It’s almost 1 a.m. Sunday morning. Well, my watch tells me it’s only 9:45 pm, but I’m in North Carolina now, so it’s three hours later. Which makes it thisclose to sunrise. Ok, not really. There’s still an opportunity to catch some zzz’s but I just can’t go to sleep without sharing what the last 24 — okay, 36 — hours have been like.
Having been blessed with a scholarship and a share in the travel expense, I’m — wait for it. No, I can’t quite get my head around it yet. But yes, it’s true.
I’m at Blue Ridge! The Blue Ridge. The Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. It is, to my knowledge, the largest and best Christian Writers Conference in the nation. And I just happen to know a girl who knows a guy who knows a guy . . . you know how the story goes.
I’m a good writer striving to be great, but without those connections, I’d be asleep in my bed back in California right now. Instead, I’ve worked my way here by writing, winning, striving, and socializing.
Throughout this upcoming adventure, I hope to share with you grand stories of what I’m learning, who I’m meeting, and what you can do to get here next year.
But . . . it’s almost 1 a.m. And I’ve had a crazy 36-ish hours. So let me run down the build up of how we got here.
My writing mentor, Aaron Gansky, is on faculty for Blue Ridge. Some months ago, he, his wife (my good friend Naomi), and I got together and prayed. They really felt I should be here. I wasn’t so sure. I wanted to come, but I wasn’t sure I was ready. I wasn’t sure, if I was ready, how I would get here.
Flash forward through lots of prayers, hard work, scholarship applications . . . and here I am. Along with my good friend Beckie Lindsey (follow her blog here!).
Being the frugal person I am, I suggested we fly out of Vegas because it’s cheaper. It’s only a three hour drive, and hey, who doesn’t love a good coin toss now and then. Right? I was also hoping for perhaps a northward layover so I could at least lunch with my daughter and her new husband in Seattle.
Yeahhhh. . .
Aaron’s flight had to be booked first through the Conference. He asked, on my recommendation, to fly out of Vegas and they obliged. Unfortunately, the flightpath is directly east, not north.
That’s okay. I followed suit and booked the same flights and close seating, and reserved the same for Beckie. She was on vacation in Mexico and I had no way of getting in touch with her except a short email that gave her the reservation number and the message of “They can only hold it for 24 hours!”
Thankfully, she saw the message in time, and was able to also book the same flight and neighboring seats.
Now, you would think at this point things are going smoothly, right? Not so much. Because in our zeal to fly cheaper out of Vegas, two things happened: we realized that in order to get to the airport in time for a morning flight, we’d have to drive up the night before. That’s right. Drive. North. On the 15 Freeway. To Vegas. On a Friday night. Thank you, Molly. I’m sure that’s what they were saying. I’m just not sure it was in a tone I care to recall.
Then comes the problem of where do we stay? I thought perhaps we could drive up after midnight and sleep in the car for a few hours, but they didn’t approve. Something about neck cramps and crazy talk. So I shouted out to my friend Corrie who lives in Vegas and after twelve seconds she invited us to stay at her house, and she even promised lattes in the morning!
After trying for several attempts online to pre-check, I had to call US Airways, who transferred me back to American Airlines who said everything looks fine, I just need to actually check in at the airport instead of online.
No worries, because Beckie did, too. Apparently, they didn’t like that the ticket was reserved “Beckie” but her legal name is “Rebecca”. And Aaron? He checked in just fine and I can’t guarantee this, but I think he might have been rolling eyes at us women by now.
At the check in, I received one boarding pass. To Charlotte, NC. I asked, “Do I get my other boarding pass in Charlotte?” To which the clerk responded, “Oh, you’re going to Charlotte?”
Now you would think I would have had some red flags go up at this point, but the truth is, with the three of us all trying to check in and get our passes with three different clerks and verifying names and seats and checking baggage . . . I just went with it. He corrected my ticket and we were ready to go.
