At last our six-day excursion to Colorado was drawing to close, with one last chance to wander Denver International Airport before our flight home to Indianapolis around 6 p.m. MST. We tried to make the most of it.
Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:
Each year my wife and I take a road trip to a different part of the United States and see what sorts of historical landmarks, natural wonders, man-made oddities, unexplored restaurants, and cautionary tales await us. From November 1-6, 2015, we racked up a number of personal firsts. My wife Anne was invited on her first business trip to Colorado Springs, all expenses paid from flight to food to lodging to rental car, to assist with cross-training at a distant affiliate. Her supervisor gave me permission to attend as her personal travel companion as long as I bought my own plane ticket and food. I posted one photo for each of the six days while we were on location. With this series, we delve into selections from the 500+ other photos we took along the way.
Flying off-season was probably a good way to try air travel for our first time. The lines we saw and the waits we experienced were nothing compared to, say, the average autograph line at a mild comics convention with supporting actors from TV shows that were canceled twenty years ago. We knew the expectations and prepared our movements in advance. The TSA screenings were weird and slowed us in our tracks, but were a cakewalk compared to the average horror stories. And this time Anne remembered not to bring a drink with her.
Before departure, Anne used her last bit of per diem for dinner at the Timberline Grill, one of the fine-dining options beyond the security checkpoints. The star of our meal was their “Devils on Horseback” — bacon-wrapped dates stuffed with goat cheese and topped with chipotle honey. Our dinners were simpler matters — she had the basic ribeye, while I had the slightly less basic grilled chicken sandwich topped with strawberry Dijon preserve, brie, and spiced apples. Nice sendoff, all told.
Afterward I tried hunting around for a different place that might offer cheap, delightful desserts, but we apparently wandered in the wrong direction and found nothing inspiring. Alas, if only we’d researched that bit in case of craving. Thus we waited for our chariot’s preparations without enough sugar in my system to my liking. Once our fellow passengers began lining up, it was all I could do to suppress pitiful whining noises when I spotted one lady carrying a box of Voodoo Donuts. Something to look forward to if/when we come this way again.
Eventually we boarded and learned that Friday night passengers and flight attendants are 75% grumpier than their Sunday morning counterparts. Our return trip was consequently filled with a bit less wonder than our debut flight had been, and reminded us more of a late-night city bus commute.
Takeoff couldn’t commence soon enough. This time I got a window seat so I could see more of the action, forgetting that flying above the clouds doesn’t look quite so cool on a night flight. With amateur camera skills in hand and one last burst of travel enthusiasm, I tried snapping pics before we ascended to max elevation, and after we began our descent. The shadowed cities looked much more twinkly and inspiring firsthand than they do in the resulting photos, which are a bit more abstract but make for a fun game of Guess the City We’re Flying Over. Without an answer key handy, I have no idea who won.
We recognized downtown Indianapolis as soon as we approached it, then watched as we circled around and doubled back toward Indianapolis International Airport to its southwest, presumably to get a better angle on our assigned runway. At one point I recognized I-465 passing below us, lit extra bright from a traffic backup caused by a semi wrecked into the median.
Our flight was slightly under 2½ hours, dropping us off shortly before 10:30 p.m. EST, at a mostly deserted airport. All the stores and restaurants we saw were closed; all the people, exhausted and desperate to escape. We followed their lead.
Eventually we made our way to the shuttle station. Eventually a shuttle took us out to the vast parking lot. Eventually we remembered where we’d parked. Eventually we navigated our way to the exit and back onto familiar roads, up to I-465 and passing that wrecked semi one more time, thankfully with the traffic now cleared up. And then we were home and we appreciated the experience and we collapsed and lost consciousness for many, many hours.
A few days later, Anne had to have a conversation about her corporate credit card with the issuing company because, that same evening after our dinner at the Timberline Grill, someone in South America tried to charge something using her number. The company took care of the situation without any further detriment to her, but it was absolutely worth noting.
Three months later, her company made the unfortunate decision to shut down the entire Colorado Springs center that she and her coworkers had taken turns trying so hard to retrain and save. Anne’s first business trip became her only and final business trip for the foreseeable future. Our bonus vacation, with all of her expenses paid, retroactively and literally became a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.
Despite the aftermath, we longtime road-trip fans learned at least one invaluable lesson from the Colorado Springs experience.
Now we know we can fly.
To be concluded. Next time: outtakes!
[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for previous and future chapters, and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]