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Sunday, May 31, 2015


The clouds started to roll in again on the Wednesday before Memorial Day, and although I failed to see the lightening while I was swimming, I heard the thunder and decided it was not such a good idea to remain in the pool.  

Lightening danced around the skies on Thursday evening, and I came home from work and started to pack my clothes in the suitcase, ready for the weekend.  Friday was unusually busy leading up to a long weekend, but we were not complaining!  We shut up shop around six, and after trying the latest creation at a local cafe, we went home and Dana added his clothes to mine, and the suitcase was ready to go!  States 47 and 48 were ready to be ticked off the list!  North Dakota and Minnesota would be displayed in one magnet or another on my fridge!

Saturday morning started off dry.  We arrived at the airport shortly before 5am.  It was going to be a very long day, but we did not realise quite how long!  Checking in was not a problem, and we had been upgraded to first class on the short flight from Austin to Houston.  We sailed through security and bought a cup of coffee before going to the gate and boarding the plane.  The seats were very comfortable.  The doors closed and we settled back as the crew started their safety demonstration.  The clock was ticking towards quarter past the hour, but we were not particularly bothered by the five minute delay, as our second flight was not until 8:06, and the flight to Houston was only going to be thirty minutes. However, the flash of lightening and tremendous crack of thunder was a little more than we were expecting, and the message from the cockpit was that we would not be moving until the storm had moved on. The ground crew had been called off the tarmac due to the inclement conditions.  The storm raged on and on.  Dana pushed his seat back to the reclining position and closed his eyes. As we had been upgraded, the service was magnificent.  We wanted for nothing!  The storm seemed to desist slightly, but following on its heels came another, and another.  

It was not until we had been on the plane for an hour, did I start to doubt that we would make our connection.  Dana confirmed my suspicions by verbalizing the fact.  As each minute ticked by, he made another statement.  I was rather calm when I told him to stop stating the obvious, as it was not helping my phobic condition, but he merely said that he was being practical.  Leaving home on Saturday morning, rather than late Friday, meant that we were going to have less time on our mini vacay than usual.  If we did not get our connection, we were looking at a day vacay !  

Another passenger took out her phone, and called the airline helpline.  I wondered why I had not thought to do the same!  Out came the mobile, I dialed, the call connected and I was put through to an operator.  After a modicum of sympathy, she said that she could get us on two flights to Fargo, but with a different airline. We would take the 9:44 am to Dallas, and then the midday thirty flight to the north!  She asked me to hold, while she confirmed the details and obtained a new confirmation number. At the precise moment she put me on hold, the captain announced that we were finally ready to push back from the gate.  Knowing the rules about all communication devises being set to airplane mode, and not 'transmitting' during the flight, I was not about to turn off my phone, mid call.  I held my phone to my ear, with my hands as if I was going to sleep.  As we approached the runway, the music stopped and the operator returned to the phone.  "Write this down" she said.  Having obeyed all other instructions, my bags were under the seat in front of me, and all writing apparatus were in said bags. Dana came to the rescue, unclasping his belt to reach his bag, (if I was going to be detained instead of going on holiday, he was coming with me!) and I repeated the message, which he wrote down.  The further fifteen minute delay, which we experienced awaiting to turn on to the runway, allowed me to thank the operator, turn my phone to the correct mode, and fall back in line with all federal laws!  

Our flight landed in Houston, thirty minutes after take off!  We deplaned and heard a message being given to the crew of our flight to Chicago.  Although we had been rerouted, we ran to the gate and thought we may be able to walk down the ramp before the pilot and his mate reached the area.  This was not possible, but the couple attending the desk were very obliging and confirmed that our flights had, indeed, been rerouted and we should follow the signs to Terminal A!  Following instructions, we marched through the airport, boarded the monorail, sat and waited while the passengers exited and entered at terminals C and D, and finally alighted.  

The screens that showed the daily departures, did not appear to have our flight to Dallas upon them.  We went to the gate that had been suggested by the pleasant couple attending the desk in Terminal B, and found that the airline to which we had now been assigned, was nowhere to be found.  We walked along the adjoining gates and came to a dead end!  As we walked back, wondering what kind of strange prank was being played on us, a voice came from behind a pillar.  "You want American.  They are over the other side."  From the ensuing conversation the helpful voice had with her colleagues, we were not the first to be given incorrect information.  We marched through to the other end of the terminal and found our gate.  Although unmanned when we arrived, it was not long before a crew member appeared, and Dana, very methodically, explained our plight and gave her the confirmation number.  She tapped some keys on the pad in front of her, and nodded, before letting us know that all was approved. Dana asked if there was a possibility of getting a 'decent' seat, and she looked at him rather curiously.  "Do you have any seats for tall people available", I asked, smiling in the hope that she would take pity on my husband's 6'4" frame, and let us have an exit row.  Fortunately, she smiled, and said that the flight was full, but the two seats allocated to us on the first flight were in 'economy plus', and the second flight had the exit seats available.  "We will take them!" I said with a grin.  "Good", she replied, "Because you don't have a choice", she retorted with a smile.  All banter was very pleasant, and we took our tickets, and went to sit down in the waiting area.  I started to feel a little guilty as I noticed that the 'stand by' list was numbering twelve, but I had to suppress my feelings of remorse, as I wanted to be in Fargo before nightfall!

