Friday, August 31, 2001... Greetings from Ogden, Utah.  I was supposed to spend the night here, but thanks to thunderstorms and Delta Airlines my motel room became a shower-shave-and-E-mail stop.

The season's second road trip is a national parks loop:  up to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, down to Arches and Canyonlands, across to Zion and Bryce Canyon, with as much else as I can possibly squeeze in.  A prime motivation for this route was the time I spent scanning 320 photos for the latest Web site update -- I'm going back to some of the country's most scenic places to get digital images that won't have to be scanned.  

Knowing how hellish the holiday traffic can be, I gave myself an extra hour to reach the airport.  I needn't have bothered.

My flight was supposed to leave at 5:55 and reach Salt Lake City at 9:12 local time.  Half an hour before I left the office, it was on time.  Here's what happened next:

4:20:  Arrive at airport; note with displeasure that the flight has been delayed until 7:15.

6:45:  Plane pulls up to gate and disgorges passengers from prior flight.   Local skies clear.

6:50:  Departure time pushed back to 7:30.   Passengers brighten.

7:30:   Nobody has boarded.  Captain finally emerges to announce that thunderstorms somewhere along the way - but nowhere near us - were delaying all westbound traffic..  Captain points out that the waiting area is more comfortable than the flight, so we won't be boarding until he has a departure time.

8:00:    Boarding begins!  

8:15:  I'm seated comfortably in a window seat,  wearing headphones to shield myself from the inane chatter of my two giggly seatmates, women in their early 20s traveling as part of a larger pack.  As I'm trying to figure out just what the hell one of them has tattooed on her upper arm, the announces that plans have changed:  we'll probably  be grounded for another hour, but shouldn't deplane in case we get earlier clearance.  The stewardess then informs us that so long as we we're on the ground, they can't serve food or beverages.

9:10:  Pilot tells us that if we don't get a departure time within 20 minutes, he'll let us off the plane.  

9:30:  Pilot opens the cabin doors, teling us that as a result, it'll take us an extra 20 minutes to reboard once we get clearance to take off.  

9:40:  Back in the waiting area, I realize that (1) I have a guaranteed reservation at a motel 40 miles north of Salt Lake City that I'll be paying for even if we never take off, and (2) we've been on the plane so long that there's no solid food available this side of the security checkpoint.  I improvise a dinner from the newsstand:  a bottle of Diet Coke, a Three Musketeers bar and a bag of potato chips.  

10:10: I see the pilot standing at the gate, swapping weather stories with the passengers.  This is not encouraging.

11:00: Back on the plane.  I remove my contact lenses so I'll be able to see when we land.

11:20:  Eight  minutes after we were due to land in Salt Lake City, we pull back from the gate.

12:05:  We're still on the qround.  The pilot tells us we're fourth for takeoff.

12:20:  WE'RE IN THE AIR!

1:55:  Dinner arrives, rousing me from a sound sleep.

4:53 AM Eastern/2:53 AM Mountain:  We finally deplane.  I stop in the bathroom to reinsert my contacts, pick up my rental car and drive north.

4 AM:  I check into the motel.  

5:10 AM:  I check out of the motel and drive north towards Yellowstone.  My choices were sleeping half the morning or turning the delay to my advantage by getting an early start.  Easy choice.  As Warren Zevon once sang, "I'll sleep when I'm dead"... or more likely, I'll sleep when I'm in West Yellowstone, Montana tonight.  Later!

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