challenges, travel

It’s On The Way?!?!

Should I be excited?

Should I still be stressed?

Should I feel relieved?

Day 8 I get my first reply to my case number for my trip interruption. It lets me know of the courtesy credit I may see in 30 days and how to submit claims for my expenses to get home myself when they failed to deliver on their return flight. That’s funny in itself. Not only did they not complete what they were paid in advance to do, but they also held my luggage hostage for days. I guess in their mind $300 is a flat fee that they can just drop to every passenger and hope 90% are satisfied despite the varied levels of inconvenience. My 20 hours on hold is worth more, in my eyes.

I am sure the mom with an infant who isn’t ticketed and had much more stress being stranded than a young male bachelor for days should get hazard pay. I mean I would say that but I’m not the one making the blanket decision of one size fits all! The elderly couple I met that wasn’t internet savvy had a lot more stress as well. Just a couple references.

Day 9 I get the next communication stating my suitcase(s) are to be delivered. Funny I’m not at my delivery address and signature is not required. I never authorized that. A random delivery service is also making my delivery as well. I am not so comfortable about this but I guess this is what happens when mass deliveries need to be made. The communication from Southwest has not been timely or really customer-focused. It’s been more like they are putting our a major fire with a hose and along the way there will be some damage and they will just deal with the one offs as they arise I suppose.

I also think it’s funny that a small SUV is delivering my bags. Now I’m curious to know if it’s one bag? Two bags? Three bags? Four bags? I guess I will find out when I return from my trip to see what has arrived and what condition it is in. I also have no way to update my shipment once the delivery is in process (see below). I guess if I was on a cruise I would really be in a bind.

I may post one more conclusion post to end this saga. I guess that depends on many variables. For now I will celebrate some kind of progress vs. being completely in the dark on when anything would arrive or when I would even hear from Southwest. Happy new year to the rest of the world. I hope you have been enjoying my suitcase saga and be thankful it’s not your belongings that are in limbo.

adventure, travel

Park City, Utah

It’s the end of 2022. I spent way too many days out in the cold this year, but somehow I booked a year end vacation in the tundra. Cold for me. Snow for me. The destination was selected. Park City, Utah in the chilly month of December. 

A few hours by plane gets me to the powdery land of snow-filled adventures. Time to play in this winter wonderland and document all my favorite spots. The picture below captures the frigid temps that I am about to endure.

The crazy began with packing. How many layers would be needed? Do I pack the big puffy jacket or lug it through the airport. Do I have enough heat packs? The list of doubt goes on and on. I guess you will read on and find out how I fared on this spectacular adventure. Just two bags. Ready to go on Southwest. Just two bags was important. I need one just for extra layers.

We didn’t get too far into the trip before chaos erupted. A lost bag. Tears for hours for the one with the missing bag. Big ugly tears of loss. Fear of the unknown. Regrets galore. It was awful. The tale of the white suitcase will not be forgotten anytime soon. Reunited 48 hours later with a lesson learned along the way is the best way to sum up this unexpected fiasco. A lot of help from those along the way.

After a long trek, food was a much needed requirement. Before actually reaching Park City, we hit a notable dive from the Guy Fieri TV show Diners, Drive-ins and Dives… called the red Iguana. A tiny hole in the wall known for their mole sauces. I was definitely excited to try their sample mole plate after watching a documentary on how mole sauce is made and the variations. Not to mention the chocolate involved. A neat pit stop to check off the foodie list. Killer nachos was my choice for the day and it didn’t disappoint.

The photo below gives a little snapshot of each of these sauces for those unfamiliar with mole and with curious minds. Ignore the prices. Focus on the descriptions.

A short drive from Salt Lake City to the final destination of Park City, Utah. Gorgeous mountain views. Snow-capped mountain tops. Cool crisp air. All were welcoming signs that we had arrived. More posts will follow in the coming days covering food, adventures and whatever else doesn’t hit the cutting room floor. I hope you enjoy the winter adventures through my eyes. For me, I may be in a winter wonderland one week and basking in sunshine in Florida the next week. You just never know which way the wind will blow me.

For now you are getting the wintertime snowy adventures, while next time you may see more sunshine. Either way travel documents many life experiences. The dagger-like icicles are a nice reminder by my window each morning. Should the air warm up those daggers may fall and cause some injuries. I’ll be treading with caution in the days ahead.

Stay tuned as I explore this winter wonderland in the days ahead. While I’m packed and ready for the cold I am hearing of the storm of the century hitting every other part of the US and it seems I may end up being in the warmer climate during this trip. What an irony.

challenges, travel

Southwest Shitshow

Today I am flying across country. From one cold front to another. Snow coverings to celebrate a white Christmas this year and frigid temps that call for warm blankets and toasty fires on the home front with my puppies. A welcome I gladly await but sadly have postponed it thanks to Southwest Airlines and their poor service.