The flight to Dallas was approximately fifty minutes, and the following flight was on time.  We had been travelling for over eight hours, and we were not only still in Texas, but less than a four hour drive from our home!  However, we were grateful for the transfer, and embarked on the final leg of our outbound journey.  Dana was being 'practical' again, and repeated with frequency, that he thought our bag would be lost.  I assured him, obviously inadequately, that if they could reroute us, they were sure to be able to do the same with the bag.  Internally, I was not as calm and self-assured. As we started our descent, we could see the flat fields of North Dakota. This State looked to be a carpet layers dream!  It was as if a 'level' would not have to be a tool in a builders box, as there were no hills, bumps or uneven lumps anywhere to be seen.  We landed without a hitch, and despite the delays and reorganisation we were only twenty minutes later than our original planned arrival time. My suitcase, however, was not on the flight that we had taken and while Dana went to collect the keys to our hire car, being 'practical' and telling me that we would have to find some new clothes for the weekend, I went to the United desk, in the hope that they could help.  Although we were not able to board the Chicago flight with the cockpit crew, my case was given special dispensation, and it was loaded on at Houston, and traveled unaccompanied to our destination!

Dana was deep in conversation with the man at the car hire desk when I walked back into the area with the case that he was sure would end up in Timbuktu!  I tried not to appear smug!  He was asking what there was of interest in the area.  The immediate reply was, "Well, it isn't Mount Fargo!"  He suggested we go 'Downtown' as there were some nice small shops, and a lot of local restaurants. Apart from that, his only recommendations were across the border, into Minnesota, where they had some level of disruption in the landscape, and a few parks and lakes.  We thanked him and went to collect our car, The car was a brand new Chevy Cruz, the license plates for which had not yet been obtained, according to the piece of paper in the back window, that gave details of the registration. The drive to the hotel was short and the hotel itself was very bright, relatively new, and very comfortable.  Although we had arrived only very slightly later than originally planned, we felt as if we had been travelling for days!

Following my usual ritual of cleaning the already spotless bathroom and wiping around all the surfaces, should a hidden germ been missed by the domestic, we headed out.

A recommendation for dinner had been made by the receptionist at the hotel, and we decided to take advantage of the local expertise. Before dining, however, we visited the Fargo and Moorhead Information Center.  We looked at the various brochures on the stands, and I had a cup of complimentary coffee as Dana munched on complimentary popcorn.  The couple manning the center were quite young, and were both natives.  Another visitor was announcing that he was travelling with his wife, who was trying to see all fifty states before she reached her fiftieth birthday.  Quite uninvited, I joined in the conversation, and announced that I was also trying to see all fifty states, but I was a few years past fifty!  "I think she is 44 or 45", said the other visitor.  Perhaps it was because I had been travelling all day, and my tact gene was out of synchronization, but my next comment was not received with grace.  "Do you not know how old your wife is?" I blurted out, wondering how he was going to manage to help her achieve her goal if he was unsure how much time he had left.  His response was possibly appropriate. "I don't know how many states she has visited", he snapped in my general direction, and turned to the bemused staff and continued, "She has 44 or 45".  I refrained from continuing the abuse by suggesting he ask, as he might accidentally miss one!  The nice young lady took pity on me, and asked how many I had visited.  She assumed that the two I had remaining would be Hawaii and Alaska, but I told her that she was only fifty percent correct.  I had visited Hawaii before I had decided to take the challenge, but Alaska was one of the two.  The other being Idaho. The nice young man looked at me, quite seriously, and said, "There is nothing to see in Idaho".  I smiled at his comment, as I looked at their selection of t-shirts, which displayed the slogan "Fargo. North of Normal".  They said that most people who visit their centre are on a 'state-collecting' mission, and added that everyone who visits from Florida, is on a 'state-collecting' mission! Dana, who was oblivious to his wife's insulting behaviour, and who had been collecting various brochures to peruse at his leisure, joined the group as the abused gentleman was about to leave. However, as my husband asked his traditional question, "What is there to do here", the other visitor turned back, and asked, "Do you like bear?" Dana being open to all local cuisine, replied that he had not ever had it, so he could not comment.  The conversation continued with a list of local breweries being suggested, and Dana in utter confusion.  As we left, I told him that they were talking about beer, rather than the large gruff brown animal that roams the plains.  We assumed the pronouncement of the word was something to do with the movie, Fargo, which we had not seen. This was to be another adventure, at a later date!

We went towards 'downtown'. Broadway was the main drag.  We had expected there to be a little more activity, but no one seemed to be around.  There were a few restaurants, and a few bars, dispersed between a few boutiquey shops, but nothing was particularly eye catching.  A small knick knack shop had some mugs that quoted Fargo as being the most exciting city in the world, and we embraced the sarcasm.  As I looked at the items in the little emporium, Dana erupted with delight.  He had found a t-shirt, with a print of a very large grisly upon it, and underneath the word "Beer".  He felt quite vindicated.  

