Saturday, December 18, 2004

Portland, Oregon—Eugene, Oregon—Winston, Oregon—Day 323

Getting from Portland to Eugene really should have been just a quick flight—nothing over 45 minutes. My flight was scheduled for 9am and I arrived at the airport with an hour and half to spare. When I got my ticket I noticed that it showed me on a flight leaving at 11am, not 9am. I realized that my initial flight must have been previously cancelled or something and so I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that I would now have over three hours to wait at the airport until my flight boarded.

I killed time reading and wandered around the Portland airport. People watching is my new favorite sport so I did just that. I also spent a while probably talking too loudly on my new cell phone (which I got yesterday) and trying to figure out how to program it.

When it was time for me to board I wandered over to my gate which was actually below the rest of the gates. You had to go downstairs into a little waiting area. That’s when I saw the sign.

“Flight 6302 to Eugene CANCELLED”

Cancelled? Oh man.

So I got in line and when it was my turn to talk with the airline people they told me that yes, my flight had been cancelled because there was too much fog on the ground in Eugene. Their little planes simply weren’t allowed to land with so much fog. Great.

So what was my other options? I could wait for the next flight that would leave at 4pm (which still had the chance of not actually leaving) but could also opt to take a bus from Portland to Eugene. I would take a few hours but I would be guaranteed to arrive.

Of course I opted for the bus and was given directions as to where to meet it: Baggage Claim 10. Not any specific place around #10, just the baggage claim itself. Great.

So I went out past the security and to the baggage claim where there were just hoards of people. How was I supposed to meet anyone here? On top of that I had to find my luggage in the midst of everything and it was supposed to show up on the belt.

I waited and after quite some time it finally did. Thank god. I also found several other people in with the same situation because we were all in the luggage claim department asking about how where we REALLY were supposed to meet. We stuck together and found others by spotting anyone carrying the little yellow ticket that they gave us.

Finally the baggage area cleared out—all except a woman and an emergency crew who was helping her. She appeared to have fainted and dint’ look to be in such good shape. Our airline employee who was in charge of us finally showed up and we started walking towards the bus outside.

Our group comprised of a woman clearly distressed by the whole idea of taking a bus, a girl who was just done with her first semester of medical school, a young marine who had just finished boot camp and an ex-marine who had, as of yesterday, just retired from the navy. And then there was me—the hippo photographer.

We boarded the bus and after much complication (there were one too many people on the bus than they had names for—such drama!) and an hour later we were off. The woman behind me chose to talk on her cell phone LOUDLY SO THAT EVERYONE COULD HEAR HER and once the driver attempted to put on some loud holiday music which was greeted with “TURN IT OFF!” from the passengers. We were not happy to be having to take a bus (I actually didn’t mind but it was annoying) and wanted to get to Eugene as quickly as possible.

I fell asleep, woke up right before we hit our pit stop and chose to walk around for the ten minutes we were there. I went to the restroom and it was quite funny—a mother and her four children were all in one stall. It was like one of those scenes were someone opens up a small car and out comes twelve people---she opened the door and they came out one after another (just after you thought there couldn’t be any more in there!).

Back on the bus I tried to read a bit but found my attention wavering. So I watched Oregon go by out the window until we finally made it to the Eugene Airport. I got off, got my bags and went to rent my car. Its funny when people get in situations like this---a missed flight, a broken elevator, things like that—because you develop this sort of comradery with them. You have to say goodbye and wish them a happy holidays—hope that Aunt Susie’s fruitcake really does turn out ok. You know, things like that.

I was excited to be off the bus and on my own terms again but not looking forward to driving down to Winston. Its about an hour south of Eugene or so. Luckily my car had cruise control which made up only slightly for the lack of good music on the radio.

The further I drove the denser the fog became. When I arrived at my hotel you could hardly see anything around you. It was quite cool yet exceptionally eerie at the same time. I pulled into a hotel off of the freeway that was just five miles from the zoo and checked in. I then left to go find some dinner at an Italian restaurant. I got take away but it took so long that the waiter even brought me free cheesecake before my food arrived for me to “snack on it.”

My food finally arrived and I drove back to the hotel to eat in my room and called it a night.