I had been magically flying just above the clouds somewhere on the way to Denver, Colorado. It was a peaceful time of reflection. I was thinking of all the people I have in my life that are amazing yet missing those who aren’t with me this holiday season. As I was flying high I felt the presence of those I miss this year. It was almost like the clouds had names of loved ones gone too soon. At this point in the day there was a calm in the air. Not a worry in the world and I was looking forward to being home.

After landing in Denver, the trip home became a little more complex. Staffing shortages for Southwest Airlines were spiraling out of control for days and today things were supposed to be back on track. That was false. Insanity was lurking everywhere. Crying people everywhere. Cops patrolling gates which is not normal. Emotional outbursts at counters. Lines for days at every Southwest counter yet no supervisors in sight and guess what corporate is closed for the holiday!

The backlog and staff shortages caused rippling effects across the county but Denver was one of the most hard hit. The airline swears it was not poor planning on their part rather storm related issues but I beg to disagree. Plane after plane delayed or cancelled waiting on flight attendants to show up to staff a flight or pilots running out of time due to long delays and federal regulations. I have never seen planes sitting at a gate for hours waiting for staff to load the hundreds of people waiting to get on the plane. Most gates had no attendants either because all those who showed up for work didn’t appreciate the hounding of those waiting for a human to give an update.

Fast forward: many hours sitting and being shuffled gate to gate only to watch planes sit idle or get unloaded due to no staff, incomplete flight crew, or in my case over time limit pilots. It was pure insanity and I was in the midst of it. Then finally we load onto a plane at 8:45 pm and sit for over and hour. Babies crying. People getting anxious of why the plane hasn’t moved. The list goes on and on. Then they take us off the plane because the pilots are under the federal guidelines but their union contracts says they can’t fly. Oh the crowd went wild. Anger was written on many faces while tears well up in the eyes of tired and hungry kids. No hand out of water or blankets for those forced to sleep in the airport. No hotel voucher. Nothing. Just a long line to wait to be rebooked on the computers they kept crashing due to overload of resources. An absolute shit show. The picture above shows the length of every line at every Southwest kiosk. The wait was hours long.

Most rebook options were 2 days out at best, but my case was 12/31 some 6 days later with no access to my bag and no accommodations. Sounds amazing right?

That means you are stranded with no access to bags. Many in tears due to holiday gifts being in their checked bags. No options. Many just stuck. Some elderly couples were in disarray not knowing how to operate the internet swiftly or an app. It was unsettling to watch as folks crumbled around me. A young couple had tickets to Disneyland for first time with young kids and they wouldn’t get that money back or get the experience they had planned. 

I have never experienced such chaos in an airport. Southwest had people stranded for days. My inconvenience seemed minimal in comparison to those traveling with small children or even animals. I heard so many kids crying that just wanted to see Grandma or Grandpa for Christmas. It was awful. Now flip the script to other airlines. They are still flying and the chaos seems mild in comparison despite other airlines taking all the rebooks from Southwest’s incompetence.

In my case it cost me another $1,500 to get home and I had to split up with my child to even make that happen. I had to spent the night in an airport and I had no luggage or hygiene items. By the time I got off my cancelled flight no food places were open. Stores were closed for even water. I will definitely rethink my carryon accessories in the future to prepare for airport Armageddon. When I finally boarded my Delta flight Santa had delivered goodies to all their passengers. Mini stockings full of candy. What a treat and what amazing service. Southwest didn’t even give a bottle a water or blanket to those stranded. What an irony.

Signing off a little sleep deprived. A little annoyed. Most definitely disappointed in Southwest Airlines customer service. 4 hours to wait by phone. An app that crashed. Terminals frozen at the airport. Disconnects on phone and so on. Delta will get my money in the future even if it’s more expensive. Delta even gave out mini stocking goody bags to its passengers on my rebooked flight. So crazy.

I will pick up this with the how to get my bags from Southwest in the coming days.

adventure

Rocky Top

The road trip destination was programmed for the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee on this beautiful weekend. An uneventful drive north from point A to point B. Nestled just outside of Knoxville and close to Dollywood. Another state to add to the list of 2022 RV visits. Documented of course via a sticker on the trusty RV map tucked just inside the RV door.

A big Georgia vs. Tennessee football game on Saturday was a funny coincidence making the camping resort a little bit of a rivalry zone for home fans and visitors from nearby Georgia. Friday night was set for settling into the site. Sitting by the fire. Toasting marshmallows and making big plans for the days ahead. The smell of fire in the air was so peaceful. The chatter amongst the travelers was so much fun. Everyone toasted their marshmallows just a bit differently. Some dark charcoal. Some light. Some full blown s’mores. It was a great first night for many.

