I’ve done a lot of traveling in the past few weeks. Some of it was planned, and some of it was unexpected. This is a post about the unexpected parts.
It all began when I decided to come to Oregon for a good chunk of the summer and work in the harvest again. As you can guess if you’ve flown in the past month or two, tickets were a mess—expensive, inconvenient, and canceled at the last minute.
The only halfway decent tickets I could find gave me a 9-hour layover in Phoenix, which I planned to redeem by crashing at a friend’s house and exploring the city. But after arriving at the airport, discovering that my first flight was canceled, and being re-routed hither and yon by a less-than-enthusiastic American Airlines lady, I ended up with a 5.5-hour layover in Los Angelos instead.
Is 5.5 hours long enough to leave an airport and explore a city? Not really—not when you’re tired and hauling your luggage with you. But when I looked up the LA weather and saw that it was nice and decently cool, and when I looked on Google Maps and saw that there was an In-N-Out Burger right next to the airport, I came up with a plan:
I was going to walk to In-N-Out Burger.
Have you ever left an airport on foot before? I never had. Frankly, airports don’t seem set up for it, and I was worried that I’d have to dash across busy roads or yank my suitcase through grassy medians.
But it’s possible. Google Maps found the proper sidewalks for me, and I walked to In-N-Out, right next to the airport but still 1.4 miles away.
It occurs to me now that the hype surrounding In-N-Out may be an Oregon-thing rather than an everywhere-thing.
In-N-Out is a California-based burger chain, and for some reason it’s a big deal. A few years ago they opened a location in Oregon, an hour north of where my family lives, and it was a Whole Thing. Every time I passed it I saw a drive-through line that you wouldn’t believe, stretching on and on until I couldn’t even see where it ended. My sister and her friends would drive all the way there just to get burgers even though, as I mentioned before, IT WAS AN HOUR AWAY.
So while I was never willing to make the hour drive and sit in the Mennonite-funeral-procession-length drive-through line just for a burger, I was willing to make a 1.4 mile walk hauling my heavy backpack and even-heavier rolling carryon when I was in LA with nothing better to do.
Now, you’re probably wondering: is it over-hyped?
Frankly, I was in no position to make that call. After my 5+ hour flight and long walk hauling luggage over overpasses in the California sunshine, that burger and fries was the best thing that had ever happened to me: It was filling, affordable, and delicious. Airport food could never.
Also, I appreciated the fun vibe. Very 1950s, with all the employees in red aprons and little hats. They seemed to be having fun, and one employee in particular walked around hyping people up about the food and taking care of their trash with the most cheerful enthusiasm I have ever seen from a restaurant employee (except maybe those hyper-enthusiastic Dutch Bros kids).
There was a little park across the street, perfectly situated to watch airplanes flying in. So after eating, I went over there and dozed in the grass like a homeless person for a while.
Much more pleasant than an airport floor, I must say.
Overall, my tiny unexpected stop in LA was lovely, although I was quite sore from luggage-hauling when I got home. But I took care of that by soaking in the hot tub.
The same morning I discovered that my flight to Phoenix was canceled and got re-routed to LA, I also found out some really horrible news: my cousin Conrad’s month-old son, Damien André, had passed away suddenly. Devastating news, and compounding pain on a family that’s already endured so much this year, when Conrad’s brother Austin was kidnapped in Haiti.
Almost as soon as I got home my family was busy figuring out which of us could make it to the funeral and how to get there. Conrad and his wife Rhonda live in northeast Washington, which despite being the state directly above Oregon was still an 8-hour drive away.
Thankfully my Aunt Geneva lived near and was willing to give us a place to stay, so we drove up Friday, spent the night at her house, went to the funeral Saturday, and then came home. There were evidently multiple events happing near Spokane that weekend, so hotels were extremely expensive, and some of my relatives got up insanely early to drive there and back in the same day.
Anyway, I have nothing to say about the funeral except that it is really, really awful for a baby to die, his mother sitting there with empty arms.
I saw Austin at the funeral and gave him a big hug of course. He is here, he escaped, he is alive, and yet his wee little nephew Damian isn’t and I, frankly, don’t understand the ways of God.
Anyway, hopefully that’s the end of my unexpected travels for a little while yet. In a week or so I’m gonna park myself in a combine and spend the summer driving around in rectangles, solving the world’s problems and working out some novel plots in my head.