I am supposed to be in Hawaii by now, but instead, I am stuck at a hostel in LA.
Yesterday was a “text book” nightmare of travel.
My plan was great: I was going to drive from Sedona to Flagstaff, park my car at the free parking lot at the airport, fly from there to Big Island of Hawaii (via Phoenix and LA), and then hop 2 more islands before fly back.
It would work perfectly, if the weather cooperated. The day before my trip, it started to rain in Sedona and snow in Flagstaff. I did think much of it since a city snowed all the time should be able to handle the snow without too much trouble. A friend of mine, Phil, actually offered to drive me to the airport, but I figured I could handle it.
Well, I assumed wrong.
To be safe, I took highway, a longer route (I17). The shorter way is a narrow road with lots of switchbacks (89A). I have no idea how bad the switchbacks were, but I seriously doubt it would be easy to drive.
I17 was ok for most part except the last 15 miles. The road was covered with icy snow! It was so bad that I only dared to drive about 30-35 mile/hour on the 75mile/hour highway! And everyone was the same. The car swayed and the “slippery” sign kept on showing up (which I didn’t even know was there). One car drove from the other side of the highway and ended touching this part of the road. Another car turned over by the side of the highway. I clutch the wheel in death grip and kept on telling myself to be very careful. 15 miles took me half an hour to drive.
I let out a deep breath when I finally reached the airport. The parking lot was covered with thick snow. I was half way in a parking spot before I couldn’t move any further—I was stuck in the parking lot for 5-10 min before finally I backed out.
The airport was small with very few people. I was glad the line was short. Then I knew why—the flight was canceled! And since it is whether related issue, the airline cared nothing about the passengers. I was on my own.
“Well, you can take a shuttle to Phoenix and catch your connection from there.” But you can’t take the shuttle from the airport. They only pick up from Amtrack station. Luckily there were other passengers having the same problem. So 4 total strangers, 3 women and 1 man, shared a taxi together to the train station. The gentleman ended up paying the taxi. He didn’t know any of us!
We missed the first shuttle and had to wait for the next one. The shuttle was so small, it could only take 12 people. Luckily one of the ladies (Cristina) paid for me when she called from the airport. Can you imagine this? She was willing to pay for a total stranger (I didn’t know she had already paid for at the time. I thought she just signed us up. I paid her back later, of course)! I was lucky to get on the shuttle.
Yet I was late for my connection in Phoenix. I had to wait in line for a couple of hours to rebook the flights. The agent told me I could catch the first flight from LA to Hawaii the next day. I believe she said 5am. So I planned to tough it out—staying in the airport overnight to catch the early flight. It wasn’t too bad.
After I checked in, I noticed the printout said it was 5pm! Who was right and who was wrong? The agent or the printout? I had to stand in line for another hour and half to ask the question and found out the printout was right. There was no earlier flight. I would be 24 hours late than my original plan.
By the way, the airport in Phoenix was a big mess. Lots of people were late and missed their connections. One lady with a toddler had to wait until Wednesday to make her connection! I can only imagine her frustration.
So here I am, stuck at a hostel in LA, waiting for my late afternoon flight. It will be a long day—the flight won’t arrive in Big Island Hawaii until 9pm and I had to drive 2.5 hours to a house I rented a room (via airbnb). Luckily the host, Jordan, is waiting to get up to let me in, even it will be probably pass mid night!
I wrote this experience in detail, not just to tell you the trouble I had, but also to show how wonderful people could be. Travel is an adventure and you never know whom you are going to run into. I am so grateful to encounter a number of kind strangers.
Cristina was so kind and trusting. She was willing to pay for a total stranger. I was surprised this morning when I received an email from her to thank me (I allowed her to take my spot when we were in line to re-schedule our flights. Her connection had tighter time than mine).
The man acted like a gentleman and paid the taxi for all three ladies, none he knew before.
Jordan, the host in Hawaii, was waiting to wait up for me tonight.
Koa Wood Hale Hostel was willing not to charge me for the night I missed (according to the cancelation policy I would be charged, but he said he was able to rent the room so he wasn’t going to charge me).
So let me use what a college student who sat right next to me on the shuttle said: something good must come out of all these. The good things came out the nightmarish travel is, once again, I am touched by the goodness of people. Kindness is everywhere around us. So is beauty. J:) The flower pictures were taken from the neighborhood near the hostel I am staying.