Dinner was delicious.  We left the restaurant and headed back towards the hotel.  "Ice-cream would be good", suggested Dana en-route,  I had noticed a Dairy Queen on our travels and thought that it might be an option, but after driving around for fifteen minutes, we could not find the establishment, and were just about to give up, when a sign for a Cold Stone Creamery caught my eye.  Perhaps not the best idea before heading back and falling asleep virtually as soon as we fell on the bed, but it was scrumptious!

Sunday morning started with breakfast, and then a drive into the slightly more rugged Minnesota.  State number 48!  We reached the border, took the obligatory pictures and went to find some lakes. With signs everywhere, "Land of 15,000 lakes", I started to count down.  Samantha called me to say that the storms that had prevented us from leaving Austin, had raged all day, and they had been on "Tornado watch",  Several houses in nearby counties had been flooded as rivers and creeks had burst their banks, and Texas was in a general state of disarray.  However, the rain had subsided slightly, but the forecast was not promising.  One river had risen 30 feet in the space of a day!  She asked me where I was, and what I was doing.  I let her know that we had crossed the border, and I now had only 14,995, no 14,994, no 14,993 lakes left to see.  As we chatted the numbers went down, but I told her the likelihood of me getting to the mid fourteen thousands was doubtful!  She promised to let me know if there was any more news, but said they were unable to check on my house as it was not a good idea to leave home.  Low level crossings were flooded, and there were so many road closures in Austin, that she was not sure if she would reach my condo.  I said I would message a neighbour if I felt unsure.

Dana and I enjoyed coffee on the banks of Lake Dakota and then drove back across the border to the Viking Museum.  Having learned about the Scandinavian race as a child, due to them being one of many invaders, and conquerors of my native home, I found it all very interesting.  A large boat was in the centre of the museum. It was a replica of the original ancient craft used by ancestors of the builders, and the one used to cross the North Sea to Norway, backtracking the route taken by those ancestors, who apparently landed on Canadian shores, several centuries ago.  As we inspected the ship, the other visitor, whom I had inadvertently offended the previous day, came from the other direction.  Unsure as to whether I had spotted him, he was taking no chances and turned, pulling his wife away from the craft.  I could see him watching as we walked outside to look at another replica, this time of a church, and he made sure he was on the other side of the group of people who were also viewing.  Each time I moved, he moved. I was not about to wave and shout as if he were an old acquaintance, despite the temptation after his actions!  Fortunately, my tact gene had been reinstated after a decent night's sleep!

After enjoying another ice cream from the Cold Stone Creamery, we headed back to the hotel and caught up on the 'disaster' that was being reported from Texas. The Governor had declared a state of emergency in over 30 counties, and it all looked very grim. However, Samantha said that although they were expecting some rain later in the evening, all was dry for the present.  Dana and I went swimming, spent a short time in the hot tub, and returned to our room to get ready for dinner.  The sun was shining and it was a very pleasant evening!  Although not quite as elaborate as the previous evening, dinner was good, and we headed back to the hotel for a nice cup of tea!

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on Monday morning, after which Dana slept for two hours, as something had not sat right in his stomach the previous day.  He blamed everything but the ice-cream!  However, he rallied round and we finally left the hotel around noon.  Our flight was on time, and after a trip to the airport shop to obtain the necessary magnets and t-shirts, we checked our bag and headed into the gate area, on the other side of 'security'. We landed in Denver, took a few pictures of the snow covered peaks of the Rockies, and had lunch at a very pleasant restaurant inside the airport.  We headed towards our gate and watched rabbits play on the tarmac!  Fascinated, this kept us occupied for the rather long wait we had before take off!

Landing in Austin early, we had to wait for a gate to be vacated.  It appeared that the airport had been closed for more than three hours due to more storms that had raged through the city.  Samantha had said that they had experienced hail storms and her friend in the neighbouring town was camped out in her bathroom, as the threat of tornadoes were imminent.  Finally, a gate was ready for us to park, and we exited the plane.  At ten in the evening, Austin airport was very busy.  The restaurants, which usually close, were still serving food, and stocking their shelves with fresh sandwiches, etc., for the large crowds.  Many flights had been delayed for more than six hours, and many people were spread out asleep on the floor. We collected our bag and got in the car to drive home.  

Home was not harmed by the weather.  A tornado had touched down to the north of Austin, and many roads were flooded.  Our old office would have been inaccessible due to deep waters.   The news reports were not pleasant, and although we had experienced a wonderfully dry and warm weekend, we knew that there were many who were now homeless and stranded.  

The week remained reasonably dry in our area.  Dana's sister and mother were due to come and visit, and we were unsure if their trip from Arkansas would be possible, as they had experienced the same weather.  However, they made it to Dallas, where they stayed at Dana's brother's house for a couple of days, before heading south. My weekend started off with a very different flavour, both culinary and otherwise.  All will be revealed, in ........... another story!

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