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Fear and loathing of traveling

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Ah, the stress of holiday travel

Dave Price

In this business, it never hurts to experience a reality check every now and then. You know, a little slap on the side of the old noggin just to let you keep wins and losses in their proper perspective.

A little perspective probably prevented me from losing my sanity Friday when what was supposed to be a quick drive to the Bay area to pick up my oldest son, Kristopher, at the San Francisco International Airport turned into a nightmare from the darkside.

Did I say quick trip? Yeah, right!

To explain the situation, Kris, has two weeks off from basic training in Missouri to visit for the Holidays, and in trying to set up a favorable travel schedule, I booked a flight from St. Louis to San Francisco, with a stopover in Chicago. The scheduled arrival in San Francisco was 8:30 p.m., which sounded simple. I figured, five hours driving time to reach San Francisco, and with a little luck, a couple of hours might be left over to do some Christmas shopping. Did I say luck? Unless you’re in Australia, never assume the weather is going to cooperate in December.

The drive to Stockton was easy enough, but then came darkness and rain. Heavy rain, mind you. I drove through Stockton and Manteca, but then lapsed into a daze somewhere in westbound traffic on Highway 120. You see, there’s a switch to the 580 outside Tracy, and between the rain, darkness and lack of concentration, I missed the turn and wound up southbound on Interstate 5.

For those of you unfamiliar with California, I was now driving toward Los Angeles.

The first clue should have been a failure to see Tracy (I always look for the In-N-Out Burgers sign). Well, I missed that one. Looking out through the rain, I somehow spotted a sign with directions to Patterson, which is on the way to Modesto.

Darn (not my exact words)!

Totally embarrassed, I found an offramp and turned back in the right direction. I had lost 20 to 30 minutes during this escapade, but there still nearly three hours to get to San Francisco International. I wasn’t nervous, especially since my wife, Lennie, had suggested we park in Fremont in the East Bay and ride the BART rail service to the airport. That way, we’d save time, money and the stress of driving over the Dumbarton Bridge, up the San Francisco peninsula and finding a place to park at the airport.

If I had been playing baseball, it would have been an 0-for-3 day with three strikeouts right there.

We arrived in Fremont, found the BART station and made our way inside to purchase tickets. In case you’re interested, one-way fare from Fremont to the San Francisco Airport is $6.60 per ticket. Not an inexpensive way to travel, but at least parking in Fremont was free. We still had about 90 minutes to get to the airport and Lennie assured me the trip would take about 30.

That was about the most stressful 90-minute trip I can remember taking in a long time, yet, we were still in decent shape time-wise after taking a shuttle to the terminal. All we had to do was locate the right gate, find Kris and we’d be good to go.

Yeah, right!

Due to all the security measures, we had to wait for passengers to unboard at an exit gate inside the main terminal, and there was no sign of Kris, even after United Airlines personnel helped me locate a white courtesy phone. After about 90 stressful minutes of searching, we finally learn high winds had delayed the flight from St. Louis to Chicago by more than hour and he was on a later flight due in San Francisco at 10:47. Finally, some good luck, and we weren’t going to be waiting in an airport for another day or two. Given all the trials of that night, it was a tremendous relief to see Kris (who had already spent 20 hours in airports).

Exhausted, the three of us rode BART back to Fremont (even though it was now past midnight, the trip seemed totally safe), and we began the drive back to Nevada. The adrenaline from the day’s events was enough to keep me awake for what seemed like an uneventful drive home (no road controls were in sight). There was just one hitch. I drove back into the storm right around 5 a.m., which turned to heavy snow and near-zero visibility near Echo Summit. By that time, I was contemplating asking for directions to Australia.

Fortunately, we arrived home safely and you can’t ask for more than that. Had we been unlucky? Not at all. It all could have been much, much worse. By the way, a major power outage hit San Francisco Saturday night, the government raised the national threat level to orange on Sunday, and two people died in a Southern California earthquake on Monday.

Believe me, I feel pretty darn fortunate today. And here’s wishing a safe and Merry Christmas to all of you out there!

Dave Price is a sports writer for the Nevada Appeal