The last few days of the trip were pretty crazy, which is why Sedona was the perfect last minute addition. We’d originally intended to spend two days at the Grand Canyon, and spend our last night in the RV doing dispersed camping somewhere close to Phoenix, our drop-off point.
Instead, Kacey suggested we detour into Sedona, and camp somewhere outside of there. This sounded perfect. Sedona is famous for energy vortexes and intense yogis, so our online research warned us to expect people doing strange dances by vortex points.
All we really wanted was a yoga class.
“Yoga at one of the energy vortexes is $55 per person,” I read.
We found a $12 class in a strip mall that suited us just fine. It was hot yoga, and there were showers available afterwards. Not RV showers, but big, spacious showers where you could let the water run while you washed. It was nice.
The rest of the day was chill. We visited Creekside Coffee, where I had a flat white and read. Kacey and Allison read and sipped coffees, had lunch in the RV, and came back in the afternoon, which was wine tasting time. The wines came from Javelina Winery and were served by a kind waitress who kept repeating that she loved us and wanted us to stay there.
She also told us to go do a short hike up to a Buddhist Stupa, which was also an energy vortex, but not a popular one. So we did. The hike was short and quiet and relaxing, with a cool breeze blowing through the rocks and the prayer flags.
After, we zipped over to a little brewery that featured live music, and then hopped back in the RV to camp in a different part of Coconino National Forest that was the geographic opposite to our previous campsite. Whereas last night was trees, this night was low bush and creosote and sand.
I loved it. It was still chilly, and there were many stars to be seen.
In the morning, we dropped the RV in Phoenix and picked up a rental car to take us from Phoenix to Albuquerque. On the way, we passed many saguaros. Sadly, there were no saguaro pull-offs. How does one photograph a saguaro if there is no place to pull over?
Kacey navigated us down a turn-off to a No Trespassing sign, where we each took a turn standing in front of the sign and the saguaro. Saguaros are very cool. You drive, and you see nothing, and then you descend a hill and the whole landscape is spiked with these super tall cacti. I loved it.
The drive to Albuquerque was long, and when we arrived, we were surprised by the seediness of the neighborhood. We’d all been picturing adobe houses and old fashioned towns, but instead, we found broken down homes and dodgy folks wandering the streets.
Kacey and Allison broke open the wine when we got to our AirBnB, but I was in a brewery mood and headed down to Marble Brewery on recommendation from Kacey’s research and the AirBnB hosts. As soon as I got there, it stormed.
I got a table and a flight of beers and finished All the Pretty Horses, which is the best book to read in the west, I think. I returned my flight and got to chatting with the bartender, who gave me a free sample of Mountain Fog and told me that we were across the street from a meth clinic and a homeless shelter.
In the morning, we got a more intimate tour of Albuquerque from my friend Emily, who kindly took us to Old Town so we could see the oldest church in New Mexico and purchase jewelry from women selling it on the street.
We also got amazing New Mexico-style breakfast in the form of stuffed sopapillas. The three of us journeyed to the airport feeling stuffed and ready to get back to New Jersey.
Of course, the travel gods had other things in mind.
Back in Sedona, Kacey had picked up a little card noting that Mercury is in retrograde, which, it said, basically screwed with your plans the week beforehand, during, and after. So all month essentially.
When we arrived at the Albuquerque airport, we were told that there were storms over Houston, so our flight would be held back on the tarmac for an extra 20 minutes. No worries. 20 minutes later, we were in the air, and all was well.
And then we started circling Houston. Once. Twice. A million times.
Our connection was already cutting it close. Allison brought this to the attention of a flight attendant in Albuquerque who scrutinized her itinerary.
“Yeah, that is pretty close. Good luck!” he said, unhelpfully.
As we circled, I checked my United app to see where our connecting plane was. Maybe it was also late. I watched it land from Las Vegas at 6pm. There was no way it would depart for Newark at 6:30pm, I reasoned.
We landed in Houston at 6:28pm. I sprinted to the first gate agent I could find and she shook her head at me sadly.
“Your flight is already departing,” she said.
Let’s take a moment to digest this. A plane landed in Houston at 6:00pm. In 30 minutes – 30 minutes!! – all of its passengers deplaned, it refueled, all of its new passengers boarded, and it backed off the gate. WHEN DOES THIS EVER HAPPEN!?
On the plane, we’d all gotten texts saying that we were on the 8:17pm flight to Newark, but when I checked my app, it said we were waitlisted.
“Your best bet is to go to your gate,” said the woman. “Or the customer service desk.”
“Which one?” we asked, wanting clarification.
A beefy man in a striped shirt also bellowed that he was Newark-bound, so the three of us outran him and arrived panting at the gate. Between breaths, I asked the agent about our status. Were we waitlisted?
“Do you have any kind of ID? I don’t know who you are,” he told us.
He also did not know if we were waitlisted or what.
“Go to the service desk,” he told us. The one we had sprinted past. The one with a long, meandering line.
The Premier Access lane had one person in it, so I headed into that line and hoped that my old status would save me. The woman at the computer waved me up and I explained my situation.
“I’m with two other people,” I told her. “They’re not premier, but they’re with me.”
“Are they on your itinerary?” she asked.
“Bring them over.”
By a stroke of luck, there was one seat left on the 8:17pm flight, and Allison got it. (She had work the next morning.) The woman registered Kacey and me for standby.
“What if we don’t make the flight?” I asked. “Do we get a hotel for the night?”
“No,” she said, with sympathy. “We only put you up in hotels if there’s mechanical issues with the plane.”
She did give us a voucher, and she was kind and easy to work with, so we headed to our gate feeling a little bit better.
Still, we weren’t thrilled about the situation. Kacey and I did not want to pay for a hotel in Houston and get home the next morning, but there was nothing we could do about it.
What we could do was buy some drinks, so I used my miles to buy two glasses of wine and a 20 oz Blue Moon for $40. Yup. Four-zero.
The bartender gave us the wine and informed me that they were out of Blue Moons.
“You can get a UFO,” she said.
“Sure,” I told her.
“When you’re finished with this, you can have another one so it equals what you paid for the 20 oz Blue Moon. But we’re out of UFOs.”
I ordered a Stella as the flight boarded. Kacey and I were #6 and #7 on standby, and hovered over with the other desperate folks praying for a seat.
One thing I will say about the whole palaver is that people were generally very kind and willing to laugh about things. A woman standing with us couldn’t read the standby screen (they put the thing a football field away from the check-in counter for some reason) and Kacey read it for her. A man hoping to get to Newark chatted with us about our chances of getting on the flight.
I ordered a wheat beer, but they were out, so I sipped a Stella and watched the standby screen. I did not think we would make it on the flight.
But then the plane boarded and no one was left, and the gate agent was asking, “How many seats do we have available for standby?”
“Twelve,” said a man, and a whoop went up from the crowd as I chugged the Stella. How freaking lucky!
Kacey and I boarded the plane feeling thrilled, and we all landed in Newark at 12:30am.
I typically think US airports suck and United kind of sucks, but I have to hand it to them. Once we missed our connection, United automatically waitlisted us on the 8:17pm flight, though we had to officially check in to be officially waitlisted. But when that happened, we were also automatically placed on a backup flight at 9:20am the next morning, so if waitlist failed, we had seats ready.
The agents were helpful and kind. The two women at the first gate and the service desk were genuinely sympathetic and helpful, and even the male gate agent who was not helpful at first, when he saw us boarding, said he was glad we made it on the plane.
I do wish United would put you up in hotels for weather, but I guess they’d be broke if that happened all the time.
Categories: United States (USA)