Cars, planes, and trailers

Finally my long-awaited trip to Palm Springs for Modernism Week 2011 has begun.  I was sort of chafing the last few days, eager to get on the road, and filling my time by triple-checking lists and over-preparing the car for every possible contingency.  Yesterday morning I was up at 5:30 a.m. even though I didn’t need to leave until 9.  After a few hours of trying to pace myself as I completed the final pre-departure tasks, I gave in, stuffed the last few things in the car, and set off up I-10 toward Phoenix.

Now, one of my few concerns about this trip was whether the old car would make it.  There was really no reason to think it wouldn’t, given that it has been well-prepared and recently serviced, and I will cut to the chase by telling you that it did just fine for the 380 miles to Palm Springs.  The real issue turned out to be the airlines.

The plan was for me to meet Brett at Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport around noon, and head out from there together to Palm Springs.  I got into Phoenix early of course, so I had plenty of time to swing by one of the local biodiesel producers and pick up 5.5 gallons of B99 to top off the tank.  Brett landed only about 10 minutes late, so all things looked good until we went looking for his luggage, which of course …  (do I have to even tell the rest of this story)?

Well, I’ll spare you the ugly view we got of the workings of an airline’s baggage handling system.  In short, we went on to Palm Springs because the bags were in Houston and not likely to arrive soon enough for us to keep our schedule for the day.  We were told that the bags, which contain a few vital items for the Vintage Trailer Show, would be forwarded on to Palm Springs by transferring them to another airline.

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When we arrived in Palm Springs we found John Long and his stunning 1935 Bowlus already set up on the grass display area behind the hotel, a day early.  He worked out special permission to set up early, unbeknownst to us.  (I believe that is the first time I have ever written the word “unbeknownst” in a blog entry, and I think after looking at it in this context, it will be the last.)  John surprised me by looking admiringly at the old Mercedes, which was idly clattering away behind us as we greeted John.  I think he appreciated it as a piece of industrial design much like he appreciates his own Bowlus travel trailer.

Brett had by this time received two phone calls from his airline with various explanations and plans related to the retrieval of his baggage.  The ultimate solution — so we thought — was to drive over to Palm Spring International Airport and pick up the bags from the 7:15 flight of the “other” airline.  But when we got there, we discovered the flight had been canceled.  So, back to the hotel, and another round of phone calls.

At 9:15 we were back at the airport.  I sat in the car curbside for a few minutes (thinking this would be a quick errand), but when the police chased me away a few minutes later I realized that things were not going well inside the terminal for Brett.  I sat in the Cell Phone Lot until 10:30 while Brett went through these stages:  (1) Looking for bags on the carousel; (2) Realizing the bags were again lost; (3) Dealing with an unhelpful “other Airlines” representative who told him he knew nothing about the situation and could not track the bag without a claim number; (4) Calling his first airline multiple times only to be told, “The other airline has the bag now, in Phoenix, and we don’t have a tracking nunber for it”; and finally (5) Conceding defeat at 10:30 pm, and heading off to the grocery store to buy a toothbrush.

At dawn he was at it again, and the latest word is that the baggage will arrive sometime today on some flight to Palm Springs, and it will either be delivered by courier to the hotel or Brett will have to take the Stuttgart Taxi to go fetch it. In other words, we know nothing except that in theory the bags still exist on some existential plane of the universe.

But hey, I won’t tell anyone Brett is wearing all the same clothes from yesterday.  All we’re doing is parking trailers and greeting people today, so he doesn’t need to look sharp until tonight when we have a private reception for the trailer owners.  By then, the baggage might be here, and we can concentrate on the thing we are here to do, which is to put on an awesome vintage trailer show this weekend.

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Editor & Publisher of Airstream Life magazine