With all the hustle and bustle leading up to the Spring Arts Festival I completely forgot about the last part of our Santa Fe, NM journey. The trip home. What started off as a seemingly normal travel day evolved into 30 hours crisscrossing the airports. Our flight leaving Santa Fe was set to depart around 10am, a reasonable time of day. We cleared out of our casita and traveled back to the cutest airport I’ve ever been to. Snow was falling more than the day before and I was sorry to have to go so soon, now, in this moment. Can’t we just stay in the loving arms of Santa Fe?
As we checked in for our flight we learned that there was a delay. Apparently some nasty storms in the midwest threw everything off kilter. We were clueless to this fact as we enjoyed our time in Santa Fe as far from a television or the news as we could get. The attendant said not to worry, we would still have plenty of time to catch our connecting flight. It was at that moment I took pause. Our experience in this trip taught me that arrival time really means wheels land on the ground time, and does not take into account how long it takes to taxi to the actual gate. We nearly missed our connecting flight from Charlotte to Phoenix on the way to Santa Fe because of this.
We expressed our concerns to the kind woman but she provided us with kind, but empty reassurance. Was she going to get us to the gate in time upon landing? Doubtful. In hindsight we should have insisted on another flight option an extra day or hours in Santa Fe. Oh sweet hindsight! Instead we foolishly said ok and strapped in for a very long journey home. Peter was initially frustrated by this so I reminded him there was not much we could do at this point, why don’t we enjoy the time. We had art supplies and books to keep us occupied.
We finally got on our flight to Dallas. As we approached our destination the anxiety started to amp up. The reality was there was no way we could make the gate. Our flight was already boarding and we were still taxiing. By the time we got off the plane from Santa Fe ours to Charlotte was happily on its way. We found someone to rebook flights for us which proved to be quite a challenge. They found us a flight to Miami, which would connect to Gainesville and we’d be home around 11pm. Great!
We had a few hours to spare between flights so we found some (not great) food and reminisced about Santa Fe. When it came time to board the Miami flight there was some trepidation as the flight was huge and our seats were not next to each other. Peter had a nice little cozy two seater in the mid-back of the plane. I was stuck in a middle isle in a near middle seat, though not too far from Peter. As luck would have it the guy sitting next to Peter noticed us waving to each other and somehow he agreed to switch seats with me. The man was happy to do it as he didn’t mind being surrounded by all the women in my area. Woohoo!
We settled in for our flight in our cozy seats. Our coziness and relief at getting closer to home were rudely interrupted by an intercom announcement that they had to do some work on the plane and it would be at least an hour before departure. What!? We now had two choices here: 1) get off the plane and try to find a different flight home; or 2) stay on the plane and risk the delay. This was no easy decision to make. It was hard enough for them to find us this flight due to all the travel delays from the storm. We decided to risk it and stay on the flight, at least get out of Texas and to Florida.
Par for the course, we missed our connecting flight in Miami. At this point it was 11pm. We left Santa Fe 12 hours ago. Now we need to figure out how to get from Miami to Gainesville. Drive, fly? We stood in line with 50 other frustrated and weary travelers to try and rebook flights and get some hotel vouchers. (Un)lucky for us there was a big food and wine festival going on at that time in Miami. All the hotels were booked and there were no vouchers to give, except for food, and airport food at that. Oh boy!
By this point Peter is frustrated, but I’m still holding my glass half full mentality together. The line seemed to take forever. It was after midnight by the time we got out of it. While we waited I made a call to the airline to try and find us some flights. They had an early morning flight going to Charlotte and then back to Gainesville getting us there at 10am. Or we could have stayed in Miami for a flight that would get us in Gainesville at 2pm. At this point we’ve been through three different time zones, have not had the luxury of fresh air, nor did we have proper food or rest. The Charlotte flight seemed like the best idea and we went with it.
When it was finally our turn at the counter to get some vouchers I encouraged Peter to not take his frustration out on the staff and let me do the talking. I saw plenty of people getting frustrated with them, and to what end? It wasn’t the staff’s fault that we were all stuck in Miami at the worst time possible. They are just people with feelings after all, doing their best to keep our grumpy butts happy. We approached the girl and I said we had been stuck in the airport since 8am in Santa Fe. What can they do for us? She gave us some food vouchers and because we were so nice and understanding two extra pillows and blankets for us to sleep in a room somewhere in the airport on cots. She was very grateful for us being nice and we were rewarded with extra pillows and blankets.
