Interesting it was… We had relatives coming in from WI to NM (my mother) and from NV to NM (my son and his 2 year old son) both on the same day, due to arrive within 5 minutes of one another, to an airport that is approx 2 hours away (doing the 70mph speed limit) from the city we live in. How much more perfect could it be?
Although it had begun to snow, my youngest, high school-aged son and I made our way on only wet winter roads of NM. As crossed the Texas border road conditions had started to deteriorate quickly and the lowering visibility had us somewhat concerned as we approached the TX airport.
Nothing is Ever Easy
The family members were scheduled to arrive at just about the same time. My son and I found the arrival screen monitors that showed aircraft track and call sign. How strange.. we notice an arrival aircraft tracking away from the arrival airport. Oh well, our flights had not yet even departed their airports – each connecting flight was a 1 and 1.5 hour flight. We watched the monitors as the two planes finally popped up and tracked through the sky on their way toward our arrival airport. Our anticipation and excitement was oh, so very close to the climatic arrival of family that we had not seen in about 4 years. Mom’s plane arriving from the east had started a wide turn and we soon realized that they were no longer tracking toward us at all. Surely the weather was not THAT bad. We live in the dessert. Our hearts sank as watched it fly away.
We still had about 20 minutes before my son arrived to get some information. We came to find out that mom’s flight had been cancelled. We also heard rumor that there would not be another arrival from her airport for 2 days – on Christmas! Not being able to confirm this, I had no choice but to wait until mom called me on her cell phone once her plane landed.
My son’s flight was still coming toward the airport and I knew that was a good sign. If the airport had been closed, then the aircraft would have been turned around. Waiting at the window we watched as other aircraft departed and the snow continued to fall ensuring that we would be having a white Christmas. Our excitement mounted again as the image of my son’s flight was now directly over the airport. We would be meeting him soon and then hopefully find out more about what had happened to mom’s flight. But the arrival time came and went and instead of seeing his plane landing on the runway, his plane too, was turned around and flying away from our airport.
The snow had, in fact, closed the airport to arrivals.
My mom was on her way back to one airport and my my son and grandson heading back to another. We decided to see what real facts we could about my son’s flight. According to the ticket agent, my son’s flight was not cancelled but had returned to Phoenix and was going to be placed on a ground delay.
So now we had to make some decisions. I suspected that mom would call me when she was able to but my son and grandson were going to be on a plane, on the ground and would likely be unable to call us with any additional information. Should we spend the day at the airport, spend the day driving on bad roads in a town we really did not know well, or drive back home? Not knowing the real status of either flight we decided to spend the day in the city and try to make our way to the Mall. I knew it was not to far from the airport but also did not want to risk any chance of getting lost or stranded in an unfamiliar city.
My son and I left the airport. By this time our free parking had expired so I prepared to pay at the exit booths. I inadvertently pulled into the credit card paying booth. When I realized what I did I decided I had to backup and get into the next line. The traffic at this point was light so it was not a dangerous or odd maneuver. I backed up and got into the next line only to have the car in front of stall when they got to the number one spot to pay on the way out. Another car had also made the same mistake that I had and was over in the credit card lane and the car behind me did not realize that the car in front of me had stalled. We all had to back up and try to maneuver to yet another lane. Thankfully everyone remained calm and in the Christmas spirit, on my way out of the pay booth I paid the toll of the nice person who allowed me to go in line ahead of them. It was really just a way for me to release all of my frustration in a positive way.
On the way to what I was hoping was toward the mall, I got a call from my mom. Mom advised us she was near the end of a line with another 200+ passengers from a few flights that had returned to the departure airport and the agents were planning to assist each of the passengers with their needs as they got to the front of the line. She said she would call us back when she had more information. We decided to get some lunch.
Lunch was at one of our favorite taco places (El Taco Tote) which just so happened to be one of the surrounding restaurants at the Mall we did stumble across within 15 minutes of the airport. Things were looking up, right? We wasted about as much time as we could eating and headed to the Mall.
