Monday, July 07, 2008

Canadian Weekend

I got back from Alberta last night. The time I got to spend there was amazing and wonderful, but getting there and getting back was a different story. Starting from the beginning.

My flight was supposed to leave Tucson at 6:15. After 30 minutes, we were going to land in Phoenix, where I would have a leisurely hour to find my gate and read a few chapters of my most recent book, “Naked” by David Sedaris, before boarding the last flight to Calgary.

At 7:00, we were sitting on the runway in Tucson facing a black wall of clouds. A monsoon had started building as we boarded, and by the time we had pushed back from the gate, all flights had been grounded. No one was taking off, and no one was landing. The pilot informed us that the air traffic controllers were monitoring the storm, but that it would probably be at least another 20-30 minutes before we would be able to take off. The good news was that we were sitting on the runway, facing the storm, and we would be first to take off once flights were given the green light. So we sat and stared into the black abyss, watching the lightning strike and worrying about our connections in Phoenix. After a few more minutes, raindrops started splashing on the windows, and I was convinced that we’d be stuck there for another hour. So it was a huge surprise when the captain came over the air again and told us we’d been cleared for take-off. The stewardesses bustled back to their seats and as soon as they were buckled in, he put the hammer down and we took off into the storm. It. Was. AWESOME. Three seconds into the air, you couldn’t see anything but dark swirling clouds. LIGHTNING WAS STRIKING ALL AROUND US, and we bounced this way and that. The pilot was trying to get above the storm as quickly as possible, and I’m not kidding you, we experienced g-force from the upward motion. It was insane. I was grinning like a maniac, but the guy next to me was white-knuckling the arm rests with his eyes tightly shut. What a baby. I told myself while we were flying through that storm that even if I missed my connection and had to fly to Calgary the next morning, this alone had made it worth it. But then I changed my mind, because I really didn’t want to spend the night in Phoenix and miss half of my trip to Alberta.

After we landed and as we taxied to the gate, everyone was asked to please remain seated unless you had a tight connection. It seemed promising, but as soon as the “fasten seat belt” sign was turned off, every single person jumped up from their seats and jammed the aisles. I’d like to give everyone the benefit of the doubt and assume that they all had tight connections, or loose bowels or something, but I think that for the most part, they were all just jerks.

I’d been forced to gate-check my rolling suitcase, and of course it wasn’t waiting for me by the time I finally made it off the airplane. So I bypassed the waiting crowds and ran up the jetway to find my next flight. Thankfully, Jon had been on the phone with customer service trying to figure out where I needed to go, and the gate was literally directly across from where I’d just disembarked. The digital sign above the attendants read “Phoenix to Calgary: Doors close at 7:40”. It was 7:50. I looked and the door was……closed. I wanted to start instantly spraying tears everywhere, but instead I asked if I’d missed the flight to Calgary. Nope, they hadn’t even started boarding yet. THANK YOU. I ran back down the jetway to find my bag (almost got stopped by a mean-looking girl at the counter) and of course, it still hadn’t come off the plane. No one’s had. We had a running commentary from the people at the window, though, and apparently the bags were coming on the World’s Slowest Transportation Device. “It’s getting closer…..closer…..closer….closer…..” (this went on for 5 minutes. How long is an airplane, anyway??) By the time I got my bag, I stepped out of the gate and straight into the line for my next flight. The entire experience took at least four years off my life.

The old man sitting next to me on my flight to Calgary was really friendly, and only a little bit creepy (“If this plane were any smaller, we’d be holding hands!”). Every time I began to read a sentence in my book, he’d ask me a question. This happened five times in succession. But it was funny, because after that, I started asking HIM questions, and every time he tried to answer one, someone would make an announcement over the intercom. This happened three times in succession. We gave up talking for a while, until he started telling me about buying his yacht and sailing around the world for two years. All of a sudden his holding hands comment seemed less creepy, and more like something that might, just might be a good idea. Except that he was really old. And he had lint in his hair. I didn’t tell him about it, because he took up more than his half of the leg room. It would have never worked between us.

