Sometime to return ...

Normally I'm a good traveler, really. I love flying. I love going from Point A to Point B.

Not today, though. Not as much anyway.

The morning started out rough.  Three hours sleep was probably the biggest culprit, which means that, essentially, I'm to blame because I'm the one who was still up at midnight--just four hours before the alarm was set to buzz--still sipping on whiskey and anxieties.

I have a hard enough time making myself go to bed on the best of nights, factor in worry and excitement and putting head to pillow seems nearly impossible.

But I got there eventually and then the iPhone alarm did its shrill vibrato thing and I was awake, bleary-eyed and trying to stuff the last of my belongings into a duffel bag

We made that first flight OK, although not without some bickering. I wish I could just set a blanket pre-apology to Cory for the whole damn trip: I'm sorry, I'm stressed. I'm worried, I know I'm taking it out on you." Instead my hackles go up and it's like my mind suits up in camouflage ready to storm bunkers and jungles and innocent villages.

And so we boarded that flight tense and mostly silent. The girl next to me fiddled with her music player, at full volume, before finally settling on some particularly loud selection and, thankfully, switching to headphones. After what felt like an endless trip down the runway--with the plane's wheels making something of a god-awful racket and me muttering silent prayers--the plane finally took flight and I fell asleep clutching a half-filled coffee cup. It's something of a wonder that I slept (and didn't spill my coffee, although I awoke once as the cup tilted, its lid pointed perilously toward my lap).

I don't normally sleep that much on planes. I love flying--staring out the window, taking the time to read or write. I'm normally such a good traveler and even in the most boxed-in, tightest fits of situations I hold sort of a reverence for this contained set of time, this reprieve from everything. The best part is ordering a Bloody Mary, no matter the time of day. There's something about that tiny bottle of vodka and the way the flight attendant leaves you the entire can of tomato juice.

Not today, though. Mostly I slept, fitfully, trying to reclaim some lost hours of sleep.

The plane landed in Salt Lake City. Things were still tense and mostly silent. A trip to the restroom where I tried not to feel too horrified at the sight of the bags beneath my eyes--accentuated in 3D relief by the bathroom's unforgiving fluorescent lighting.

Outside the bathroom, a few more tense words and then Cory cut me off--and thankfully so--to inform me we were late for boarding our flight.

"No, we're not," I said, waving my phone at him. "We have an hour."

"No, we don't," he said. "It's 9:28."

I looked down at my phone dumbly; it said 8:28. I'd switched it off airplane mode yet it was still stuck on Sacramento time.

We took off, nearly running, making our way from Terminal D to Terminal B as an overhead voice advised "final boarding call" for our flight.

We made that flight with only a moment to spare.  "Final boarding call," the voice said again, this time much sterner. "The gates will be closing."

Lungs bursting, we stumbled to the gate.

"Cory and Rachel?" the gate attendant asked smoothly, taking our bags and insisting that we check them. The last I remember is Cory putting pink tags on the bags, which we left with the attendant.

In our seats, I nearly broke down crying.

"You're shaking," Cory said.

Blame it on the 5-K dash, blame it on the stress. Blame it on the hunger growling through my stomach.

Just when I thought I'd calmed down enough to deal, Cory wondered about those bags. We'd left them at the gate. Did they actually make it to the plane? In the rush, we hadn't thought to ask if we needed to carry them to the plane ourselves.

There'd be no way of knowing if our baggage traveled with us until we landed. Literally, that is. Metaphorically speaking, all our baggage was present and accounted for.

Bloody Mary's ordered, we bumped and lurched as the plane navigated its way through a rough storm patch above Texas. Every now and again the plane tilted suddenly side to side and I'd feel my stomach tumble with it.  "The pilot has advised us," the flight attendant chirped happily over the intercom, "that the ride will be like this much of the duration."

In Austin, we were, thankfully, reunited with our bags only to find fiasco at the rental car counter where I was informed that the car I'd rented was actually in Ontario. You know, Southern California. Seems there was some sort of mix-up (I mean, obviously) that confused details with another rental I'd made on the same day--this one for a trip to Joshua Tree next week.

I'm not even sure how that could happen--because there was also, still, another reservation for that weekend. A computer glitch, but they could still help us.

With a mini-van.

Which I declined on principle.

Or a Mini Cooper.

Which Cory declined on practicality.

Finally, we drove away in a Dodge Charger. It was pouring outside. Torrents of rain, actually, with a five-hour drive to Wichita Falls ahead.

And I'm not going to say it was the easiest drive but there was big sky and water towers and rural junctions and tiny towns that came and went in just one roadside exit. And as the miles drifted by and I eventually drifted off into a nap, all of the day’s troubles finally drifted away.





You basically touched on every single one of my travel anxieties. I'm glad everything worked out in the end, but I'm sorry things were stressful throughout the entirety of getting there.

Oh, my... what a journey. And you took us all on it, too... you amazing writer, you! Hoping the rest of the trip keeps getting better and better. My heart is with you both!

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