The travel day back from vacation is always bitter sweet for me. The 'sweet' is obvious: returning to our family and pets, and even looking forward to my own pillows, shower, etc. The 'bitter' is only partially the leaving of a very nice and relaxing place in favor of the awaiting daily grind. The other part? Airline travel.
We had a 9:30 departure from Phoenix, but of course, we weren't in Phoenix. We were way up in the mountains north of Phoenix. It would be a three hour (at least) ordeal to even get to Phoenix. Now, this is not the kind of thing that a professional worrier such as myself handles with any degree of aplomb. Common sense says "get to bed early, get plenty of rest, prepare for the ordeal." Common sense only works while you're awake. Me? I fall asleep easily enough, then wake up every 16 minutes when my inner stress meter shrieks with panic: "there'll be a traffic jam! You'll get lost! The security line will stretch to Vegas and back! You'll miss your flight!"
I've never missed a flight, and this is why. Around 3:00 am, I simply recognize the inevitable and get up, load up the car, and hit the road. The only allowable delay is to find a cup of a caffeinated beverage to forestall the horrible headache caffeine addicts get when they don't get their daily dose. The B&B had tea bags in the foyer, so I grabbed a bag of Earl Grey and brewed it up. Once completed, I noticed that was decaf. Sigh. Threw a caffeinated bag in with it, and hoped for the best. I didn't want to get caffeine pumped to the espresso or Starbucks level since I hoped to catch up on some sleep on the airplane, so this would have to be enough.
The first hour on the highway, pitch black but with a ceiling of stars that was as amazing as it was beautiful, was ok. Not much by way of traffic to deal with, and the under-powered rental, while still a lousy performer handling-wise, was able to coast easily down the hills. After the first hour, I was more or less comfortable with the dark, twisty highway and had gotten into a nice rhythm. It was right about then that I felt something at my throat. I reached up to scratch it, only to find a moth the size of a hummingbird fluttering away, apparently attracted to my Adam's apple. Eeeeek!
I brushed it away, but didn't know where it went. Caffeine was no longer a factor in keeping me alert on the drive down out of the mountains; every 10 minutes or so, the monster moth would take a few laps around the interior of the car (he seemed to respond whenever a disco-like song was on the radio; country or classical calmed him right down, but a lullaby for him was a lullaby for me - not good) and provide us with a nice adrenalin burst. We never did manage to get him to leave the car, but once we got to Phoenix and their early morning rush hour traffic, there was no more time to deal with him.
The traffic was fairly heavy, but not as bad as it would been had we waited another hour before leaving the mountains. The only problem with the traffic is that it makes it much more difficult to weave around trying to figure out where in the hell you are. Still too dark to read a map, we had to depend on there being signs to the airport. There weren't. We finally bailed out of the whole highway rat race, both to tank up the rental (only $2.49/gal, while we're paying $2.89 here in Ohio) and to get a look at the map. We weren't too far off course, and easily recovered to the rental car return facility.
The shuttle to the airport was fast and easy, but the security line took more than 30 minutes. We had plenty of time, of course, so there was no pressure to get through. In fact, we got to the gate with a couple of hours to spare. By that time, I was pretty tired but the chairs near the gates are intentionally designed to preclude sleeping, or so it seems. I tried to read a book, but the proof positive of the existence of hell on earth (CNN Airport Network) was too distracting. I sat there and did the bobblehead thing: fall asleep, head falls forward, wake up. Repeat ad infinitum.
The plane boarded on time (US Airways was 100% on-time for both legs of this trip), and I was ready for my long anticipated nap. Well, we were on one of the newer Airbus 319s, which apparently come from the factory with a HPSDF* unit installed. That turned out not to matter, though, as we were in a row just forward of the exit rows. Why does that matter? Well, by Federal Regulation, those seats are not allowed to recline. Crap. Three more hours of bobblehead.
The flight got us back on time, and Port Columbus is far easier to negotiate than mega-airports like Phoenix. We were even able to get the the Vet's office in time to get Hogarth back from the doggy hotel. He was just as tired as the rest of us, so we were all in bed by 10:00. I slept like an almost-teenager: over 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep! The 'almost' part means I didn't wake up surly and mad-at-the-world; it's a bright, sunny day (although it will be miserably hot later this afternoon) and a perfect day for a Miata drive to the farm to bring Egg home.
Which, as soon as I finish this espresso, is where I'm going.
* High-Pitched Screeching Diaper Filler