Jon picked me up at midnight, and we got to Lethbridge at about 3 in the morning. Met my new niece and nephew in the morning. They're even cuter in person. Little Nolan (the one with the teeth) is scooting around like crazy. Norah, the newborn, never made a single noise the entire two days I was there. Apparently, the only time she's ever actually cried was when she got her shots. Other than that, it's a little whimper here or there, lots of gurgling, and that's about it. Quietest baby ever.

Jon's cousin was getting married that day and we went to the ceremony in the morning and to a family lunch later that afternoon. We got Slurpies (they're better there) and poutine inbetween. In case you've never heard of poutine (I never had, until I met Jon), this is how it goes. A pile of french fries mixed with hot gravy and melty cheese. Delicious. Even more delicious because you can't get it in the States, and I look forward to it each time I go to Canada. It didn't let me down this time. In fact, I got it twice.

After the wedding festivities, we went for a drive South of Jon's hometown, Raymond, and enjoyed the dark skies against the green fields. And yellow. There were yellow fields, too. Fields of canola.

After our drive, we went to visit our friend (and Jon's second cousin) Bill. He lived in Tucson for a few months when we first moved here, and we became really good friends with him, his wife, and especially his three daughters. It was so much fun to see them's been a year since they moved!

The next day we went to Waterton Lakes National Park with Kelsey, Jake and Norah. Jon and I tried to get a good picture of the two of us, but apparently the forces were against us. The wind/Jon/people taking the pictures were not cooperating. For example: We asked my brother-in-law, Jake, to take a picture of us by the lake. Jon asked him to try and fit the mountain in, as well. When I checked the camera, this is what I found.

And that wasn't the only one..there were THREE just like it. It seriously made my day. So then we staged a re-do, but Jon was sabotaging my plans.

Then we tried another one at Cameron Lake, but the wind was ridiculous. And Jon's triangle-hair was ridiculous, too.

This one looks promising, until you look at Jon's face. Is he doing this on purpose? Or was he caught off-guard? You decide.

The trip home wasn't quite as absurd as the trip there, although I did end up next to a gassy guy on my flight from Calgary to Phoenix. It was so appallingly revolting that the best thing I could do was try to will myself to sleep and hope that the stench didn't force me awake. It actually worked - I slept most of the way there. The time I wasn't asleep was spent facing away from him and holding my breath. He's lucky I didn't pass out.

And that was my trip, in a nutshell.


  1. Sounds like an adventurous trip! Oh, and I totally would have been the big baby in the seat next to you, white knuckling. I've developed an intense phobia of flying.

    On my last trip, Adam didn't go with me, and he made me a Build-a-Bear to take with me on the flight. I'm lame. You're the kind of person I would want to punch in the face on a trip like that. But in a nice way. :)

  2. Do you ever watch the Bachelorette? I'm almost positive there was a guy on there from Raymond. He took all his clothes off and jumped in the pool on the first night--he had a speedo on with "DeAnna" written on the butt. So creepy.

  3. That Queer Bait is not from Raymond

  4. There was a guy from Edmonton, I think, and it might have been the Speedo guy.

  5. i'm still laughing over jake's photography skills. now you know what i have to deal with...

  6. I live in Ag Central. Ignore all of those "Happy Cows come from California" commercials, ignore the whole "Midwest is home of corn and cheese" stigmas. The Northwest is the Ag Capitol of the world. Milton Freewater is literally the apple capitol of the world. Anyway, we have huge fields of Canola, and since we're in the foothills you can actually see it. There's a pass through the Blue Mountain (Cabbage Hill) and as you come over the mountains into Oregon you have the most breathtaking view of a patchwork quilt of fields of various crops. The bright yellow canola, the brown wheat, the green alfalfa and the corn. It really is so amazing!

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