Beckie got her boarding pass. I got my ticket. Aaron got his headache. And away we went. Up the People Mover, to the tram, down a level, up an escalator, through the halls, to the plane. And we pre-checked our carry-on luggage, although kept our laptops with us personally. [NOTE TO SELF: Always, always ALWAYS keep your computer and phone chargers with your computer and phone. Always.]
At the pre-check, once again my carry-on was tagged to go only as far as Charlotte. Jim M. was the only helpful person in this entire fiasco so I promised him a shout out. He worked behind the counter taking care of “one problem at a time”. First, my carry-on pre-checked bag was properly tagged for Asheville. Second, my reservation was confirmed. And therein lay the problem. Somehow my connecting ticket from Charlotte to Asheville was errantly confirmed by the man downstairs for a flight I couldn’t possibly be on–a flight that left Charlotte at 4pm when I wouldn’t even arrive until 4:40.
Jim M. worked his computer magic and reset my reservation, with my original seating. Problem Number Two solved.
Then he told me the bad news is the checked bag, from Mr. Man Downstairs, was probably going to stop at Charlotte. He tried to key in the information, but the system had just had enough of me and would go no further.
What can you do? We boarded our flight and a short four hours later landed in Charlotte. Per Jim M’s instructions, I immediately rushed the boarding counter to explain they had to “stop that plane!” or at least make sure my baggage was forwarded to the proper address. The woman politely told me I was wrong, there was nothing she could do, but chances are my bag was properly identified and on the plane anyway.
Okay. Our stomachs were beginning to hurt almost as much as our heads at this time so we just went with it. I mean, my carry-ons have the most important items: laptop, wallet, conference/writing Binder, Captain America T-Shirt and two Magic The Gathering decks.
We ate at Whiskey River in Charlotte and had just enough time to stresslessly board the last leg from Charlotte to Asheville.
You know where this is going, don’t you?
Of course, we arrived just fine, but my suitcase didn’t. So we (and by “we” I mean “me-but-they-had-to-follow-because-I’m-the-one-getting-the-rental-car”) started toward the Ticket Counter to make a claim only to find there were several others in the same situation. Before I could say anything, someone said, “Oh, you must have come from Charlotte.” And that someone was behind the counter. What does that tell you? [Don’t fly into Charlotte if it can be avoided.]
We find out my bag was napping in Charlotte, where they would give it a nice bed for the night and deliver to me within twenty-four hours. In the meantime, they reversed the $25 check-baggage fee, gave me a claim form, a $25 credit for the claim so I can at least buy pajamas, and a really nifty one-night-only toiletry bag.
I’m tellin’ ya, I felt like a Superstar. NOT. [But I did get these awesome SuperHero PJ’s thanks to the bill I’m sending them!]
But enough was enough and we’re exhausted so we finish up there, get the rental car, and head out. The Ridgecrest Conference Center is about thirty miles from the airport. If you turn left.
Of course, we didn’t. We turned right. And about 45 minutes into our should-have-been-27-minutes drive, we realized we were lost. And by “we” I mean “Aaron-because-he-was-driving-and-it-was-his-GPS-that-did-us-in” kind of “we”.
Aaron’s dad, Alton Gansky, is co-director of this conference. His flight was scheduled to come in about three hours after ours.
I said “Wouldn’t it be funny if we arrive at Blue Ridge at the same time your folks do?”
And guess what happened?
The neat ending for me was getting a hug from Al because I’d not met him in person before today. . . er, yesterday. Last night. Whenever it was! He’s on the Firsts in Fiction podcast every Wednesday with Aaron, and we have the opportunity to talk writing a lot. But this was the first time in several years of knowing who he was, that I finally met him. And he hugged me.
I’m a huggy person. And so right then, it didn’t matter what kind of day it’s been. I’d arrived at Blue Ridge. We had our room key. I had my we’re-sorry-we-screwed-up-but-take-this-dollar-bag-for-your-humungous-inconvenience-toiletry bag, and a hug from Alton Gansky.
I have Nippers and my Harmon Bear, which smells like Lizzie cat.
But now it’s nearly 2 a.m., breakfast is in five hours, and I’m ready for bed.
And Frankly, My Dear . . . that’s all she wrote!