and see if anyone needed a ride. The serendipity was of great comfort, and I zoned out watching the dark scenery fly by.

I was the last stop on the impromptu shuttle, and got checked into my hotel with great ease. The room had a small kitchenette, so after getting settled in for a moment I started looking at nearby places to eat.
I ended up at a pho restaurant across the street. The walk was a bit awkward, it was dark and very cold. The place was packed! I wish I could say I liked the potstickers, but they weren't my favorite...
The pho was amazing, however! And the portions were huge... I also got black sugar milk tea. After tip, my meal ended up costing me $41 in total. Yikes! I tried to eat as much as possible and took the rest back to the hotel. 

After taking a shower and getting settled into bed, the loneliness started sinking in. I always imagined I would do fine traveling alone, but since the pandemic and laying Nibbles to rest, I've become an even lonelier person than I ever was before. When there's no one to meet you at the end of a long day of traveling, I found the emptiness and solitude almost too much to bear. I wondered if I should have given up, and I thought about cancelling the trip and hoping Grim and Veera would have a good time without me. I couldn't sleep alone, let alone in the dark, so I let the TV play Kimagure Cook (the irony of one of my favotire YT channels being about food I can't eat due to allergies) until I fell asleep. Despite the first class, the kind shuttle drivers, and everything working out after such a disruption, I hoped the next day would be better than it was today.

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