Merry Christmas, pt. 1

Merry Christmas! From Denver. Kellie and I were blessed with the opportunity to visit our friends and family here in Denver over the holiday season. Oh, wait, we don’t have friends and family in Denver. So what are we doing here?

Actually, we’re doing really well. On Wednesday morning Kellie and I got onto an airplane, excited to visit Oregon for the first time in months. It was supposed to be a relatively short trip with just one stop in Denver. That’s where things got really interesting.

A winter wonderland.

For those of you who don’t know Denver is in the throes of a blizzard. I’m not using the word blizzard lightly—it’s the word they, the Denver natives, are using. Apparently it hasn’t been this bad in a number of years, with the Denver metro area receiving upwards of 24 inches of snow within about a day and a half. This is great for people who are skiing; it’s terrible for people traveling.

Our plane arrived into DIA around 8:00 AM Denver time. Our connecting flight to PDX was supposed to leave at 11:25 getting us in Oregon at 1:00 in the afternoon. Not a bad day of travel. We would get in at a decent hour and be able to take a leisurely drive down to my parent’s place.

Instead we flew into a blizzard. Our flight, as with every single flight in and out of DIA was canceled. Initially people were hoping that some flights would be getting out but as the minutes and hours passed it became very clear that no one was going anywhere.

Now what?

So Kellie and I got in a 45 minute line at one of the gate counters and the very patient Frontier agent was able to get us on a flight to Portland leaving Saturday night. As we were finishing up our conversation with Kathy she announced to those behind us that she had to prepare for a plane to arrive and that she wouldn’t be able to help anyone else! Understandably they were pretty bummed.

When Kathy rescheduled our flight she also gave us a pink slip from a company that will reserve rooms at hotels for people who get stranded like we did. However, when we called the number they said that they didn’t have any rooms anywhere. Obviously we weren’t the only people with a little pink slip.

At this point Kellie and I were very aware that we might be spending the night in the airport, an idea that neither of us were too excited about. If we were going to be stranded in DIA we would at least need our luggage which had been deposited at the luggage carousel. This was fine but it meant that we would have to leave the terminal section which had carpet and available seats, two things we weren’t sure we wanted to give up.

Our Army angel.

I was pretty certain that if we went to the baggage claim we would not be able to get back to the terminal area where all the nice carpet and chairs were. We were on the horns of a real dilemma here! We decided to find the information counter and ask if there was any way to get our luggage and then come back to the terminal.

There wasn’t. But at the counter we met a young man who was asking for the number to Amtrak. Ah, there’s an idea. Well Amtrak didn’t have any seats open until the 24th but the young man, Chase, offered to give us his pink slip with which he had successfully reserved a room for the night. He was in the military and could us the USO to help him out. We have no idea what branch of the military Chase is in but we are incredibly thankful to have met him.

Is this yours?

Now that we had a place to stay we needed a way to get there. Thinking that it would also be nice to have our luggage with us we made our way to the baggage claim. It was a total mad house. Luggage from all of those canceled flights were stacked to the side as more was circling around on the carousels. The place was packed with people searching for their bags. You know how hard it is to find your bags when it is just your flight unloading—multiply that a bunch and you have a glimmer of what the baggage area was like.

Thankfully Kellie and I found all four of our bags within 10 minutes!

Yo, taxi!

Bags, check. Hotel, check. Transportation, not check. Of course it wasn’t just the airport that was inundated with the snow—much of eastern Colorado was blanketed by the white stuff. Shuttles to the hotels were no longer running and because the roads were as bad as they were only a limited number of taxis were braving the conditions.

The line at the taxi stand was substantial. It was outside. Pause a moment to think about that, I’ll wait. Cold yet? We were too so we dug into our luggage and pulled out an extra coat and a scarf for Kellie and a stocking cap for me. Properly outfitted we jumped into the queue.

Every so often a taxi or two would arrive, ask for people who wanted to go downtown and then zip off into the whiteout conditions. Unfortunately our hotel was located in the southeast so we weren’t sure when, if ever, a taxi would be heading our direction.

After waiting for who knows how long one of the attendants at the taxi stand called out that there was a truck jackknifed on the freeway making it very difficult for taxis to get to the airport. At this disparaging news a large chunk of the line slunk off into the airport. Kellie and I figured that we would continue waiting for a taxi willing to go our way. In our minds we would either be waiting in the airport with no hope of a hotel or we could wait in the taxi line where there might be a way to get to our hotel.

Kellie ran inside to grab us each a coffee to help keep warm and the wait continued. And continued. Wisdom eventually prevailed and the people at the taxi stand had us move inside where at least we would be warm. Time continued to pass and another taxi rolled in out of the swirling white. Kellie ran up to see where it was headed and then sprinted back when she found that it was going to the southeast. We and four others piled into the van and sped off into the wild white yonder.

We got about a half mile before the traffic came to a complete stop. The radio was broadcasting nothing but bad news off road closures and people abandoning their vehicles. Night was coming and we were only a half mile from DIA. I’ll spare the traveling details for the snow squeamish but at long last we pulled into the Red Lion parking-snow. After our nail-biter drive we were incredibly excited to be here.

Welcome, welcome, welcome.

We left the blowing snow and came into a wonderful, welcoming lobby. There was a large fire, leather couches and an incredible staff. I’ve never stayed at a Red Lion before but if they’re all like this one, I’m sold. To the same degree that the storm was cold and foreboding the hotel and our room are warm and welcoming.

The staff, just as stuck as we are, are great. We grabbed dinner at the restaurant where Heather was welcoming people with a smile and a great attitude. This morning when I went down to grab some breakfast there she was still smiling and helping people out.

On the whole.

On the whole our unexpected layover has been very good. We’d rather be in Oregon but right now the Red Lion will do. The bed is comfy and the shower is warm. It looks like the airport will reopen Thursday night or Friday morning but we’re probably just going to wait our turn and fly out Saturday rather than trying to see if we could fly standby.

It’s a bit of a delay but what can you do. We know that God has kept us and opened the door each time we needed one opened. Soon enough Saturday night will be here and, Lord willing, we won’t!