We met a few new friends. Saw some cool vehicles that were in tow or for show. A vintage 1950 Chevy truck to a 2010 Stallion trike. Those were the standouts among the normal golf carts, motorcycles, sling shots, electric bikes, scooters, among others. Off to bed to rise early for a hike to Grotto Falls.

This hike was amazing from start to finish. First we had to rise early to guarantee a parking space. A hint we received from locals. Once we began the climb I first noticed the many step formations along the way. Some wood. Some rock. Some sand and leaves. Some water spots with little rocks to step across. It was a good mix with the trail.

Some of the trail was along the water’s edge. Some of the trail we just heard the water rushing in the distance. Another benefit of the early rise was the possibility of seeing the sun rise. It’s was peaking through the clouds and trees. Not enough to say we saw a fantastic sunrise but we did enjoy the chase.

So many picture opportunities along the way. The rock wall formations of varying colors. The large rocks in the water. The falls and everything in between. After we got our fitness in we headed to the town of Gatlinburg to enjoy being tourists.

As we tackled the city a trend arose. We liked to sample things. Alcohol tasting seemed like the midday activity. We tasted flights of local wines. We sampled local moonshine. We even taste tested the local ciders. All was so good. None of us were big drinkers per se but we all purchased our favorites from the samplings. This led to our second fitness journey. Hiking back to the car with gift boxes full of cider, wine and moonshine by the box. Three bottles in each hand was the equivalent of a small kettle bell in each hand for miles. Functional fitness I suppose.

Back to the site we go to chill by the fire again but this time during the prime football games. First up was the big rivalry of Georgia vs Tennessee. That was fun to spectate. The Rocky Flop Tennesee chant was all the buzz by the end of that game. Then we shifted to Alabama vss LSU game. The sole LSU fan was dancing and cheering for her home team. This was amazing in itself. While others not so interested in football gazed at the stars. I learned about a cool app called starwalk where you can use your phone to see what’s lurking up above. Another fun treat by the campsite to mix in with football and marshmallows.

Time to sign off to mingle and eat marshmallows. A solo trip in the books for this RV girl. 

celebrations, challenges

The Last Hoorah

Every year I take a glance back at that year I’m in around October first. I celebrate. I reminisce. I shake my head. Then I say boom this is what I’m going to accomplish for the remaining days of the year and here is how I’m going to set myself up for success in the upcoming year.

This year is a little different. When I look back I sigh. I celebrate all that has been endured. I shake my head at the insanity. I high five myself for conquering fears and trying new things. I reminisce on this and that. I sigh again and say when is this year over. The shit show has been constantly flowing all damn year. I looked forward to 2022 but now that it’s here I think okay it’s time to go and hit 2023 ever so fast.

Three loose ends dangling in the air. I have to be in limbo until each gets sorted out. Each has its own set of complexities, costs, consequences, and of course risks. The end of year trips are less than exciting. More have to’s than want to’s. Family away for the holidays. I seem to be missing the wow factor to finish out the year. Maybe it’s a new kind shit show that hasn’t hit my radar yet, but hopefully not.

As I take out that calendar for 2023 I see some blah on the horizon in January. A roadblock to maneuver in February. A pivotal decision in March. What I don’t see is the break in the chaos. I see higher expectations. I envision bigger shoes to fill. And then there is taxes. Another thing I love to hate come April.

I guess 2022 didn’t wow me. I’m thinking 2023 won’t wow me as I’ll be recovering from a 2022 hangover. I’m going to have to find some creative mechanism to help shovel the shit for the year ahead because it still looks like shit is going to be around me in droves. Maybe that is just the hint of manure I smell at the farm? As I revisited the post as I do all my writings I thought to myself I don’t really need to post this rant but that’s exactly why I do.

When I began this post I was wallowing in the pitiful mess of life. However reading, revisiting and revising was very beneficial for me. Not only the writing but in life. I allowed myself to be reviewed. I made note of some things I could control and jumped on them.

I added a little sunshine to my end of year. I put a little hope on the horizon. I said no to something I really wanted to show self discipline. As an added bonus others around me became inspired in ways I didn’t see coming. Actions have meanings. We may not always know what or why at the beginning but in the end if you are open to growth you can see. Funny how life works.

In a short 24 hours I saw motivation, action, desire, support, and those around took notice. You do become what you surround yourself with: your environment. Your people. Your motivation. Your success. Each hinges on the other. My final note to you is simple:

Step away. Do something spontaneous. Enjoy the moment. Everything will still be there when you return. You just might see things a little differently to endure the shit show for longer or maybe even find a way out of the rabbit hole.