Editorial: A (slower) trip back East


Last week, with less than 18 hours notice, United Airlines left us stranded in Denver, but it wasn’t all bad. 

Oh, it was definitely frustrating those first 24 hours. We got a text message at 4 p.m. that our direct 10:30 a.m. flight out of Denver to Burlington the next morning was cancelled and the airline “was sorry for the inconvenience” with no offer to help rebook a flight. That first day we couldn’t get through to an agent and went to bed in a hotel without a Plan B.

We searched for one-way car rentals and none were available out of Denver, or anywhere in the state as far as we could determine. We even checked RVs or camper vans, but none could be found. We finally got hold of an airline agent the next morning, and spent 90 minutes with him searching for flight options, including “just anywhere East of the Mississippi and within a day’s drive of Vermont.” After an hour of searching options, the best the airline could do was get us back to Vermont five days later — on July 3, but with no guarantees the plane wouldn’t also be cancelled.

Our one option was to drive my son-in-law’s older Honda Pilot he had in Denver and wanted back in Vermont. Fortunately, the AC was fixed at a local dealership so they had the keys. Having no other way to get out of Denver and not wanting to spend 4-5 days in motels, we hit the road with a daughter, her husband, their four-year-old son and 11-month-old baby girl.

It had been 20-plus years since I’d made the Denver-to-Vermont trip by car, and I’d forgotten how expansive the prairie of eastern Colorado and western Kansas is; how lush and treed the eastern quarter of Kansas becomes and how “home” always feels that way even when you haven’t lived there for 40 years. I’d also forgotten how crowded with truck traffic the interstates are from Kansas City east through Cleveland, Ohio.

Because we had more stops than normal considering our passengers, and we never stopped for less than an hour so the four-year-old could run off some energy, we opted for stops in the downtowns of smaller towns along the way. We discovered a fantastic depot museum, old-time saddle shop and one-room schoolhouse in period décor in Limon, Colorado. My grandson and I ran up and down the rejuvenated Main Street of Salina, Kansas, (pop., 45,000) while waiting for pizza at a local, family brew pub as Melissa Etheridge headlined a show at an historic theater that resembled the Paramount in Rutland. We dined on the lawn of a Dairy Queen and had breakfast at a wonderful dinner somewhere near Buffalo, N.Y.

It was good to get home and out of the car, of course, but also enlightening to remember how much you miss when you fly. It’s also refreshing to see up-close how expansive and good-hearted the country is when other factors aren’t trying to pull us apart.

 Angelo Lynn

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