Sleeping on cots in a room full of strangers was not appealing to either of us, so we opted to sleep near our departing gate. The airport was a literal ghost town at this time of day. I’ve never been in an airport this size that was so empty. The interior design of the airport was visually fascinating to me and I thought why not take some photos!? I had my Canon 7dmkii on me and my 24-105mm lens mounted. I made the best of an empty airport to take in the sights and compose. I was grateful to have the opportunity to do this. Even if I was dead tired.
We found some seats to crash on. They weren’t ideal because they had armrests but they were something! Peter passed out as soon as he sat down. Feeling a strange surge of adrenalineI felt compelled to stay up and keep an eye on our things. At one point a cleaning woman was making her rounds. She saw us awkwardly camping out by the gate. In Spanish, she ask me if I speak Spanish, to which I reply un poquito (a little). She suggested we move the benches closer together so we can put our feet up. I thanked her profusely and woke Peter up to help with the move. She even helped us. I was so grateful for her coming along to make things more comfortable for us.
As well-intentioned as my efforts to stay awake were, my body wanted nothing to do with it. Sleep soon took me like a gentle blanket of fog rolling in over the sea. It was close to 2am the last I remembered. Fast forward to about 4am when I suddenly wake up disoriented. A group of TSA staff has gathered at the gate in front of us for a staff meeting. Peter was partially awake at this point. Based on the nature of the meeting it sounded like they were getting berated by their supervisor. Something to do with the matrix. Surreal is the only way to define this strange moment in time.
We gathered our things and began the quest for sustenance. Feeling run over by a dump truck we shuffled back to our gate eager to be on the plane. The flight took off just at sunrise which resulted in a spectacular sky. Finally we are in Charlotte. We are so close to getting home, I think!? We make our way to the next gate only to sadly discover that there was yet another delay and a gate change to our flight. At this point my patience has fizzled away. I think I left it somewhere in Miami with the TSA agents. We are delayed a couple of hours and now set to get to Gainesville around 1:30. I was regretting our decision to leave Miami.
Resigned to our fate we seemed to drag ourselves to the new gate, finding a bathroom to clean up in, and a place to use our food vouchers along the way. Almost there I kept saying to myself, almost there, you can do this girl! The clock was slowly ticking closer to take off time. More people gathering around the gate. We’re so close to boarding!!
I was excited to get home, see my cat, smell fresh air again. Sadly, my fantasy bubble was suddenly popped by the sound of the intercom. Is this it I deliriously thought to myself!? It was not it. They said the flight was slightly delayed. My cool was lost. The camel’s back gave out, even though it broke miles ago. It was at this point that Peter and I switched roles. He urged me to relax, we will get through is. At this point I could not take the quiet suffering. I was immediately on the phone with the airline. I kindly explained that we had been stuck in the airport for over 24 hours now and just hearing that our next flight is delayed, please help. It was an SOS call. Someone needs to know we were stuck in some strange loop! She looked up our flight history and made an audible oh my sound. Yeah… She checked on the flight and said it was about to land and not to worry, we wouldn’t experience much more delay. I dejectedly hung up the phone and waited.
Finally, for real this time, the plane was coming and we were heading to Gainesville. Hallelujah!! Praise all the deities I could think of! By the time we got our luggage and a ride home it was 3pm. We were tired and crusty. The best part of being home was uploading all the amazing photos I captured during the trip while my sweet kitty rested contentedly in my lap, a rare occurrence for her!
All in all the trip to Santa Fe was worth the major airport delay. It certainly pushed the limits of my resolve and abilities to see the glass half full. I came out with some interesting abstract photography from the airport, and a wild story to share for years to come. Even more than that I learned some huge travel lessons along the way and just how much fatigue can negatively impact decision making.
I hope you enjoyed this wild ride. Have you had an issues with travel/airport delays? Feeling trapped somewhere when you’d rather be home? What did you think of the abstract photography from MIA? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below. Thanks for following along!