"Travel Not So Easy"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Friday, May 5, 2017

There are many reasons why traveling can be a challenge these days.

No. 1 is the constant threats we all live with. It places all of us on the suspect list as terrorist.

There was a time if you traveled by air you could easily pick the day, time and where you wanted to sit on the plane. You could also travel by ship, car, bus or train. Choices these days have become limited, with all kinds of restrictions, and as I see it, the skies are not that “friendly” any longer.

I traveled as a very young man from Detroit to Buffalo and Cleveland by ship to visit my grandfather and aunt. There were several choices among what were known as “liners” that made passages between those destinations. Cruising on ships on the Great Lakes was quite comfortable. If the seas became rough, the captain would simply change course to make the trip a little smoother.

I often made the return trip to Michigan by air on a twin-engine, small plane right to the center of Detroit. It was not unusual that the flight by air was rougher than the ship crossing had been. Even though I was just a youngster, the trips were so memorable I still recall all the details of them.

There was usually a pretty fancy meal served aboard the ship as part of the fee. The airport had a small food stand because the air flight was so short.

As the years passed, and my family all scattered, we began taking trips while they visited. Recently, one family joined us for a cruise to the Bahamas for Christmas which was great fun.

We stopped at ports and shopped and toured the islands.

On deck there was always a party plus all the food you could ask for.

A special anniversary called for a very special cruise to Alaska with many family members. We chose the Inland Passage, which provided very smooth waters. As we made our way from port to port, we sat on our veranda and were treated to views of whales, sea lions and many seals. One great sighting was a giant bald eagle. The highlight of the trip was yet another travel mode — a ride in a helicopter to the top of a glacier. We were left to wander around and experience a feeling of being on top of the world.

Last week, I expressed the hope everyone could go on vacation. And this week I am on vacation. Traveling in the past was always enjoyable, but my recent experience of flying across the country was not. We took a shuttle to the airport in Miami. One of the passengers slept in so our driver, fortunately a former school bus driver, really had to make up time. Just as we made the approach, we almost got wiped out by someone really late who whipped around us.

We did arrive at the gate early, as requested, and learned the flight would depart on time. The weather on the trip to the airport had been stormy so we were pleased to read that announcement. The departure time came and with it the news the flight would be delayed a half hour. By this time, the 150 passengers on the overbooked flight were aware there was no plane at the gate so, yes, a delay was in order. Two passengers were happy to take the $500 offered and wait several hours to depart. After the half hour elapsed, we were told a plane would be arriving soon.

An hour later we were all aboard ready to go when the captain announced there was a discrepancy in the passenger count so we had to wait a bit longer. As we got comfortable in the tiny seats that we had wedged ourselves into — I know now how a sardine feels in a can — I found the button to move my seat back. It moved three quarters of an inch. When we lurched down the runway, I was uneasy, but as we got airborne, the lurching ended and the bouncing began. This sensation was soon followed by some dip and dive action. The captain came on and cheerfully announced his buddy in air traffic control, who was aware of our late departure, had laid out a shortcut for us through El Paso that would get us there almost on time.

The flight attendants were great, struggling in the tiny aisle with their carts. And yes, we did get cookies and pretzels.

There was one last surprise announcement as we drew close to Phoenix: The temperature we would enjoy was 97 degrees. We got lucky when we landed. Our kids met us at the baggage cartwheel and there was our bag ready to grab. We headed out and were soon at the Smith household meeting our new great-grandson, Rayland. Seeing him made all the discomfort worth it.

I have to return the end of next week and I’m hoping for a plane that they skipped when they jammed in more seating.

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