As we parked the car, my mom called back and told us she got a new flight. Halleluiah! Ok, maybe that was a little too jubilant. Her flight would be arriving at 0740 the next day, which meant I had to make another 4 hour round trip the next day and get up at something like 5 am to make it on time. The good news though, was that she did get a flight and would not be at the airport alone for Christmas. I asked mom if the airlines put her in hotel for the night and she replied that because it was a weather delay, the best that they would do was to find her a hotel and she would have to endure the expense. Mom declined and decided she would stay with some of the other passengers who had decided to wait it out overnight at the airport. This was an expected response from my mom but I worried, none the less, having done this myself in the past and having one of the worst traveling experiences ever. Sleeping at an airport is never restful and ALWAYS cold!
We no sooner got mom’s new flight information when I received a text from my son saying that he was delayed on the ground in AZ and they were waiting for another company plane to be able to land at out airport before departing there again. And within about 2 minutes of that text another which said, “Oh, and I lost my ID…” At this point I had had about enough but there was nothing I could do and everything was out of my control. I just prayed whatever His will, be done.
We entered the mall wondering how long we would should wait to return to the airport. We just spent time wondering and discussing the strange sequence of events that we were living with at the moment. We contemplated going to a movie but had no way to know how long my son would be stuck in AZ. We decided to head back to the airport to see if there were any updates. Literally, as we got to the doors of the Mall, my phone rang. It was my son. He said they had gotten off of the plane and he now was rescheduled on another flight that was scheduled to arrive shortly after 9pm. Elated but cautious (snow storms were blowing in and out and there were no good weather guarantees), we went to movie, had our dinner meal and returned to airport to wait.
At the airport again, we waited and watched to see my son’s plane depart the AZ airport again and make it’s way to our airport. And eventually, again the aircraft was directly over our airport. We held our breath as the minutes ticked by until finally the message board reflected the welcomed “ARRIVED” message. More than 10 hours after his original arrival time my son and grandson had arrived. Baggage claim was typical and we drove the 2 hours home (to have to turn around in 6 hours and drive back for the other rescheduled flight).
And more snow came.
The Next Day – Christmas Eve
The adventure continued the next morning with my husband and I planning to make this trip together. It was snowing and starting to accumulate. The weather causing the delays and cancellations the day before was now stuck over mom’s airport but there were no delays being reported today… yet. Just as we were heading out of town, mom called to let us know that she was boarding and the flight was on time.
And more snow came.
The trip that was normally a 2 hour trip at 70mph was going to take a bit longer with the snow. There was a 30 mile stretch where we were slowed to 40 mph max. We wondered if this trip was all going to be for not and contemplated just turning around. And let me tell you, there are not many people who live in our desert basin that know and understand how to drive in these road conditions. I was glad that we had winter road driving experience.
Luckily, mom’s flight had made it out of that airport and and we had even made it to the airport before her arrival. Finally after a 21 hour delay my mother arrived. Even her luggage was there. We headed back home. Things were looking up… or were they?
And The Hits Just Keep on Coming
We got to the TX / NM border (30 miles from the airport) only to be told there were NO roads open back into the town we lived in. So we went back to airport city again to wait. During the drive back to the city we discussed our best options. Going around would not work as that mountain pass would be closed longer that the way we just attempted. We decided to go eat breakfast and find a Wi-Fi hot spot to monitor the road conditions.
To add to the drama – we had plans to be at the church to work in the coffee shop in about 5 hours. Our entire crew (my husband and 2 sons, mom and I) were scheduled to work the Church’s busiest coffee shop day of the year. Three of the five workers may not make it all, one son was a guest worker and the other son was only planning to be standby help. I frantically called other volunteers to see if we could cover the shifts in case we were unable to get home. One of our regular workers and a dear friend that was also scheduled to help was able to round up additional help and let us know that she would take care of whatever needed taking care of for the coffee shop. Bless her heart!
Now there was a real threat that the 3 of us might have to spend the night in the city and attempt the drive home on Christmas morning. Not exactly ideal. But After waiting only about 2 hours the roads opened. You have to love southern NM winter road snow removal (wait a few hours for it to melt). We headed home (mind you – by the time we got to where the roads had been closed, they were only wet, seriously).
We got home and then my within the first 15 minutes, our dog bit my mom…
at this point (and after patching up mom), all we could do was shake our heads and laugh. We even all made it to the coffee shop and actually had a lot of fun… After all of that, the rest was literally fun and games!