Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Terlingua: Not a Ski Town

Man. I have about six post's worth of stuff swirling around right now, and no way to get it all out except for my favorite, the rambling stream of consciousness! This was seriously an amazing vacation. Amazing amazing amazing. I'm the first to admit that a hiking-based trip is not my favorite kind of vacation; give me a big city with cafes and art museums and I'm happy. But, hiking is good too! Who knew? My brother and I took about 400 photos between us-- coming soon to a blog near you!

So, my entire family-- parents, brother, sister, me-- squeeze into one vehicle and drive the 10 hours from Dallas to Big Bend National Park. Big Bend is that green area there in the very southern tip of Texas, bordered by the Rio Grande. My dad very recently purchased one of these new smaller SUV's and let me just say that they don't really comfortably hold 5 normal-sized adults with a week's worth of luggage. The fact that we were all still on speaking terms on arrival is kind of miraculous.

The drive between Interstate 20 and the park is very remote; we'd go half an hour at a time without seeing another vehicle. The park itself is remote, too. No cell phone reception, no TV's in the lodge rooms, no Internet. Hiking, kayaking the Rio Grande, and communing with nature are really the only things to do out there, but there's enough of that to go around. The nearest town is the ghost town Terlingua, which we visited twice. If you think that you know Texas because you've lived in Dallas your whole life (like me) and have maybe driven out to Austin and San Antonio a few times, let me tell you that you have to see this park, 'cause you don't know Texas. Texas has mountains! Cliffs! Gorges! Wild pig-like creatures called javalinas! Fantastic photos to follow soon, with explanatory text and stories!

My trip back to Virginia yesterday was... interesting. Had to be at DFW at 7:20am for my flight. They begin boarding. They stop the boarding. They reverse-board, because the plane is very broken-- something about loose screws ripping up fan-blades that are supposed to be perfectly calibrated. They announce that this particular aircraft is going to be "grounded" for a few days (I love that, because it sounds like the plane has misbehaved) and because they don't keep extra planes sitting around for things like this, our flight is canceled. Every single person on that flight has to be re-routed through other airlines, terminals, and cities to get where they're going-- the line for getting re-routed takes more than an hour. I get routed through Cincinnati on a flight that leaves from the other side of the airport four hours later. But, at DFW it's very easy to get from one terminal to another with the Sky-line-rail-thingie. I know I sound biased but DFW really is the best airport in it's class. Well-laid-out, easy to understand and navigate, heavy on the Starbucks. Especially compared with crazy places like the Cincinnati airport, which was utterly weird. I'm not exactly an airport virgin-- I've been through La Guardia and JFK, O'Hare and Detroit, Washington Dulles, San Fransisco. Never anything like yesterday, though... I was wandering around lost like some kind of hayseed. It seems like that place is stacked up in layers instead of being sprawled out horizontally, and the terminal at which I landed was some kind of reject leftover, tacked onto the very end.

Because my new flight plans were made so suddenly, I got to be on the list for the Special Search every time I went through security, at each airport. Yay for the 15-minute search of the backpack, in which all the little Chanukah presents are poked through and swabbed for explosives; for the physical pat-down, the new air-puffy thing (also for explosives). I pointed out at Cincinnati that I'd just come off of an airplane and hadn't left the airport but it made no difference-- "detailed search" was apparently encoded into my ticket. I wonder if the hundred or so other passengers that I was originally scheduled to fly with had to do the same thing.

Still, if the original plane was broken, I'd much rather be canceled and re-routed and delayed than, you know, dead. I'd rather them figure out ahead of time that the plane needs repairs than search through wreckage trying to figure out what went wrong. I only got in six hours later than planned, and the flights themselves were perfect, so no harm.

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