Summer Travel Nightmare (Part Two)

A couple weeks ago, in the thick of a busy summer travel schedule, I shared a nightmare experience at the airport. It was all in fun, and I’m not even mad any more (although my pulse does quicken and my cheeks redden when anyone says “American” or “United” these days). But it’s taken a couple more weeks and a few more hours of therapy to get over the worst travel day of my summer, which was just five days prior to the one I’ve already blogged about.

So, for your entertainment and my own catharsis, here’s my Summer Travel Nightmare: Part Two.

Waking up at 3:00 a.m. is never fun. Little did I know when I violently punched my alarm clock that I would not lay down in a bed again for 25 hours. Usually you have nightmares when you are sleeping. This time I had one during the day — the whole day.

3:30 a.m. 

Met with my mission team to head to the airport. I was the last to report in. We prayed, loaded vans, and took off.

4:10 a.m. 

We arrived at the airport to check in and I discovered that a male teammate of mine had a rather large, girly suitcase. I mocked him repeatedly.

6:00 a.m.

Our plane departs from Houston en route to Dallas for our connection to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

6:55 a.m.

We make it to Dallas but can’t land because of weather below. We circle DFW in the air, which is much easier than circling it in a car.

7:55 a.m.

We still haven’t landed and we’re running out of fuel. The pilot informs us we’re going to take a little field trip to Lubbock to get gas. If all goes well, we’ll be back to Dallas in a jiffy.


9:30 a.m.

All does not go well. We go to Lubbock, land, and wait. Do we need to get off the plane? Will we be able to head back quicker than we thought? We sit on the tarmac and get fuel. I find it ironic that we are discouraged from using cell phones while filling up our cars at the Shell station but you can fill up a 737 with a couple hundred people sitting on top of the gas tanks. I stand and stretch my legs.


We finally make it to Dallas. We’ve missed our connection to Sioux Falls, however, and things really start to unravel. It turns out Dallas to Sioux Falls is a twice-a-day thing, and the next flight has zero empty seats. A nice little gate agent goes to town trying to get us a ride. After much deliberation, the options are not ideal:

  • Our group of 8 can stick together and wait until the next morning to fly on American, our original airline
  • Our group can split up and take circuitous routes on another airline to Minneapolis. There we will regroup and fly to Rapid City, South Dakota

We opt for choice two, which presents a new set of problems. Our rental cars and our bags will be in Sioux Falls waiting for us to show up, which we never will. Nevertheless, we split up into two groups and hope we see each other in Minnesota by dinner.

12:30 p.m.

I get the tougher flight assignment with four others. We fly from Dallas to Denver. I eat a McDonald’s salad.

2:45ish p.m.

Our flight to Minneapolis leaves and is uneventful. I meet a nice old lady on the plane. Lo and behold, our teammates made it from Dallas, too.

By this time we’e bounced from CST to MST and back again, and I’m not even sure what time it is. It is roughly time for supper, even though I’ve just eaten lunch in Denver. But we have an hour or two, so I eat again. I mean, why not?

We leave Minneapolis late, around 9, and are scheduled to get into Rapid City by about 11.


About 11:00 p.m.

We arrive in Rapid City, but no luggage is anywhere in sight. One airline says the other has them, and the other airline says our bags are no longer their responsibility. Best guess is they’ll turn up in a few days in Sioux Falls, but who knows. It’s midnight Central time, which is where we’ll end up that night, and we still have over a three hour drive to go.

Fortunately, some people from the ministry came to pick us up. Completely road weary we pile into an uncomfortable church van for the trek across central South Dakota.

I doze off a time or two, but everyone over 30 feels obligated to stay up and help the drivers stay awake. The van is not comfortable, and I am pretty sure we might die from exhaustion. We pull into a rest stop halfway there and switch drivers. Fortunately, I am not called upon to drive. After six airports, two time zones, and over 20 hours awake, I’m in no condition to safely navigate our crew.

3:50 a.m.

We arrive at Diamond Willow Ministries, safely, after over 24 hours of travel. My head hits the pillow at 4:00 a.m. and I’m dead to the world for about four hours.


We wake up with the unenviable task of driving three hours to Sioux Falls (if you don’t know your South Dakota geography, that’s three hours in the opposite direction from which we travelled the night before) to retrieve our bags. They tell us on the phone that 6 of the 8 are there. Me and our trip leader hit the road. When we arrive they say they have 7 bags, not 6. Then they bring out only 6 after all. Then our trip leaders spots his bag too, but we still lack one. It’s the girly huge one I had made fun of 36 hours ago in Houston. I was happy to see it, femininity aside.

We grab some Jimmy Johns on the way back, another three hours.

From 3:00 a.m. Monday to 11:00 p.m. Tuesday I visited (almost) Dallas, Lubbock, Dallas again, Denver, Minneapolis, Rapid City, Fort Thompson, Sioux Falls, and Fort Thompson again. I slept four hours in 36 and was in a car or a plane for close to 30.

As I said in the first post, all’s well that ends well and my grievous day is not unique. I have a friend once who said everything makes for either a great experience or a great story. While our trip was certainly not an experience I care to repeat, I’m confident it will be a story that I tell again and again.