The Perils–and Pleasures–of Traveling to Small Places

I’m in the Grand Junction, Colorado airport, which is actually farther from my intended destination than I started out this morning at 5:30am.

That’s when I arrived and checked my suitcase (a bottle of local wine and a 10lb. bag of local pinto beans made it necessary both for weight concerns and liquid restrictions) at the Montrose, Colorado regional airport.

I was sitting and talking to a couple of folks from Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) who were in town, as I was, for the Western Colorado Congress (WCC) annual meeting and local foods panel, when the announcer told us our flight was canceled due to a flight attendant’s illness.

In a tiny little airport like Montrose, one ill flight attendant can mean an entire flight gets shuffled–there was simply no back-up staff.

We all moved back out of the security area and into line to figure out when we’d get out of there and where we would go next–it was clear that none of us were getting a flight from that airport this morning.

After about an hour in the line (and I was toward the front), I secured an alternate flight plan–which included an hour-and-change shuttle bus to my current location with many of my canceled flight compatriots, a flight out of here at 4pm, and a connection that puts me back in Sioux Falls, SD at 10pm.

Then there’s the two-and-a-half hour drive on my own up to Minnesota–putting me home about twenty hours after I got up this morning.  I’m hoping to catch a nap and a strong cup of coffee before the final leg.

But it hasn’t all been bad (and I realize that there’s quite a way to go yet).  First off, there was a hilarious lady from Virginia among our group who pronounced us the “stranded in Montrose club,” and proceeded to take pictures and promised to e-mail them when she gets home.

We were all in a pretty decent mood when we finally boarded that shuttle thanks to our shared misery and ability to chuckle about it–we traded information on our hometowns, reasons for traveling, and work.  Our driver, Julian, played Zydeco on the crackling speakers, and the scenery of mesas and distant mountains was breathtaking.

I met a young woman who is also working in local foods organizing–in New Hampshire–which I’d assumed was as advanced with the whole sustainable farming and local food movement as my next-door home state of Vermont.  But apparently, it’s not.

We had a lengthy conversation about farms we know and work we’ve done, and what we see as the next important steps.  We ate at the little Subway kiosk (the only available food here), and I had a plastic cup of local Riesling with my chicken-bacon-veggie wrap.

It’s not often you get to do wine pairing in a Subway.

Most of my fellow stranded Montrose travelers are gone by now–I got the later flight because my Denver connection to Sioux Falls is much later than their connections to the East and West Coasts.

So, I’ve been watching some YouTube videos, talking to random travelers, and occasionally stepping outside to breathe the mountain air–made moist by a series of brief showers.

With average annual precipitation of less than 10 inches, rain here is a blessing that we Midwesterners, inundated throughout this summer, cannot imagine.

The desert soil gives off an amazing perfume during these flash storms, and as quickly as they’re over, the ground dries up again, the perfume dissipates, and the sun parches the distant mesas.

On the morning I left Minnesota to embark on this adventure, I received a poem in the mail.  It was from a person I know only a little–we’ve had a few conversations, and before I moved from SD, most of our contact was waving across the street to each other.

On a whim and because it was small and light and I was packing anyway, I decided to bring it with me, and I slipped it in my briefcase.

The poem was forwarded from my old street address, and was printed on a postcard with no note–just an image of a Buddha statue in a green tree and the following words:

Buddha Becomes
a Life Coach

Drink tea
(go green)

Disconnect
the dots

I’ve been thinking about that poem off and on through my travels, as I attempt to take this all in stride and just occupy the place I am–not being too attached to schedules and routines and the way I think things should be.

The trip overall has been a great one–I’ve made some new friends, my hosts were most welcoming, our meeting and panel discussions were helpful, and Sunday’s high-elevation drive, hot springs soaking, and microbrew pub-crawling were a lot of fun.

I can’t see how it would help to be disappointed that my return trip is not turning out to be as efficient and quick as what was printed on my original itinerary.

After all, there is so much I would have missed.

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